Posts Tagged ‘fraud’

State of emergency in Honduras after post-vote violence

December 2, 2017

AFP

© AFP | Violence erupted for the second consecutive day after opposition candidate Salvador Nasralla claimed fraud and urged his supporters to take to the streets in protest

TEGUCIGALPA (AFP) – The Honduran government declared a state of emergency late Friday and imposed a 10-day curfew in an attempt to stop violent demonstrations across the country triggered by claims of presidential election fraud.Police said at least two officers and 12 civilians were injured, some by gunfire, after clashes in several parts of the country between riot police and opposition supporters.

The violence was sparked by opposition candidate Salvador Nasralla claiming election fraud and calling his supporters onto the streets.

 

An executive decree issued by President Juan Orlando Hernandez, who is seeking re-election despite a constitutional ban on a second term, imposes a nighttime curfew from 6:00 pm to 6:00 am.

Representatives of the country’s Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) and political parties, national and international observers and journalists accredited to cover the elections are exempt.

Thousands of Nasralla supporters blocked roads across the country, and footage of their confrontations with the police — who attempted to disperse demonstrators with tear gas — went viral on social media.

In the capital Tegucigalpa, protesters lit bonfires of sticks and tires on boulevards and on exit routes.

The unrest sparked panic, with people rushing to supermarkets and gas stations to stock up, fearing the riots would prevent them from leaving their homes.

Shops closed by the afternoon and some international flights were suspended at the capital’s airport.

– Cliffhanger vote –

With nearly 95 percent of the ballots counted from last week’s vote, Hernandez had a razor-thin lead of 42.92 percent over Nasralla’s 41.42 percent.

TSE president David Matamoros postponed until Saturday a special count — with officials from both camps present — to review ballots with inconsistencies, blurs and other errors before a result can be declared, following new demands from leftist leader and ex-president Manuel Zelaya.

“Within three days, we will have the result. We accept to recognise the final result if they accept these points,” Zelaya said.

But in an television interview, Nasralla demanded a full recount, warning of possible collusion between the TSE and the government.

“Do not let them steal the presidency,” said activist Juan Barahona of Nasralla’s Alliance of Opposition Against the Dictatorship.

Police said they had arrested 50 people for alleged looting between Thursday and Friday.

Security forces said rioters had damaged businesses and vehicles, some of which had been doused in gasoline and set on fire.

Earlier, Hernandez broadcast a statement calling for calm and predicting “we are going to do very well” in the vote.

The Organization of American States observer mission urged the TSE in a letter Thursday to ensure that 100 percent of the ballots were processed before declaring a result.

“Political parties should be given the opportunity to present challenges. These will have to be dealt with impartially and within a reasonable timeframe and following due process,” it said.

“This is the only way to restore confidence in this election and in the integrity of the popular will.”

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Philippines’ Second-Biggest Bank Penalized for $35 Million Fraud

November 28, 2017

Bloomberg

By Cecilia Yap and Siegfrid Alegado

  • Ordered to allocate capital for risks, suspend directors
  • Comes after Metrobank official arrested on suspicion of fraud

The Philippine central bank sanctioned Metropolitan Bank & Trust Co. after the regulator investigated an alleged internal fraud that cost the lender 1.75 billion pesos ($35 million).

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Sanctions ranged from a reprimand to the suspension of directors and officers who were complacent in their duties, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas said, without naming them. The nation’s second-largest lender was also ordered to allocate about 4.45 billion pesos of its capital to cover higher operational risk, the central bank said in a statement.

Image result for Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, photos

Police in July arrested a Metrobank official after she was suspected of funneling loans into fictitious accounts that were transferred electronically to other private accounts she owned, investigators said.

In deciding on penalties, the central bank said it took into account Metrobank’s strong financial condition and the corrective actions the bank took to contain further financial damage. The lender owned by billionaire George Ty is sound, the regulator said.

The board and senior management accept accountability for the incident and will implement the directives, Metrobank said in a statement. “The perpetrator acted alone and for her sole benefit” and no customer was affected, it said.

Shares of Metrobank rose 0.1 percent at 10:11 a.m. in Manila. The nation’s benchmark stock index slid 1 percent.

— With assistance by Norman P Aquino, and Ditas B Lopez

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-11-28/philippines-second-biggest-bank-penalized-for-35-million-fraud

Mitsubishi in another Japanese quality certification scandal

November 23, 2017

Image may contain: sky and outdoor

By Peter Wells
FT (Financial Times)

A subsidiary of Mitsubishi Materials has reportedly falsified data on plastic seals used in aircraft and other industrial products, becoming the latest in a recent string of Japanese manufacturer to be involved in a quality certification scandal.

