Posts Tagged ‘graft’

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)

EU corruption watchdog ‘flooded’ with cases

May 31, 2017


© AFP/File | Corruption watchdog OLAF said it detected an estimated 631 million euros ($705 million) in EU funds that were lost to fraudulent claims in 2016


The EU’s anti-graft watchdog said Wednesday it has been “flooded” with alleged fraud cases in the European Parliament and other bodies that have dragged in France’s far-right National Front.

OLAF said cases in the European Parliament last year involved fictitious employment, the fraudulent declaration of allowances and misuse of funding to support the activities of national parties.

“Last year the unit dealing with internal cases has been flooded,” OLAF director general Giovanni Kessler told a press conference in Brussels as he presented his annual report.

In 2016, he said out of a total 272 investigations concluded, 34 focused on EU employees or members and staff of the European Commission, the European Parliament, the European Investment Bank and the EU Court of Justice, the bloc’s top court.

The watchdog, which has no power of its own to take punitive actions, made recommendations in 25 of those cases.

Kessler said his body is pursuing another 47 investigations this year, most of them linked to the European Parliament.

Kessler referred to the high-profile case of a parliamentary assistant working for the National Front (FN), headed by Marine Le Pen who lost to Emmanuel Macron in this year’s race for the French presidency.

OLAF concluded that Le Pen, also a member of the European Parliament, had improperly used parliament funds to pay an assistant for a fake job and recommended the body recover more than 300,000 euros.

It also recommended disciplinary proceedings against the assistant.

The FN meanwhile has accused 19 French MEPs, including France’s new European affairs minister Marielle de Sarnez, of having employed fake assistants.

In its annual report, OLAF said it detected an estimated 631 million euros ($705 million) in EU funds that were lost to an array of fraudulent claims in 2016, which is lower than the 888 million euros it said were bilked in 2015.

The total EU budget for last year amounted to 136 billion euros.

The losses also related to cigarette smuggling as well as fraud in public procurement projects, but did not include a case of Chinese imports to Britain that was only concluded this year.

OLAF accuses Britain of ignoring rampant use of fake invoices and customs claims by Chinese importers which cost 1.99 billion euros ($2.1 billion) in lost customs duties to the EU.

© 2017 AFP

Guo Wengui Exposes China’s Corruption

May 31, 2017

The biggest political story in China this year isn’t in Beijing. It isn’t even in China. It’s centered at a $68 million apartment overlooking Central Park in Manhattan.

That’s where Guo Wengui, a billionaire in self-imposed exile, has hurled political grenades at the Chinese Communist Party for months, accusing senior leaders of graft using Twitter as his loudspeaker. He escalated his attack by claiming that members of the family of China’s second most powerful official, who oversees the country’s anticorruption effort, secretly own a large stake in a major Chinese conglomerate.

The Chinese government responded by unleashing the state-controlled media to enumerate Mr. Guo’s alleged frauds, and asking Interpol to put out a global warrant for his arrest.

But then something unexpected happened. China stood down. The state media campaign against him tapered off. In mid-May, Mr. Guo announced on Twitter that his wife and daughter — previously barred from leaving China — had been allowed to visit him in New York.

“We need to root out some of the robbers of this country,” Mr. Guo, referring to China, told two New York Times reporters this month at his apartment. To emphasize the point, he wrote it out in Chinese in a notebook. “We are against using corruption to root out corruption.”

Mr. Guo’s allegations are unproved, and some of his claims have been outlandish and easily debunked. Yet amid his barrage of charges about China’s powerful and wealthy are claims that have turned out to be accurate. And the government’s treatment of Mr. Guo, whose former political patron was one of China’s highest-ranking intelligence officials, suggests he may be taken seriously, perhaps even supported, by some officials in Beijing.



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The Laos Connection: Mr X and the cartels hooking SE Asia on pills

May 8, 2017


© AFP/File / by Aidan JONES, Jerome TAYLOR | Xaysana Keophimpa, allegedly a key figure among gangs buying drugs from Myanmar’s meth labs, arriving at a criminal court in Bangkok


The downfall of millionaire “Mr X”, long shielded by cash and contacts in Laos, has highlighted the role of the secretive, communist country in showering pills across Southeast Asia.

Allegedly a key figure among gangs buying drugs from Myanmar’s meth labs, Laotian Xaysana Keophimpha — dubbed ‘Mr X’ — is believed to have used his graft-riddled country to shuttle narcotics south, first through Thailand then onto Malaysia.

