Tuesday

Ms Sandiford to be executed for drug trafficking.

Posted On 02:24 0 comments

A British grandmother has been sentenced to death by firing squad for smuggling almost 5kg of cocaine into Bali.

Lindsay Sandiford was arrested in May last year after she tried to enter the Indonesian holiday island with illegal drugs worth £1.6 million hidden in her suitcase.

Local prosecutors had called for the 56-year-old housewife to be jailed for 15 years. But today there were gasps in the Bali courtroom when a panel of judges announced Ms Sandiford would be executed for drug trafficking.

As the shock verdict was announced, Ms Sandiford, from Gloucestershire, slumped back in her chair in tears before hiding her face with a brown sarong as she was led out of the courtroom.


Amber Gold affair is one of the biggest financial scandals to hit Poland since the fall of communism in 1989.

Posted On 04:44 0 comments

It was pretty much all the money Bozena Oracz had after a working life as an accountant: the equivalent of $15,000. She placed it in a fund investing in gold, with the hope of paying for her daughter's studies and getting treatment for a bad knee.

Those dreams were dashed when she discovered she had fallen victim to an elaborate fraud scheme that has left thousands of Poles, many of them elderly, facing financial ruin.

The so-called Amber Gold affair is one of the biggest financial scandals to hit Poland since the fall of communism in 1989. The extent of wrongdoing is still murky, but it seems to have some elements of a pyramid scheme, meaning the financial institutionused funds from new clients to pay off older clients rather than investing them.

Consumed with anger and desperation, 58-year-old Oracz traveled last week from a small town near Warsaw to a law firm in the capital to consider whether, after losing 50,000 zlotys, she should risk another 3,000 zlotys ($920; €730) on the fee to join a class-action lawsuit seeking to recover some of the losses.

"This was a lot of money to me — it was my savings," Oracz said, fighting back tears. Now retired and living on a small pension, she sees no way of building another nest egg. "My pension barely covers my needs," she said.

The affair has raised questions about the effectiveness of Poland's justice system and government because authorities failed to act against the scheme despite red flags from regulators and the criminal record of its young owner. Scrutiny has also focused on the prime minister due to business dealings his son had with those running the scheme. The scandal has even touched democracy icon Lech Walesa, who fears it could tarnish his good name.

Prosecutors say investors lost about 163 million zlotys ($50 million; €40 million), a number that has been mounting as more and more victims come forward. Any law suits could take care years to go through the courts, with no guarantee of their outcome.

"People are desperate," said Pawel Borowski, a lawyer preparing the class-action suit that Oracz is considering joining. "In most cases the clients lost life savings or sold family properties to make investments."

The financial institution, Amber Gold, promised guaranteed returns of 10 to 14 percent a year for what it claimed were investments in gold. Many of its clients were older Poles who grew up under communism and lacked the savvy to question how a financial firm could guarantee such a high return on a commodity whose value fluctuates on the international market. The promised returns compared well to the 3 to 5 percent interest offered by banks on savings accounts — earnings essentially wiped out by the country's 4 percent inflation rate.

"These were people with a low level of financial education," said Piotr Bujak, the chief economist for Poland at Nordea Markets. "They think it's still like in the old times, where everything was guaranteed by the state. They underestimated the risk."

Amber Gold launched in 2009, opening branches in city centers alongside respected banks, with white leather sofas and other sleek touches that conveyed sophistication and respectability. It bombarded Poles with convincing advertisements. Some early investors got out with their expected gains, adding to the fund's credibility.

The company, based in Gdansk, capitalized on gold's allure while playing on people's anxieties in unpredictable financial times. "We are dealing with a loss of confidence in the entire financial system and an urgent need for safe investments," one ad said. "The environment for gold is perfect."

Amber Gold drew in 50,000 investors over its three years of operation, though the company's founder, Marcin Plichta, said there were only about 7,000 at the time of liquidation.

Soon after Amber Gold began operations, the Polish Financial Supervision Authority put it on a "black list" of institutions that operate like banks without authorization. There are 17 other such black-listed institutions in operation, but the regulators lack the authority to shut them down. This has sparked a debate in the government and news media about whether courts should be more aggressive in intervening.

According to prosecutors, the company did use some of its money to invest in at least one legitimate business: It was the main investor in budget airline OLT Express. It was this investment that brought Amber Gold down — when the airline filed for bankruptcy, Amber Gold entered liquidation and its scheme of investments unraveled. Its bank accounts were blocked and it was unable to return the money of thousands of its customers.

