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Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Members of Drug Smuggling Organization Sentenced

 

United States Attorney Robert E O’Neill announces that earlier this week, United States District Judge Elizabeth A Kovachevich sentenced Elias Estupinan Rengifo (48, Colombia, South America) to 135 months in federal prison for conspiring with others to possess with intent to distribute five or more kilograms of cocaine on board vessels subject to the jurisdiction of the United States. Rengifo pled guilty on October 12, 2011. Rengifo had three co-conspirators—Horacio Aguirre Perea (42), Vicente Aguirre Perea (45), and Wilson Vallejo (41)—all of Colombia, South America. All three were arrested in Colombia, extradited to the United States, subsequently pled guilty to the same drug conspiracy charge, and were previously sentenced. Horacio Aguirre Perea was arrested in Colombia on August 5, 2009 and pled guilty on October 27, 2010. On January 28, 2011, he was sentenced to 235 months in federal prison. Vicente Aguirre Perea was arrested in Colombia on August 6, 2009 and pled guilty on January 26, 2011. On April 13, 2011, he was sentenced to 180 months in federal prison. Wilson Vallejo was arrested in Colombia on March 16, 2010 and pled guilty on March 29, 2011. He was sentenced on June 17, 2011 to 135 months in federal prison. According to court documents, Rengifo and his co-conspirators were knowing and willing participants in an on-going maritime cocaine smuggling organization operating along Colombia’s southern coast. Between 2005 and 2009, Rengifo and his co-conspirators organized multiple maritime cocaine smuggling trips, including: (1) the stateless go-fast vessels interdicted by the United States in the Pacific Ocean on February 19, 2005 and December 2, 2006; and (2) the stateless self-propelled semi-submersible (SPSS) vessels interdicted by the United States in the Pacific Ocean on March 1, 2008 and June 16, 2008. Coast Guard officers seized more than 1,000 kilograms of cocaine from both of the interdicted go-fast vessels. The SPSS vessels were also carrying cocaine, but were scuttled before Coast Guard officers could recover any cocaine. The mariners on the four interdicted vessels were first brought into the United States in the Middle District of Florida. This case was investigated by OCDETF’s Panama Express Strike Force South. The strike force includes agents and analysts from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Drug Enforcement Administration, United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the United States Coast Guard Investigative Service, the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, and Joint Interagency Task Force South. It was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Christopher F Murray.

Marine admits hazing California Marine who committed suicide in Afghanistan

 

One of three Marines accused of hazing a California Marine before he committed suicide pleaded guilty Monday to an assault charge as part of a plea bargain. In exchange, other charges were dropped. Lance Cpl. Jacob Jacoby admitted that he punched and kicked Lance Cpl. Harry Lew out of anger because Lew kept falling asleep while on guard duty in Afghanistan, according to the Associated Press. Jacoby was sentenced to 30 days confinement and reduction in rank to private first-class. Two other Marines are also charged with hazing Lew, who committed suicide April 3 at an outpost in Helmand province. The 21-year-old Lew, from Santa Clara, was the nephew of Rep. Judy Chu (D-Monterey Park). Chu and the dead Marine's father, Allen Lew, attended the court-martial proceeding at the base at Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii. "I want to make sure that there is justice for Harry," Chu told the AP. Lew killed himself with his machine gun. He was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division, based in Hawaii. Before killing himself, Lew scrawled a message on his arm: "May hate me now but in the long run this was the right choice. I'm sorry my mom deserves the truth."

Sunday, 29 January 2012

Bikie gang member shot dead in Adelaide

 

The shooting of a bikie gang member and his club president father has been declared a major crime as the South Australian police minister says some outlaw gangs have no regard for the law or the community. Giovanni Focarelli, 22, is dead and his father, Comanchero club president Vince Focarelli, is in Royal Adelaide Hospital with multiple gunshot wounds after the shooting on Sunday night. Police Minister Jennifer Rankine said the state has tough laws to deal with the "scourge" of outlaw motorcycle gangs but some just shun the law."I am sure the police are as frustrated as what I am about what is occurring," she told ABC radio.

Bikie gang member shot dead in Adelaide

 

The shooting of a bikie gang member and his club president father has been declared a major crime as the South Australian police minister says some outlaw gangs have no regard for the law or the community. Giovanni Focarelli, 22, is dead and his father, Comanchero club president Vince Focarelli, is in Royal Adelaide Hospital with multiple gunshot wounds after the shooting on Sunday night. Police Minister Jennifer Rankine said the state has tough laws to deal with the "scourge" of outlaw motorcycle gangs but some just shun the law."I am sure the police are as frustrated as what I am about what is occurring," she told ABC radio.

Canada has joined Colombia as a leading exporter of synthetic or designer drugs, flooding the global market on an almost unprecedented scale

 

Canada has joined Colombia as a leading exporter of synthetic or designer drugs, flooding the global market on an almost unprecedented scale, police say. The RCMP have seized tonnes of illicit synthetic drugs that include Ecstasy and methamphetamine being shipped abroad after being “cooked” in make-shift labs in apartments, homes and businesses in the GTA. Police are now seizing more chemicals and synthetic drugs, which they say is favoured by young people, at Canadian border checks rather than the traditional cocaine, heroin or hashish that officers call drugs of “a last generation.” Most of the Ecstasy (methylenedioxymethamphetamine), meth or ketamine, a hallucinogenic used in “drug cocktails,” are smuggled from Canada by trucks, air cargo, human couriers or courier services to a network of traffickers. The U.S., Europe, Australia, New Zealand and Japan are the world-wide targets of these highly organised criminal syndicates, the Mounties said. Two Japanese students were arrested at Vancouver International Airport in 2009 after 47,000 Ecstasy pills with the “Chanel” logo were seized from their luggage. And, in November that year 400,000 tablets and 45 kgs of pot were seized in Michigan as it was being transferred from a small Canadian aircraft to a vehicle. The RCMP is working to stamp out the problem and have created a Chemical Diversion Unit (CDU) to target “rogue chemical brokers” who import and sell chemicals to organized crime cells to “bake” synthetic drugs for export. The force also created a Synthetic Drug Operations (SDO) whose members target clandestine drug labs in the GTA that are operated by crime cells and traffickers. “We execute search warrants once we locate a clandestine lab,” said SDO Sgt. Doug Culver. “These labs are dangerous with toxic chemicals and our members are specially trained to handle them.” His officers use hazardous material suits to enter a suspicious lab to ensure it is safe from corrosive chemicals before uniformed officers can enter. Police said an Ecstasy tablet, that usually features a harmless-looking logo, is sold for up to $15 each at Toronto nightclubs and the potency can last for about 10 hours. The tablets used to sell on the street for about $40 each two years ago. Supt. Rick Penney, who is in charge of an RCMP-GTA Drug Squad, said tonnes of chemicals and synthetic drugs are being seized by his officers. “We are talking tonnes and not kilograms,” Penney said. “This is becoming a matter of routine for us and it concerns me.” Penney said Canadian-made Ecstasy and meth are popular in Australia, New Zealand, Japan, the U.S. and some European countries. “Canada is a player on the global market,” he said. “We see a lot of synthetic chemicals passing through the Canadian border or going out of province.” He said some of the chemicals are purchased by criminals on the Internet from suppliers in China or India. “The majority of the drugs we seize in Ontario are for export,” Penney said. “This is a global problem and Canada is a big player.” The drug officers said Canada exports as much Ecstasy and chemical drugs as Colombia ships out cocaine. Police said synthetic drugs are the choice of young people because it is cheap, with a pill being made for 50-cents and sold for up to $15; lasts a long time; can be easily hidden and a tablet appears relatively harmless with a “cute” imprinted logo. Sgt. Brent Hill, of the Chemical Diversion Unit, said rogue brokers use fake names, companies or addresses to import the chemicals into Canada. Some use the name of legitimate companies and give fake delivery addresses, he said. He said the imported chemicals are resold by rogue brokers at exorbitant profits to organized crime groups originating from China, Vietnam and India, including criminal bike gangs in Canada. The chemicals are “cooked” into synthetic drugs. The CDU monitors more than 100 chemicals entering the country. Some are for legitimate industrial uses ranging from industrial cleaners to pharmaceutical products. Others are strictly for “baking” drugs. Hill shows a make-shift laboratory that was seized in a 2007 Scarborough bust in which three people were arrested. Officers seized two million units of Ecstasy and bags of chemicals at a residence on Pipers Green Ave., in the Brimley Rd. and Finch Ave. E. area. Jian Yao Quan, 24, and Yan Shi, 46, both of Scarborough, and Wan Shun Ling, 55, of Brooklyn, New York, were convicted of drug-related offences and will be sentenced on Feb. 14. A warrant has been issued for Wei Quan Ma, 43, of Toronto, who’s believed to have fled to China. During that raid, police found a 22-litre round-bottom heating mantle filled with chemicals being baked as vapors flowed through a hose taped at the top of the container to a large can filled with cat litter, that helps to absorb toxic gases to avoid leaving smells behind, police said. Hill said the mixture leaves a cloud of corrosive chemical hanging over the area that is harmful to people and is the reason why officers wear haz-mat suits to enter drug houses. “These labs pose a serious threat to the safety of the public and emergency first responders such as police, fire and ambulance workers,” Hill said. “Most chemicals in a clandestine drug lab are highly toxic, corrosive, explosive or flammable “ He said some unsafe labs can cause a fire or explosion that can lead to environmental pollution. Police said its common to find an Ecstasy pill containing a combination of controlled substances including methamphetamine or other controlled or non-regulated psychoactive substances. Some doses can be lethal and kill users. Officers point to the deaths of five B.C. young people since last August from Ecstasy laced PMMA, the same lethal chemical linked to deaths in the Calgary area. There have been about 18 Ecstasy-related deaths in B.C. in two years. “Some of these drugs are dangerous cocktails,” Hill said. “Crime groups are putting more addictive chemicals in some of the mixtures to get kids coming back for more. “These brokers are aggressively targeting the legitimate chemical industry. They continue to expand in a highly-lucrative market selling legal chemicals, regulated precursors and non-regulated psychoactive substances.” Officers said some unscrupulous brokers establish fake front companies, or claim to be legitimate companies to import chemicals into Canada. They fill out paperwork required by the Canada Border Services Agency but usually provide false information, police said. “The acquisition of chemicals is the choke point,” Hill said. “We are fully engaged with the legitimate Canadian chemical industry and monitor suspicious chemical transactions.” He said its a crime under Bill C-475 to possess, produce, sell or import “anything” if the person involved knows it will be used to produce methamphetamine or Ecstasy. “Crime groups with links to south-east Asia continue to dominate chemical-brokering operations,” the Mounties said. “There are criminal enterprises including individual operators and semi-legitimate companies that are brokering or procuring chemicals for synthetic drug production.” Police said some chemical shipments imported into Canada for industrial use are stolen by crime gangs to produce drugs. “Global demand for Ecstasy remains high,” Hill said. “Ecstasy continues to be the most sought-after and widely available controlled synthetic drug in the Canadian illicit market.”

