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Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Ms Sandiford to be executed for drug trafficking.

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

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

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

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

Thursday, 26 July 2012

The biggest fines in British maritime history were handed down to a group of Spanish fishermen on Thursday, for illegal fishing in UK waters.


Leo blog : Romanian fishermen are cleaning up their net from small dead fish
 Photograph: Robert Ghement/EPA

Some of the biggest fines in British maritime history were handed down to a group of Spanish fishermen on Thursday, for illegal fishing in UK waters.

Two companies owned by the Vidal family were fined £1.62m in total in a Truro court, after a two-day hearing, in which details emerged of falsified log books, failing to register the transfer of fish between vessels, false readings given for weighing fish at sea, and fiddling of fishing quotas.

Judge Graham Cottle said the family were guilty of "wholesale falsification of official documentation" that amounted to a "systematic, repeated and cynical abuse of the EU fishing quota system over a period of 18 months".

He said: "[This was a] flagrant, repeated and long term abuse of regulations. The fish targeted [hake] was at that time a species of fish on the verge if collapse and adherence to quotas was seen as crucial to the survival of the species."

The Spanish fishing vessels had been sailing under UK flags and were landing fish based on quotas given to British fishermen under the EU's common fisheries policy. Two vessels were involved, but the companies own several other large vessels, capable of industrial-scale fishing.

The offending fishermen, who admitted their guilt earlier this year, were not in court to hear him, having been given leave to return to Spain last night. The offences, dating from 2009 and 2010, relate to two companies, Hijos De Vidal Bandin SA and Sealskill Limited, both owned by the Vidal family. They were fined £925,000 on a confiscation order, plus £195,000 in costs, and an additional fine of £250,000 levied on each of the two companies. Two skippers who were acting under the family's instructions were fined £5,000 each.

Ariana Densham, oceans campaigner at Greenpeace, who was present for the trial and judgement, said that the fines, while welcome, did not go far enough. "This group of people should never be allowed near UK fishing quota again," she said. "The Vidal's right to fish should be removed completely."

She said the offences showed the vulnerability of the EU's fishing quota system to fraud. "The system that allowed this to happen needs to be fixed," she said. "This case is not a one off. It's a symptom of Europe's farcical fishing rules. The Vidals were permitted to fish under UK flags, using UK quota, and receive huge EU subsidies, with none of the proceeds ever feeding back into the UK economy. The system is skewed in favour of rich, powerful, industrial-scale fishing companies, when really it should be supporting low-impact, sustainable fishermen."

There are currently moves under way in Brussels by the fisheries commissioner, Maria Damanaki, to reform the EU's common fisheries policy. The proposed reforms – which include the ending of the wasteful practice of discarding healthy and edible fish at sea – have met stiff opposition, particularly from the French and Spanish fishing industries. Spain has the biggest fishing fleet in Europe and receives the lion's share of the subsidies available for fishing within the EU. A historic agreement was reached among member states last month on the proposals, but they must now pass the European parliament, which is expected to consider the proposals later this year.

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Last week, Brescia art experts found 100 'new' works by the old master. Their value? €700m. But there's a catch: their rivals in Milan aren't convinced

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To find one previously unknown work by one of art's undisputed geniuses may be considered good fortune. To discover 100 in one go might appear too good to be true. It should be no surprise then that last week's astonishing claims by Italian art sleuths to have found a cache of 96 paintings and sketches by the baroque giant Caravaggio in a workshop in Milan's Sforzesco Castle are facing increasing scrutiny and, in many circles, disbelief.

Art critics have expressed doubts that such a huge amount of work – almost doubling overnight the number of pictures attributed to the celebrated old master – could have gone unnoticed for so long.

And in response, authorities in Milan, no doubt miffed that art academics from the rival regional city of Brescia are claiming the glory for the discovery, are not sitting on their hands. Yesterday they announced two inquiries of their own into the veracity of the researchers' claimed methods and checks, and an independent assessment of the artworks' provenance.

Already the discovery is being tainted by serious claims and counter claims regarding dubious ethics and mysterious sorties at odd hours that could have come straight from the pages of the iconic painter's own colourful life.

The excitement began last Wednesday when a breathless Italian news agency reported the confident claims of art experts from the Brescia Museum Foundation that around 100 early works by Michelangelo Merisi, better known as Caravaggio, had been identified. An eye-watering price was soon put on them: €700m (£550m).

The cache was found, said the researchers, Maurizio Bernardelli Curuz Guerrieri and Adriana Conconi Fedrigolli, at the city's landmark castle in the old workshop of Caravaggio's master, the post-Renaissance painter Simone Peterzano. The researchers said their detailed comparison of the works with known pieces by the painter showed "the faces, bodies and scenes the young Caravaggio would use in later years".

"Caravaggio left the region of Lombardy with a rich collection of figures that he used throughout his career, but especially in his early years working in Rome. These works are proof," said Mr Bernardelli.

As The Independent reported at the time, Elena Conenna, the city council's somewhat-surprised culture spokeswoman, gave a cautious welcome to the "discovery". "We'll be very happy to discover it's true," she said. "But it's strange. They weren't in a hidden place, they were accessible to all." She said the city had not been informed about the discovery and would be "carrying out checks". Many people assumed the Brescia researchers had announced their discovery without warning to increase the impact.

Key to the Brescia pair's claims was numerous visits to the workshop during what they said was a painstaking two-year period of research into the paintings and sketches. Unfortunately, an email dated 11 May last year has now surfaced in which the pair appear to be requesting electronic copies of the works. Neither are there any official records of them having viewed the works in person, according to Francesca Rossi, the official in charge of access to the castle's art and antiquities. She told Corriere della Sera newspaper: "I've never seen them here. They've never had access to the collection, they studied the images exclusively from the computer disc."

Reports yesterday suggest the disc sent from Milan to Brescia contained over 1,700 jpeg images – at low resolution. And in a very Italian twist, authorities in Milan have also announced an internal inquiry to establish if unwarranted collusion and even corruption was involved.

Mr Bernardelli disputed the claims of the Milan officials. "We saw the collection various times, even if these were outside normal hours, accompanied by different people," he said.

Other art experts have taken issue with the pair's conclusions. One critic, Professor Philippe Daverio, said that identification of a Caravaggio's organic and ever-evolving work could not be made by looking for the presence of key "designs". "Design doesn't exist in the character of Caravaggio," he said. "And design wasn't needed in his painting. These sketches can't really be compared to anything."

Another critic, Francesca Cappelletti, who helped to establish that The Taking of Christ was painted by Caravaggio, was blunter: "To me, these pictures still seem like typical works of Peterzano." Another critic, Tomaso Montanari, said sarcastically the claim was akin to taking 100 drawings by Verrocchio (Leonardo da Vinci's master) and attributing them to the creator of the Mona Lisa.

It's perhaps not surprising that the latest controversy should centre on Caravaggio: fascination with the artist is at an all-time high. Some evidence even suggests that the artist, who added a revolutionary degree of grit and realism to the prevalent mannerist painting of his era, has even replaced Renaissance giant Michelangelo at the top of the unofficial Italian art charts.

Philip Sohm, of the University of Toronto, studied the number of publications devoted to both artists during the past 50 years, and found that since the mid-1980s the baroque painter has moved ahead of his Renaissance rival.

Interest has been increased by attempts in recent years to shed light on the mystery surrounding Caravaggio's death in 1610 at the age of 38. An investigation, involving DNA tests and comparisons with living relatives, led experts to conclude that the painter was probably buried in Porto Ercole, in Tuscany, after suffering an illness, thereby bringing centuries of speculation, including assassination theories, to an end.

Caravaggio was active in Rome, Naples, Malta and Sicily. But he often had to flee cities and leave works unfinished because of his tempestuous nature, which led him to kill at least one man. He eventually returned to Italy confident of obtaining a papal pardon, thanks to powerful connections in Rome.

Scepticism regarding the Milan paintings and sketches is in itself unlikely to harm sales of Mr Bernardelli Curuz's and Ms Adriana Fedrigolli's e-book, Young Caravaggio: One Hundred Rediscovered Works, dedicated to their claims and the pictures they are based on. But their publishing ambitions hit a snag this week with news that Amazon in Italy had withdrawn the book from sale, albeit without commenting on whether this was due to doubts over the quality of the research it contained.