Plichta was charged this month with six counts of criminal misconduct.

Prime Minister Donald Tusk's center-right government went into damage-control mode when it emerged that the leader's son, Michal Tusk, had done PR work for the airline. Tusk said he had warned his son against doing business with Plichta but that ultimately he son makes his own decisions.

Leszek Miller, the head of the opposition Democratic Left Alliance, asked how Tusk could warn his son against involvement in the airline but not warn the thousands of Poles who invested in the fund. Miller has called for a parliamentary inquiry into the scandal.

Public discontent is also centering on the justice system because Plichta, 28, has past convictions for fraud, and many Poles are asking why authorities — aware of his criminal record — didn't stop him sooner. Born Marcin Stefanski, he took his wife's last name to distance himself from his past crimes.

The country's top prosecutor, Andrzej Seremet, admitted Monday that prosecutors were negligent in failing to heed multiple warnings since 2009 about Amber Gold from the financial supervisory body. He announced personnel changes in the office he blamed for mistakes.

The affair also has an unlikely connection to the Solidarity leader and former president, Lech Walesa, because an Oscar-winning director, Andrzej Wajda, was relying on money from Amber Gold to produce a film about Walesa's struggle in the 1980s.

Walesa came out publicly to make clear he is not involved in any way, saying he doesn't want his name "dirtied."

Many of the unlucky investors are not only furious but wracked by shame and guilt.

Engineer Andrzej Malinowski, 61, put three months of salary — 25,000 zlotys ($7,660; €6,100) — into Amber Gold. He made the investment without consulting with his wife, sensing that there was some risk and that she would not have agreed.

Now he is so shaken and embarrassed that he doesn't want to talk about it, leaving his wife, Danuta Malinowska, to help unravel the mess.

"He saw that gold was going higher and higher so he believed that maybe it would be a good deal," Malinowska said. "Now he has so much guilt that I am trying to help — contacting the lawyer, filling in the forms, writing to the prosecutors. But the justice system is very ineffective. I don't believe we will be getting any of this money back."


Monday

Miguel Angel Trevino Morales new leader is emerging at the head of one of Mexico's most feared drug cartels.

Posted On 06:28 0 comments

  • Mexico Drug War Zetas_Plan.jpg

    This undated image taken from the Mexican Attorney General's Office rewards program website on Aug. 23, 2012, shows the alleged leader of Zetas drug cartel, Miguel Angel Trevino Morales, alias âZ-40.â (AP Photo/Mexican Attorney General's Office website)

Mexico's Violent Zetas Cartel Sees New Leader Miguel Angel Trevino Morales A split in the leadership of Mexico's violent Zetas cartel has led to the rise of Miguel Angel Trevino Morales, a man so feared that one rival has called for a grand alliance to confront a gang chief blamed for a new round of bloodshed in the country's once relatively tranquil central states.

Trevino, a former cartel enforcer who apparently has seized leadership of the gang from Zetas founder Heriberto Lazcano Lazcano, is described by lawmen and competing drug capos as a brutal assassin who favors getting rid of foes by stuffing them into oil drums, dousing them with gasoline and setting them on fire, a practice known as a "guiso," or "cook-out".

Law enforcement officials confirm that Trevino appears to have taken effective control of the Zetas, the hemisphere's most violent criminal organization, which has been blamed for a large share of the tens of thousands of deaths in Mexico's war on drugs, though other gangs too have repeatedly committed mass slayings.

"There was a lot of talk that he was pushing really hard on Lazcano Lazcano and was basically taking over the Zetas, because he had the personality, he was the guy who was out there basically fighting in the streets with the troops," said Jere Miles, a Zetas expert and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement special agent who was posted in Mexico until last year.

"Lazcano Lazcano, at the beginning he was kind of happy just to sit back and let Trevino do this, but I don't think he understood how that works in the criminal underworld," Miles said. "When you allow someone to take that much power, and get out in front like that, pretty soon the people start paying loyalty to him and they quit paying to Lazcano."

The rise has so alarmed at least one gang chieftain that he has called for gangs, drug cartels, civic groups and even the government to form a united front to fight Trevino Morales, known as "Z-40," whom he blamed for most of Mexico's violence.

