175,000 news blogs and roughly 1.6 million posts are created each day

Thursday, 31 May 2012

Leveson - The Hunt is on

Up until now, Lord Justice Leveson has only held the future of the British press in his hands. Today, despite all his protests to the contrary, his inquiry may determine the fate of the culture secretary, Jeremy Hunt. The judge insists that it is not his job to put any minister in the dock and that he certainly will not be giving his verdict on whether there have been any breaches of the ministerial code. Nevertheless, the prime minister has made it clear that he sees today's hearing as the moment when Mr Hunt must defend his much criticised handling of News Corp's £8bn bid for total control of BSkyB. The culture secretary has, I'm told, submitted more than 160 pages of internal memos, emails and text message transcripts to the Leveson Inquiry. I understand that he will insist that, despite having originally been a cheerleader not just for Rupert Murdoch but also for his bid, he acted in ways which frustrated it rather than accelerated it once he was made the minister in charge. He will claim that he referred it to the broadcasting regulator Ofcom when told by officials that it wasn't necessary to do so. He is likely to face questions about why he did not follow Ofcom's advice to refer the bid to the Competition Commission. He is likely to reply that he was given legal advice that he had first to consider News Corps offer to spin off Sky News so as to deal with so-called plurality issues. The culture secretary is likely to be asked how he can claim to have been unaware of the scale or nature of the contact between News Corp and his political adviser, Adam Smith - who resigned once his flood of emails and texts were revealed. I understand that Jeremy Hunt originally believed that his adviser had done nothing wrong and told friends he would resign himself rather than letting a junior official resign for him. The prime minister shows no sign yet of wanting to force him out - believing that however bad things may now look, Mr Hunt didn't actually do anything wrong or anything which helped the Murdochs and their bid. Labour argue that - even before today's hearing - it is evident the culture secretary should go as he is in breach of the ministerial code for failing to supervise his adviser, and for misleading the House of Commons when he wrongly asserted he had published all contacts between his department and News Corp - as well as claiming never to have intervened to affect the outcome of the bid.

Coulson on Sheridan perjury charge

David Cameron's former communications chief Andy Coulson has been charged over allegations he committed perjury during the trial of former MSP Tommy Sheridan. The 44-year-old was detained for questioning at Govan police station in Glasgow by officers from Strathclyde Police. More than six hours later, the force confirmed he had been arrested and charged with perjury. A report will be sent to the procurator fiscal which will decide if Coulson is to face court proceedings. The former News of the World editor gave evidence at Sheridan's perjury trial at the High Court in Glasgow in December 2010, while he was employed by Downing Street as director of communications. At the trial, he claimed he had no knowledge of illegal activities by reporters during the time that he was editor of the now-defunct newspaper. He said: "I don't accept there was a culture of phone hacking at the News of the World." Sheridan was ultimately jailed for three years in January last year after being found guilty of perjury during his 2006 defamation action against the News of the World. He had been awarded £200,000 in damages after winning the civil case but a jury found him guilty of lying about the tabloid's claims that he was an adulterer who visited a swingers' club. The former Scottish Socialist Party (SSP) leader was convicted of five out of six allegations in a single charge of perjury relating to his evidence during the civil action at the Court of Session in Edinburgh. Sheridan was released from jail in January this year after serving one year of his sentence and vowed to continue the fight to clear his name. Coulson was arrested last year in relation to Scotland Yard's long-running investigation into phone hacking at the newspaper. He was held in July on suspicion of conspiring to intercept communications and corruption, and had his bail extended earlier this month. Coulson resigned as editor in 2007 after the paper's former royal editor Clive Goodman and private investigator Glenn Mulcaire were jailed for phone hacking. In May that year, he was unveiled as director of communications and planning with the Conservative Party. He quit his role as Downing Street communications chief in January last year after admitting the News of the World phone-hacking row was making his job impossible.

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Julian Assange's fight to evade extradition to Sweden appears doomed despite stay of execution

Julian Assange's fight to evade extradition to Sweden appeared doomed today though he was given a stay of execution by the highest court in the land. His celebrity-endorsed legal battle trundled on without him as the self-proclaimed champion of truth and transparency remained stuck in London's notorious traffic, undoubtedly disappointing his legion of fans. While vastly diminished in number from the early days of the furore surrounding the WikiLeaks founder, they were as vociferous as ever, penned in outside the Supreme Court yesterday, carrying megaphones, guitars and banners proclaiming “Free Assange” and “God Save Julian”. Mr Assange, 40, had argued that an European Extradition Warrant from Sweden to face allegations of rape and sexual molestation was invalid as the public prosecutor who issued it did not constitute a “judicial authority”. He denies the accusations, insisting they are “politically motivated”. His case was partially trumped by the French translation of the words judicial authority, which judges at the Supreme Court said carried a far wider meaning that simply a judge or court. By a majority of five to two they decided the practice by many European countries to have public prosecutors issue such warrants countered the interpretation in United Kingdom and his appeal failed. Nevertheless they granted his lawyers 14 days to apply to have the case re-opened after they insisted that they had not been given an opportunity to argue on the very legal points on which the judges had based their decision.

FORMER Downing Street communications chief Andy Coulson has been arrested on suspicion of committing perjury during the Tommy Sheridan trial

Andy Coulson has been arrested on suspicion of perjury. Picture: Getty

Andy Coulson has been arrested on suspicion of perjury. Picture: Getty

FORMER Downing Street communications chief Andy Coulson has been arrested on suspicion of committing perjury during the Tommy Sheridan trial at the High Court in Glasgow, the Crown Office said today.

 

The 44-year-old was detained in London this morning by officers from Strathclyde Police.

 

Coulson gave evidence in Mr Sheridan’s perjury trial at the High Court in Glasgow in December 2010.

 

He was also arrested last year in relation to Scotland Yard’s long-running investigation into phone-hacking at the News of the World.

 

He was held in July on suspicion of conspiring to intercept communications and corruption and had his bail extended earlier this month.

 

A Strathclyde Police spokesman said: “Officers from Strathclyde Police Operation Rubicon detained a 44-year-old man in London this morning under section 14 of the Criminal Procedures Scotland Act on suspicion of committing perjury before the High Court in Glasgow.

 

“It would be inappropriate to comment any further at this time.”

 

It is understood Coulson is on his way to Glasgow.

 

Operation Rubicon detectives have been looking at whether certain witnesses lied to the court during Sheridan’s trial as part of a “full” investigation into phone hacking in Scotland.

 

Mr Coulson, then employed by Downing Street as director of communications, told the trial in December 2010 he had no knowledge of illegal activities by reporters while he was editor of the News of the World.

 

He also claimed: “I don’t accept there was a culture of phone hacking at the News of the World.”

Former News of the World Editor arrested in dawn raid on his London home

 

PR man: Andy Coulson was held today by Strathclyde Police,David Cameron’s former No 10 spin doctor Andy Coulson was arrested today on suspicion of committing perjury.

Mr Coulson, 44, was detained at his home in Dulwich at 6.30am by seven officers from Strathclyde police and taken to Glasgow where he will be questioned.

