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Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Bolivia nationalized the company that runs the three largest airports in Bolivia because the government claims the company did not invest in improving the airports.

Servicios de Aeropuertos Bollivianos SA (Sabsa) is a division of Spain's Abertis Infraestructure SA but Sabsa is also partly owned by Aena Aeropuertos SA based in Madrid. Bolivian president Evo Morales said that the privatization of Sabsa in 1997 was equivalent to "robbery" and "looting". He claimed that since that time the company's profits have been exorbitant and investments "ridiculous".




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real estate company Reyal Urbis filed for insolvency after failing to renegotiate debt with its creditors.

Spain's property market crash claimed another victim on Tuesday, as real estate company Reyal Urbis filed for insolvency after failing to renegotiate debt with its creditors.

 

The move takes the property developer, which had 3.6 billion euros ($4.8 billion) of debt at the end of September, closer to becoming Spain's second-largest bankruptcy after Martinsa Fadesa, which defaulted on 7 billion euros of debt in 2008.

Dozens of property companies have collapsed in Spain, where house prices have fallen around 40 percent since their 2007 peak. With the country locked in a deep recession, analysts expect prices to fall further still.

Spain's banks were crippled by the property market bust, eventually requiring the state to agree a European bailout for its lenders of almost 40 billion euros last year. Indebted property firms have asked banks for debt relief but patience is wearing thin among lenders saddled with soured property assets.

 

Reyal Urbis is 70 percent owned by construction magnate Rafael Santamaria and its creditors include Santander, BBVA, Bankia and Banco Popular.

The company, which valued its property portfolio at 4.2 billion euros in June 2012, said it would continue to operate as permitted by Spanish insolvency laws.

Its insolvency petition now goes to court and its fate will be in the hands of a judge.

Reyal Urbis said Santamaria would remain at the helm of the company and he still hoped Reyal Urbis could reach a deal with its creditors, given "the good will of all negotiating parties".

The company had until Feb. 23 to reach a debt restructuring deal with the banks or file for insolvency. Sources close to the matter told Reuters on Friday that creditors had rejected the company's 3.6-billion-euro proposal.

Trading in the company's shares was suspended on Tuesday, Spain's stock market regulator said. The stock had plunged 99 percent since June 2007 to close at 0.124 euros on Monday.

At the end of 2011, Reyal Urbis owned some 888 finished homes in a country where over a million homes lie empty. The company also had 8 million square metres of land for development and 237,000 square metres of commercial property, including offices, shopping centres, industrial property and hotels.

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Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Jessica Harper admits £2.4m Lloyds Bank fraud

A former Lloyds Bank worker in charge of online security has admitted carrying out a fraud worth more than £2.4m. Jessica Harper, 50, had been accused of submitting false invoices to claim payments between 2007 and 2011. At the time she was working as head of fraud and security for digital banking and made false claims totalling £2,463,750. Harper, of South Croydon, south London, will be sentenced on 21 September. At Southwark Crown Court, Harper admitted a single charge of fraud by abuse of position by submitting false invoices to claim payments. 'A very simple fraud' She also admitted a single charge of transferring criminal property, the money, which she had defrauded from her employers. Harper was arrested on 21 December before being charged in May. Continue reading the main story “ Start Quote Jessica Harper has today been convicted of the type of crime the bank employed her to combat” Sue Patten Crown Prosecution Service Antony Swift, prosecuting, did not open the facts of the case but said it was a "a very simple fraud". He added Harper had already repaid £300,000 and was in the process of selling her house for about £700,000. "That will be some £1m out of £2.5m that's gone missing," he told the judge. Carol Hawley, defending, said: "She appreciates the seriousness and has made full admissions in interview. "She understands perfectly well on the next occasion she will be facing imprisonment of some length." Breach of trust Judge Nicholas Loraine-Smith granted Harper bail on the condition she stays at her current address, obeys a 21:00 to 07:00 curfew and hands in her passport. Sue Patten, head of the Crown Prosecution Service, Central Fraud Division, said: "Jessica Harper has today been convicted of the type of crime the bank employed her to combat. "The evidence in the case was clear and left Harper with little choice but to plead guilty. "In doing so, she has admitted to a huge breach of trust against her former employer." Lloyds is now 39.7% state-owned after being bailed out by the government during the financial crisis.

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Shares in Standard Chartered dive after Iran allegations