"Let's unite and form a common front against the Zetas, and particularly against Z-40, Miguel Angel Trevino Morales, because this person with his unbridled ambition has caused so much terror and confusion in our country," said a man identified as Servando Gomez, leader of the Knights Templar cartel, in a viedo posted Tuesday on the internet.

A Mexican law enforcement official who wasn't authorized to speak on the record said the video appeared to be genuine,

"He is the main cause of everything that is happening in Mexico, the robberies, kidnappings, extortion," Gomez is heard saying on the tape. "We are inviting all the groups ... everyone to form a common front to attack Z-40 and put an end to him."

Trevino Morales has a fearsome reputation. "If you get called to a meeting with him, you're not going to come out of that meeting," said a U.S. law-enforcement official in Mexico City, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the topic.

In two years since Zetas split with their former allies in the Gulf cartel — a split in which Trevino reported played a central role — the gang has become one of Mexico's two main cartels, and is battling the rival Sinaloa cartel.

Now the Zetas' internal disputes have added to the violence of the conflict between gangs. Internal feuds spilled out into pitched battles in the normally quiet north-central state of San Luis Potosi in mid-August, when police found a van stuffed with 14 executed bodies.

San Luis Potosi state Attorney General Miguel Angel Garcia Covarrubias told local media that a 15th man who apparently survived the massacre told investigators that both the killers and the victims were Zetas. "It was a rivalry with the same organized crime group," Garcia Covarrubias said.

The leadership dispute also may have opened the door to lesser regional figures in the Zetas gang to step forward and rebel, analysts and officials said.

Analysts say that a local Zetas leader in the neighboring state of Zacatecas, Ivan Velazquez Caballero, "The Taliban," was apparently trying to challenge Trevino Morales' leadership grab, and that the 14 bullet-ridden bodies left in the van were The Taliban's men, left there as a visible warning by Trevino Morales' underlings.

The Taliban's territory, Zacatecas, appears to have been a hot spot in Trevino's dispute with Lazcano. It was in Zacatecas that a professionally printed banner was hung in a city park, accusing Lazcano of betraying fellow Zetas and turning them in to the police.

Trevino began his career as a teenage gofer for the Los Tejas gang, which controlled most crime in his hometown of Nuevo Laredo, across the border from the city of Laredo, Texas, officials say.

Around 2005, Trevino Morales was promoted to boss of the Nuevo Laredo territory, or "plaza" and given responsibility for fighting off the Sinaloa cartel's attempt to seize control of its drug-smuggling routes. He orchestrated a series of killings on the U.S. side of the border, several by a group of young U.S. citizens who gunned down their victims on the streets of the American city. American officials believe the hit men also carried out an unknown number of killings on the Mexican side of the border, the U.S. official said.

Trevino Morales is on Mexico's most-wanted list, with a reward of 30 million pesos ($2.28 million) offered for information leading to his capture.

Raul Benitez, a security expert at Mexico's National Autonomous University, said that the Zetas are inherently an unstable cartel with an already huge capacity for violence, and the possibility of more if they begin fighting internal disputes. "I think the Zetas are having problems, and there is no central command," he said.

The Zetas have been steadily expanding their influence and reaching into Central America in recent years, constructing a route for trafficking drugs that offloads Colombian cocaine in Honduras, ships it overland along Mexico's Gulf Coast and runs into over the border through Trevino Morales' old stomping grounds.

Samuel Logan, managing director of the security analysis firm Southern Pulse, notes that "personality-wise they (Trevino Morales and Lazcano) couldn't be more different," and believes the two may want to take the cartel in different directions. The stakes in who wins the dispute could be large for Mexico; Lazcano is believed to be more steady, more of a survivor who might have an interest in preserving the cartel as a stable organization.

"Lazcano may be someone who would take the Zetas in a direction where they'd become less of a thorn in the side for the new political administration," Logan said in reference to Enrique Pena Nieto, who is expected to take office as president on Dec. 1. "In contrast, Trevino is someone who wants to fight the fight."

Referring to Ignacio "Nacho" Coronel, a member of the rival Sinaloa Cartel who died in a shootout with soldiers in July 2010, Logan noted, "Trevino is someone who is going to want to go out, like Nacho Coronel went out, with his guns blazing."





Laurence Kilby, 40, of Cheltenham, who built and raced cars, was arrested after police seized cocaine with a street value of £1m.

