Posts Tagged ‘fraud’

New York Times: Trump got $413M from his dad, much of it from tax dodges

October 3, 2018

Newspaper report claims US president’s family avoided paying tens of millions by undervaluing properties and creating a sham corporation

Donald Trump, center, sits with hands folded at the Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City, New Jersey, April 6, 1990, before the start of grand opening ceremonies. Trump (C) attended the gala with his parents, Mary (3rd R) and Fred (2nd R), and sister US District Court Judge Maryanne Trump Barry (R), and brother Robert Trump (L) and his wife Blaine Trump (3rd L). Trump was dateless. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

Donald Trump, center, sits with hands folded at the Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City, New Jersey, April 6, 1990, before the start of grand opening ceremonies. Trump (C) attended the gala with his parents, Mary (3rd R) and Fred (2nd R), and sister US District Court Judge Maryanne Trump Barry (R), and brother Robert Trump (L) and his wife Blaine Trump (3rd L). Trump was dateless. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

NEW YORK — The New York Times reported Tuesday that US President Donald Trump received at least $413 million from his father over the decades, much of that through dubious tax dodges, including outright fraud.

The 15,000-word Times report contradicts Trump’s portrayal of himself as a self-made billionaire who started with just a $1 million loan from his father.

The Times said Trump and his father, Fred, avoided gift and inheritance taxes by setting up a sham corporation and undervaluing assets to tax authorities. The Times said its report is based on more than 100,000 pages of financial documents, including confidential tax returns from the father and his companies.

A lawyer for Trump, Charles J. Harder, told the Times that there was no “fraud or tax evasion” and that the facts cited in the report are “extremely inaccurate.”

US President Donald Trump speaks during a press conference on September 26, 2018, on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York. (AFP/Nicholas Kamm)

The White House dismissed the report as a “misleading attack against the Trump family by the failing New York Times.” It criticized the newspaper and other media outlets, saying their low credibility with the public is “because they are consumed with attacking the president and his family 24/7 instead of reporting the news.”

The New York state tax department told The Associated Press that it is reviewing the allegations in the Times and “is vigorously pursuing all appropriate avenues of investigation.” The department typically refers findings to the state attorney general’s office.

The Times said the Trump family hid millions of dollars of transfers from the father to his children through a sham company owned by the children called All County Building Supply & Maintenance. Set up in 1992 ostensibly as a purchasing agent to supply Fred Trump’s buildings with boilers, cleaning supplies and other goods, the father would pad invoices with markups of 20 percent or even 50%, thereby avoiding gift taxes, the newspaper reports.

A portrait of US President Donald Trump’s father Fred Trump, and three un-signed Executive orders are seen in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, February 9, 2017. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP))

The Times said that before Fred Trump died in the late 1990s, he transferred ownership of most of his real estate empire to his four living children. The value of the properties in tax returns summed up to $41.4 million, vastly less than the Times said they were worth.

The same properties would be sold off over the next decade for more than 16 times that amount.

In total, the president’s father and mother transferred over $1 billion to their children, according to the Times tally. That should have produced a tax bill of at least $550 million, based on a 55% tax on gifts and inheritance at the time.

Instead, the children paid $52.2 million, or about 5%.

Tax experts cited in the report said that Trump is unlikely to face criminal prosecution in helping his parents evade taxes because the maneuvers occurred long ago and are past the statute of limitation.

The president’s brother Robert Trump said that “all appropriate gift and estate tax returns” were filed. “Our family has no other comment on these matters that happened some 20 years ago,” he said in a statement to the Times, “and would appreciate your respecting the privacy of our deceased parents, may God rest their souls.”

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump waves during a campaign stop at the Jacksonville Equestrian Center in Jacksonville, Fla, Thursday, Nov. 3, 2016. (AP/Matt Rourke)

The Times report said documents it reviewed show that the future president was earning $200,000 a year in today’s dollars at the age of 3. By the time Trump had graduated from college, the report said, he was getting the equivalent of $1 million a year from his father.

When he was campaigning, Trump repeatedly boasted of his ability to turn a small loan from his father into his fortune. “My father gave me a very small loan in 1975,” he said, “and I built it into a company that’s worth many, many billions of dollars.”

The Associated Press


See the New York Times report:


Musk Made to Pay for Delay in Accepting SEC Settlement Terms

October 1, 2018

Elon Musk learned that it’s tough to win a fight against the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission when the agency decides to play hardball.

Image result for elon musk, photos, Mark Brake/Getty Images

Elon Musk.  Photographer: Mark Brake/Getty Images

Tesla Inc.’s chief executive officer agreed over the weekend to pay about twice as much as in penalties to settle claims stemming from his August tweet storm as he would have under a deal he walked away from on Thursday. Musk’s decision to back out of the initial deal led the regulator to sue him for securities fraud later in the day, ratcheting up pressure on the embattled billionaire and his electric-car company.