Mr Curuz told Ansa: "The blocking of the Amazon system has damaged us because to understand the discovery it is essential to see the 1,000 images that we have collated."

The pair said they had no idea why it had been dropped, but added that it would be available on a website for self-published books. On his Facebook profile, Mr Curuz, was putting on a brave face. "We are calm and confident. The world will judge our work," he wrote.

But it is not only the world. It is also Milan's ever-busy prosecutors, who are looking into whether they should investigate the Brescia art historians for the illegal publication of private images.

Caravaggio: Life and legacy

Born Michelangelo Merisi, in Milan, on 29 September 1571.

Early life The family moved to nearby Caravaggio in 1576, from where the artist took his name. In 1592 he fled to Rome after a brawl.

Career Known for his rare naturalism and use of light and shade, a technique called chiaroscuro, that would influence later giants, including Rembrant. Despite lifelong fame – and notoriety – he sunk into obscurity after his mysterious death, only to be rehabilitated in the 20th century.

Expert view "He reclaimed the human form... there was art before him and art after him, and they were not the same." Robert Hughes, critic, in 1985.

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Underground drug smuggling tunnel found in Arizona

Mexico’s army stumbled upon another secret tunnel for smuggling drugs into the United States, according to wire reports. This one is 755-feet long, dug 60 feet beneath the ground and runs across the Sonora-Arizona border. That pales in comparison with the 2,000-footers found in past years. But what it lacks in length it appears to make up for in sophistication: “It had electricity, ventilation and small cars to transport the drugs through the tunnel,” The Associated Press reported, citing a Mexican general. The find comes on the heels of the Mexican election. Enrique Peña Nieto, the presumptive president-elect, of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), has suggested Mexico may shift its drug-war policy but has offered little in the way of specifics. Would that mean, no more magic tunnel discoveries? Drug tunnels are some of the sweetest candy for fantasizing about the narcotics trade. They're portals that ultimately link American drug users up with brutal cartels that rule swaths of the Americas. One such ruler, Chapo Guzman, whom the US Treasury Department has deemed the “world’s most powerful drug trafficker,” is known to have commissioned a few of these tunnels. New Yorker magazine’s William Finnegan writes: “The story was that he built his tunnels with slave labor and, in the interests of secrecy, killed the workers when they were finished.” Late last year, ABC News reported authorities had discovered as many as 75 drug tunnels linking Mexico and the United States.

Thailand's drugs smuggling battle

For centuries the Golden Triangle - where Burma, Thailand and Laos meet - has been notorious for the production of opium and drug smuggling.

While the amount of poppies grown there has more than halved over the past decade, production of the stimulant methamphetamine has soared.

Most of it is produced in Burma, and much of it ends up in Thailand.

Monday, 9 July 2012

Dilawar Ravjani, ringleader of the £176m 'carousel fraud' VAT scam.

Dilawar Ravjani, ringleader of the £176m 'carousel fraud' VAT scam
The carousel fraudsters pretended to have sold more than 4m mobiles phones worth £1.7bn, most of which never existed.

Fifteen people have been convicted of trying to steal £176m from the public purse in one of the largest and most complex mobile phone taxfrauds yet uncovered.

The case, which has involved five separate trials and concludes on Tuesday with the sentencing of a Brussels freight company owner, came to light after investigators discovered a trail of ghost companies reselling nonexistent phones.

After a three-week investigation, officers found nearly £47,000 in cash hidden in the boot of a car belonging to John McFarnon, chairman of Unique Distribution, a well-known and partly legitimate mobile distributor.

The ringleader, Dilawar Ravjani, is to serve 17 years, the longest penalty imposed for so-called carousel fraud, after masterminding the attempt to illegally reclaim millions of pounds in VAT payments from HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC).

Investigators were alerted after they discovered the gang had been claiming to trade phones made by Sony Ericsson and Samsung which, although they had been unveiled in promotional campaigns, were not yet on sale. The gang pretended to have sold more than 4m mobiles phones worth £1.7bn, most of which never existed. It is thought a further 50 companies, some of them established distributors, may have been linked to Ravjani's scam.

A total of £170,000 in cash was found during the clampdown, codenamed Operation Inertia, including £80,000 stuffed into drawers at one of Ravjani's companies, Future Communications, which investigators believe was to be used to pay off accomplices at other companies.

"This is one of the largest carousel frauds we have done," said the HMRC criminal investigations director, Donald Toon. "The people who run these scams aren't isolated individuals. Some of them are professional major fraudsters and it's a massively international game."

One of those convicted, John Conroy, found to be a covert backer of the scam and a shadow director of Unique, was resident in Marbella in Spain. Future's finance director, Zafar Chisthi, fled to Pakistan before his trial. He was sentenced in his absence to serve 11 years and remains in hiding.

The transgressions took place over just eight months. The companies involved, based in Stanmore in Middlesex and Abingdon in Oxfordshire, hoped to siphon a maximum amount in monthly VAT repayments before tax inspectors caught up with the scam.

The false trades are believed to have begun with a ghost company based in the UK claiming to have imported thousands of phones from Belgium. Sony Ericsson had just announced its P990 handset, and the company claimed to have imported 90,000 of them. It claimed a further 96,000 Samsung Serene handsets had been brought into the UK.

But the gang had failed to spot a manufacturing delay that meant neither model had left the production line at the time. The phones passed through other "buffer" firms, before being bought by Future.

A chain of five or six ghost companies was created to muddy the waters. More than 5,700 individual trades were recorded, some taking just a day to pass through the entire chain. Future, at the end of the chain, would then claim to have sold the phones to a ghost company in Europe.

Because companies cannot claim the cost of VAT payments back from their European counterparts, the UK tax authorities reimburse VAT on any items bought in the UK but sold abroad. This is done in order to encourage exports.

However, following a clampdown on VAT repayments where the first company in the chain has gone missing, Future was unable to make its false claims and forced to change tack. It then began importing the phones itself, and selling them on to its sister company Unique and as many as 50 other distributors, both real and shell companies. Unique would then sell the phones to a European company and claim the tax back.

The scam also involved two freight companies, A1 Freight in Staffordshire and Boston Freight in Belgium. Vans shuttled across the channel, generating documents to prove goods had crossed borders.

When investigators raided Boston Freight, they found three vans loaded with pallets of phones, but the handsets in questions were low-value devices, which they believe may have been dummy cargoes designed to throw customs off the scent. The high-end Sony and Samsung devices shown on the paperwork were never found.

Three successful VAT repayment claims were made from November 2005 to June 2006, totalling £107m, before the fraud was stopped. The money, which officers are attempting to claw back, was laundered through offshore bank accounts, property and car companies. Future had attempted to claim a total of £176m.

Investigators' suspicions were confirmed when they discovered Unique had, during the eight months in question, declared eye-catchingly large sales of £2.2bn but paid a total of £17.74 in VAT.

When Unique's offices were raided, they found a majority of staff working on low value but legitimate trades such as reselling airtime, while a small team were employed generating the bulk of the company's income from the carousel fraud.

"This was theft from the taxpayer," said Toon. "It fundamentally undermines the UK tax base and that's why the enforcement response is so critical."

Marshall Boston of Boston Freight is due to be sentenced at Kingston crown court on Tuesday .

GODFATHER George 'The Penguin' Mitchell has become the African link man in a cocaine chain from Bolivia to the streets of Ireland and Europe.

Crime kingpin Mitchell is Moroccan link man in massive drug deals with Bolivian cocaine cartels

 

AFRICAN KING: George ‘The Penguin’ Mitchell brings drugs in through Africa

 

AFRICAN KING: George ‘The Penguin’ Mitchell brings drugs in through Africa

GODFATHER George 'The Penguin' Mitchell has become the African link man in a cocaine chain from Bolivia to the streets of Ireland and Europe. The crime lord is sourcing massive shipments of cocaine, similar in quantity to the massive one seized by gardai this week, directly from a Bolivian cartel, gardai believe.

 

Mitchell (61) is believed to be organising the deals from a new base in Morocco, where he has spent the majority of his time in recent years after leaving a property in Amsterdam. Gardai believe the cocaine ending up in Ireland is now sourced from Bolivia by Irish criminals.