The case centres on claims that he misled a court about his knowledge of phone-hacking during a criminal trial in Glasgow. The former News of the World editor, hired by the Prime Minister as his director of communications, told a court in 2010 that he had no knowledge of illegal voicemail interception when in charge of the tabloid.

During the perjury trial of former Scottish MP Tommy Sheridan, Mr Coulson said: “I don’t accept there was a culture of phone hacking at the News of the World.” He also denied knowing that the

 newspaper paid corrupt police officers for tip-offs. Mr Cameron has faced questions over his decision to bring Mr Coulson into the heart of government. Mr Coulson has already been arrested by the Met on suspicion of phone-hacking and bribing public officials.

The perjury charge, which carries a maximum prison sentence of seven years, is potentially the most serious facing the former Conservative Party spokesman.

One Downing Street source said the arrest came as a “complete surprise”.

Mr Coulson was a major witness in a trial involving Sheridan who was accused of lying in court during a libel victory against the NoW.

Coulson was editor when it published a story that labelled Sheridan an adulterer who visited swingers’ clubs. He was called as a witness and told the court that he had no knowledge of illegal activities by reporters.

Sheridan was jailed for three years last year after being found guilty of perjury during his 2006 defamation action against the NoW. He had successfully sued the newspaper over its claims.

Strathclyde police announced its probe into Mr Coulson last July but it was thought to be taking a back seat as five major Scotland Yard inquiries into the Murdoch media empire rumbled on.

However, the Standard can disclose that officers from Scotland recently visited London to interview several former NoW staff about their old boss.

Under Scottish law a suspect is detained on suspicion of an offence unlike in England and Wales where a suspect is arrested. Mr Coulson has not been charged.

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Hours of audio recordings of 'confessions' made by Charles Manson's right-hand man could provide vital details of unsolved murders carried out by their notorious 1960s gang.

Los Angeles Police Department has made a request for eight hours of taped conversations between Charles 'Tex' Watson and his lawyer Bill Boyd, America's NBC reported.

Detectives believe the recordings could hold new information about killings carried out by the Manson Family, which in 1969 murdered seven people including film director Roman Polanski's pregnant wife Sharon Tate.

charles tex watson
charles manson

Notorious: Serial killers Charles 'Tex' Watson, 66, (left) and Charles Manson, 77

In a letter obtained by NBC, LAPD Chief Charlie Beck asked the US Department of Justice to hand over the tapes .

'The LAPD has information that Mr Watson discussed additional unsolved murders committed by followers of Charles Manson,' Chief Beck said in the March 19 letter.

'It is requested that the original recordings be given to the LAPD in order to determine if information regarding unsolved murders was included.'

Watson, 66, like his one-time leader Manson, is currently serving a life sentence for his involvement in the murders.

He was originally sentenced to death for killing Sharon Tate Polanski, Abigail Ann Folger, Wojciech Frykowski, Thomas Jay Sebring and Steven Earl Parent.

However, California temporarily suspended the death penalty in 1972, and he has been serving a life sentence ever since. 

Murdered: Actress Sharon Tate was eight and a half months pregnant when she was killed

Murdered: Actress Sharon Tate was eight and a half months pregnant when she was killed

He was denied parole last November, as was Manson this April - Manson's 12th, and possibly last, bid for freedom.

Mr Boyd was Watson's attorney from 1969 and 'for some time thereafter', according to the letter from Chief Beck.

However, the lawyer died in 2009 and his Texas-based firm is being liquidated.

Request: An excerpt of the letter from LAPD Chief Charlie Beck to the US Department of Justice, asking them to hand over the Charles 'Tex' Watson recordings

Request: An excerpt of the letter from LAPD Chief Charlie Beck to the US Department of Justice, asking them to hand over the Charles 'Tex' Watson recordings

NBC reported that a decision on whether to give LAPD the recordings will be made at a bankruptcy court hearing due to take place next Tuesday in Plano, Texas.

Chief Beck asked for the audio tapes to be given to a detective in the LAPD's 'special section', which is part of its robbery-homicide division.

The recordings were private until September 1976 when Watson authorised their sale to author Chaplain Ray Hoekstra to help cover legal fees. 

The material was used in Mr Hoekstra's book 'Will You Die For Me?' which was released in 1976.

Targeted: The Benedict Canyon estate, sheltered in the hills of Los Angeles, where actress Sharon Tate was murdered along with four others on August 9, 1969

Targeted: The Benedict Canyon estate, sheltered in the hills of Los Angeles, where actress Sharon Tate was murdered along with four others on August 9, 1969

Charles Manson, now 77, is one of America's most notorious mass murderers.

Amid the hippie culture of the 1960s, the charismatic ex-convict put together a collection of runaways and outcasts known as the Manson Family.

In the summer of 1969 he became one of the 20th century's most infamous criminals when he directed his mostly young, female followers to murder seven people.

Actress Sharon Tate was stabbed 16 times by members of the cult in the early morning hours of August 9, 1969 at the Benedict Canyon estate, sheltered in the hills of Los Angeles.

She was eight and a half months pregnant.

Four other people were stabbed or shot to death in Tate's home that night by the Manson followers, who scrawled the word 'Pig' in blood on the front door before leaving.

The following night, Manson's group stabbed Leno and Rosemary LaBianca to death, using their blood to write 'Rise,' 'Death to Pigs' and 'Helter Skelter' - a misspelled reference to the Beatles song - on the walls and refrigerator door.

Murder scene: The room where Sharon Tate was brutally killed by the Manson Family

Murder scene: The room where Sharon Tate was brutally killed by the Manson Family

Manson is imprisoned at Corcoran State Prison in Kings County, California.

He was convicted of the seven slayings as well as the murder of an acquaintance, Gary Hinman, who was stabbed to death in July 1969.

Like Watson, he was originally given a death sentence but spared execution after the California Supreme Court declared the death penalty unconstitutional. 

In 1977, his sentence was commuted to life in prison with the possibility of parole.

Manson will next be eligible for parole in 15 years, when he will be 92-years-old.

When he was denied release in 2007 the parole board ruled that he 'continues to pose an unreasonable danger to others and may still bring harm to anyone he would come in contact with'.

 

 



Friday, 25 May 2012

EU cookie implementation deadline is today

A year after its implementation in May 2011, the European Commission's Privacy and Electronic Communications Directive will finally start to be enforced as of tonight, meaning visitors to websites are required to be informed of, and given choice over, the site's intentions to store their data in cookies. Though there has been fierce opposition to the directive, some companies, such as the BBC, Channel 4 and the Guardian, have now begun implementing measures that range from multiple user choices in the level of information shared with the site, to a single message informing the user that, by continuing to browse, they have automatically agreed to have their information stored. Further reading EU cookie law is a 'restraint to trade online', says online retailer Most UK organisations not compliant with EU cookie law New EU cookie law set to come into force But the majority of companies, it is widely reported, will miss tonight's deadline. While the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) still disagrees that a "one size fits all" policy of standardisation is not the way forward when enforcing cookie legislation, some believe such a framework is the only way forward. Society for engineering and technology professionals, the Institution of Engineering & Technology said, "The implementation of this directive is likely to prove very variable until the introduction of a set of standards on the best way to provide a balance between easy browsing and personal privacy. "We had hoped that more progress would have been made on achieving this in the 12 month implementation delay that the Information Commissioner, Christopher Graham, gave British organisations."

