Posts Tagged ‘bribes’

Merkel Says Immigration Requires a “European Solution”

June 16, 2018

Migration is an issue that demands a European solution, German Chancellor Angela Merkel insisted on Saturday, giving no ground in a showdown with her Bavarian allies that threatens her three-month-old coalition.

The row is over Merkel’s rejection of plans by Interior Minister Horst Seehofer, from Bavaria, for Germany unilaterally to send back migrants who have registered in other European Union countries.

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Defiant Merkel backs Europe migrant policy as Bavaria row simmers

Such a reversal of her 2015 open-door migrant policy would be a huge blow to the authority of Merkel, in power for more than 12 years, and undermine the Schengen open-border system at a time when EU tensions over migration are running high.

In her weekly podcast, three days before talks between Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron outside Berlin, the chancellor hammered home her stance:

“This is a European challenge that also needs a European solution. And I view this issue as decisive for keeping Europe together,” she said.

Merkel wants two weeks to try to strike bilateral deals with partners, such as Italy and Greece, on migrants and to make progress at an EU summit on June 28-29 on an EU-wide policy.

FILE PHOTO: German Chancellor Angela Merkel speaks at the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy in Berlin, Germany, June 15, 2018. REUTERS/Michele Tantussi/File Photo

Seehofer’s Christian Social Union (CSU), facing a tough state vote in October, doesn’t want to wait. Members say the minister will defy Merkel on Monday if no compromise has been reached by then, and go ahead with the plans alone.

Such an affront to Merkel could force her to fire Seehofer, and there is even talk of the end of the 70-year conservative parliamentary alliance between Bavaria and Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU).

Without the CSU, the CDU and Social Democrats (SPD), the third party in her “grand coalition”, would lack a majority.

Last week, Merkel confronted the risk of losing the full support of her own CDU, many of whom support the CSU’s tougher line. But she won over a majority of her lawmakers on Thursday and most are now behind her.

Merkel’s refugee policy, which has led to more than 1.6 million migrants arriving in Germany in the last three years, is widely blamed for a surge in support for the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD), which entered parliament after a September election and is the main opposition party.

In her podcast, Merkel also said Germany and France, the EU’s strongest axis despite some differences, would try to give new momentum to European cooperation on foreign, defense and security policy to contribute to a strong and unified Europe.

She also said the partners would work on further developing the economic and currency union and innovation.

Reporting by Madeline Chambers, editing by Larry King





Germany’s Horst Seehofer fires head of BAMF migrant and refugee agency

June 16, 2018

Süddeutsche Zeitung that Merkel had caused “a split in Europe” by allowing hundreds of thousands of refugees into Germany

Germany’s interior minister has fired the head of the country’s refugee agency after a scandal over improper asylum decisions came to light. The immigration issue threatens to splinter Angela Merkel’s conservative bloc.

Horst Seehofer and Jutta Cordt (picture-alliance/dpa/K. Nietfeld)

Seehofer dismissed the head of Germany’s Federal Office for Migration and Refugees, Jutta Cordt, it was revealed on Friday, as divisions over immigration deepened at the top of Germany’s ruling coalition.

Cordt had been under heavy criticism after aninternal review by BAMF found that the agency’s Bremen branch had regularly and knowingly ignored legal and internal regulations.

An Interior Ministry spokesman told the DPA news agency that Seehofer had informed Cordt of his decision to dismiss her on Wednesday.

The allegations over Bremen date back to the 2013-16 period. Cordt only took over the agency in 2017.

Opposition lawmaker Linda Teuteberg of the pro-business Free Democrats said Cordt had been a “sacrificial lamb.”

However, Andrea Lindhaus, a CSU ally of Seehofer, said Cordt had “done a good job, but replacing her is the only way to re-establish trust for a new start.”

Read more: Going undercover at Germany’s BAMF refugee agency

Seehofer’s actions come as he seeks to toughen the German government’s stance on migration, with a plan to reject those with no documentation and individuals seeking re-entry after deportation. The interior minister, from the CSU Bavarian sister party of Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU), has also said refugees who have already registered in another European Union country should be rejected.

Merkel has expressed opposition to such measures, fearing they could increase the refugee burden for other countries and undermine EU solidarity.

Read more: Analysis – Did Angela Merkel bring this political blow on herself?

Earlier on Friday, Seehofer told the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung that Merkel had caused “a split in Europe” by allowing hundreds of thousands of refugees into Germany in 2015.

rc/msh (dpa, Reuters)


Singapore, Malaysia authorities meet to discuss 1MDB, kleptocracy

May 31, 2018

Singapore investigators are in the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur to help authorities with an investigation into scandal-plagued state fund 1MDB, Singapore police said on Thursday, as the country’s new government steps up efforts to tackle graft.