The SEC’s aggressive strategy triggered a massive sell-off in Tesla shares on Friday and frustrated lawyers for Musk and the company, who had wanted the agency to give them more time to bring him back to the negotiating table, according to two people familiar with the matter.

After filing the lawsuit, agency officials were anticipating a drawn-out legal battle, but settlement talks started up again late Friday after Musk’s attorney Steven Farina sent an email asking to reopen the discussions.

Stephanie Avakian and Steve Peikin, co-directors of the SEC’s Enforcement Division, led the talks, taking the reins from the staff attorneys who worked the case, according to the people. Avakian and Peikin demanded that Musk pay $20 million and be removed as Tesla’s chairman for at least three years, harsher terms than were being offered in the scrapped deal, people familiar with the matter said. The agency also required that the company pay $20 million in penalties to settle separate claims related to Musk’s use of social media.

SEC Co-Director of Enforcement Steven Peiken announces the decision to sue Elon Musk

Photographer: Zach Gibson/Getty Images

The SEC was unified in taking the tough approach, with Chairman Jay Clayton touting it in a separate statement after the settlement was announced.

“This matter has been widely followed by our Main Street investors,” Clayton said. “When companies and corporate insiders make statements, they must act responsibly.”

The settlement came as a relief to investors, who pushed Tesla shares up 14 percent to $302.75 in trading before U.S. exchanges opened Monday.

The high-profile enforcement action came at a good time for the agency, which has faced questions from Democratic lawmakers and investor advocates over whether it has become a less aggressive market cop under Clayton, who was appointed by President Donald Trump.

“The settlement certainly helps the SEC’s image,” said Urska Velikonja, a Georgetown University law professor who tracks the agency’s enforcement data. The deal “cuts against the narrative that the Trump administration is going easy on Wall Street and large corporations,” she said.

It’s also notable that the settlement came just a day before the end of the federal government’s fiscal year, when the agency tallies its enforcement activity for the preceding 12 months. Those numbers are closely scrutinized by Congress as a barometer of how tough the regulator has been in policing its beat.

In July, Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio, the Senate Banking Committee’s top Democrat, assailed the SEC over what he said was a decline in enforcement activity and announced his intention to have government watchdogs to examine the SEC’s statistics.

The wild ride that led to the settlement started on Aug. 7 when Musk tweeted that he had “funding secured” to take Tesla private, causing such a spike in the company’s share price that trading was halted temporarily. Within hours, questions began to swirl around Musk’s claims and the SEC quickly opened an investigation. The agency moved with unusual speed, questioning Musk weeks after the tweets. The enforcement unit also took testimony from Tesla’s board and other executives before deciding it had enough evidence to bring the allegations.

Jill Fisch, a co-director for University of Pennsylvania Law School’s Institute for Law and Economics, said that while the case is clearly good for the agency, it shouldn’t be seen as a reflection on its overall enforcement posture because Musk’s behavior was so extraordinary.

“This was a case that was in a class by itself,” she said. “I don’t think it sends a broader message.”

Stephen Crimmins, a former SEC enforcement lawyer who’s now a partner at Murphy & McGonigle, said the agency did a good job dishing out a quick punishment while limiting further harm to investors.

Musk and Tesla both agreed to resolve the SEC’s allegations without admitting or denying wrongdoing. Their combined $40 million in penalties will be distributed to harmed shareholders through a court-approved process, the SEC said.

“It’s tailored relief,” Crimmins said. “He stays on as an officer, indeed as the CEO, which shareholders need for this company.”

 Updated on 

Elon Musk to resign as chair of Tesla board but remain CEO

September 30, 2018

Elon Musk has reached a deal over fraud charges that will see him step down as electric automaker Tesla’s chairman of the board and pay a $20 million fine but stay on as CEO, US securities regulators said Saturday.

The agreement eases pressure on Tesla’s embattled CEO, who faced potentially being barred from serving as an officer or board member of a publicly traded company as a result of the charges, which stemmed from a tweet by Musk about taking the company private.

“The settlements, which are subject to court approval, will result in comprehensive corporate governance and other reforms at Tesla — including Musk’s removal as chairman of the Tesla board — and the payment by Musk and Tesla of financial penalties” of $20 million each, the Securities and Exchange Commission said in a statement

Image may contain: 1 person, closeup

The SEC had charged Musk with securities fraud, alleging that he misled investors when he tweeted on August 7 that he had “funding secured” to privatize the electric automaker at $420 a share.

That caused a brief spike in Tesla’s share price, leading so-called short-sellers who have been betting on the stock crashing for years, to lose millions.