Google plans to warn more than half a million users of a computer infection that may knock their computers off the Internet this summer.

Unknown to most of them, their problem began when international hackers ran an online advertising scam to take control of infected computers around the world. In a highly unusual response, the FBI set up a safety net months ago using government computers to prevent Internet disruptions for those infected users. But that system will be shut down July 9 -- killing connections for those people.

The FBI has run an impressive campaign for months, encouraging people to visit a website that will inform them whether they're infected and explain how to fix the problem. After July 9, infected users won't be able to connect to the Internet.

On Tuesday, May 22, Google announced it would throw its weight into the awareness campaign, rolling out alerts to users via a special message that will appear at the top of the Google search results page for users with affected computers, CNET reported. 

“We believe directly messaging affected users on a trusted site and in their preferred language will produce the best possible results,” wrote Google security engineer Damian Menscher in a post on the company’s security blog.

“If more devices are cleaned and steps are taken to better secure the machines against further abuse, the notification effort will be well worth it,” he wrote.

The challenge, and the reason for the awareness campaigns: Most victims don't even know their computers have been infected, although the malicious software probably has slowed their web surfing and disabled their antivirus software, making their machines more vulnerable to other problems.

Last November, when the FBI and other authorities were preparing to take down a hacker ring that had been running an Internet ad scam on a massive network of infected computers, the agency realized this may become an issue.

"We started to realize that we might have a little bit of a problem on our hands because ... if we just pulled the plug on their criminal infrastructure and threw everybody in jail, the victims of this were going to be without Internet service," said Tom Grasso, an FBI supervisory special agent. "The average user would open up Internet Explorer and get `page not found' and think the Internet is broken."

On the night of the arrests, the agency brought in Paul Vixie, chairman and founder of Internet Systems Consortium, to install two Internet servers to take the place of the truckload of impounded rogue servers that infected computers were using. Federal officials planned to keep their servers online until March, giving everyone opportunity to clean their computers.

But it wasn't enough time.

A federal judge in New York extended the deadline until July.

Now, said Grasso, "the full court press is on to get people to address this problem." And it's up to computer users to check their PCs.

'We started to realize that we might have a little bit of a problem on our hands...'

- Tom Grasso, an FBI supervisory special agent

This is what happened:

Hackers infected a network of probably more than 570,000 computers worldwide. They took advantage of vulnerabilities in the Microsoft Windows operating system to install malicious software on the victim computers. This turned off antivirus updates and changed the way the computers reconcile website addresses behind the scenes on the Internet's domain name system.

The DNS system is a network of servers that translates a web address -- such as http://www.foxnews.com -- into the numerical addresses that computers use. Victim computers were reprogrammed to use rogue DNS servers owned by the attackers. This allowed the attackers to redirect computers to fraudulent versions of any website.

The hackers earned profits from advertisements that appeared on websites that victims were tricked into visiting. The scam netted the hackers at least $14 million, according to the FBI. It also made thousands of computers reliant on the rogue servers for their Internet browsing.

When the FBI and others arrested six Estonians last November, the agency replaced the rogue servers with Vixie's clean ones. Installing and running the two substitute servers for eight months is costing the federal government about $87,000.

The number of victims is hard to pinpoint, but the FBI believes that on the day of the arrests, at least 568,000 unique Internet addresses were using the rogue servers. Five months later, FBI estimates that the number is down to at least 360,000. The U.S. has the most, about 85,000, federal authorities said. Other countries with more than 20,000 each include Italy, India, England and Germany. Smaller numbers are online in Spain, France, Canada, China and Mexico.

Vixie said most of the victims are probably individual home users, rather than corporations that have technology staffs who routinely check the computers.

FBI officials said they organized an unusual system to avoid any appearance of government intrusion into the Internet or private computers. And while this is the first time the FBI used it, it won't be the last.

"This is the future of what we will be doing," said Eric Strom, a unit chief in the FBI's Cyber Division. "Until there is a change in legal system, both inside and outside the United States, to get up to speed with the cyber problem, we will have to go down these paths, trail-blazing if you will, on these types of investigations."

Now, he said, every time the agency gets near the end of a cyber case, "we get to the point where we say, how are we going to do this, how are we going to clean the system" without creating a bigger mess than before




Under European Union law, Greece cannot leave the euro.

That is the theory. But in practice, any protection the law offers investors could be difficult to enforce, according to lawyers trying to protect their corporate clients against the upheaval sure to follow if Greece defaults on its debts and adopts a new currency. So their advice is blunt: Remove cash and other liquid assets from Greece and prepare to take a short-term hit on any other investments. “My personal view is that it is irrational for anyone, whether a corporation or an individual, to be leaving money in Greek financial institutions, so long as there is a credible prospect of a euro zone exit,” said Ian Clark, a partner in London for White & Case, a global law firm that has a team of 10 attorneys focusing on the issue. Several multinational corporations have already taken the same view. Vodafone, the mobile phone operator, and GlaxoSmithKline, the pharmaceuticals firm, say they are “sweeping” money out of Greece and into British banks each evening. This applies not just to Greece but to most other euro nations, although Glaxo says it still keeps money in Germany. Corporate attorneys say looking to E.U. law provides only approximate guidance on whether Greece could stop using the euro while remaining in the Union. Although the E.U. prides itself on basing decisions on strict interpretation of the legal texts in its governing treaty and other legislation, the rules on euro membership have proved flexible. For example, while all 27 E.U. nations are supposedly obliged to join the single currency, once they meet certain economic criteria, Britain and Denmark were able to negotiate the option of retaining their own currencies. Sweden is one of the nations technically obliged to join the euro, but since a national referendum opposed the idea in 2003, no one has pressed the country to do so. Similarly, while leaving the euro might, legally, mean quitting the union itself, most experts see this as a technicality that can be circumvented as well. “The treaty doesn’t cover the question of what would happen if a country were to leave the euro and return to its previous currency,” said Stephen Weatherill, Jacques Delors Professor of European Law at Oxford University. “In the absence of any provision, there is plenty of space for European governments to concoct a solution, adopt it and for it to be legally enforceable,” he added. “In general, you can do anything you like, so long as you do not breach pre-existing international obligations.” The mechanics of leaving the euro would surely lead Greece to impose so-called capital controls to stem the flight of money from a currency destined to be devalued. Again, such controls look impossible under E.U. law. But Mr. Weatherill thinks that a loophole allowing for the protection of public security could be invoked. Mr. Clark, of White & Case, a global law firm, points to a clause in Article 65 of the treaty that says that the pledge on free movement should not prevent countries from taking measures “which are justified on grounds of public policy or public security.” Mr. Clark and his team serve clients that include financial institutions like BNP Paribas and hedge funds. In February, Andrew Witty, the chief executive of GlaxoSmithKline, said: “We don’t leave any cash in most European countries” except Germany. Tens of millions of pounds flow into accounts in Britain every day, he said. But, apart from trying to ensure that debts are paid promptly and therefore in euros, legal options for companies are limited. Contracts covered by Greek law, particularly for services delivered in Greece, provide little protection against the currency’s being redenominated and devalued — a development regarded as unlikely until recently. “Greece would, through its laws, be able to amend contracts governed by Greek law or to be performed within the territory of Greece,” Mr. Clark said. “It is the governing law and the place of performance of the contract that is most important.” International contracts, which might be covered by English, German or Swiss law, would be more likely to be honored in the designated currency, though in some cases the wording of the legal document may be vague. And even if the law is on their side, companies would find that to extract payment from a Greek company, they would need a judge in Greece to enforce a ruling from a foreign court. “Enforcement of foreign judgments is harder or easier from country to country within the E.U.,” Mr. Clark said. “Greece has always had a reputation of being a difficult place in which to enforce judgments, from a practical perspective.” That means that international trading partners are likely to share in any losses that accompany a Greek exit from the euro. “International businesses that have long-term interests in Greece are going to have to be pragmatic and probably, in the short term, give some dispensation to their Greek counterparties, rather than trying to enforce the terms of contracts that cannot be performed,” Mr. Clark said.