At least six countries, including the United States and Switzerland, are investigating claims that $4.5 billion was siphoned out of the fund, 1Malaysia Development Berhad, founded by former Prime Minister Najib Razak.

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“Our Malaysian counterparts have requested for our assistance in relation to their 1MDB-related investigations, and we agreed to a meeting in Kuala Lumpur,” a Singapore police spokeswoman told Reuters in an email.

She gave no details of the assistance sought.

The news comes a week after Malaysian officials met officers of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), which refers to Najib as “Malaysian Official Number 1” in an anti-kleptocracy investigation of 1MDB.

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Najib has denied any wrongdoing and said in 2016 that the Malaysian government would cooperate with U.S. investigations.

Singapore has taken action against several banks and bank officials for failures of money-laundering controls over transactions related to 1MDB, including the closure of units of BSI Bank and Falcon Bank.

Malaysia’s newly-elected Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad has vowed to investigate the 1MDB scandal and act against those who may have abetted, or benefited from, corruption at the fund.

Mahathir, who defeated Najib, a former protégé turned political opponent, in the historic May 9 elections, immediately reopened 1MDB investigations and barred the former leader from leaving the country.

The former prime minister went to Malaysia’s anti-graft agency to give a statement explaining what he knew about $10.6 million transferred into his bank account from the fund.

Last week, Malaysia’s finance minister said funds from deals with the central bank and sovereign wealth fund Khazanah were used by the previous government to meet some liabilities of the troubled state fund.

Malaysian police said they seized cash worth 114 million ringgit ($29 million) and more than 400 luxury handbags from Najib’s home and his son’s apartments as part of the investigation.

Reporting by Fathin Ungku; Editing by Clarence Fernandez


German asylum scandal: staff council blames management — employees accused of mishandling asylum applications, and possibly taking bribes

May 29, 2018

In an open letter, the council chairman said executives “must be in focus” in the probe. Public sector employees have been accused of mishandling asylum applications, and possibly taking bribes.

Germany's Federal Office for Migration and Refugees

The staff council of the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) strongly criticized internal processes at the agency in an open letter published by the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung on Tuesday.

The council said BAMF chief Jutta Cordt must share responsibility for the scandal that emerged last month, in which employees at the agency’s bureau in Bremen reportedly mismanaged and approved more than 1,000 asylum applicationsThere is also the possibility bribery was involved..

Deutschland BAMF-Chefin Jutta Cordt (picture-alliance/dpa/C. Jaspersen)BAMF chief Jutta Cordt is expected to give her assessment of the situation to a parliamentary committee

According to the council’s open letter, upper management pressured staff todeal with asylum applications quickly, despite an overload of cases, especially at the height of the migration crisis in 2015.

“The so-called executives, and not the low-ranking employees of the federal office, must be in focus,” said council chairman Rudolf Scheinost and deputy chairman Paul Müller in the open letter.

Reforms on the table?

German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer and Cordt are expected to address a parliamentary committee later Tuesday to clarify the situation and provide information as to who may be responsible for the asylum applications in question.

Seehofer has proposed reforming the way asylum applications are handled. The former Bavarian state premier has also floated the idea of so-called anchor centers where refugees would be placed for processing upon arrival.

In 2015, nearly 900,000 people entered Germany irregularly, many of them fleeing conflict and extreme poverty in the Middle East, Asia and Africa.

The ensuing crisis prompted a tumultuous debate about the role of host countries, and also the responsibilities of refugees in Germany and elsewhere in the EU.

ls/rt (AFP, dpa)

German interior minister wants to reform refugee office after scandal widens

May 28, 2018

As the scandal at the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees widens with fresh allegations of impropriety, Interior Minister Horst Seehofer wants to push forward with his “master plan” to reform the asylum system.

German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer (Imago/J. Schicke)

German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer has said that the scandal over public workers allegedly having accepted bribes and improperly approving more than a thousand asylum applications at the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) in Bremen represents an opportunity for large-scale reform.

“The Bremen case confirms to me that we need to change the whole asylum organization in Germany,” Seehofer told German broadcaster ZDF on Sunday.

Read more: Opinion: German refugee agency scandal – Keep calm and investigate

Seehofer, a strong proponent of curbing migration, had already floated changes to migration processing even prior to the BAMF scandal. The conservative minister has proposed the creation of so-called “anchor centers,” a plan that would place all refugees in specific centers upon arrival for processing.