Mitsubishi Cable Industries falsified data on the quality level of plastic O-rings it shipped to its customers, the Nikkei reported, citing people familiar with the matter and adding that no safety issues had occurred as a result.

O-rings are plastic parts used to create seals in aircraft and other industrial products.

A spokesman for Mitsubishi Materials, the parent company, said he was preparing a statement, but declined to comment further.

MCI is believed to have supplied these parts to hundreds of industrial manufacturers, and the falsification of the data has occurred over decades, Nikkei said.

Quality standards in Japan have come under intense scrutiny in recent months, perhaps most prominently due to an admission in October by Kobe Steel it had falsified quality data on aluminium and copper products.

The scandal at Japan’s third-largest steelmaker affected more than 500 companies in the aircraft, car, train and nuclear industries and widened to involve other metals and products, such as tubing and steel. More than 90 per cent of Kobe Steel’s customers have reported no safety issues with the products, though.

The revelations at Kobe Steel were bookended by scandals at Nissan in September and Subaru in October, where uncertified technicians in domestic factories were carrying out inspections on Japan-destined vehicles that they were unauthorised to perform.

Mitsubishi Materials has a market capitalisation of $4.8bn and is involved in a wide range of industries spanning cement, non-ferrous metals, and materials used in precision tools and electronic components. The company reported revenue of ¥1.3tn in the 2017 fiscal year that ended on March 31.

MCI, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Mitsubishi Materials, had annual revenue of ¥29.5bn in the 12 months to March and employed 513 people.
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https://www.ft.com/content/20199ee4-f1e5-35a6-88a4-4ff5f6d217d1

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Reuters

Mitsubishi Materials says units falsified product data

TOKYO (Reuters) – Mitsubishi Materials Corp (5711.T) said its subsidiaries falsified data about products, including parts for aircraft and automobiles, for at least a year, the latest in a series of quality assurance scandals involving Japanese manufacturers.

The company said an investigation in the wake of a data-falsification scandal involving joint venture partner Kobe Steel (5406.T) found that Mitsubishi Cable Industries had inappropriately distorted data for rubber sealing products, used in aircraft and cars.

The data was manipulated to match specifications set by the company or its clients and took place in the two-and-a-half years since April 2015, it said in a statement on Thursday.

Another subsidiary, Mitsubishi Shindoh, had manipulated data for metal products, Mitsubishi Materials said. It said it found problems at Mitsubishi Shindoh going back to October 2016.

Mitsubishi Materials said that in both cases, it has not found any safety or legal problems. It did not know whether there would be any impact on its financial outlook, it said.

The company said it has set up a task force to look into the problems and to devise countermeasures to improve quality control.

The news comes after Kobe Steel, Japan’s No.3 steelmaker, admitted in October that workers tampered with product specifications, shaking up global supply chains and forcing global automakers, aircraft manufacturers and other companies to check whether the safety or performance of their products had been compromised.

Mitsubishi Materials has a 45 percent share in a copper tube joint venture with Kobe Steel, including the Hatano plant that is at the center of Kobe’s data-falsification scandal.

Confidence in Japan’s manufacturing prowess has also taken a hit from recent revelations that automakers Nissan (7201.T) and Subaru (7270.T) had failed to comply with final inspection procedures for decades.

Japanese markets are closed on Thursday for a holiday. Mitsubishi Materials shares were little changed on Wednesday.

Reporting by Ritsuko Ando; Editing by Himani Sarkar and Muralikumar Anantharaman

Cambodia deports 61 telecom extortion scam suspects — Taiwan protests

October 28, 2017

Reuters

PHNOM PENH (Reuters) – Cambodia police on Saturday deported 61 Chinese nationals wanted in China on suspicion of extorting money over the internet and by phone, they said, but Taiwan said 19 were from Taiwan.

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Chinese nationals (in orange vests) who were arrested over a suspected internet scam, are escorted by Chinese police officers before they were deported at Phnom Penh International Airport, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, October 12, 2017. REUTERS/Samrang Pring

Several hundred suspected scammers have been arrested in Cambodia, which has emerged as a major center of rackets that have cost the victims billions of dollars.

Pictures sent to Reuters on Saturday showed suspects wearing red shirts with their wrists bound together ahead of the deportation.

Uk Heisela, chief of investigation at Cambodia’s immigration department, said Chinese police had arrived to pick up the suspects.

Chinese nationals (in orange vests) who were arrested over a suspected internet scam, are escorted by Chinese police officers before they were deported at Phnom Penh International Airport, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, October 12, 2017. REUTERS/Samrang Pring

“The Immigration Department deported 61 suspects, including 13 women, who were involved in extortions on the internet,” Uk Heisela told Reuters.