Former Lloyds worker Jessica Harper in £2.5m fraud charge

A former head of security at Lloyds Bank has been charged in connection with an alleged £2.5m fraud. Jessica Harper, 50, of Croydon, south London, is accused of submitting false invoices to claim payments, between September 2008 and December 2011. At the time she was working as head of fraud and security for digital banking and allegedly made false claims totalling £2,463,750. Ms Harper will appear at Westminster Magistrates' Court on 31 May. She has been charged with one count of fraud by abuse of position. The bank, which is now 39.7% state-owned after being bailed out by the government during the financial crisis, refused to comment on the charging of Ms Harper. A Metropolitan Police spokesman said she was arrested on 21 December 2011 by officers from its fraud squad. Andrew Penhale, from the Crown Prosecution Service's Central Fraud Group, said: "The charge relates to an allegation that between 1 September 2008 and 21 December 2011, Jessica Harper dishonestly and with the intention of making a gain for herself, abused her position as an employee of Lloyds Banking Group, in which she was expected to safeguard the financial interests of Lloyds Banking Group, by submitting false invoices to claim payments totalling £2,463,750.88, to which she was not entitled. "This decision to prosecute was taken in accordance with the Code for Crown Prosecutors. "We have determined that there is a realistic prospect of conviction and a prosecution is in the public interest."

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Metropolitan police anti-corruption unit investigated over payments

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

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Dog 'The Bounty Hunter' Chapman's Show Canceled

Dog "The Bounty Hunter" Chapman will have more time on his hands to catch criminals, because his show on A&E is being canceled ... TMZ has learned. Multiple sources connected with the show tell us ... Dog's people and A&E have been negotiating, but the network has now decided to pull the plug and not do season 9. One source connected with Dog tells us the cancellation is based on "creative differences."  But here's the reality ... saying "creative differences" is like breaking up with a girl and saying, "It's not you, it's me."

Sunday, 20 May 2012

secret clique within the Los Angeles County sheriff's elite gang unit has uncovered allegations that members had matching tattoos of a gun-toting skeleton

Deputy tattooThe investigation into a secret clique within the Los Angeles County sheriff's elite gang unit has uncovered allegations that members had matching tattoos of a gun-toting skeleton, which deputies would modify to celebrate their involvement in a shooting, according to sources close to the internal probe.

One deputy, who has admitted belonging to a clique called the "Jump Out Boys," has identified about half a dozen other deputies as members, one source confirmed. Those men are expected to be summoned for interviews with internal affairs investigators, the source said.

Suspicion about the group's existence was sparked several weeks ago when a supervisor discovered a pamphlet laying out the group's creed, which promoted aggressive policing and portrayed officer shootings in a positive light.

The pamphlet was found in the vehicle used by the deputy who acknowledged his association with the clique, according to sources who requested anonymity because they were not authorized to speak about the ongoing investigation.

 

Days after The Times reported on the discovery of the pamphlet, the captain of the division gathered his deputies for a private briefing, during which he told them they had shamed the department by forming the group and urged those responsible to identify themselves, a source with knowledge of the unit's inner workings said.

At some point, one deputy came forward, and he has since named about six others, the source said.

Internal affairs investigators are trying to determine whether the deputies violated Sheriff's Department rules or committed serious misconduct.

The deputies under scrutiny all work on the Gang Enforcement Team, a unit divided into two platoons of relatively autonomous deputies whose job is to target neighborhoods where gang violence is high, locate armed gang members and take their guns away.

The design of the tattoo, confirmed by two sources, includes an oversize skull with a wide, toothy grimace and glowing red eyes. A bandanna wraps around the skull, imprinted with the letters "OSS" -- representing Operation Safe Streets, the name of the larger unit that the Gang Enforcement Team is part of. A bony hand clasps a revolver. Investigators suspect that smoke is tattooed over the gun's barrel after a member is involved in a shooting.

To the left of the skull are two playing cards -- an ace and an eight -- apparently an allusion to the "dead man's hand" in poker, sources said.

One source compared the notion of modifying the tattoo after a shooting to a celebratory "high five."

Celebrating shootings and sporting matching tattoos were hallmarks of anti-gang officers in theLAPD's troubled Rampart Division in the late 1990s.

A corruption scandal erupted after one disgraced officer implicated himself and others in covering up bad shootings, planting evidence, falsifying reports and perjuring themselves to rid the streets of gang members and drug dealers.

In fact, the tattoo allegedly embraced by the Jump Out Boys is reminiscent of the one inked on Rampart officers, which consisted of a grinning skull in a cowboy hat with pairs of aces and eights fanned out in the background.

Sources say there is no evidence that deputies alleged to be in the clique have been involved in improper shootings or other misconduct. But the new revelations have heightened concerns.

The modified tattoos could also pose problems for the department in future litigation, making it more difficult for county attorneys to argue against lawsuits alleging bad shootings.

Sheriff Lee Baca's spokesman, Steve Whitmore, declined to discuss details of the investigation because it is ongoing. "We take this very seriously," he said. "This is absolutely no joke whatsoever."

Friday, 18 May 2012

China's most-wanted man, a flamboyant, billionaire gangster who was angrily pursued by China's most senior leaders for over a decade, was jailed for life today.

Chinese fugitive Lai Changxing: China's most-wanted man jailed for life

Chinese fugitive Lai Changxing Photo: Lai Changxing, a 53-year-old farmer turned master smuggler, was sentenced by a court in Xiamen, the southern Chinese city he effectively ruled over in the boom years of the mid-1990s, described by some as a Robin Hood figure, and by others as an enemy of the state.