The proposal has been rejected by NGOs and is unpopular with the Social Democrats (SPD), who share governing powers with Seehofer’s Christian Social Union (CSU) in Angela Merkel’s grand coalition.

But Seehofer has doubled down on his proposal. He explained to ZDF that in light of the Bremen scandal, the anchor centers are even more necessary, as they would make asylum procedures speedier and safer.

The interior minister said his “master plan” was ready and that it would be made public in the next two weeks.

Read more: A deeper look at Germany’s new Interior and Heimat Ministry

Allegations at second BAMF office

Following the Bremen scandal, practices at another BAMF office have also come into question. Internal documents show that an employee blew the whistle months ago on irregular practices in a BAMF office in Bingen, a town in Rhineland-Palatinate, near the city of Mainz.

At the Bingen center, refugees from certain countries had been granted approvals at markedly higher rates than those from other countries.

The complaint cites one example, between January and October 2017, where 97 percent of applications from Iran received an approval, while 90 percent of applications from Afghanistan were approved for some form of right to stay. But nationwide rates of approvals for refugees from these two countries were at 50 percent and 44 percent, respectively.

Read more: German asylum scandal — What is the Interior Ministry hiding?

While it has yet to be proven if the irregular situation in Bingen can be attributed to a statistical anomaly, documents from Bingen also show that some BAMF employees might have lacked the proper training to make asylum application decisions.

Seehofer and the head of BAMF, Jutta Cordt, are expected to appear on Tuesday at a hearing in Germany’s parliament, where they will face questions from a committee that has been tasked with investigating the BAMF scandal in Bremen.

jcg/cmk (dpa, Reuters)


‘Unprecedented’ foreign interference in Australia: spy chief

May 25, 2018

Australia’s spy chief has issued a new warning that foreign interference and espionage in the country had reached “unprecedented” levels that could cause “catastrophic harm” to Canberra’s interests.

Duncan Lewis, head of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO), did not single out any specific country but his remarks coincided with a sharp escalation of concerns over Chinese interference in domestic politics.

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Duncan Lewis, head of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO)

Lewis, in remarks in parliament late Thursday, said the “current scale of foreign intelligence activity … is unprecedented”.

He said foreign actors were targeting privileged and classified information on Australia’s alliances, partnerships and positions on diplomatic, economic and military issues.

Information on energy, mineral resources and science and technology innovations was also of interest, he added.

© AFP/File | Australia’s spy chief warned there were more foreign agents than during the Cold War

“Espionage, interference, sabotage and malicious insider activities can inflict catastrophic harm on our country’s interests,” Lewis told a parliamentary hearing in Canberra.

“It undermines potentially our sovereignty, our security and our prosperity… The grim reality is there are more foreign intelligence officers today than during the Cold War, and they have more ways of attacking us.”

Lewis backed efforts by the government to pass wide-ranging reforms to strengthen and modernise laws when investigating and prosecuting alleged political meddling.

Under the proposed laws, a transparency scheme would also require people to declare which foreign actors they are working for.

Lewis’ remarks follow allegations raised by senior politician Andrew Hastie on Tuesday that a billionaire Chinese-Australian businessman, a major political donor, had been identified by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation as a co-conspirator in a plot to bribe a top UN official.

Beijing criticised the disclosure, made under parliamentary privilege, and has also reacted angrily to the foreign interference laws, which came in the wake of fears about Chinese efforts to shape policy and opinion in democracies.



Voter card storm clouds key Indian state election — Charges of Bribery

May 12, 2018

Voting in a key Indian state opened Saturday amid dirty tricks claims by the two leading parties after nearly 10,000 voting cards were seized by election authorities.

© AFP / by Bhuvan BAGGA | The opposition Congress party is fighting to retain control of its last major state, Karnataka, amid a fierce onslaught by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ruling Hindu nationalist party

The opposition Congress party, which has dominated India’s politics in the seven decades since independence, is fighting to retain control of its last major state, Karnataka, amid a fierce onslaught by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ruling Hindu nationalist party.

Voting was postponed in one constituency after the discovery of the voting cards, which authorities suspect were obtained through bribes. Police have launched an investigation.

The state election commission said there was a “planned design to induce the voters, thus attempt to vitiate the poll process” in Rajarajeshwari Nagar district of the state capital Bangalore.

Congress and Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party accused each other of being responsible. Voting in the district was put back to May 28.

Tens of thousands of security personnel have been deployed across the state of 65 million people for voting. The result, which will have a major impact on campaigning for a national election next year, will be announced on Tuesday.

Voting started slowly in Bangalore, India’s global IT hub, after a rainstorm on Friday again exposed the city’s over-stretched infrastructure with massive traffic snarls, waterlogging and overflowing drains.