Uk Heisela said they had been detained during raids on Oct 17 and Oct 21 in the capital, Phnom Penh, and in Kandal and Preah Sihanouk provinces.

Taiwan’s government said 19 of them were from Taiwan, and that it had lodged a strong protest with China about the deportations.

Taiwan has been unhappy that Taiwanese extortion suspects have been deported to China in the past and has accused Phnom Penh of acting at the behest of Beijing.

China considers self-ruled Taiwan sovereign territory and Cambodia is one of China’s closest allies in Southeast Asia.

Reporting by Prak Chan Thul; Additional reporting by Jess Macy Yu in TAIPEI; Editing by Nick Macfie

Related:

In this photo released by Xinhua News Agency, Chinese suspects involved in wire fraud, center, sit in a plane as they arrive at the Beijing Capital International Airport in Beijing on Wednesday, 13 April 2016

A group of Chinese and Taiwanese suspects were deported from Kenya to China in April 2016. AP photo

Police escort a group of people wanted for suspected fraud in China, after they were deported from Kenya, as they get off a plane after arriving at Beijing Capital International Airport in Beijing, China
Police escort a group of people wanted for suspected fraud in China, after they were deported from Kenya, as they get off a plane at Beijing Capital International Airport in Beijing on April 13, 2016 Xinhua/Reuters
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Telecom fraud suspects from Fiji arrive in Changchun, China after being deported.

Telecom fraud suspects from Fiji arrive in Changchun, China after being deported, August 8, 2017. Photograph: Xinhua/REX/Shutterstock

A Chinese national arrested over an alleged internet scam is escorted by police officers to be deported at the immigration office in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, July 26, 2017.

A Chinese national arrested over an alleged internet scam is escorted by police officers to be deported at the immigration office in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, July 26, 2017. Associated Press

Two-thirds of elderly Americans have been targeted by a fraud campaign

October 23, 2017

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23Oct – by Daniel Steingold –  18 – In Debt Studies Economy Studies Money Studies

MARLBOROUGH, Mass. — About two-thirds of elderly Americans have been targeted by a fraud campaign, and more than a quarter have actually fallen victim to such efforts, a new survey finds.

Researchers at the Cooperative Credit Union Association (CCUA), a trade group that represents credit unions, polled nearly 1,200 Americans, all of whom were caretakers of senior citizens, hoping to learn more about the scams that prey on unsuspecting baby boomers.

Upset, tired elderly man
About two-thirds of elderly Americans have been targeted by a fraud campaign, and more than   and more than a quarter have actually fallen victim   to such efforts, a new survey finds.

Sixty-seven percent of caretakers indicated that the elder under their watch had been exposed to a scam in some form. Correspondence via email was found to be the most common (53 percent) attempt at fraud, followed by telephone (49 percent), text message (16 percent), and postal mail (also 16 percent).

Meanwhile, a full 28 percent of caretakers said their senior had actually been victimized by a financial scam, highlighting how frequently shady communications can motivate actual behavior.

“These findings starkly illustrate the need to get tough on criminals who target seniors in the belief that they are easy victims,” says Paul Gentile, CCUA’s CEO, in a press release. “Protecting the elderly is a top priority of credit unions, and we’re proud to work with state regulators on new initiatives, such as training manuals and measures to combat underreporting.”

Although legislators have attempted to dissuade fraud, massive breaches of information, such as last month’s Equifax hack, are happening with alarming regularity, the researchers note.

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Forty-four percent of caretakers polled said that their elder had no plan in place to address a fraud or identity theft incident, while 39 percent indicated that their elder was “somewhat” or “not at all” financially literate.

Gentile suggests that all Americans, including senior citizens, would benefit from learning about and taking action to prevent financial fraud.

“All financial consumers need to take steps to protect themselves financially and digitally, including by being aware of the latest trends in frauds and scams,” he says.

The survey was conducted in mid-September, mere days after the Equifax hack.

https://www.studyfinds.org/fraud-scams-senior-citizens/

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Hackers Target Nation’s Schools — Your Child’s Personal Data Could Be For Sale

October 23, 2017

Criminals make student data public in escalating demands for ransom; some districts pay up

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Hackers looking to exploit sensitive information for profit are increasingly targeting the nation’s schools, where they are finding a relatively weak system to protect a valuable asset: student data.

