Spain’s conservative ruling Popular Party (PP) faces allegations of 19 years of secretive – and potentially illegal -- payments to party leaders.
According to a report in El Pais, a ledger attributed to PP’s ex-treasurer, Luis Barcenas, shows payments to members of the PP as well as other irregularities, including donations that exceed legal limits.
The validity of these claims has not been ascertained: the ledger itself has not been verified as being Barcenas’s, nor does it alone prove any wrongdoing. Also, regulations concerning fundraising, financing, and campaigning changed over the time span of the documents, which cover the years between 1990 and 2009.
Barcenas, the alleged author of the ledger, is embroiled in another financial scandal -- his Swiss bank account, which reportedly held more that $29 million, is under investigation for connection to a bribery scandal, according to CNN.
An Embattled PM
Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, whose name appears in the copies of the ledger posted by El Pais, is alleged to have received payments of over $34,000 per year, over the course of the 19 years, according to the BBC.
Rajoy, who was asked to step down by opposition parties following the publication of the story, denied the allegations in a nationally televised speech on February 2, according to the BBC. “Never -- I repeat never -- have I received nor distributed cash payments under the table in this party or anywhere else," Rajoy said.
The editor of El Pais surrendered the original documents, alleged to be Barcenas’s ledger, to the Judicial Police, for review by the anti-corruption prosecutor, according to El Pais. The editor relinquished the documents after ensuring that it would not put the identity of the source at risk “under any circumstances.” The anti-corruption prosecutor also requested 13 years worth of PP tax documents from the Treasury, El Pais reported. Tax documents, donations, contributions, and payments associated with PP are to be investigated for potential irregularities.
The allegations against Popular Party and PM Rajoy come amidst a turbulent, trying time for the government. Unemployment, reported at 26 percent, and tough austerity measures implemented by the PP make Rajoy’s government the target of many people’s anger. These latest accusations have further damaged the fragile Spanish economy, with stocks falling and the interest rate on 10-year Spanish bonds reaching a year-long high of 5.45% on Monday, the Guardian reported.
A joint investigation by Europol and 13 European police forces has uncovered an organized crime syndicate linked to rampant match fixing in professional football, according to a press release by Europol.
The Joint Investigation Team (JIT), code named VETO, began operation in July, 2011 and unearthed attempts to fix more than 380 European football matches, including World Cup and European Championship matches. Two UEFA Champions League matches and several high-profile matches in national leagues were also suspected of being fixed, along with over 300 non-European matches. Europol did not provide information on specific matches.
A total of 425 players, match officials, club officials and criminals are suspected in schemes that pulled in betting profits of over $10.8 million. Over $2.7 million in illegal payments to officials and players was traced to an organized crime group based in Singapore. The Europol press release also claimed links to Russian-speaking organized crime groups.
The investigation was based on the analysis of 13,000 e-mails and other materials that linked matches and suspects and uncovered the organized crime network.
The cross-border nature of match fixing makes it particularly difficult, as trans-national crime means differing levels of enforcement, legal frameworks, and definitions of the crimes involved.
The President of Eurojust, a cooperating organization in the investigation, praised the nature of the investigation, highlighting that “international cooperation was the key to the success of this challenging cross-border case, involving more than 30 countries.”
“Illegal profits are made on a scale and in a way that threatens the very fabric of the game,” said Europol Director Rob Wainwright. “All those responsible for running football should heed the warnings found in this case.”
The inquest has already led to 14 convictions in Germany; those convicted face a total of 39 years in prison.
VETO investigations are ongoing.
Serbian Prime Minister Ivica Dačić has admitted to meeting on several occasions with Rodoljub Radulovič, a man wanted for links to organized drug smuggling, but said he was unaware at the time that Radulović had any links to organized crime.
The admission came via the Interior Minister at a press conference held one day after the Serbian newspaper “Informer” printed a story on Dačić’s meetings with Radulovič. The article stated the two men met at least twice, in November and December 2008, and quoted police as confirming links between Dačić and Radulovič.
Dačić, who was serving as Minister of Police in 2008, told reporters that the police did not conduct counter-intelligence on his behalf when he was police minister, and that he was unaware of the criminal activities of some of the with whom he met. He maintained that he was unaware of any links between Radulovič and the drug trafficking organization operated by Darko Šarić.
