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6/27/2014

Seyschelles: offshore

Filed under: capitalism,corporate-greed,seychelles — admin @ 3:14 pm

Key Findings

* Government officials and their families and associates in China, Azerbaijan, Russia, Canada, Pakistan, the Philippines, Thailand, Mongolia and other countries have embraced the use of covert companies and bank accounts. * The mega-rich use complex offshore structures to own mansions, yachts, art masterpieces and other assets, gaining tax advantages and anonymity not available to average people. * Many of the world’s top’s banks – including UBS, Credit Suisse and Deutsche Bank – have aggressively worked to provide their customers with secrecy-cloaked companies in the British Virgin Islands and other offshore hideaways. * A well-paid industry of accountants, middlemen and other operatives has helped offshore patrons shroud their identities and business interests, providing shelter in many cases to money laundering or other misconduct. * Ponzi schemers and other large-scale fraudsters routinely use offshore havens to pull off their shell games and move their ill-gotten gains.

Seychelles, a thousand miles from anywhere, is an offshore magnet for money launderers and tax dodgers. A look at this corruption-haunted archipelago shows how the offshore secrecy system has grown — and where it’s going.

In the fall of 2012, two strangers from Africa showed up in Seychelles, an emerald-green archipelago in the Indian Ocean nearly a thousand miles east of Somalia. Unlike Prince William and Kate Middleton and other A-list celebrities who favor Seychelles as a getaway, these visitors didn’t come to enjoy the islands’ natural beauty and luxury accommodations. They were there, they said, to conduct business in Seychelles’ bustling offshore financial center.

Eventually they made their way to the offices of Zen Offshore, one of dozens of firms on the islands that set up hard-to-trace “shell companies” for clients around the world. They explained that they represented an individual who served as a “liaison officer between the Zimbabwean government and the rich diamond mines.”

For anyone who understands the nexus of corruption and money laundering in resource-rich, economically poor countries, this statement should have raised suspicions. But before they could go further, a Zen Offshore representative cut them off.

“Yep, we don’t want to know that,” he said, chuckling. “If we have knowledge of that, we have to put it forwards. So I haven’t heard a word you said in the last couple of minutes.”

The operative went on to explain how the pair could set up a company in Seychelles and hide the identity of who was really behind it by creating a labyrinthine ownership structure, putting “a company inside a company inside a company.”

The Seychellois company would be controlled by a company in Dominica, which would be controlled by a company in Belize, and so on. Anyone trying to discover the real owner would never be able to follow the paper trail around the world.

“It’s just impossible,” the Zen Offshore man said. “No one is going to try and chase that sort of information.”

The conversation can be quoted in exact detail because the would-be customers weren’t actually emissaries for a corrupt middleman in Africa. They were undercover journalists running a hidden-camera sting for an Al Jazeera television program. Their documentary, which aired soon after their visit, produced a ripple of scandal in one of the world’s most remote offshore havens, a place that’s gained a reputation as a magnet for Arab princes, Chinese investors, pirates, fugitives, mercenaries, mobsters — and outlanders who want to hide their money or disguise their business activities.

Rise of the small havens

Thanks to its offshore industry, Seychelles, an island nation with a population smaller than Davenport, Iowa, maintains a Zelig-like presence in the annals of international corruption and money laundering. Where there’s an odor of financial scandal, there’s often a good chance Seychelles is involved.

Zoom out to see some of Seychelles’ more controversial offshore links:

IFRAME: https://mapsengine.google.com/map/embed?mid=zaCRf9kRMBQI.k34A4Ip29DWY

In 2010, for instance, the government of Kazakhstan issued an arrest warrant for Mukhtar Ablyazov, a banking tycoon who has been accused of using Seychellois companies as part of a scheme that plundered billions of dollars from Kazakhstan’s BTA Bank.

In 2011, a subsidiary of the Reserve Bank of Australia admitted it had channeled millions of dollars in bribes intended for Nigerian officials through a Seychellois shell company linked to a convicted white-collar criminal.