Shares in Standard Chartered PLC dropped sharply today as investors reacted to US charges that the bank was involved in laundering money for Iran. The charges against Standard Chartered were a shock for a bank which proudly described itself recently as “boring.” Shares were down nearly 20 percent at 1,187 pence at one point in early trading Tuesday on the London Stock Exchange. In Hong Kong, they were down 16.6 percent near the end of the session. New York State Department of Financial Services alleged on Monday that Standard Chartered schemed with the Iranian government to launder $250 billion from 2001 to 2007, leaving the United States' financial system “vulnerable to terrorists.” Standard Chartered said it “strongly rejects” the allegations. In a statement, the bank said “well over 99.9 percent” of the questioned transactions with Iran complied with all regulations, and the exceptions amounted to $14 million. The New York regulator ordered Standard Chartered representatives to appear in New York City on Aug. 15 “to explain these apparent violations of law” and to demonstrate why its license to operate in the State of New York “should not be revoked.” Gary Greenwood, analyst at Shore Capital in London, said the possible revocation of the New York license was of far greater concern than any potential fine, which could run into hundreds of millions of dollars. Standard Chartered's US operation facilitates trade for customers that have operations in both the United States and emerging markets. “Indeed, this is an area of the business that has been highlighted by management for growth,” Greenwood said. “A loss of its US banking license would not only jeopardize part of this profit stream, but the associated reputational damage could also have a severely damaging impact to its operations within emerging markets.” The New York agency alleged that Standard Chartered conspired with Iranian clients to route nearly 60,000 different US dollar payments through Standard Chartered's New York branch “after first stripping information from wire transfer messages used to identify sanctioned countries, individuals and entities.” The New York regulators called the bank a rogue institution and quoted one of its executives as saying: “You (expletive) Americans. Who are you to tell us, the rest of the world, that we're not going to deal with Iranians.” The order also identifies an October 2006 “panicked message” from a London group executive director who worried the transactions could lead to “very serious or even catastrophic reputational damage to the group.” If proven, the scheme would violate state money-laundering laws. The order also accuses the bank of falsifying business records, obstructing governmental administration, failing to report misconduct to the state quickly, evading federal sanctions and other illegal acts. Between 2004 and 2007, about half the period covered by the order, the department claims Standard Chartered hid from and lied about its Iranian transactions to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. Before 2008, banks were allowed to transact some business with Iran, but only with full reporting and disclosure, the order states. In 2008, the US Treasury Department stopped those transactions because it suspected they helped pay for Iran to develop nuclear weapons and finance terrorist groups including Hamas and Hezbollah. The order states the bank has to provide information and answer questions to determine if any of the funding aided the groups or Iran's nuclear program. Last week, Standard Chartered' chief executive, Peter Sands, boasted that the bank has racked up a 10-year string of record first-half profits “amidst all the turbulence in the global economy and the apparently never-ending turmoil in the world of banking.” “It may seem boring in contrast to what is going on elsewhere, but we see some virtue in being boring,” Sands added.

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Friday, 6 July 2012

Bankers face the prospect of jail as Serious Fraud Office launches criminal probe into interest-rate fixing at Barclays

Hearing: Former chief executive Bob Diamond left Barclays over the matter, before appearing before MPs this week

Hearing: Former chief executive Bob Diamond left Barclays over the matter, before appearing before MPs this week

A criminal investigation has been launched into alleged rigging of the Libor rate within the banking industry, the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) confirmed today.

SFO director David Green QC formally accepted the Libor issue for investigation after Barclays was fined by the Financial Services Authority (FSA) last week for manipulating the key interbank lending rate which affects mortgages and loans.

The claims ultimately led to the resignation of Barclays boss Bob Diamond and have become the focal point of a fierce political debate over ethics in the banking sector.

The investigation could ultimately lead to criminal prosecutions and bankers facing charges in court.

The SFO's update came after it revealed earlier this week that it had been working closely with the FSA during its investigation and would consider the potential for criminal prosecutions.

The Government department, which is responsible for investigating and prosecuting serious and complex fraud, said on Monday the issues surrounding Libor were "complex" and that assessing the evidence would take time.

Under fire: Barclays former chairman Marcus Agius (right) with former CEO Bob Diamond (centre), and former chief executive John Varley (left)

Under fire: Barclays former chairman Marcus Agius (right) with former CEO Bob Diamond (centre), and former chief executive John Varley (left)

As the SFO prepares its investigation, Labour leader Ed Miliband continued to push for an independent inquiry into the banking scandal despite MPs rejecting the demands.

The Labour leader said that while the party would cooperate with a parliamentary investigation, its remit was too "narrow" and a judge-led probe was still needed.

Mr Miliband also defended the conduct of Ed Balls after the shadow chancellor engaged in a bitter war of words with his opposite number George Osborne in the Commons.

 

 




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Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Barclays boss Bob Diamond resigns

Barclays chief executive Bob Diamond has resigned with immediate effect. The move comes less than a week after the bank was fined a record amount for trying to manipulate inter-bank lending rates. Mr Diamond said he was stepping down because the external pressure on the bank risked "damaging the franchise". Chairman Marcus Agius, who said on Monday he was stepping down, will take over the running of Barclays until a replacement is found. "I am deeply disappointed that the impression created by the events announced last week about what Barclays and its people stand for could not be further from the truth," Mr Diamond said in a statement. He will still appear before MPs on the Treasury Committee to answer questions about the Libor affair on Wednesday. "I look forward to fulfilling my obligation to contribute to the Treasury Committee's enquiries related to the settlements that Barclays announced last week without my leadership in question," Mr Diamond said. Last week, regulators in the US and UK fined Barclays £290m ($450m) for attempting to rig Libor and Euribor, the interest rates at which banks lend to each other, which underpin trillions of pounds worth of financial transactions. Staff did this over a number of years, trying to raise them for profit and then, during the financial crisis, lowering them to hide the level to which Barclays was under financial stress. Prime Minister David Cameron has described the rigging of Libor rates as "a scandal". The Serious Fraud Office is also considering whether to bring criminal charges.