The heavy-set 42-year-old was arrested by armed Thai police on 19 January at Bangkok’s main airport en route to Laos where he lived freely, revelling in a lifestyle of celebrity parties and supercars.

He denies charges of drug possession and smuggling.

But subsequent police operations have turned up several more men accused of running drugs through Laos, an opaque country whose role in the regional narcotics trade is gradually emerging.

They are the suspected middlemen of the ‘Golden Triangle’, shifting pills, ice and heroin from the world’s second largest drug producing zone to a regional market.

Among the accused is Xaysana’s friend Sisouk Daoheoung — a minor Laos celebrity with a penchant for thoroughbred horses and a shared devotion to fast cars and fancy holidays flaunted on social media.

If police are right, their ostentation in one of Asia’s poorest countries was funded by smuggling highly-addictive caffeine-laced methamphetamine pills — better known as ‘yaba’ or crazy medicine — and crystal meth (ice).

“From Xaysana’s phone and Facebook records it was clear he and Sisouk are friends… their (drug) groups are connected,” Thai Police Major-General Supakit Srijantranon told AFP last week.

– Meth men –

At $8 a pop in Thailand, the best yaba pills rise in price the further they move from source, bringing extraordinary rewards to the traffickers.

Stamped with a distinctive ‘WY’, the pink and green pills of the Myanmar drug labs are supercharging everyone from Malaysian farm hands to Bangkok’s “Hi-So” (high society) party crowd.

Each year regional seizures break records, according to the UN’s crime agency.

That points to better law enforcement, they say, but it also show that the cartels can ramp up production at will to cover losses.

The highest quality pills (15-20 percent meth purity) come from the factories of the North and South Wa — armed ethnic groups marshalling a self-governing state on the Myanmar-China border — and by the Lahu hill tribe.

Poor, corrupt and bordering five countries, Laos makes for an ideal transit route to the rest of Southeast Asia.

Drugs are shifted across the Mekong river into Thailand then onto Malaysia and beyond.

Thailand is being hit hard by the trade.

Between October last year and April, Thailand seized 74 million pills, according to the kingdom’s Narcotics Control Board (NCB), as well as two tonnes of crystal meth and 320 kilogrammes of heroin.

Official estimates say the kingdom has around 1.3 million addicts, with drug convictions accounting for the bulk of Thailand’s prison population of 290,000 — the tenth highest incarceration rate in the world.

“Drugs are destroying everything. They affect the security of our country, our society and people,” NCB secretary-general Sirinya Sitdhichai told AFP.

Cops are fighting back and say they have battered three major Laos-linked drug networks, confiscating tens of millions of dollars-worth of assets including hotels, cars, cash and even a horse riding school in Vientiane.

They are still hunting a fourth group led by Usman Salameang, a Thai believed to be holed up in Laos, wanted for moving gear through Thailand’s violent border area into Malaysia.

“He is the only big boss we are still trying to arrest,” Sirinya said.

– All roads lead to Laos –

Historically, communist Laos has been reluctant to admit it has a drug problem.

But under Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith the country is keen to show it is flushing out criminals and corrupt officials.

The recent arrests are part of his get-tough message to the drug gangs.

Last year Laos authorities reeled in a record 144 kilogrammes of crystal meth and nearly 21 million yaba pills.

The once toothless Lao National Commission for Drug Control and Supervision (LCDC), has been beefed up under control of the Ministry of Public Security.

The fall of Xaysana and co. is being bundled up as victory for intelligence-sharing between Laos and Thailand.

But with many western embassies still unable to post specialist narcotics police in Laos it is hard to get facts on the country’s suspected role as a haven for drug producers.

The LCDC did not respond to AFP requests for comment.

And while Laos authorities sweep up mid-ranking henchmen they do not touch “the major organised crime behind significant production and trafficking,” according to Jeremy Douglas of the UNODC.

Questions remain over how high-profile suspects could have operated beyond the law for so long.

One reason for that impunity is their aversion to publicity and violence — in contrast to their Latin American peers — a western drug enforcement official told AFP, requesting anonymity.

They live by a maxim of “Don’t bring attention to your operations. You work in silence, you work in the dark.”

by Aidan JONES, Jerome TAYLOR


China Moves to Discredit Tycoon’s Claims of Communist Party Corruption

April 21, 2017

BEIJING — China on Friday sought to discredit billionaire businessman Guo Wengui, painting him as a “criminal suspect” whose allegations of corruption within the highest levels of the Communist Party should not be believed.