Friday, 27 January 2012

Probe after 'shredded' papers found

 

Missing documents which caused the collapse of a multi-million pound police corruption trial have been discovered by investigators - despite claims they were shredded. Ten people, including eight former police officers, were accused of fabricating a case which led to the wrongful jailing of three innocent men for the 1988 murder of prostitute Lynette White. All were acquitted last month after Swansea Crown Court heard that a top cold-case detective at South Wales Police (SWP) had ordered the destruction of files containing evidence relating to the case. Mr Justice Sweeney discharged the jury telling them the accused could not get a fair trial. However, the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC), which is investigating the collapse, on Thursday revealed the missing files had been found in the hands of SWP. The revelation prompted Director of Public Prosecutions, Keir Starmer QC, to order an independent probe into the disclosure exercise conducted by prosecutors involved in the case. Stephen Miller, who was wrongly jailed for the murder, reacted angrily to the development describing it as "ridiculous". He told the Independent: "There has to be a public inquiry. Some of my co-accused have now passed away - where is the justice for them?" IPCC commissioner Sarah Green confirmed documents that the Lynette White trial was told may have been destroyed had been discovered, "and were not shredded as first thought". She said: "The court was told that some inquiries had been made about documents relating to complaints made to the IPCC itself and that it seemed that these documents may have been shredded on the orders of SWP senior investigating officer Chris Coutts. The documents were found in the original boxes that the IPCC had sent those files to SWP as part of the trial disclosure process in 2009. These boxes were still in the possession of SWP and have subsequently been verified." The IPCC said its ongoing investigation would seek to establish what happened to the two files of documents, while liaising with officals from the Crown Prosecution Service. Miss White's body was found with more than 50 stab wounds. Detectives arrested Mr Miller, Yusef Abdullahi, Tony Paris and cousins Ronnie and John Actie for murder. The cousins were cleared but the three other men went on to serve two years in prison before being released on appeal. Mr Abdullahi, 49, died last year. In 2003, Jeffrey Gafoor, a client of Miss White, admitted murdering her and is now serving life behind bars.

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Ex-worker of Stanford tells jurors at fraud trial he saw ex-financier fudge numbers for bank

former employee of Texas financier R. Allen Stanford told jurors at Stanford’s fraud trial Wednesday that he believes he saw the former billionaire making up accounting figures used in an annual report to woo investors. Leo Mejia, who worked for an advertising company created by Stanford to promote his various businesses, testified that he became uneasy working for the financier because he lost confidence in the accuracy of financial information he was given to include in advertising materials. 0 Comments Weigh InCorrections? inShare Prosecutors allege Stanford bilked investors out of more than $7 billion through a scheme centered on sales of certificates of deposit from a bank Stanford owned on the Caribbean island of Antigua, which promised substantially higher rates of return on the CDs than U.S. banks and promised investors their money was safe. The financier’s businesses were headquartered in Houston. Authorities say Stanford, 61, sank investors’ money in a variety of his own businesses, including two airlines, and that he used up to $2 billion of investors’ money as personal loans to buy homes and yachts and fund cricket matches. Stanford’s attorneys contend he was a savvy businessman whose financial empire was legitimate and who never failed to pay what was owed to investors. Stanford is on trial for 14 counts, including mail and wire fraud, and faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted. He was once considered one of the United States’ wealthiest people, with an estimated net worth of more than $2 billion. Mejia testified that one of his responsibilities was to help put together the bank’s annual report, which was used to promote the bank and attract new customers. He said that when he was preparing the bank’s 1988 annual report, he saw Stanford and his chief financial officer, James Davis, use a calculator to make various faulty changes to figures related to the bank’s finances just before the report was sent off to be printed. “Did you notice any problem with the numbers Stanford was getting by punching into the calculator?” prosecutor Gregg Costa asked Mejia. “Yes. When I was working I noticed very easily that some of those numbers didn’t add up correctly. I mentioned they didn’t add up. They laughed and corrected those numbers,” Mejia said. At the time, the bank was in Caribbean island nation of Montserrat. It later moved to neighboring Antigua. Mejia described the errors he saw as an “obvious mistake. Like nine plus one does not give you five.” Davis has pleaded guilty in the case and is expected to testify against Stanford. Mejia also told jurors he was surprised that after those figures were submitted to the bank’s auditor, they were approved and sent back to him in 15 minutes. “It took me more to do my checkbook. I thought that was quick,” he said. Prosecutors allege Stanford bribed the auditor as well as Antiguan regulators to hide the true condition of the bank’s financial health and promote the fraud. Mejia also told jurors Stanford described investors as “greedy” and that the bank’s office in Montserrat was mostly an empty building that had a couple of computers that were not plugged in. Mejia said he was fired in 1992 for receiving an overpayment of $750. The prosecution’s first witness, Michelle Chambliess, who had worked for Stanford selling CDs to investors, testified earlier Wednesday that she had also become uneasy with how the financier ran the bank, including using deposits for personal loans. She also said the bank’s insurance policy was from a company set up by Stanford. Ali Fazel, one of Stanford’s attorneys, tried to suggest to jurors that both Mejia and Chambliess, who was also fired, were not experts in the complexities of the financier’s various businesses and were not qualified to assess if there was any wrongdoing. “You’re just guessing? You’re just speculating?” Your entire testimony is speculation,” Fazel told Mejia. Testimony resumes Thursday in Stanford’s trial, which will likely last at least six weeks.

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Gangster gets four years for drug stash

 

A CAREER criminal branded as “extraordinarily dangerous” has been jailed for four years after being caught with heroin worth £50,000 during a police raid. Detectives believe that Ronald Aldred was peddling the Class A drug in Edinburgh and West Lothian after recovering the stash kept at his Kirkliston home. The 44-year-old was jailed for 12 years in 2002 as the ringleader of a gang that took part in a campaign of kidnapping, assault and extortion, which a judge described as being like “something out of a 1930s Hollywood gangster movie”. Aldred had been hired by dealers to recover a kilo of stolen cocaine, and at one point the gang tried to put a loaded gun into a victim’s mouth during a vicious interrogation. In 1992, he was jailed for nine years for two attempted murders after launching an attack with a sword and knife at The Royal Nip pub in Albert Street, Leith. Detective Sergeant Jim Robertson, from the force’s Serious Organised Crime Unit (SOCU), worked on the drug investigation against Aldred, which saw him jailed at the High Court in Edinburgh yesterday. DS Robertson said that Aldred was caught with half a kilo of heroin at his home in Marshall Road, Kirkliston. Aldred, who has a total of five previous convictions, pleaded guilty to being concerned in the supply of heroin on October 6 last year, and prosecutors have already begun steps to seize his assets under the Proceeds of Crime Act. Police raided his home after a tip-off and found five packages of heroin along with phones, scales, sandwich bags and more than £700 in cash. Prosecutors said that if the heroin had been broken down and sold on as “tenner bags” then it had the potential value of £50,000. His defence counsel, Frank Gallagher, told the court that during his last period in prison Aldred had developed a drug problem and built up debts. Mr Gallagher said that his client agreed to the drugs being in his home in return for the debt being reduced. DS Robertson told the Evening News: “This conviction shows our commitment to tackling serious and organised crime. The drugs were being stored at that address and we’re confident Aldred was involved in dealing. “We welcome this four-year sentence, both as a deterrent to Aldred and to anyone else involved in drug dealing.” In early 2002, Aldred’s gang was recruited to hunt down stolen cocaine, abducting one man from outside a Scottish court who was handcuffed and forced to hand over £7000. Sentencing them for that offence, Lord Dawson told Aldred and his two accomplices: “I regard all three of you as extraordinarily dangerous men against whom the public must be protected.” But Aldred’s 12-year sentence was later cut to eight years by appeal judges. In May 1992, Aldred was found guilty after a five-day trial for attempting to murder two men and seriously assaulting two others. Aldred attempted to murder Thomas Brown by stabbing him with a knife and striking him with a sword, and assaulted Thomas Monaghan with the sword in The Royal Nip in September 1991. He also attempted to murder David McKinlay with a knife in Ardshiel Avenue, Drumbrae, on October 19, 1991 and struck Kevin Smith on the head with a knife in Easter Road on August 3, 1991.

Hell's Lovers gang infiltrated in Denver

 

Investigators raided a Hell's Lovers motorcycle gang in Denver Friday night. Many of the motorcycle gang suspects are now in jail awaiting a court hearing Monday. The arrests come after a near three-year investigation by the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. ATF agents raided the home and arrested at least 15 gang members for "violent crime." "We are not talking about traditional gang violence with younger youth that are from 17 to 24, which make up the bulk of gang violence. We are talking about...grandfathers even; some of them have different professions," says Terrance Roberts, a gang expert. The gang was formed in Chicago in the late 1960's, and has now spread to Colorado, Georgia, Maryland, Tennessee and Texas. Agents say the gang has been associated with cocaine trafficking and use of weapons and explosives.

