Posts Tagged ‘corruption’

Mexico used ‘tools of tyranny’ to spy on journalists, says top reporter

June 28, 2017


© AFP / by Jean Luis ARCE | Mexican journalist Carmen Aristegui has accused the government of using spyware on journalists

MEXICO CITY (AFP) – Forty minutes into our interview, noted Mexican journalist Carmen Aristegui picks up her phone and jokingly greets the government agents she alleges have been spying on her.”Hello? Interior ministry? Ah well, you knew all this anyway. Thanks for listening!” says the veteran anchorwoman, who is famous for hard-hitting reports on government corruption.

Humor is helping Aristegui, 53, overcome the unsettling discovery that her cell phone — and her teenage son’s — were hacked with a spyware called Pegasus, which accesses a target’s communications, camera and microphone.

According to the New York Times, which broke the story last week, the secretive Israeli company behind the spyware, NSO Group, says it only sells it to government agencies.

 Image result for Enrique Peña Nieto, photos
President Enrique Peña Nieto

The spyware is meant to be used to fight terrorists and criminals.

But Aristegui and eight other leading journalists and activists, who commissioned an independent investigation after finding the spyware on their phones, last week accused the Mexican government of using it on them and their families — a claim the government denies.

It is the latest crisis for the freedom of the press in Mexico, which is ranked the most dangerous country for journalists after the war zones of Syria and Afghanistan, and where more than 100 journalists have been murdered since 2000.

Q: Your investigation found that spyware was installed on your phones when you clicked on links in fake text messages. What did those messages say?

“We received messages where they would use the name of a friend (of my son’s). ‘Hi Emilio,’ it said. ‘I’m so-and-so, will you friend me on Facebook?’ But oddly enough, that person was already his friend on Facebook.

“Another was a news headline saying ‘Druglord “El Chapo” Guzman’s right-hand man detained at such-and-such an address’ — which happened to be right in front of our house.”

Q: How did you feel when you realized you were being spied on?

“No matter how normal your life is, how transparent you are with yourself and your family, it’s intimidating to know they know everything about you.

“This spying obviously has a fundamental objective: to intimidate, to make you vulnerable to your own fears, your own human weakness, your own personal history or whatever. It’s a sinister thing, something a dictatorial regime would do. These are the tools of tyranny.

“Is this Mexico? Does Mexico behave like a tyrannical regime? Judging by its espionage practices, I would say so. We can’t allow this to happen in what is supposedly a democracy.”

Q: The spying started in 2015, and you suspected it for a long time. Why did you wait so long to go public?

“Put yourself in my shoes at that point. It was a serious thing. A delicate thing. I didn’t have enough trust in the Mexican government to report it.

“We didn’t know what to do. The question was: Who do we report this to? To the very same people who are surely spying on us? So we did nothing, we just left it at that.

“My personal reaction was also to downplay it at first, assuming that it’s quote-unquote ‘normal’ to spy on journalists.

“But the big news is we’ve now carried out a scientific study to prove it. Now the question is whether it was the Mexican government. I presume it was. Absolutely.”

Q: How did you react when you realized your son had been targeted?

“I felt bad. Very bad. I thought the Mexican government had crossed a very serious line.

“He’s one of the (targets) who received the most messages. Why did they push so hard to access Emilio’s phone? Why so many messages targeting this boy? Only the people who did it know why.”

Q: Are you afraid?

“I try to live my life in peace, without being paranoid that there’s a knife lurking behind every door. If you do that, they’ve won.

“I have faith — and I always tell myself this — that my public work as a journalist is our best protection.”

by Jean Luis ARCE

Former Brazilian minister sentenced to 12 years prison

June 26, 2017


© AFP/File | Antonio Palocci, in custody since September, was convicted of taking bribes and money laundering as part of a huge corruption network centered on the state-owned Petrobras oil company

BRASÍLIA (AFP) – A Brazilian court sentenced Antonio Palocci, an influential minister during the leftist governments of Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and Dilma Rousseff, to 12 years prison for corruption Monday.Palocci, in custody since September, had been convicted of taking bribes and money laundering as part of a huge corruption network centered on the state-owned Petrobras oil company.