Guo, a flamboyant property mogul who has held close ties to disgraced former Chinese intelligence official Ma Jian, has courted international attention with his explosive claims, most recently aired during a live television interview with the U.S government-funded Voice of America (VoA) on Wednesday.

 Exiled businessman Guo Wengui. Photo: Handout

China said on Wednesday that Guo was subject to an Interpol “red notice”, a fact Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang reiterated at a regular press briefing in Beijing on Friday.

“If you are willing to believe what he said then that’s your business,” Lu said. “We don’t believe it.”

The Chinese government had pressed VoA to cancel the interview ahead of time, including by summoning one of the broadcaster’s Beijing-based correspondents to a meeting on Monday, sources with knowledge of the matter told Reuters.

The ministry’s comments come amid an apparently concerted damage-limitation effort within China highlighting Guo’s reputation as an unreliable narrator.

A 23-minute video, purportedly of Ma Jian confessing in detail to accepting 60 million yuan ($8.72 million) in bribes from Guo, has circulated on Chinese social media since Wednesday night without being removed by government censors who are often quick to delete politically sensitive posts or unsubstantiated rumors.

The video, which was produced and posted online anonymously, has also been reported on widely by mainland media outlets, all of which are regulated by the government. Reuters was unable to independently verify the veracity of the video.

The widely read Beijing News newspaper, and the respected financial magazine Caixin, also published lengthy investigations into Guo’s business dealings and ties with Ma, a disgraced former state security vice-minister who was first detained in early 2015 and expelled from the Communist Party in December last year.

Guo has said he left China in late 2014 after being tipped off about Ma’s imminent arrest, and has not returned since his company premises were raided amid a heated dispute with state-backed Founder Securities.

Since leaving, he has spent most of his time in the United States.

After laying low for two years, Guo resurfaced in February and has since made wide-ranging but unverified allegations of corruption against several top Communist Party officials – past and present – and their families.

He says the information was obtained from Ma, whom he concedes he held a close relationship with but denies bribing.

At Friday’s Foreign Ministry briefing, Lu rejected suggestions the timing of the Interpol red notice was connected to the airing of the VoA interview.

“Interpol has been around for 100 years and has 190 member states,” he said. “For this kind of international organization we think their actions are solemn.”

(Reporting by Philip Wen and Ben Blanchard; Editing by Robert Birsel)



Guo Wengui “Silenced” after saying Beijing was using “terror” tactics against him and his family — Claimed to have evidence of curruption at highest level of China’s government

April 19, 2017

‘China using terror tactics against my family’, businessman claims

South China Morning Post

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 20 April, 2017, 12:11am
UPDATED : Thursday, 20 April, 2017, 12:25am

Fed up with corruption, Brazilian voters eye outsiders — Rejecting the status quo

April 19, 2017


© AFP/File / by Sebastian Smith | Former Brazil president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva faces no less than five corruption trials as anti-establishment sentiment threatens a revolt ahead of general elections

RIO DE JANEIRO (AFP) – As a corruption scandal washes over Brazil’s political class, anti-establishment sentiment threatens a revolt ahead of next year’s general election, analysts say.

Around 100 politicians, including many leading figures, were placed under graft investigations last week. That was on top of many others already being probed in the so-called “Car Wash” scandal.

And Brazilians — similar to large parts of the electorates in countries such as Britain, France and the United States — are fed up with the status quo.

“They want change,” David Fleischer, professor emeritus at the University of Brasilia, said. “You’ve opened a big chance for people who can say ‘I’m not a politician, I’ve never been a politician.'”

The scale of the alleged corruption is staggering.

One third of the Senate was put under investigation by Brazil’s Supreme Court last week, as well as a third of President Michel Temer’s cabinet, and nearly 40 lower house representatives. All five living former presidents are under suspicion.

That threatens to tear up the previously well established list of candidates vying to take over from Temer in the October 2018 election.

For example, ex-president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, a firebrand leftist, faces no less than five corruption trials. Centrist pro-business candidate Aecio Neves, who narrowly lost the 2014 elections to Lula’s protegee Dilma Rousseff, is equally tarnished, facing five investigations, including into alleged bribetaking.

– ‘Brazil’s Donald Trump’ –

For now, Lula remains the easy leader in theoretical match-ups.

A February poll by the MDA institute gave him 30.5 percent of the vote, trouncing his rivals. Neves, for example, would get only 10 percent.

But Lula faces the potentially fatal setback of being found guilty and barred from public office or even jailed.