Saravy Sok, 22, of 88 Forthill Ave., Lowell, who was identified by prosecutors as a member of the Tiny Rascals Gang-Grey, a violent street gang with ties to California, was arraigned on gun charges

 

Saravy Sok, 22, of 88 Forthill Ave., Lowell, who was identified by prosecutors as a member of the Tiny Rascals Gang-Grey, a violent street gang with ties to California, was arraigned on gun charges and a charge of armed assault to murder after the Sunday morning shooting outside 12 Benefit St. According to police and Assistant District Attorney Roberta O’Brien, a 28-year-old man was at a party at 12 Benefit St. when he got into a minor verbal argument with another partygoer. The 28-year-old man decided to leave the party, but outside the man he had argued with challenged him to a fight. The two men had begun to fight when Mr. Sok arrived to help his friend, Ms. O’Brien said. “As they were fighting, this man pulled out a gun and started shooting,” she said in court yesterday. The 28-year-old was shot once in the shoulder and twice in the leg. The injuries were not life-threatening, but the victim may suffer nerve damage, Ms. O’Brien said. The victim walked into the emergency room at St. Vincent Hospital just after midnight Sunday with the gunshot wounds. Police were called to the hospital and spoke to the victim. He told police he recognized the shooter’s girlfriend, and police were able to identify the suspect. Lowell police told city investigators that Mr. Sok was a member of the TRG-Grey gang and gave them a booking photograph from a previous arrest. Mr. Sok was identified as the suspect through witnesses, detectives and members of the Shooting Response Team. Lowell police located Mr. Sok Monday night and arrested him on a warrant for the shooting. In 2008, Mr. Sok was among a large group of gang members in the Lowell area arrested on a variety of charges. Mr. Sok was charged in federal court with weapons offenses. In mid-2009, he was sentenced to serve 32 months in prison with three years of supervised release. Ms. O’Brien said Mr. Sok was still on supervised release in the federal case when last weekend’s shooting occurred. Federal authorities said members of the TRG-Grey gang are responsible for many acts of violence in Lowell over the past decade. Mr. Sok was charged with armed assault to murder, assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, possession of a firearm without a firearm identification card, carrying a loaded firearm without a license and using a firearm during a felony. Not guilty pleas were entered. Bail was set at $50,000 cash, and the case was continued to Feb. 23.

Spanish Cleanup Plan May Backfire on Banks

 

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s proposal to force banks to recognize further losses from real estate holdings may backfire by saddling healthy lenders with the bill. “The plan is for a massive effort in provisioning of real estate and consolidation, and that has to be paid for,” said Daragh Quinn, a Madrid-based analyst at Nomura International. By refusing to use public funds to help purge a system burdened with 176 billion euros ($228 billion) of what the Bank of Spain calls “troubled” assets linked to real estate, Rajoy may not do the job properly or he may hurt solvent banks by leaving them with the costs, said David Moss, director of European equities at F&C Investments in London. Rajoy wants to make banks accurately value assets piled up on their books as part of his efforts to lower Spain’s borrowing costs and free up the flow of credit in the economy. Investors demand about 763 basis points more yield to hold Bankia SA (BKIA)’s senior unsecured bonds maturing in 2017 than similar German bunds, up from about 46 basis points when the securities were sold in 2007. Since Rajoy was elected on Nov. 20, the rate on 10-year Spanish debt has declined 124 basis points to 5.45 percent. Rajoy wants to avoid committing public funds as he battles to bring down a deficit that was 8 percent of gross domestic product in 2011, exceeding the 6 percent target from the outgoing Socialist government. He announced 15 billion euros of immediate spending cuts and tax increases last month to narrow the gap. “If the public purse doesn’t get used at all, this can only mean this whole process happens more slowly and it might take longer to make the impact that’s needed,” Moss said.

Venezuela on Tuesday deported three suspected drug smugglers wanted in the United States, Canada and Colombia

 

Venezuela on Tuesday deported three suspected drug smugglers wanted in the United States, Canada and Colombia, touting the moves as proof the government of President Hugo Chavez is making strides in fighting trafficking. Those deported include Luc Letourneau, a Canadian wanted in his homeland on drug trafficking charges, Oscar Martinez Hernandez, an American wanted in Puerto Rico on charges including cocaine and heroin smuggling, and Colombian Adalberto Bernal Arboleda.Arboleda, known by his nickname “El Cali,” faces drug smuggling charges in Colombia and the United States. Justice Minister Tareck El Aissami trumpeted the deportations as evidence Venezuela is cracking down on drug trafficking. Venezuela is a major hub for gangs that smuggle Colombian cocaine to the United States and Europe, and U.S. officials have accused Chavez’s government of being lax in anti-drug efforts. Last year, President Barack Obama’s administration classified Venezuela as a country that has “failed demonstrably” to effectively fight drug trafficking. El Aissami dismissed that accusation, accusing U.S. officials of “defaming” Venezuela’s counter-drug efforts. Letourneau, 53, was captured in May on Margarita Island, a popular tourist destination. At the time of his arrest, Letourneau was planning to smuggle 110 pounds (50 kilograms) of cocaine into Canada, El Aissami said. Hernandez, a 44-year-old man who was nabbed by police on Jan. 4 in the western city of Maracaibo, faces numerous criminal charges ranging from drug trafficking to illegal possession of firearms and explosives. Arboleda was captured in the town of Mariara, in central Carabobo state, on Jan. 11. U.S.-Venezuelan counter-drug cooperation has been sharply scaled back since 2005, when Chavez suspended cooperation with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and accused it of being a front for espionage.

Rapist TV psychic Martin Smith found hanged in cell

 

A convicted paedophile, whose partner is accused of murdering their children in Spain, has been found hanged in his cell at HMP Manchester. Former TV psychic Martin Smith, 46, originally from North Shields, was jailed for 16 years in March 2011 for raping a girl aged under 16 in Cumbria. His partner Lianne Smith is in custody accused of murdering their two children in Lloret de Mar, Spain. Greater Manchester Police said his death was not thought to be suspicious. A spokesman said his body was found in his cell on Monday evening. Smith, who appeared on television as a medium five years ago on the Living Channel's Most Haunted programme, was extradited to the UK from Spain in spring 2010. After his return his daughter Rebecca, five, and Daniel, 11 months, were found dead in a hotel in Catalonia, north-east Spain. The couple, who share the same name but are not related, left the UK for Spain with Rebecca while Daniel was born in Spain. Smith was convicted at Manchester Crown Court of 11 counts of rape, attempted rape and indecent assault on his victim over a period of 10 years. His trial was told he used hypnotism and violence to groom and sexually abuse his victim. A Prison Service spokesman said the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman was investigating his death. No date has been set yet for Lianne Smith's murder trial in Spain, a spokeswoman for the Catalonia judiciary said.

Spain’s Two Finance Ministers Clash on Budget Amid Recession

 

Economy Minister Luis de Guindos said Spain is sticking to its deficit goal even as the economy shrinks, underlining a rift in the month-old Cabinet over whether the nation can halve its shortfall during a recession. De Guindos said the government’s commitment to budget cuts is “total” and there’s “no change” to this year’s target. His comments in Brussels today came after reporters asked him about Budget Minister Cristobal Montoro’s call on Jan. 22 for the European Union to ease Spain’s 2012 deficit goal to take its shrinking economy into account. Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy divided the Finance Ministry in two after coming to power in December, putting People’s Party veteran Montoro in charge of the budget and giving de Guindos, a former Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. banker, responsibility for the economy. Rajoy didn’t make either of them deputy prime minister, as the last two finance chiefs were, saying he would oversee economic issues himself. “It’s a trial of strength to see who’s really in charge of economic issues, and Rajoy will just let it happen,” said Ismael Crespo, a political scientist at the Fundacion Ortega- Maranon research institute in Madrid, who was head of the state polling unit when the PP was last in power. “Montoro is speaking more to the public and Guindos is speaking more to the foreigners,” he said in a telephone interview. Economy Contracting Spain’s government needs to rein in its borrowing costs and convince investors it can cut the euro region’s third-largest budget deficit even as the economy enters its second recession in two years. The Bank of Spain said yesterday the economy contracted in the fourth quarter and may shrink 1.5 percent in 2012, adding to pressure on Rajoy, who won the Nov. 20 election on a pledge of creating jobs. Budget Minister Montoro, a 61-year-old public-finance professor and lawmaker for Seville, said on Jan. 22 the EU should ease Spain’s budget target of 4.4 percent of gross domestic product this year as the goal was set by the previous government, which expected the economy to grow 2.3 percent. The deficit amounted to 8 percent of GDP last year, overshooting the 6 percent target. “If Brussels doesn’t adapt the stability program to the new scenario of a recession, it won’t be realistic and not only will Spain sink but the whole of Europe,” Montoro said in an interview with La Vanguardia newspaper in comments confirmed by a Budget Ministry spokeswoman. Austerity Commitment EU Economic and Monetary Affairs Commissioner Olli Rehn rejected Montoro’s comments today after a meeting of finance ministers in Brussels, saying it’s “essential” that Spain meets the target, and must take more measures to do so. De Guindos, 52, who described Montoro in December as his “mentor” and “friend,” said Spain would keep its promises. The task of attending the European meetings falls to de Guindos, who speaks fluent English, while Montoro stays in Spain. “The government’s deficit target is 4.4 percent and there is no change in this respect,” de Guindos said after the meeting today. It isn’t the first time the pair has given differing messages in the past week. De Guindos, who is not a member of parliament, wrote in the Wall Street Journal on Jan. 19 that budget cuts were “not a choice.” The same day Montoro was quoted as telling the Financial Times Deutschland newspaper that the nation may miss its budget goal. The two gave conflicting reports of the 2011 deficit on Jan. 2, as de Guindos said the overshoot may have been even greater than the government’s first estimate. De Guindos’ position on this year’s shortfall is backed up by Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Saenz de Santamaria, who said on Jan. 20 that the government was “determined” to meet the existing target. Rajoy holds a news conference later today after meeting Portuguese Prime Minister Pedro Passos Coelho at 5 p.m. in Lisbon.