Mitchell - who is suffering from health problems as a result of heavy drinking - has been living in a plush villa in ex-pat community in the north African country for the last two years. Last year, the heavily-fortified house where Mitchell had been living in Amsterdam, in de Watermolen 7, was placed on the rental market.

It is believed that The Penguin - who earned his nickname as a result of his waddling, awkward gait - shared the home with his Indonesian mistress and business partner.

Mistress

However, records show that a new mortgage for €450,000 was taken out on the house in 2010 in the name of a 33 year old Irish man. The Penguin is also involved in a legitimate business with his mistress, importing furniture from South East Asia.

A source has claimed that Mitchell even recently made an appearance on a trade stand promoting Indonesian furniture imports and crafts at a prestigious art, furniture and food fair in The Hague. It is believed that The Penguin regularly returns to Amsterdam to visit his family which is based in the country.

 

DEAD: Derek Dunne with his wife

 

DEAD: Derek Dunne with his wife

Mitchell's daughter, Rachel, has also spent time with her father in Morocco, after moves between Marbella and Amsterdam. In June 2000, Rachel's partner - heroin dealer Derek 'Maradona' Dunne' - was gunned down outside the home she shared with her father in Amsterdam. Dunne (33) was a former League of Ireland player who became a major player in Dublin's heroin trade.

 

A source said that the blow Gardai delivered to cocaine import routes last week will be a major headache for Mitchell's crime organisation. Detectives from the Garda National Drugs Unit recovered a staggering 440 kilos of cocaine following a ten-day operation on Tuesday. The drugs were imported to Ireland in a container disguised as wooden flooring.

Two men were charged in connection with the seizure - the largest ever on land in the history of the state.

"Cocaine has been directly traced to Bolivia and came through west Africa and then into Europe. The drugs were then shipped into Ireland from a port in Europe," a source revealed.

Mitchell is described as a link man and a facilitator in the international drug trafficking trade who works with other investors from Ireland and the UK who stump up cash for major deals.

Shipments

 

DEALING: Mitchell used public telephone boxes

 

DEALING: Mitchell used public telephone boxes

Mitchell has extensive contacts and regularly organises shipments of drugs into England, from where one of his main business partners in Liverpool sends them forward into Ireland. He is extremely careful and prefers to use public telephones when doing business.

 

A Dutch security source said Mitchell is placed under surveillance whenever he returns to Holland and that he is aware of this and doesn't even litter the street to avoid drawing unwanted police attention.

"Some top Dutch gangsters are close to British and Irish criminals and they like doing business with them, having a drink and the odd bit of socialising together.

"They know each other and help one another out."

After Derek Dunne was killed, Rachel moved into a house on Groote Peel in Amsterdam with her two kids. The house is also listed as a business address for a wholesale jewellery company, registered with the KvK (chamber of commerce) by her brother, George jnr. Mitchell's other son, Paul, also lives in Holland.

Mitchell, originally from Ballyfermot, has spent the last 25 years flooding Ireland with cocaine, heroin, cannabis and weapons. He started his involvement in serious crime with murdered gangland boss, Martin 'The General' Cahill, and took part in a number of robberies before he was jailed for five years in 1988 for stealing a big consignment of cattle drench.

After his release from prison, Mitchell was one of a number of big-time Dublin criminals who realised the vast fortunes which were to be made from drug trafficking. He set up a well-organised racket from his west Dublin base and quietly began to establish himself as the biggest cannabis and ecstasy trafficker in the State.

But the multi-millionaire criminal fled Ireland following the murder of crime reporter Veronica Guerin 1996 after gardai turned up the heat on drug traffickers. He moved his base to Holland after the arrest of his right-hand man Johnny Doran who was caught with £500,000 worth of cannabis on the M50 at Castleknock, Dublin.

Broker

 

PAL: Johnny Doran

 

PAL: Johnny Doran

Mitchell quickly struck up close ties with Middle Eastern and South American drug-trafficking gangs. He became one of the key suppliers for cannabis, cocaine and ecstasy into the British and Irish markets. The Penguin is also a key broker for other gangs operating in Ireland, Britain and Europe.

 

Apart from drug trafficking, Mitchell and his associates are involved in illegal firearms trading, prostitution and money laundering. In March 1998, he was arrested by Dutch police and charged with a £5m computer supplies robbery. During his court appearances in Holland, Mitchell described himself as a respectable businessman involved in import-export. He was sentenced to three years imprisonment by Dutch judges for the computer parts robbery.

However, he walked free a year later in 1999 due to lenient sentencing regulations, with a third of his term automatically remitted for good behaviour and the time in pre-trial custody also deducted.

One of his associates - who was sentenced to 16 months in prison for the same offence - was Mitchell's pal, notorious Dutch drugs baron Johan Bolung. The flamboyant Dutchman who drives fast top of the range cars and wears exclusive watches has been a close associate of Mitchell and other leading Irish drugs traffickers for many years. He is known to have extensive drugs dealings with Moroccan and also Turkish criminals.

When Mitchell arrived in Holland in 1996 he stayed for a while in Bolung's luxury apartment in one of the wealthiest suburbs south of The Hague. Despite The Penguin's lifelong involvement in criminality, some of his relatives are highly respected members of Irish
society.

Furious

Last year, Fine Gael Presidential candidate Gay Mitchell was furious after he was quizzed about the Penguin, his first cousin, on RTE Radio.

"I am the first cousin of an ambassador," he claimed.

"I am the first cousin of people who have been involved in security forces of the State. I have cousins who play international rugby for Ireland, none of them have anything to do with me."

Monday, 2 July 2012

Beware of missed call to check SIM cloning

Next time if you get a missed call starting with +92; #90 or #09, don't show the courtesy of calling back because chances are it would lead to your SIM card being cloned. The telecom service providers are now issuing alerts to subscribers —particularly about the series mentioned above as the moment one press the call button after dialing the above number, someone at the other end will get your phone and SIM card cloned. According to reports, more than one lakh subscribers have fallen prey to this new telecom terror attack as the frequency of such calls continues to grow. Intelligence agencies have reportedly confirmed to the service providers particularly in UP West telecom division that such a racket is not only under way but the menace is growing fast. "We are sure there must be some more similar combinations that the miscreants are using to clone the handsets and all the information stored in them," an intelligence officer told TOI. General Manager (GM) BSNL, RV Verma, said the department had already issued alerts to all the broadband subscribers and now alert SMSes were being issued to other subscribers as well. As per Rakshit Tandon, an IT expert who also teaches at the police academy (UP), the crooks can use other combination of numbers as well while making a call. "It is better not to respond to calls received from unusual calling numbers," says Tandon. "At the same time one should avoid storing specifics of their bank account, ATM/ Credit/Debit card numbers and passwords in their phone memory because if one falls a prey to such crooks then the moment your cell phone or sim are cloned, the data will be available to the crooks who can withdraw amount from your bank accounts as well," warns Punit Misra; an IT expert who also owns a consultancy in Lucknow. The menace that threatens to steal the subscriber's information stored in the phone or external memory (sim, memory & data cards) has a very scary side as well. Once cloned, the culprits can well use the cloned copy to make calls to any number they wish to. This exposes the subscribers to the threat of their connection being used for terror calls. Though it will be established during the course of investigations that the cellphone has been cloned and misused elsewhere, it is sure to land the subscriber under quite some pressure till the time the fact about his or her phone being cloned and misused is established, intelligence sources said. "It usually starts with a miss call from a number starting with + 92. The moment the subscriber calls back on the miss call, his or her cell phone is cloned. In case the subscribers takes the call before it is dropped as a miss call then the caller on the other end poses as a call center executive checking the connectivity and call flow of the particular service provider. The caller then asks the subscriber to press # 09 or # 90 call back on his number to establish that the connectivity to the subscriber was seamless," says a victim who reported the matter to the BSNL office at Moradabad last week. "The moment I redialed the caller number, my account balance lost a sum of money. Thereafter, in the three days that followed every time I got my cell phone recharged, the balance would be reduced to single digits within the next few minutes," she told the BSNL officials.