Cyberthieves have struck more than three dozen school systems from Georgia to

https://www.wsj.com/articles/hackers-target-nations-schools-1508751002

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Hackers are targeting schools, U.S. Department of Education warns

CNN Money
 When Superintendent Steve Bradshaw first received a threatening text message in mid-September, he didn’t know it was coming from a hacker trying to exploit his Montana school district.

But soon, students and other schools around Flathead County were receiving threatening messages, too. More than 30 schools in the district shutdown for three days.

“The messages weren’t pleasant messages,” Bradshaw said. “They were ‘splatter kids’ blood in the hallways,’ and things like that.”

The U.S. Department of Education is now warning teachers, parents, and K-12 education staff of a cyberthreat targeting school districts across the country.

So far, at least three states have been targeted by the extortion attempt from hackers asking schools to give them money or the group will release stolen private records, according to the department.

“In some cases, this has included threats of violence, shaming, or bullying the children unless payment is received,” the department wrote in an advisory this week.

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Bradshaw, the superintendent of schools in Columbia Falls, Montana said a hacking group broke into multiple school servers and stole personal information on students and possibly staff. He said after the threatening messages came, hackers asked for ransom.

In a ransom note sent to a number of Columbia Falls school district members and released by the county’s sheriff’s department, the hacking group called the Dark Overlord threatened the district and demanded up to $150,000 in bitcoin to destroy the stolen private data.

Image result for Dark Overlord, photos

The threatening letter talked about use of force, mentioned the name “Sandy Hook,” the elementary school in Connecticut where 20 small children and six adults were shot dead, and said victims would suffer financial and reputational damage.

Law enforcement said they did not believe the threats and determined the attackers were located outside of the U.S.

“We feel this is important to allow our community to understand that the threats were not real, and were simply a tactic used by the cyber extortionists to facilitate their demand for money,” the Flathead County Sheriff’s Office said in a Facebook post last month.

Bradshaw said the district is not paying the ransom, and he is still receiving threatening messages.

Related: The U.S. Army is teaching kids how to hack at DEF CON

The same hackers also targeted the Johnson Community School District in Iowa earlier this month, and the district canceled all classes on October 3. According to local media reports, the hackers also sent threatening text messages to children and their parents.

The hacking group previously attempted to extort Netflix (NFLXTech30) after hacking its production studio, Larson Studios. The group released episodes of Orange is the New Black online last spring.

It’s unclear why the Dark Overlord began targeting schools but someone from the hacking group told the Daily Beast they are “escalating the intensity of our strategy in response to the FBI’s persistence in persuading clients away from us.”

The Department of Education says the hackers are probably targeting districts “with weak data security, or well-known vulnerabilities that enable the attackers to gain access to sensitive data.” It advises districts to conduct security audits and patch vulnerable systems, train staff on data security best practices, and review sensitive data to make sure no outside actors can access it.

According to Mary Kavaney, the chief operating officer of the Global Cyber Alliance, school environments often don’t have a lot of technology resources dedicated to security, but have some of the richest personal information on people, including social security numbers, birth dates, and, potentially, medical and financial information.

“If bad actors can access student [personal data], that information can be exploited for the purpose of fraud and committing crimes for years before it is detected,” Kavaney says. “It’s often only upon application for a job, or application for financial aid to attend college that students find out that their social security number has been used fraudulently — they may have poor credit due to false applications against their history, or worse, find that crime has been committed in their name.”

Bradshaw says the ordeal has been stressful and troubling. Because the district hasn’t paid the hackers, they’re still threatening to release the data online. But, he said, the response from law enforcement and the Flathead County community has been positive.

“We still got people in this country that believe in one another, and it’s been easier to get through than you would have thought,” Bradshaw said. “People care about people in this state.”

 http://money.cnn.com/2017/10/18/technology/business/hackers-schools-montana/index.html

China’s Pursuit of Fugitive Businessman Guo Wengui Kicks Off Manhattan Caper Worthy of Spy Thriller

October 23, 2017

Pressure from Beijing officials seeking Mr. Guo’s return sparks frantic response from Trump administration—and Pennsylvania Station, JFK airport standoffs

Exiled Chinese businessman Guo Wengui at the Manhattan hotel where he now lives, Sept. 30. Photo: Natalie Keyssar for The Wall Street Journal

Guo Wengui, a wealthy Chinese businessman, sat in the sun room of his apartment on the 18th-floor of the Sherry-Netherland Hotel on New York’s Fifth Avenue. With him were four officials from China’s Ministry of State Security, whom Mr. Guo had agreed to meet.

For many months, Mr. Guo, from his self-imposed exile, had been using Twitter to make allegations of corruption against senior Chinese officials and tycoons. During the hourslong conversation, the officials urged him to quit his activism and return home, after which the government would release assets it had frozen and leave his relatives in peace.

