Wednesday, Apr 16th

Last update:15-04-2014 18:16

Montenegro: NGO Accuses a Dozen High-Level Officials of Corruption
Yesterday, MANS, a non-governmental organization (NGO) focused on fighting corruption and organized crime in Montenegro, asked...
Italy: 13 Mobsters Arrested for Dumping Industrial Waste
On April 11, military police from Apulia, Italy arrested 13 people for illegally dumping 12,000 tons of industrial waste. One...
Serbia: Turbo Folk Star “Ceca” Acquitted of Assault Charges
On Wednesday, Belgrade courts acquitted popular Serbian turbo folk singer Svetlana “Ceca” Ražnatović and her sister’s...
US: Sinaloa Drug Lord Is Cooperating With Authorities
The US Attorney in Chicago said Thursday that Jesus Vicente “El Vicentillo” Zambada Niebla, a top member of the Sinaloa...
Montenegro: Šaranović and Koljenšić Arrested Again
On April 8, Slobodan Šaranović and his associate Ratko Koljenšić were arrested for murder for the second time in nine months.
Ukraine: The "Family" Business of a Mezhygirya Contractor
By Maksym Opanasenko (Bureau of journalistic investigations “Svidomo”)...
Arkan, Bojović Associate Murdered
Rade Rakonjac, Arkan's murdered former bodyguard  By Stevan Dojčinović ,...
How Kurchenko's offshores worked
By Anna Babinets People who used to know young billionaire-in-exile Serhiy...
The Silent Looting of Russia
Dmitry Klyuev (left) and Andrei Pavlov (right) at an OSCE meeting in Monaco, in...
Yanukovych’s Real Estate Empire, Part 2
Former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych and his family lived in luxury...
Hungarian Media Law Doomed
19 January 2011 By Tamás Bodoky The widely criticised new Hungarian...
Google is Not Your Friend
  The internet is a powerful tool in the service of investigative...

Columbia honors OCCRP partner in Georgia

Friday, 28 June 2013 13:27
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Studio Monitori and OCCRP partner Nanka Naskidashvili has been awarded the Josh Friedman Prize for the best investigative journalism story in the Republic of Georgia.

Read more...
 

Vatican City: Monsignor Scarano Arrested for Fraud and Corruption

Friday, 28 June 2013 13:08
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Monsignor Nunzio Scarano, a Vatican official, has been arrested on allegations of fraud and corruption in connection with an ongoing Vatican Bank scandal, BBC News reports.

Scarano, an accountant in the Vatican’s financial department, was recently suspended pending investigation of money laundering accusations against the bank, also known as the Institute of Religious Works (IOR).

 Authorities suspect Scarano brought €20 million in cash to Italy from Switzerland aboard an Italian government plane, according to Huffington Post.

 His attorney, Silverico Silva, claims that Scarano was just the middleman in an operation to return money friends had given broker Giovanni Carenzio to invest. The money was moved on a government aircraft in order to avoid reporting on it entering into Italy. The tactic was discovered when Carenzio did not follow through on his end of the deal.

 An Italian secret service agent, Giovanni Maria Zito, and Carenzio were also arrested, reports BBC.

 This is not the only scandal the Vatican official faces. Italian police began investigating Scarano after a series of suspicious transactions labeled as church donations were recycled through the Vatican Bank. Other transactions he was making in 2009 are also under investigation.  Scarano allegedly took €560,000 out of his personal account at the IOR and took it out of the Vatican in order to pay off the mortgage on his Salerno home, reports Huffington Post.

 Scarano took the money from his account and distributed in €10,000 amounts for friends to hold temporarily in order to hide its intended purpose and to avoid suspicion over having such a large amount. The money in his IOR account initially came from donors who gave it under the pretense that they were funding a home for the terminally ill.

 Scarano continues to claim his innocence despite how the case is unfolding. He said he took the money temporarily for personal use.

 BBC reports that the bank is one of the world’s most secretive: it only has 114 workers and holds €5.4 billion in assets.

 Pope Francis recently ordered a full-fledged investigation into the bank. He created a commission to investigate its legal structure and activities. The investigation into Scarano preceded the Pope’s announcement.