France brings in breathalyser law

New motoring laws have come into force in France making it compulsory for drivers to carry breathalyser kits in their vehicles. As of July 1, motorists and motorcyclists will face an on-the-spot fine unless they travel with two single-use devices as part of a government drive to reduce the number of drink-drive related deaths. The new regulations, which excludes mopeds, will be fully enforced and include foreigner drivers from November 1 following a four-month grace period. Anyone failing to produce a breathalyser after that date will receive an 11 euro fine. French police have warned they will be carrying out random checks on drivers crossing into France via ferries and through the Channel Tunnel to enforce the new rules. Retailers in the UK have reported a massive rise in breathalyser sales as British drivers travelling across the Channel ensure they do not fall foul of the new legislation. Car accessory retailer Halfords said it is selling one kit every minute of the day and has rushed extra stock into stores to cope with the unprecedented demand. Six out of 10 Britons travelling to France are not aware they have to carry two NF approved breathalysers at all times, according to the company. The French government hopes to save around 500 lives a year by introducing the new laws, which will encourage drivers who suspect they may be over the limit to test themselves with the kits. The French drink-driving limit is 50mg of alcohol in 100ml of blood - substantially less than the UK limit of 80mg.

Sunday, 1 July 2012

The number of Britons arrested overseas is on the rise, official figures have shown.

 The Foreign Office (FO) handled 6,015 arrest cases involving British nationals abroad between April 2011 and March 2012. This was 6% more than in the previous 12 months and included a 2% rise in drug arrests. The figures, which include holidaymakers and Britons resident overseas, showed the highest number of arrests and detentions was in Spain (1,909) followed by the USA (1,305). Spanish arrests rose 9% in 2011/12, while the United States was up 3%. The most arrests of Britons for drugs was in the US (147), followed by Spain (141). The highest percentage of arrests for drugs in 2011/12 was in Peru where there were only 17 arrests in total, although 15 were for drugs. The FO said anecdotal evidence from embassies and consulates overseas suggested many incidents were alcohol-fuelled, particularly in popular holiday destinations such as the Canary Islands, mainland Spain, the Balearics (which include Majorca and Ibiza), Malta and Cyprus. Consular Affairs Minister Jeremy Browne said: "It is important that people understand that taking risks abroad can land them on the wrong side of the law. "The punishments can be very severe, with tougher prison conditions than in the UK. While we will work hard to try and ensure the safety of British nationals abroad, we cannot interfere in another country's legal system. "We find that many people are shocked to discover that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office cannot get them out of jail. We always provide consular support to British nationals in difficulty overseas. However, having a British passport does not make you immune to foreign laws and will not get you special treatment in prison."

Thursday, 28 June 2012

Abu Dhabi death sentence pair were 'big-time dealers'

The two men sentenced to death for selling Dh1,500 worth of marijuana to an undercover policeman were experienced dealers involved in smuggling larger quantities of drugs including opium and heroin, according to the head of Abu Dhabi Criminal Court. Related ■ UAE death sentence for Briton and Syrian to face significant checks ■ Briton and Syrian sentenced to death for drug dealing in Abu Dhabi Topic Crime The sentencing of Briton NL, 21, and MB, 19, from Syria, earlier this week caused controversy for the relatively small amount of drugs involved. But Chief Justice Sayed Abdul Baseer said yesterday that the pair's involvement in drug dealing had been observed by police long before the sting operation in which they were caught selling 20 grams of hashish. He said the pair had previously dealt in harder drugs, including opium and heroin, and were involved in a highly organised and professional operation. "They would study the market and plan their steps ahead," said the chief justice. The chief justice added that the pair knew what they were doing each day in advance. "They even discussed what penalty they could face if they were caught," he said. Experts who examined the mobile phone and BlackBerry messenger records of the two men uncovered numerous discussions between the two about various drug deals in which they debated how to import the drugs and how to sell them once they were in the country. In one conversation the Briton - who had previous convictions for possessing and taking drugs - described the state of the UAE drug market, explaining that 1kg of hashish could fetch Dh9,000. He also mentioned that he believed the punishment for dealing was a life sentence, while the maximum jail term for consumption was four years. A separate conversation between the Briton and a Spanish person, identified as R, showed that the Briton had shipped at least one consignment of drugs into the country, while a third phone call involved an Emirati man requesting an undisclosed amount of opium. In yet another conversation the Syrian asked the Briton to provide him with Dh1,000 worth of hashish. The Briton then asked for a chance to cut the requested amount and weight it - proof, said the chief justice, that the pair were involved in dealing, and not just consuming drugs. Items recovered from their homes were also consistent with dealing, he said. "Police found [in the Briton's house] special cutters to cut hashish and sell it later on," said the chief justice. Officers also found paper rolls used to pack hashish and other instruments used to consume the drug. The chief justice took the opportunity to explain why two others involved in the case were given more lenient sentences. He said that the third defendant GA, a 17-year-old Emirati who was ordered to enter rehabilitation, was guilty only of consuming the banned drug Tramadol. In such a case, where a juvenile was involved, the law prescribed a period of rehabilitation. The fourth defendant FM, from Sudan, was also convicted of consuming only Tramadol. However, as he was not a minor he received a jail term of one year. As he is not Emirati he will also be deported. The chief justice pointed out that all the defendants had confessed to the charges, noting that the Emirati acquired the Tramadol from the Briton for free, and that the Syrian admitted selling large amounts of hashish through another unnamed Emirati. He also explained that in cases of drug dealing, the law was not concerned with the amount involved or how much it was worth. "The criminal factor is fulfilled through the agreement to sell and buy, not necessarily after money has been paid and the delivery has occurred." Despite the chief justice's comments, the verdict of the criminal court represents only the first stage in a long process. Under law, any death sentence must be presented in four different courts and to 19 judges before it can be passed to the president or ruler of the emirate for approval. A legal source said that in the emirate of Abu Dhabi there were no previous instances of a death sentence for drug dealing passing through all these stages, as the sentence tends to be reduced either by the appeals court or the court of cassation. All death sentences must automatically be appealed by the public prosecution. If the appeal court upholds the verdict the court of cassation then studies the case to see if it fulfils the Sharia requirements. If the court is unconvinced it returns the case to the appeals court for a second hearing. A different panel of judges will then study the case and if they uphold the death sentence the case will return to the court of cassation for a final verdict. Those accused have a chance to defend themselves at each stage of the process.

Friday, 22 June 2012

Three jailed for smuggling one tonne of cocaine by luxury yacht

Three Dutch men have been jailed for up to seven years for smuggling over one tonne of cocaine on board a luxury yacht, the BBC reports. Klaas L, 61, and owner of the yacht, was jailed for seven years and his son Robert, 33, for five years by judges in Rotterdam. A third man, Mohamed Z, 45, was jailed for eight years. L's other son was acquitted, the BBC said. The drugs were found by Southampton police after a tip-off last year. The motor yacht Louise had been loaded onto a ship transporter bound for Holland while in the Caribbean, where it was already under surveillance. The transporter made a scheduled stop in Southampton where the yacht was searched by British and Dutch officials. Hidden After six days, they eventually found the drugs hidden beneath the bathing platform at the back of the boat. The yacht's owner had tried to pick the boat up in Southampton but were delayed by British officials who said it was no longer seaworthy while the investigation continued. The drugs, with a street value of €45m, were probably hidden on the yacht in Venezuela. According to British media reports, the drug was 90% pure and represented of of the largest finds of a Class A drug ever made in the UK. Police also recovered a million euros in cash, two Harley Davidson motorbikes, two firearms, a silencer and a quantity of ecstasy.

Friday, 15 June 2012

A key player in a major drug smuggling gang, who fled the country in 2004, has been jailed for nine years today for his involvement in an attempt to smuggle £2 million worth of cocaine into the UK.

Richard Wright Photo: HM Revenue & Customs

Richard Wright, 51, formerly of Chislehurst, Kent, was extradited from the Netherlands.

He was sentenced today for conspiring to import Class A drugs via Zeebrugge in 2004.

Wright had escaped before he could be charged but he continued his illegal activities and was arrested by HM Revenue and Customs officers after he served a jail term in Holland.

Mike O’Grady, Revenue & Customs Assistant Director of Criminal Investigation, said: “Wright fled the UK when circumstances got difficult and he saw we had arrested other gang members associated with the smuggling attempt.

"It became clear that he had continued his illegal activities in the Netherlands in the intervening period when he was arrested by our partners there for similar drug smuggling offences. Combining our intelligence and expertise for both smuggling cases has protected UK citizens and wider European communities from this habitual organised criminal.”