If voters then go looking for an outsider with clean hands, the big beneficiary could be Joao Doria, the newly elected mayor of Sao Paulo, Brazil’s biggest city.

Hugely wealthy, a good communicator, and one time host of Brazil’s version of “The Apprentice” game show, Doria has drawn comparisons to another attention-grabbing, reality TV-loving, non-politician: Donald Trump.

With the centrist PSDB party, Doria wrested Sao Paulo from Lula’s leftist Workers’ Party and presents himself as someone who gets things done. Crucially, he faces no corruption probe.

He has not declared a candidacy but other big beasts of the PSDB, like Sao Paulo state Governor Geraldo Alckmin, are tainted by “Car Wash.”

In a new poll published Tuesday — commissioned by a pro-Lula trade union and carried out by Vox Populi — Doria registered a measly five percent. Yet that’s before he has taken a single step.

– Far right? –

Other candidates in that mold of center-right business leaders could appear. There’s also environmentalist Marina Silva who scored 11.8 percent in the February poll and is a perennial outsider figure.

But if change-hungry voters really want to go rogue, they may turn to federal congressman Jair Bolsonaro.

He may be fulltime politician, but he is so radically rightwing that he comes across as a wild outsider.

Bolsonaro has enthusiastically insulted gays, defended the use of torture, spoken up for Brazil’s two-decades long military dictatorship, and yelled at a fellow member of Congress that she would not “deserve” rape.

Nevertheless, Bolsonaro is not on the corruption list. And as a tough-talking representative of the ever-more powerful evangelical right in Brazil, he’s seen by some as a man who’d drain the swamp.

“We have to stanch the hemorrhage of corruption,” he declares on his twitter profile.

In the February survey Bolsonaro was polling at 11.3 percent, a number confirmed in Tuesday’s poll.

An anti-establishment rebellion could also extend to the legislature. Brazilians will be voting next year for two thirds of the Senate and the whole lower house.

In 2016, the long-dominant Workers’ Party took a pasting in municipal elections. The same may happen to other mainstays such as the PSDB and Temer’s PMDB, analysts say.

“Fears are growing among members of Brazil’s traditional parties that Operation Car Wash could destroy the political system as they know it,” risk analysis group Stratfor said on Tuesday.

by Sebastian Smith

Philippines: Editorial — “Shoot the corrupt government workers!” — The President reiterated his commitment to stamp out corruption (Just like in China)

April 17, 2017

It can amuse the audience, and there are people who would love to shoot government workers who demand grease money before doing what they are paid to do. But everyone knows the average person isn’t going to shoot such crooks in government, as President Duterte advised the business community in Qatar last Saturday.

Addressing the Philippines-Qatar business forum in Doha, the President reiterated his commitment to stamp out corruption. If any employee of the Bureau of Internal Revenue or Bureau of Customs, for example, demanded even P10 in grease money, “shoot him,” the President told the businessmen.

The public would prefer to have the government do the shooting – figuratively, it must be stressed in this season of Tokhang and Double Barrel Reloaded. The country has tough laws against various forms of corruption including the most serious, plunder. Anti-money laundering laws also cover graft-related offenses. What is lacking, as is the case in many laws in this country, is proper enforcement.

Stamping out corruption, as the President has promised, also suffers from the weakness of the regulatory environment and institutional structures. Processes are designed to force the payment of grease money to oil the wheels of government.

Among the biggest hindrances to any attempt to fight graft are corrupt members of the judiciary. As long as justice is for sale in this country, people can expect to get away with corruption. This is true especially among those who are accused of large-scale plunder. These individuals typically have amassed sufficient ill-gotten wealth to hire topnotch lawyers who know the judges and justices whose decisions are for sale to the highest bidder. A recent report prepared by the US government also specifically cited the problem of corruption in the Philippine judiciary as a major hindrance to bilateral trade.

President Duterte has no disciplinary supervision over an independent and co-equal branch of government, but he can use his power to appoint or promote members of the judiciary to help clean up the justice sector. Within the executive branch, he must demand results from his officials in drastically cutting red tape and improving procedures in every agency. It will take more than bullets to rid this country of corruption.