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Cannabis taxation: a win-win all round, Richard Branson tells MPs

 

The market for cannabis in Britain should be regulated and taxed, and responsibility for drug policy moved from the Home Office to the health department, Sir Richard Branson has told MPs. The Virgin Group head said the 20% of police time and £200m spent on giving criminal sentences to 70,000 young people for possession of illegal drugs in Britain each year would be better spent going after the criminal gangs at the centre of the drugs trade. "It's win-win all round,'' he told the Commons home affairs select committee. Asked about his personal history of drug use, Branson replied: "I would say 50% of my generation has smoked cannabis. I would say 75% of my children's generation has smoked cannabis … If I was smoking cigarettes, I would be very worried." He said that in his own Virgin companies he did not think staff who were found to be taking drugs should be dismissed but instead treated as having a problem, and helped. "There are many people in companies with drink problems or smoking problems," he said. Branson was part of a global commission on drug policy, which includes five ex-presidents and Kofi Annan, the former United Nations secretary general. The body concluded last year that the war on drugs had failed and called for experiments in decriminalisation. He was the first witness at the Commons home affairs inquiry into drug policy. Branson argued that the policy of switching responsibilty for drug policy from the Home Office to the health department had worked in Portugal, where nobody had been jailed for using or possessing drugs in the last 10 years. Portugal was the only country that had decriminalised all drugs. As a result of treating drug users rather than imprisoning them, he said, heroin use and heroin-related deaths had fallen by more than 50%. In Britain, 100,000 young people a year were arrested for drug offences, and 75,000 of them were given criminal records, which meant they had problems in later life in travelling to some countries, he said. "If next year those 100,000 people are not prosecuted for taking drugs, but they are helped, I think the commission would welcome Britain doing that." He said if the sale of cannabis and other drugs were regulated and taxed, then the quality of what was being taken could be controlled. He contrasted the lack of deaths in Portugal with the recent deaths of three teenagers in Britain from taking tablets they wrongly thought were ecstasy, citing the fatalities as an example of the consequences of failing to regulate the illegal market. The Virgin chief admitted he had not read the UK Home Office drug policy statement, which emphasises diverting drug users from prison, but said the 100,000 arrests each year were evidence the policy was not working in practice. Pressed by some Conservative MPs on the committee to come down on one side or the other in the debate over methadone maintenance versus abstinence, Branson said he was no expert, and it was for the MPs to establish what worked best.

Monday, 23 January 2012

Gang killings review welcomed by barrister

 

A top Bradford barrister has welcomed proposals to simplify the law on gang-related killings. Stephen Wood, who is based at the Broadway barristers’ chambers, said there were miscarriages of justice due to the complexities of the ‘joint enterprise’ rule, which allows groups or gangs to be charged with murder, even if only one person delivers the fatal blow. MPs on the Commons Justice Select Committee last week said a new, less complex law on such killings was needed to ensure justice for victims and defendants. A change in the law would also cut the number of appeals, the committee said. It claimed the law surrounding gang murder cases was now so complicated juries might find it impossible to understand how to reach the right verdict.

Former Hells Angels leader sues wrong government for seizing home

 

The former leader of the Manitoba Hells Angels says he's been the victim of a crime — the government allegedly stole his house. Ernie Dew has filed a unique civil lawsuit, claiming his property in St. Andrews, Man., was illegally seized and sold following his arrest on drug charges. Dew, 53, seeks unspecified financial damages. "The government has misused and/or exceeded the power of its public office," says a statement of claim filed in Court of Queen's Bench. "This was a reckless, wanton and egregious disregard of his rights." There's just one small problem with Dew's lawsuit, which was specifically filed against the provincial government. "It wasn't us that seized his house," a provincial spokesperson told the Winnipeg Free Press Tuesday afternoon. It was the federal government who took action, meaning Dew's lawsuit will likely fall quickly. He would have the option of re-filing it and naming Ottawa in the lawsuit. The provincial government did seize the Hells Angels clubhouse two years ago, which the spokesman said may have left Dew confused. But they had absolutely no role in the seizing of his property. Dew, 52, was convicted at trial last year of cocaine trafficking and possession of goods obtained by crime stemming from a 2006 arrest. He is to be sentenced on Jan. 18. However, Dew was acquitted of another drug-related offence that specifically involved selling his home. Dew claims — wrongly, as it turns out — the provincial government's criminal forfeiture unit jumped the gun by taking possession of his property under proceeds of crime legislation. "This was misfeasance of public office," Dew claims. He says the government is guilty of "conversion, trespass to chattels, unjust enrichment, misfeasance of public office and negligence," Dew never denied getting involved in several illegal transactions, but offered a unique explanation for his actions at trial. He claimed he only agreed to sell drugs to his friend, Franco Atanasovic, because the man said he was deep in debt and desperate for money to pay back several people who were after him. Atanasovic was working at the time as a police agent and helped capture the deals on audio and video. Dew insists he never made a cent from the transactions and was simply acting as a middle man between Atanasovic and the drug supplier — and a peacemaker between those looking to collect from Atanasovic. Dew said Atanasovic was in trouble and began pestering him at work, eventually convincing him to set up three different drug deals. The deals were done at Dew's workplace, while a fourth one allegedly happened at his home just north of Winnipeg. Dew always insisted he had nothing to do with that one, which he was ultimately found not guilty of and which is now the subject of his lawsuit. The judge found Dew was away hunting at the time a kilogram of cocaine was exchanged between Hells associate Jerome Labossiere and Dew's wife, Vera. Both Labossiere and Dew's wife ultimately pleaded guilty for their roles in that transaction. "My house would be the last place I'd do a drug deal. That would be grounds to have my home seized. I've seen it happen before," Dew told court.

A young member of the Native Syndicate street gang will spend the next eight months behind bars after beating a stranger unconscious with a fence post

 

A young member of the Native Syndicate street gang will spend the next eight months behind bars after beating a stranger unconscious with a fence post in an apparently unmotivated attack. The youth, 14, was handed a sentence of 18 months of secure custody and supervision under the Youth Criminal Justice Act last week after admitting responsibility for an unprovoked summertime attack at a children’s park near Spence Street and Cumberland Avenue. Judge Heather Pullan credited the teen with six months of time already served, meaning he has eight months of jail left to be followed by a period of community supervision and probation. Details of the July 8, 2011 attack were described in court by the Crown as “gratuitous violence against complete strangers.” Prosecutor Sheila Seesahai said the boy approached a group of youths drinking in the park and started attacking them after striking up a short conversation over a “gang scarf.” While two youths managed to escape relatively uninjured, the teen pounced on a 15-year-old boy, knocked him down and repeatedly hit him in the head with the fence picket. “He hit the victim so hard that it shattered … the police just find pieces of it,” Seesahai said. Someone called 911 to report a “bludgeoning,” and officers arrived to find the victim passed out and bleeding from the face, court heard. His attacker was arrested not far from the scene. The youth was granted two shots at bail after his arrest but breached each time, Seesahai said. Since being in custody, he’s had to be transferred to a maximum-security youth lockup twice because of his behaviour, Pullan was told. The teen suffers from impulse issues and has had negative family influences, his lawyer told court. The youth said he “kind of felt bad for the people that I hurt.” “I’m sick and tired of the cockamamie in and out of this place,” he said. Pullan said she recognized the teen came from difficult circumstances, but it didn’t excuse his actions. “It’s not all about you,” said Pullan. “In the end, it’s about protection of the public.”

Police investigating three murders arrested 43 feuding New York gang members

 

Police investigating three murders arrested 43 feuding New York gang members on Thursday based on evidence collected from monitoring what the gang members were saying about the cases on Twitter and Facebook, authorities said. The 25 accused members of the Wave Gang and 18 accused members of rival Hoodstarz have been terrorizing streets in Brooklyn with shootouts that led to the killing of three people and wounding of several others, New York Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said. The gang members, ages 15 to 21, bragged about the shootings on the social media sites Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, he said. "By linking their postings and boastings to active cases and other crimes, these officers were able to build their case," Kelly said. Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes said authorities will next be going after gangs in other Brooklyn neighborhoods. "We know who you are. We know how you operate," he said. "Make no mistake about it. We're coming after you next." Hynes said the feud that started in August between Wave Gang and Hoodstarz resulted in the death of an innocent bystander, and the wounded included a 9-year-old boy and his father. Wave Gang members often robbed 13- and 14-year-olds by threatening to steal their bikes and electronics to intimidate them into joining their gangs, Hynes said. The 43 gang members were indicted on Thursday on charges including murder, assault, reckless endangerment, robbery and weapon possession, with potential sentences ranging from a year to life in prison.

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Mexican Cartels Moving Drugs in Armored Vehicles

 

Mexican drug cartels are using improvised armored vehicles known as "monsters" to protect their narcotics shipments from rival gangs, a military officer who spoke on condition of anonymity told Efe. The officer is assigned to the 8th Military Zone based in the northeastern border state of Tamaulipas, where troops have seized around 110 armored cars, including more than 20 monsters that evoke scenes from the 1979 film "Mad Max." Most are heavy trucks that were equipped with armor at clandestine workshops, mostly located in Tamaulipas. Some of the vehicles can carry 12 gunmen, the officer said. Soldiers dismantled one workshop in the Tamaulipas town of Camargo in a June 2011 operation, seizing two armored vehicles and nearly three-dozen more - including 23 tractor-trailers and other heavy trucks - that had not yet been plated. One monster seized last year weighed more than 30 tons because it was covered in thick steel plates and further reinforced with railroad tracks. The officer said troops also confiscated a cargo van dubbed the "pope-mobile" that had an elevated cabin similar to the "room" in the Roman Catholic pontiff's vehicle, although the Mexican van was secured with metal plating instead of bullet-proof glass. "The vehicles are built with steel plates at least an inch thick. Small-caliber projectiles, such as bullets from assault rifles, have a hard time penetrating the armor. They can only be destroyed with heavy weapons or anti-tank shells," the officer added. "They don't circulate on roads or in the cities, but instead operate on byways, which are the routes used to take drugs to the border with the United States," the source said. The brutal turf war being waged in Tamaulipas between the Gulf and Los Zetas gangs - former allies turned arch-enemies - has forced both organizations to develop these armored vehicles to run their businesses. The officer noted that the state has vast semi-arid plains with hundreds of small side roads and byways where the traffickers transport their drugs in light vehicles escorted by the monsters. A ranch where suspected Zetas hit men killed 72 undocumented migrants in August 2010 - apparently after they had refused to work for the gang as enforcers or couriers - was located on one of these unpaved side roads in Tamaulipas. "The cartels are fighting to control and protect these routes both for drug- and people-trafficking and in the opposite direction for the smuggling of weapons to Mexico, as well as to bring in a large quantity of merchandise illegally," the source said.