"If Lai was executed three times over, it would not be too much," said Zhu Rongji, China's former premier, in October 2000.

Mr Lai was found guilty of smuggling container ships full of luxury cars, cigarettes and petrol worth a total of nearly £3 billion into Xiamen, while bribing 64 of the city's leaders with at least £3.9 million to look the other way, according to Xinhua, the official Chinese news agency.

At one point, he ran a private seven-floor bordello, named the Red Mansion, to which he would invite friendly government officials. At the time the People's Daily newspaper said the club, was where dozens of high-ranking officials "resigned themselves to degeneracy and became tools of Lai's group".

His most prized possession was a bullet-proof Mercedes once owned by Jiang Zemin, China's then president. He bought and played for Xiamen's local football team, and he tried to build an 88-floor tower that would have been the country's tallest building.

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Rebbeca Brooks learned this morning that she will be taken to court over accusations of perverting the course of justice in relation to the phone hacking scandal.

The former editor of the News of the World and the Sun is to be charged with five others, including her husband Charlie Brooks.

Alison Levitt QC, principal legal adviser to the Director of Public Prosecutions, announced the decision at 10am, days after Mrs Brooks appeared at the Leveson inquiry into press ethics.

Mr and Mrs Brooks said: "We deplore this weak and unjust decision. After the further unprecedented posturing of the CPS we will respond later today after our return from the police station."

Rebekah Brooks arriving at the Leveson Inquiry

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Shootings not my fault, says ex-bikie Wissam Amer

THE man believed by police to be the central figure in a bikie feud has declared he is not at fault for Sydney's spate of drive-by shootings and says they are the "act of a coward". Wissam Amer, 28, broke his silence to The Sunday Telegraph to say he was not at the heart of the current shootings between the Hells Angels and Nomads outlaw motorcycle gangs. Last week The Sunday Telegraph revealed police believe Amer was the source of the conflict after he defected from the Hells Angels to the rival Nomads. Speaking through his lawyer Maggie Sten, the former bikie said unequivocally that he was no longer part of any gang and disputed police claims he's responsible for the feud. "The conflict between the Hells Angels and the Nomads is dead and buried - it has been for a while," Mr Amer said through his lawyer. "It has got nothing to do with me." Mr Amer was previously a member of the Bandidos, but left the group during a large scale "patch-over" of its members to the Hells Angels more than a year ago. Police believe he then tried to leave the Hells Angels to join the Nomads and burned bridges along the way - however he disputes this. Ms Sten said Mr Amer now wants to clear the record and confirm he is not part of any gang and is attempting to get on with a "normal life". What is not in dispute, however, is that Mr Amer was the target of two drive-by shootings over the past seven months. One was a drive-by at a Merrylands Oporto, two days after he was released on bail; the other happened three days later at his previous address at Canley Vale. Police believe both attacks were committed by Hells Angels, however Mr Amer said he could not prove this and neither could police. Mr Amer is unsure who the perpetrators were. "It could have been anybody - it's a dirty game, it could have been someone that I'd had a run-in with years ago," Ms Sten said on Mr Amer's behalf. "I live my life with no fear - I live now as a normal person." What Mr Amer was sure about was that drive-by shootings on himself or anyone else was a despicable act. "It's as weak as scratching somebody's car - anybody who drives a car and attacks you at 1am is a coward," he said through Ms Sten. "Especially when you know the people you're looking for are not there," referring to cases where the alleged targets were in jail. He could not explain the forces behind the current wave of shootings, but agreed with a police theory - revealed by The Sunday Telegraph - that a third party is trying to reignite animosities between the groups. Authorities brokered a peace agreement between the two gangs in January, but that faltered on April 16 when shots were fired at a home and car in Pemulwuy. "We believe it's other people trying to stir the pot," Ms Sten said for Mr Amer. "This is the perfect time for people to attack because they know the Hells Angels and Nomads were in a previous conflict which no longer exists." Police Strike Force Kinnarra has locked up 13 people in relation to the nine shootings that happened last month. Detective Superintendent Arthur Katsogiannis said the conflict was firmly between the two gangs.

Former LAPD detective gets 27 to life for 1986 murder

It was a murder that prosecutors say was committed in a fit of rage and jealousy and then covered up for more than two decades. But on Friday, as she was sentenced to 27 years to life in prison for killing her ex-boyfriend's wife, former Los Angeles Police Det. Stephanie Lazarus masked any emotion, other than a glance and wave in the direction of her mother as she was led away in handcuffs. The sentencing brought to a close a case that garnered national attention for its sensational story line of a lovelorn cop killing a woman she viewed as a romantic rival and then harboring the dark secret for 23 years. Adding to the drama were acknowledgments that original LAPD homicide detectives overlooked obvious clues that could have implicated Lazarus far earlier. Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Robert J. Perry issued the sentence after several relatives of slain 29-year-old nursing director Sherri Rae Rasmussen delivered brief but visceral victim-impact statements. Speaking first before the packed courtroom, Loretta Rasmussen called her daughter's murder a "selfish, brutal act" that caused "a pain for which there is no cure." But in a show of empathy, she also said her "hearts and prayers" went out to the family of the 52-year-old defendant, particularly her mother. A short time later, Rasmussen's widower, John Ruetten, choked back emotion several times. He described the first time he met his wife and imagined the "terror and disbelief" she must have felt in the moments before her death. He said he also often thought about how history might have been different if he had never known Lazarus. "I don't know if I will ever know how to cope with this appalling fact," Ruetten said. "There are so many moments and so very many tears." Lazarus' attorney Mark Overland vowed to appeal. Outside court, Steven Lazarus told reporters that "there was a presumption of guilt" against his sister from the outset. Sherri Rae Rasmussen was shot three times in the chest after being badly beaten in her Van Nuys town home on Feb. 24, 1986, in what police initially believed was a botched burglary. Three months before the attack, Rasmussen married Ruetten, who had dated Lazarus casually for a few years. Police were committed to a theory that the suspects were two unidentified male burglars, despite pleas from Rasmussen's father to investigate Ruetten's ex-girlfriend. DNA from a saliva sample gathered from a bite mark on the victim's left forearm would eventually show that the killer was a woman. But it would take a revolution in forensics technology and the open minds of a new generation of LAPD investigators before Lazarus, by then a respected art theft detective, emerged as the prime suspect. When the trial opened earlier this year, prosecutors told the eight-woman, four-man jury that the case came down to "a bite, a bullet, a gun barrel and a broken heart." Deputy Dist. Attys. Shannon Presby and Paul Nunez hammered at those points throughout the five-week trial, which included 400 exhibits and testimony from more than 60 witnesses on both sides. Defense attorney Overland focused on trying to discredit the integrity of the physical evidence, most notably the saliva sample, which he argued had been mishandled and perhaps tampered with over the nearly two decades it sat in a storage freezer. He also said the plastic tube holding the sample had been found poking through the evidence envelope in which it was stored. The state's case, Overland said, amounted to circumstantial "fluff and filler" that failed to prove Lazarus' guilt. Overland noted that a blood smear from an unidentified man found at the crime scene was analyzed for DNA and did not match Lazarus or Rasmussen, suggesting the possibility of another suspect. And police were unable to find any witness to the killing. But prosecutors said the defense could not explain how Lazarus' DNA ended up in the sample tube. "There are only two possible ways that the defendant's DNA was there: it was there because she did it or it was there because someone ... planted it," Presby said, adding that the defense never presented a plausible tampering theory. In the end, the DNA evidence proved too difficult to overcome. The jury found Lazarus guilty after deliberating a little more than a day. Although she was sentenced to at least 27 years to life behind bars before she is eligible for parole, state corrections officials have said she could be eligible for parole in 14 years.