The Serbian Special Prosecutor for Organized Crime charged Radulovič for alleged involvement in the trafficking of 1.8 tons of South American cocaine to Europe.
OCCRP, in conjunction with the Center for Investigative Reporting (CINS), published a series of articles five months prior to the indictment detailing links between Šarić and Radulovič, and highlighting their roles as leaders of a transnational drug smuggling operation. The investigation indicated that international police and intelligence services had been monitoring Šarič and Radulovič since 2008.
The investigation by OCCRP and CINS showed that in addition to smuggling, Radulovič, who lived in Florida for a number of years, made millions manipulating the U.S. stock market. He fled America in 2000, leaving behind $15 million in debts and a string of lawsuits.
Warrants for Radulovič are outstanding in Greece, the United States and Argentina, as well as Serbia; he remains at large.
After contending with international criticism and corruption investigations for almost a year, TeliaSonera CEO Lars Nyberg resigned Friday following the release of a damning report about the Swedish telecom by the law firm Mannheimer Swartling.
TeliaSonera hired the Swedish firm in October to review its controversial 2007 investment in Uzbekistan. The report found that TeliaSonera entered the Uzbekistan market before adequately vetting its local partner, which turned out to be a shady off-shore company connected to the country's ruling family.
"Even if this transaction was legal, we should not have gone ahead without learning more about the identity of our counterparty," Nyberg said in his resignation announcement. "This is something I regret."
As a result of that deal, TeliaSonera faces bribery charges in Sweden and a money laundering investigation in Switzerland.
Mannheimer Swartling's report also covered business dealings between TeliaSonera and Zeromax, a Swiss-registered conglomerate that operates in Uzbekistan. The report details a deal wherein TeliaSonera partnered with Zeromax to acquire 4G licenses in Uzbekistan.
Gulnara Karimova, the daughter of Uzbekistan's dictator Islam Karimov, is reported to hold ownership in Zeromax. That ownership was revealed in internal TeliaSonera emails and reported by diplomatic sources in 2009, according to the Swedish news agency Tidningarnas Telegrambyrå (TT).
A landmark report on European Drug Markets, released on Thursday by the European Commission, highlighted new challenges faced by EU member countries in the fight against drug trafficking.
The report suggested a fall in demand within the European Union for heroin. The reduced demand was attributed to strong policing along traditional trafficking routes and the availability of markets elsewhere with greater demand and lower risk for traffickers.
Just as demand for one drug fell, the diversification and decentralization of trafficking, and a “multi-commodity perspective” among traffickers presented new difficulties for European law enforcement. Traffickers previously linked to heroin were increasingly tied to the cocaine, cannabis, and methamphetamine trade, the report stated. The report cites evidence that organized crime groups are increasingly cooperating to produce, transit and sell drugs. To tackle the increasingly globalized drug trade, the report recommends a number of policy changes, including a greater level of intelligence sharing among EU members, an increase in multilateral operations among EU states, and a greater focus played on big players in the drug trade.
The report highlights a number of drugs and drug types as areas of interest for European law enforcement and policymakers. Among the narcotics discussed were cocaine, cannabis, synthetic drugs, and new psychoactive drugs; findings on the newer psychoactive drug trade was especially concerning. These drugs are not necessarily illegal under current law, and as drug laws shift to include them, producers change the product so that it once again falls into a grey area. The rapidly changing makeup of these narcotics means that consumers are often unaware of the exact potency and toxicity of the product they are ingesting.
EU member states continue to share information regarding drug routes and types and trends. Despite this cooperation, detecting new drugs that represent an immediate health risk is likely to be an uphill battle.
The EU Drug Markets report can be found in its entirety here.
One hundred and three people allegedly tied to a smuggling network were arrested in 10 European countries on Tuesday, according to a Europol press release. Arrests took place in Croatia, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Poland, Slovak Republic, Turkey, and the Kosovo region. Switzerland and Austria officials were also involved in the operation.