He was sentenced to 12 years and two months behind bars by Judge Sergio Moro, who heads the “Car Wash” probe dismantling the embezzlement and kickbacks scheme at Petrobras.

A finance minister under Lula and chief of staff for Rousseff, both from the Workers’ Party, Palocci is negotiating a plea bargain with prosecutors. That could add to the avalanche of evidence already driving scores of investigations into political leaders, including Lula who faces five corruption court cases.

Moro is currently considering a verdict in one of those cases, in which Lula is alleged to have received a seaside apartment as a bribe from one of Brazil’s biggest construction companies.

Corruption charges against Brazil’s Temer expected to come in waves: source — Plus related recent articles

June 24, 2017


By Ricardo Brito and Maria Carolina Marcello

Brazil’s top federal prosecutor will level corruption charges against President Michel Temer one at a time instead of making all the accusations at once, a strategy aimed at weakening his defense, a source with direct knowledge of the process told Reuters on Friday.

Under Brazilian law, any criminal charges against a sitting president must be approved by two-thirds of the lower house of Congress in order for the Supreme Court to put a leader on trial.

Top prosecutor Rodrigo Janot is expected to charge Temer with receiving bribes early next week. The president is also facing accusations of racketeering and obstruction of justice.

Temer’s office and his attorney, Antonio Mariz, did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Temer has repeatedly said he is innocent of all accusations.

The investigation is hampering the president’s ability to push his economic reforms through Congress.

Key lawmakers in Temer’s alliance told Reuters this week, on condition of anonymity so they could speak freely, that they will set aside work on those proposed labor law reforms if forced to vote on criminal charges against Temer.

They also said they will not even consider advancing work on pension reforms until changes to the labor law are passed.

Temer is being investigated in connection with a political graft scheme involving JBS SA, the world’s largest meatpacker. Company executives said in plea-bargain testimony that the president took nearly $5 million in bribes in return for help resolving tax matters, for freeing up loans from state-run banks and other matters.

Joesley Batista, one of the brothers who control JBS, also made a recording of a conversation he had with Temer earlier this year. In it the president appears to condone paying off a potential witness. Batista also accused Temer and aides of negotiating millions of dollars in illegal campaign donations for his Brazilian Social Democracy Party.

Lawyers defending Temer were trying to dismiss the use of the recording in the investigation, saying it was manipulated. But police said on Friday after finishing an analysis of the audio files and the equipment used by Joesley Batista to record the president that they were valid.

Lawmakers in Temer’s alliance say they have the one-third of lower-house votes required to block any charges against Temer. Out of 513 deputies, leaders in the alliance said this week they have between 250 and 300 votes.

But they also told Reuters they widely expected Janot to use the strategy of dragging out the charges against Temer in an effort to wear down lawmakers with multiple votes.

Those ballots will be deeply unpopular with Brazilian voters who overwhelmingly believe Temer is corrupt, according to opinion polls.

It also gives more time for possible new corruption revelations to surface against Temer, said another key lawmaker speaking on condition of anonymity, potentially eroding his support in the house.

(Reporting by Ricardo Brito and Maria Carolina Marcello; Additional reporting by Brad Brooks; Writing by Brad Brooks; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Sandra Maler)


Brazil’s Supreme Court is expected to rule on Thursday in the nation’s sweeping corruption probes

June 22, 2017

BRASILIA — Brazil’s Supreme Court is expected to rule on Thursday whether terms of plea bargains struck in the nation’s sweeping corruption probes can be revised by the full court, a move critics worry could sharply weaken the most potent weapon prosecutors wield in rooting out graft.

The court on Wednesday began debating that topic, and two of the 11 justices voted that the top court should have the right to revise the terms of plea bargains, but only after the defendants in cases in which their testimony was used have been sentenced.

As the law now stands, it is up to federal prosecutors to hammer out the details of plea bargains, such as whether a person who turns state witness must serve jail time or not, and if that agreement must be approved by a single judge.

