Posts Tagged ‘scandal’

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)

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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.

Corruption-plagued Brazil gets new chief prosecutor

September 18, 2017

AFP

© AFP/File | Raquel Dodge, seen here at commission hearings in July, vowed to defend democracy as Brazil’s new chief prosecutor

BRASÍLIA (AFP) – A new chief prosecutor took over Monday in Brazil to oversee an avalanche of corruption investigations, including against President Michel Temer, and promised that no one would be “above the law.”Raquel Dodge replaced the hard hitting Rodrigo Janot who last week rounded off his dramatic term in office by charging Temer with racketeering and obstruction of justice.

Dodge, 56, was nominated by Temer and some analysts see the changeover as heralding a slowdown of Brazil’s huge “Car Wash” anti-graft operation. Temer has railed repeatedly against what he calls an out of control judiciary, a theme echoed by many in Congress who also have been accused of corruption.

At her swearing in ceremony in Brasilia, attended by Temer, Dodge vowed to “defend democracy” and said that her office would make sure that “no one is above the law and that no one is below the law.”

But indicating at the very least a less abrasive approach than Janot, she stressed the need for “harmony” between the different branches of government “as a requirement for the stability of the nation.”

She barely mentioned her predecessor and never referred specifically to “Car Wash.”

One of Dodge’s first big tasks as prosecutor general will be to oversee the latest charges brought against Temer by Janot last Thursday. The charges will soon be sent to the lower house of Congress for debate and, if approved, sent back to the Supreme Court which would open a trial, resulting in Temer’s suspension for 180 days.

A first criminal charge of bribe-taking filed by Janot in June was handily rejected by Temer’s allies in Congress. And analysts agree overwhelmingly that legislators will likewise toss out the latest charges.

Beyond the Temer charges, Dodge inherits the enormous case load of Janot’s probes and prosecutions targeting scores of other politicians and executives.

About a third of Temer’s cabinet is under investigation. Another high profile target is former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who has been convicted of taking bribes and faces five more graft trials.

The switch in head prosecutor also comes at a crucial time in domestic politics.

Temer is attempting to steer through far-reaching pension reform to strip back what his government says is an unsustainably generous system. While he has strong market support for this and other austerity reforms aimed at ending Brazil’s economic slump, the measures are unpopular and the president has been forced to spend much of his political capital to shore up support against the corruption charges.

However, Temer is now seen as stronger than he has been for months and Janot’s departure will boost his position further.

Although the scandals have been severely embarrassing, leading politicians are seen as unwilling to rock the boat by sending Temer to trial ahead of presidential elections in October of next year. Temer, who is deeply unpopular, is not expected to seek a new term.

Brazil Police Raid Agricultural Minister’s Home

September 14, 2017

SAO PAULO — Brazil’s federal police conducted a raid and search operation at the house of Agriculture Minister Blairo Maggi in Brasilia, related to an ongoing bribery and graft scandal, TV Globo reported on Thursday.

Image result for Agriculture Minister Blairo Maggi i, photos

It said the raid is linked to a plea deal by former Mato Grosso state governor Silval Barbosa, who accuses Maggi of participating in a corruption scheme that lasted between 2007 and 2010. Maggi is also a former governor of Mato Grosso – a major producer of soybeans, grains and cattle.

Efforts to contact Maggi’s press representatives in Brasilia were unsuccessful.

(Reporting by Guillermo Parra-Bernal; Editing by W Simon)

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Brazil’s top court to consider Temer prosecutor’s recusal

September 13, 2017

AFP

© POOL/AFP/File | Lawyers for Brazil’s President Michel Temer, who could face new criminal charges, say the country’s chief prosecutor is mounting an “obsessive persecution”

BRASÍLIA (AFP) – Brazil’s Supreme Court was scheduled Wednesday to start considering a demand by President Michel Temer for the recusal of the chief prosecutor leading a corruption case against him.