Man charged in shooting death of Inglewood nightclub owner

 

An alleged gang member was charged Tuesday with capital murder in the robbery-related shooting death of an Inglewood nightclub owner who was gunned down as he returned home in his Rolls-Royce last May. Dennis Roy "Junebug" Brown, 31, is accused in the slaying of Ester Alonzo, who was killed as he pulled the 2007 luxury car into the driveway of his Baldwin Hills home about 2:45 a.m. May 13. Prosecutors allege the murder occurred during the commission of a robbery, which could make Brown eligible for the death penalty if convicted. The criminal complaint also alleges gang and gun use allegations, along with allegations that Brown was convicted in 1999 of attempted robbery and in 2004 of second-degree robbery. Brown was arrested Thursday by the Los Angeles Police Department's South Bureau homicide team and is set to be arraigned Jan. 30 at the downtown Los Angeles courthouse.

A parolee and reputed gang member was charged with capital murder Tuesday in the May 2011 slaying of an Inglewood nightclub owner

Alonzo Ester

A parolee and reputed gang member was charged with capital murder Tuesday in the May 2011 slaying of an Inglewood nightclub owner, according to the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office.

Dennis Roy Brown, 31, was charged with one count of murder with a special circumstance allegation that the killing occurred during a robbery. The criminal complaint also includes gang and gun allegations.

Prosecutors said Brown could face the death penalty, but no decision to pursue a capital case has been made.

A reputed Rollin 20’s Blood gang member known as “Junebug,” Brown is accused of gunning down Alonzo Ester, 67, a real estate entrepreneur and Inglewood nightclub owner, about 2:45 a.m. May 13 as he sat inside his Rolls-Royce in the driveway of his Baldwin Hills mansion 

Police believe the assailant approached the driver’s-side door and fired one or two shots. Ester owned a black Rolls-Royce and a white one. He was driving the $300,000 white car, which rolled into a neighbor's house across the street after the shooting.

Witnesses heard the shots and saw a man leaving the scene in a sedan.

At first, LAPD South Bureau homicide detectives believed that the killing could be related to the victim's business. But after painstaking investigation, they determined that the crime was one of opportunity and that the suspect targeted Ester because of his lifestyle.

Prosecutors said Brown had two previous convictions  -- a 2004 second-degree robbery and a 1999 attempted second-degree robbery. Both offenses took place in Los Angeles County.

Half-baked Vancouver-Sydney drug smuggle ends in arrests

 

Five Australian men have been arrested after trying to smuggle $8 million worth of drugs Down Under from Vancouver International Airport. On Dec. 30, 2011, Canadian border officers found the drugs - six kilograms of cocaine, 12 kg of MDMA (ecstasy) and nearly two kilograms of meth – after they examined a commercial oven and range destined for Australia Service Agency. The shipment was tracked to Sydney airport on Jan. 7, and on Thursday to locations in two suburbs north of Sydney, where eight search warrants were issued and the five men arrested. The Australian Federal Police also seized small stashes of drugs, $17,900 in cash and a large number of weapons including throwing knives and a Taser. The men – who range in age from 24 years old to 54 – were scheduled to appear in Sydney-area courts yesterday for charges of importing, attempting to possess and supplying a border-controlled drug. Each face a maximum penalty of life imprisonment or a $825,000 fine.

Fatal shooting spree 'settling of beefs' between Bacon and Dhak-Duhre gangs,

 

With one man shot dead and another still clinging to life, police say Surrey’s latest homicide Thursday night was likely part of the ongoing settling accounts between rival gangs following the murder of Gurmit Singh Dhak in October of 2010. “I think it is fair to say that it is a settling of beefs related to the murder of Gurmit Dhak last year,” said Sgt. Bill Whalen spokesman for B.C.’s Combined Special Forces Enforcement Unit, which targets organized crime in the province. “[The] Dhak-Duhre group is in conflict with the Bacon brothers . . . and this is just another iteration of that,” Whalen said. In this latest gang-related shooting, two men in their late 20s were fired on while outside a residence in Surrey in the 13900-block 56th Ave. just after 11 p.m., in Panorama Ridge. One was declared dead at hospital and the other injured. He under went surgery in local hospital and was reportedly in critical condition. The wounded man remained alive as of Saturday afternoon, according to police. The Province has learned the deceased was a low-level Dhak-Duhre group member named Sean Beaver. The second man shot Thursday is reportedly related to another Dhak-Duhre member killed by a balaclava-wearing gunman Oct. 22 at a strip mall in central Surrey. Police are not confirming the names of the victims due to the risk of reprisal. “We know that one guy is still in the hospital, so . . . we don’t want to ­identify him to the shooters,” RCMP Sgt. Jennifer Pound of the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team said Saturday. “We’ve gone out there and told people we’re protecting the general public and we’re protecting the staff at the hospital.” The shooting comes just days after well-known Surrey gang member Sandip (Dip) Duhre, 36, was gunned down execution-style at the Sheraton Wall Centre in Vancouver Tuesday night. He and his two brothers, associates of deceased gangster Bindy Johal, were known to be involved in the Fraser Valley drug trade and allied with the Dhak group. They have been feuding with rival gangs, including members of the Bacon brothers’ Red Scorpions. Gurmit Singh Dhak was gunned down at Metrotown in the fall of 2010 and his associate Jujhar Khun-Khun critically injured. There was another attempt on Khun-Khun’s life in Surrey in September 2011. Dhak’s younger brother Sukhveer also has a history of gang involvement. Since October he’s been in custody pending trial on 2008 trafficking and conspiracy charges. Jonathan Bacon was shot and killed — and three associates, including a Hells Angel and Independent Soldiers member, were injured — in a targeted hit in Kelowna in August. In September 2011, the Gang Task Force issued a public warning that anyone connected with the Dhaks or the Duhres, who were trying to extend their territory, were at risk of violence and retaliation. When asked if Thursday’s shooting was related to the attack in Kelowna, Sgt. Whalen said, “it’s a possibility. That possibility is being investigated.”

Moving to synthetic drugs

 

The creation of clandestine laboratories for the development and transfer of synthetic drugs has shifted to the cultivation of marijuana and poppy from the drug cartels, mainly the Sinaloa, according to data from the Ministry of National Defense (SEDENA). The federal agency estimated that the creation of these laboratories has grown 200 percent in a thousand. Only so far the current federal government, and the Mexican army has dismantled 645 clandestine laboratories, while the previous administration closed only 60. Sinaloa, Nayarit, Jalisco and Michoacan are the states where such facilities have been found. Cartels move to the synthetic drug The Ministry of National Defense (Sedena) states that the cartels, mainly the Sinaloa, have ceased to grow marijuana and opium poppy for the creation of clandestine laboratories for the development and transfer of synthetic drugs. The analysis determined that the Department of Defense business transformation of the drug to Mexican cartels originated in the price, under the conditions of production, transportation and safe profits. Therefore estimated that the creation of these facilities could have grown up in a thousand 200 percent, as the cultivation and planting of narcotics has diminished considerably. However, it has been the destruction of plantations that are still grown in humid places and geographical areas to evade detection wild, mostly in the so-called Golden Triangle comprising the states of Chihuahua, Durango and Coahuila, as well as in regions Guerrero, Oaxaca, Puebla and Chiapas. Through eradication, National Defence has destroyed 635 000 120 marijuana plants equivalent to 89 000 726 hectares. Regarding the poppy has been made to exterminate 410 000 925 crops, equivalent to 71 000 911 hectares. Currently the Department of Defense uses a restricted use chemical for the destruction of such plantations. The cartel of El Chapo According to the areas of intelligence federal institution for criminal organizations profit by synthetic drugs is greater than the narcotics. In just six years so far the Army has been the dismantling of 645 clandestine laboratories, while in the previous six years only 60 such facilities were closed down. According to the geographical area where they were seized laboratories has been established with the greatest presence in Sinaloa, Nayarit, Jalisco, and Michoacan, which indicates a clear route traffic of synthetic drugs and, fundamentally, is operated by the Sinaloa cartel, among others, leading Joaquin El Chapo Guzman. In a relationship of convenience with the organization La Familia Michoacana , and now with the Knights Templar , the Sinaloa cartel, together with some members of the organization of The Valencia- trafficking synthetic drugs using the same path where laboratories have been found . For drug dealers, business transformation for higher profits and security has generated since 2007. Earnings For organized crime is much easier to invest in a laboratory than in the planting of drugs, since the laboratory can be kept indoors without much risk of being detected by satellite photography or any other form of inspection. Most of the reasons for the evolution of the drug business, is to grow it to make, is profit. According to the Department of Defense, of drugs called “synthetic” are available from 200 to two thousand per cent more income than marijuana. In addition to criminal organizations linked to the transfer, transportation of synthetic substances are much more portable than marijuana or poppies, because the pills as methamphetamine or heroin are hidden better. Environmental Appeal Clandestine drug laboratories also affect residents adjacent to the facility. The construction of clandestine laboratories in the cities or conurbations can bring multiple health problems, but not only those who produce the synthetic drug, but also to neighboring residential areas adjacent to these facilities houses improvised. According to what has determined the Forensic Services Division of the Attorney General’s Office, the contamination with chemical precursors to produce synthetic drugs can cause severe central nervous system damage, which could cause death.