Opening the possibility that defense lawyers could ask the badly over-burdened Supreme Court to decide on the terms of plea bargains would likely both severely slow down the speed at which such agreements are made and increase the chances that tougher terms would be forced upon potential whistleblowers, two federal prosecutors with knowledge of the matter told Reuters.

 Image result for brazil, supreme court, photos

“This is a signal to those who may wish to strike an accord with prosecutors and turn over substantial amounts of proof of corruption that they may not really benefit from doing so,” one of the prosecutors said. “Without question, this will lessen the numbers of those who will come forward to talk.”

Brazil only began allowing plea-bargain agreements in 2013. They have been the key means for federal prosecutors to unravel what has become one of the world’s largest corruption schemes, in which large firms paid billions of dollars in bribes to politicians and executives of state-run companies in return for winning lucrative contracts.

More than 90 high-ranking politicians and top businessmen have been convicted so far in the “Operation Car Wash” investigation. The probe has branched out in the last three years, with President Michel Temer, four past presidents and dozens of sitting lawmakers under investigation.

Temer came under investigation after executives at the world’s largest meatpacker, JBS SA, struck a plea deal with prosecutors and turned over vast amounts of evidence that they claim proves Temer took nearly $5 million in bribes in return for helping the company resolve massive tax issues, win contracts and other political favors.

As part of that deal, the billionaire brothers who control JBS, Joesley and Wesley Batista, managed to avoid serving any jail time, though they each had to pay 225 million reais in fines.

The fact that the brothers managed to avoid imprisonment despite testifying that they had shelled out 500 million reais in bribes to nearly 1,900 politicians in recent years enraged the public and largely prompted the Supreme Court to examine the plea-bargain issue.

(Editing by Leslie Adler)

Imagining The Best Philippines We Can Be

June 18, 2017
/ 12:12 AM June 17, 2017

I imagine a nation, a community, where every citizen is afforded security regardless of status, race, religion, age, or political persuasion; a nation where institutions are fully optimized to enable everyone to be productive, to be healthy and to live full lives.

But this is only possible in a community that has at its leadership people who have a vision for equality and relentless progress, good heads and good hearts.

And citizens fully engaged in that same vision.I imagine a Philippines like that. Why? Because in order for us to take action, we must first see what we would be working toward, what’s possible, what must be, what will be, if only we act. Vision inspires action.

“Live out your imagination, not your history” (Stephen Covey).

And that is what this country needs to succeed. A people who can imagine better things than what is. Then have the courage to take responsibility and act. A people who will not be content in doing things as we have always done in the past, but a people willing—better yet, passionate about innovation, about bettering our processes, about optimizing our systems.

How can we make this happen?

1. Problem-solving. You know what is driving start-ups in developed countries? What is making billionaires? Problem-solving.

2. Education. The world’s most productive countries spend most on education. That should tell us something about its importance.

Yes, we need problem-solvers, we need an educated citizenry. But it starts with us now seeing better things than what we have right here. Vision, that’s what we need.


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Embattled Brazil President Denies Corruption Accusation

June 18, 2017

Former JBS meatpacking executive says Temer led criminal organization of politicians


June 17, 2017 5:31 p.m. ET

RIO DE JANEIRO—Brazilian President Michel Temer on Saturday vowed to sue the billionaire ex-chairman of meatpacking giant JBS SA, after being accused by him of running “the biggest and most dangerous criminal organization of this country.”

In an interview published Saturday by Brazilian newsmagazine Época, former JBS Chairman Joesley Batista said Mr. Temer was the ringleader of a group of politicians in the lower house of Congress who routinely hit him up for cash in recent years. Mr. Batista stepped down last month after…


Brazil’s Leader, Billionaire Accuse Each Other of Corruption

June 17, 2017 6:59 PM
  • Associated Press
Brazil's President Michel Temer smiles as he receives military honors during a ceremony, in Brasilia, June 9, 2017.

Brazil’s President Michel Temer smiles as he receives military honors during a ceremony, in Brasilia, June 9, 2017.