Temer’s lawyers argue that the prosecutor general, Rodrigo Janot, is mounting an “obsessive persecution” and that he is “greatly exceeding the constitutional and legal limits.”

This comes as Janot is expected to file criminal charges against Temer before he leaves his post and hands over to a new chief prosecutor on Monday. Janot is expected to charge Temer with obstruction of justice.

Congress has to approve any trial of the president and in August voted overwhelmingly to toss out a first charge, which accused Temer of taking bribes. Temer is believed to retain sufficient support to ride out a second charge.

The obstruction of justice charge would depend in part on a secret recording made by meatpacking billionaire Joesley Batista in which Temer allegedly is heard calling for payments to a jailed politician to prevent him testifying.

Batista and his brother Wesley signed plea deals with prosecutors after admitting they had run a huge bribery network to benefit their company JBS.

However the leniency accord has been torn up after Joesley Batista was accused of withholding information from prosecutors.

In another motion, Temer’s lawyers are asking the Supreme Court to block any new criminal charges by Janot until clarification of what they say are irregularities in the way the Batista plea bargain evidence was collected.

The court was due to meet at about 1700 GMT but it was not clear whether the Janot-related items would be considered quickly, with delays potentially pushing the matter to another day.

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Police In Brazil Arrest Meat Executive in Corruption Probe that Includes President Michel Temer

September 13, 2017

SAO PAULO — Police have arrested the CEO of the world’s largest meatpacker on suspicion of manipulating financial markets.

Police and a representative of meatpacking giant JBS say Wesley Batista was taken into custody on Wednesday in Sao Paulo.

Batista and his brother Joesley, the former chairman of JBS, have both entered plea bargain agreements in which they testified that JBS paid bribes to scores of politicians, including President Michel Temer. Temer denies wrongdoing.

But Wesley’s arrest Wednesday related to suspicious trading in JBS shares and an unusual purchase of dollars by the company that resulted in large gains.

A warrant for Joesley’s arrest was also issued, but the executive has been in custody since Sunday. He turned himself in after questions arose about whether he had withheld information during his plea testimony.

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Trump, Malaysia’s Najib talk about trade and security, not scandal

September 12, 2017

Image may contain: 2 people, people smiling, closeup

U.S. President Donald Trump welcomes Malaysia’s Prime Minister Najib Razak to the White House in Washington, U.S. September 12, 2017. REUTERS – Jonathan Ernst

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump welcomed Malaysia Prime Minister Najib Razak to the White House on Tuesday, praising his country for investments in the United States while steering clear of an American investigation into a Malaysian corruption scandal.

The visit is important for Najib, who faces elections next year and wants to signal he is still welcome at the White House despite a criminal probe by the U.S. Justice Department into a state fund called 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).

Flanked by top advisers in the Cabinet Room, Najib told Trump that Malaysia Airlines would buy 25 Boeing (BA.N) 737 jets and eight 787 Dreamliners, and would probably add another 25 737s in the near future – a deal he said would be worth more than $10 billion within five years.

Najib said Malaysia’s Employees Provident Fund, a major pension fund, wanted to spend $3 billion to $4 billion on U.S. infrastructure development.

The White House had originally planned to allow reporters into an Oval Office meeting between Trump and Najib, but at the last minute changed course. That meant photographers could not take the traditional photo of the two leaders sitting side by side, but a White House official said not to read anything into the change.

Najib had once enjoyed close ties with Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama, playing golf with the Democratic president in Hawaii in 2014.

U.S. President Donald Trump meets with Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak (2nd R) in the Cabinet Room of the White House in Washington, U.S. September 12, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

But relations cooled over concerns about human rights issues as well as the 1MDB scandal. Najib founded the fund, which is facing money laundering probes in at least six countries including the United States, Switzerland and Singapore. He has denied any wrongdoing.

