Category Archives: International

World News Legal developments from around the world. The following is a collection of the most recent posts from other blogs addressing topics of international law.

Canada violating international law with Saudi arms sale: expert

OTTAWA — The Globe and Mail

A controversial rationale the Trudeau Liberals are using to justify approving exports of combat vehicles to Saudi Arabia – that these machines could help Riyadh prosecute a war in neighbouring Yemen – is figuring prominently in a Federal Court challenge aimed at stopping the shipments.

Eric David, a renowned human rights legal scholar from Belgium who has acted in major international cases, is lending support to a March 21 lawsuit led by University of Montreal professor Daniel Turp that seeks to block exports of the weaponized armoured vehicles from Canada.

In an affidavit being added to the lawsuit, Prof. David of the Free University in Brussels says he believes Canada is violating international law by shipping arms to a country already accused of massive human-rights violations in Yemen. A United Nations panel investigating the Saudi-led bombing campaign in Yemen found “widespread and systematic” attacks on civilian targets in violation of international humanitarian law.

Allowing the “sale of armoured vehicles to Saudi Arabia … would violate the obligation to respect and ensure the respect of human rights and international humanitarian law,” Prof. David wrote in a 196-page filing.

“The sale of armoured vehicles … becomes an “internationally wrongful act.”

As The Globe and Mail first reported, Foreign Affairs Minister Stéphane Dion last week quietly approved export permits covering more than 70 per cent of the $15-billion transaction with Saudi Arabia – a decision that represents the most vital step in determining whether a weapons shipment to a foreign country can proceed or whether it’s “illegal,” as Ottawa calls it.

The revelation that Mr. Dion greenlighted the bulk of this deal runs contrary to the Liberal claim that the Trudeau government’s hands were tied on the Saudi deal.

Many observers had assumed the Conservatives had granted export permits when they signed the deal.

The Liberal signature on the export permits means the Trudeau government has taken full ownership of a decision to sell arms to a country notorious for human-rights abuses.

In the memorandum justifying the export permits, the department of Global Affairs reasons that the light armoured vehicles will help Riyadh in its efforts at “countering instability in Yemen,” where the Saudis are fighting Houthi rebels aligned with Iran, as well as combatting Islamic State threats.

“The acquisition of state-of-the-art armoured vehicles will assist Saudi Arabia in these goals,” the memo approved and signed by Mr. Dion said.

When it comes to Yemen, the Canadian government is choosing its words carefully, noting that so far the Saudis have not been found to be using Canadian-made combat vehicles previously sold to Riyadh to commit rights violations there.

Asked about the Saudis’ conduct in Yemen on Thursday, Mr. Dion said they’re not the only ones that need be held to account. “There are serious concerns that should be raised about all of the parties” fighting in Yemen, Mr. Dion told the Commons foreign affairs committee Thursday, widening the matter to include the conduct of Houthi rebels.

“As far as Yemen is concerned, our priority is to have a peaceful solution found.”

Separately, Thursday, Mr. Dion offered only mild support for an NDP proposal by MP Hélène Laverdière to create a Commons committee that would scrutinize arms exports. “I think it’s an interesting proposal. I am not sure it’s the priority right now – but the committee can certainly decide,” the minister told the foreign affairs committee.

Saudi Arabia is regularly ranked among the “worst of the worst” on human rights by Freedom House.

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How an alleged mafia chief’s appetite for pizza led to his arrest

An alleged mafia chief’s appetite for pizza has cost him his freedom.

Roberto Manganiello, 35, an alleged boss in Naples’ notorious Camorra mafia in southern Italy, has been arrested by detectives disguised as pizza boys who delivered food to his home as he was watching a football match.

Mr Manganiello, one of Italy’s most-wanted crime bosses, had been on the run since 2013.

He was watching the Naples-Inter soccer match on Saturday with his girlfriend when the operation took place this weekend in Caserta, near Naples.

He has been sought since 2013 for two killings in 2004 that launched a clan feud. Police said he also ran a drug and extortion ring and he has been listed as one of “Italy’s 100 most dangerous criminals”.

Mr Manganiello was unarmed and did not resist arrest. A 30-year-old Neapolitan woman was arrested with him.

Angelino Alfano, the interior minister, said on Sunday the arrest was “the result of a high-level investigation” with coordination across several agencies.

It was reported by Germany’s Deutsche Welle that the investigation included at least 50 people working in a team tracking his movements.

Adding to Mr Manganiello’s humiliation, Milan defeated his home team 2-0, all but crushing Naples’ hopes of a first Serie A title in 26 years.

The Camorra is based in Naples and the surrounding region of Campania and has never been stronger than it is now, and is second only in wealth and ruthlessness to the ‘Ndrangheta mafia of Calabria, an expert on organised crime told the Telegraph earlier this year.

In the past, there were more than 100 semi-independent clans within the Camorra, often at war with each other.

In August 2011, Italian and Spanish police swooped on Salvatore D’Avino, then one of Italy‘s most wanted fugitives, as he was filling his car with petrol in a town on the Costa del Sol.

D’Avino, 39, alleged to be a member of the Camorra mafia, had been on the run for four years.

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Depp’s Wife Amber Heard Pleads Guilty in Australian Dog Smuggling Spat

Actor Johnny Depp and wife Amber Heard arrive at the Southport Magistrates Court on Australia’s Gold Coast, April 18, 2016

SYDNEY — Actor Johnny Depp’s wife Amber Heard pleaded guilty Monday to providing a false immigration document amid allegations she smuggled the couple’s dogs into Australia.