– Vote appeal –

But the two parties urged voters to brave the disruption and turn out.

“I appeal to all office bearers and workers of the Congress party in Karnataka to provide all possible assistance to those affected by heavy rains,? Congress leader Rahul Gandhi said in a Twitter statement.

“Our polling booth teams must remain alert and must help voters facing difficulties in reaching polling booths,” he added.

Modi also issued an appeal.

“Urging my sisters and brothers of Karnataka to vote in large numbers today. I would particularly like to call upon young voters to vote and enrich this festival of democracy with their participation,” the prime minister said on Twitter.

The two leaders have embarked on an angry campaign targetting each other with personal attacks. Local issues such as the state’s infrastructure crisis have barely featured.

But Karnataka is crucial for both parties.

Congress is anxious to reverse its political fortunes so it can mount a strong challenge in next year’s election.

If it loses Karnataka, Congress will only have two small states, Mizoram and Punjab, and the small territory of Puducherry which together account for about 2.5 percent of India’s population of 1.25 billion.

The BJP and its allies hold states with about 70 percent of the population.

But Modi’s party needs a breakthrough in the south of India.

The prime minister has has faced allegations of bias towards the northern, western and central regions where his Hindu nationalist BJP is dominant.

Modi has focused his campaign on national pride, the economy and his aggressive foreign policy. He has also attacked Gandhi’s Italian ancestry and family’s privileged history. His mother, Sonia, is Italian and the Gandhi-Nehru dynasty has provided three prime ministers since 1947.

Congress has instead focused on building up the region.

It has also questioned the BJP’s selection of B.S Yeddyurappa as its candidate for chief minister. The 75-year-old has in the past faced corruption allegations.

Some polls have predicted a hung state assembly with a regional party, Janata Dal, led by 84-year-old former prime minister H.D Deve Gowda and his son, playing a key role in forming the next state government.

by Bhuvan BAGGA

China media say Taiwan has sour grapes as another ally goes

May 2, 2018

Taiwan has a case of sour grapes, Chinese state media said on Wednesday, after the self-ruled island accused China of using a $3-billion aid pledge to persuade the Dominican Republic to switch long-standing diplomatic ties to Beijing.

China, which denied there were any economic pre-conditions for establishing relations with the Caribbean nation, says Taiwan is simply a wayward province with no right to state-to-state ties.

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Taiwan’s government says the Dominican Republic accepted false promises of aid from China. A Taiwan official told Reuters that China had dangled a package of investments, financial assistance and low-interest loans worth at least $3.1 billion to the country, which shares an island with Haiti to the west.

The overseas edition of China’s ruling Communist Party’s People’s Daily said Taiwan’s governing Democratic Progressive Party was unfairly trying to cast aspersions on the move.

“Once again they are playing the shirking responsibility game of laying the blame on others, creating tragedy and inciting confrontation, slandering the Dominican Republic’s choice of China with an axe to grind,” it wrote in a front page commentary.

However, it added, the real story was that the Dominican Republic abandoned Taiwan because that was the irresistible trend of the times and what the people demanded.

The changeover leaves Taiwan with formal relations to just 19 countries, many of them poor nations in Central America and the Pacific, such as Belize and Nauru.

China and Taiwan have tried to poach each other’s allies over the years, often dangling generous aid packages in front of developing nations, though Taipei struggles to compete with an increasingly powerful China.

Beijing has stepped up the pressure on Taiwan since the 2016 election of Tsai Ing-wen, from the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party, as president. China fears she will push for Taiwan’s formal independence, but Tsai says she wants to maintain the status quo.

The official China Daily said there was now “shrinking space for secessionists’ tricks” and that nearly all of the international community recognized Taiwan was an inalienable part of China.

“It shows that no matter how hard the Taiwan authorities try to maintain the island’s ‘international space’, their efforts to secure recognition of the island as an ‘independent country’ are doomed to failure,” it said in an editorial.

The Dominican Republic is the fourth country to cut ties with Taiwan since Tsai came to office, following the Gambia, Sao Tome and Principe and Panama.

The Vatican is possibly next, as the Holy See and China edge closer to an accord on the appointment of bishops in China.

Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Clarence Fernandez


Phiippines Justice Secretary Ousted: Leaves behind grotesque pile of dead from drug war, collusion with convicted drug felons, bribe from a Chinese casino kingpin, but not much in the way of Integity in the world of Rodrigo Duterte

April 7, 2018


 / 05:28 AM April 07, 2018

Hope, despair, elation. The Holy Week narrative from Palm Sunday to the Passion and Resurrection? Well, no. Just the public mood that swung just as wildly at the news that the controversial Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre was about to be fired by President Duterte—a report stoutly denied by Malacañang, then eventually confirmed by the President himself.