 

 

 

Australia: Pair Jailed for Drugs Netting $47 Million

Friday, 28 June 2013 12:29
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A Vietnamese man and a woman who refused to disclose any information about the $47 million worth of  heroin and methamphetamine they were found with have each been sentenced to 18 years in jail, the Australian daily The Courier reported.

Thi Tran, 45, and Manh Dao, were arrested two years ago after a routine police patrol in the park of a Melbourne suburb.

The couple was thought to be acting suspiciously when police saw them walking away from a black BMW as soon as they saw them. Police had just finished a separate investigation into drug trafficking, when the search of the vehicle uncovered 25.2 kilos of high-purity heroin and 6.6 kilos of methamphetamine plus $160,000 in cash.

Police estimated the drugs to be valued at more than $47 million on the street.

The couple first fought the charges, then pleaded guilty to one charge of trafficking a large quantity of drugs. They refused to give any information regarding where or from whom they got the drugs.

The pair will spend at least 13 years in prison.

 

OCCRP Reporters Win Awards

Thursday, 27 June 2013 13:17
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Reporters from the Center for Investigative Reporting in Sarajevo (CIN), an OCCRP partner, won the award for Best Reported Corruption Story given by ACCOUNT (Bosnia’s Legal Anti-Corruption Network).

Aladin Abdagić’s investigation into the murky finances and properties owned by Kemal Čaušević, Bosnia’s former head of the Indirect Taxation Authority took the prize. It was edited by Azhar Kalamujić.

“CIN’s aim is to spread transparency, especially among officials,” Abdagić said. “This investigation continued that trend,” he said.

The award for best corruption video went to Bosnia Broadcasting Company’s CRTA for a story on drug kingpin Naser Kelmendi. The video was based on material previously published by CIN in an investigation which profiled Kelmendi and outlined some of his more dubious activities. That story was written by Azhar Kalamujić and edited by Drew Sullivan.

 

Marc Rich, Oil Tycoon, Dies at 78

Thursday, 27 June 2013 13:01
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Marc Rich, oil trader and infamous white-collar criminal, died at 78 Wednesday in Lucerne, Switzerland, after a stroke, The New York Times reports.

The billionaire became the most successful and controversial commodity trader of his time, tapping into markets for aluminum, silver, and zinc. In the 1970s, his triumph was to develop a spot market for crude oil, making a name for himself amongst bigwig international oil companies.

Rich was accused of trading with revolutionary Iran, even when it was holding American hostages in Tehran, Forbes reports. Rich made illegal business deals with countries like Muammar Gaddafi’s Libya, apartheid-era South Africa, and Fidel Castro’s Cuba, and others. 

In 1983, Rich was indicted on 65 criminal charges, including tax fraud and his illegal dealings with Iran. The Times reports that one of the most serious accusations against Rich was that he misrepresented the provenance of crude oil he sold from 1980 to 1981, selling it at a markup of a maximum 400 percent. Rich profited by more than $100 million and avoided almost $50 million in US taxes in the scheme. 

His company, known today as Glencore Xstrata Plc., paid about $200 million in civil duties to the government. Rich and his business partner fled to Switzerland to avoid prosecution.

The center of the biggest tax evasion case in US history, Rich was put onto the FBI’s 10 Most Wanted List, alongside Osama bin Laden, for tax evasion, fraud, and racketeering, according to Yahoo Finance. The “King of Oil” continued to live in opulence in Switzerland, still the world’s biggest trader of metals and minerals.

The famous fugitive appeared on the presidential pardon list on Jan. 20, 2001, Former Present Clinton’s last day in office, after spending nearly two decades on the Most Wanted list, reports the Times. There was immediate speculation that Clinton gave the pardon due to political and donor pressure backed by Rich’s wife Denise. However, it was determined that her donations to the Democratic Party had nothing to do with the pardon, according to Forbes.

Others, including Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and ex-Mossad chief Shabtai Shavit, lobbied for the pardon on Rich’s behalf.

Clinton later stated that the pardon was “terrible politics,” as reported in the Times, and it was not, as he told Newsweek magazine worth the damage to his political reputation.

Rich will be buried in Tel Aviv, Israel.

