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Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Bailed Kyle Thain and James Harris return from Spain


Two men from Essex accused of attempted murder in Spain have returned to England. Kyle Thain, 24, and James Harris, 29, had been in Spain for the past seven months after being accused of attacking two men in an Alicante bar in July 2011. The pair, both from Southend, were held in a Spanish prison for four months without charge. They have now been allowed to return to England on strict bail conditions. Mr Harris returned to the UK on Tuesday and his friend Mr Thain arrived at Stansted Airport on Wednesday evening. New lawyer As part of the conditions of their return to the UK, both men must sign in at the Spanish consulate in London twice a month. Speaking before her son Mr Thain's arrival, Sharon Harris, said: "I am so excited and nervous at the same time. "I still can't believe it. I won't be happy until I've got my arms around him at the airport." Both men have protested their innocence and have said they can prove they were elsewhere at the time of the attack. They were released from jail in November and given their passports back after each paid £6,000 in bail, but were told they could not leave the country. A new lawyer has now negotiated their return home. Pablo Sebastian, a Spanish lawyer working in Alicante with offices in Hadleigh in Essex, has been helping the boys' families secure their release. "We are very relieved to have them home," he said. "It is an improvement because they are back with their friends, family and at their jobs." 'Lives disrupted' Mr Sebastian said the men's "impeccable behaviour" while on bail in Spain had persuaded the Spanish judge to allow them back to the UK. It is thought the men's families have paid about £25,000 to cover travel, accommodation and legal costs since the pair were arrested. The men must now wait to hear if they must return to Spain for a trial. Richard Howitt, MEP for the East of England, is now calling for a change in European law to ensure minimum standards of justice across all member states. "The idea they have been several months in prison, outside the country and suffered such a huge financial loss is unacceptable," he said. "If we had a system whereby you respect and uphold each other's system of justice, then Kyle and James could have come home seven months ago. "But their lives have been totally disrupted, as have their families', which is why we need better standards of judicial co-operation at European level."

Gang murdered drug dealer then blew up his house


Drugs gang executed one of their dealer's and then blew up his house to cover-up the murder, a court heard this afternoon. Colliston Edwards, 38, of no fixed address and Andre Johnson, 25, also of no fixed address are accused of shooting Leroy Burnett, 43, after he kept back some of their money from drugs deals. Max Walter, 21, of no fixed address was then recruited by the pair to blow-up his house in Crichton Road, Battersea the Old Bailey heard. Mr Burnett was allegedly a low level drug supplier, who dealt drugs in Wandsworth Road and the Nine Elms area on behalf of Edwards. Edwards, whose street name is Lousy, was allegedly a drug dealer who commuted between Doncaster and South London and worked in a team with Johnson, known as Tallman. The court heard that Lousy had two mobile phones and gave out the numbers to his customers, travelling to their homes to sell the drugs. He allegedly expected Mr Burnett to carry out sales and look after his phones whilst he was away in Doncaster, but problems arose when Mr Burnett started miscounting money owed to him. Prosecuting, Aftab Jaffbrjee said: "There was simply no reason other than this pernicious deed of drugs supply to cost Leroy his life. Ads by Google Build Eco Friendly Visit us Today for Carbon Reduction Eco Tips for Construction Industry! www.CutCarbon.info Election Boundary Changes Constituencies are changing. Have your say on our report, Autumn 2013 independent.gov.uk/boundarychanges "He was executed in his home having been shot in the head at point blank range. There was nothing else that accounted in his life for such a brutal attack. "Walter then blew up the entire house causing destruction to the building and the street." Edwards and Johnson are both on trial for joint enterprise of murder and intending to pervert the course of justice. They deny having anything to do with the murder or the cover-up. Walter has pleaded guilty to perverting the course of justice and arson, but denies being reckless as to whether life was endangered. The trial which opened this afternoon is expected to last six weeks.

Jurors convict two men of first-degree murder in shooting death near Delray Beach


A jury convicted two men of first-degree murder Tuesday in connection with the 2007 shooting death of John Blazevige, whose body was found outside his still idling pick-up truck near Delray Beach. It took three days for jurors to return the verdicts against Michael Marquardt and Louis Baccari at the end of the week-long trial. At times they seemed entrenched into two separate camps, but in the end they made the unanimous decision to return the convictions on murder and armed robbery for each man. "We were surprised, and disappointed," Baccari's defense attorney Andrew Strecker said. "We thought for sure it would have been a hung jury." More puzzling, Strecker said, were the jury's findings in their verdict. For example, they found that Baccari, the alleged triggerman, had not used a firearm during the robbery of Blazevige, but they convicted him of armed robbery anyhow. Prosecutors Sherri Collins and Aaron Papero built their case largely on the testimony of Antonio Bussey, who deputies originally said was responsible for the killing. His DNA was found on the murder weapon, but he told deputies that Marquardt had made him touch the gun after Baccari shot Blazevige during a bad drug deal, telling him that they were "all in it together." Bussey made a deal with prosecutors and pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in exchange for a 21-year sentence. Hours before they returned the verdicts Tuesday, jurors asked to hear Bussey's testimony again. Baccari's and Marquardt's attorneys Strecker and Scott Skier asked Circuit Judge Jeffrey Colbath to also allow jurors to hear their entire cross examinations of Bussey, but the judge ruled that jurors only needed to hear a small portion of it. Colbath also denied defense attorneys' subsequent requests for a mistrial. Baccari's relatives outside the courtroom described him as a warm-hearted person and said they were convinced there was no way he would ever harm Blazevige, who had been his longtime friend and formerly lived in West Palm Beach. Prosecutors had said that Blazevige was addicted to prescription drugs and had met Baccari, Marquardt and Bussey to buy pills when he was killed. But defense attorneys, along with Baccari's family, say Bussey made a deal with prosecutors even though he knew he was the one who killed Blazevige in order to avoid the life sentences both Baccari and Marquardt will now inevitably receive as result of their convictions. Colbath set sentencing for Marquart, a landscape company owner who lived in Boynton Beach, and Baccari for April 2.

Drug gangs report blasting UK cities as dangerous


 Comment By Professor Alan Stevens Drug gangs report blasting UK cities as dangerous is too confusing The problems are nowhere near as deep in Manchester or Liverpool as they are in Rio de Janeiro – or even San Francisco A masked municipal policeman stands outside a shopping mall in MexicoAP On one hand it is right to state that there are communities in British cities suffering from social exclusion and marginalisation and that this contributes to their drug and crime problems. But on the other, these ­problems are nowhere near as deep in Manchester or Liverpool as they are in Rio de Janeiro or Ciudad Juarez – or even San Francisco or Los Angeles. The problem with the INCB report is that the wording is unclear. It gives the impression that its comments on no-go areas could apply equally to all of these cities. But it should have been more careful in specifying which ones it was referring to. The cities in Central and South America have more extreme ­problems which come from bigger social inequalities. They are dramatically more affected by crime and health problems. For example, in the past few years in Rio there have been repeated attempts to crack down on the areas controlled by violent drug markets. For a while these places were no-go zones. But authorities have acted in a militaristic fashion in the past year as they prepare for the World Cup.

British cities are becoming no-go areas where drugs gangs are effectively in control

British cities are becoming no-go areas where drugs gangs are effectively in control, a United Nations drugs chief said yesterday. Professor Hamid Ghodse, president of the UN’s International Narcotics Control Board (INCB), said there was “a vicious cycle of social exclusion and drugs problems and fractured communities” in cities such as Birmingham, Liverpool and Manchester. The development of “no-go areas” was being fuelled by threats such as social inequality, migration and celebrities normalising drug abuse, he warned. Helping marginalised communities with drugs problems “must be a priority”, he said. “We are looking at social cohesion, the social disintegration and illegal drugs. “In many societies around the world, whether developed or developing, there are communities within the societies which develop which become no-go areas. “Drug traffickers, organised crime, drug users, they take over. They will get the sort of governance of those areas.” Prof Ghodse called for such communities to be offered drug abuse prevention programmes, treatment and rehabilitation services, and the same levels of educational, employment and recreational opportunities as in the wider society. The INCB’s annual report for 2011 found persistent social inequality, migration, emerging cultures of excess and a shift in traditional values were some of the key threats to social cohesion. As the gap between rich and poor widens, and “faced with a future with limited opportunities, individuals within these communities may increasingly become disengaged from the wider society and become involved in a range of personally and socially harmful behaviours, including drug abuse and drug dealing,” it said.