Drugs were believed to be destined for organised crime gangs in Derbyshire and London Credit: HM Revenue & Customs

Seven other gang members were jailed in 2006 following the seizure of 29kg of cocaine at Hull Docks.

The drugs were hidden underneath solidified bitumen, within one of two pods on the rear of a tarmac truck.

The drugs were believed to have been destined for organised crime gangs in Derbyshire and London.

Monday, 11 June 2012

investigation has exposed the organised criminals who secretly trade organs for British transplant patients for as little as £4,500

 investigation has exposed the organised criminals who secretly trade organs for British transplant patients for as little as £4,500 (Rs 3.85 lakh). The gangs, operating in eastern Europe and the Indian subcontinent, prey on the desperation of patients requiring organs and the poverty of donors who often earn less than £1,000 (Rs 85,754) from the exploitative deals. The so-called organ brokers have developed a network of corrupt officials who provide fake documentation to show that donors are related to the recipients, a legal requirement in Britain and several other countries. They have also recruited corrupt doctors who conduct medical tests and help arrange transplant operations in the donors’ homelands. Police are investigating the first case of people-trafficking for organs in Britain after a woman was brought to the country last month by an eastern European gang that planned to sell her kidney. However, the international trade in human organs has been flourishing for several years. Last month, a report by the World Health Organisation estimated that 10,000 black-market transplant operations take place each year. The illicit trade begins with men such as Tsvetan. He and several other touts were found loitering outside a blood transfusion centre in Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria, as they offered poor and homeless people 20 euros (Rs 1,401) for a unit of their blood. The blood is resold for as much as 10 times that sum. Far more lucrative, however, is the buying and selling of organs — a point not lost on Tsvetan as he listened to an undercover reporter detail how a female relative in London required a kidney. Tsvetan asked for the woman’s blood type and on being told she was A positive replied: “We have that available. I have a man who has exactly that blood type. We have his full medical reports.… When you see that everything is right then we can talk about money and the guy will go with you to London.” Hours later, he summoned the reporter to a cafe where he handed over a bundle including blood reports, ultrasound scans and X-rays. Pointing to one, he said: “Look, he is A positive, everything is in order. He has no diseases — HIV, hepatitis, everything is negative. We were going to sell his kidney to another patient but the guy died before the transplant could take place.... You are lucky.” Two days later, Tsvetan, his boss Traicho and the donor, Minko Asenov, met the reporter at another cafe. Traicho said: “You can take him to the doctor to check that he is still healthy and his blood group is fine. We will make the appointment tomorrow (Monday) with the doctor who is our friend, he works at the top hospital. He knows everything that we do.… He can do all the tests.” Asenov, a retired factory worker and father of three from Vratsa, a town in eastern Bulgaria, supplements his benefit payments by salvaging scraps from dustbins to sell. “I have sold blood more than 20 times. We are poor people and this is a way to make good money,” he explained. Traicho said Asenov would be escorted to Britain. He quoted a price of 20,000 euros (Rs 13.9 lakh) for Asenov’s kidney. Organ transplants in England and Wales are regulated by the Human Tissue Act, 2004, which prohibits the selling of organs. To combat trafficking, doctors must follow strict rules requiring them to satisfy themselves that a donor is not being paid or coerced. Aware of such strict rules, the gangs have a network of officials who provide bogus papers showing a donor is related to the recipient. It took Traicho and Tsvetan less than an hour to bribe a council official to sign and stamp a document falsely showing Asenov was the father-in-law of the woman awaiting a kidney in London. Kiro, in his fifties, runs a rival organ trafficking gang in Sofia. He warned the reporter who had approached him seeking to buy a kidney: “We are serious people.… The price is £20,000 (Rs 17.15 lakh).” The deal struck, factory worker Dimitar Doychenov was ushered to the table. “I’m doing this for my son who is 18 months old,” he said. “I’m 30 so I should recover fast.” His confidence is misplaced. Donors face poor medical care or are ripped off. The potential risks have failed to dissuade men such as Sanjay Srivastava, a 38-year-old office assistant recruited as a donor by a gang operated by Hemchand Kallu, an ambulance fleet owner in Delhi. At a meeting with an undercover reporter in the city’s Connaught Place, Kallu said: “I have somebody who is ready to donate. He is in need of money and will sign any papers.... Donors are not a problem. The kidney will cost you Rs 400,000-500,000.” Later, Srivastava explained: “The money will help me to get my sister married.” In case he was not a match, Kallu arranged for the reporter to meet another potential donor — a 30-year-old divorced mother of three called Seema Khan. She said: “I just want to give my children a better life.” In Delhi, S.K. Gupta, a GP recommended by Kallu, suggested the transplant be carried out in India where he estimated it would cost £15,000 (Rs 12.8 lakh). He claimed to have previously helped other British transplant patients. Explaining how paperwork falsely stating a relationship between donor and recipient would be required, he said: “Paperwork will cost you an additional Rs 100,000.... Everybody gets a cut. That’s how it’s done.”

Man charged with importing heroin from Kenya in picture frame

Chicago man has been charged with trying to take possession of heroin concealed in a picture frame he had had shipped from Kenya to the downtown hotel where he worked, court documents show. Taiwo Obayemi, 34, of the 5100 block of South Blackstone Avenue in Chicago, was arrested Wednesday near his home after the picture frame had been shipped to his work place, the W Hotel, 644 N. Lake Shore Dr., according to a federal criminal complaint against him filed today. U.S. Homeland Security agents investigated six packages supposedly containing picture frames or framed prints sent to the hotel from a children’s home in Nairobi, Kenya. The last one, which Obayemi eventually was arrested with, had been sent with a little less than 5 ounces of heroin concealed in it, according to an affidavit filed in the case by a Homeland Security drug agent. Five previous shipments, which also were made via DHL, went from the children’s home in Nairobi to fictitious people at the W Hotel starting in November 2011, according to the agent. Federal agents intercepted the sixth package in Cincinnati, Ohio, on May 31. About 4.75 ounces of heroin were found in the frame and the frame was sent on to Chicago, where agents took the heroin out and replaced it with fake heroin. The frame was sent on to the W Hotel, where Obayemi eventually took it and was driven by someone else to his neighborhood, according to the affidavit. When Obayemi got out of the car, agents approached him, and when they identified themselves as police, he began to run and dropped the package, according to the complaint. After his arrest, Obayemi told agents he had a person in Nigeria send the packages to him, and told agents “he accepted the illegal package because of greed and the things he wanted,” according to the affidavit. Text messages to and from Obayemi indicate he was dealing heroin and discussing the price of the drug with customers. In an interview with one of the people who received deliveries at the W Hotel, agents were told that Obayemi had received about five packages in the last year similar to the one he received Wednesday. Obayemi was convicted in 1999 of possessing heroin with intent to distribute and conspiracy to import a controlled substance, and sentenced to 87 months in prison, according to the affidavit. He was released from federal prison in 2004, according to U.S. Bureau of Prisons records. Court information for Obayemi was not available Friday night. The general manager of the W Hotel said in an email that "The hotel continues to cooperate fully with the police on their investigation," but referred all questions "to the authorities."

Customs officers in Lom find heroin instead of first aid kit

Customs officers in the Northern town of Lom found heroin instead of a first aid kit, the press office of the National Customs Agency announced for FOCUS News Agency. A mobile customs group stopped a car for a check. The vehicle was with Bulgarian registration and was travelling from Bulgaria to Austria, driven by a Bulgarian national. The car was redirected for a thorough check to the Vidin Ferryboat checkpoint, where authorities found a suspicious package put in the space, where the first aid kit was supposed to be. The drug test made on the field responded to heroin. The package contained some 702 grams of heroin. The driver was drawn a statement of customs violation and the case has been referred to the District Prosecutor’s Office

Customs officers in Lom find heroin instead of first aid kit

Customs officers in the Northern town of Lom found heroin instead of a first aid kit, the press office of the National Customs Agency announced for FOCUS News Agency. A mobile customs group stopped a car for a check. The vehicle was with Bulgarian registration and was travelling from Bulgaria to Austria, driven by a Bulgarian national. The car was redirected for a thorough check to the Vidin Ferryboat checkpoint, where authorities found a suspicious package put in the space, where the first aid kit was supposed to be. The drug test made on the field responded to heroin. The package contained some 702 grams of heroin. The driver was drawn a statement of customs violation and the case has been referred to the District Prosecutor’s Office

Haji Bagcho sent heroin to more than 20 countries and was once responsible for trafficking a fifth of the world's heroin supply

Haji Bagcho sent heroin to more than 20 countries and was once responsible for trafficking a fifth of the world's heroin supply, prosecutors estimate. In one year alone he is thought to have traded more than 125 tonnes of the drug worth hundreds of millions of pounds, and used the proceeds to give weapons, cash and supplies to Taliban commanders fighting Nato forces. His conviction was a rare success for an international effort which has struggled to dent the Afghan opium trade, or the international drug smuggling networks it feeds. Bagcho, aged around 60, operated a family business from Nangarhar province in eastern Afghanistan and ran a network of laboratories along the Pakistan border. Khadi Gul, Bagcho's younger brother, told The Daily Telegraph his family had been involved in smuggling and had run a family business from a notorious smuggling bazaar in Ghani Kheyl.