Saturday, 21 January 2012

Nigerian sect kills over 100 in deadliest strike yet

 

100 people were killed in bomb attacks and gunbattles in the Nigerian city Kano late on Friday, a local government security source said, in the deadliest strike claimed by Islamist sect Boko Haram to date. "Definitely more than 100 have been killed," the senior source, who could not be named, told Reuters. "There were bombs and then gunmen were attacking police and police came back with attacks." Hospital staff said there were still bodies arriving at morgues in Kano. Boko Haram claimed responsibility on Saturday for the wave of strikes. The sect has killed hundreds in the north of Africa's most populous nation in the last year. The attacks late on Friday prompted the government to announce a dusk-to-dawn curfew in the city of more than 10 million people, the country's second biggest. President Goodluck Jonathan, who has been criticized for failing to act quickly and decisively enough against Boko Haram, said the killers would face "the full wrath of the law." Kano and other northern cities have been plagued by an insurgency led by Boko Haram, which is blamed for scores of bombings and shootings. These have taken place mostly in the Muslim-dominated north of Africa's top oil producer, whose main oil-producing facilities are located to the south. Aimed mainly at government targets, the Boko Haram attacks have been growing in scale and sophistication. A spokesman for Boko Haram contacted reporters in the northeastern city of Maiduguri, where the sect is based, to claim responsibility for Friday's bombings. Copies of a letter apparently from the group were also dropped around Kano.

'Kings of Dust' Gang Suspected of Murders and Shootings, Police Say

 

Members of the "Kings of Dust" drug gang that terrorized a Harlem public housing complex are suspected of carrying out several murders and half-a-dozen shootings while controlling their $1 million-a-year PCP and narcotics empire, police sources said. Prosecutors on Wednesday released a 268-count indictment against the 35-member drug gang, which investigators said put an 8-year-old boy to work keeping watch for cops as older members peddled massive quantities of PCP and other drugs. The indictment charged gang members with conspiracy and drug sales, but police sources said Thursday the gang resorted to murder on several occasions. Tenants at the New York City Housing Authority's Milbank Frawley Houses at 1780 Madison Avenue said Thursday they lived in fear for months as the alleged drug dealers ran rampant, intimidating locals. The alleged drug gang members urinated in the elevator and in hallways, fought at night, and fired a gun at the housing complex at least once, residents told DNAinfo. Tenants said they watched helplessly from their windows as the gang took over the complex, gathering nightly in a courtyard that served as a hub for their drug trade. Prosecutors said the gang hid 2.5 gallons of PCP, which is sold both in liquid form and crystallized as Angel Dust, in Hawaiian Punch bottles. The gang was made up of men, women, and some "very small" children, residents said. "Every day I'd see them out the window," said Luis Pena, 43, whose apartment overlooks the courtyard. "Every hour there'd be more people." Maxine, a 65-year-old resident, said she was afraid to go out late at night, when the gang seemed most active. "We were scared of getting robbed," she said. Some said the drug activity seemed to increase about a year and a half ago, then intensified in the past five months. Residents said they wondered why it seemed to take police so long to stop the gang's criminal activity. "There were mad dustheads in the building and on the corner," said Marcella, a 56-year-old resident. "I don't know how the cops took so long." Investigators tracked the drug gang's activity for 15 months, prosectors said Wednesday. The probe was sparked by residents' complaints, but some said Thursday that officials seemed to brush off their concerns. "I was scared," said a 60-year-old resident named Yolanda. "We went to (the New York City Housing Authority) to say it was very dangerous and there were people outside. They didn’t do anything. They just fixed the door. They said call the police." A NYCHA spokesperson said the agency worked closely with the NYPD and was aware of the drug activity at the Milbank Frawley Houses. NYCHA was working to evict the residents who were involved, a NYCHA spokesperson said. "We will continue to assist residents in working with the NYPD in any way that we can, and periodic meetings have taken place with...police officers regarding criminal activity," the spokeswoman said.

The G-Shyne Bloods are a Richmond-area subset of the Bloods national street gang.

 

Henrico County jury found a gang enforcer guilty on all counts for ordering a robbery that resulted in a murder, and recommended a sentence of life in prison plus 23 years. After deliberating about four hours Friday, the jury of six men and six women found Merwin Raheem Herbert "Poncho" White, 21, guilty of first-degree murder, robbery, conspiracy to commit robbery and two related firearm charges. Authorities say White ordered two other members of the G-Shyne Bloods to rob drug dealer Quondell Pringle because Pringle had been holding himself up falsely as a member of the gang. Authorities say that during the robbery, James B. Pryor shot and killed Pringle, 22. The G-Shyne Bloods are a Richmond-area subset of the Bloods national street gang. White stared impassively at the jury's forewoman as she announced the panel's recommended sentence, ending a three-day trial in Henrico Circuit Court. Formal sentencing was set for March 7. After a deputy placed White in handcuffs, he nodded solemnly to supporters in the courtroom gallery. One woman could be heard crying softly. Henrico Commonwealth's Attorney Shannon Taylor, who was elected in November, said the sentence shows that her office won't put up with gang violence and noted that the case was unusual because it involved a murder prosecution of a man who set the events in motion by giving an order but didn't pull the trigger. "This gang culture is something that's real," Taylor said. "Gangs in Henrico County are not tolerated, and law enforcement is committed 100 percent to the public and going after gang activity." Taylor praised Henrico investigators and prosecutors Toni M. Randall and Thomas L. Johnson Jr. for their handling of the case. After Taylor was elected, she removed several veteran Henrico prosecutors and hired Randall and Johnson from Richmond to serve as deputies in her new administration. After Friday's verdict, White's attorney declined to comment. Supporters of the defendant said it was unfair he was convicted of murder when he didn't carry out the shooting himself. "He's not a menace to society as everyone is trying to make him out to be," said White's sister, Roderica White, 20, adding that her brother is the father of four daughters and one son. Prosecutors said White ordered two fellow affiliates of the G-Shyne Bloods, Pryor and William D. Hargrove, to set Quondell Pringle up to be robbed last April. In his closing arguments Friday, Johnson described a meeting White had with Pryor and Hargrove to plan the robbery of Pringle by setting up a drug deal to buy marijuana from him. Johnson said White told Pryor and Hargrove, "If he bucks, then you know what to do." "Those were the last words given to James Pryor before he and William Hargrove left the apartment in Newbridge to complete their mission," Johnson said. Johnson said the gang's message to Pringle would be this: "You're going to be robbed. You're going to stop reppin' for G-Shyne." Pryor, a G-Shyne initiate, told associates that he shot Pringle after Pringle grabbed for a gun White had provided. White's attorney, William Linka, had urged the jury to disregard the testimony of prosecution witnesses who were deeply involved with the gang. One of the witnesses was granted immunity for her testimony, and two others admitted they expected some form of leniency on criminal charges they face. One of the men, Deshon Randolph, is facing a gang-participation charge for his role in a shooting of two other gang members in Powhatan County shortly after Pringle died. One of the victims was killed and the other critically wounded. Richmonder Joe Lewis Harris III, known as Savage and who drove the getaway car in the Pringle case, has pleaded guilty to murder and other charges in the Powhatan double shooting.

Man shot in Surrey was the half-brother of previously slain gang-associate

 

One of two men gunned down in Surrey late Thursday was the half-brother of a Dhak associate shot to death there in October, The Vancouver Sun has learned. And police are bracing for more violence as the death toll rises in a bloody ongoing conflict between two rival groups of gangsters. Sgt. Bill Whelan, of the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit, said heads of organized crime and homicide teams met Friday to strategize about what to do in the aftermath of a string of gang murders, including the execution at the Sheraton Wall Centre Tuesday of high-profile gangster Sandip (Dip) Duhre. “They are obviously concerned about the public shootings,” Whalen said. “Certainly in the last 24 hours, enforcement has been stepped up. There will be a significant increase in covert units tasked with working on this.” And he said the Uniformed Gang Task Force will be out in greater numbers throughout the weekend. The latest casualty, Sean Beaver, is from Montreal and was not well-known to police in B.C. before he was targeted in the driveway of a house in the 13900-block of 56 Ave. about 11 p.m. Thursday. A second man shot Thursday is fighting for his life in hospital. A second man shot Thursday and critically wounded is the sibling of Stephen Leone, a member of the Dhak-Duhre group who was fatally shot by a masked gunman as he sat in his black Acura sedan in a strip mall at 100th Avenue and King George Highway last Oct. 22. Another associate was wounded in the shooting. The Dhak-Duhre gang has been marked for months by a loose criminal alliance made up of Red Scorpions, Independent Soldiers and some Hells Angels. The conflict between the two sides bubbled into public view in October 2010, when Gurmit Dhak was gunned down at Metrotown mall by hit men suspected of being linked to the other side. Several retaliatory shootings followed in late 2010 and early 2011. And things spun out of control after Red Scorpion Jon Bacon was executed by masked gunmen outside of the Delta Grand hotel in Kelowna last August. A Hells Angel and an Independent Soldier were also wounded in that attack. The fallout led Gang Task Force leader Supt. Tom McCluskie to issue an extraordinary public warning telling people to stay away from anyone connected to the Dhak-Duhre group. And on Friday, McCluskie reiterated that plea. “If you are near or around any of these guys, then you are putting yourself or whoever you are with in serious, serious danger,” McCluskie said. The Integrated Homicide Investigation Team is in charge of Beaver’s murder. “Although it is in the very early stages, at this point this shooting appears to be targeted and gang related,” Sgt. Jennifer Pound said Friday. IHIT investigators canvassed the area around the palatial Panorama Ridge home where the shooting took place Friday, looking for evidence and speaking with potential witnesses. The oceanview house with an indoor pool sits on more than four acres and was purchased last August for $3.5 million by a person named Hua Deng. The new owner then rented the property out to a Dhak associate. Surrey Mayor Dianne Watts said politicians and police throughout the region are concerned about the escalation in violence. “I think with the shooting in Vancouver the other day, we thought there would be some retaliation,” Watts said. “I think it is something we are very, very concerned about.” Watts said if necessary Surrey RCMP could bring in resources from out of province to help as they did in 2009 when gang murders escalated. “We have that capability. If it escalates again, we are prepared to do that,” she said. “I would hope that things calm down."

Friday, 20 January 2012

News International faces FBI phone hacking probe

 

Yesterday the company paid the actor £130,000 after accepting that it had published stories gleaned from hacking his phone. One of the articles News International accepted had come from phone hacking was a 2003 story in the News of the World which referred to telephone calls Law’s assistant Ben Jackson had made to him when he arrived at an airport. It is believed the airport was John F. Kennedy airport in New York. News International’s admission has led the US authorities to investigate whether a crime took place on American soil. It is thought the possibility that Law’s phone was using an American network at the time could lead to offences having been committed under US law.