Murder suspect arrested in Italy

A man has been arrested on suspicion of murder after a crane driver's body was found in his burnt out car. Detectives from Hampshire's Major Investigation Team (HMIT) arrested a 25-year-old Southampton man in Rome yesterday, with the help of Italian police, on suspicion of the murder of Agim Hoxha. A Hampshire Constabulary spokeswoman said officers from HMIT have been working tirelessly on the investigation since April 10, when the body of 29-year-old Mr Hoxha was found in his car in Chilworth on the outskirts of Southampton. Arrangements are being made with the Italian authorities to have the man escorted back to the UK from Italy, where he will be questioned by detectives on his arrival in Hampshire. Last month Afrin Lleshi, 36, of Shirley Road, Southampton, was remanded in custody at Southampton Magistrates' Court charged with perverting the course of justice. He will next appear at Southampton Crown Court in June.

British safari man accused of mass murder 'framed by local poachers'

A British man jailed in Africa after discovering the site of a suspected massacre may have been framed by locals he had banned from poaching, it was claimed yesterday. David Simpson, 24, was working for a safari firm in the Central African Republic when he says he came across 18 mutilated bodies. He reported the horrific discovery to the authorities but was later arrested and charged with murder. The Cawa safari company’s Swedish boss, Erik Mararv, is also being held. Sources close to the case claim the official police report into the killings contains evidence based solely on hearsay. One said: ‘Some of the local people have attempted to frame the men because they were not allowed to poach on the firm’s land or because the company did not employ them, or because they have been fired.’  Mr Simpson, from Gillamoor, near Pickering, North Yorkshire, denies  the accusations. He could receive the death penalty if found guilty but before anything is decided, he faces up to six months in jail as an independent judicial review is carried out. Even if he is released, he will not be allowed to leave  the country until legal proceedings are concluded. It is widely believed supporters of the notorious warlord Joseph Kony carried out the killings.

A British woman who left her job to start afresh in the ­Caribbean with her new Rastafarian husband has been found dead in suspicious circumstances.

Hilary Hughes-Augustin, 50, an expert on AIDS, died in a St Lucia hospital two weeks after she was admitted for the treatment of undisclosed injuries.

The incident was initially believed to be a 'sudden accident', but police told The Mail on Sunday it was now the subject of a 'possible murder' investigation after a post-mortem examination raised suspicions of foul play.

Last night, Mrs Hughes-Augustin's devastated father Barry Hughes, 79, a professor of civil engineering at Birmingham University, said he was waiting for news from the police following her death on May 4.

Murder probe: Hilary Hughes-Augustin died in a St Lucia hospital two weeks after being admitted for undisclosed injuries

Murder probe: Hilary Hughes-Augustin died in a St Lucia hospital two weeks after being admitted for undisclosed injuries

He said: 'There's not much we can say at the moment. We may know more in a few days.'

Mrs Hughes-Augustin was born in Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire, and attended King's High School for Girls, a £10,000-a-year day school in Warwick. She later graduated from the University of York.

During her career as an expert on AIDS and sexual health, she worked around the world advising major non-profit organisations and served as director of an international ­development company.

She previously worked in health care in eastern Europe, the US and Switzerland. In October 2009, she started her own company, Hughes Consulting, from the Caribbean, ­specialising in advising on AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria.

Police initially said Mrs Hughes-Augustin, who styled her hair in dreadlocks after marrying a local Rastafarian, understood to be Cleus Augustin, had been the victim of a tragic accident.

But Sergeant Emmanuel, acting inspector in charge of the criminal investigation division of the Royal St Lucia Police, said: 'What was thought to be an accident could now turn into a murder investigation.

'The evidence warrants a full criminal investigation. We need to establish the merit of this case and have not ruled out this being a murder as opposed to an accident, as was originally thought.'

A doctor at the hospital where Mrs Hughes-Augustin was treated said a post-­mortem examination concluded that her death 'was not sudden' as police had said.

Troubled paradise: St Lucia in the Caribbean, where suspicions surround Hilary Hughes-Augustin's death

Troubled paradise: St Lucia in the Caribbean, where suspicions surround Hilary Hughes-Augustin's death

The doctor, who did not want to be named, added: 'How could it be ­sudden when you've been in hospital for two weeks?'

It is also understood that Mrs Hughes-Augustin petitioned for divorce against her husband in April last year. She was seeking to have the marriage dissolved on the grounds that it had lasted less than five years.

Gillian Hughes, the wife of the ­victim's brother, Rowan, said yesterday: 'We've still not been told how or why she died or whether or not there was any element of foul play involved. It's been very shocking.

'We have our own ­theories on what happened but there is a lot of doubt. It's all very raw right now. Everyone is absolutely devastated. Rowan has lost his sister and his parents have lost their daughter.

'Hilary was a lovely woman, she loved travelling and she had lived in many different places around the world.'

Police say Mrs Hughes-Augustin and her husband bought a small house in the rural north-west of the island.

Officers paid her a visit after she complained of being defrauded in a land transaction. 'She wanted to press charges but there was ­insufficient evidence,' said police.

The latest incident comes less than five months after another Englishwoman, 46-year-old lawyer Sarah Thomas, who also married an islander, fell 100ft from a cliff to her death, though her family accepted the police verdict that it was an ­accident.