15 heroin capsules recovered from Nigerian’s stomach

RAWALPINDI: The Anti-Narcotics Force (ANF) arrested a Nigerian man on Sunday after recovery of 15 heroin-filled capsules from his stomach, the ANF said. Qgbnobioma Leonard, having passport number A-2540022, was proceeding to Dubai and onward to Nigeria by PIA flight PK-211 at 12 p.m. The ANF personnel found his activities suspicious. During investigation by the ANF officers, he confessed that he swallowed 15 capsules of heroin, the ANF said. He was sent to the hospital where 15 capsules filled with heroin were recovered.

Monday, 28 May 2012

Police Arrest Four More Drug Smuggling Suspects in Bali

 Bali police announced on Monday that they have arrested a total of five suspects they believe are part of an international drug smuggling syndicate. 

Police said they arrested Lindsay June Sandiford on May 19. Sandiford, a 56-year-old British lawyer, arrived from Bangkok, Thailand when she was detained at Ngurah Rai Airport with some $2.5 million worth of cocaine in her suitcase. 

The four additional suspects, who were arrested on Friday, were believed to be the recipients Sandiford’s shipment. 

“Cocaine could be sold for Rp 23.9 billion ($2.5 million), assuming the price per gram is Rp 5 million,” Made Wijaya, the head of the Ngurah Rai customs office said in a press conference on Monday. “If they passed through security, [the drugs] could be consumed by 14,337 people.”

The four other suspects include Rachel D, Julian AP, Paul B and Nanda Gophal — they were arrested after customs officers conducted a "controlled delivery" in cooperation with Bali police and the National Anti-Narcotics Agency (BNN). 

“It took eight days to reveal this case, and they are all members of very big international syndicate,” Wijaya said.

Sandiford is believed to be the only the courier; she was supposed to hand over the cocaine to Julian, the alleged boss of the syndicate.

Julian was arrested in Karangasem with 4.7 kilograms of cocaine in his car trunk. He eventually took the police to his villa, where they  arrested Rachel, who police say had 45 grams of cocaine in her possession. 

Police also arrested Gophal at Julian's villa, and said they eventually found 78 plastic bags containing 279.3 gram crystal methamphetamine in Gophal's villa in North Kuta.

Paul was arrested at a separate location in Karangasem, and police say they found 3.1 gram of hashish at his residence.  

The five suspects are charged with 2009 law on Narcotics, and may face the death penalty.  

Monday, 21 May 2012

Four tons of marijuana found floating off Southern California coast

Four tons of marijuana in large bales were found bobbing off the Southern California coast, and authorities are still trying to determine where it came from. Harbor patrol agents began receiving tips about "suspicious bales" 13 miles offshore near Dana Point, in Orange County around noon on May 20, according to a report from CBS Los Angeles. The Coast Guard, Orange County Sheriff's Department and U.S. Border Patrol hauled in some 160 bales or 7,623 pounds of marijuana. Border Patrol agents said the bales had a street value of $3.6 million. So far, there have been no arrests, and there were no suspect vessels sighted near the area where the dumping occurred. Border Patrol spokesman Michael Jimenez called the incident unusual in the Orange County Register. Typically, bales are found in the water because suspects and boats fleeing from authorities are in a hurry to get rid of them.

Four tons of marijuana found floating off Southern California coast

Four tons of marijuana in large bales were found bobbing off the Southern California coast, and authorities are still trying to determine where it came from. Harbor patrol agents began receiving tips about "suspicious bales" 13 miles offshore near Dana Point, in Orange County around noon on May 20, according to a report from CBS Los Angeles. The Coast Guard, Orange County Sheriff's Department and U.S. Border Patrol hauled in some 160 bales or 7,623 pounds of marijuana. Border Patrol agents said the bales had a street value of $3.6 million. So far, there have been no arrests, and there were no suspect vessels sighted near the area where the dumping occurred. Border Patrol spokesman Michael Jimenez called the incident unusual in the Orange County Register. Typically, bales are found in the water because suspects and boats fleeing from authorities are in a hurry to get rid of them.

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Customs Negligent in Monitoring Tanjung Priok, says Anti-Drugs Watchdog

Henry Yosodiningrat, chairman of the National Movement Against Drugs (Granat), says customs and excise officers are negligent when monitoring Tanjung Priok Port. The comments were made in regard to the smuggling of 351 kilograms of methamphetamine from China via Malaysia to Indonesia. “If methamphetamine can get out of the container port, then the supervision must be very low,” said Henry in Jakarta on Tuesday. Henry is concerned that the low supervision in ports could be taken advantage of by international drug networks to smuggle large quantities of narcotics into Indonesia. “The catch, 351 kilograms of it, may only just be 10 percent of the total amount of drugs smuggled to Indonesia,” Henry said.

The Australian man facing the death penalty for trying to smuggle drugs into Bali says he was forced to do so.

Edward Myatt attends his trial at a court in Denpasar, Bali accused of carrying  1.1 kg of hashish and 7 grams of methamphetamine (FILE Getty Images) 

Edward Myatt attends his trial at a court in Denpasar, Bali accused of carrying 1.1 kg of hashish and 7 grams of methamphetamine (FILE Getty Images)

 


Edward Myatt faced court for the first time on Wednesday since his arrest in February at Bali's Ngurah Rai Airport, where he was allegedly caught with 1.1kg of hashish and four grams of methamphetamines in plastic casings he'd swallowed.
An Australian man accused of trying to import a large quantity of drugs into Bali in his stomach will claim he was forced into the high-risk mission, which could see him sentenced to death if found guilty.

The 54-year-old showed no emotion and said little as the indictment against him was read out in the Denpasar District Court.

He faces three charges, including trafficking and two counts of possession.

Myatt, from Ballarat, Victoria, but who has lived in England for several years, could be sentenced to death if convicted on the drug-trafficking charge.

The possession charges carry a maximum penalty of life in jail.

He was not required to enter a plea on Wednesday.

Authorities remain convinced he was part of an international drug-smuggling syndicate and may have successfully imported drugs into Bali in the past.

Myatt has allegedly told investigators he bought the drugs in Delhi from a man he knew as "Dr Steve" after travelling to India from Yorkshire, England, where he had been living.

He then allegedly separated the drugs into smaller quantities and wrapped them in 72 plastic casings at his hotel before swallowing them and travelling to Bali.

But his lawyer, Maya Arsanti, told AAP outside the court that he only made the trip under pressure from another man, identified as Roger, who he knew in India.

"Roger forced him to do this," Ms Arsanti she said after the hearing.

Ms Arsanti did not give any more details about the mysterious "Roger", but said the claim will form a major part of the defence's case.

She added that Myatt, a yoga instructor, was a long-term user of drugs.

If this is accepted by the prosecutors and judges, it could see him given a lighter sentence.

People caught with drugs in Indonesia are often treated more leniently by the courts if they can prove they have an addiction.

Bali's chief prosecutor, Gusti Gede Putu Atmaja, however, said he would explore the allegations from narcotics officers that Myatt's trip to Bali in February was not his first as a drug courier.

"That's what we want to find out. I hope not, for his sake," Mr Atmaja told AAP.

"We will find out if this is the first time or second time, or one of many."

Mr Atmaja added he was yet to form an opinion about what kind of sentence would be sought, but said that the evidence against Myatt was overwhelming.

"This is a strong case," he said.