Embattled President Michel Temer exchanged furious denunciations of corruption Saturday with a leading businessman who alleges Brazil’s leader was behind the bribes paid by business executives to politicians and government authorities in exchange for political favors.Meatpacking billionaire Joesley Batista, who is himself under investigation for fraud, claimed in an interview published in the news magazine Epoca that “Temer leads Brazil’s largest and most dangerous criminal organization.” He provided no specifics to back up his charge.

Temer’s office fired back with a statement describing Batista as “the most notorious and successful bandit in Brazil’s history,” and it promised to file criminal and civil lawsuits against him.

Batista is now a key witness in corruption investigations that threaten to force Temer out of office before his term ends in December 2018. Prosecutors have said they are considering charging the president with receiving bribes and with trying to obstruct the investigation into a colossal corruption scheme at the state-run oil company that involved huge kickbacks to politicians in return for inflated contracts. Dozens of politicians and business executives already have been convicted in the Petrobras case.

Kickbacks reported

A key part of the evidence against Temer comes from plea bargain agreements with prosecutors signed by Batista and his brother Wesley that allow the two men to remain free. Under investigation in a pension fund fraud, they have said they paid kickbacks to more than 1,800 politicians to win favors for their JBS meatpacking company.

JBS is the world’s biggest meat processing company and operates more than 100 industrial units around the world.

Their revelations include a recording of a March meeting between Batista and Temer in which the president appears to condone the payment of hush money to imprisoned former Speaker of the House Eduardo Cunha, who is serving a 15-year corruption sentence.

Prosecutors have said that in the recording Temer is heard authorizing Batista to pay Cunha the equivalent of about $150,000 a week for not reaching a plea bargain deal.



Brazil’s Temer Led Graft Scheme, Billionaire Tells Época Magazine — Criminal organization in the lower house — Época magazine bombshell

June 17, 2017

SAO PAULO — Brazilian President Michel Temer led a corruption scheme in which lawmakers squeezed high-profile executives for bribes, billionaire Joesley Batista told magazine Época in an interview published on Saturday.

In his first interview since striking a leniency agreement with Brazilian prosecutors, Batista told Época that Temer asked for money several times since 2010. Batista told the magazine that Temer led a group of senior politicians regularly demanding kickbacks in exchange for political favors.

Former speakers Eduardo Cunha and Henrique Eduardo Alves, as well as Temer’s current chief of staff Eliseu Padilha and Cabinet Minister Wellington Moreira Franco, participated in Temer’s scheme, Batista said in the interview.


Brazilian President Michel Temer attends a ceremony of the 152nd anniversary of the Riachuelo Naval Battle at the Marine Corps Headquarters in Brasilia, Brazil June 9, 2017. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino – RTS16FMH REUTERS

“Temer is the leader of a lower house criminal organization,” Época quoted Batista as saying. “Those who are not under arrest are in the government. They’re very dangerous.”

Temer’s media office declined to comment. Press representatives for Batista and his family’s investment holding company, J&F Investimentos SA, were not immediately available for comment.

Efforts to reach the lawyers of Cunha, Alves, Moreira Franco and Padilha were unsuccessful.

The comments took Batista’s accusations against Temer a bit further since the billionaire entrepreneur told prosecutors that Temer worked to obstruct an ongoing corruption investigation as president.

Rousseff was impeached last year on accusation she oversaw the doctoring of budget accounts.

J&F agreed to pay a record-setting 10.3 billion-real ($3.1 billion) leniency fine, after Joesley Batista and his brother Wesley admitted to bribing almost 1,900 politicians in recent years. J&F-controlled JBS SA, the world’s No. 1 meatpacker, is being investigated for alleged insider trading ahead of the announcement of the Batista family’s leniency deal.

Batista denied having ordered insider trades at JBS, according to the Época interview, adding that he believed they were all made in line with the law.

He said J&F will sell “as many assets as necessary” to quash concerns about the group’s solvency. J&F diversified from meatpacking in recent years, expanding into fashion, home cleaning, banking and pulpmaking with the help of state loans, prosecutors said.