Posted On 06:20 0 comments

 

Laurence Kilby, 40, of Cheltenham, who built and raced cars, was arrested after police seized cocaine with a street value of £1m.

A "privileged" racing driver has been jailed with 11 other drug smugglers. Crown Court heard he was head of a gang moving drugs from Eastern Europe along the M4 corridor to London, western England and south Wales.

Kilby was heavily in debt and turned to crime to maintain his lifestyle of fast cars and high living.

Raids on properties

Kilby was jailed in June but his conviction, and those of the rest of the gang, can now be reported following the conclusion of another trial.

In an undercover operation between Gloucestershire and Avon and Somerset Police, officers seized 3kg of cocaine as it was being ferried between London and Cheltenham in October 2010.

Another 1kg of the drug was intercepted in Cheltenham in February 2011 and 2.5kg was discovered in raids on properties in Cheltenham, Staverton, Bristol and London in July 2011.

The gang of 12 drug dealers from Gloucestershire, Bristol and London received sentences of between 18 years and four years seven months.

It can now be reported Kilby, who was jailed in June, and Vladan Vujovic, 43, of Grange Road, London were found guilty of conspiracy to supply Class A drugs. Both were jailed for 18 years.

Laurence Kilby racing in the 2009 Castle Combe Saloon Car ChampionshipKilby built and raced cars with the company he owned, Ajec Racing

Richard Jones, 42, of Bradley Stoke, Bristol, was sentenced to 15 years for the same offence, and Mark Poole, 47, from Portishead, was sentenced to nine years seven months after pleading guilty to conspiracy to supply Class A drugs.

Police said Kilby sourced the drug in London from an East European criminal gang, which included Vujovic.

Vujovic ran a baggage handling company at Heathrow Airport and was said to receive the cocaine before it was distributed around the South West and Wales.

Kilby is the former husband of Flora Vestey, daughter of Lord Vestey, and was owner of motor racing firm Ajec Racing which was based in Staverton.

He was heavily in debt and turned to crime to maintain his lifestyle of fast cars and high living.

'Well-connected socialite'

In a separate charge, Kilby also pleaded guilty to stealing money from the charity Help for Heroes and was sentenced to 10 months, to run concurrently with his 18-year sentence.

He organised a charity race day at Gloucestershire Airport in July 2010, but failed to pass on between £3,500 and £4,000 in proceeds to the charity Help for Heroes.

Det Insp Steve Bean, from Gloucestershire Police, said Kilby was the main man.

"He portrayed himself as a well-connected socialite and businessman, whilst indulging his ambition as a minor league racing driver.

Drugs wrapped in plastic packagesPolice seized 6.5kg of drugs during the operation

"Despite a privileged background, the reality was that his lifestyle was funded by the ill-gotten gains of drug dealing.

"He continually lied and blamed others in an attempt to distance himself from the conspiracy.

"He displayed an air of arrogance and thought he could get away with it because he didn't get his hands dirty."

The majority of the gang were jailed in June, but reporting restrictions meant it could not be reported until now, after the sentencing of the remaining gang members.

Others members of the gang to be sentenced were:

  • David Chapman, 29, from Bourton-on-the-Water, Gloucestershire, pleaded guilty to possession with intent to supply and was sentenced to nine years.
  • William Garnier, 31, from Cheltenham, pleaded guilty to supplying Class A drugs and was sentenced six years and eight months.
  • Garry Burrell, 46, from Easton, Bristol, and John Tomlin, 28, from Newtown, Gloucestershire both pleaded guilty to possession of cocaine and were sentenced to six years and six months and four years and six months respectively.
  • Timothy Taylor, 40, from Bristol was found guilty of supplying Class A drugs and was sentenced to four years and seven months.
  • Brian Barrett, 48, from Keynsham was found guilty of conspiracy to supply Class A drugs and was sentenced to 10 years.
  • Scott Everest, 39, from Clevedon was found guilty of conspiracy to supply Class A drugs and was jailed for seven years.

Jonathan Tanner, 45, from Warminster was sentenced to 18 months for possession with intent to supply of cannabis, but was cleared of conspiracy to supply Class A drugs.

Darren Weetch, 38, from Bristol, pleaded guilty to possession of cocaine with intent to supply. He was sentenced to 16 months.

Officers also worked with Thames Valley Police and the Metropolitan Police during the operation.