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Drug cartels have increasingly been shipping cocaine by way of hard-to-detect semi-submersible vessels. And the next generation of narco subs may be even harder to spot.

After a two-year manhunt, the United States Drug Enforcement Agency last week arrested Colombian drug kingpin Javier Antonio Calle Serna, a senior leader of Los Rastrojos, one of the country’s most formidable drug-trafficking organizations. After being indicted last summer by the Eastern District of New York, Serna reportedly felt so squeezed by the agency and rival drug dealers that he began negotiating for his surrender.

His arrest is by all accounts good news, especially due to Los Rastrojos alleged connections to Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, Mexico’s most wanted man and perhaps the world’s most notorious drug lord. Yet Serna’s capture is also a reminder of one of the growing challenges in the seemingly never-ending war on drugs: combating narco subs. Serna headed an organization well known for its ability to rapidly build and use roughly 50-foot-long fiberglass vessels (PDF), which float just above the waterline, to surreptitiously smuggle drugs across the globe.

Despite concerted efforts by governments to patrol their coastlines, drug traffickers have shown a remarkable ability to adapt, according to experts such as Rear Adm. Joseph L. Nimmich, former commander of the U.S. Coast Guard’s Joint Interagency Task Force South. And over the past five years, drug-trafficking
organizations and terrorist groups have increasingly been moving massive amounts of narcotics by way of these vessels. Indeed, U.S. counter-drug officials have estimated that roughly 32 percent of all cocaine sent between Latin America and the United States is transported by way of narco sub.

Historically, each innovation in drug trafficking has come about when existing methods have reached a state of crisis. Early in the drug war, Colombian drug cartels preferred to move their product by small planes, which landed on secret air strips in Central America. American authorities eventually started tracking these planes and closing down the secret airports. During the Miami Vice era, drug traffickers used high-speed boats for transport, but again American authorities caught on. And so in the early ’90s, the narco sub was born.

Over the past few years, law-enforcement officials have received reports that terrorist organizations, such as the FARC in Colombia and the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka, have been constructing semi-submersible narco subs to fund their activities. So too have drug-trafficking organizations such as Mexico’s powerful Sinaloa Cartel. And though it hasn’t been reported that al Qaeda and Hizbullah have ever tried to rent space on a narco sub or build one themselves in an effort to move drugs, weapons, or terrorists, it’s not much of a stretch to imagine this development, especially considering the latter’s alleged links to drug traffickers in parts of Latin America.

NARCO SUB

Colombian soldiers guard a homemade submersible in a rural area of Timbiqui, department of Cauca, Colombia, on February 14, 2011. (Luis Robayo, AFP / Getty Images)

The reason these vessels are so successful, according to U.S. and Latin American law-enforcement officials, is that they’re difficult to capture. Their hulls are painted dark blue, making them nearly impossible to spot. Powered by ordinary diesel engines, they leave little wake and produce an extremely small radar signature. The DEA claims that roughly 10 percent of all narco subs leaving Latin America are caught, but the true number is probably much lower since crews often sink their craft if they fear they might be discovered.

During the 1990s, American drug-enforcement officials heard of narco subs operating in Central America. In fact, the subs earned the named Bigfoots because some considered them a myth. In 2006, that myth was shattered when U.S. authorities spotted and seized their first vessel. By 2008, they began spotting about 10 a month.

Analysts have estimated that drug-trafficking organizations manufacture more than 120 narco subs every year. The building process, they say, takes anywhere from three months to a year, and costs up to $2 million per sub. The price may be well worth it, though, as these Bigfoots reportedly move as much as 12 tons of cocaine per trip; cut and sold, that translates to up to $4 million.

In an interview with VICE’s VBS TV, former drug trafficker Miguel Angel Montoya said that most narco submarines are made in the BuenaventuraJungle, one of Colombia’s poorest regions and an area that is accessible only by boat. Under the cover of the jungle’s heavy foliage, traffickers are able to hide in plain sight from law enforcement as they carry out their nefarious activities. For access and protection, narco traffickers pay the FARC and other paramilitary groups undisclosed sums, according to Montoya. The traffickers then assign each sub a four-man crew and pay them roughly $40,000 total per voyage.

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.

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.

Sunday, 29 April 2012

Drug smuggler who evaded jail for 15 years could be found in seconds online

A DRUG smuggling pensioner hid from the law for 15 years – even though he could be found in seconds on the internet. Fugitive John Henry Charles Price went on the run when he absconded from court in 1997. He was standing trial after being stopped at Dover with 10,000 Ecstasy pills worth £150,000. But rather than heading for the Costa Del Sol, or South America like Ronnie Biggs, the Englishman simply moved 200 miles to Powys, where he lived openly under his real name, paid taxes, insured cars and even voted. The elderly crook was finally nabbed in the garden of his Mid Wales home last week and jailed for 12 years. But a quick search by Wales on Sunday revealed he was listed on directory enquiries as living at Old Forest Farm, in Clyro, until 2008. And last week, the 72 year old was living barely a mile away at tumbledown Hendom Cottage, where his past finally caught up with him. Oliver Kirk, representing him in Canterbury Crown Court, told the judge: “He moved to the Welsh borders where he has voted, paid his tax, insured vehicles and received medical treatment using his real name yet was not arrested.” Price, from Strood, Kent, seemingly lived as a model citizen in the village near Hay-on-Wye after fleeing justice. He did not resurface until last week when he was visited by cops after a tip off. Now stooped over and walking with a stick, he is a far cry from when he was sentenced in his absence by Judge Jonathan Langdon on April 8, 1997. However, despite having been jailed for 12 years, having smuggled a huge amount of drugs into the country and having been a wanted man for 12 years, there is no available picture of Price. Speaking to us after the case, his lawyer Mr Kirk said: “They came and arrested him when he was sitting sunning himself in his garden.” Mr Kirk said he did not know exactly why the sudden movement in Price’s case, but added: “It was just decided they would have a look at some old warrants that had been lying around.” Price was arrested by Dyfed-Powys police officers after being told of his whereabouts by HM Revenue and Customs. But the force said investigating his whereabouts had never been down to them. Kent Police said likewise. A spokeswoman said: “It’s not Kent Police. It’s an HMRC job because it is their investigation. “You need to speak to them.” A HMRC spokesman said: “There were all sorts of searches for him all over the place and that was the result. “How we got to him in Wales I really don’t know. I’m not sure we would release that.” But when Wales on Sunday told customs Price was listed on 192.com, the spokesman said: “I see what you mean.” Price had made no attempt to disguise himself while on the run. “He had not grown a beard or left the country,” Mr Kirk said. “He paid his tax and no-one ever located him. “He was very philosophical about it. He had always known that the knock might come at some stage. “To be honest, I rather sort of think he made the best decision under the circumstances. “He is now a very sick man. He is likely to die in prison because he is going to have to serve eight years of a 12-year sentence. “Some might say he made the right choice. He is going to be looked after extra well in prison. If there is any medical attention he needs the prison will provide it. “He is in the best possible place.” Price was said to be most unhappy about the fact he had ever been found guilty at all. “He was fairly aggrieved at being convicted in the first place,” Mr Kirk said. “But I pointed out there is a 28-day time limit for filing grounds of appeal for conviction.” It is understood Price earned a living working as an agricultural engineer repairing tractors while in Wales and went by the name Charlie. One neighbour, who did not want to be identified, said: “He was a lovely old chap but he was not in the best of health. “I was quite shocked by the whole thing. “He didn’t seem like the type. I didn’t even realise it was him until you pointed it out. “He just kept himself to himself.” Another said: “He used the name Charlie.” Hendom Cottage is now fairly run-down, with the name marked on a small wooden sign in the porch window. The grass is long. Tulips and wild flowers are growing. Inside is a desk covered with documents and DVDs. There was a letter marked “John H Price” on a windowsill. Neighbours looked for Price when he went missing last week, concerned something had happened to him. It later turned out he had been arrested. Another neighbour said: “He is not a drug smuggler. There were circumstances at the time. “He is a lovely chap and he has got a lot of good friends around here. We all support him.”