(Writing by Bruno Federowski; Editing by Guillermo Parra-Bernal and Leslie Adler)

Brazil’s President Faces Key Court Session in Campaign Case

June 7, 2017

SAO PAULO — Brazil’s top electoral court on Wednesday moves into the second day of its examination of illegal campaign finance allegations that could force President Michel Temer from office, with much hinging on how the judges rule on motions seeking to throw out testimony that arose from plea bargains.

The damaging testimony against Temer came from executives at the huge construction company Odebrecht, which is one of the businesses at the center of a sprawling investigation into kickbacks and bribes at the state-run oil company Petrobras, a scandal that has upended Brazil’s life. The legal teams of Temer and his former running mate in the 2014 election, then President Dilma Rousseff, argue that the testimony goes far beyond the purview of the Petrobras probe.

The issue is the first item on Wednesday’s agenda, and a simple majority among the seven judges will decide the question.

If the testimonies are kept, Temer will be one step closer to being pushed out of office over allegations that the Rousseff-Temer ticket in 2014 was backed by illegal campaign contributions. Rousseff, who was impeached last year for illegally managing the government’s budget and replaced as president by Temer, would come closer to losing her right to hold office for eight years.

Judge Herman Benjamin, who was named by the court to examine the case, began proceedings Tuesday evening with his analysis of the charges against the Rousseff-Temer campaign.

Hermann said the trial would be “based on facts, not on political convenience.” Supreme Court Justice Gilmar Mendes, who presides over the electoral court, described the trial that could remove his old friend as “a great learning experience.”

Rousseff claims innocence as does Temer, who argues that his team was not responsible for the fundraising of the ticket.

The trial is expected to take at least three days, and there is no deadline for a final ruling by the seven judges. It is the first time in Brazil’s history that a sitting president risks could have the job taken away by the electoral court.

The suit was brought after the 2014 election by the right-leaning Brazilian Social Democracy Party, whose presidential candidate, Aecio Neves, lost to the ticket of then President Dilma Rousseff and Temer as her vice presidential running mate. Ironically, the party has been a key ally of Temer since he took over the presidency.

If the court decides against the Rousseff-Temer ticket, Temer’s mandate would be annulled and Congress would have to pick someone to serve out his term through December 2018. The embattled president, who is facing a number of different corruption allegations and whose popularity is hovering around 8 percent, has said he would appeal.

If Temer should be forced from the presidency by the court, or decided to resign, Chamber of Deputies Speaker Rodrigo Maia would take over for 30 days while Congress voted in a new leader.

Hours before the trial began, Temer’s political situation deteriorated further with the arrest of a former tourism minister and close ally. Henrique Eduardo Alves was taken into custody on allegations of corruption related to the construction of a 2014 World Cup stadium in Natal.

Alves, a former speaker of the Chamber of Deputies, was arrested a day after federal police sent Temer a list of questions in a separate criminal probe that involves the president. He had 24 hours to answer the questions, but his lawyers got an extension until Friday afternoon.

That investigation is looking into whether Temer should be charged with passive corruption and obstruction of justice. He is alleged to have endorsed the payment of hush money to former Chamber of Deputies Speaker Eduardo Cunha, another former ally. Cunha is serving a 15-year prison sentence for corruption and money laundering.

The president is also being investigated for allegedly receiving bribes via former aide Rodrigo Rocha Loures. On Tuesday, Brazil’s top court rejected a petition by Loures to be released from jail. Loures was arrested over the weekend, and police released video that appears to show him carrying a suitcase filled with $154,000.

China’s Huishan Dairy reveals 2.5bn yuan “discrepancy” amid possible debt restructuring — “incomplete” management accounts

June 5, 2017

China’s largest dairy farm operator finds discrepancy in its cash position based on management accounts and bank records

By Amanda Lee
South China Morning post

Monday, June 5, 2017, 2:47pm

China Huishan Dairy Holding said in a statement on Monday that it has found a discrepancy in its cash position based on “incomplete” management accounts and confirmation received from banks.

In a filing to the Hong Kong stock exchange, Huishan also said it was in talks with its banks and creditors over a possible debt restructuring.