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

25-year-old man today glued himself to Strangeways Prison gate in a bizarre protest against the continued detention of gangster.

John Cain, Heywood, near Rochdale, Greater Manchester, covered his hands in adhesive before pressing them against a metal door at HMP Manchester.

Ten police officers and an ambulance crew were called to the scene and had to use a special chemical to dissolve the glue and free Mr Cain. 

As he was led away he was heard asking police: 'Have you got a bucket? I think I’m going to be sick.'

Sticky situation: John Cain, seen left, covered his hands in adhesive before pressing them against a metal door at HMP Manchester

Sticky situation: John Cain, seen left, covered his hands in adhesive before pressing them against a metal door at HMP Manchester


Protest marks: Ten police officers and an ambulance crew were called to the scene and had to use a special chemical to dissolve the glue

Protest marks: Ten police officers and an ambulance crew were called to the scene and had to use a special chemical to dissolve the glue

The incident, which stopped prison vans going in or out of the Strangeways complex for around an hour, started at about 8am.

Mr Cain glued himself to the gate while other protesters held up a giant banner reading ‘Free Domenyk Noonan’.




Noonan, 47, was locked up in 2005 after a gun was found in the boot of his car. He was released on licence on 2010, but recalled after being arrested during the August riots on suspicion of conspiracy to commit violent disorder. No criminal charges have ever been brought.

Soap and water: Mr Cain was given a bucket of soapy water to scrub the glue and chemicals off but then complained about feeling sick

Soap and water: Mr Cain was given a bucket of soapy water to scrub the glue and chemicals off but then complained about feeling sick


Arrest: Mr Cain was then arrested and later charged with criminal damage. He will appear at Manchester magistrates' court on March 19

Arrest: Mr Cain was then arrested and later charged with criminal damage. He will appear at Manchester magistrates' court on March 19

Under the terms of his licence, Noonan remains in jail pending a parole hearing originally expected this month.

Mr Cain said: 'I want Domenyk Noonan out of here because he’s got no criminal charges against him - he’s been locked up for nothing. My pain for his justice.'

Noonan’s solicitor, Elaine Moloney, said: 'It’s time for the Ministry of Justice to put up or shut up - we need to see what evidence they have so we can challenge it. At the moment all we’ve seen is unsupported allegations - there’s been no hard facts or witnesses. It’s far too speculative. To challenge this we need full disclosure of the case.'

Message: While Mr Cain was gluing himself to the wall other protesters held up a giant banner reading 'Free Domenyk Noonan', who was locked up in 2005 after a gun was found in the boot of his car

Message: While Mr Cain was gluing himself to the wall other protesters held up a giant banner reading 'Free Domenyk Noonan', who was locked up in 2005 after a gun was found in the boot of his car

A spokesman for Greater Manchester Probation Trust said: 'If an offender is determined not to change their behaviour then they will be recalled to custody should they breach the terms of their licence.'

A spokesman for HM Prison Service said: 'A passive demonstration took place outside HMP Manchester at approximately 8am involving a handful of protesters. Although the incident caused a slight delay to prisoners leaving for court, there was no disruption to the prison regime.'

Mr Cain was arrested at the scene and later charged with criminal damage. He will appear at Manchester magistrates’ court on March 19.

Our aim still is to establish ‘fear free zones’ where emotional distress melts away.

Our aim still is to establish ‘fear free zones’ where emotional distress melts away.

Scotland Yard lent police horse to Rebekah Brooks


The former Sun and News of the World editor was lent the horse in 2008, the year after Clive Goodman, who worked for her as royal editor of the News of the World, was jailed for phone-hacking along withe the private investigator Glenn Mulcaire. Officers from the Metropolitan Police Mounted Branch visited Mrs Brooks's home in the Cotswolds to check she had suitable facilities and was a competent rider before the horse went there. A spokesman for the Metropolitan Police pointed out that it is routine for retired Mounted Branch horses to be lent out to members of the public at the end of their working lives, but the arrangement is likely to raise fresh questions about the Met's relationship with Mrs Brooks. The news comes a day after the Leveson Inquiry was told that Mrs Brooks was briefed by a senior Met officer on the progress of the original phone-hacking inquiry and even consulted on how far she thought the investigation should go. Mrs Brooks, who is married to the former racehorse trainer Charlie Brooks, kept the horse at her home in the Cotswolds for two years before giving it back to the Metropolitan Police in 2010.  It was then found a new home in Norfolk with a serving police officer. Dave Wilson, Mrs Brooks's spokesman, said: "It's well known by people in the horse world that the Met looks for homes for horses once they retire. Rebekah took on a horse and effectively acted as a foster parent for it for a year or so. "The Met horse team comes out to make sure your facilities are right and proper. It's just a way of giving a temporary home to a horse that has had a distinguished service in the Met. It went off to a retirement paddock in Norfolk once it couldn't be ridden any more." At the time Mrs Brooks took on the horse, she was editor of The Sun, but had given evidence to a committee of MPs five years earlier admitting that the News of the World had paid policemen when she was editor of the Sunday paper between 2000 and 2003. By the time she gave the horse back to the Met she was chief executive of News International and the Met was facing calls to re-open its investigation into phone hacking following the disclosure that thousands of names of potential victims appeared in Mulcaire's notebooks. A spokesman for Scotland Yard said: "When a police horse reaches the end of its working life, Mounted Branch officers find it a suitable retirement home. Whilst responsibility for feeding the animal and paying vet bills passes to the person entrusted to its care at its new home, the horse remains the property of the Metropolitan Police Service. "Retired police horses are not sold on and can be returned to the care of the MPS at any time. In 2008 a retired MPS horse was loaned to Rebekah Brooks. The horse was subsequently re-housed with a police officer in 2010." The Metropolitan Police website states that: "At the end of the police horse's working life the animal is re-homed at one of many identified establishments who have previously contacted the Mounted Branch with a view to offering a home. "The Mounted Branch is looking for suitable homes for retired horses, that is homes where the horse will not be ridden. Anyone in the southeast of England offering such a home will be considered first."

Bank tax dodges halted by retrospective law


A bank in the UK has been forced to pay more than half a billion pounds in tax which it had dodged by using "highly abusive" tax avoidance schemes. One tax dodge involved the bank claiming it should not have to pay corporation tax on profits made when buying back its own IOUs. The government said it would change the law retrospectively and immediately to stop anyone else using the scheme. The identity of the bank has so far not been revealed. Announcing the crackdown, the Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury, David Gauke, said the bank should never have devised the schemes in the first place. "The bank that disclosed these schemes to HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) has adopted the Banking Code of Practice on Taxation which contains a commitment not to engage in tax avoidance," he said. "The government is clear that these are not transactions that a bank that has adopted the code should be undertaking. "We do not take today's action lightly, but the potential tax loss from this scheme and the history of previous abuse in this area mean that this is a circumstance where the decision to change the law with full retrospective effect is justified," he added. The second tax avoidance scheme, designed by the same bank, involved investment funds claiming that non-taxable income entitled the funds to tax credits that could be reclaimed from HMRC. The Treasury described this as "an attempt to secure 'repayment' from the Exchequer of tax that has not been paid". Compulsory notification A Treasury source suggested that outlawing the tax dodges immediately would save the government a further £2bn in tax that would otherwise have been foregone. The bank in question in fact disclosed the two schemes to the tax authorities under rules which have been in place since 2004. Anyone, such as a bank, accountant, lawyer or tax adviser, who devises a seemingly legal tax avoidance plan, is obliged to tell the tax authorities about it within a few days of using it or marketing it to clients. More than 2,000 schemes have been disclosed in the past eight years. "Quite a few of the disclosures have come from banks in the past," said John Whiting, of the Chartered Institute of Taxation (CIOT). "They are usually intended to sell to others such as clients." New code The banking code on taxation was first introduced by the Labour government in June 2009. It followed reports that some big banks used large scale tax avoidance schemes involving complex transactions and financial instruments. The code - which was supported by the incoming coalition government the following year - demands that banks which sign ensure that their tax and the tax obligations of their customers are observed. It says they should not go out of their way to avoid tax for themselves or clients. The 15 biggest banks operating in the UK have signed up. 'Treated even-handedly' In a separate development, HMRC said it would appoint a senior official to act as an "assurance commissioner" for any tax deals struck with big companies for more than £100m. The job of the commissioner will be to make sure taxpayers in general do not suffer from any such settlements. The move follows severe criticism last December from MPs on the public accounts committee who denounced HMRC for appearing to cut contentious tax deals with companies such as Vodafone and Goldman Sachs. Lin Homer, the new HMRC chief executive said: "This commissioner will take the role of challenging whether any proposed settlement secured the correct amount of tax efficiently and that taxpayers had been treated even-handedly." "The commissioner will also make sure that the governance procedures have been followed," she added.