Those arrested are suspected of illegally trafficking migrants, mainly from Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Syria, and Turkey, into and throughout the European Union. Migrants were transported in “inhuman and dangerous conditions,” including hidden compartments in bus floors, and in freight trains. The traffickers also utilized false travel documents and marriages of convenience as a means to subvert law enforcement, according to Europol.
The anti-trafficking operation was one of the largest of its kind; over 1,200 police officers, coordinated by Europol, were involved in the action. Police seized over 176,500 Euros in cash during the 117 searches conducted during the operation.
Tuesday’s operation is a result of Project FIMATHU, a September 2011 initiative by Austria and Hungary to stem illegal immigration into their countries. The project, aimed at dismantling organized illegal immigration networks, has since grown to include 10 new members, Europol said.
Europol and local police throughout Europe arrested 103 people Tuesday who were suspected of being part of a people-smuggling network. 10 European countries and EULEX (European Union Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo) were involved in the common action supported and coordinated by Europol.
Kamran Faisal, an investigator with the National Accountability Bureau of Pakistan (NAB) was found hanging from a ceiling fan in his government hostel on January 18th, according to the BBC. Faisal’s death has been ruled a suicide following an initial investigation by Pakistan police, but despite the ruling, influential political figures including Prime Minister hopeful Imran Khan have joined Faisal’s family in questioning the initial ruling, the BBC reported.
Faisal was serving as an assistant investigator in an NAB probe into Rental Power Projects (RPP) between 2006 and 2008, according to Dawn news. The probe’s targets include current Pakistan Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf, who was Minister for Water and Power at the time the disputed contracts were concluded. RPPs are plants that are installed quickly to meet short-term electricity needs..
Faisal’s death came three days after the Supreme Court ordered the arrest of 16 people, including the Prime Minister, in relation to the RPP scandal. None of those arrests have been made.
The Supreme Court of Pakistan ordered its own investigation into Faisal’s death on January 23rd, citing fears that “a free, fair and honest investigation” by the government would not be possible given the influence of senior political figures, according to the BBC.
The Supreme Court refused to comment, noting the investigation is ongoing.
Pakistani police have claimed that Faisal was mentally ill and suffering from a laundry list of afflictions that included schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, according to Geo News. Faisal’s family has vehemently denied claims of mental illness and said that Faisal was killed for his role in the investigation, claiming that his body bore “marks of torture,” the BBC reported.
On Tuesday, a Law Minister called for the exhumation of Faisal’s body, claiming that incomplete samples had been used in forensic testing and that the branches of the federal government had made conducting the investigation difficult, according to Geo News.
Zambia’s Information Communication Technology Authority (ZICTA) announced a plan Monday to ban the use of counterfeit mobile phones.
The plan will require cell phone users to register their International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) and SIM card details with their service provider. Failure to register will result in “SIM deactivation” and lockout from the national telecommunications networks, according to the news alert on ZICTA’s website. The registration drive is to begin immediately, with a cutoff date to be “announced in due course.”
An IMEI is a unique international coding system given to each cell phone. IMEI’s, in conjunction with SIM card details, facilitate the identification of counterfeit handsets -- if the proper registry is in place.
Zambia’s move to disconnect counterfeit mobile phones using a registration program follows similar moves by other African nations, including Uganda and Kenya.
A program run by the Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK) saw service providers disconnect on January 8 more than 2.4 million phones belonging to owners who failed to heed a December 31 government deadline for registration of SIM card data. Subscribers who have had their phones suspended have 90 days to register their SIM details with service providers, or risk the reallocation of their number to a new subscriber. All new subscribers will register details upon purchase of a line.
Uganda has given users until January 31 to register their devices or face a denial of service. The plan, spearheaded by the Uganda Communications Commission, gives mobile phone users in Uganda a six-month grace period -- until the end of July -- to register before losing their numbers completely.
OCCRP reporter Khadija Ismayilova being arrested at a protest in Baku
OCCRP investigative journalist Khadija Ismayilova was detained today while protesting in Azerbaijan's capital of Baku. Among hundreds of protesters, Ismayilova was one of some 40 arrested, who also included bloggers Emin Milli and Bakhtiyar Hajiyev, as well as human rights defender Malahat Nasibova.