Tuesday

Assange seeks political asylum

Posted On 20:52 0 comments

On Tuesday night WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange applied for political asylum at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London after failing in his bid to avoid extradition to Sweden to face sex crime allegations. The 40-year-old Australian is currently inside the building in Knightsbridge, having gone there on Tuesday afternoon to request asylum under the United Nations Human Rights Declaration. The country's foreign minister Ricardo Patino told a press conference in the South American country that it was considering his request. In a short statement last night, Mr Assange said: "I can confirm that today I arrived at the Ecuadorian Embassy and sought diplomatic sanctuary and political asylum. This application has been passed to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the capital Quito. I am grateful to the Ecuadorian ambassador and the government of Ecuador for considering my application." The computer expert, who was on £200,000 bail after failing in several attempts to halt extradition, attracted several high-profile supporters including Ken Loach and socialite and charity fundraiser Jemima Khan, who each offered £20,000 as surety. Other supporters included Bianca Jagger and veteran left-winger Tony Benn. The Swedish authorities want him to answer accusations of raping a woman and sexually molesting and coercing another in Stockholm in August 2010 while on a visit to give a lecture. Assange, whose WikiLeaks website has published a mass of leaked diplomatic cables that embarrassed several governments and international businesses, says the sex was consensual and the allegations against him are politically motivated. The Supreme Court last month ruled in favour of a High Court ruling that his extradition was legal. Last week the Supreme Court refused an attempt by him to reopen his appeal against extradition, saying it was "without merit". He had until June 28 to ask European judges in Strasbourg to consider his case and postpone extradition on the basis that he has not had a fair hearing from the UK courts. A statement issued on behalf of the Ecuadorian Embassy said Mr Assange would remain at the embassy while his request was considered.


Sunday

Police study Murdoch's 'secret' iPhone account

Posted On 23:37 0 comments

Scotland Yard detectives investigating phone hacking at the News of the World are examining the call records of four newly discovered Apple iPhones issued to senior executives at News International. The smartphones, issued by O2 in a contract beginning in October 2009, included a handset given to James Murdoch, the former chairman and chief executive of News Corp Europe. Despite billing for the phones totalling nearly £12,000 between June last year and May this year, neither Operation Weeting nor the Leveson Inquiry was told of the existence of the smartphone accounts. Phone text messages and emails sent and received by News International executives and advisers have provided some of the most controversial evidence heard by Lord Justice Leveson's inquiry into press practices and ethics. It had been assumed that the email and text traffic from key News International executives was centred solely on their company BlackBerry account with Vodafone. In accounts seen by The Independent, issued through 02's corporate customer services at Arlington Business Park in Leeds, Mr Murdoch's iPhone account is listed as "active". Mr Murdoch is said to have told 02 that he specifically wanted a "white iPhone" when the smartphone was issued to him in the summer of 2009. Katie Vanneck-Smith, listed as News International's chief marketing officer, also has an active account. Two other NI executive numbers are described as disconnected. Between June last year – just before The Guardian revealed in July that the mobile phone of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler had been hacked into – and the beginning of the Leveson Inquiry in November, the NI iPhone accounts were billed for £9,650. Last night, Labour MP Tom Watson said people would be "shocked" to learn that the smartphones had been issued to key NI executives, while the company's disclosures focused only on the BlackBerry Vodafone accounts. Mr Watson said he hoped that News Corp's Management and Standards Committee, which is responsible for all matters relating to phone hacking, would enforce its own promise of full transparency and appropriate disclosure, by revealing all the data and logs held on the discovered phones to both the police and the Leveson Inquiry. Last night, a spokeswoman for News International, said: "Mr Murdoch fully co-operated with the Leveson Inquiry. It is ridiculous to suggest that James Murdoch keeps or kept a 'secret phone'." Meanwhile sources close to the Leveson Inquiry have denied that Lord Justice Leveson threatened to quit his judicial investigation following comments made in February by Michael Gove. The Education Secretary told a gathering of political journalists that the inquiry into press ethics and practices was creating a "chilling atmosphere" towards press freedom. During Prime Minister's Questions in the Commons the day after Mr Gove's lobby speech, David Cameron appeared to back his cabinet colleague's view. Concern that Mr Gove might be the Prime Minister's advance messenger prompted Lord Justice Leveson to call the Cabinet Secretary, Sir Jeremy Heywood. Whitehall sources say Lord Justice Leveson wanted to learn directly from Mr Cameron whether his inquiry was wasting public money on an ultimately futile exercise or whether his initial remit stood. Although the reassurances from No 10 took two days to arrive, sources claim there was no threat from the judge to resign from his own inquiry.