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Machete-wielding bank boss ‘received death threats from Sunderland gangster’

 

BANK sales manager armed himself with two machetes after underworld loan sharks torched his home and threatened to “make his life a misery”, he told a court. Debt-ridden David Baker turned to the criminal fraternity to borrow £5,000 in cash, despite holding down a £30,000-a-year job with Barclays. But, when he was unable to repay the loan given to him by a “well-known” Wearside gangster, his Audi A5 was torched on the driveway of his Seaham home and he later received death threats. Just 24 hours later – on Christmas Eve last year – arsonists set his front door alight as his partner and young daughter sat upstairs. Fearing for his life, he armed himself with two foot-long machetes and stashed them in the footwell of his partner’s car as they drove to meet an acquaintance who might be able to end his problem. And, after discovering his home had been targeted, he flew into a rage at passing motorist Lee Atkinson and brandished the blades, screaming: “Do you want some you little ****.” David Wilkinson, prosecuting, said: “Mr Atkinson was driving along the Coast Road when the defendant and his partner Vicky Barnes were driving behind his vehicle. They overtook the vehicle and pulled in front. Mr Atkinson saw that the defendant was holding a knife that had a blade of about a foot in length and a width of about two inches. “He shouted: ‘Do you want some of this you little ****?’. “He had acted out of the misapprehension that Mr Atkinson was linked to the incident at his home. “Officers recovered two machetes, which were 15ins in length. In an interview, he said he was in debt to a gangster he was not going to name. “He heard from third parties that the person concerned was going to make his life a misery and he then bought the two machetes for his own protection.” Baker had applied for a loan at his work after deciding that he wanted to buy a second car for him and his family. But, after building up debt during his youth, his credit history was shot and they rejected his request. In September last year, he opted to take a four-month break from work to spend more time with his family. At the same time, he claimed he was making £10,000 a month working as a professional gambler on internet gaming sites. His friend had told him that he could get him a loan and he was eventually given a £5,000 pay-out. However, after he failed to make the repayments he said that he began receiving threats and his house and car were both set on fire. Following the attack on his home, his partner received a phone call from the Sunderland gangster and she told police he was calling to follow up his threats. Baker, 23, from Seaham, appeared at Durham Crown Court yesterday after he pleaded guilty to possession of an offensive weapon and using threatening and abusive behaviour. But Judge Michael Cartlidge adjourned the case after questioning Baker’s legal team, led by Lewis Kerr, and saying he wanted Baker to prove that he had applied for a loan. The judge said: “He must have though at some point that this was all sounding a bit rubbish.”

Carnival says caring for cruise disaster victims

 

Carnival Corp & plc, whose luxury liner Costa Concordia capsized off the coast of Italy last week, said it was providing lodging, refunds and other support to people affected by the accident, even as some public relations executives criticized the company's handling of the situation. "I give my personal assurance that we will take care of each and every one of our guests, crew and their families affected by this tragic event," Carnival Chief Executive Micky Arison said in a statement late on Wednesday - five days after the incident that left 11 people dead and 22 missing. Costa Cruise Lines, a unit of Carnival and operator of the ship, has been arranging lodging and transportation for passengers and crew members to return home, and has offered assistance and counseling as needed. It has also begun refunding passengers their cruise fares and all costs incurred while on board. The company also said it was contacting every passenger and crew member or their family and will be addressing personal possessions lost on board. Public relations experts have chastised Carnival for being slow to address the disaster and vague about its response and efforts to prevent similar incidents in the future. On a scale of one to 10, with 10 being "outstanding," Carnival's public relations strategy in the immediate wake of the disaster gets a four, said Allyson Stewart-Allen, director of International Marketing Partners, a consulting firm. "It wasn't quick, it wasn't specific, it wasn't reassuring," Stewart-Allen said, noting that Carnival's first statement, released on Saturday nearly 24 hours after the Costa Concordia liner struck rock causing it to capsize, did not quote a specific person. Subsequent statements on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday quoted Arison, who has been in continuous contact with executives in Italy, but has not flown there himself. Arison, who also owns the Miami Heat NBA team, has written six messages on Twitter mentioning the tragedy, but Evan Nierman, founder of Florida public relations firm Red Banyan Group said that was not enough. "If he's the point person, I would want a constant flow of information - Twitter, Facebook, talking to reporters, letting them know what's going on. I would have him out there in a real way. He needs to be in front of cameras, he needs to be meeting with people, he needs to show that he's in charge of the situation." A statement on Wednesday from Costa Cruises, owned by Carnival, said the Italian company commissioned salvage experts in the hours after the accident to draw up a plan to recover the fuel reserves from the ship before they leak into the water.

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Doctors may strike over cuts to their pension pots

 

The British Medical Association, which represents 130,000 doctors and medical students, said two thirds of its members support industrial action which could cripple hospitals and GP surgeries throughout the country. The association rejected cuts to doctor’s pensions despite warning that some hospitals are so financially stretched that patient safety can no longer be guaranteed and that “accidents will happen”. Senior government figures said the reductions in their pensions were “modest” and in line with other public sector staff. A government source said: “It seems a bit rich for doctors to be complaining about cuts and patient care when they leave the NHS as millionaires.” Over the past decade, the average consultant has seen their pay rise by 54 per cent, with less qualified doctors enjoying a rise of 30 per cent. Their pay has recently been frozen, with the average GP now earning about £110,000.

Meat causes cancer. It’s been said so many times that you’d have to be an idiot not to believe it, right?

 

 The latest confirmation of this apparent common sense was a report published last week in the British Journal of Cancer Research. The authors, from the Karolinska Institute in Sweden, brought together 11 studies - published between 1993 and 2011 - that assessed the risk of pancreatic cancer from eating red meat and ‘processed’ meat. From this meta-analysis, the authors found that red meat increased the risk of pancreatic cancer for men, but not for women, and that the risk of pancreatic cancer rose by 19 per cent for every 50 grams of processed meat consumed. The simple claim that ‘processed meat causes cancer’ was widely reported after the study was published. However, it would be wrong to assume that such claims about risk are all they are cracked up to be. First, there is the question of whether the association claimed is real. Epidemiological studies like the ones brought together by the Swedish researchers will typically find out what participants ate for a day or a week using a questionnaire or a food diary. Then, the participants will be checked some years later to see who has succumbed to the disease in question. Did people correctly remember what they ate? And did they accurately recall how much they consumed? It would be unusual for anyone to have weighed the food, so the amounts could be inaccurate, too. What else did the participants eat? Did they change their eating habits in subsequent months or years? And what the hell is ‘processed’ meat, anyway? Unless you slaughter your own animals, your meat will have been processed to one degree or another. At what point does meat that has been processed become ‘processed meat’? There are so many ways in which the crude tools of epidemiology could screw up the result of studies like this that it is normal for fairly small risks - like the 19 per cent increase in this case - to be treated with a massive pinch of salt. The authors of this study even note: ‘All studies controlled for age and smoking, but only a few studies adjusted for other potential confounders such as body mass index and history of diabetes.’ Secondly, even if the association is not simply a product of the way in which the study was designed, we still don’t know if correlation equals causation. The best we could say is that the kind of people who like to eat processed meat are a bit more likely to get pancreatic cancer than the kind of people who don’t eat meat at all. You don’t need to be a rocket scientist - or a professor of epidemiology - to realise that vegetarians live, on average, quite different lifestyles from people who tuck into burgers and kebabs. Thirdly, even if this study has somehow managed to be supremely accurate and found a real risk, we have to ask if such an increase is of any practical significance in the real world. Cancer Research UK gives the following statistics on pancreatic cancer: for the UK, the age-standardised rate is 9.3 cases per 100,000 people per year - roughly one person in every 10,000. So even those people who really like processed meat and eat 150g per day would have about a 50 per cent increased risk - or about 15 cases per 100,000. To express that in terms of odds, instead of it being 10,000-to-one that these kebab-and-burger lovers develop pancreatic cancer in any particular year, it would be 6,667-to-one. So, to sum up: the association between processed meat and pancreatic cancer is so weak it might well be a mirage; the increased risk might not be caused by the processed meat itself; and even if it is, the risk is so low that it’s really not worth bothering about. Yet still we are advised to consider cutting down on our red meat and processed meat consumption. Life is, frankly, too short to miss out on such tasty foods on the slim chance that we might lose a few years of life in old age. Still, that won’t stop people being harangued anyway. A particularly unsavoury example of this appeared in Sunday’s Observer. Illiberal Liberal of the Week contender, columnist Barbara Ellen, declared that the bovine attitude of recent governments towards smokers and drinkers should apply to meat-eaters, too. Now that a precedent has been set - that people should be harangued for doing things that are legal but disapproved of by Those Who Know Better - Ellen is simply following through this logic by attacking those who like sausages, bacon and pies. Here’s the argument: people (like smokers and drinkers) who deliberately do things that are bad for them, despite being told time and again that they should not, are now lectured, restricted and even have their basic rights taken away; eating meat - and particularly ‘processed’ meat - increases your risk of getting cancer and is bad for you; therefore, people who eat meat should now be lectured, restricted and even have their basic rights taken away. This is a shocking but perfectly logical argument, if you accept the petty-authoritarian mindset that flourished under New Labour and is still going strong under the Lib-Con coalition (and, indeed, around the world). Given the tone of Ellen’s piece, you might hope that she would end by saying: ‘Of course, telling people not to eat meat is stupid - every bit as stupid as telling them not to drink or smoke or telling them not to be fat. The government should just butt out.’ Sadly, there is no note of irony anywhere. She really does want to stick it to meat-eaters. So, of the supposed risks of eating meat, Ellen declares: ‘This information has popped up regularly for years in all forms of popular media. Indeed, in this era of info overload, if you’ve never come across the “burgers and kebabs are unhealthy” revelation, one would have to presume you’ve been lying in a coma. With this in mind, isn’t it time to ask, exactly how thick, how hard to educate, are meat-eaters and why aren’t they held accountable in the same way everyone else is?’ She continues: ‘Sympathy is in short supply these days. You can’t move for people being blamed for their own miserable situations: smokers who “burden” the NHS; alcoholics who don’t “deserve” liver transplants; obese people who “should” pay more for flights. Even those poor terrified women with the faulty breast implants are said to have “brought it on themselves”. By this logic, people who’ve been regularly informed of the dangers of meat, particularly the cheap processed variety, but who continue to wolf it down should be held just as accountable.’ Now that the precedent has been set for the government to lambast those who engage in unapproved habits, it’s open season on any habit that a campaigner or columnist disapproves of. Ban it! Tax it! Make them get a prescription for it! Deny them medical care! Ellen’s article is objectionable but it only follows the remorseless logic of so many others. There is another lesson from the meat-and-cancer story: at a time when all sorts of dubious claims are made based on junk science and dodgy statistics, only some panics get wide publicity; others just pop up and disappear again in a matter of hours. The difference is that some play to an existing political or media agenda and some do not. The idea that meat causes cancer appeals to health busybodies, politicians scrabbling around for a sense of purpose, vegetarians who can’t win a moral argument about animal rights, and environmentalists who have failed to convince us that increasing the ‘human footprint’ - by wanting to eat more meat, for example - is killing the planet. It’s not quite possessed of the same force as religious fervour - do the ‘right thing’ or live in agony for eternity - but the idea that if you do something naughty like enjoy bacon then you might die in agony before your time, is the best that many such claims-makers have got going for them right now. The only proper response to this junkscience-based illiberalism is to be extremely sceptical of any such claims and to defend everyone’s right to indulge in these petty vices.