Chinese businessman Guo Wengui at his apartment at the Sherry-Netherland Hotel in Manhattan, where he says he was visited by officials from China’s Ministry of State Security.

Chinese businessman Guo Wengui at his apartment at the Sherry-Netherland Hotel in Manhattan, where he says he was visited by officials from China’s Ministry of State Security

Liu Yanping, the lead official, said he had come on behalf of Beijing “to find a solution,” according to Mr. Guo and a partial audio recording Mr. Guo said he made of the May encounter and posted online in September.

Mr. Liu’s demeanor made clear this wasn’t a friendly negotiation, and he hinted at the risks for Mr. Guo. “You can’t keep doing this forever,” Mr. Liu can be heard telling Mr. Guo on the audio recording, reviewed by The Wall Street Journal. “I’m worried about you, to tell you the truth.”

The dramatic meeting sparked an unresolved debate within the Trump administration over the Guo case and laid bare broader divisions over how to handle the U.S.’s top economic and military rival, according to people familiar with the matter. U.S.-China relations have been upset by disagreements over trade, cyberespionage and policy toward North Korea, and Mr. Guo’s New York stay is only adding to the tension.

Mr. Guo shows a video he says he made of the visit to his home by Chinese state security officials.  Photo: Michael Bucher/The Wall Street Journal

The Chinese officials, who were in the U.S. on visas that didn’t allow them to conduct official business, caught the attention of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which wanted to move against them, according to people familiar with the matter. The bureau’s effort ran into friction with other U.S. officials, including those at the State Department, who have tended to favor a less-confrontational approach, according to the people.

Some U.S. national security officials view Mr. Guo, who claims to have potentially valuable information on top Chinese officials and business magnates and on North Korea, as a useful bargaining chip to use with Beijing, the people said.

The episode took a twist when President Donald Trump received a letter from the Chinese government, hand-delivered by Steve Wynn, a Las Vegas casino magnate with interests in the Chinese gambling enclave of Macau. Mr. Trump initially expressed interest in helping the Chinese government by deporting Mr. Guo, but other senior officials worked to block any such move, according to people familiar with the matter.

The Chinese Embassy in Washington declined to comment.

Wynn Resorts Ltd. Chief Marketing Officer Michael Weaver said in a written statement to the Journal: “[T]hat report regarding Mr. Wynn is false. Beyond that, he doesn’t have any comment.”

Highlights

  • WHO: Guo Wengui, also known as Miles Kwok, is a wealthy Chinese businessman who fled China in 2014 and entered the U.S. the following year.
  • WHY HE MATTERS: In 2017, Mr. Guo launched an aggressive campaign to expose alleged corruption among China’s business and political elites, which has elicited sharp rebukes from the Chinese government. Beijing’s subsequent alleged efforts to remove Mr. Guo from the U.S. and bring him back to China have become a flashpoint in the U.S.-China relationship.
  • TARGETS: Among others, Mr. Guo is taking aim at Wang Qishan, the Communist Party’s top anticorruption official and a close ally of Chinese President Xi Jinping. Mr. Guo claims the Wang family owns a large interest in HNA Group, one of the country’s largest and most acquisitive conglomerates. HNA has denied the charge and sued Mr. Guo for defamation.
  • ALLEGATIONS: China is investigating Mr. Guo in at least 19 major criminal cases that involve bribery, kidnapping, fraud, money laundering and rape. Mr. Guo has denied the allegations and said they are part of a misinformation campaign against him being waged by Chinese officials.
  • LEGAL STATUS: Mr. Guo applied for asylum in the U.S. in September and his application is pending. Beijing has declared him a criminal suspect and has requested an Interpol arrest notice against him.

Mr. Guo, who built a real-estate empire in Beijing, has said he fled China in 2014 after hearing that a state security official to whom he was close would soon be arrested. Beijing has said it is investigating Mr. Guo in at least 19 major criminal cases that involve bribery, kidnapping, fraud, money laundering and rape, allegations that Mr. Guo denies.

Beijing has branded Mr. Guo as an attention-seeking criminal. Beginning this year, his near daily broadcasts on Twitter alleging official corruption have attracted many followers in China, who find ways to bypass China’s internet firewall.

Mr. Guo’s application for asylum in the U.S. is pending. He settled at the Sherry-Netherland in 2015, paying $67.5 million for the apartment overlooking Central Park.

The account of Mr. Guo’s interactions with U.S. and Chinese officials is based on a review of audio and video recordings he said he made of some conversations, discussions with Mr. Guo and with U.S. officials familiar with the matter.