The SEC said Musk’s statements on Twitter were “false and misleading” and that he had never discussed the plans with company officials or potential funders.

Musk said he later decided against the plan.

Under the agreement, he will be ineligible to serve as chairman of the board for a period of three years and will be replaced by an “independent chairman,” while two “independent directors” will also be appointed by Tesla, the SEC said.

– ‘Prevent further market disruption’ –

Tesla will also set up a new committee of independent directors and “put in place additional controls and procedures to oversee Musk’s communications,” according to the SEC.

The $40 million in financial penalties “will be distributed to harmed investors under a court-approved process.”

“The total package of remedies and relief announced today are specifically designed to address the misconduct at issue by strengthening Tesla’s corporate governance and oversight in order to protect investors,” Stephanie Avakian, the SEC’s co-director of enforcement, said in the statement.

“The resolution is intended to prevent further market disruption and harm to Tesla’s shareholders,” SEC co-director of enforcement Steven Peikin said.

Tesla’s shares plummeted around 14 percent on Friday over concerns about the company’s future after the announcement of the fraud charges against Musk, which were a fresh blow to the mercurial Silicon Valley entrepreneur and his company.

Musk has baffled investors with emotional and seemingly erratic media appearances, including one where he appeared to smoke marijuana, and a public battle with a rescuer who helped save a group of boys trapped in a cave in Thailand, whom he termed a “pedo guy.”

Tesla is seeking to ramp up production of its Model 3, the mass-market vehicle seen as a key to the automaker’s future.

It had struggled to overcome production bottlenecks in recent months for the Model 3, but now faces other logistical issues, according to Musk.


Tesla faces the unthinkable: life without Elon Musk

September 29, 2018

Electric car pioneer will have to find its own identity if the dynamic chief leaves
Image may contain: one or more people and closeup

Few businesses embody their leader as closely as Tesla under Elon Musk © AP

By Peter Campbell, Motor Industry Correspondent, in London 

After years operating in the shadow of its chief executive, Tesla is facing the unthinkable: the prospect of a future without Elon Musk.

The US Securities and Exchange Commission is seeking to bar the carmaker’s chief executive from serving in any public company within its remit after alleging he committed fraud in a now-infamous series of tweets in August.

The US stock market enforcement agency said that Mr Musk made “false and misleading statements” when he said he had “funding secured” to take the company private at $420 a share on Twitter.

“In truth and in fact, Musk had not even discussed, much less confirmed, key deal terms, including price, with any potential funding source,” said the SEC in its notice on Thursday night.

If Mr Musk is forced to step aside, Tesla will have to find its own identity, and chart a course through waters teeming with larger rivals.

While many carmakers are closely twinned with the identities of their leaders, from Fiat Chrysler under the late Sergio Marchionne to Carlos Ghosn at the Renault-Nissan Alliance, few businesses embody their leader as closely as Tesla.

Musk is effectively Tesla and without him Tesla is just a capital-intensive automaker burning cash with too much debt due soon

David Whiston, Morningstar analyst

Mr Musk grew the business from nothing to its state today, often investing his own money in the company or tapping personal connections to keep the business solvent during its tumultuous history.

“Musk is effectively Tesla and without him Tesla is just a capital-intensive automaker burning cash with too much debt due soon,” said David Whiston, a car analyst at Morningstar.

Yet his value to the business goes far beyond what he has added to its assets or its minnow-ish profits.

Analyst Brian Johnson at Barclays calculated that Mr Musk’s presence in the business is worth around $130 per Tesla share — or around $22bn of the company’s total value.

“Should the SEC be successful in barring Mr Musk from serving as an officer or director, investors would focus back on the value of Tesla as a niche automaker, rather than a founder-led likely disrupter of multiple industries,” he wrote in a note.

Shares in Tesla began wiping some of the Muskian gloss from their value, diving sharply after the SEC filing in after-market trading.

Once shares reach $250, analyst Philippe Houchois at Jefferies said other carmakers or larger companies may begin looking seriously at acquiring the business, buying them a position in the “zero-sum game” of making electric cars.

Yet Mr Musk’s departure is no certainty.

His response to the SEC filing was to describe it as “unjustified”, adding “I have always taken action in the best interests of truth, transparency and investors. Integrity is the most important value in my life and the facts will show I never compromised this in any way.”

Hours later, Tesla’s board issued a statement declaring it was “fully confident in Elon, his integrity, and his leadership of the company”.

Tesla declined to comment on a report from CNBC that Mr Musk refused to sign a settlement agreement with the SEC that would have seen him stand aside for two years.

But among shareholder and investor ranks, the realisation is beginning to dawn that Mr Musk may not hold on.

“There’s little question that Mr Musk’s departure would likely cause harm to Tesla’s brand, stakeholder confidence and fundraising,” said analysts at Citi in a note. “If Mr Musk ends up staying on, the reputational harm from this might still prevent the stock from immediately returning to normal.”