And in 2012, two entrepreneurs based in Israel pleaded guilty in a U.S. court to operating an illegal Internet pharmacy that laundered much of its profits through Seychelles.

The history of the rise of Seychelles’ offshore industry offers a case study in the rise of tiny, out-of-the-way tax havens. At a time when tax havens have become an flashpoint of debate around the world — even becoming an issue in 2012 U.S. presidential race, thanks to Republican Mitt Romney’s Cayman Islands holdings — understanding how small havens emerged and how they have prospered is important to understanding how the offshore financial system has flourished.

Like most small tax havens, Seychelles has an outsized impact that belies its modest market share. As Al Jazeera’s undercover muckrakers discovered, offshore patrons and the accountants, bankers and other operatives who help them usually don’t settle for a single offshore company or bank account. They create elaborate webs that use multiple jurisdictions, multiple front men and multiple layers of ownership. Smaller havens such as Seychelles are crucial links in these chains of secrecy and in the wider offshore system.

They support a system that, critics charge, caters to drug traffickers, fraudsters, money launderers and high-net-worth tax dodgers, fueling onshore corruption and poverty. By one estimate, as much as $32 trillion in private financial wealth is hidden is offshore havens — roughly equivalent to the annual output of the U.S., Chinese and Japanese economies combined. Remote, sparsely populated financial refuges have survived despite two decades of promises by rich nations and international organizations to shut them down. Far from pulling back, Seychelles and other smaller hideaways are now becoming even bigger players in the offshore world as the U.S., the U.K. and other world powers have passed new laws and launched new multinational initiatives aimed at cracking down on cross-border tax dodging and money laundering. Over the past year, international groups such as the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, better known as the OECD, have stepped up their pressure on Switzerland, the British Virgin Islands and other European-flavored financial havens.

For Russian and Eastern European mafia and money launderers around the world, the OECD’s push has only increased the appeal of what Euan Grant, a former U.K. customs official who now works as a consultant on money laundering issues, calls the “new havens” — independent states operating outside the Western political orbit.

“We’re talking of Singapore, the United Arab Emirates and, increasingly, Mauritius and the Seychelles,” Grant says.

The OECD says Seychelles has mostly resisted the organization’s efforts to prod it to be more forthcoming about who uses its offshore center. In one of the latest reports by the OECD’s global forum on tax information exchange, Seychelles was one of four jurisdictions that received “non-compliant” ratings. There was no assurance, the forum said, that Seychellois corporate service providers were documenting the real owners behind offshore companies set up on the islands.

Seychellois officials objected to the negative rating, saying the country has cooperated with the OECD. In 2012, Steve Fanny, then the chief executive of the agency that oversees Seychelles’ offshore industry, told a business publication that his country had “always adhered to the international norms and principles of good practices. We do not want money launderers or criminals,” he said.

Fanny added, though, that Seychelles is happy to help offshore clients embrace the flexibility of the international tax system: “Paying less tax as long as it is within the parameter of the law is legal. It is not even your patriotic duty to pay a cent more.”

To the Seychellois government, the benefits of the offshore industry are evident in the wealth of the islands’ 89,000 inhabitants: Judged strictly on a per capita basis, Seychelles, where the average income tops $25,000, is the richest country in Africa.

James Alix Michel. “We are a nation of opportunities,” Seychelles President James Alix Michel trumpeted last year in an interview with the United Nations magazine Africa Renewal.

Secret records obtained by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists indicate, though, that Michel may be seeking opportunities for himself in other lands. The records, published in ICIJ’s Offshore Leaks database, lists a James Alix Michel as the sole shareholder in Soleil Overseas Holding Ltd., an offshore entity set up in the British Virgin Islands in 2007. The address on the Soleil documents match the location of the presidential residence. A government spokesperson — press space for next page — declined to say whether President Michel has had offshore holdings.