 




Friday, 11 May 2012

Rebekah Brooks turns screw on Jeremy Hunt with 'hacking advice' email

Jeremy Hunt, came under renewed pressure when the former News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks disclosed an email appearing to show he had sought the company's advice over how Downing Street should respond to the mounting phone-hacking scandal. The email, which also suggests Hunt sought to avoid a public inquiry into phone hacking, emerged on another day of extraordinary disclosures about the intimacy between Rupert Murdoch's company and government ministers. The email from News Corporation lobbyist Frédéric Michel written in June 2011 told Brooks that Hunt was poised to make an "extremely helpful" statement about the company's proposed acquisition of BSkyB, saying the takeover would be approved regardless of phone-hacking allegations. Michel also warned her, days before the Guardian revealed that murdered teenager Milly Dowler's voicemail had been targeted by the News of the World, that "JH [Jeremy Hunt] is now starting to looking into phone-hacking/practices more thoroughly" and that he "has asked me to advise him privately in the coming weeks and guide his and No 10's positioning". During five hours of testimony, Brooks revealed she dined with George Osborne on 13 December 2010, when she discussed Ofcom's initial objections to News Corp's £8bn bid. The objections had been sent in a confidential "issues letter" by the media regulator to her company three days before. Following a short discussion, the then News International boss reported to James Murdoch the next day that Osborne had expressed "total bafflement". In a steely and at times tetchy performance, Brooks said her lobbying of the chancellor had been "entirely appropriate" because she was "reflecting the opposite view to the view he had heard by that stage from pretty much every member of the anti-Sky bid alliance". But Robert Jay QC, counsel to the inquiry, said that the email demonstrated that it was "obvious that he was supportive of your bid, wasn't he", a suggestion Brooks rejected. The disclosures about her conversations with the chancellor will increase the likelihood that he is called to appear before the inquiry. He is the only one of eight ministers who have submitted statements to Leveson not to have been asked to appear. Though less damaging than some in Downing Street had feared, Brooks' testimony also proved embarrassing for David Cameron. She revealed the prime minister signed texts "DC" or sometimes "LOL" – until she explained that the phrase meant "laugh out loud", not "lots of love". She said she typically texted Cameron once a week, and twice a week during the 2010 election campaign, dismissing as preposterous reports that he sometimes texted her up to 12 times per day. Brooks said any email correspondence between her and politicians was now held by News International. She had only copies of emails and texts that were on her BlackBerry during a six-week period in June and July 2011, but a single message from Cameron had been "compressed" and could not now be read. Brooks confirmed that she had socialised with Cameron at least twice within four days in Oxfordshire during Christmas 2010, the culmination of a year in which they had already met at least five times. The first contact of the festive season was at a dinner at her house on 23 December, when there was a conversation about the BSkyB bid. The second was a previously undisclosed "mulled wine, mince pie" party organised by her sister-in-law on Boxing Day 2010, an event at which she was unsure if she had spoken to Cameron or his wife, Samantha, although "my sister-in-law tells me they were definitely there". Although Brooks has been arrested in connection with phone hacking and bribery investigations, and on suspicion of perverting the course of justice, the inquiry also heard that she had discussed the growing hacking allegations with Cameron at some point during 2010. She said the prime minister – who at that point was still employing former News of the World editor Andy Coulson – had asked her for an update. "I think it had been on the news that day, and I think I explained the story behind the news. No secret information, no privileged information, just a general update," Brooks said. The disclosure will add to the pressure on Cameron to explain why he failed to challenge Coulson about the hacking allegations against him at any time after the Guardian broke the story in July 2009. However, the most serious evidence to emerge regarded Hunt, whose fate has been hanging in the balance since Rupert Murdoch provided 163 pages of News Corp emails to the Leveson inquiry, which suggested that Michel had obtained a large amount of information about the progress of ministerial approval of the BSkyB bid. Finding a fresh email from Michel that had eluded Murdoch's legal team last month, Brooks showed that she had been told that Hunt would essentially approve the long-delayed takeover because he believed "phone hacking has nothing to do with the media plurality issues" that were increasingly concerning rivals. Michel told Brooks that the sought-after approval would happen later in the last week of June 2011.

Rebekah Brooks refused to name source of Brown son story

Rebekah Brooks has denied that The Sun hacked the medical records of Gordon Brown's four-year-old son - and refused to disclose the source of the information to the Leveson Inquiry She also insisted that the paper had permission from the former Prime Minister and his wife before publishing an article about the child's medical condition. Brooks said that she and Gordon's Brown wife Sarah "were good In a written response to the Inquiry's questions submitted in October last year Brooks set out a detailed description of safeguards put in place to check stories. The former tabloid editor and News International chief executive also denied commissioning any computer hacking or feeling any "negative pressure" from proprietor Rupert Murdoch. Much of the 12-page statement consists of explanations of the processes used to check accuracy and sources, train staff and decide whether to run a particular story. Despite those efforts, there were "failures from time to time" - significantly so at the News of the World, Mrs Brooks conceded. "I was horrified when I learned of them and I was and am deeply sorry about the further anguish that was caused to Milly Dowler's parents in particular," she wrote. Corporate governance was taken "seriously" within the newspaper group though, she added. Mrs Brooks also told the inquiry: :: She was not aware of any use of computer hacking: "I have been specifically asked by the Inquiry whether I or the newspapers where I worked ever used or commissioned anyone who used 'computer hacking' in order to source stories or for any other reason. I did not and I was not aware of anyone at either the News of the World or The Sun who did." :: There was a crackdown on the use of private investigators following highly critical reports by the Information Commissioner's Office and the Commons media and sport select committee. "I believe their use is now virtually non-existent," she wrote - noting there were exceptions such as using them to track down convicted paedophiles who had broken their bail conditions. :: The use of cash payments had been "considerably tightened up". :: It would be "highly unusual and not practical" for an editor to check the accuracy and sources of stories going into their paper other than the biggest or most controversial. :: There were "numerous examples" of times when she resisted publishing a story because the invasion of privacy outweighed any public interest or because it was more important to alert the police to criminal activities than to secure an exclusive. "It is quite wrong to believe that the press simply publishes what it can get away with, irrespective of the ethical requirements," she insisted. :: The industry felt privacy laws had "slowly crept in through the back door", stymieing legitimate journalism but failing to regulate inaccurate internet gossip. :: In her decade as a national newspaper editor she "never experienced or felt any negative pressure either financial or commercial from the proprietor. In fact the opposite is true. There was always constant advice, experienced guidance and support available." There was no financial motive to print exclusive stories. "Professional pride was the biggest incentive."

David Cameron sent commiserations to Rebekah Brooks after she resigned as News International chief executive over the phone hacking scandal

David Cameron sent commiserations to Rebekah Brooks after she resigned as News International chief executive over the phone hacking scandal, the Leveson Inquiry has heard. Ms Brooks said the indirect messages from the Prime Minister were "along the lines" of "keep your head up" and had also expressed regret that he could not be more loyal in public. She also received sympathetic messages from other senior figures in 10 and 11 Downing Street, the Home Office, the Foreign Office and some Labour politicians, including Tony Blair. The glimpse of Ms Brooks's network of high-powered friends and contacts came as she took to the witness box, despite being under investigation by police. Ms Brooks said she only had access to around six weeks of texts and emails from her time as NI chief executive, from the beginning of June to July 17 last year. Only one of those emails was relevant to the inquiry, according to her evidence. One of the text messages had been from Mr Cameron, but the content was compressed and unreadable, she said. Robert Jay QC, counsel for the inquiry, asked Ms Brooks about reports that she had received sympathetic messages after her resignation last July. "I had some indirect messages from some politicians but nothing direct," she replied. "A variety - some Tories, a couple of Labour politicians. Very few Labour politicians. I received some indirect messages from Number 10, Number 11, the Home Office, the Foreign Office..." She said Tony Blair had been among them but Gordon Brown had not. "He was probably getting the bunting out," she added, provoking laughter in the courtroom. Questioned on whether reports were correct that Mr Cameron's message had urged her to "keep your head up", Ms Brooks responded: "Along those lines." Pressed on whether the premier had also conveyed regret that political circumstances meant he could not be more "loyal", Ms Brooks replied: "Similar, but very indirect."