Aguirre’s removal from the President’s official family was a long time coming. Has any other holder of a Cabinet portfolio in recent memory had as tumultuous a tenure, as squalid a record, as Aguirre as head of the Department of Justice? His watch was a disgraceful time for the DOJ: He fecklessly transformed his powerful post into a virtual battering ram with which to browbeat the administration’s critics while he engaged in the most sordid politicking, debasing the very notions of justice that he was sworn to uphold.

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It was during Aguirre’s watch that the nation beheld the startling spectacle of the DOJ colluding publicly with convicted drug felons to accuse a sitting senator of drug trafficking. Exhibiting none of the judiciousness and discretion his position requires, he lit indiscriminate fires with his pronouncements: For example, he accused prominent political families in Marawi of conspiring with opposition forces to stoke discord in the besieged city, even showing off a cell phone photo that turned out to be fake. When confronted, the “perya barker,” as Sen. Grace Poe once described him, was forced to apologize over national TV.

He appeared to be knee-deep in the scandal that ensnared two of his fraternity brothers-turned-immigration officials, who were caught on camera receiving millions of pesos in an evident bribe from a Chinese casino kingpin. Also caught on camera during a Senate hearing: Aguirre apparently conspiring through text messages with political hatchet men to expedite cases against opposition senator Risa Hontiveros.

Those are the relatively lighter cases. The heavyweight ones involved no less than the integrity of the government’s bloody war on drugs that has claimed thousands of Filipino lives, even as Aguirre’s careless handling of the prosecutorial aspects of it led from one debacle to another. Nothing, for one, has come so far of the inquiry into the P6.4-billion “shabu” smuggling scandal at Customs—the biggest haul to be intercepted in the country, and apparently only a fraction of a much bigger shipment from China that got away and that implicated, via direct testimony by whistle-blower Mark Taguba at the Senate, a number of highly placed persons, among them the President’s son, former Davao vice mayor Paolo Duterte.

Most recently, it was found that the DOJ had dismissed the charges against confessed drug lord Kerwin Espinosa and several others, among them Peter Lim, whom Mr. Duterte himself had publicly threatened to kill for allegedly being a drug kingpin in the Visayas. The prosecutors’ shocking resolution on the dismissal of charges was kept from the public for three long months. When it was uncovered by journalists, Aguirre first feigned ignorance, saying he had no hand in his subordinates’ decision. Then, absurdly, hilariously, he blamed the incarcerated Sen. Leila de Lima for supposedly working with her minions still working at the DOJ to cast him, the justice secretary, in a bad light.

Mr. Duterte, meanwhile, was said to have been furious at the exoneration of Espinosaet al.—to the extent of punching a wall in anger, according to the dramatic account of the chief of the national police. But the gawking bystander would impertinently wonder: How could it have been possible for lowly prosecutors to make such a critical decision relating to the President’s pet enterprise without the big shots themselves being in the know?

The resulting public outrage appeared to have done what shame could not: The President announced, without disclosing details, that he had accepted Aguirre’s resignation. Yet earlier there was the typical hee-hawing from the Palace, to the effect that the justice secretary “still enjoys the trust and confidence of the President,” etc.—prevaricating and farcical to the bitter end.

Never mind. After the thorough thrashing that it endured under Aguirre’s leadership, it’s time for general cleaning at the Department of Justice.

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Nigeria Ready To Put To Use $1bn Buhari Approved to Fight Boko Haram

April 7, 2018

Funding Nigeria’s war against insurgency in the North East



Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant General Tukur Buratai

The Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant General Tukur Buratai, has revealed how the $1billion approved by President Muhammadu Buhari for the purchase of military equipment will be used.

Addressing journalists on Thursday at the Second Nigerian Army Procurement Seminar in Abuja, Buratai said the money will be utilised judiciously.

Recall that Buhari had approved the fund during a meeting with the Minister of Defence, Brigadier General Mansur Dan-Ali (rtd), and the service chiefs at the Presidential Villa in Abuja.

The Army chief was optimistic that the money would boost the efforts of the military in the war against insurgency in the North East and other security issues affecting the country.

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Muhammadu Buhari

According to Buratai, “Our capability is increased in terms of the platforms that would be procured, in terms of the further training that would be carried out.

“Once these equipment are procured, it means further consolidating on other areas where there are challenges so that the troops will be able to use these equipment and operate very efficiently to be able to defeat all those criminals.”