Soleil Overseas Holdings was controlled by a Mauritius entity called Pines Limited that, in turn, oversaw eight more offshore companies. Documents indicate that three of them are owned in whole or part by Marie Anne Claudine Lilette Savy — the wife of Glenny Savy, a member of President Michel’s inner circle and the chief of the Islands Development Company, which oversees tourism and construction efforts on Seychelles’ so-called Outer Islands.

President Michel and Glenny Savy did not respond to requests for an interview and a series of emailed questions.

Opposition media and politicians see the documentation of Michel’s offshore holdings as evidence of backroom intrigues that benefit the powers that be. They note that a 2008 U.S. State Department cable, published by Wikileaks, indicated that American officials believe “corruption is the critical reason why a country as wealthy as Seychelles … has suffered so many persistent economic problems,” necessitating a $2.1 billion bailout from the International Monetary Fund in 2008.

Jean-Francois Ferrari, a journalist and former member of Seychelles’ National Assembly, fears that, in a nation where the president’s party controls 31 of 32 seats in the legislature, Michel’s silence on questions about his offshore assets will close the door on any discussion of the issue.

“A president and his cronies stashing their money in an offshore account, in order to keep it away from their own tax authorities — in any other part of the world, these people would be on their knees, begging for forgiveness,” says Ferrari. “Here, guess what? It’s just business as usual.”

`Distinctly unusual’

Until the late 18th century, Seychelles remained largely uninhabited by humans. The first settlers were hardy French merchants, who established a small colony on the western flank of MahÈ, the chain’s largest island. By the early 19th century, Seychelles had passed bloodlessly into the hands of the British empire. As of 1810, the population was 3,467: 3,015 slaves, 135 free blacks, and a ruling class of 317 whites, or Grand Blancs. Seychelles slumbered — a kaleidoscopically lush and iniquitous backwater written off by the admiralty as little more than a resupply point for eastbound slavers.

Then, in 1971, an airport opened on the northeastern coast of MahÈ. Tourist infrastructure soon followed: hotels, souvenir shops, ferries, casinos, helicopter tours.

France Albert Rene Five years later, in 1976, England gave the islands independence. But the micro-state got off to a rough start: Just a few months after James Mancham took office as the nation’s first president, he was overthrown in a coup organized by Seychelles’ socialist prime minister, France-Albert RenÈ.

In time, RenÈ’s foes obtained the services of a famed Irish-South African mercenary, “Mad Mike” Hoare, who served as a model for a Richard Burton’s character in the Hollywood soldier-of-fortune drama, The Wild Geese. In November 1981, Hoare and a band of aging guns-for-hire chartered a plane — press space for next page — from South Africa to Seychelles, packing AK-47s in their luggage and posing as members of a rugby-and-drinking club.

The would-be counter-coup went bad when they landed at the airport near Victoria, the islands’ capital. After a brief fire fight that left one customs inspector dead, Hoare and most of his men escaped by hijacking an Air India jet. The South African government paid a $3 million ransom, news reports at the time claimed, to ensure the release of five mercenaries and a South African intelligence officer who’d been left behind.

RenÈ hung onto power with support from James Michel, who was his finance minister and then vice president. He also relied on an Italian named Giovanni Mario Ricci, another in a long chain of outsiders who come to Seychelles to make new lives.

Ricci became RenÈ’s friend, advisor, financial backer, and fixer.

RenÈ’s government teamed with Ricci in 1978 to create Seychelles’ offshore financial center. Seychelles Trust Company was a joint venture between Ricci and the Seychellois government and held exclusive rights to incorporate offshore companies in the islands.

RenÈ and Ricci created what was, in essence, the world’s first socialist tax haven.

By 1981, the year of Mad Mike’s failed coup, Ricci had taken sole ownership of Seychelles Trust Company. From his base in Seychelles, Ricci established business interests in as many as two dozen countries around the globe, associating himself with what historian Stephen Ellis calls “some distinctly unusual companies.” One was a firm called International Monetary Funding, or IMF, which seemed be named in an effort to mimic the International Monetary Fund.