Bikie dispute leads to car park shooting

 

dispute between Comanchero motorcycle gang members led to a shooting in Adelaide's west on Monday night, police believe. Two shots were fired in the car park of the Findon Hotel about 10:00pm (ACDT). Detective Inspector Paul Yeomans says two men were arguing in the car park before one of them fired the shots at a dark-coloured sedan. "We don't think this is a random attack," he said. "We think that the two males are known to each other. We do think, even though it's early in the investigation, we do think it is linked to outlaw motorcycle gangs, in particular the Comanchero outlaw motorcycle gang." The cars sped-off after the shooting and police have not said why they suspect Comanchero members. The shooting is the latest instance of bikie-related violence in the past two months. But Attorney-General John Rau insists the situation is not out of control. "There are always going to be lunatics who go out there and break the law as these people have done and when they're caught up with the law will deal with them," he said. There is no sign anyone was injured in the incident.

Two reputed Rock Machine biker gang associates were nabbed by police

 

Two reputed Rock Machine biker gang associates were nabbed by police just prior to a search of a St. Andrews home that netted drugs, ammunition and gang paraphernalia. Police said at about 3 p.m. Friday, Shane Allen Fischer, 31, and Nicole Joy Nykorak, 26, were arrested during a traffic stop at Highway 8 and Grassmere Road. The stop came about two hours prior to police executing two search warrants at the same alleged drug house on Lockport Road as part of a ongoing street crime investigation, police said Sunday. Police seized nearly $10,000 worth of cocaine and hash, along with coke-cutting agent, drug paraphernalia, ammunition, a bullet-proof vest and gang attire, Const. Jason Michalyshen said. The seizure of the armoured vest is significant, as it may prove to become the first test of provincial legislation that came into force Jan. 1 outlawing their use by the general public without a permit. Anyone unauthorized to have body armour and is caught with it faces a fine of up to $10,000, three months in jail or both. Michalyshen said he was unaware of any other pending arrests in the case. Fischer was out on bail at the time and was supposed to be living elsewhere, said police. Nykorak was out on statutory release from prison and is facing parole revocation, Michalyshen said. Police didn’t identify the gang involved, but said it was an outlaw motorcycle group. A police source said both have ties to the Rock Machine gang. Both suspects face “numerous” drug and weapons charges, police said. They are being held at the Winnipeg Remand Centre.

Monday, 16 January 2012

Mexico drug gangs targeting gov’t choppers, at least 28 hit in 5 years

 

The Mexican armed forces and prosecutors have suffered at least 28 gunfire attacks on helicopters in the five years since the government launched an offensive against drug cartels, according to official documents made public Monday. The attacks show the increasing ferocity of Mexico’s drug gangs, and also suggest support for what the Mexican government has said in the past: that 2010 may have been the worst year for the upward spiral in violence. 0 Comments Weigh InCorrections? inShare In the first two years of the drug war, reporting government agencies such as the air force, navy and Attorney General’s Office reported no chopper attacks. But in 2008, four helicopters were hit by gunfire, wounding at least one officer aboard. In 2009, bullets struck six government helicopters in the rotors, side doors or motor compartments. All the craft were apparently able to land safely. 2010 was the worst year for helicopter attacks, with 14 hit and one crew member wounded. Some craft had as many as seven bullet holes in them when they landed, with rounds going through windshields, fuselages, rotors and even landing gear. In 2011, only three helicopters were hit by gunfire, but the number is almost certainly higher. The federal police refused to release data on attacks on its craft, but publicly acknowledged that on May 24, suspected cartel gunmen opened fire on a federal police chopper, hitting two officers and forcing the craft to land, though officials insisted it had not been shot down. Federal police said the pilot in that incident landed “to avoid any accident.” The Russian-made Mi-17 touched down about 3.5 miles (6 kilometers) from the shooting scene in the western state of Michoacan. Two officers aboard suffered non-life-threatening wounds. Mexico has long used helicopters in anti-drug operations. While security forces have updated their helicopter fleet in recent years, they has also retired some older craft, so the total number of choppers would not account for the variation in attacks. The newspaper Milenio originally requested the attack reports through a freedom of information request, and the reports were independently accessed by The Associated Press. Mexican drug gangs have long strung steel cables around opium and marijuana plantations to try to bring down police and military helicopters. In 2003, in what prosecutors said was the first fatal attack of its kind by drug traffickers in Mexico, gunmen guarding an opium-poppy plantation shot down two police helicopters, killing all five agents aboard. But those attacks were infrequent compared to what’s occurred since 2008. Overall Drug-related killings rose 11 percent in the first nine months of 2011, when 12,903 people were killed, compared to 11,583 in the same period of 2010, the office said. But the Attorney General’s Office found one small consolation: “It’s the first year (since 2006) that the homicide rate increase has been lower compared to the previous years.” Drug-related killings jumped by 70 percent for the same nine-month period of 2010 compared to January to September 2009, when 6,815 deaths were recorded. The carnage continued Monday, when seven gunmen were killed in a pre-dawn shootout with police on a highway in the city of Cuernavaca, south of Mexico City. A federal police officer was recovering from a gunshot wound to the foot following the confrontation. The prosecutors office in the central Mexican state of Morelos says the gunmen belonged to an organized crime gang, but did not say which one. “Organized crime” in Mexico generally refers to drug cartels, and remnants of the Beltran Leyva cartel have been fighting for control of Cuernavaca. Prosecutors said the gunmen were traveling in three stolen vehicles when police confronted them early Monday.

Shark attack at South Africa's deadliest beach

 

Mr Msungubana was swimming with a group of friends in shallow water off Second Beach in Port St Johns, a town on the country’s southeastern coast, when the attack took place. John Costello, local station commander for the National Sea Rescue Institute, said he sustained “multiple traumatic lacerations to his torso, arms and legs” where the shark bit him repeatedly. His death marks the sixth in just over five years at the beach, making it the most dangerous in the world for fatal shark attacks. In South Africa, one in five attacks by the ocean predators ends in the death but every single attack at Second Beach has proved fatal. Zambezi or bull sharks, known as the “pitbulls of the ocean” for their ferocity, have been blamed for most of the incidents. Experts from the nearby Natal Sharks Board have been brought in to investigate the phenomenon and the town authorities have closed the beach to swimmers. Pictures taken on Sunday show lifeguards wading nervously into the sea to pull the badly-injured Mr Msungubana to safety. They placed him on a surfboard to bring him to shore where, Mr Costello said, he was treated by a doctor who had been on the beach before paramedics arrived.

Tax adviser guilty of fraud scheme

 

A professional tax adviser from Bedfordshire has been convicted of trying to defraud honest taxpayers of £70 million, HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) said. David Perrin spent his cut of the stolen cash on expensive second homes, exotic holidays, works of art and luxury cars, a spokeswoman said. The 46-year-old, of Leagrave, Luton, Bedfordshire, was found guilty at Blackfriars Crown Court and will be sentenced next month, she added. Perrin, deputy managing director at Vantis Tax Ltd, devised and operated a tax avoidance scheme which he sold to wealthy taxpayers in order to exploit the law on giving shares to charity, she said. The scheme allowed him to pocket more than £2 million in fees from unsuspecting clients. He used a network of finance professionals to advise more than 600 wealthy clients to buy shares, worth a few pence each, in four new companies he had set up, the spokeswoman said. He then listed the companies on the Channel Islands Stock Exchange and paid people money from an offshore account to buy and sell the shares simply to inflate their price. The share owners then donated 329 million shares to various unsuspecting registered charities and tried to claim £70 million tax relief on a total of £213 million of income and company profits. This was based on the shares being worth up to £1 each, rather than the pennies they were originally bought for. Perrin also used the bogus scheme to claim money back, the spokeswoman said. The scheme proved so popular that Vantis employees performed a smug celebratory song at their annual conference, to the tune of I will Survive, she said. It included the verse: "They should have changed that stupid law, they should have buggered charity, but they have left that lovely tax relief, for folks to pay to me." Jim Graham, HMRC criminal investigator, said: "With his knowledge of the tax system, Perrin thought that he was one step ahead of both HMRC and the law. "This cynical fraud not only stole millions of pounds from taxpayers, but also conned innocent charities into accepting gifts of virtually worthless shares, just so Perrin could inflate his own criminal earnings." Perrin was charged with cheating the revenue by dishonestly submitting and dishonestly facilitating and inducing others to submit claims for tax relief which falsely stated values of shares which were gifted to charities. He will be sentenced on February 9 and confiscation proceedings are under way, the spokeswoman said.

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