The daily Sun had systematically paid large sums of money to “a network of corrupted officials” in the British police, military and government.

A day after presiding over the publication of his new, damn-the-critics Sun on Sunday tabloid, Rupert Murdoch was confronted with fresh allegations from a top police investigator that the daily Sun had systematically paid large sums of money to “a network of corrupted officials” in the British police, military and government. Connect With Us on Twitter Follow @nytimesworld for international breaking news and headlines. Twitter List: Reporters and Editors Readers’ Comments Share your thoughts. Post a Comment » Read All Comments (130) » The allegations, part of a deepening criminal probe into The Sun and Mr. Murdoch’s defunct News of the World, highlight the challenges to Mr. Murdoch and his News Corporation as he seeks to minimize the threat to his British media holdings. They also cast a harsh spotlight on the freewheeling pay-for-information culture of the British media. In public testimony on Monday, Deputy Assistant Commissioner Sue Akers, who is leading the criminal investigation into Mr. Murdoch’s newspapers, said The Sun, long a source of special pride and attention for Mr. Murdoch, had illegally paid the unidentified officials hundreds of thousands of dollars in exchange for news tips and “salacious gossip.” She said the payments had been authorized “at a very senior level within the newspaper.” Her comments, unusual during a continuing criminal inquiry, directly undercut Mr. Murdoch’s campaign of support for the embattled newspaper. On Feb. 17, the 80-year-old Mr. Murdoch made a grand entrance into the Sun newsroom, where, marching around in shirtsleeves, he vowed to reinstate journalists suspended in the criminal investigation, offered to pay their legal bills, issued a robust statement about the paper’s probity and announced that he was defying conventional industry wisdom by starting a Sunday issue. Ms. Akers said illegal activities had been rife at the paper. “There appears to have been a culture at The Sun of illegal payments, and systems have been created to facilitate such payments whilst hiding the identity of the officials receiving the money,” she told the Leveson Inquiry on media ethics and practices, led by Lord Justice Leveson. The payments involved “frequent and sometimes significant sums of money” to public officials, she said. In a statement, Mr. Murdoch said that “the practices Sue Akers described at the Leveson Inquiry are ones of the past, and no longer exist at The Sun.” He remained publicly bullish, helping promote the new Sun on Sunday in newspaper stores and announcing on Twitter that it had sold 3.26 million copies. In another blow to Mr. Murdoch, related this time to The News of the World, a lawyer for the Leveson Inquiry said Rebekah Brooks, a former Murdoch executive, was apparently informed by the police in 2006 that detectives had evidence that the cellphones of dozens of celebrities, politicians and sports figures had been illegally hacked by an investigator working for the newspaper. The disclosure, contained in a September 2006 e-mail from a company lawyer to the editor of The News of the World, Andy Coulson, is highly significant. Until late in 2010, Mrs. Brooks, Mr. Coulson and other officials at News International, the British newspaper arm of News Corporation, repeatedly asserted that the hacking had been limited to a single “rogue reporter” — the paper’s royal correspondent, Clive Goodman. The assertion was rendered implausible, at best, by the fact that the police had information that so many hacking victims existed, and that so few of them had anything to do with the royal family. Monday’s disclosures could not have come at a more inopportune time for Mr. Murdoch. In recent weeks, morale at The Sun hit a low point after a number of senior editors and reporters were arrested on suspicion of illegally paying sources. At the same time, journalists at The Sun and elsewhere released a stream of angry attacks at the police, saying the investigation had gone too far and was targeting reporters for what they said was normal behavior in the British tabloid press like taking sources out to lunch or paying whistle-blowers. “The Sun journalists who have been arrested are not accused of enriching themselves — they were simply researching stories about scandals at hospitals, scandals at army bases and scandals in police stations that they believed their readers were entitled to know about,” Kelvin Mackenzie, a former editor of The Sun, wrote in The Daily Mail. “If the whistle-blower asks for money, so what?” The Metropolitan Police Service’s highly unusual decision to release specific details of a continuing investigation seemed designed to rebut such criticism. “The cases we are investigating are not ones involving the odd drink, or meal, to police officers or other public officials,” Ms. Akers said. “Instead, these are cases in which arrests have been made involving the delivery of regular, frequent and sometimes significant sums of money to small numbers of public officials by journalists.”

Monday, 27 February 2012

Putin assassination plot foiled: Russian officials


Ukrainian security services have thwarted a plot to kill Russian PM Vladimir Putin, Russian officials say. Two suspects were detained in the Ukrainian port of Odessa, Russia's state-owned Channel One TV reports. The arrested men were both shown on TV admitting their involvement in the plot, after an explosion at a flat in January in which one suspect died. Ukrainian security officials have refused to confirm the arrests were part of a plot to assassinate Mr Putin. But the Russian prime minister's press secretary, Dmitry Peskov, told the BBC that the report was correct: "this was absolutely a plot to kill the prime minister." The attack was to happen after next Sunday's presidential vote, the report said. Mr Putin is expected to win the election and get a third term as president. The BBC's Daniel Sandford in Moscow said the two men were both shown on Russian TV, one being interrogated and the other giving an interview. Continue reading the main story Analysis Daniel Sandford BBC News, Moscow The Ukrainian security services have told the BBC that they did arrest some people in January after an apartment explosion. But when we asked them if it was part of a plot to assassinate Mr Putin, spokeswoman Maryna Ostapenko said she did not know what to say. She would not go on the record to confirm that this was part of a plot to kill Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. So it goes back only to the very detailed Russian Channel One report which even interviewed one of the suspects. But at this stage the Ukrainian authorities do not confirm that these men are being held in any way in connection with an assassination plot. In the footage, both admit plotting to attack Mr Putin. One, identified by Ria Novosti as Ilya Pyanzin, said he had been hired by Chechen militant leader Doku Umarov to carry out the killing and also by Ruslan Madayev, the suspect who died in the Odessa explosion. The other suspect was named by Channel One as Adam Osmayev, said to have been on an international wanted list since 2007. The plotters were planning to plant mines on Kutuzovsky Avenue in Moscow, used by Mr Putin on a daily basis, the report said. Russian media report that Mr Pyanzin was arrested in the Odessa flat where the explosion happened. He told police that he and Madayev had flown to Ukraine from the United Arab Emirates via Turkey, with precise instructions from representatives of Doku Umarov. According to the reports, details of the plot were found on laptops in the flat, along with a video showing Mr Putin's motorcade. Mr Osmayev was reported to be the local fixer in Odessa and the instructor for the plotters, and had lived for a long time in London.

You can buy a Kalashnikov for a hundred euros on the back streets of Athens

"You can buy a Kalashnikov for a hundred euros on the back streets of Athens and people are doing so to guard their property," Mr Chrysanthopoulos told me from his home outside the capital yesterday. Thanks to the disastrous euro, his country is sliding remorselessly towards bankruptcy and disintegration. Modern Greece is an economic corpse, kept on life support by Germany and France, who fear the euro will be destroyed if they admit the truth. Last week's £110BILLION bailout was not aimed at rescuing the Greek people. It was to save the euro from total collapse. Yet the country seems doomed to another historic crisis as disastrous as the German occupation, a bloody civil war and years of military rule. "What we risk today is anarchy, the collapse of society and a breakdown in law and order," says Mr Chrysanthopoulos, 66. "We have more than 20,000 homeless families in Athens alone. "There are food lines for the hungry, which have not been seen since the Second World War. "Penniless pensioners are begging in the streets. People are bartering for essentials, living hand to mouth." Sooner or later they will be thrown out of the euro — the greatest peacetime catastrophe in the history of Europe. Hatred seethes against Germany, which in 1942 reduced Greece to starvation and slavery during its brutal Nazi occupation. A Greek radio station has just been fined for describing German Chancellor Angela Merkel as a "dirty Berlin slut". Nazi resistance fighter Manolis Glezos, now 89, says Germany plundered Greece for the equivalent of £138billion in the 1940s. "They grab us by the throat for the debt — let's do the same to them for the reparations," he says. Germans hit back, branding the Greeks "idle swindlers". They claim nobody pays tax because bandit politicians steal their money. The insults are fuelling precisely the nationalistic antagonism that sowed the seeds for two world wars — and which the EU was created to eliminate forever. Germany and France, who must accept the blame for allowing Greece into the euro at all, are terrified of contagion. So they are forcing this humiliated nation to slash pay and pensions to starvation levels. Last week's costly bailout has bought time — and the fantasy of an orderly default. Mr Chrysanthopoulos feels betrayed by the euro currency con. But he is not alone. Charles Kennedy, the Lib Dems' fervently pro-euro ex-leader, last week admitted: "I was wrong." His successor, the made-in-Brussels Nick Clegg, admits he would no longer join the euro. Two former editors of the fanatically pro-Brussels Financial Times confess they backed the wrong horse. Ex-EU Commissioner Frits Bolkestein admits: "The euro has failed." We will never hear honesty like that from Ken Clarke and Michael Heseltine, who lost the Tories three elections by stoking the row over Europe. But unlike Mr Chrysanthopoulos, they will probably die comfortably in their beds without witnessing the hideous consequences. Greek instability risks spilling over to fragile ex-fascist regimes Spain and Portugal. If it does, we can only hope it doesn't bring chaos to Italy — then to France. People will take only so much belt-tightening austerity. More revolutions have been triggered by oppressive taxes than anything else. The drive for ever closer political and economic union and the end of national rivalry was aimed at ending war in Europe. We must pray the arrogant fools who launched this undemocratic juggernaut do not achieve precisely the opposite.