Tuesday

Metropolitan police anti-corruption unit investigated over payments

Posted On 17:05 0 comments

Scotland Yard is investigating allegations that detectives working for its anti-corruption unit have been paid thousands of pounds by a firm of private investigators. A parliamentary inquiry was told today that invoices, also seen by the Guardian, purport to show how a firm of private investigators made payments in return for information about the Metropolitan police investigation into James Ibori, a notorious Nigerian fraudster. On Tuesday, the Commons home affairs select committee was told by a lawyer involved in the case that invoices showed about £20,000 of potential payments to police officers in what amounted to an undetected case of "apparent corruption right at the heart of Scotland Yard". In recent weeks, as the Guardian investigated the allegations, the Met has sought to discourage the paper from publishing details about the case. But , after MPs heard the evidence, the Met dropped its previous insistence that there was "evidence that casts doubt on the credibility" of the allegations. A police source with knowledge of the investigation, which has been ongoing since October, said developments over the last 24 hours had now led police to take the allegations more seriously. The case revolves around a private investigation firm called RISC Management. Five years ago the firm was hired to work for Ibori, a former Nigerian state governor, after he discovered he was being investigated by the Met for serious fraud. Ibori recently pleaded guilty to money laundering and was jailed in the UK, after the conclusion of a major investigation into his financial affairs. The allegation now being investigated by police is that some detectives on the Met's Proceeds of Corruption Unit, which investigated Ibori, were receiving payments in exchange for information about the ongoing investigation. Invoices and other documents appearing to support the allegations have been anonymously posted to the Met and Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC). The documents have also been seen by the Guardian and separately sent to the home affairs committee, which is conducting an inquiry in whether private investigators should be subject to statutory regulation. Keith Vaz, the chair of the committee, has said there is growing concern in the wake of the phone-hacking scandal that some private investigators are operating in "the shadows" of the law. The Commons inquiry has been scrutinising the nexus between private investigators - many of whom are retired police officers - and their former colleagues who are still serving. On Tuesday morning, Mike Schwarz, a lawyer who represents one of Ibori's co-accused, told the inquiry about what he understood to be the significance of the material. He said it indicated possible corruption at the heart of the police investigation into the Nigerian politician's money laundering activities. The invoices are alleged to be from RISC Management to Speechly Bircham, a top firm of lawyers hired by Ibori to prepare his defence. Schwarz told MPs the invoices "perhaps" documented "payments made by RISC Management to sources, presumably police officers or those close to the investigation". He added: "The records, which I think the committee have, show about half-a-dozen payments totalling about £20,000 over a period of eight or nine months [...] it appears to be inappropriate if not corrupt." Schwarz told the committee that he believed RISC Management had been hired to "extract" information from the police investigation into Ibori. He said he had also seen emails - which he believed had also been forwarded to the committee - which confirmed "contact" between detectives investigating Ibori and the private investigators. Schwarz, from Bindmans solicitors, represents Bhadresh Gohil, a London-based solicitor jailed along with Ibori for orchestrating his money laundering scam. Gohil is now considering an appeal. Gohil is understood to have been sent the invoices, anonymously, while in Wandsworth Prison last summer. In a statement, the Met said: "The [force] is investigating an allegation that illegal payments were made to police officers for information by a private investigation agency. The Directorate of Professional Standards (DPS) referred the matter to the Independent Police Complaints Commission in October 2011 which agreed to supervise a DPS investigation into the allegations." Following Schwarz's evidence to parliament, the Met said it had dropped its previous claim to have recently "uncovered evidence" casting doubt on the allegations. Previously, the force had suggested an active line of inquiry was the theory that Gohil or his associates had fabricated the allegations to undermine the prosecution. In a previous statement, provided on Friday, the force said: "As a result of inquiries police have uncovered evidence that casts doubt on the credibility of these allegations. Warrants have been executed at two addresses in London and a quantity of paperwork and computer equipment recovered." Two weeks ago, following raids on properties, one of which was the Gohil's family home in Kent, the force said: "Officers believe that they have identified the originator of the information and a line of enquiry suggests that there may have been an attempt to pervert the course of justice." However, sources at the Yard said previous statements no longer fully represented their position. A source with knowledge of the Met inquiry said the change of stance was unrelated to Schwarz's parliamentary evidence. The source said that, instead, there had been developments in the investigation over the last 24 hours. Schwarz named three serving Met police officers in his testimony to parliament as being potential "culprits": detective inspector Gary Walters, detective constables named as John MacDonald and "Clark". All three officers declined an opportunity to respond to the allegations when contacted by the Guardian last week. However, RISC Management indicated Walters would deny "any and all allegations". RISC Management denied all the allegations about the company, saying it was not aware of the Scotland Yard investigation and had no knowledge of the alleged financial records. The firm confirmed it had been hired by Ibori's lawyers but denied making corrupt payments, saying it "has never paid a serving police officer for information and would never approve such payments". Keith Hunter, chief executive of the company, said: "RISC management does not need to pay serving police officers for confidential information as we pride ourselves on our ability to provide positive solutions and accurate information legitimately. RISC Management has a highly respected reputation for conducting professional investigations". He added that his company was "proud to have a network of highly professional consultants, contacts and resources. These individuals are hired precisely because of their unique skill set and expertise". He accused Schwarz of "grandstanding" in front of the Commons committee, instead of taking the "correct course of reporting the matter to the police". He said Schwarz had not produced any evidence to support his claims and acted for a convicted solicitor, Gohil, who was jailed for seven years for money laundering. Speechly Bircham denied any knowledge of wrongdoing and said it would be willing to assist with any police inquiries. The law firm stressed Schwarz did not suggest in his evidence to parliament that Speechly Bircham was "party to illegal or corrupt payments" and said any such allegation would be false and defamatory. Ian Timlin, the former Speechly Bircham lawyer who was at the time representing Ibori, said neither he nor the firm had "any knowledge of any payments to police officers for information." He added: "At no time, did RISC ever inform me who or what was the source/s they were paying."