Removing Mr Musk from leadership would allow Tesla to focus on improving its production and ironing out the kinks that have caused it considerable manufacturing delays in the past, particularly with the output of its mass market Model 3 car.

Shareholders have increasingly been calling for the appointment of a capable deputy to Mr Musk to run the business, in much the same way that Gwynne Shotwell manages SpaceX, the space exploration company, as chief operating officer.

Last month, Tesla appointed Jerome Guillen to president of automotive, a position that appears to be the closest thing the company has to an operations boss.

There are already signs that his role is having an impact on the business, and Mr Musk has “hardly been seen” at Tesla’s Fremont factory in California for the past month, according to one person close to the business. “This is a good thing” from an operational perspective, the person added.

But removing Mr Musk entirely would be a mistake, some investors said, as well as making it harder for Tesla to raise the capital it needs to invest in a raft of future products.

“I can see how the SEC would like better governance,” one long-term investor said, who added that it may build pressure on the group to appoint a stronger board and split the roles of chairman and chief executive, both held by Mr Musk.

“All in all a lot of good could actually come out of this, as long as Musk isn’t forced out of Tesla which would be an absolute disaster.”


Tech-Support Scams Prompt Google to Act on fraudsters with Google search ads

September 1, 2018

Wall Street Journal investigation finds fraudsters use Google search ads to masquerade as authorized service agents for companies such as Apple

Google headquarters in Mountain View, Calif. The company has instituted verification processes for some ads in the past.
Google headquarters in Mountain View, Calif. The company has instituted verification processes for some ads in the past. PHOTO: DAVID PAUL MORRIS/BLOOMBERG NEWS

Alphabet Inc.’s GOOGL -1.80% Google is taking action to weed out scam artists who advertise on its platform aiming to defraud customers seeking technical support online.

The move comes after a Wall Street Journal investigation found fraudsters were exploiting Google’s advertising system by purchasing search ads and masquerading as authorized service agents for companies such as Apple Inc.

For instance, the first result in a recent Google search for the phrase “Apple tech support” showed a link to and a toll-free number, with the suggestion: “Get instant help from our experts.” The Journal found that the phone number didn’t belong to Apple and instead led to a call center that engages in tech-support scams.

Responding to questions about the ads earlier this week, a Google spokeswoman told the Journal the company was committed to removing bad ads, and last year removed more than 100 such ads per second for violating company policies.

On Friday, Google announced a more stringent crackdown on tech-support ads. “We’ve seen a rise in misleading ad experiences stemming from third-party technical support providers and have decided to begin restricting ads in this category globally,” Google’s global product policy director David Graff said on the company’s blog.

Google plans to roll out a verification program “to ensure that only legitimate providers of third-party tech support can use our platform to reach consumers,” Mr. Graff wrote.

This screenshot shows the first ad that appeared atop a recent Google search for ‘apple tech support’ featured Apple's web address, but clicking on the ad prompted the user to dial a number not affiliated with Apple.
This screenshot shows the first ad that appeared atop a recent Google search for ‘apple tech support’ featured Apple’s web address, but clicking on the ad prompted the user to dial a number not affiliated with Apple. PHOTO:UNCREDITED

The company will start implementing the restriction on these adds immediately, but they will take weeks to go fully into effect in all languages and parts of the world, people familiar with the new policy said. They added that the verification process for allowing individual vendors back onto the platform is still being worked out.

Google has instituted verification processes for other types of ads in the past, including local locksmith services and treatment centers, the people said. It has banned ads for bail-bond services and payday loans.

Technical scams have taken billions of dollars from unwitting Americans who handed over their payment information, according to government and industry experts. The issue is particularly acute for scams involving remote technical support, where users searching for computer help are sometimes shown deceptive ads and pop-up messages warning of virus infections.

A 2018 study found 72% of sponsored ads on major search engines related to technical support queries led to scam websites.

These scams are on the rise: Microsoft Corp. , which receives around 12,000 complaints about tech support scams every month, reported a 24% increase in such complaints through 2017. The Federal Trade Commission registered 45,000 complaints about online tech support fraud in 2016, which the agency estimates is only a fraction of the true total.

The scams usually work this way: A person searching for tech help calls the number listed on an online ad. Once connected, the scammers ask for access to their victims’ computers, where they run fake virus scanning software and fabricate security threats in an effort to convince users their computers are broken or compromised. Then, the scammers offer to sell what they claim are “support services,” often at a cost of hundreds of dollars, the Journal found.

For instance, numerous ads appeared on Google’s mobile website for search terms like “Apple help” showing what seemed to be official links to Apple’s corporate website. But the ads actually lead to tech support scams that have no connection to Apple, the Journal found.