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Monday, 2 July 2012

Beware of missed call to check SIM cloning

Next time if you get a missed call starting with +92; #90 or #09, don't show the courtesy of calling back because chances are it would lead to your SIM card being cloned. The telecom service providers are now issuing alerts to subscribers —particularly about the series mentioned above as the moment one press the call button after dialing the above number, someone at the other end will get your phone and SIM card cloned. According to reports, more than one lakh subscribers have fallen prey to this new telecom terror attack as the frequency of such calls continues to grow. Intelligence agencies have reportedly confirmed to the service providers particularly in UP West telecom division that such a racket is not only under way but the menace is growing fast. "We are sure there must be some more similar combinations that the miscreants are using to clone the handsets and all the information stored in them," an intelligence officer told TOI. General Manager (GM) BSNL, RV Verma, said the department had already issued alerts to all the broadband subscribers and now alert SMSes were being issued to other subscribers as well. As per Rakshit Tandon, an IT expert who also teaches at the police academy (UP), the crooks can use other combination of numbers as well while making a call. "It is better not to respond to calls received from unusual calling numbers," says Tandon. "At the same time one should avoid storing specifics of their bank account, ATM/ Credit/Debit card numbers and passwords in their phone memory because if one falls a prey to such crooks then the moment your cell phone or sim are cloned, the data will be available to the crooks who can withdraw amount from your bank accounts as well," warns Punit Misra; an IT expert who also owns a consultancy in Lucknow. The menace that threatens to steal the subscriber's information stored in the phone or external memory (sim, memory & data cards) has a very scary side as well. Once cloned, the culprits can well use the cloned copy to make calls to any number they wish to. This exposes the subscribers to the threat of their connection being used for terror calls. Though it will be established during the course of investigations that the cellphone has been cloned and misused elsewhere, it is sure to land the subscriber under quite some pressure till the time the fact about his or her phone being cloned and misused is established, intelligence sources said. "It usually starts with a miss call from a number starting with + 92. The moment the subscriber calls back on the miss call, his or her cell phone is cloned. In case the subscribers takes the call before it is dropped as a miss call then the caller on the other end poses as a call center executive checking the connectivity and call flow of the particular service provider. The caller then asks the subscriber to press # 09 or # 90 call back on his number to establish that the connectivity to the subscriber was seamless," says a victim who reported the matter to the BSNL office at Moradabad last week. "The moment I redialed the caller number, my account balance lost a sum of money. Thereafter, in the three days that followed every time I got my cell phone recharged, the balance would be reduced to single digits within the next few minutes," she told the BSNL officials.

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France brings in breathalyser law

New motoring laws have come into force in France making it compulsory for drivers to carry breathalyser kits in their vehicles. As of July 1, motorists and motorcyclists will face an on-the-spot fine unless they travel with two single-use devices as part of a government drive to reduce the number of drink-drive related deaths. The new regulations, which excludes mopeds, will be fully enforced and include foreigner drivers from November 1 following a four-month grace period. Anyone failing to produce a breathalyser after that date will receive an 11 euro fine. French police have warned they will be carrying out random checks on drivers crossing into France via ferries and through the Channel Tunnel to enforce the new rules. Retailers in the UK have reported a massive rise in breathalyser sales as British drivers travelling across the Channel ensure they do not fall foul of the new legislation. Car accessory retailer Halfords said it is selling one kit every minute of the day and has rushed extra stock into stores to cope with the unprecedented demand. Six out of 10 Britons travelling to France are not aware they have to carry two NF approved breathalysers at all times, according to the company. The French government hopes to save around 500 lives a year by introducing the new laws, which will encourage drivers who suspect they may be over the limit to test themselves with the kits. The French drink-driving limit is 50mg of alcohol in 100ml of blood - substantially less than the UK limit of 80mg.

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Sunday, 1 July 2012

The number of Britons arrested overseas is on the rise, official figures have shown.

 The Foreign Office (FO) handled 6,015 arrest cases involving British nationals abroad between April 2011 and March 2012. This was 6% more than in the previous 12 months and included a 2% rise in drug arrests. The figures, which include holidaymakers and Britons resident overseas, showed the highest number of arrests and detentions was in Spain (1,909) followed by the USA (1,305). Spanish arrests rose 9% in 2011/12, while the United States was up 3%. The most arrests of Britons for drugs was in the US (147), followed by Spain (141). The highest percentage of arrests for drugs in 2011/12 was in Peru where there were only 17 arrests in total, although 15 were for drugs. The FO said anecdotal evidence from embassies and consulates overseas suggested many incidents were alcohol-fuelled, particularly in popular holiday destinations such as the Canary Islands, mainland Spain, the Balearics (which include Majorca and Ibiza), Malta and Cyprus. Consular Affairs Minister Jeremy Browne said: "It is important that people understand that taking risks abroad can land them on the wrong side of the law. "The punishments can be very severe, with tougher prison conditions than in the UK. While we will work hard to try and ensure the safety of British nationals abroad, we cannot interfere in another country's legal system. "We find that many people are shocked to discover that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office cannot get them out of jail. We always provide consular support to British nationals in difficulty overseas. However, having a British passport does not make you immune to foreign laws and will not get you special treatment in prison."

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Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Pearl Jam accountant charged with stealing almost $400G from rockers

The former chief financial officer for Pearl Jam has been charged with stealing at least $380,000 from the seminal grunge rock band. Rickey Goodrich is accused of spending the money on vacations, spa treatments, life insurance and alcohol, The Seattle Times reported. The 54-year-old, who lives in Novato, Calif., must appear in Seattle -- the band's home town -- on June 28 for his arraignment on 25 counts of first-degree theft and eight counts of second-degree theft between Oct. 2007 and June 2010. It is alleged that financial discrepancies were discovered after a 2010 tour, at which point Goodrich admitted paying himself a $54,000 "loan," but a subsequent audit found more money was missing. Almost $21,000 went towards vacations for his family and $6,500 was spent on wine, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. "The alleged thefts date back a number of years, and there were a lot of bank records and financial documents that needed to be reviewed," a prosecutor's spokesman said. If convicted, Goodrich faces up to five years in prison.