The recent chapter in China’s pursuit of Mr. Guo began May 24, when Mr. Liu, a top official in charge of discipline at the security ministry—China’s equivalent of the Central Intelligence Agency—went with his colleagues to the fugitive’s New York home. They entered the U.S. on transit visas, which allow foreign government officials only to travel through the U.S. for a short period en route to another destination.

Mr. Guo said he had agreed to meet the officials because Mr. Liu had permitted Mr. Guo’s wife to leave China and join him in the U.S.

The Chinese officials spoke to Mr. Guo at length, touching on subjects including employees and family members who had been detained in China. Mr. Guo said the officials told him the government would treat him favorably only if he would stop inciting anti-Communist Party sentiment.

Mr. Guo didn’t agree to the officials’ demands.

Later that afternoon, at the beginning of rush hour around 5 p.m., agents from the FBI confronted the Chinese officials at New York’s Pennsylvania Station, according to people familiar with the incident.

At first, the Chinese said they were cultural affairs diplomats. Then they admitted to being security agents. The FBI agents instructed them to leave the country, saying they were in violation of their visas and weren’t to speak to Mr. Guo again.

The Chinese got on the train to Washington. The FBI assumed they would be gone in 24 hours.

Two days later, on May 26, Mr. Liu and the other Chinese officials returned to Mr. Guo’s apartment ahead of a planned flight back to China in the late afternoon.

U.S. law-enforcement authorities, whom Mr. Guo had told about the impending visit, decided it was time to act. The U.S. Attorney’s office in Brooklyn prepared charges alleging visa fraud and extortion, according to people familiar with the matter. FBI agents raced to John F. Kennedy International airport ahead of the officials’ scheduled 4:50 p.m. Air China flight.

Meanwhile, the Chinese officials dined on dumplings prepared by Mr. Guo’s wife, who was still grateful to Mr. Liu for letting her leave China, according to her husband. Mr. Guo said he again declined the officials’ offer of clemency in exchange for silence, and walked the group out of the building.

Prosecutors were still scrambling to secure final signoff from Washington to go ahead with the planned arrests at the airport.

The Sherry-Netherland Hotel in Manhattan.  Photo: Michael Bucher/The Wall Street Journal

With the flight preparing to board and FBI agents taking positions on the jet bridge, White House national security officials convened a conference call with participants from the State and Justice Departments, the Pentagon and the intelligence community.

State Department officials, worried about collateral consequences for U.S. personnel in China, hesitated to approve the Justice Department’s plan to make arrests.

An alternative was presented: Subject the Chinese officials to additional screening, which would cause them to miss their flight and buy some time, people familiar with the call said.

U.S. officials couldn’t fashion a consensus to approve either plan, and the FBI agents were permitted only to confiscate the Chinese officials’ phones before the plane took off.

A State Department representative said in a written statement: “Decisions on these kinds of matters are based on interagency consensus.”

In a written statement about the events provided to the Journal, a Justice Department spokesman said: “It is a criminal offense for an individual, other than a diplomatic or consular officer or attaché, to act in the United States as an agent of a foreign power without prior notification to the Attorney General.”

The spokesman added that the U.S. is “committed to continuing cooperation with China” on fugitive cases, and that the U.S. “is not a safe haven for fugitives from any nation.”

The U.S. and China have no extradition treaty, a recurring point of tension. Since 2014, China has escalated its global efforts to capture Chinese fugitives accused of corruption, including those who have fled to the U.S. The initiative, dubbed “Operation Fox Hunt,” often involves pressuring relatives in China, confiscating the target’s assets and sending agents to deliver personal threats.

Beijing officials tell their American counterparts they are justified in engaging in such activities because the U.S. carries out similar operations on foreign soil as well, U.S. law-enforcement officials say.

In June, U.S. officials revisited the JFK incident during a policy coordination meeting that grew heated.

Mr. Guo shows documents he says expose corruption in the Chinese government.Photo: Michael Bucher/The Wall Street Journal

Ezra Cohen-Watnick, then senior director for intelligence programs at the National Security Council, confronted Susan Thornton, an East Asia expert who serves as Acting Assistant Secretary of State, charging her agency was improperly hindering law-enforcement efforts to address China’s repeated violations of U.S. sovereignty and law, according to people familiar with the discussion.

State department officials criticized the FBI for not seeking permission from them before initially engaging the Chinese officials, the people said.

State Department official Laura Stone said she was already facing retaliation from Beijing, saying Chinese officials had allegedly confiscated her notebook as she was trying to leave the country, the people said.