TONY Adams has been compared to TV gangster Tony Soprano, and his gang are rumoured to be responsible for 25 murders.


 When he appeared in court last November, he gave his address as the cottage in Barnet. Land Registry documents confirm the property is owned by Cole, 31. There is no suggestion of any wrongdoing by the player, who has a multi-million-pound property investment portfolio. Adams, once said to be worth £150 million, headed a notorious North London crime gang nicknamed the A-team or Adams Family. He bought a yacht and sent his daughter to a private school. But in 2007 he was jailed for seven years — for money laundering his own wages — after an undercover operation by MI5 and the Serious Organised Crime Agency. Just like Chicago mobster Al Capone, he had escaped justice for years before finally being nailed for tax evasion. Officers spent 21 months and £10 million eavesdropping on Adams. During the probe his accountant was killed in a drive-by shooting, and a hitman was reputedly buried in the foundations of London's O2 Arena. A search of Adams' £1million former home uncovered £700,000 worth of stolen goods. Adams was released in 2010 after serving half his sentence. But last year he was sent back to do the rest of his time after he defied a financial reporting order and failed to declare luxury purchases including a £7,500 facelift. His earliest release date is now December 2013.

Britain’s crime hot spots revealed


The findings, posted on an interactive website, will allow the public to discover how many cases of robbery, vehicle crime and other offences take place in their area – and to rank areas from best to worst. Oxford Street in London's West End was revealed to be the shopping destination surrounded by the most crime. During 2011, there were 656 vehicle crimes, 915 robberies and 2,597 violent crimes within three quarters of a mile of the Oxford Street branch of John Lewis. There were also 5,039 reported instances of anti-social behaviour – equivalent to 14 a day. High streets and shopping centres in Bristol, Brighton and Derby also featured in a top 10 of crime hot spots, according to the website ukcrimestats.com.  A spokesman for the New West End Company, which represents Oxford Street traders, said: "We need to remember that this is an area with extremely high footfall, with over 200 million visits a year. This data needs to be seen in context. "Oxford Street has seen an overall reduction in crime over the past 10 years, with our lobby for harder sentencing on crime having a positive impact." The Croydon postcode CR0 was found to have the highest number of crimes reported last year, with 5,000 more than any other postal area. The south London suburb was the scene of some of the most severe rioting last summer. During 2011, 2,081 burglaries, 3,258 violent crimes and 8,316 instances of anti-social behaviour were reported in the CR0 postcode district. Dan Lewis, the chief executive of the Economic Policy Centre, the Right-of-centre think-tank which carried out the analysis and created the website, said: "On the one hand it is good that the Government is now publishing such detailed crime statistics, but the official police website does not allow the public to put these figures in context. "It has taken us, as a private sector provider, to harness this data in a way which is much more helpful to consumers. "It's not just important that the Government becomes more transparent, it's vital that what information is published is actually useful to the public." Seven of the 10 schools with the highest number of crimes within three quarters of a mile of their gates were in London. Two were in Portsmouth and one in Bristol. Almost 8,250 acts of anti-social behaviour, robbery, vehicle crime or violent crime were reported within three quarters of a mile of Charing Cross railway station in London last year, 1,700 more than Newcastle's central railway station, which had the second-highest crime rate. There were also high numbers of crimes around stations in Birmingham, Blackpool and east London. Anyone craving a life free from crime should consider a move to Wales. Nearly a third of the 50 postcode districts with the lowest number of reported crimes last year were in Wales, with several on the island of Anglesey. Official figures suggest that the Welsh village of Garndolbenmaen, on the edge of the Snowdonia national park, had one reported crime last year – a single case of anti-social behaviour. Steve Churchman, who runs the village shop serving the 300 residents, said the area was "like Beirut" when he moved there from London eight years ago. "We had a real problem with anti-social behaviour back then," said Mr Churchman. "There was this gang of kids. We had a phonebox vandalised, a bus stop graffitied and a few break-ins." Mr Churchman said the falling crime figures in the village were a result of pushing for convictions on those residents who stepped out of line and having police office and community support officers out on the beat. The children who caused the trouble had grown up and were now "nice lads", he added.

Gangster’s moll rents a house from Ashley Cole


Gangster's moll Ruth Adams, 51, pays about £1,500 a month to rent the Chelsea defender's three-bedroom cottage. Her husband Terry, 57 — a fan of Chelsea's London rivals Arsenal — also lived at the property for 17 months between prison sentences. He moved in to the £600,000 home in Barnet, North London, after his release from a seven-year stretch for money laundering, before being banged up again last year. Neighbours often see loyal Ruth — who married Adams 29 years ago — driving a top-of-the-range Lexus. One local said: "It's funny that it's Cole's house because Terry is an avid Arsenal fan and was once linked to buying the Gunners. "Ruth is very polite but won't engage you in conversation for long. She's still close to her husband."

One of Italy’s most notorious gangsters, Enrico De Pedis, is buried in a Roman Catholic basilica near Piazza Navona.