The U.S. Justice Department sued to seize some $1.7 billion in assets it said were bought with misappropriated 1MDB funds.

The White House had said it would not comment on the Justice Department investigation.

“Investing in a long-term relationship between our countries, that in itself provides a foundation for us to address issues of concern, and that would include corruption and transparency,” a White House official said before the visit on condition of anonymity.

Trump praised Najib for his tough stand on Islamic State in Southeast Asia, and for cutting off economic ties with North Korea.

“He’s been very, very strong on terrorism in Malaysia, and a great supporter from that standpoint,” Trump said. “He does not do business with North Korea any longer, and we find that to be very important.”

Reporting by Roberta Rampton and David Brunnstrom; editing by Grant McCool and Richard Chang

JBS Batista Closer to Jail as Supreme Court Orders Arrest

September 10, 2017

Bloomberg News

By Tatiana Freita  and Felipe Marques

  • Supreme Court judge requests jail for meat-packing tycoon
  • Judge argues Batista could conceal evidence if left free
Joesley Batista arrives at the airport after speaking as a witness to Brazilian Attorney General Rodrigo Jano in Brasilia on Sept. 7.

Photographer: Sergio Lima/AFP via Getty Images

A Brazilian Supreme Court judge has ordered the arrest of Joesley Batista, the tycoon who turned JBS SA into a global meat powerhouse, the latest chapter of a scandal that has tipped Brazil back into political chaos and left his family’s business empire reeling.

Judge Edson Fachin ordered Batista’s arrest and the temporary suspension of the immunity granted in a plea-bargain agreement signed by the businessman with Brazilian authorities in May, according to official documents published on the Supreme Court website on Sunday. Ricardo Saud, a top executive at J&F Investimentos SA, the holding company that controls JBS, was also targeted by Fachin’s arrest warrant.

According to the judge, if the two executives were left at liberty “they would find the same incentives directed to concealing part of the probative elements” of their testimony. The J&F press office did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Pierpaolo Cruz Bottini, a lawyer who represents both men, said via text message that he had received information that the arrest warrants had been ordered. The federal police will decide when to carry out the arrests, which could come as early as Sunday.

Audio Recording

The court’s decision follows a request for their arrest by Rodrigo Janot, the country’s chief prosecutor, who said that Batista and Saud left out information from testimony submitted to Brazilian prosecutors earlier this year, when they confessed to graft and other crimes. The omissions came to light on Sept. 5, when a new audio recording emerged of a conversation between the pair. That discussion received blanket coverage in Brazilian media and followed the sensational broadcast in May of Batista’s recorded testimony, which earned him a plea bargain while creating a political crisis.

The latest tape raised questions over the terms of that agreement, which some have criticized for treating too leniently Batista and other executives connected to the case. Some of Batista’s remarks on the new recording, including a comment that he would never go to jail, have further enraged Brazilians.

In order to prevent the agreement from being fully scrapped, J&F and its executives are said to be discussing new terms with prosecutors, including raising the fines that Batista would have to pay, according to report published on Saturday by Brazilian newspaper Folha de S. Paulo.

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-09-10/jbs-batista-closer-to-jail-as-supreme-court-orders-arrest

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Former JBS Chairman Ready to Surrender to Authorities, Lawyer Says

September 10, 2017

The country’s Supreme Court approved Joesley Batista’s arrest for allegedly reneging on the terms of a plea-bargain agreement

SÃO PAULO—Joesley Batista, the former chairman of meatpacking giant JBS SA, is ready to turn himself over to Brazil’s legal authorities after the country’s Supreme Court approved his arrest for allegedly reneging on the terms of a plea-bargain agreement, Mr. Batista’s lawyer said Sunday.

High court Justice Edson Fachin approved the arrest following a request from Attorney General Rodrigo Janot, according to documents made public on…

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Trump’s Malaysia Swamp — Why China Wins While the U.S. Loses

September 7, 2017

Did Tillerson tell his boss he’s repeating an Obama mistake?