Rebekah Brooks to lift lid on David Cameron friendship

Former Sun and News of the World editor Rebekah Brooks is expected to lift the lid on her close relationship with the Prime Minister in evidence to the Leveson Inquiry. David Cameron is said to have texted Mrs Brooks, telling her to "keep her head up" after she resigned from News International last July. It has also been claimed that the 43-year-old former editor sent Mr Cameron more than 12 text messages a day. After her editorships Mrs Brooks went on to become chief executive of Rupert Murdoch's UK newspapers division News International in September 2009 until she resigned in the wake of the hacking scandal last July. She and racehorse trainer husband Charlie are key members of the influential Chipping Norton set, which also includes Mr Cameron and his wife Samantha, Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson, and Mr Murdoch's daughter Elisabeth and her PR guru husband Matthew Freud. The inquiry has already heard that Mrs Brooks regularly met Mr Cameron and other top politicians along with Rupert and James Murdoch. She hosted a Christmas dinner on December 23 2010, just two days after Business Secretary Vince Cable was stripped of his responsibility for media takeovers for saying he had "declared war" on the Murdochs' News Corporation empire. Mrs Brooks's wedding on June 13 2009 was attended by Mr Cameron and former prime minister Gordon Brown, and in March Mr Cameron was forced to admit that he rode a retired police horse loaned to Mrs Brooks by Scotland Yard from 2008 to 2010. An updated biography of Cameron: Practically A Conservative, claims he told Mrs Brooks she would get through her difficulties just days before she stood down over the phone hacking scandal. There has speculation that the Leveson Inquiry could release emails and text messages sent between Mr Cameron and the former News International chief executive. According to Daily Telegraph columnist Peter Oborne, Mrs Brooks has kept all the texts she received from the Prime Minister. Mrs Brooks has twice been arrested by Scotland Yard detectives investigating allegations of phone hacking, corrupt payments to public officials, and an attempt to pervert the course of justice. She was bailed and has not been charged. She will not be questioned about anything that could prejudice the continuing police investigation into phone hacking or any potential future trials. Mr Cameron set up the Leveson Inquiry last July in response to revelations that the now-defunct News of the World hacked murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler's phone after she disappeared in 2002. The first part of the inquiry, sitting at the Royal Courts of Justice in London, is looking at the culture, practices and ethics of the Press in general and is due to produce a report by October.

Thursday, 10 May 2012

US blacklists sons of Mexico drug lord Joaquin Guzman

The US treasury department has put two sons of Mexico's most wanted man Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman on its drugs kingpin blacklist. The move bars all people in the US from doing business with Ivan Archivaldo Guzman Salazar and Ovidio Guzman Lopez, and freezes any US assets they have. Joaquin Guzman, on the list since 2001, runs the powerful Sinaloa drug cartel. Mexico has seen an explosion of violence in recent years as gangs fight for control of trafficking routes. The US administration "will aggressively target those individuals who facilitate Chapo Guzman's drug trafficking operations, including family members," said Adam Szubin, director of the department's Office of Foreign Assets Control . "With the Mexican government, we are firm in our resolve to dismantle Chapo Guzman's drug trafficking organisation." Ovidio Guzman plays a significant role in his father's drug-trafficking activities, the treasury department said. Ivan Archivaldo Guzman was arrested in 2005 in Mexico on money-laundering charges but subsequently released. As well as the Guzman brothers, two other alleged key cartel members, Noel Salgueiro Nevarez and Ovidio Limon Sanchez, were listed under the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act. They were both arrested in Mexico in 2011 and are still in custody. Under the Kingpin Act, US firms, banks and individuals are prevented from doing business with them and any assets the men may have under US jurisdiction are frozen. More than 1,000 companies and individuals linked to 94 drug kingpins have been placed on the blacklist since 2000. Penalties for violating the act range include up to 30 years in prison and fines up to $10m (£6m). The US has offered a reward of up to $5m a for information leading to the arrest of Joaquin Guzman, who escaped from a Mexican prison in 2001.

Twelve decapitated near Guadalajara, drug gang suspected

Police found the decapitated and dismembered bodies of at least 12 people dumped near Mexico's second largest city, Guadalajara, in what appeared to be the latest atrocity by the country's most brutal drug cartel, a local officer said Wednesday. The bodies stuffed into two vehicles abandoned on the side of a highway had been so badly mutilated officers could not tell if they were male or female, said a policeman in the small town of Ixtlahuacan de los Membrillos, where the corpses were found. A note by the bodies was signed by the Zetas cartel, a criminal militia led by former Mexican soldiers blamed for some of the worst recent atrocities in Mexico's drug war, the officer said. Guadalajara, known for its high-tech industry and Mexican icons including mariachi bands and tequila, has been a strategic base for drug traffickers since the 1980s. But violence has flared recently in the once-tranquil city as the Zetas moved in to challenge the smuggling turf of other gangs in western Mexico. Soldiers in March arrested a high-ranking member of the powerful Sinaloa Cartel in the city, causing his supporters to block streets with 25 burning cars and trucks. Ixtlahuacan de los Membrillos lays 18 miles south of the center of Guadalajara on the road to Lake Chapala, a site popular with foreign tourists and American retirees. Attacks between the Zetas and their rivals have flared up across Mexico since the beginning of the year. On Friday, nine corpses were hanged from a bridge in the border city of Nuevo Laredo just hours before 14 bodies were dismembered and shoved into garbage bags and ice boxes. Five days of intense battles in western Sinaloa state last week also left 34 dead, adding to the body count in Mexico's drug war, which has killed more than 50,000 people in the past five years.

Monday, 7 May 2012

FBI offers up to $100,000 for info leading to capture of Eduardo Ravelo

Eduardo Ravelo, born on October 13, 1968 was added as the 493rd fugitive to the FBI 10 most wanted list on October 20, 2009. He is originally from Mexico, however he holds permanent residency status in the United States which gives him free movement across the border. An FBI informant and former lieutenant in the Barrio Azteca, a prison gang active in the U.S. and Mexico, testified that Ravelo told him to help find fellow gang members who had stolen from the cartel. In March 2008, he became the leader of the gang shortly after betraying his predecessor, stabbing him several times and shooting him in the neck. (Eduardo Ravelo: Wikipedia) Eduardo Ravelo was indicted in Texas in 2008 for his involvement in racketeering activities, conspiracy to launder monetary instruments, and conspiracy to possess heroin, cocaine and marijuana with the intent to distribute. His alleged criminal activities began in 2003. He is believed to be living in an area of Cuidad Juarez controlled by the Barrio Ravelo, with his wife and children just across the border from El Paso, Texas. He is also said to have bodyguards and armored vehicles to protect him from rival gangs as well as rival cartels.

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Sam Ibrahim headed to jail

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

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

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


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

LinkWithin

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...