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Friday, 25 May 2012

Former Lloyds worker Jessica Harper in £2.5m fraud charge

A former head of security at Lloyds Bank has been charged in connection with an alleged £2.5m fraud. Jessica Harper, 50, of Croydon, south London, is accused of submitting false invoices to claim payments, between September 2008 and December 2011. At the time she was working as head of fraud and security for digital banking and allegedly made false claims totalling £2,463,750. Ms Harper will appear at Westminster Magistrates' Court on 31 May. She has been charged with one count of fraud by abuse of position. The bank, which is now 39.7% state-owned after being bailed out by the government during the financial crisis, refused to comment on the charging of Ms Harper. A Metropolitan Police spokesman said she was arrested on 21 December 2011 by officers from its fraud squad. Andrew Penhale, from the Crown Prosecution Service's Central Fraud Group, said: "The charge relates to an allegation that between 1 September 2008 and 21 December 2011, Jessica Harper dishonestly and with the intention of making a gain for herself, abused her position as an employee of Lloyds Banking Group, in which she was expected to safeguard the financial interests of Lloyds Banking Group, by submitting false invoices to claim payments totalling £2,463,750.88, to which she was not entitled. "This decision to prosecute was taken in accordance with the Code for Crown Prosecutors. "We have determined that there is a realistic prospect of conviction and a prosecution is in the public interest."

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Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Metropolitan police anti-corruption unit investigated over payments

Scotland Yard is investigating allegations that detectives working for its anti-corruption unit have been paid thousands of pounds by a firm of private investigators. A parliamentary inquiry was told today that invoices, also seen by the Guardian, purport to show how a firm of private investigators made payments in return for information about the Metropolitan police investigation into James Ibori, a notorious Nigerian fraudster. On Tuesday, the Commons home affairs select committee was told by a lawyer involved in the case that invoices showed about £20,000 of potential payments to police officers in what amounted to an undetected case of "apparent corruption right at the heart of Scotland Yard". In recent weeks, as the Guardian investigated the allegations, the Met has sought to discourage the paper from publishing details about the case. But , after MPs heard the evidence, the Met dropped its previous insistence that there was "evidence that casts doubt on the credibility" of the allegations. A police source with knowledge of the investigation, which has been ongoing since October, said developments over the last 24 hours had now led police to take the allegations more seriously. The case revolves around a private investigation firm called RISC Management. Five years ago the firm was hired to work for Ibori, a former Nigerian state governor, after he discovered he was being investigated by the Met for serious fraud. Ibori recently pleaded guilty to money laundering and was jailed in the UK, after the conclusion of a major investigation into his financial affairs. The allegation now being investigated by police is that some detectives on the Met's Proceeds of Corruption Unit, which investigated Ibori, were receiving payments in exchange for information about the ongoing investigation. Invoices and other documents appearing to support the allegations have been anonymously posted to the Met and Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC). The documents have also been seen by the Guardian and separately sent to the home affairs committee, which is conducting an inquiry in whether private investigators should be subject to statutory regulation. Keith Vaz, the chair of the committee, has said there is growing concern in the wake of the phone-hacking scandal that some private investigators are operating in "the shadows" of the law. The Commons inquiry has been scrutinising the nexus between private investigators - many of whom are retired police officers - and their former colleagues who are still serving. On Tuesday morning, Mike Schwarz, a lawyer who represents one of Ibori's co-accused, told the inquiry about what he understood to be the significance of the material. He said it indicated possible corruption at the heart of the police investigation into the Nigerian politician's money laundering activities. The invoices are alleged to be from RISC Management to Speechly Bircham, a top firm of lawyers hired by Ibori to prepare his defence. Schwarz told MPs the invoices "perhaps" documented "payments made by RISC Management to sources, presumably police officers or those close to the investigation". He added: "The records, which I think the committee have, show about half-a-dozen payments totalling about £20,000 over a period of eight or nine months [...] it appears to be inappropriate if not corrupt." Schwarz told the committee that he believed RISC Management had been hired to "extract" information from the police investigation into Ibori. He said he had also seen emails - which he believed had also been forwarded to the committee - which confirmed "contact" between detectives investigating Ibori and the private investigators. Schwarz, from Bindmans solicitors, represents Bhadresh Gohil, a London-based solicitor jailed along with Ibori for orchestrating his money laundering scam. Gohil is now considering an appeal. Gohil is understood to have been sent the invoices, anonymously, while in Wandsworth Prison last summer. In a statement, the Met said: "The [force] is investigating an allegation that illegal payments were made to police officers for information by a private investigation agency. The Directorate of Professional Standards (DPS) referred the matter to the Independent Police Complaints Commission in October 2011 which agreed to supervise a DPS investigation into the allegations." Following Schwarz's evidence to parliament, the Met said it had dropped its previous claim to have recently "uncovered evidence" casting doubt on the allegations. Previously, the force had suggested an active line of inquiry was the theory that Gohil or his associates had fabricated the allegations to undermine the prosecution. In a previous statement, provided on Friday, the force said: "As a result of inquiries police have uncovered evidence that casts doubt on the credibility of these allegations. Warrants have been executed at two addresses in London and a quantity of paperwork and computer equipment recovered." Two weeks ago, following raids on properties, one of which was the Gohil's family home in Kent, the force said: "Officers believe that they have identified the originator of the information and a line of enquiry suggests that there may have been an attempt to pervert the course of justice." However, sources at the Yard said previous statements no longer fully represented their position. A source with knowledge of the Met inquiry said the change of stance was unrelated to Schwarz's parliamentary evidence. The source said that, instead, there had been developments in the investigation over the last 24 hours. Schwarz named three serving Met police officers in his testimony to parliament as being potential "culprits": detective inspector Gary Walters, detective constables named as John MacDonald and "Clark". All three officers declined an opportunity to respond to the allegations when contacted by the Guardian last week. However, RISC Management indicated Walters would deny "any and all allegations". RISC Management denied all the allegations about the company, saying it was not aware of the Scotland Yard investigation and had no knowledge of the alleged financial records. The firm confirmed it had been hired by Ibori's lawyers but denied making corrupt payments, saying it "has never paid a serving police officer for information and would never approve such payments". Keith Hunter, chief executive of the company, said: "RISC management does not need to pay serving police officers for confidential information as we pride ourselves on our ability to provide positive solutions and accurate information legitimately. RISC Management has a highly respected reputation for conducting professional investigations". He added that his company was "proud to have a network of highly professional consultants, contacts and resources. These individuals are hired precisely because of their unique skill set and expertise". He accused Schwarz of "grandstanding" in front of the Commons committee, instead of taking the "correct course of reporting the matter to the police". He said Schwarz had not produced any evidence to support his claims and acted for a convicted solicitor, Gohil, who was jailed for seven years for money laundering. Speechly Bircham denied any knowledge of wrongdoing and said it would be willing to assist with any police inquiries. The law firm stressed Schwarz did not suggest in his evidence to parliament that Speechly Bircham was "party to illegal or corrupt payments" and said any such allegation would be false and defamatory. Ian Timlin, the former Speechly Bircham lawyer who was at the time representing Ibori, said neither he nor the firm had "any knowledge of any payments to police officers for information." He added: "At no time, did RISC ever inform me who or what was the source/s they were paying."