The FBI’s assistant director of the counterintelligence division, Bill Priestap, deadpanned in response: “Was it because you had been trying to kidnap and extort someone in China?”

Separately, at a June meeting in the Oval Office, counterintelligence officials briefed President Trump on Beijing’s alleged efforts to steal cutting-edge research from labs and trade secrets from U.S. companies, according to people familiar with the meeting.

The president, surrounded by his top aides, including Vice President Mike Pence, his son-in-law Jared Kushner, his former chief strategist Steve Bannon and other national security and economic advisers, asked to see policy options in 90 days. In the meantime, he said he knew of at least one “Chinese criminal” the U.S. needed to immediately deport, according to the people.

“Where’s the letter that Steve brought?” Mr. Trump called to his secretary. “We need to get this criminal out of the country,” Mr. Trump said, according to the people. Aides assumed the letter, which was brought into the Oval Office, might reference a Chinese national in trouble with U.S. law enforcement, the people said.

The letter, in fact, was from the Chinese government, urging the U.S. to return Mr. Guo to China.

The document had been presented to Mr. Trump at a recent private dinner at the White House, the people said. It was hand-delivered to the president by Mr. Wynn, the Republican National Committee finance chairman, whose Macau casino empire cannot operate without a license from the Chinese territory.

A White House spokesman declined to comment.

Some aides tried to shut the topic of conversation down, including by noting Mr. Guo is a member of the president’s Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Fla., according to the people familiar with the meeting. The aides later worked to prevent any possible attempts to deport Mr. Guo, an action they believed would deprive the U.S. of a key point of leverage to use against Beijing, the people said.

Mr. Guo in his apartment in New York. Photo: Michael Bucher/The Wall Street Journal

In early September, Deputy Assistant Attorney General Bruce Swartz, who supervises the international affairs office at the Justice Department, traveled to China for an anticorruption conference and lodged a protest with Chinese law-enforcement authorities about China’s aggressive efforts to force alleged fugitives to return from the U.S., people familiar with the matter said.

While he was there, Beijing attempted to force another Chinese national to return from the U.S., the people said, without providing details.

On Oct. 4, Mr. Guo was scheduled to speak at the Hudson Institute, a prominent Washington think tank, the same day China’s Public Security Minister Guo Shengkun was scheduled to meet with Attorney General Jeff Sessions and others for high-level talks on law enforcement and cybersecurity.

In the days leading up to the speech, the Hudson Institute detected a Shanghai-based attack aimed at shutting down access to its website, according to a spokesman. The Chinese Embassy also called Hudson personnel warning them not to give Mr. Guo the opportunity to speak, according to several people who received such calls.

The institute canceled the event. Kenneth Weinstein, the Institute’s president, said Beijing “sought to dissuade” it from holding the event but said the change of plans was caused by poor planning, not Chinese pressure.

Mr. Guo continued to antagonize the Chinese in the run-up to the Communist Party’s twice-a-decade Congress, which began Wednesday. President Xi Jinping is seeking to solidify his position as the country’s strongest leader in decades during the weeklong event.

Earlier this month at an event in Washington, Mr. Guo released copies of an alleged Chinese government document purporting to authorize a group of spies to be dispatched to the U.S. to stop him and other targets. Beijing has said the document is a forgery.

He also met with lawmakers and Mr. Bannon, the former White House chief strategist who continues to advocate that the U.S. take a hard line on economic negotiations with China. Mr. Guo posted photos of himself with Mr. Bannon on a new English-language Twitter account he recently launched.

—Nicole Hong and Michael C. Bender contributed to this article.

Write to Kate O’Keeffe at kathryn.okeeffe@wsj.com, Aruna Viswanatha at Aruna.Viswanatha@wsj.com and Cezary Podkul at cezary.podkul@wsj.com

 https://www.wsj.com/articles/chinas-hunt-for-guo-wengui-a-fugitive-businessman-kicks-off-manhattan-caper-worthy-of-spy-thriller-1508717977

Cryptocurrency: “A whole bunch of people are going to lose a lot of money.”

October 7, 2017

Image result for cryptocurrencies, photos

By Bloomberg

Lily Katz
 
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Image result for Kyle Bass, photos
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Hedge fund manager Kyle Bass just took sides in the raging battle over the viability of the cryptocurrency market.

Calling many of the dozens of initial coin offerings that have taken place this year “frauds,” the Hayman Capital Management founder warned in a Bloomberg Television interview that investors will face steep losses .

“A whole bunch of people are going to lose a lot of money,” Bass said in an interview with Erik Schatzker. “These ICOs — you’re going to see a bunch of them go completely broke. A bunch of them are frauds, and that is going to be problematic for all the people that just rushed in.”

