Tag Archives: Politics

Russian mafia boss still at large after FBI wiretap at Trump Tower

There, indeed, was an FBI wiretap involving Russians at Trump Tower.

But it was not placed at the behest of Barack Obama and the target was not the Trump campaign of 2016. For two years ending in 2013, the FBI had a court-approved warrant to eavesdrop on a sophisticated Russian organized crime money laundering network that operated out of unit 63A in Trump Tower.

The FBI investigation led to a federal grand jury indictment of more than 30 people, including one of the world’s most notorious Russian mafia bosses, Alimzhan Tokhtakhounov. Known as the “Little Taiwanese,” Tokhtakhounov was the only target to slip away, and he remains a fugitive from American justice.

Five months after the April 2013 indictment and after Interpol issued a “red notice” for Tokhtakhounov, the fugitive appeared near Donald Trump in the VIP section of the Moscow Miss Universe pageant. Trump had sold the Russian rights for Miss Universe to a billionaire Russian shopping mall developer.

“He is a major player,” said Mike Gaeta, the FBI agent who led the 2013 FBI investigation of Tokhtakhounov and his alleged mafia money laundering and gambling ring, in a 2014 interview with ABC News. “He is prominent, he has extremely good connections in the business world as well as the criminal world, overseas, in Russia, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, other countries.”

Gaeta, who ran the FBI’s Eurasian Organized Crime unit of the FBI’s New York office told ABC News at the time that federal agents were closely tracking Tokhtakhounov, whose Russian ring was suspected of moving more than $50 million in illegal money into the United States.

“Because of his status, we have kept tabs on is activities, and particularly as his activities truly enter New York city,” Gaeta said. “Their money was ultimately laundered from Russia, Ukraine and other locations through Cyprus banks and shell companies based in Cyprus, and then ultimately here to the United States.”

The FBI investigation did not implicate Trump. But Trump Tower was under close watch. Some of the Russian mafia figures worked out of the 63rd floor unit in the iconic skyscraper –- just three floors below Trump’s penthouse residence — running what prosecutors called an “international money laundering, sports gambling and extortion ring.”

The Trump building was home to one of the top men in the alleged ring, Vadim Trincher who pleaded guilty to racketeering and received a five-year prison term. He is due to be released in July.

“Everything was moving in and out of there,” said former FBI official Rich Frankel, now an ABC News consultant.

Read Full – http://abcnews.go.com/US/story-fbi-wiretap-russians-trump-tower/story?id=46266198

Philippines v China: facts about a much-watched legal battle

MANILA – A UN-backed tribunal is expected to soon deliver a verdict on a Philippine challenge to China’s claims to most of the South China Sea.

Spanning three years, two hearings, and nearly 4,000 pages of evidence, the arbitration case at The Hague is complex.

In essence, China claims most of the sea, even waters approaching neighbouring countries, based on a vaguely defined “nine-dash” Chinese map dating back to the 1940s. The Philippines disputes this.

Here are the key facts on the case:

– What is the tribunal and what are its powers?

The tribunal was set up by the Permanent Court of Arbitration, an intergovernmental organisation established in 1899. The PCA has 116 member states, including the Philippines and China. It is allowed to arbitrate on certain matters of international law, including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

The five-member tribunal hearing this case is composed of top maritime affairs experts, with the Philippines appointing one member. China waived its right to choose one arbitrator.

The tribunal has the power to set the rules of procedure and make a decision that cannot be appealed. However the tribunal and the PCA have no means to enforce the verdict, with compliance left to parties.

– What are Manila’s key points?

The Philippines has presented five main claims before the tribunal:

1. China is not entitled to exercise what it calls “historic rights” over waters beyond limits defined in UNCLOS, a treaty to which both the Philippines and China are parties.

2. China’s “nine-dash line” has no basis under international law.

3. The various maritime features relied upon by China to assert its claims in the South China Sea are not in fact islands and, as such, are not legally capable of generating such entitlements. China’s recent massive artificial island-building does not change the situation.

4. China violated UNCLOS by preventing the Philippines from exercising its fishing and exploration rights.

5. China has irreversibly damaged the environment by destroying coral reefs, using harmful fishing practises, and catching endangered species in the South China Sea.

– Why did Manila take the action?

The Philippines said, after 17 years of negotiations with China, it had exhausted all political and diplomatic avenues to settle the dispute.

The Philippines calls international law “the great equaliser” allowing small countries to challenge more powerful states. A nation of about 100 million, the Philippines has one of Asia’s weakest militaries, and its economic and diplomatic clout pales in comparison with China’s.

– What is China’s position and how will it react?

China denies the tribunal has jurisdiction on the issue and insists that it will not abide by the decision.

The country’s first move to an unfavourable ruling will be to reject it. But no one is sure what China will do after that. Its response could range from provocative to diplomatic.

On the aggressive end of the spectrum, Beijing may take it as an opportunity to increase its construction activities and further assert its claims by declaring an Air Defence Identification Zone (ADIZ) in the sea, essentially demanding that aircraft transiting it announce themselves to Chinese authorities and follow their instructions.

When it proclaimed one in 2013 that covered islands in the East China Sea disputed with Japan, the move prompted international fury, and Washington made a point of sending warplanes through it without complying with Beijing’s rules.

A more diplomatic option would be to try and mount opposition to the ruling in the UN by challenging the tribunal’s legitimacy. Beijing claims that more than 60 countries back its position on settling disputes in the South China Sea through direct negotiations, and it could seek to call a vote on the issue in the general assembly. But only a handful of countries have explicitly confirmed they support China’s stance.

– If the tribunal can’t enforce its ruling and China has vowed to ignore it, what’s at stake?

Full Article – http://www.bangkokpost.com/news/asia/1017009/philippines-v-china-facts-about-a-much-watched-legal-battle

Australia court: Imprisoning refugees offshore is legal

High Court rules in favour of government’s policy to detain asylum-seekers in offshore prisons, sparking an outcry.

Al Jazeera Staff |

Australia’s High Court has ruled that the government’s offshore detention of refugees is legal, sparking an outcry from the UN and human rights groups.

The verdict, announced on Wednesday, paves the way for 267 asylum-seekers currently in Australia to be deported to the Pacific island of Nauru.

The group includes 39 children as well as 33 babies who were born in Australia.

The legal case was brought by a Bangladeshi woman whose lawyers said her imprisonment on Nauru had been “funded, authorised, procured and effectively controlled” by the Australian government, without the constitutional power to do so.

Reacting to the decision, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said the court’s decision was “significant”.

The government will keep Australia’s borders secure and stop drownings at sea, he said, continuing the official line that offshore processing acts as a deterrent for asylum-seekers looking to make the dangerous crossing to Australia from Indonesia or beyond.

The [government] has acted decisively to stop the criminal trade, added Turnbull.

Read Full Article – http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2016/02/australia-court-imprisoning-refugees-offshore-legal-160203033632383.html