Wednesday

Sam Ibrahim headed to jail

Posted On 16:11 0 comments

Former Sydney bikie boss Sam Ibrahim has been sent back to jail for allegedly breaching his parole. The 46-year-old was arrested yesterday at his home in Sydney's north-west at Bella Vista by a police strike force targeting the city's bikie gun war. The New South Wales Parole Authority revoked parole for the former Nomads boss after receiving a report from parole officers alleging he had been taking prohibited drugs and failing to obey directions. The arrest followed a police raid of his house last Friday, which was part of an operation targeting 18 homes and businesses linked to feuding Hells Angels and Nomads bikies. The house had been sprayed with bullets only a week earlier, in one of nine tit-for-tat shootings between the gangs in just over a week. Ibrahim is being held at Silverwater jail, ahead of a public hearing by the NSW Parole Board later this month. The board will decide whether to keep the former Nomads boss in prison until his sentence expires on October 7, or whether to extend his jail time. Ibrahim spent five months in jail as part of the 15-month sentence over the violent kidnapping of a 15-year-old boy in 2009. His arrest was part of a crackdown by the Gangs Squad's Strike Force Kinnara, which was set up to combat an escalation in bikie gun crime. The strike force also arrested convicted Sydney drug boss Bill Bayeh a fortnight ago for an alleged breach of parole.