Image may contain: 1 person, closeup

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak

Sept. 6, 2017 6:59 p.m. ET

A visit to the White House is a diplomatic plum that world leaders covet. So why is President Trump bestowing this honor on Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, who jailed an opposition leader and is a suspect in a corruption scandal that spans the globe?

Mr. Najib will visit the White House next week for a presidential photo-op that could help him win the next general election and imperil Malaysia’s democracy. Yet it isn’t clear that Mr. Trump and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson are getting anything in return for associating with a leader their own Justice Department is investigating. This could set them up for a repeat of the way Mr. Najib humiliated Barack Obama.

Image result for Obama, Najib playing golf, photos

Mr. Najib oversaw the creation of 1MDB, a state-owned fund that was supposed to attract foreign investment. The U.S. Justice Department alleges that the Prime Minister and his associates looted the fund of $4.5 billion. The DOJ has filed civil lawsuits to freeze more than $1.6 billion of assets allegedly stolen from the fund. Five other nations are also investigating, and Singapore has convicted five financiers of money laundering and fraud. Mr. Najib hasn’t been charged and denies wrongdoing, and Malaysia’s Attorney General cleared him.

Under Mr. Najib, Malaysian authorities also conducted a six-year prosecution against opposition leader and former Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim on dubious charges of sodomy, for which he was sentenced to five years in prison. That legal farce helped Mr. Najib’s party win a narrow victory in the 2013 election.

So how should the U.S. engage a troubled Malaysia? Mr. Obama cozied up to Mr. Najib and chose to ignore the prosecution of Mr. Anwar when he made the first visit by a U.S. President in 60 years to Kuala Lumpur in April 2014. Eight months later, he invited Mr. Najib for a showy round of golf in Hawaii.

But that precedent is not consistent with Mr. Trump’s promise to “drain the swamp” of Washington politics. Two months after that golf round Mr. Anwar was jailed again. And shortly after Mr. Obama made nice with Mr. Najib, Frank White Jr. , who served as co-chair of President Obama’s re-election committee before becoming a lobbyist for Malaysia, sold a stake in a 1MDB-linked solar technology firm back to the fund for $69 million.

The benefits of communing with Mr. Najib aren’t obvious. Perhaps Mr. Tillerson thinks Malaysia will help tighten the financial screws on North Korea, which has long used the country as a business hub. But Mr. Najib isn’t likely to stop his strategic drift toward China. Keeping 1MDB afloat will require cash infusions, and China, eager to help fellow authoritarians, can deploy its One Belt, One Road slush fund. Mr. Najib can then buy off the opposition and consolidate power.

If Malaysia slides into dictatorship, it will almost surely fall into Beijing’s orbit. The U.S. relationship depends on Malaysia remaining a viable democracy. That’s why helping Mr. Najib at this critical moment is a mistake.

Mr. Trump will be told that it’s too late to cancel the meeting, but the U.S. can find a diplomatic excuse in Hurricanes Harvey and Irma or congressional battles. Any embarrassment is better than giving a scandal-tainted leader a White House photo-op.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/trumps-malaysia-swamp-1504738781

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Malaysia — Troublemakers ignited two flare, threw chairs and flung shoes and slippers on to the stage when Dr Mahathir Mohamad was speaking. The fracas forced organisers to escor Dr Mahathir our of the venue. Malaysian Insight pic by Nazir Sufari, August 13, 2017.

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Malaysians tell Peace and Freedom the real problem is the corrupt government of Prime Minister Najib Razak and the 1 MDB scandal….

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Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said that state fund 1MDB has cleared over 3 billion ringgit (S$947.1 million) in debt over the past two years. He had chaired 1MDB’s advisory board until it was dissolved in May 2016.PHOTO: REUTERS

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Victoria’s Secret Angel Miranda Kerr walks the runway in 2012.

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