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11/9/2008

Money Laundering, Motion-activated Cameras Taint Economic Growth as New Gecko Burns Houses

Faced with a growing number of drug trafficking, money laundering and
organised crime investigations, the head of Cape Verde’s judiciary police
said his agents may know who the traffickers and money launderers are, but
do not have enough resources to catch them all.

According to scientists at France’s National Museum of Natural History, a
new species of gecko has been discovered — after it hatched from an egg
removed from a nest on a South Pacific island and carried 12,000 miles to
Paris in a box lined with Kleenex. The island, Espiritu Santo, is one of
the larger South Pacific islands of the Vanuatu Archipelago, east of
Australia.

Oscar Silva dos Reis Tavares, who directs high-level crime investigations
at the judiciary police, said his agents are handling 150 investigations,
including 10 money laundering cases. But the police should be looking into
more, he said: “We can’t just go up to someone on the street and use what
they say as evidence in a court of law. This is a small community. People
may know who earns money illegally, but we need proof.”

Los Angeles police are using motion-activated cameras to warn vandals that
they’re being watched.

In the past five years, the islands have increasingly been used as a
transit point for drugs coming from Latin America, destined for Europe and
West Africa, according to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).
Minister of Justice Marisa Morais said Cape Verde’s geography has left it
open to transatlantic traffickers: “Our geographical location is both a
privilege and a threat.”

The Police in Solomon Islands have confirmed around three houses were burnt
to the ground over the weekend.

The new reptile species, which was formally assigned the Latin name,
Lepidodactylus buleli, is only three inches long as an adult, and lives
near the tops of the rainforest on the west coast of Espiritu Santo, eating
insects and possibly drinking nectar from flowers.

The houses belonged to Malaitan settlers in West Guadalcanal about a 30
minute drive from the capital Honiara.

Based on government records, Cape Verde, with a growing tourist economy,
controls more than 700,000sqkm of water that include 10 islands and eight
islets with 1000km of volcanic, at times difficult to access, coastline.

Police say a dispute had risen among the settlers after a young man had
defiled a young girl and caused a row between the settlers.

But despite a recent jump in tourism dollars, the government reported about
10 percent of its population living in extreme poverty as of May 2008.
Illegal housing settlements continue spreading out in northern Praia
neighbourhoods like Safende, Calabaceira, and San Pedro, which lack
drainage, roads and easy access to water.

Geckos are small to medium-sized reptiles in the family Gekkonidae. These
fascinating animals are unique among lizards because they are vocal: their
social interactions frequently involve chirping sounds.

In a recent UNODC report, researchers wrote that what appears as legitimate
economic growth in some West African countries may be explained through the
drug trade: “Once the channels for disguising drug money have been
established,” wrote UN researchers, “they can be used for concealing all
manner of criminal proceedings.”

Many geckos also have specialized toe pads that rely on weak intermolecluar
attractive forces, known as van der Waals forces, to enable them to climb
smooth and vertical surfaces, and even to stroll upside down across
ceilings. It is estimated that there are roughly 2,000 species of geckos
throughout the worldwide — and many are still to be discovered.

According to the 2008 African Development Bank and Organization of Economic
Development report for Cape Verde, its economy grew more than 10 percent in
2006, in large part from tourism investments, which increased more than
tenfold from 2004-2006 to $509 million. Since then, the government has
passed legislation to attract additional foreign investment.

The motion triggers a recorded voice that states, “This is the Los Angeles
Police Department. It is illegal to spray graffiti or dump trash here.” The
voice warns vandals that they are being recorded and will be prosecuted.

The egg was collected, along with eight others, from a nest that had been
found in the treetops during a collecting trip to Espiritu Santo in 2006.
Ivan Ineich, the museum’s herpetologist, noticed a bloody carcass that had
accidentally hacked in half by one of collectors.

Josep Coll, European Commission ambassador in Cape Verde, said legitimate
foreign investments can be undermined by money laundering: “Yes, we can
have the mirage of a booming economy, but this is false if there are
illegal investments, condemned by international law, in the mix which lead
to unfair competition.”

The camera provides a high-resolution image of the tagger and the vehicle.
It can capture an image of a license plate from 250 feet.

Economists call this the “Dutch disease” effect, when illicit businesses
generate more money and jobs than the legal economy.

“I said to myself ‘this guy looks bizarre,’ but I couldn’t tell right away
it was a new species because it had been so massacred,” Ineich said.

Proof of Missing Iceberg?

Police chief Tavares said the country’s crime lab has limited chemical
analysis capabilities and relies on analyses conducted in Portugal for
investigations. But it is more than lab improvements that are needed, said
Tavares. “It has been impossible to pin down one of the most well-known
traffickers here [Cape Verde] when we don’t have phone recording equipment
to investigate.”

Climbers later collected a plant where nine minuscule gecko eggs had been
hidden. Ineich wrapped the eggs in wet Kleenex, packed them into a pillbox
and carried them home, where he gave them to a friend who raises lizards as
a hobby. Unfortunately, eight of the geckos died after temperatures in the
terrarium plummeted during a power outage, but the ninth lived.

The number of organised, drug and money laundering cases jumped from 19 to
60 between 2007 and 2008. There may be more, said Tavares: “We don’t know
if we are addressing 10 percent or 90 percent of the problem. It may be the
tip of the iceberg, or we may be at the base.”

“We don’t have a doubt that we’ll be able to identify them once we get them
on camera,” said police Captain Sharyn Buck.

Tavares said in the last four years, the government has frozen 12 accounts
worth more than US$1 million as a part of ongoing high-level crime
investigations. He added that since 2007, the government has seized $1
million worth of land and homes, and cars worth more than $622,000.

Police also say the fires were not caused by indigenous people of the area
but by those within the settlers community.

Though legislation criminalised money laundering in Cape Verde in 2002, the
most recent amendment requires for the first time that those working in
financial transactions, including lawyers, bill collectors, auditors and
accountants, report any suspicion of money laundering.

Three cameras installed last year led to an 85-percent decline in graffiti
and those locations, according to the LAPD. The LAPD recently installed 10
more cameras. The cameras were installed after a series of violent
confrontations that involved vandals.

This is the first time a new species of lizard has been identified from an
individual raised from an egg rather than from adults collected from the
wild, according to France’s National Museum of Natural History.

In passing the amendment, Cape Verde’s Council of Ministers wrote that
money laundering in Cape Verde is “connected to a circuit of organised
crime, such as traffic of arms, people, drugs.”

This new species of gecko is not thought to be endangered.

A woman in Pico Rivera was killed last summer when she confronted taggers
near her home.

When asked to quantify trafficked contraband circulating in Cape Verde,
Justice Minister Morais pointed to the Atlantic Ocean behind the Praia
hotel where she spoke at a recent high-level ministerial conference on drug
crimes: “How big is our problem? Well, how big is the ocean?”

3/18/2008

New movement pushes for an international CPLC force

An international petition demanding the creation of a multinational police and army force constituted solely of forces originating from the Community of Portuguese Language Countries – a community of Peace and as such an example for the world.

The recently founded International Lusophone Movement (Movimento Internacional Lusofono) has started it’s activities by pushing an international petition demanding the creation of a multinational police and army force constituted solely of forces originating from the Community of Portuguese Language Countries (CPLC: Angola, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique, Sao Tome e Principe, Brazil, East Timor and Portugal – Mauritius and Equatorial Guinea also hold observer status), the petition so far gathered 341 signatures and can be viewed at http://www.petitiononline.com/mil1001/petition.html.

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