Tuesday

Rupert Murdoch was branded “not a fit person” to run a major company

Posted On 06:58 0 comments


 Rupert Murdoch was branded “not a fit person” to run a major company in a bombshell report by MPs today. His son and business heir James was accused of “wilful ignorance” towards phone hacking, while Murdoch executives were accused of lying to cover it up. The verdicts leave the 81-year-old tycoon fighting to justify his leadership of a worldwide empire including the broadcaster BSkyB. He faces being dragged before Parliament to apologise. The force of the report was partly diminished by a row between members of the culture select committee. Four Conservatives voted against the final draft because they felt the attack on Rupert Murdoch’s fitness  to run a company was over the top. However, the final 100-page report backed by the Labour and Lib-Dem MPs on the committee amounted to one of the most scathing parliamentary verdicts on an international business. The MPs said Rebekah Brooks, former News of the World editor and chief executive of News International, “should accept responsibility” for the culture that led to Milly Dowler’s phone being hacked, along with hundreds of others. The report also found editors, lawyers, the police and prosecutors guilty of a catalogue of failings. Several former Murdoch lieutenants were singled out for misleading Parliament, including former News International executive chairman Les Hinton, former News Group  lawyer Tom Crone, and former News of the World editor Colin Myler. It criticised the Director of Public Prosecutions, Keir Starmer, and the former Metropolitan Police acting deputy commissioner John Yates, saying “they both bear culpability for failing to ensure that the evidence ... was properly investigated.” Rupert Murdoch was accused of “wilful blindness” about the mounting evidence of phone hacking. The verdict will add muscle to shareholders seeking to topple Mr Murdoch and to critics demanding that media regulator Ofcom strip him of his broadcasting licence. The report accused the Murdoch companies of trying to “buy the silence” of victims by awarding huge payouts to victims of hacking such as football players’ union boss Gordon Taylor. Verdicts on some figures who have been arrested by the police were held back in case they hampered fair trials. Among these was Andy Coulson, the former News of the World editor who was hired by David Cameron as his spin chief at No 10. The ferocious conclusion, which divided the committee in a series of votes on the final wording, was that Mr Murdoch was ultimately to blame and therefore not fit to hold his position. It said: “On the basis of the facts and evidence before the committee we conclude that, if at all relevant times Rupert Murdoch did not take steps to become fully informed about phone-hacking, he turned a blind eye and exhibited wilful blindness to what was going on in his companies and publications. “This culture, we consider, permeated from the top throughout the organisation and speaks volumes about the lack of effective corporate governance at News Corporation and News International. We conclude, therefore that Rupert Murdoch is not a fit person to exercise the stewardship of a major international company.” The committee branded it “simply astonishing” that Rupert and James said it was not until December 2010 that they realised that News International’s claim that hacking involved a single “rogue reporter” was untrue. It poured scorn on James Murdoch’s “lack of curiosity” that raised “questions of competence”. Mr Hinton was “complicit in the cover-up at News International” that included paying inflated compensation to victims. Mr Crone and Mr Myler misled the committee by answering questions “falsely”. The final devastating verdict on Mr Murdoch was a triumph for Labour MP Tom Watson who drafted the conclusions. But the 11-member committee divided along party lines, with the full denunciation being passed by the vote of a single Liberal Democrat member. Mr Watson said of Rupert Murdoch: “More than any individual alive, he is to blame. Morally, the deeds are his. He paid the piper and he called the tune.” Conservative MPs Louise Mensch and Philip Davies insisted the MPs had no right to make such a ruling and hit out at “partisan” voting by Labour members led by Mr Watson and Paul Farrelly. Mrs Mensch said Tory members could not back the declaration, describing it as “wildly outside the scope” of the committee and “improper attempt to influence” watchdog Ofcom.” Mr Davies said Mr Murdoch was “very clearly” a fit and proper person to run a major firm, pointing to the jobs he had created. He added: “Many people may conclude that some people’s conclusions were written before any of the evidence was heard, and that is very sad.” Mr Watson said he was disappointed there had been splits, but insisted Mr Murdoch must be held to account for crimes at News Corporation. Committee chair John Whittingdale said he did not vote on any of the amendments in the report, but hinted at his opinion on whether it should have branded Mr Murdoch unfit, saying: “I would merely observe that as well as being the chairman of the committee, I am a Conservative MP.” Lib-Dem member Adrian Sanders who was effectively left with the casting vote, sided with the Labour view. He said he would have faced accusations of party bias whichever way he had decided. After the report was published Mr Watson said he had “reason to believe” that even more the material in the form of hard drives was in the hands of the Serious Organised Crime Agency. He sought to extend the probe into new areas — including claims News Corp could be in contempt of Parliament over claims they sought to use private investigators to dig dirt on committee members. He also said politicians — including Tony Blair and Gordon Brown as well as David Cameron and George Osborne — should reveal their email and text message contacts with News Corp executives.


Saturday

Armed raids in Middlesbrough as manhunt goes on

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ARMED officers searched properties across Middlesbrough as the bid to track down suspected double murderer James Allen intensified. With no confirmed sightings of him since Monday afternoon, officers raided his home address in Lothian Road, as well as a home in Delarden Road in a bid to flush out the man suspected of battering to death Colin Dunford and Julie Davison. Yesterday, it emerged that Allen lived next door to 81- year-old Mr Dunford’s Leven Street home last year. The pensioner was found dead at this home at 10.50pm on Monday. A post-mortem examination revealed he suffered serious head injuries as a result of a significant assault.