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Thursday, 17 May 2012

'Queen of Disco' Donna Summer 'thought she became ill after inhaling 9/11 particles'

The 63-year-old singer, who had hits including Hot Stuff, Love to Love You, Baby and I Feel Love, died in Florida on Thursday morning. She had largely kept her battle with lung cancer out of the public eye. But the website TMZ reported that the singer had told friends she believed her illness was the result of inhaling toxic dust from the collapsed Twin Towers. On Thursday night tributes were paid to the singer, considered by many to be the voice of the 1970s. A statement released on behalf of her family — husband Bruce Sudano, their daughters Brooklyn and Amanda, her daughter, Mimi from a previous marriage and four grandchildren — read: “Early this morning, surrounded by family, we lost Donna Summer Sudano, a woman of many gifts, the greatest being her faith. "While we grieve her passing, we are at peace celebrating her extraordinary life and her continued legacy.

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Investigators are questioning Mexico's former deputy defence minister and a top army general for suspected links to organised crime

49 BODIES FOUND IN A HIGHWAY NORTHERN MEXICO
Grafitti saying 'Z 100%', referring to the Los Zetas cartel, near to where 49 mutilated bodies were found in Northern Mexico. Photograph: Miguel Sierra/EPA

Investigators are questioning Mexico's former deputy defence minister and a top army general for suspected links to organised crime, in the highest level scandal to hit the military in the five-year-old drug war.

Mexican soldiers on Tuesday detained retired general Tomás Angeles Dauahare and general Roberto Dawe González and turned them over to the country's organised crime unit, military and government officials said.

Angeles Dauahare was number 2 in the armed forces under President Felipe Calderón and helped lead the government's crackdown on drug cartels after soldiers were deployed to the streets in late 2006. He retired in 2008.

Dawe González, still an active duty general, led an elite army unit in the western state of Colima and local media said he previously held posts in the violent states of Sinaloa and Chihuahua.

An official at the attorney general's office said they would be held for several days to give testimony and then could be called in front of a judge.

"The generals are answering questions because they are allegedly tied to organised crime," the official said.

Angeles Dauahare said through a lawyer that his detention was unjustified, daily Reforma newspaper reported.

If the generals were convicted of drug trafficking, it would mark the most serious case of military corruption during Calderón's administration.

"Traditionally the armed forces had a side role in the anti-drug fight, eradicating drug crops or stopping drug shipments," said Alejandro Hope, a security analyst who formerly worked in the government intelligence agency.

"After 2006, they were more directly involved in public security, putting them at a higher risk of contact [with drug gangs]," he said.

About 55,000 people have been killed in drug violence over the past five years as rival cartels fight each other and government forces.

Worsening drug-related attacks in major cities are eroding support for Calderón's conservative National Action Party, or PAN, ahead of a 1 July presidential vote.

Over the weekend, police found 49 headless bodies on a highway in northern Mexico, the latest in a recent series of brutal massacres where mutilated corpses have been hung from bridges or shoved in iceboxes.

Opinion polls show Calderón's party is trailing by double digits behind opposition candidate Enrique Peña Nieto from the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, which says the government's drug strategy is failing.

Traditionally, the military has been seen as less susceptible to cartel bribes and intimidation than badly paid local and state police forces, who are often easily swayed by drug gang pay offs.

But there have been cases of military corruption in the past. Angeles Dauahare himself oversaw the landmark trial of two generals convicted of working with drug gangs in 2002.

Those two generals were convicted of links to the Juárez cartel once headed by the late Amado Carrillo Fuentes, who was known as the Lord of the Skies for flying plane load of cocaine into the United States.