The indebted dairy farmer from Shenyang, in China’s northeast Liaoning province, is facing a barrage of mainland legal claims from creditors.

In the filing Huishan said it encountered “tremendous difficulties” in preparing its management accounts, in particular when it came to verifying financial information with respect to its cash on hand, receivables, payables and borrowings after the disappearance in March of Ge Kun, the executive director who managed Huishan’s treasury operations.

China’s largest diary farm operator said it wasn’t able to verify its financial position but said, based on “incomplete” management accounts, its holdings of cash and cash equivalents as of March 31, 2017 amounted to around 2.9 billion yuan (US$425.6 million). However, its banks confirmed that they had only received a total of 467 million yuan by May 31, most of which were bank deposits. Huishan said was still trying to clarify the “significant discrepancy”.

Huishan also has debts totalling 26.73 billion yuan, comprising bank and non-bank loans. The firm said it is still attempting to verify outstanding guarantees with third party entities and that it believes the total amount of the guarantees is around 3.94 billion yuan.

Huishan said it won’t be able to publish audited results of the group for the year ended March 31 on or before June 30, 2017, which is the stock exchange deadline.

The company’s share price collapsed in late March and it has since lost all of its board of directors. Trading in Huishan Dairy was suspended in May by Hong Kong regulator the Securities Futures Commission.



Mon Jun 5, 2017 | 12:26am EDT

China Huishan Dairy Holdings Company Ltd

* As at 31 March 2017, total estimated assets net of provision of group was approximately RMB26.22 billion

* Trading in shares of co will remain suspended

* As at 31 March 2017, group’s estimated total indebtedness was approximately RMB26.73 billion

* Company will not be in a position to publish audited results of group for year ended 31 March 2017 on or before 30 June 2017

Philippines President Duterte Wants Public Hanging for “Traitors in Government Who Aided Terrorists” — “I will hang every traitor in the government.”

June 5, 2017
 For aiding the terrorist Abu Sayyaf group, President Rodrigo Duterte wants sacked Superintendent Maria Cristina Nobleza hanged in public along with other traitors in government. Rudy Santos/File

MANILA, Philippines –  For aiding the terrorist Abu Sayyaf group, President Duterte wants sacked Superintendent Maria Cristina Nobleza hanged in public along with other traitors in government.

Duterte said investigators have uncovered the money trail from abroad to Nobleza, whom the Chief Executive believes played a major role in the operations of the Abu Sayyaf prior to her arrest in Bohol last April.

Nobleza, a former deputy director of the Philippine National Police crime laboratory in Davao, was arrested along with her alleged lover Abu Sayyaf bomber Reenor Lou Dungon.

“The name of that woman, Nobleza, always crops up. The cop was a recipient of huge cash from a group that is part of the terror groups fighting in the Middle East. She is really the lady that is a traitor to her country,” Duterte said in a press briefing after visiting wounded soldiers at Camp Evangelista hospital in Cagayan de Oro last Saturday.

If he would have his way, Duterte would want to hang Nobleza for everyone to see.

“I will not hesitate to do it if it comes to that. I will hang every traitor in the government,” the President said.

As martial law continues to be imposed in all of Mindanao, Duterte said he wants the Armed Forces to take a lead role in destroying the finance apparatus of the terror groups Abu Sayyaf and Maute.

Duterte said the Mautes that laid siege to Marawi City had connections with Middle East-based groups.

“The Maute brothers went to the Middle East to study terrorism. When they went back here, they built the biggest (shabu) laboratory and it was really to fund terrorism,” the President said.

He pointed out that freeing Marawi City from the clutches of terrorists could have be done in a day as, being commander-in-chief, he could have easily ordered the military to conduct rampant bombings to flush them out. But then he ordered the forces to minimize the casualties on both soldiers and civilians.

“And that is why we are also suffering great losses,” he lamented.

Duterte said he already ordered his men to arrest all personalities involved in the illegal drug trade and helping the Maute group.

“In the days ahead we will arrest all of them (starting with the producers and financiers). They will all be arrested, whether politicians or not,” he said.