 Why the Vatican allowed a top mobster to be buried in Sant’Apollinare has been a source of furious speculation since 1997, when the resting place of De Pedis — gunned down seven years earlier — was first revealed. The answer taking shape looks like something bestselling author Dan (The Da Vinci Code) Brown would have had trouble dreaming up. The story goes back to the 1980s and includes money-laundering allegations against the Vatican’s bank, the attempted assassination of the late Pope John Paul II, the murder-suicide of two Vatican Swiss guards, and the widely publicized kidnapping of a teenage girl. The shocking tale’s many threads began meshing in the mid 2000s. They were revived this week by the latest in a series of leaks that have rocked the Vatican — leaks observers believe are the result of an internal power struggle, one that has fuelled speculation about jostling to succeed Pope Benedict XVI. This time, a January letter from Rev. Federico Lombardi, the Vatican’s spokesperson, has made its way to the media. The three-page letter, revealed by a program on the state-owned Rai Tre channel, focuses on the kidnapping of Emanuela Orlandi, a 15-year-old Vatican City resident who disappeared in 1983. She was last seen leaving her regular piano lesson outside the Vatican City walls. Her father was a clerk in the office organizing papal events. Last summer, a former member of De Pedis’ infamous Magliana gang, Antonio Mancini, was interviewed by La Stampa newspaper after spending years in jail. He said De Pedis had loaned the Vatican a huge sum of money. There is speculation it was to help fund Solidarity, the 1980 democracy movement in Poland, John Paul’s homeland. Mancini said Orlandi was kidnapped to pressure the Vatican when some of the money wasn’t returned. De Pedis’ girlfriend had said similar things a few years earlier. At the time, the Vatican was the main shareholder of Banco Ambrosiano, which had gone bankrupt. Roberto Calvi, Ambrosiano’s head, was found hanging from a London bridge in 1982. Mancini said part of De Pedis’ peace deal with the Vatican included burial in Sant’Apollinare, a church built in the 18th century and now run by the ultra-conservative Opus Dei movement. Church officials say De Pedis was buried there because he helped the poor. They’ve had less to say about the ruthless, Rome-based gang he headed. In January, Orlandi’s brother led a demonstration in front of the church, demanding the tomb be opened. Since an anonymous call to Rai Tre in 2005, there has been talk of it perhaps containing evidence of Orlandi’s disappearance. The Orlandi family wants to know if the body in the tomb is indeed De Pedis’. In his letter, Lombardi alludes to the rumours, according to excerpts released by Rai Tre. He also notes the cardinal in charge of the basilica has said he’s willing to have the tomb opened. “I don’t understand why this hasn’t happened yet,” Lombardi writes. Lombardi then discusses the Vatican’s refusal to help Italian police on some aspects of the Orlandi kidnap investigation. He wonders “if the non-collaboration with the Italian authorities . . . was a normal and justifiable affirmation of Vatican sovereignty, or if in fact circumstances were withheld that might have helped clear something up.” Reached by the Star, Lombardi laughed when asked about the letter. “You don’t have anything more important to write about?” he said. “I’ve had enough of this story. It seems like such a secondary thing to me that I have no comment to make.” Earlier leaks of Vatican documents included recent private letters to the Pope complaining of corruption and cronyism in the awarding of contracts. Other documents emerged reigniting allegations of money-laundering at the Vatican’s bank. Finally, a bizarre confidential letter from a Vatican official described a presumed plot to kill Benedict and discussed his potential successor. The day before Lombardi’s letter became public, another TV channel broadcast an interview with a man claiming to be a Vatican employee who leaked one of the documents. He looked like the Mafia turncoats Italians are used to seeing on TV — much of his face was covered by sunglasses, hat and scarf, and his voice was disguised. He complained about the failure to investigate the Orlandi kidnapping and alluded to the death of two Vatican Swiss guards in 1998. In that incident, Alois Estermann, commander of the Pontifical Swiss Guard at the Vatican, was killed, along with his wife, by Cedric Tornay, a young Swiss guard who then shot himself. That murder-suicide has spawned books filled with theories as to what really happened. One widely quoted scenario comes from Ferdinando Imposimato, a former magistrate who officially investigated some of the biggest criminal cases in Italy, including the shooting of Pope John Paul in 1981, and cases involving De Pedis’ gang. Imposimato is convinced secret police services in the former Soviet Union were involved in the plot to kill John Paul. He says Estermann was a spy for East Germany’s Stasi secret police, and was involved in Orlandi’s kidnapping. She was targeted because her father was the first to suspect Estermann as a spy, and told Imposimato so in 1981. Estermann was eventually killed, Imposimato says, because he knew too much. Imposimato is now working with the Orlandi family. Both are pushing for a full investigation — and the opening of De Pedis’ tomb.

New Lockerbie bomber evidence' may clear Abdelbaset al Megrahi

'Lockerbie: Case Closed accessed the ‘secret contents’ of the legal review into the case of Abdelbaset al Megrahi. Programme makers pored over the Scottish Criminal Case Review Commission’s investigation to find fresh evidence – including the ‘dramatic results’ of new scientific tests that go against the original evidence. The documentary says the previously unseen information was not known to the commission and ‘comprehensively undermines’ the case against Megrahi. A total of 270 people were killed when Pan Am Flight 103 exploded over Lockerbie, south-west Scotland, on December 21, 1988. Megrahi is the only man to have been convicted of the atrocity – Europe’s worst terrorist attack. The Libyan was sentenced to life imprisonment in 2001 but returned home in August 2009  after he was diagnosed with terminal cancer. At the time, doctors estimated Megrahi had three months to live but he is still alive. Earlier this month, members of the Justice For Megrahi group accused the government of an ‘orchestrated desire’ to keep details of the case under wraps. They also said politicians ‘either have to be dishonest or ignorant’ to allow the secrecy to continue. The programme will be shown at 8pm on Al Jazeera English. It includes an interview with Megrahi filmed in December. John Ashton, who was part of Megrahi’s defence team, said: ‘The wrong man was convicted.’

Man claims he was under duress from gangland figure to steal


A jury has been told that a man accused of attempting to steal €1m from a cash-in-transit van over four years ago was acting under duress from gangland figure Eamonn Dunne. Joseph Warren (aged 30) of Belclare Crescent, Ballymun, has pleaded not guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to conspiring to steal cash from Chubb Ireland at Tesco supermarket on the Shackleton Road in Celbridge on November 2, 2007. Detective Inspector Eugene Lynch headed a surveillance operation that observed five other men, Eamonn Dunne, brothers Alan and Wayne Bradley, Jeffrey Morrow and Michael Ryan travelling in four different vehicles behind the cash-in-transit van as it drove from the Chubb Security base in Birch Avenue, Stillorgan to the Tesco Shopping Centre. All six men were arrested that morning after Mr Warren and Mr Ryan were seen approaching the Chubb van as it was parked in Tesco Shopping Centre. Mr Warren was carrying a consaw while Mr Ryan tried unsuccessfully to open the doors of the van with a set of keys he brought with him. Det. Insp. Lynch told Alan Toal BL, defending, that he “could not say” when it was suggested to him that Mr Dunne was “public enemy number one” who was “supposed to have killed 17 people”. He accepted a further suggestion from counsel that according to media sources, Mr Dunne was “a gangland figure of calibre” but said he had no evidence of that. “He was an integral part of an organised criminal gang responsible for firearms, cash-in-transit robberies and drugs,” Det Insp Lynch said but again replied there was no evidence that he “would kill for the hell of it” as suggested by counsel. “He was massively involved in the assassination of Baiba Saulite and no one could touch him for the amount of murders he carried out as leader of this gang,” Mr Toal said referring to what he termed “general held views in the media”. Det. Insp. Lynch again repeated that he could not answer that. He told Mr Toal that he had never been made aware that Mr Warren claimed he was acting under duress from Mr Dunne that day. The detective said his only role in the investigation was to lead the surveillance operation. He said he was also unaware that Mr Warren had been the subject of a threat to his life in January or February 2008 and he had been formally warned by the gardai of this threat. Darryl Caffrey (aged 37), the Chubb Security worker who was a passenger in the cash-in-transit van that day, told Deirdre Murphy SC, prosecuting, that he provided inside information to two men, knowing that it would be used to organise a robbery. He said he gave the two men, previously unknown to him but whom he referred to as “Dog” and “Liverpool man”, information about the company, including the registration details of the unmarked delivery vehicles and how the safes were accessed. He said he handed this information over during a number of meetings in 2006 and 2007. Mr Caffrey told the jury he had provided “Dog” with the registration details of four jeeps used by Chubb at the time after the man told him if he had that information he could get keys cut for the vehicles. He informed “Dog” that Chubb headquarters had to be contacted by phone to open the safe and access cash before it was dropped off at an ATM. He also told him that Chubb workers wore casual clothes, drove unmarked jeeps and carried the money to the ATMs in sports bags. Mr Caffrey said he had also been instructed to propose a suitable route which he felt would be an easy target for a gang to rob. He said he provided “Dog” with a map on October 30, 2007, with a route marked in black pen, of a specific run he regularly did in Ballymore Eustace, Wicklow. Mr Caffrey said he was “given the impression” that it would be the Ballymore Eustace run that the gang would target. He said “Dog” told him the gang would put up “road closed” and “diversion” signs along the route that would eventually lead to a building site. His jeep would then be surrounded by armed men, he and his colleague would be tied up, dumped off and their phones taken off them before the robbers would drive away in the van. He said “Dog” told him he would get a phone call the day before “the job was going down” to give him time to get rid of his mobile phone and any links between them. He never got the call. Mr Caffrey agreed with Mr Toal that he did not know any of the men that were arrested at the Tesco Supermarket that day. He confirmed that he did not know Mr Warren. The trial continues before Judge Tony Hunt and a jury of seven women and four men.

Saturday, 25 February 2012

European court rules against Italy for expelling migrants

European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) on Thursday ruled that Italy had violated it human rights obligations when it deported a group of African migrants intercepted in the Mediterranean Sea to Libya in 2009. The decision delivered in Strasbourg by 17 judges of the court was described as a 'landmark' by the United Nation's Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and was also welcomed by several rights groups in Italy and elsewhere. Italy's International Cooperation Minister, Andrea Riccardi, said that the ruling would force Italy to 'think and rethink our policies towards migration.' The case concerned 24 Somalis and Eritreans who were in a group of 200 migrants intercepted by the Italian Coast Guard 35 nautical miles from the Italian island of Lampedusa.