Since then, the Sinaloa cartel - headed by Mexico's most wanted man Joaquín "Shorty" Guzmán - has expanded its power and is locked in a bloody battle over smuggling routes with the Zetas gang, founded by deserters from the Mexican army.

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JPMorgan's Trading Loss Is Said to Rise at Least 50%

The trading losses suffered by JPMorgan Chase have surged in recent days, surpassing the bank’s initial $2 billion estimate by at least $1 billion, according to people with knowledge of the losses. When Jamie Dimon, JPMorgan’s chief executive, announced the losses last Thursday, he indicated they could double within the next few quarters. But that process has been compressed into four trading days as hedge funds and other investors take advantage of JPMorgan’s distress, fueling faster deterioration in the underlying credit market positions held by the bank. A spokeswoman for the bank declined to comment, although Mr. Dimon has said the total paper trading losses will be volatile depending on day-to-day market fluctuations. The Federal Reserve is examining the scope of the growing losses and the original bet, along with whether JPMorgan’s chief investment office took risks that were inappropriate for a federally insured depository institution, according to several people with knowledge of the examination. They spoke on the condition of anonymity because the investigation is still under way. The overall health of the bank remains strong, even with the additional losses, and JPMorgan has been able to increase its stock dividend faster than its rivals because of stronger earnings and a more solid capital buffer. Still, the huge trading losses rocked Wall Street and reignited the debate over how tightly giant financial institutions should be regulated. Bank analysts say that while the bank’s stability is not threatened, if the losses continue to mount, the outlook for the bank’s dividend will grow uncertain. The bank’s leadership has discussed the impact of the losses on future earnings, although a dividend cut remains highly unlikely for now. In March, the company raised the quarterly dividend by 5 cents, to 30 cents, which will cost the bank about $190 million more this quarter. A spokeswoman for the bank said a dividend cut has not been discussed internally. At the bank’s annual meeting in Tampa, Fla., on Tuesday, Mr. Dimon did not definitively rule out cutting the dividend, although he said that he “hoped” it would not be cut. John Lackey, a shareholder from Richmond, Va., who attended the meeting precisely to ask about the dividend, was not reassured. “That wasn’t a very clear answer,” he said of Mr. Dimon’s response. “I expect that shareholders are going to suffer because of this.” Analysts expect the bank to earn $4 billion in the second quarter, factoring in the original estimated loss of $2 billion. Even if the additional trading losses were to double, the bank could still earn a profit of $2 billion. And many analysts and investors remain optimistic about the bank’s long-term prospects. Glenn Schorr, a widely followed analyst with Nomura, reiterated on Wednesday his buy rating on JPMorgan shares, which are down more than 10 percent since the trading loss became public last week. What’s more, the chief investment office earned more than $5 billion in the last three years, which leaves it ahead over all, even given the added red ink. But the underlying problem is that while these sharp swings are expected at a big hedge fund, they should not be occurring at a bank whose deposits are government-backed and which has access to ultralow cost capital from the Federal Reserve, experts said. “JPMorgan Chase has a big hedge fund inside a commercial bank,” said Mark Williams, a professor of finance at Boston University, who also served as a Federal Reserve bank examiner. “They should be taking in deposits and making loans, not taking large speculative bets.” Not long after Mr. Dimon’s announcement of a dividend increase in March, the notorious bet by JPMorgan’s chief investment office began to fall apart. Traders at the unit’s London desk and elsewhere are now frantically trying to defuse the huge bet that was built up over years, but started generating erratic returns in late March. After a brief pause, the losses began to mount again in late April, prompting Mr. Dimon’s announcement on May 10. Beginning on Friday, the same trends that had been causing the losses for six weeks accelerated, since traders on the opposite side of the bet knew the bank was under pressure to unwind the losing trade and could not double down in any way. Another issue is that the trader who executed the complex wager, Bruno Iksil, is no longer on the trading desk. Nicknamed the London Whale, Mr. Iksil had a firm grasp on the trade — knowledge that is hard to replace, even though his anticipated departure is seen as sign of the bank’s taking responsibility for the debacle. “They were caught short,” said one experienced credit trader who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the situation is still fluid. The market player, who does not stand to gain from JPMorgan’s losses and is not involved in the trade, added, “this is a very hard trade to get out of because it’s so big.” He estimated that the initial loss of just over $2 billion was caused by a move of a quarter percentage point, or 25 basis points, on a portfolio with a notional value of $150 billion to $200 billion — in other words, the total value of the contracts traded, not JPMorgan’s exposure. In the four trading days since Mr. Dimon’s disclosure, the market has moved at least 15 to 20 basis points more against JPMorgan, he said. The overall losses are not directly proportional to the move in basis points because of the complexity of the trade. Many of the positions are highly illiquid, making them difficult to value for regulators and the bank itself. In its simplest form, traders said, the complex position assembled by the bank included a bullish bet on an index of investment-grade corporate debt, later paired with a bearish bet on high-yield securities, achieved by selling insurance contracts known as credit-default swaps. A big move in the interest rate spread between the investment grade securities and risk-free government bonds in recent months hurt the first part of the bet, and was not offset by equally large moves in the price of the insurance on the high yield bonds. As the credit yield curve steepened, the losses piled up on the corporate grade index, overwhelming gains elsewhere on the trades. Making matters worse, there was a mismatch between the expiration of different instruments within the trade, increasing losses. The additional losses represent a worsening of what is already the most embarrassing misstep for JPMorgan since Mr. Dimon became chief executive in 2005. No one has blamed Mr. Dimon for the trade, which was under the oversight of the head of the chief investment office, Ina Drew, but he has repeatedly apologized, calling it “stupid” and “sloppy.” Ms. Drew resigned Monday and more departures are anticipated.