So far this year, more than $2 billion has flowed into ICOs — which allow cryptocurrency startups to raise funds by issuing their own tokens — according to Coinschedule.com.

Once the “gold rush” settles down, Bass said, cryptocurrencies could be a viable asset class. For now, though, “it is a bit of a mania.”

Video:

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-10-06/bass-says-ico-investors-will-get-wiped-out-in-crypto-mania

Catalan Mayors Exercise Right to Remain Silent in Referendum Questioning

September 19, 2017

BARCELONA — The first of hundreds of Catalan mayors summoned to answer questions on why they have backed a banned Oct. 1 referendum on independence from Spain appeared before the state prosecutor on Tuesday amid cheers and chants from supporters.

The first three mayors to declare exercised their right to remain silent, the Association of Municipalities for Independence (AMI) said.

Years of separatist feeling in the industrial northeastern region will come to a head in less than two weeks as the fiercely pro-independence regional government calls a referendum on splitting from Spain.

Madrid has declared the referendum illegal and the Constitutional Court has suspended the vote that was approved by the regional government earlier this month.

So far, 745 of 948 municipal leaders have said they will provide venues for the referendum.

“Voting is not a crime,” said Marc Solsona, mayor of the town of Mollerussa, one of nearly 750 mayors facing charges of civil disobedience, abuse of office and misuse of public funds, as he left the state prosecutor’s office in Barcelona.

“I’m just the mayor and I have to serve my people. I am committed to the people being able to vote on Oct. 1 in accordance with the law passed by the Catalan parliament and what happens to me is not important,” he said.

Solsona smiled, kissed and gripped hands with dozens of clapping supporters gathered outside the state prosecutor’s office as he entered to chants of ‘You are not alone’

“We consider ourselves privileged to have a mayor who represents the townspeople above any other interests – political or financial,” said 63-year-old pensioner Angel Tena, who had traveled to Barcelona to support the mayor.

Separately, police continued their search for ballot boxes, voting papers and campaign leaflets on Wednesday, raiding the offices of Spain’s biggest private delivery company Unipost in the Catalan city of Terrassa, Spanish media reported.

Neither the police nor the Interior Ministry could confirm the raid, but footage showed dozens of people gathered outside the company’s offices chanting ‘Out with the occupying forces,’ handing out voting papers and laying carnations on police cars.

Unipost confirmed the raid without giving further details.

Although polls show less than half of Catalonia’s 5.5 million voters want self-rule, most in the wealthy northeastern region want the chance to vote on the issue.

(Additional reporting by Sonya Dowsett and Inmaculada Sanz in Madrid; Writing by Sonya Dowsett; Editing by Angus Berwick and Janet Lawrence)

Spain police launch graft probe in Catalan president’s fiefdom

September 19, 2017

AFP

© AFP | Tuesday’s police raid comes amid mounting tensions as Catalan leaders press ahead with preparations for an independence referendum on October 1

GIRONA (SPAIN) (AFP) – Spanish police carried out searches on Tuesday across Girona, a fiefdom of Catalonia’s pro-separatist president Carles Puigdemont, as part of probe into suspected graft at a local water company, police said.The operation comes amid mounting tensions as Catalan leaders press ahead with preparations for an independence referendum on October 1 despite Madrid’s ban and a court ruling that deems it illegal.

Spain’s Guardia Civil police force said it was carrying out searches at 15 places in Girona, a city some 100 kilometres (60 miles) north of Barcelona where Puigdemont served as mayor between 2011 and 2016.

The searches are part of a probe into “suspected illegal activities which could involve the crimes of fraud and breach of trust regarding the awarding of a water supply contract,” police said in a statement.

The operations centres on the activities of Girona water supply company Salt i Sarria, it added.

The probe concerns the activities of the water company when Puigdemont was mayor of Girona, according to conservative daily newspaper La Razon which splashed the investigation on its front page.

Meanwhile police were also searching for referendum material at private courier company in L’Hospitalet de Llobregat near Barcelona, a police spokesman said.

Prosecutors have demanded that police seize all materials which could be used to stage the referendum such as ballots, ballot boxes and posters and fliers promoting the vote.

They have also opened a criminal probe into the over 700 Catalan mayors who have offered to help stage the referendum.

About 40 mayors have been formally summoned to be questioned as part of this investigation, three of them on Tuesday.

Polls show Catalonia’s roughly 7.5 million residents are deeply divided on independence.

A survey commissioned by the regional government in July showed 49.4 percent of Catalans were against independence while 41.1 percent were in favour.