 

US: Major Crackdown on Synthetic Drugs

Thursday, 27 June 2013 12:54
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 The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and other federal agencies have executed more than 150 arrest warrants and 375 search warrants in 35 states, 49 cities and five countries, in what officials describe as the largest ever crackdown on synthetic drugs. 

Project Synergy began in December 2012 and targeted designer synthetic drug trafficking organizations. Leading up to the takedown more than 75 arrests were made and nearly $15 million in cash and assets were seized. Since February US Customs and Border Protection officers worked with law enforcement in Australia, Barbados, Panama and Canada to seize more than 1,000 kilograms (2,000 pounds) of synthetic drugs.

They included synthetic marijuana, bath salts and other substances that mimic cocaine and LSD. These designer synthetic drugs are often advertised as herbal incense, jewelry cleaner, or plant food. The substances are growing increasingly popular and are marketed to teenagers and young adults who can access them easily at retail outlets and over the Internet. Brands such as "Spice," "K2," "Blaze," and "Red X Dawn" are labeled as incense to mask their intended purpose.

"What they (traffickers) care about is lining their pockets on the backs of young people," James Capra, DEA chief of operations, told the Associated Press.

Short-term symptoms of synthetic drugs include seizures, vomiting, hallucinations, violent episodes, and sometimes psychosis. They caused organ damage, resulted in overdose deaths and sent more than 25,000 people to the emergency room in 2011. The long-term effects of the drugs are unknown.

The series of enforcement actions included retailers, wholesalers, and manufacturers. In addition, these investigations have uncovered the flow of drug-related proceeds back to countries in the Middle East and elsewhere.

The 2013 World Drug Report released this week by the UN Office of Drugs and Crime reported that the US identified the presence of the largest number of new psychoactive substances in the world.

 

 

Lebanese Bank Fined $102 Million For Money Laundering

Thursday, 27 June 2013 12:53
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A bank accused of laundering money for Hezbollah agreed to pay $102 million in a settlement with the US government, Reuters reported on Tuesday.

Investigators alleged that Lebanese Central Bank (LCB) played a key role in laundering more than $300 million for Hezbollah, which the US has designated a Foreign Terrorist Organization. The lawsuit also alleged that LCB aided in the transfer of money to the US to buy used cars on behalf of Hezbollah. The vehicles were sold in West Africa. The investigation claimed LCB facilitated the return of proceeds from the car sales, narcotics trafficking, and other criminal activities to Lebanon, where Hezbollah could get at them.

The US accused LCB of allowing cash transfers, sometimes in excess of $200,000 per day, without performing adequate checks on the source, purpose, or destination of the funds in question.

Authorities seized $150 million from LCB in August 2012 and the $102 million payment will be subtracted from the seized funds. The remaining $48 million will go to the Lebanese subsidiary of Societe Generale, a French banking and financial services company that acquired most of LCB’s assets in 2012.e

Two exchange houses Hezbollah allegedly used to launder the money were also named in the complaint. One of them, Hassan Ayash Exchange, agreed last week to pay more than $700,000 to settle the charges.

The lawsuit had originally sought about $230 million from LCB, and more than $480 million in total.

 

2013 World Drug Report: Rise in New Psychoactive Drugs

Wednesday, 26 June 2013 18:04
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The number of new psychoactive substances (NPS) that member states reported to the UN Office of Drugs and Crime rose from 166 in 2009 to 251 last week, according to the latest World Drug Report

That 50 percent increase shows the challenge that emerging drugs pose to the international drug community trying to monitor and control them.. 

Psychoactive substances can be extremely harmful and are not controlled by international drug conventions. NPS is a label given all unregulated psychoactive substances that are available on specific markets. They are manufactured to mimic the effects of controlled drugs. While these designer drugs pose great health-risk, they are legal. 

According to the report, manufacturers have taken advantage of lagging law enforcement and developed drug alternatives to avoid the legal framework set up to control known substances. New strains or new drugs are out on the market before the old ones are proven to be illegal. 

There is also a trend in NPS being sold under the harmless handles of household and everyday products, like room fresheners, bath salts, and plant fertilizer. 

With widespread usage in Europe and North America, NPS appear to originate in Asia, in countries with advanced chemical and pharmaceutical industries. The drugs are trafficked over the Internet. 

Five countries in particular account for almost 75 percent of NPS use: United Kingdom, Poland, France, Germany, and Spain, according to 2011 data included in the report.