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Monday, 30 April 2012

Housing Scammer Sentenced To Life In Prison

Timothy Barnett used the recent housing crisis to steal the retirement savings of elderly people in California and now he has been sentenced to 25 years to life in prison under the states three-strikes law. The case appears to be the first time that a white-collar offender has received such a lengthy sentence under a statue that is typically used to put the most hardened criminals behind bars for the remainder of their lives. This particular case is rare because Barnett’s entire history involves fraud. In March Barnett was sentenced to 17 felony counts for tricking five people into granting him title to their homes, the same charge he received back in the 1990s. In berating Mr. Barnett Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Stephen A. Marcus said on Friday: “The worst thing you can do is take somebody’s home. Instead of helping people, he stripped the equity from their homes and left five people homeless. Even Bernie Madoff didn’t take people’s homes from them.” Defense attorney Amy Konstantelos was angry that the three-strikes rule was used in a “non-violent” case and she plans to file an appeal. During his last scam in poor areas of Los Angeles from 2005 through 2007 Barnett managed to strip homeowners of nearly $900,000 in equity and then he moved to seize their property. As part of the sentencing all of Barnett’s assets are to be seized to pay back victims of his crime, although prosecutors admit that he likely doesn’t have the means to make good on his stolen payments. While the defense argues that his crimes did not violently hurt anyone, among his victims was widow Dorthy King, an 85-year-old blind widow who was kicked out of her home after being scammed by Timothy Barnett. Perhaps kicking an 85-year-old blind woman out of her home should be considered a violent crime when fraud is involved.

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Friday, 27 April 2012

Gas canister man storms office

One of the country's busiest shopping streets has been closed as a man wearing gas canisters stormed into an office and threatened to blow himself up, it was reported. Tottenham Court Road in central London was closed after police received emergency calls at midday. Scotland Yard sent a hostage negotiator to the scene amid reports the man had held people hostage inside the building several floors up. Pictures emerged of computer and office equipment being thrown through one of the office windows. A police spokesman said it was "too early to say if the suspect was armed or indeed had taken any hostages" but businesses and nearby buildings were evacuated. Joaqam Ramus, who works at nearby Cafe Fresco, said before being evacuated: "There was talk of a bomb and somebody having a hostage in a building. "All Tottenham Court Road is closed and so are we - the police told us to shut. "We don't know what it is but it seems someone has a hostage."

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Thursday, 26 April 2012

Credit card fraud websites shut down on three continents

Three men have been arrested and 36 criminal websites selling credit card information and other personal data shut down as part of a two-year international anti-fraud operation, police have confirmed. The Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA), working with the FBI and US Department of Justice, as well as authorities in Germany; the Netherlands; Ukraine; Australia and Romania, swooped after identifying the sites as specialising in selling card and bank details in bulk. The move comes as a blow to what is a growing black market for stolen financial data. Detectives estimated that the card information seized could have been used to extract more than £500m in total by fraudsters. SOCA claimed it has recovered more than two and a half million items of compromised personal and financial information over the past two years. “The authorities have shut down 36 websites but it is difficult to know how many other people had access to that data. They could spring back up somewhere else if a gang is not eradicated completely,” said Graham Cluley of internet security firm Sophos. He added: “This is big business and, just as in any legitimate company there are people who specialise in different things, so there are those who actually get their hands on the personal data and those who sell it on; they are not often the same person.” An investigation by The Independent last summer found that scammers were making a “comfortable living” getting their hands on sensitive information and selling it online. Card details were being offered for sale for between 4p and £60 per card – depending on the quality – according to one source in the business. Some cards would be sold with incomplete or unreliable information; others ready to use. Some of the card details for sale on the websites shut down by SOCA were being sold for as little as £2 each. Investigators said that the alleged fraudsters were using Automated Vending Carts, which allowed them to sell large quantities of stolen data. They are said to be a driver of the growth in banking fraud over the last 18 months because of the speed with which stolen data can be sold. Lee Miles, Head of Cyber Operations for SOCA said: “This operation is an excellent example of the level of international cooperation being focused on tackling online fraud. Our activities have saved business, online retailers and financial institutions potential fraud losses estimated at more than half a billion pounds, and at the same time protected thousands of individuals from the distress caused by being a victim of fraud or identity crime.” An alleged operator in Macedonia was one of those arrested, while two British men accused of buying the information were also detained. Britain’s Dedicated Cheque & Plastic Crime Unit also seized computers suspected of being used to commit fraud.

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Friday, 20 April 2012

Mike Tyson has for the first time revealed his lowest point ever in a searingly candid interview.

Once known as the ‘baddest man on the planet’, his life has taken more than a few dark twists and turns.

But now Mike Tyson has for the first time revealed his lowest point ever in a searingly candid interview.

The former heavyweight champion said that back in 2009 he was in a hotel room with seven prostitutes, a morphine drip in his arm, a pile of cocaine and a bottle of cognac when he began to feel paranoid.

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Candid: The former world champion gave his most honest interview yet - revealing the drug-fuelled night that made him turn his life around and get clean and sober

Convinced the women were trying to steal from him he started beating them up and threw them out - to stop them from 'taking his soul'.

 

 Tyson said: ‘That’s when I realised it wasn’t just demons - it was the devil himself.