Apple didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

When a Journal reporter identified himself and called the number displayed on a recent ad for the search term “Apple tech support,” a man claiming to be an Apple engineer answered.

The man, who said his name was Sam Daniels, asked the reporter to log in to his email account. When the reporter did so, the man claimed to have been able to remotely monitor the computer via its IP address—a unique number used to identify computers on the internet.

“We have detected your IP address using your email ID and I can see your laptop is currently affected,” he said, adding: “Hackers have put Trojan virus in your Apple device. Now, they will hack your email ID, Facebook ID and then your personal banking information.”

The call was then transferred to another man who said his name was Mark Wallace and claimed to be an “antivirus hacking specialist.” He too repeatedly claimed to work for Apple and said that hackers “can take all of your money with help of the IP address. They can also track your physical location.”

To fix the purported problem, the second man asked the reporter to go to a nearby department store and buy a $100 iTunes gift card. He asked the reporter to then share the alphanumeric code on the back of the card, which he described as an “antihacking card.”

“The amount is refundable,” he said.

When the reporter confronted him, he hung up with a final warning: “If anything happens to your account, Apple is not responsible.”

Independent experts say it isn’t possible to remotely access one computer or find its IP address by logging into email on another computer.

Write to Rob Barry at

Appeared in the September 1, 2018, print edition as ‘Google Takes Aim At Tech-Help Scams.’

Britain’s National Health Service: Doctors paid by Govt per patient report for 3.6 million patients who do not exist

August 26, 2018

The Mail on Sunday leads on an investigation into so-called “ghost patients”, reporting that 3.6 million patients who do not exist are registered with GPs’ surgeries.

Calling the results a “scandal”, the paper says the number has risen at a rate of almost 6,000 a week.

GPs receive £151 for each patient

Image may contain: one or more people

A staggering 3.6 million patients who do not exist are registered with GPs’ surgeries, a Mail on Sunday investigation reveals today.

Despite a crackdown launched three years ago on so-called ‘ghost patients’, the numbers have risen at a rate of almost 6,000 a week.

Doctors in England receive an average of £151 a year for each patient on their books, whether they see them or not.

Doctors in England receive an average of £151 a year for each patient on their books, whether they see them or not

Doctors in England receive an average of £151 a year for each patient on their books, whether they see them or not

But millions still registered at practices across the country have either died or have moved away.

In 2015, NHS chiefs hired corporate consultancy firm Capita to tackle the problem as part of a major £330 million contract to run ‘back-office’ services.

But under Capita’s watch over the past two years, the number of ghost patients has risen by almost 20 per cent – from three million to 3.6 million.

The notional cost of the army of phantom patients is almost £550 million – enough to hire 28,000 new nurses, 10,000 new doctors, or provide free parking at every NHS hospital in England for three years.

Meg Hillier, the Labour MP for Hackney South and chairman of the Commons’ Public Accounts Committee, said: ‘We are talking about a tremendous amount of money – as much as £550 million – that is being wrongly allocated to GPs with ghost patients on their books.

‘At a time of severe strain on NHS budgets, this could be diverted elsewhere on patients who need it.

‘The fact that the number of ghost patients keeps going up underlines the chaotic nature of back office functions within the NHS.’

Joyce Robbins, head of the campaign group Patient Concern, added: ‘Almost four million ghost patients is the size of a small country.

‘GPs are not doing enough to sort this out. It needs to be fixed.’

A spokesman for NHS England, which says it factors ghost patients into its budget allocations, said: ‘We agree that this situation is not good enough and more could be done to speed up the process of removing ghost patients.’

Our investigation discovered examples of ghost patients who have remained on GP surgery lists for years. They include:

  • A person who died in 1969, but remained on a list for 42 years;
  • A couple who emigrated to Australia in the 1960s, but were still registered with their London GP almost half a century later;
  • A Midlands practice that claimed for 24 patients at a single address – they were later found to be illegal immigrants who didn’t live there;
  • A GP in Scotland who fabricated a patient called ‘M. Mouse’ to fill up gaps in his schedule.

Whistleblower Jackie Huxter, 61, from South London, who worked as a call handler for the NHS 111 out-of-hours hotline between 2012 and 2016, told The Mail on Sunday that the problem ‘goes back decades’.

‘I had access to the NHS Spine database that would bring up patient details when they gave us their name. It was not uncommon to see people registered with two or even three GPs,’ she said.

‘You would have people calling up who were still registered with their doctor from university, their family doctor from when they were growing up, and a new one from where they live and work now.’

She added: ‘I saw it first-hand. I remember one couple, who had emigrated to Australia in the 1960s, had come back home to London to visit family when one of them fell ill.

‘They called 111 and it turned out they were still registered at their old GP practice. They couldn’t believe it.’