The United States identified the largest number of NPS in the world. In 2012, there were 158 NPS drugs identified in the US, more than double the 73 NPS drugs identified in the EU.

Asia contains the second-largest number of countries reporting the emergence of NPS. The international emergence trend has seen an increase, particularly in the more recent reports from the first half of 2012.

The UNODC has launched an early warning system for the international community to monitor the emergence of NPS and control it appropriately.

 

 

UNODC: Africa Vulnerable to Drug Trafficking

Wednesday, 26 June 2013 14:18
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Africa is emerging as a transit continent for trafficking and the production of drugs, according to the 2013 World Drug Report released by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). 

Though data from Africa is limited, the appearance of new routes and shifts in the production of illicit substances indicate that it is becoming more vulnerable to drug trade and organized crime. Seizures of heroin have risen since 2009, increasing 10-fold in East Africa. 

Maritime trafficking is particularly challenging for authorities. Though maritime seizures make up no more than 11 percent of all cases, they are on average 30 times larger than those involving planes.

East Africa is emerging as a transit route for Afghan opiates destined for the European market. Most heroin seizures in Africa were made at sea borders, ports, or on the open sea, pointing to the increase of maritime trafficking. A new route to reach consumer markets in East and West Africa begins in Afghanistan and passes through ports in Iran or Pakistan.

Traffickers constantly seek new routes to supplement old ones. Though still the most popular, the Balkan and northern routes have seen a decrease in the amount of heroin being trafficked as a land route originating in Afghanistan and heading through the Middle East has emerged.

New routes may have been sparked by the disruption of the flow of heroin on the Balkan route. The shift could also have something to do with changes in demand and the need to reach new consumer markets. These alternative routes use Africa as well as certain Gulf States as “staging posts” for trafficking to Europe.

East Africa has been a major point for heroin entering the African continent, a role that might be becoming more important. In 2011, both Nigeria and Thailand identified Ethiopia as a transit country for heroin. In the past Thailand has had its heroin market supplied by Southeast and Southwest Asia.

In addition to heroin, the cocaine market in Africa is becoming more complicated. The routes from West Africa to Europe are thought to have shifted from air and sea to land trafficking routes, which may have caused an increase in cocaine use in West and North Africa between 2009 and 2011. Algeria, Burkina Faso, Côte d‘Ivoire and Morocco each reported increases in cocaine use and recent reports from Ghana and Togo also indicate an increase.

The report calls for better collection and analysis of data about drugs in Africa in light of the changes noted to date.

 

2013 World Drug Report: Rise in New Psychoactive Drugs

Wednesday, 26 June 2013 14:08
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The number of new psychoactive substances (NPS) that member states reported to the UN Office of Drugs and Crime  rose from 166 in 2009 to 251 last week, according to the latest World Drug Report.

That 50 percent increase shows the challenge that emerging drugs pose to the international drug community trying to monitor and control them.

Psychoactive substances can be extremely harmful and are not controlled by international drug conventions. NPS is a label given all unregulated psychoactive substances that are available on specific markets. They are manufactured to mimic the effects of controlled drugs. While these designer drugs pose great health risks, they are legal.

According to the report, manufacturers have taken advantage of lagging law enforcement and developed drug alternatives to avoid the legal framework set up to control known substances. New strains or new drugs are out on the market before the old ones are proven to be illegal.

There is also a trend in NPS being sold under the harmless handles of household and everyday products, like room fresheners, bath salts, and plant fertilizer.

With widespread usage in Europe and North America, NPS appear to originate in Asia, in countries with advanced chemical and pharmaceutical industries. The drugs are trafficked over the Internet.

Five countries in particular account for almost 75 percent of NPS use: United Kingdom, Poland, France, Germany, and Spain, according to 2011 data included in the report.

The United States identified the largest number of NPS in the world. In 2012, there were 158 NPS drugs identified in the US, more than double the 73 NPS drugs identified in the EU.

Asia contains the second-largest number of countries reporting the emergence of NPS. The international emergence trend has seen an increase, particularly in the more recent reports from the first half of 2012.

. The UNODC has launched an early warning system for the international community to monitor the emergence of NPS and control it appropriately.

 

 


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