‘It was the lowest point of a very low life, but it was my own knockout punch to clean up life, get whole, get well - and I haven’t done anything in three years now. 

‘I’m clean. I’m sober.’

Tyson’s recently swapped the boxing ring for the cabaret stage in a six night comedy show at the MGM Grand Casino in Las Vegas, where some of his biggest fights took place.

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World Champion: Mike Tyson lands the knockout punch to the jaw of challenger Larry Holmes during fourth round of the World Heavyweight Championship in Atlantic City 1988

 

In an interview with Las Vegas Weekly to promote the show, he was asked to talk about the moment he realised he had to turn his life around.

Tyson, 45 said: ‘Laying in bed in a hotel room - I try never to be alone, even if it’s a prostitute, a dog. 

‘This is really dark. I am in my hotel suite, I’ve got seven women there, and I have a morphine drip, and I had my cocaine, and I had my (Viagra like pill) Cialis, I had my marijuana, I had the Hennessy, and I am at my lowest point because I got paranoid and I thought these women were trying to rob me and set me up. 

‘I started beating them. I was in a dark place. There was a purpose, though, because I didn’t want to give them any more of my soul.

‘So this is my devil, this is where I am, I am locked up alone. There is nobody there telling me that I’m doing too much. 

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Troubled: Tyson's first marriage to actress Robin Givens fell apart amid allegations of him being violent - he is now married for the third time

 

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Mug shot: In 1992 Tyson was jailed for raping Desiree Washington - a beauty pageant contestant - he was released from prison after three years

‘That is the devil, he won. I kicked them all out. So that was my lowest point. Oh, man. I am just very grateful to be here - my heart should have blown apart. I was sweating wide awake. No more cocaine. No more. Three years clean.’

In his turbulent life Tyson has been married three times, fathered eight children and became the youngest heavyweight champion the world has ever seen at just 20.

But fame ruined him and his troubled upbringing - his mother was a prostitute and he never knew his pimp father - came back to haunt him.

In the interview he claimed to have earned $300million in winnings but admitted that he was so bad with money he was ‘forced to live paycheck to paycheck’.

In 1992, three years after his first marriage to actress Robin Givens fell apart, he was jailed for six years for raping Desiree Washington, a contestant in the Miss Black America pageant.

Released having served three years, he fought Evander Holyfield in the fight that became one of the most notorious bouts in boxing history when he bit part of his opponent’s ear off.

Reflecting on his life Tyson told Las Vegas Weekly that he was now the happiest he has ever been, and is just trying to be a good husband to his third wife, and a good father to his children.

Tyson said: ‘In order to wear the crown, you have to have a miserable life, and that is the one that inherits the crown. 

‘I don’t know, you have to go from the worst to reach the best. I’m just that extreme type of person. That is who I am, the guy that has no limits.’



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EU condemns Repsol state seizure

 The European Parliament has passed a resolution condemning a nationalisation that has strained relations between Spain and Argentina. Argentina has nationalised YPF, wiping out the Spanish firm Repsol's controlling-stake in the oil firm. The resolution asks the European Commission to consider a "partial suspension" of tariffs that benefit Argentine exports into the EU. Shares in Repsol has another decline, falling 2.3% on Friday. Over the week, Repsol stock has lost almost a fifth of its value. MEPs in the European Parliament said the institution "deplores" the decision taken by Argentina and describes it as an "attack on the exercise of free enterprise". Decisions such as that taken by the Argentine authorities "can put a strain on the climate of understanding and friendship needed to reach" a trade agreement between a South American bloc and the EU, it said. The resolution, which is non-binding, received 458 votes in favour, 71 against and 16 abstentions. 'Not valid' It also emerged that Repsol may be obliged to buy a minority shareholder's YPF stake if it ever lost majority control, which Repsol denied. Twenty-five percent of YPF is owned by Argentina's Eskenazi family through its firm, Peterson. Continue reading the main story Nationalising YPF Spain's Repsol has hitherto owned 57.4% of shares with 25.5% belonging to Argentina's Petersen, 0.02% to the Argentine government and 17% traded on stock exchanges The Argentine government proposes to seize 51% of the shares, all of which will be taken from Repsol's stake, leaving the Spanish firm with 6.4% The expropriated shares will in turn be divided between the Argentine government and provincial governors Following the expropriation, Petersen will retain its 25.5% stake and 17% of the shares will continue to be traded Argentina's risky energy seizure According to regulator filings of a 2008 agreement, Repsol must "maintain directly or indirectly through controlled companies an ownership interest greater than or equal to 50.1%". If it does not, Repsol is obliged to buy back the loans used to secure the Eskenazis' shares. But Repsol told the BBC that the expropriation of its stake in YPF had invalidated the agreement. "The agreement is not valid under Spanish law in these conditions," said Kristian Rix, a Repsol spokesman. "The law is unequivocal, there is no debate." Trade war brewing? Spain has threatened retaliation against Argentina over the forced nationalisation of oil firm YPF, raising the prospects of a trade war between the nations. Spanish Trade Secretary Jaime Garcia Legaz said the European Union would intervene over Argentina's seizure of YPF. Argentina is taking over 51% of YPF, wiping out Repsol's 57.4% majority stake. The move has wide support in Argentina but has provoked outrage in Spain. Spain's Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo said US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had also offered support. Repsol has said it wants around $10bn (£6.2bn) for its stake in YPF, but Argentina has said it does not accept that valuation. YPF, Argentina's biggest oil company, was privatised in 1993. Last year it announced huge new finds of shale oil and gas.

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