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Philippine National Police chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa

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Philippines Policeman found tortured and strangled after some fellow police said he was involved in the illegal drug trade. Photo Credit Boy Cruz

 (December 23, 2016)

A man suspected of dealing drugs shot dead after a “buy and bust” operation in Quezon City in September. Credit Daniel Berehulak for The New York Times


Senior Chinese banking regulator under investigation: Caixin

April 16, 2017



Yang Jiacai,  China Banking Regulatory Commission

BEIJING (REUTERS) – A senior official at the China Banking Regulatory Commission (CBRC) is under investigation for suspected links to a loan scandal, the financial magazine Caixin reported, citing sources close to the matter.

Yang Jiacai, assistant chairman of CBRC, has been under investigation since April 9 in connection with the scandal in Hubei province, Caixin said late on Saturday, following days of rumours circulating online that Yang had gone missing.

China’s graft watchdog on April 9 also announced an investigation into the chairman of the country’s insurance regulator, Xiang Junbo, the most senior financial regulator to be investigated as part of a government fight against graft.

No official announcement of an investigation into him has been made. His name and profile were still accessible on the CBRC website on Sunday.

Caixin reported last Friday that Yang had been relieved of his duties, citing people with knowledge of the matter.

CBRC did not respond to a faxed request for comment on Friday or to a second fax on Sunday about the investigation.

Yang’s last public appearance was on April 7 speaking at a news conference about new risk control guidelines for lenders as part of efforts to contain risks from a rapid build-up in debt.

China’s top leaders have pledged this year to address financial risks and asset bubbles.

President Xi Jinping has pledged to wage war on deep seated graft in the ruling Communist party until officials at all levels dare not be corrupt, warning that a failure to check the rot could threaten the party’s existence.

Yang and his wife and son were all placed under investigation due to their suspected involvement in a loan scandal in Hubei, Yang’s home province, Caixin said.

Yang spent most of his career in Hubei and was deputy head of the central bank’s Wuhan city branch in Hubei from 1997 to 2003, according to his official profile.

According to the article, investigations into the scandal have already led to a number of official probes, including into chief risk officer of China’s Bank of Communications, Yang Dongping, who was expelled from the party on Feb 24.

Yang became assist chairman of the CBRC in 2013.


Some say Xi Jinping’s anti-corrption campaign is just a way for him to elivinate critics and political foes. No one will come forward to say that corrupion is down undr Xi Jinping. That’s only a myth….

It happens in Russia — occasionally. An oligarch, made fabulously wealthy through the privatization of state assets, breaks ranks, becoming a critic of President Vladimir V. Putin.

China was different. Its growing ranks of billionaires often owe their fortunes to the good graces of the Communist Party and its leading families. But the firsthand knowledge that the country’s tycoons might have of the complex shareholding ties that serve to enrich the political elite had stayed secret.

That changed this year. In two rambling interviews with a New York-based media company lasting more than four hours, Guo Wengui, a real estate magnate, described what he said was a ferocious struggle that culminated two years ago in the collapse of a business deal pitting him against relatives of a retired top Communist Party official, He Guoqiang.

Since then, Mr. Guo has lived abroad, and is a member of President Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida.

In going public with his charges, Mr. Guo demonstrated just how dangerous a loose-lipped billionaire can be to China’s Communist Party. The party still strives to cultivate an image of selfless service to the nation, with state-run news media repeatedly emphasizing that no official is immune to President Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption drive, now in its fifth year.

If Mr. Guo is to be believed, Mr. Xi, when he assumed leadership of the Communist Party in November 2012, may have faced a far more serious corruption problem than has been publicly disclosed, touching not only the departing chief of the country’s security forces but perhaps also the top official in charge of rooting out graft in the party’s own ranks, Mr. He. Both were members of the Politburo Standing Committee, the elite body that wields supreme power in China.

“If you are Xi Jinping and you are deciding to go after corruption, can you take them on all at once?” asked Andrew Wedeman, a professor of political science at Georgia State University who studies corruption in Chinese politics.


Zhou Yongkang, the former head of the security forces, in court in 2015.CreditChina Central Television, via Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The former head of the security forces, Zhou Yongkang, was prosecuted on graft charges and is now serving a life sentence in prison. But there is no report that Mr. He or members of his family have been prosecuted. To Mr. Guo, that demonstrates the weakness of the corruption crackdown: Among the elite, the campaign touches only those who are already on the losing side of factional power struggles.

Mr. Guo explained in a March 8 videotaped interview with Mirror Media Group, a Chinese-language news company based on Long Island, how Mr. He’s son He Jintao was the “boss” of the second-largest shareholder in Founder Securities, a company in which Mr. Guo was seeking to acquire a large stake. He Jintao concealed his role through a proxy, according to Mr. Guo.


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