The ghost registers by region 

The problem is most acute in places with high numbers of students, according to official statistics.

Cambridge has 16 per cent more people registered with GPs than its population and Oxford has 15 per cent more.

Areas with big immigrant populations are also affected, with ten per cent more patients than people in Boston, Lincolnshire, and up to 20 per cent more in the London boroughs of Ealing, Brent and Hammersmith and Fulham.

Official figures from NHS Digital, which provides IT services to the health service, shows 59.2 million people are registered with a GP in England.

But the Office of National Statistics says the current UK population is 55.6 million, meaning there is a gap – known as ‘list inflation’ – of 3.6 million.

NHS fraud inspectors believe a small number of GPs deliberately keep names on their lists, but that most are simply failing to prioritise the issue.

Most surgeries are private businesses contracted by the NHS to provide patient care.

Patients groups and MPs last night said the worsening problem raised serious questions about the fairness with which patients were being treated.

Surgeries with ghost patients are able to divert the money they do not spend on them to their ‘real’ patients. But practices that weed out non-existent patients have no such surplus funds.

In 2011, research found a third of the ghost patients were dead.

Yet the Government’s Tell Us Once system, which is designed to allow bereaved relatives to inform all departments and agencies about a death by ringing a single number, still does not pass such information to GPs.

Read the rest:

Also reported by The Sun:


Iraqi PM suspends electricity minister amid unrest over poor services

July 29, 2018

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi suspended his electricity minister on Sunday amid continuing protests over poor public services especially power cuts and rampant corruption, the premier’s office said.

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FILE PHOTO: People protest over poor public services in the city of Najaf, Iraq, July 27, 2018. REUTERS/Alaa al-Marjani/File Photo

It said in a statement that Abadi had also ordered an internal government investigation into Electricity Minister Qassim al-Fahdawi’s role in the deterioration of utility services. There was no immediate comment from Fahdawi.

Image result for Haider Abadi, photos

Haider Abadi

Protests have swept cities in the long neglected south, Iraq’s Shi’ite Muslim heartland, over widespread electricity outages during the blistering hot Iraqi summer, a lack of jobs and proper government services, and pervasive graft.

On Saturday, Abadi sacked five local election officials after they were charged with acts of corruption during the May 12 parliamentary election.

Abadi’s moves come after Iraq’s top Shi’ite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, urged government action to fight corruption to defuse unrest.

Image result for Grand Ayatollah Ali Al-Sistani, photos

Public anger is mounting at a time when politicians are struggling to form a new government after a May 12 election that was marred by allegations of fraud, prompting a recount.

Abadi, who is seeking a second term in office, is heading a fragile caretaker government for the time being.

Reporting by Ahmed Rasheed; Editing by Mark Heinrich



© AFP | Iraqi protesters waving national flags are sprayed with water cannon by security forces during a demonstration against unemployment and a lack of basic services in Baghdad’s Tahrir Square on July 20, 

Image result for protests, Basra, Iraq, ESSAM AL-SUDANI, photos

Protesters shout slogans during a demonstration Friday near the main provincial government building in Basra, Iraq. ESSAM AL-SUDANI/REUTERS

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Former Goldman Banker Is in Plea Talks Over Malaysian 1MDB Scandal

July 10, 2018

Discussions between Tim Leissner, U.S. prosecutors bring probe closer to Wall Street firm

Former Goldman Sachs banker Tim Leissner attending a movie screening in March
Former Goldman Sachs banker Tim Leissner attending a movie screening in March PHOTO: RODIN ECKENROTH/GETTY IMAGES

A former Goldman Sachs Group Inc. banker is in talks with U.S. prosecutors to potentially plead guilty to criminal charges stemming from an alleged scheme to steal billions of dollars from a Malaysian state investment fund, people familiar with the matter said.

The talks bring the fast-moving investigation closer to Goldman, which raised billions for the Malaysian fund, 1Malaysia Development Bhd, and come after the arrest of Malaysia’s former prime minister, who founded the fund and lost his re-election bid earlier this year.

The onetime Goldman partner and Southeast Asia chairman, Tim Leissner, who hasn’t been charged, is seeking an agreement with prosecutors that would involve his cooperation with the government’s criminal-fraud probe into 1MDB and Goldman, the people said.

One potential charge Mr. Leissner could ultimately plead guilty to would be a violation of the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which bans the use of bribes to foreign officials to get or keep business, according to some of the people familiar with the matter.

Prosecutors would have to corroborate any information he might provide and determine its usefulness to the overall investigation before agreeing to a plea, legal experts say.

Investigators have said 1MDB was used by former Prime Minister Najib Razak as a political slush fund and by associates of his to buy real estate, art and other luxuries from London to Beverly Hills, Calif. The U.S. Justice Department alleges in civil lawsuits that $4.5 billion was taken from the fund.