Prosecutors dropped two more serious charges that Heard illegally imported the Yorkshire terriers, Pistol and Boo, into the country last year, when Depp was filming the fifth movie in the “Pirates of the Caribbean” series.

A conviction on the illegal importation counts could have sent the actress to prison for up to 10 years. The false documents charge carries a maximum penalty of a year in jail and a fine of more than 10,000 Australian dollars ($7,650).

The hearing in Southport Magistrates Court on Queensland state’s Gold Coast was temporarily adjourned on Monday to allow the judge time to review documents.

The debacle over the dogs began last May, when Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce accused Depp of smuggling the tiny terriers aboard his private jet when he returned to Australia to resume filming the “Pirates” movie.

Australia has strict quarantine regulations to prevent diseases such as rabies from spreading to its shores. Bringing pets into the country involves applying for a permit and quarantine on arrival of at least 10 days.

“If we start letting movie stars — even though they’ve been the sexiest man alive twice — to come into our nation (with pets), then why don’t we just break the laws for everybody?” Joyce said at the time. “It’s time that Pistol and Boo buggered off back to the United States.”

Depp and Heard were given 72 hours to send Pistol and Boo back to the U.S., with officials warning that the dogs would otherwise be euthanized. The pooches boarded a flight home just hours before the deadline ran out.

The comments by Joyce, who is now the deputy prime minister of Australia, elevated what might otherwise have been a local spat into a global delight for comedians and broadcasters. One newspaper ran a doggie death countdown ticker on its website that marked the hours remaining before the dogs had to flee the country, and comedian John Oliver dedicated a more than 6-minute segment to lampooning the ordeal.

Depp himself poked fun at the drama during a press conference in Venice last year where he was asked if he planned to take the dogs for a gondola ride. “No,” he replied. “I killed my dogs and ate them, under direct orders from some kind of, I don’t know, sweaty, big-gutted man from Australia.”

The couple was swarmed by reporters when they arrived at court Monday. They said little apart from Depp responding “Fine, thank you,” to reporters shouting questions about how they — and Pistol and Boo — were doing.

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Hot chocolate: Did a Mafia drug network smuggle tonnes of stolen Lindor into Canada?



ROME – A Mafia drug-smuggling network moved millions of dollars worth of stolen Lindt chocolate across Europe and into Canada, Italian prosecutors say.

About $17.6 million worth of wrapped Lindor chocolate balls were stolen from a transport hub near Lodi in Italy between April and August 2014.

But the thieves were stuck with the logistical problem of how to move the 175 tonnes of illicit treats.

So they reached out to a flower-seller previously busted with drug trafficking. He in turn got in touch with his friend, Mob boss Vincenzo Crupi, according to transcripts of conversations contained in court documents.

When Dutch police raided Crupi’s Fresh BV offices in March of last year, they found chocolate stored there, but did not let on that they suspected it had been stolen.

Instead, they watched.

In December, as a truck left Fresh BV carrying some 15 tonnes of the stolen chocolate, police stepped in.

A further 20 tonnes of chocolate were seized south of Rome.

Investigators also say refrigerated containers carrying 25 pallets of the stolen Lindt chocolate were sent to Canada.

Giuseppe Belcastro, one of Crupi’s lawyers, said his client denies having tried to sell stolen goods. The case is still under investigation and no trial has yet been sought.

Lindt & Sprungli, the maker of the chocolate balls, confirmed the theft when it happened, but had no comment on the continuing investigation.

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Anti-mafia campaigner in Sicily arrested on mafia-charges

An anti-mafia campaigner once hailed as a hero for blowing the whistle on organised crime has been arrested in Sicily on mafia-related charges.

Cement supplier Vincenzo Artale, 64, had publicly denounced efforts by local mobsters to extract protection money and had even helped founded an anti-mafia association a decade ago in Alcamo, the town between Palermo and Trapani where he had a small business.

But in the decade that followed, prosecutors allege Artale began using his anti-mafia façade as a cover for keeping shady local deals quiet, while doing business with some of Sicily’s biggest mafia bosses on the side.

“Yet again wiretappings have revealed that pretending to be anti-mafia is the perfect shield to mask businesses operating in the shadow of the mafia,” Teresa Principato, one of the prosecutors working on the case, told La Repubblica.

In 2006, Artale was lauded for his courage after he reported local Mafiosi who he said had tried to extort protection money from him. He was compensated  €250,000 from a state-run victim’s solidarity fund and founded a local anti-racket association.

But not long afterwards, prosecutors say Artale began working for a local mobster thought to be one of the key associates of the fugitive Cosa Nostra leader who is Italy’s most wanted man: Mattia Messina Denaro.

According to Italian reports, the gangsters struck a deal with Artale – he would shield them from exposure and in return they would force local construction companies to buy his cement.

His cement business boomed.  But Artale’s sudden wealth triggered suspicion among the townsfolk and soon his anti-mafia double agent game was up. Local builders joined forces to denounce that they were being intimidated to buy his cement, triggering the two-year-long investigation that led to his arrest Wednesday.

He is the latest of several high-profile Sicilian businessmen caught privately working with the mafia while publicly decrying organised crime.

Last year, the head of the Palermo chamber of commerce Roberto Helg, who had publicly denounced the mafia’s extortion practices, was secretly filmed taking a €100,000 bribe in exchange for a pastry shop’s retail space in the airport.

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