Belarus fights Europe to retain death penalty

Belarusian MPs have blasted a recent resolution of the European Parliament on death penalty in Belarus as an attempt to interfere in the country’s internal affairs. The Belarusian parliamentary commission on international affairs has issued an official statement saying that the European Parliament’s resolution on the death penalty in Belarus was a continuation of the practice of pressuring Belarusian authorities and meddling with the country’s internal affairs. Additionally, the Belarusian side noted that from the text of the resolution they could draw a conclusion that the European side did not pay much attention to the credibility of facts and the logic of conclusions. In particular, the Belarusian parliamentarians criticized the fact that the case of Metro bombers Konovalov and Kovalyov, mentioned in the resolution, is called unjust, despite of the fact that the trial in the case was open to the maximum and well-covered by the media. The Belarusian politicians also expressed surprise over the fact that their country was called the Belarusian Federation in the European Parliament’s resolution, while its official name is Republic of Belarus. However, the text of the resolution posted on the European Parliament’s website in English uses the correct name. Belarusian MPs stressed that the use of capital punishment in their country is not against international norms and its use is extremely limited, and in practice happens only in extraordinary cases. The ban on capital punishment is the internal affair of the Republic of Belarus and can only be made with consideration of the Belarusian society’s opinion, the politicians said.

Fishing skippers fined £720,000


Seventeen skippers behind one of Scotland's biggest fishing scams have been fined a total of £720,000. The group admitted making illegal landings of mackerel and herring worth £47.5 million between January 1 2002 and March 19 2005. The "black fish" scam, which broke sea fishing laws, was carried out at fish processing factory Shetland Catch in Lerwick, Shetland. Judge Lord Turnbull said the scam is "an episode of shame" for the pelagic fishing industry. He said it was a "cynical and sophisticated" operation which had the "connivance of a number of different interested parties". Hamish Slater, 53, and Alexander Masson, 66, both from Fraserburgh, were fined a respective £80,000 and £50,000, while Alexander Wiseman, 60, from Banff, was also fined £50,000. Another 13 men from Shetland were fined for their role in the scam. Robert Polson, 48, was fined £70,000; John Irvine, 68, was fined £80,000; William Williamson, 65, was fined £45,000; Laurence Irvine, 66, was fined £80,000; and David Hutchison, 66, was fined £40,000, as was 56-year-old Thomas Eunson. Both Allister Irvine, 63, and Gary Williamson, 52, were fined £35,000; and George Henry, 60, was fined £12,000. John Stewart, 57, was ordered to pay £15,000, while George Anderson, 56, must pay £12,000. Colin Leask, 39, and Allen Anderson, 55, were each fined £3,000 A £70,000 fine was imposed on Victor Buchini, 51, from Poulton-le-Fylde in Lancashire. The company Alexander Buchan was fined £240,000 for helping the vessel masters land the undeclared fish. The pelagic fishermen, who committed the offences to evade the annual EU fishing quota, had already been ordered to hand over almost £3 million in confiscation orders at a previous court hearing. The convictions came as the result of a seven-year investigation, Operation Trawler, after the Scottish Fisheries Protection Agency (SFPA), now Marine Scotland, became suspicious about widespread illegal landing of fish within the pelagic fleet. Pelagic fish are those which swim near the water's surface. Auditors KPMG reviewed Shetland Catch and found that between January 1 2002 and March 28 2004, the company's earnings were not supported by its declared landings. The company premises were searched on September 27 2005 and officials found that scales used to weigh fish coming into the factory had been manipulated to provide false weights. Management were able to input fake wastage figures into a computer in the main factory, accessible to inspectors from the SFPA, which would be deducted from the actual weight shown on the screen. The proper weight was displayed on screens in the engineer's room and in a loft area, both of which were off-limits to SFPA officials. The computer in the loft area was where the weight manipulation took place. It could be accessed remotely by two members of staff, a fish buyer and the then assisting managing director, using a username and password, allowing them to program it to provide false weights. Lord Turnbull said the proceedings brought "embarrassment and shame" to the skippers and their families. He said: "All of the accused who appear today have spent their working lives as productive and hard-working members of our community. Barring other regulatory infringements, not a single one has ever come into any conflict with the law. "It was not surprising therefore to hear of the well-respected positions within their communities which many held and of the embarrassment and shame which these proceedings have brought to them personally and to their families." The judge said the fishing industry "makes a crucial contribution" to the well-being of many communities and to the economy of the country as a whole. He added: "There would of course be no fishing industry were it not for the willingness of fishermen to go to sea. It is correct to acknowledge that in doing so,fishermen require to cope with challenging circumstances of isolation from family members and often with dangerous and frightening weather conditions, the likes of which will be wholly unfamiliar to others with more conventional working environments. "Over the history of the fishing industry and even in recent times in Scotland, tragedy has often visited the families of those who spend their working lives at sea." The judge also noted that each master involved "made no attempt" to disguise their true income from the fish and paid income tax on both the declared and undeclared landings. But he said the men had all participated in "a deliberate and calculated determination to evade the quota levels for fishing available to each vessel" for "purely financial" reasons. He said: "The system through which this was achieved was both cynical and sophisticated and involved the connivance of a number of different interested parties, some of whom have benefited but have not been prosecuted. "The extent to which landings of fish were deliberately under-declared was at times truly staggering and in the case of some of the accused concerned, took place continuously over a three-year period. "What I found to be noteworthy was that no understandable explanation was provided on behalf of any the vessel masters as to why this practice was commenced or continued with. "No one for example appears to have engaged in this exercise on account of struggling to cope financially with the costs of continued fishing within the quota levels allocated. "Indeed, in contrast to some within the fishing industry, those engaged in fishing with the pelagic fleet appear to have been able to make very substantial sums over many years, providing very comfortable livings for themselves and their families. "In short then, and as was conceded by at least some of those who appeared before me, the motivation for the sustained furnishing of false information was purely financial. Those who were already making a good living saw this as a way in which more income could be generated. "No doubt the fact that so many were involved lent a veneer of acceptability to the conduct but there is another side to that as well: the fact that so many were prepared to participate in deliberate lies and falsehood means that the desire for financial benefit was able to overshadow the instincts of fairness, truthfulness and responsibility which will have influenced every other aspect of the lives of those concerned and which values they would expect to see others, including their own family members, abide by. "The result is an episode of shame for much of the whole pelagic fishing industry. "I have however accepted in each case that these proceedings have been responded to responsibly and that those concerned regret their involvement and the embarrassment which has been brought to them personally and to their families." The men had previously been subjected to a reduced quota of fish to "balance out" the environmental effect of years of overfishing. But the judge insisted that this was not a punishment but an "exercise in conservation". He said: "I do not accept that the accused in this case have lost out or have been made worse off as a consequence of these arrangements. I accept as accurate the observation that looking back with hindsight had they never over-fished at all then they would have achieved a greater income over the extended period than they in fact have. "That is due to the massive increase in the prices obtained for the type of fish with which I am concerned in the period since 2002. That however is no more than an irony of the situation. It does not reflect any actual loss to those concerned. In fact, as a consequence of the increased value of the fish, those involved have still been able to generate very substantial incomes, despite being restricted to catching a smaller quantity. "If the current prices remain stable then when the quota deduction arrangements have been exhausted, they will be in a position to increase that income even further." He also referred to "activities of foreign fishing vessels" in exceeding fishing quotas. The judge said: "If there is an imbalance in the approach of the relevant authorities within the European Union, that is a matter for the relevant ministers to raise with their counterparts. "If vessels belonging to states outwith the European Union are thought to enjoy some inappropriate benefit or are not thought to be complying with their responsibilities concerning stock conservation, that is a matter to be addressed at governmental or international level. "I am dealing with the contravention of a law of this country which was introduced to ensure compliance with the international obligation which the United Kingdom had entered into. "I am entitled to treat that contravention as a serious matter regardless of how it might be thought that similar conduct would be or has been responded to elsewhere." Three more fishermen pleaded guilty today in a separate case but which was part of the same investigation. James Smith, 54, from Fraserburgh, John Smith, 36, from Peterhead and Stephen Bellamy, 59, from Fraserburgh all admitted landing undeclared fish at Fresh Catch in Peterhead and at Shetland Catch in Lerwick. Sentencing was deferred to May 18. An inspection in November 2005 at the Alexander Buchan firm detected an unofficial weigh belt fitted with "load cells" to the conveyor belt system at the point where fish entered the factory. The cells are used to detect the weight of fish passing over the belt. A deflector plate had been used on the unofficial weigh belt, allowing the fish to drop off part of the way along the official scales. As the fish did not travel over the full area, a lower weight was achieved on the counter. This method is said to have allowed up to 70% of a total landing to go unrecorded. Alexander Buchan, which is no longer trading, has already been ordered to pay £165,000 in a confiscation order. A third fish processing factory, Fresh Catch, also admitted helping vessel masters land undeclared fish between October 20 2002 and September 2 2005 at its premises in Kirk Square near Peterhead. Skippers Ernest Simpson, 64, from Fraserburgh, Allan Simpson, 42, from Fraserburgh, and Oswald McRonald, 63, from Banff, pleaded guilty at the High Court in Glasgow today to landing undeclared fish at the factory. Their sentences were also deferred until May 18. Fresh Catch was audited by KPMG during the same period as Shetland Catch and it too was found to have earnings unsupported by official landing figures. At the factory, fish entered via a delivery pipe which went up and over the building. However, a search of the premises in September 2005 uncovered a purpose-built pipe, leading underground, was also connected. This second pipe bypassed the official weigh scale. Knife valves were used to divert the fish when they came to a T-junction, allowing fish to be sent to another part of the factory and was never weighed or officially accounted for. In 2005 the two valves become remote controlled and the direction the fish took at the junction depended on which one was open or closed. Fresh Catch only became significantly operational at around the time the scam began. Cephas Ralph, head of compliance at Marine Scotland, said the divert pipe "certainly served no other purpose" and that "it wasn't put there by accident". All three factories were prosecuted out of Operation Trawler which started in 2005. However, nothing suggested any of the plants were linked. At the time of the undeclared landings, Shetland Catch was the largest pelagic fish processing operator in Scotland and one of the largest in Europe. It was able to process and freeze up to 1,000 tonnes of fish a day. EU regulations state that when a vessel reaches its quota, it has the option to either stop fishing or to buy some of another vessel's quota which has not yet been reached. Any vessel which exceeds its quota faces disciplinary action. When the investigation started 26 vessels were in the pelagic fleet, with eight pelagic fish processing factories. More than half (15) of those boats have been prosecuted. Mr Ralph said the investigation had an immediate effect on the entire industry and that Marine Scotland is now satisfied that legislation is in place to ensure a similar scam does not happen again. He said: "Since 2005 we detected a change which spilled out beyond the pelagic industry. It is more important to the vessels to have a good reputation. "It is fair to say we are satisfied that we have inspection procedures, legislation, a mindset in place in the industry that means if such activity was to recommence, it would be quickly detected and dealt with. "We have not had anything similar since these cases and all our intelligence suggests that no similar activities are taking place." Afterwards Lindsey Miller, head of the serious and organised crime division of the Crown Office, said: "Organised crime takes many forms. These individuals may not have been involved in drug dealing or prostitution but let us make no mistake that they were involved in significant and serious organised criminality." She added: "The legislation is there to protect the marine environment for the good of all and to safeguard the future of the fishing industry. These men disregarded it for their own financial gain and, in a clear example of successful working between the law enforcement agencies involved, have now been brought to justice and made to pay for their crimes." The police investigation was led by Detective Superintendent Gordon Gibson of Grampian Police who said the scale of the crime is of "a level rarely seen before". The men involved "amassed huge sums of money through their own greed and today this caught up with them in a court of law", he added. Meanwhile, Cephas Ralph said: "Today's successful court activity is an outcome that reflects the professionalism, dedication and commitment shown by all of the Marine Scotland staff who have been involved in this inquiry. "It has not been an easy task but they have worked tirelessly to help secure the convictions obtained in these important cases." Scottish Environment Secretary Richard Lochhead paid tribute to the police and Marine Scotland for their efforts in "a long and vastly complicated inquiry". He said: "There is no doubt that these illegal activities are a stark and shameful reminder of the culture that existed in some sectors of the fishing industry in past years. But they do not reflect the much-improved culture we see today. "The offences date back up to a decade ago and thankfully there has been seismic change in the attitude and behaviour of the fishing fleet, which can only be good thing in securing a viable future for the industry in Scotland." He also said: "There have been significant advances in recent years in how fish landings are monitored and controlled, including comprehensive audits and certified weighing systems." Dr Mireille Thom, senior marine policy officer at WWF Scotland, said ignoring quotas "isn't a victim-less offence" because "such landings not only undermine the conservation of fish stocks and the fortune of the fleets that fish them, they also distort competition by depressing fish prices. In short, they threaten the public good for the benefit of a few".