​Mr. Leissner, a German national married to an American fashion designer, was Goldman’s top banker on the fund. In that role, he forged a close relationship with Jho Low, a Malaysian businessman who prosecutors allege is the mastermind of the purported fraud, which would be one of the biggest in history. ​

Prosecutors from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Brooklyn also are investigating whether Goldman, which earned nearly $600 million from its role in arranging a series of bond sales for 1MDB, violated any laws, some of the people said. Billions of dollars raised through the bond offerings were almost immediately routed to bank accounts connected to figures in the probe, including Messrs. Low and Najib, investigators have said.

Mr. Najib was charged in court with three counts of criminal breach of trust. He pleaded not guilty to all the charges and has denied any wrongdoing at 1MDB. The former prime minister had previously been cleared by the country’s previous attorney general.

In addition to Mr. Najib’s arrest last week, Malaysia also has issued a warrant for the arrest of Mr. Low, who is believed to be in China.

Mr. Low hasn’t been charged and has denied any wrongdoing. Mr. Low and his lawyers declined to comment. The U.S. and Malaysia are both investigating Mr. Low, The Wall Street Journal has reported, but it is unclear if he will be charged or which country’s authorities might do so.

“Since we suspended Mr. Leissner, we have discovered that certain activities he undertook were deliberately hidden from the firm, which we have brought to the attention of the relevant authorities,” a Goldman spokesman said. A lawyer for Mr. Leissner declined to comment on the bank’s statement. A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Brooklyn and a spokeswoman for the Justice Department declined to comment.

Related image

Tim Leissner in happier times

Starting in Malaysia, a scandal involving the 1MDB fund set up by Prime Minister Najib Razak now involves at least 10 countries, including the U.S. This animation shows how money allegedly misappropriated from 1MDB moved through global wealth centers before being used to buy real estate, art, and other assets around the world, including in New York and Beverly Hills. Illustration: Oliver Osborne for The Wall Street Journal.

U.S. investigators have sought to determine whether Goldman had reason to suspect that money it helped 1MDB raise was misused and, if so, whether the bank was obligated to report any concerns to authorities, the Journal has reported. The Federal Reserve, Securities and Exchange Commission and New York state’s Department of Financial Services also are examining some of the bank’s actions, as are Singapore authorities, the Journal has reported.

Goldman’s big profits on the bond offerings, and their timing—one closed mere weeks before Malaysia’s 2013 presidential election—raised eyebrows throughout Wall Street. Some of the money raised in the offerings, investigators have said, was used to help fund Mr. Najib’s campaign, the Journal has reported.

Goldman has said it did nothing wrong and had no way of knowing there might be fraud surrounding 1MDB. The bank has said its main role was raising money it thought would be used for the stated purposes. Goldman had repeatedly denied Mr. Low’s request to open personal accounts at the firm.

Still, no one flagged the 1MDB transactions to regulators, the Journal has reported. “We have found no evidence showing any involvement by Jho Low in the 1MDB bond transactions,” the firm has said previously.

Mr. Leissner met Mr. Low in 2009. That year, Goldman became an adviser to the oil wealth fund. The fund evolved into 1MDB when the prime minister gave it the broader goal of spurring economic development.

Goldman advised 1MDB on two 2012 bond sales, raising $3.5 billion. A third offering, also underwritten by Goldman, raised an additional $3 billion in 2013.

Mr. Leissner was suspended from Goldman in early 2016 and later quit the firm after it discovered he had written an unauthorized letter to a Luxembourg bank vouching for Mr. Low. The letter said Goldman had done due diligence on Mr. Low and found no issues.

Singapore’s Monetary Authority cited the letter in barring Mr. Leissner from doing business in the city-state for a decade. His attorney, Marc S. Harris, said in late 2016: “Throughout his professional life, Mr. Leissner has conducted himself with integrity, dedication and with high ethical standards and we believe the various ongoing investigations will support these facts.”

The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, a U.S. industry body, banned Mr. Leissner from the securities industry last fall after the former banker didn’t respond to requests for documents and other information stemming from his departure from Goldman. Mr. Leissner’s attorney had declined to comment on the ban.

Write to Justin Baer at, Bradley Hope at and Nicole Hong at

Appeared in the July 10, 2018, print edition as ‘Ex-Goldman Banker In Talks on 1MDB Plea.’

Nissan admits falsifying emissions data on cars made in Japan

July 9, 2018

Nissan admitted Monday that data on exhaust emissions and fuel economy had been deliberately “altered”, dealing a blow to the Japanese car giant’s efforts to recover from an inspection scandal last year.

The company did not say how many cars were affected by the falsifications, which were uncovered during voluntary tests of all parts of Nissan’s operations conducted in the wake of last year’s scandal.