TSA screeners charged in LA drug trafficking probe

Duane Eleby, a suspected drug courier, was all set to sneak 10 pounds of cocaine through a security checkpoint at Los Angeles International Airport last February with the help of a former Transportation Security Administration employee and a screener. Eleby, however, bungled the plan by going to the wrong terminal and was arrested after another TSA screener found the cocaine, which set in motion a series of undercover operations that led to Wednesday's announcement that two former and current TSA employees had been indicted on federal drug trafficking and bribery charges. A 22-count indictment outlined five incidents where the TSA employees took payments of up to $2,400 to provide drug couriers unfettered access at LAX over a six-month period last year. In all, seven people are facing charges, including Eleby. "The allegations in this case describe a significant breakdown of the screening system through the conduct of individuals who placed greed above the nation's security needs," said U.S. Attorney Andre Birotte Jr. Among those arrested and charged are Naral Richardson, 30, of Los Angeles, who was fired by TSA for an unrelated matter in 2010 and accused of orchestrating the scheme; John Whitfield, 23, of Los Angeles, a current TSA screener; Joy White, 27, of Compton, who was terminated last year; and Capeline McKinney, 25, of Los Angeles, also a current screener. It wasn't immediately known if any of the four had retained attorneys. Authorities didn't say what post Richardson, who began working for TSA in 2002, once held. Eleby was given specific written instructions by White last February to ensure his safe passage through the airport, according to the indictment. Instead of going to Terminal 6 where White, who was hired six years ago, was located, Eleby went to Terminal 5 where his plane was scheduled to depart, authorities said. The plan, court documents show, was to have Eleby use a secure tunnel linking the two terminals after he was allowed through security by White. Despite Eleby's arrest, the smuggling scheme continued and federal agents set up a sting where informants were able to pass cocaine and methamphetamine through security checkpoints without further inspection. In one case, after nearly 8 pounds of meth went through an X-ray machine, Whitfield and an operative met in an airport bathroom where Whitfield was paid $600 for his efforts, court documents show. In another instance, McKinney let more than 44 pounds of cocaine pass through her security checkpoint, authorities said. None of the drugs ever made it to their final destination, authorities said. Randy Parsons, TSA's security director at LAX, said the agency is disappointed about the arrests but that it remained committed to holding its employees to the highest standards. If convicted, all four employees face a minimum of 10 years in federal prison. Whitfield, who has worked at TSA since 2008, and McKinney, a seven-year veteran, are under suspension, authorities said. There have been a handful of other arrests of TSA employees since the agency was created in response to the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Last week, former TSA officer Jonathan Best pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute and to possess with intent to distribute oxycodone for his role in a painkiller trafficking ring. Another former TSA officer, a former New York police officer and a former Florida state trooper have already pleaded guilty.

Friday, 20 April 2012

France and Germany want to suspend the Shengen Agreement

They say they want a temporary suspension while the crisis continues. Spain will being introducing border restrictions during the European Central Bank meeting in Barcelona at the start of May.Angela Merkel and Nicolás Sarkozy - The Interior Ministers of France and Germany have written a joint letter in which they call for the reform of, and ‘temporary suspension’ of the Schengen agreement which allows for the free movement between most member states of the EU. They say the change is necessary ‘to control the massive flow of immigrants’. The call comes just ahead of the 25th anniversary of the treaty this coming Monday, although many countries signed up in March 1995. France and Germany consider that a ‘temporary suspension’ is needed during the crisis, and Paris and Berlin speak of ‘provisional’ closure of frontiers, and only when a country in the Schengen space cannot control the flow of immigrants. They say they will give the details to their European partners at the next conference. Meanwhile Spain has announced the suspension of the Schengen Treaty and the re-establishing of frontier controls with France ahead of the European Central Bank meeting which is to be held in Barcelona on May 3. It has not yet been decided how long the border restriction will remain in place, but say it will allow the authorities to act if there is ‘a serious threat to public order or interior security’. The measure will only affect the frontiers between Spain and France from the Basque Country to Cataluña. Reports indicate that it was the Catalan Government to step up the controls in the face of possible disturbances and the arrival of anti-system protestors from other countries in Europe.

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Police in downtown Los Angelese are fighting crime by predicting offences - before they have even happened.



Unlike the usual method of responding to 911 calls, cops use computers which show them 'red spots' where an incident is most likely to occur.

They are then deployed onto the streets in a bid to deter thugs, burglers and gangsters from going on their next crime spree.

Technical: LAPD cops study an enormous computer screen showing 'red spots' where the next crime is most likely to committed

Technical: LAPD cops study an enormous computer screen showing 'red spots' where the next crime is most likely to committed

 

The 'predictive policing' system pulls together crime statistics and pinpoints the areas where most offences are being carried out. Police are then sent to patrol those streets

The 'predictive policing' system pulls together crime statistics and pinpoints the areas where most offences are being carried out. Police are then sent to patrol those streets

The programme has some similarities with the hit science fiction film Minority Report.  The movie is set in 2054 and a special police unit is able to arrest murderers before they commit their crimes.

However, unlike LAPD's system who use computer data, those in Minority Report employ special psychics called 'precogs'.

Tom Cruise plays 'PreCrime' captain John Anderton but the system eventually predicts that he will commit a future murder and he has to take flight.

 

 

Such disturbing situations are unlikely to happen with LAPD's system, which uses crime statistics - and not premonitions - to pinpoint the next likely incident.

The system has been trialled in the Foothill division of downtown LA since November and could be rolled out to other areas if it is successful

The system has been trialled in the Foothill division of downtown LA since November and could be rolled out to other areas if it is successful

The 'predictive policing' system being used in the Foothill Division of downtown LA has been developed from the same kind of mathematical calculations used to predict earthquakes and aftershocks.

It analyses the times, dates, and places of recent crimes such as burglaries, break-ins, and car thefts. It also looks at the frequency of offences and predicts how many are likely to be carried out if the trend continues.

If a spate of crimes have happened in one area, or a crook appears to be moving across the region, this is flagged up the software. The data is then aggregated and 'hot spots' are formed.

Capt. Sean Malinowski says the system is able to put police on the streets before crimes have happened.

Futuristic: Tom Cruise, left, as John Anderton in the science fiction hit Minority Report, which uses psychic 'precogs' to predict future crimes

Futuristic: Tom Cruise, left, as John Anderton in the science fiction hit Minority Report, which uses psychic 'precogs' to predict future crimes

Anderton uses his special powers to predict crime to map future offenders on a giant computer screen. The premonitions backfired when he was himself accused of a future murder

Complex: Anderton uses his special powers to predict crime to map future offenders on a giant computer screen. The premonitions backfired when he was himself accused of a future murder

'Sixty-five percent of our crimes are burglary, grand theft auto and burglary from a motor vehicle. And that's what these boxes represent,' he told CBS.

Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck said the main goal was to prevent crime. Since the system was introduced burglaries are down 33 per cent and violent crime is also down 21 per cent.

Police Chf Beck said: 'I love catching people - it's what I live for - but what I'd rather do is live in a place and work in a place where crime didn't happen.

'Everybody thinks they do their profession as well as it can be done and so they don't need any help. If this old street cop can change the way that he thinks about these things, then I know my kids can do the same.'

He added that the system helps police to use their officers more effectively. It has been tested in the Foothill Division since last November and if it is found to be successful it could be roled out across more divisions in LA.




Monday, 16 April 2012

British terror supergrass sentence cut by two years


jailed British terrorist has had his sentence cut by two years in a supergrass deal after giving evidence about an al Qaeda-linked “martyrdom” plot in New York, it was revealed today. Former teacher Saajid Badat was jailed for 13 years in 2005 for plotting with shoe bomber Richard Reid to blow up a transatlantic airliner in 2001 in what an Old Bailey judge said was a “wicked and inhuman” plot. He has now had his term reduced by two years under the first “supergrass” deal involving a terror convict, after providing intelligence to US prosecutors investigating an alleged plot to blow up the New York subway on the eighth anniversary of the 9/11 attack. Details of the deal — kept secret for more than two years — were revealed today by the Crown Prosecution Service as a trial of the alleged al Qaeda plotters began in New York. Defendant Adis Medanjanin, a 27-year-old Bosnian-born US citizen, is charged with conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction, conspiring to commit murder in a foreign country, and providing “material support” to al Qaeda. He is said to have had terrorist training in Pakistan in 2008 and then returned to begin a plot to use beauty parlour chemicals to blow up the subway. Badat, from Gloucester, joined Reid’s shoe bomb conspiracy but pulled out at the last minute.

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