Police uncover 'serious and organised' criminality in £63m scam to breach European fishing quotas

An inquiry into the UK's largest fishing scandal has uncovered "serious and organised" criminality by Scottish trawlermen and fish processors in an elaborate scam to illegally sell nearly £63m of undeclared fish.

Three large fish factories and 27 skippers have pleaded guilty to sophisticated and lucrative schemes to breach EU fishing quotas, in what one senior police officer described as "industrial level" deception.

They went to extraordinary lengths to conceal their illegally caught fish, installing underground pipelines, secret weighing machines and extra conveyor belts and computers to allow them to land 170,000 tonnes above their EU quota of mackerel and herring between 2002 and 2005.

The extent of the "black landings" scandal emerged as 17 skippers and one of the three factories were given fines totalling nearly £1m at the high court in Glasgow on Friday, after admitting repeated breaches of the Sea Fishing (Enforcement of Community Control Measures) (Scotland) Order 2000. Another six skippers pleaded guilty at the same hearing to landing undeclared fish worth nearly £7m at Lerwick, in the Shetlands, and Peterhead, Aberdeenshire.

Four skippers pleaded guilty in January and a further four in the ring, who can't be named for legal reasons, are still to be prosecuted.

Judge Lord Turnbull, told the 17 skippers sentenced on Friday they were guilty of a "cynical and sophisticated" operation, which brought embarrassment and shameon them and their families. "The motivation was purely financial," he said. "Those who were already making a good living saw this as a way more income could be generated and were prepared to participate in deliberate lies and falsehoods."

Once the illegally caught fish had been sneaked past Government inspectors, it was put on sale in the Lerwick and Peterhead markets, where it was sold to wholesalers and fishmongers as if it had been legally landed, in defiance of strict EU regulations designed to protectEurope's fish stocks from over-fishing.

The Guardian can reveal that the illegally landed fish was sold with the knowledge of the government-funded industry marketing authority Seafish, which took a £2.58 levy for every tonne of over-quota mackerel and herring. That earned it £434,000 in fees before the Scottish Fisheries Protection Agency, now part of Marine Scotland, raided two factories in September 2005.

The headquarters of Seafish in Edinburgh were raided by police and documents seized in 2008, but five months later prosecutors decided not to take any further action. It is thought the Crown Office, the Scottish prosecution body, believed there was no evidence that could lead to the agency being accused of involvement in the scam.

With a series of court cases stretching back to 2010, the scandal has implicated more than half the Scottish mackerel and herring fleet active at that time. It is understood that the true value of the illegal landings linked to the factories involved is closer to £100m, but prosecutors decided to pursue just £63m of landings.

Black fish factory graphicHow one Peterhead factory sidestepped the rules. Source: Guardian graphics

Prosecutors have also confiscated £3.1m from 17 skippers who landed catches in Lerwick, and against two of the three firms so far convicted, under proceedings of crime legislation introduced to tackle serious criminal gangs and drugs lords. The largest confiscation order, £425,9000, was against Hamish Slater, the skipper of the trawler Enterprise from Fraserburgh, Aberdeenshire, who admitted landing £3,980,000 worth of undeclared fish. A number of skippers landed fish worth more than £2m.

At Shetland Catch in Lerwick, one of Europe's largest fish processors, the company installed a duplicate conveyor belt when its new factory was built, fitting a secret weight-reading device in the loft and a computer in an engineer's workshop "a considerable distance" from the factory floor.

In its processing plant at Peterhead, north of Aberdeen, Fresh Catch installed an underground pipe to divert fish to secret weighing devices, which used remotely operated pneumatic valves. It built a secret storage room, and operated the clandestine machinery from a hut known to workers as the Wendy House, disguised with fake "Danger: high voltage" signs on its door.

A second factory in the town, Alexander Buchan, which has since closed, fitted a secret scale and conveyor belt, which allowed up to 70% of a boat's catch to go undeclared. It printed a guidance manual showing its staff how to handle undeclared landings, and its staff misled trading standards officers about its purpose.

Detective Superintendent Gordon Gibson, of Grampian police, the senior investigating officer in Operation Trawler, said: "Make no bones about it: it was serious, it was organised and it was criminal. The element of preparation involved was significant, given the methods and means that all these individuals went to.