© AFP | Nissan said tests on exhaust emissions and fuel economy had ‘deviated from the prescribed testing environment’

It said that tests on exhaust emissions and fuel economy had “deviated from the prescribed testing environment”.

In addition, it said inspection reports had been drawn up “based on altered measurement values”.

Nissan’s share price dropped 4.56 percent to 1,003.5 yen after it said it would make a statement on exhaust measurements following a report of falsification.

The firm vowed a “full and comprehensive investigation” into its latest fake data scandal.



Food stamp enrollment falls to 8-year low as Trump clamps down on fraud, economy improves

June 20, 2018

Overall enrollment in the country’s food stamp program has dropped to its lowest level in more than eight years as the economy continues to improve and the Trump administration attempts to tackle fraud in the program.

According to the latest statistics from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which administers the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), enrollment in the program dropped in March to 40,083,954. The last time food stamp participation dipped this low was in February 2010, when 39,588,993 people were enrolled in the program.

“As the economy continues to improve, participation in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is declining,” a USDA official who asked for anonymity told Fox News. “SNAP was established as a temporary supplemental nutrition benefit guiding people to self-sufficiency and self-reliance, not a permanent way of life.”

The USDA official noted that much like jobless numbers, the number of enrollees in SNAP tends to fluctuate month by month. But the official added that the agency expects about 8.8 million to leave the program in the next 10 years.

SNAP, which was formerly known as the Food Stamps Program, is a federal program that provides grocery assistance for people out of work or with low incomes living in the U.S. To qualify for the program, individuals must make 130 percent or less of the federal poverty level based on the household size.

The program is meant to help people buy nutritional items like breads, vegetables, dairy products and meats, while barring them from purchasing alcoholic beverages, tobacco products and household supplies and paper products among other items.

While overall food stamp enrollment has been on a steady decline since 2013, some observers credit President Trump’s emphasis on getting more Americans back to work and his administration’s crackdown on fraud in the SNAP program as the reason why the decline has sped up.

NEW YORK - FEBRUARY 10:  Kethia Dorelus a social worker with the Cooperative Feeding Program displays a Federal food stamps card that is used to purchase food on February 10, 2011 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Recent statistics show that nationwide, one in seven Americans receives help from the Federal government with buying food. The food stamp program was used by 43.6 million people in November 2010. Before the recession, the program was serving 26 million.  (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

 (2011 Getty Images)

“It’s a long time coming,” Robert Doar, a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, told Fox News. “These numbers are dropping because people are going back to work.”

Since Trump took office, more than 2.2 million have discontinued their participation in the SNAP program in large part due to his administration’s moves to reform SNAP.

Trump in February proposed a 30 percent, or $214 billion, cut to SNAP as part of the White House’s federal budget proposal.

In April, Trump signed an executive order aiming to harden up work requirements for welfare and public assistance programs. The order, which aims to reduce poverty “by promoting opportunity and economic mobility,” calls for agencies to strengthen work requirements and to look for new ones.

“They have to stop playing to the cheap seats.”

– Rep. Jim McGovern

“The Federal Government should do everything within its authority to empower individuals by providing opportunities for work, including by investing in Federal programs that are effective at moving people into the workforce and out of poverty,” the executive order stated. “It must examine Federal policies and programs to ensure that they are consistent with principles that are central to the American spirit — work, free enterprise and safeguarding human and economic resources.”

Following Trump’s order, the House Agriculture Committee voted to tighten the already existing work requirements for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), while expanding funding for state training programs. The legislation passed Wednesday by the committee would require all “work capable adults” between the age of 18 and 59 to work or participate in work training for 20 hours per week. The tweak means a greater number of people would have to work or enroll in work training.

The USDA in March also announced that it had hired an “integrity officer” who would monitor any instances of fraud in the SNAP program and, in February, Trump announced the rollout of the so-called “Harvest Box” program – an initiative to give food stamp recipients a box of “shelf-stable” foods along with the SNAP allotment.

“The Harvest Box is a silly idea and probably not going anywhere,” Doar said. “But the integrity office is a good step to take…It helps make sure that the program is not only about getting the benefits, but also making sure people are getting back to work.”

The moves by the Trump administration to clamp down on who can receive food stamps has drawn a strong rebuke from numerous Democrats and advocacy groups that work with low-income people and families. Many argue that Trump is manipulating the view of who receives food stamps and that SNAP already had work requirements built into the program

Democratic Rep. Jim McGovern told the New York Times in February that Trump was painting a “distorted picture” of those who receive food stamps by saying that they are scamming SNAP and avoiding work.

“They have to stop playing to the cheap seats,” he said. “The majority of people in the program are children and seniors and people working in jobs that pay too little to feed their families.”