"Was I surprised? Absolutely. I was surprised at the levels they had gone to disguise their criminal conduct."

An industry source admitted: "This wasn't casual or by accident. It was organised, it was systematic, it was deception. No one disagrees with that."

In a further penalty, which is thought to have cost the convicted skippers millions, the European commission cut the quotas soon after the scandal was reported to Brussels by the UK government in 2005, calling it a "quota payback".

Although none of the trawlermen have been banned from fishing, their quotas were cut by more than 116,000 tonnes of mackerel and nearly 47,000 tonnes of herring over a seven-year period. That payback will end next year.

One source with detailed knowledge of the case said this had damaging consequences for skippers and crews involved, as the market value of mackerel and herring since 2005 had been as much as double the price 10 years ago.

The convictions follow a complex, 10-year investigation involving forensic accountants from KPMG, who analysed the paperwork for thousands of landings, a core team of 25 detectives and support staff from Grampian and Northern police, four British sea fishery officers with Marine Scotland, the Home Office Holmes police computer system, money laundering experts with the Scottish Crime and Drug Enforcement Agency, and specialist prosecutors at the Crown Office.

Operation Trawler has brought to an end a practice which was once endemic in the British fishing industry, but has been made extremely difficult by hi-tech monitoring and tracking of every registered trawler at sea, and much tighter controls on landings at processing firms.

The skippers and firms involved have refused to discuss their convictions; Shetland Catch is still facing confiscation proceedings. But sources with detailed knowledge of the scandal have admitted the practice was widespread within the pelagic fishing industry. Lawyers for one of the convicted men, George Anderson, 55, from Whalsay, Shetland, claimed this year that he evaded the controls because he believed that discarding under-sized fish was "repugnant".

"Black landings" are still common practice across the EU, and prosecutions still take place. In Lerwick and Peterhead, some insist that the undeclared landings, which helped many of the skippers and their crews enjoy comparatively luxurious lifestyles, were well-known within the industry and among regulators.

Asked about its knowledge of the illegal landings, Seafish told the Guardian it was legally required to take the levy, and insisted it had tipped off the authorities to the over-quota landings. However, one source said that the issue was discussed in board meetings, "but the Seafish line was that we weren't a fishery protection agency, our job was to take a levy on every tonne landed."

He added: "They were totally aware they were getting a levy on quota and over-quota fish."

The source denied it was serious and organised crime: the skippers involved paid income tax and business taxes alongside the Seafish levy on all their illegal landings, largely because the over-quota fish was sold in the fish markets as if it were legally declared. Fraud charges were dropped by prosecutors at an early stage, he said.

But he added: "There is nobody defending this. It was morally wrong; it was ecologically wrong and sustainably wrong. There is no excuse.

"A lot of the skippers are saying, 'What we did wasn't right; it was wrong. We really want to draw a line under this and move forward.'"

He said the scandal had the effect of transforming Scotland's pelagic fishing industry into one of the most sustainable in the world: after the raids, the mackerel and herring fleet introduced very strict monitoring and quota management. Since 2008, its fisheries have won a prized Marine Stewardship Council eco-label, and are now the largest in Europe with MSC certification.

But the "black landings" scandal is coming back to haunt the industry. It is expected to lose its MSC accreditation later this year after a bitter dispute with the Faroe Islands and Iceland: both countries have claimed much larger mackerel quotas than is sustainable for the north-east Atlantic stocks, in breach of MSC rules. The Faroese in particular believe the over-quota prosecutions puts the Scottish industry's credibility in severe doubt.

"It's not a proud moment for what is a very proud industry," one senior figure conceded.

Richard Lochhead, the Scottish agriculture secretary, said the convicted were guilty of appalling behaviour. "These illegal activities are a stark and shameful reminder of the culture that existed in some sectors of the fishing industry in past years," he said.

"Thankfully, there has been seismic change in the attitude and behaviour of the fishing fleet, which can only be good thing in securing a viable future for the industry."

Dr Mireille Thom, a senior marine policy officer for the conservation group WWF Scotland, said: "Deliberately ignoring quota rules by landing 'black fish' isn't a victimless offence. Such landings not only undermine the conservation of fish stocks and the fortune of the fleets that fish them, they also distort competition by depressing fish prices. In short, they threaten the public good for the benefit of a few."

Estonian gangsters netted a quarter of a million pounds worth of designer watches from a jewellers in Newcastle city centre.

Members of an Eastern European gang who flew around the continent for armed robbery day trips were today jailed for a £250,000 raid on a UK jewellers.

In a daring smash and grab attack lasting just 31 seconds, three Estonian gangsters netted a quarter of a million pounds worth of designer watches from a jewellers in Newcastle city centre.

Convicted murderer Marek Viidemann and his accomplice Sander Sarik smashed display cabinets with hammers, while Raido Ragga held staff at gunpoint to stop them raising the alarm.

Daring: The Estonian budget-airline bandits pictured on security camera during their raid on Berry's jewellers in Newcastle city centre

Daring: The Estonian budget-airline bandits pictured on security camera during their raid on Berry's jewellers in Newcastle city centre

The trio were part of a wider gang targeting jewellers around Europe, whose members were bought flights by crime bosses in Estonia and ordered to carry out the robberies.

Gangsters who owed money to organised crime were recruited to carry out the robberies on day trips to their destinations around the UK and elsewhere.

They would fly back to eastern Europe the next day while the stolen goods would be shipped separately.



Jailing Viidemann for 10 years, Judge Brian Forster, at Newcastle Crown Court, told him: 'You were part of an international crime gang.

'You were willing to cause terror and fear and your purpose was to get as much as you could as quickly as you could and then leave the country.

'This was a daring and terrifying robbery and was carried out without regard to those who work in the shop.

'The courts will protect the citizens of Newcastle from anyone who thinks they can come and prey upon them.'

Fast: In just over 30 seconds, the gang swiped a quarter of a million pound worth of watches from the jewellers, as terrified staff were held at gunpoint

Fast: In just over 30 seconds, the gang swiped a quarter of a million pound worth of watches from the jewellers, as terrified staff were held at gunpoint

Viidemann, Sarik and Ragga struck at Berry’s jewellers, on Grey Street, Newcastle, at around 10am on August 20, 2008.

Convicted killer: Marek Viidemann, 35, was jailed for 10 years at Newcastle Crown Court for his part in the raid

Convicted killer: Marek Viidemann, 35, was jailed for 10 years at Newcastle Crown Court for his part in the raid

Ragga went in brandishing a handgun while Viidemann and Sarik used hammers to get to the valuables.

Mark Simpson, prosecuting, said: 'The gunman pointed the handgun at staff and told them to get down.

'The others smashed the display cabinets and took 31 watches and the best makes were targeted.'

After just 31 seconds in the store they were gone, removing clothing and gloves as they left the scene.

Police recovered the clothes that had been left behind and found Viidemann’s DNA on them. Some of the stolen watches were later found on a coach in Dover.

Viidemann, 35, fled the country and ended up back in Estonia. He was finally detained on a European arrest warrant in his home city of Tallinn, the Estonian capital, last October.

Ragga, 26, and Sarik, 22, went on to carry out robberies at other Berry’s stores in Chester and Windsor. They were both jailed for 11 years at earlier hearings elsewhere.

Too late: Police outside the high-class jewellers after the robbery

Too late: Police outside the high-class jewellers after the robbery

The court heard Viidemann had a conviction in his homeland for aggravated murder for gain and robbery, for which he was jailed for 10 years in 1998.

In that offence he and four others beat a man to death to steal from him.

Judge Forster asked how he had got into this country, but prosecutors did not know. The Border Agency will be informed of his latest conviction.

Andrew Rutter, defending Viidemann, said: 'His involvement in this robbery came about because he had fallen on hard times in Estonia.

'It was not his scheme but he accepts he lent himself to it.'

Members of the organised crime gang have struck across Europe and five other robbers have previously been jailed for a total of more than 55 years.

The ring was linked to at least 150 armed robberies across the UK and Europe.

Jewellers were targeted in places including Leeds, Manchester, the West Midlands, London, Cheshire and Newcastle, while they also carried out raids in Germany, Sweden, Italy and Finland.

Detectives from Monaco even flew to Britain to quiz a member of the gang over a $75,000 raid on a Monte Carlo jewellers.

Police believed the gang stole watches worth more than £1million in total, few of which were ever recovered.


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