Ricci was also accredited to Seychelles as a diplomat representing the Sovereign Order of the Coptic Catholic Knights of Malta. It turned out that the order had nothing to the do with the Vatican’s venerable Knights of Malta order of chivalry. Instead it was a commercial company based in New York City. Via this maneuver, Ricci snared a diplomatic passport and use of a diplomatic pouch, which allowed him to move documents around the world undetected.

Years later it would emerge that Ricci, like many foreigners who come to Seychelles, wasn’t exactly what he passed himself off to be.

The father of Seychelles’ offshore industry had, in fact, been a financial criminal before he found a home in the islands — and may have been connected to the Italian Mafia, one U.S. ambassador to Seychelles believed. Ricci had been convicted of fraud in Italy in 1958 and, later, of possessing counterfeit cash in Switzerland, and had come to Seychelles after being expelled from Somalia under mysterious circumstances.

RenÈ later claimed that he had asked Italian officials whether Ricci had a criminal record, but “they told us that they had nothing on him. Offshore Capital

Victoria, Seychelles. In many ways, Victoria is a typical African capital — low-slung, dusty, and loud. From the clock tower at the center of town, one road spins off towards the sea and another towards the crest of Trois FrËres, the granite cliffs that shield the city from the elements.

In the afternoons, those same cliffs turn Victoria into a convection oven — the heat roars in and, absorbed by the asphalt, does not roll out again until long after the sun has dropped over the horizon.

The offshore action in Seychelles centers on the main square, in a series of unlovely multi-story office complexes. Accountants and corporate operatives work in mostly interchangeable, white-walled offices, on desks cluttered with manila folders. They take their lunches at one of the Victoria members-only clubs, and spend the afternoons receiving a steady stream of foreign clients, or chatting on the phone with the European and American lawyers who help steer new business their way.

After the Al Jazeera undercover sting, there was a flurry of handwringing in opposition media about the offshore center.

Paul Chow, a former member of the Seychellois parliament and a long-time player in the local offshore business, was quoted as saying that “we should not be surprised by what we saw and heard on Al Jazeera,” adding that “all kinds of unethical conduct goes unpunished or simply brushed under the carpet — treated as business as usual. It is this swamp that everyone operates under.”

In a recent interview, Chow continued to express worries about corruption on the islands, but said that he and most other offshore operatives on the islands operate in an honest manner. He said the two offshore services firms targeted by the Al Jazeera story were outliers that had been allowed, in the absence of much governmental oversight, to do as they pleased. The government stripped both firms of their licenses after the story aired.

Chow is short, with graying hair, olive skin, thin lips, and old family roots in Seychelles. In the early 1920s, his father, a teacher from Guangdong, headed for Madagascar, found himself instead stranded in Victoria, without a boat ticket back to China. He married a Seychellois woman and had six children. Paul — now 62 — was the youngest.

A Mancham loyalist, Chow fled to England after RenÈ seized power in 1977. During his exile, Chow and several confederates worked to overthrow, from afar, RenÈ’s government. Ricci, the offshore industry chief and RenÈ advisor, was a player in this cat-and-mouse game, hiring private detectives to spy on the president’s enemies.

In 1985, Chow’s closest ally in London, Seychellois activist GÈrard Hoareau, was gunned down outside his flat. The murder was never solved, but Chow and many other critics of the Seychellois government believe it was a political assassination. Chow moved back to Seychelles after international pressure helped force RenÈ to hold multi-party elections. He spent five years in parliament; later, he stepped down to open an offshore services firm — a popular choice for former politicians with connections and cash.

Paul Chow. His business model, Chow said, is straight forward: A lawyer or accountant in the U.S., Europe, or Israel contacts him on behalf of a wealthy client; Chow establishes a company in Seychelles, with the client as shareholder. He takes a fee for each company he establishes and for producing the paperwork that clients need to open a bank account. He said his firm, FIFCO Offshore, made him $300,000 last year, a small fortune in Africa.

Chow walked out of the Premiere Building, and into the afternoon heat. School kids crowded the sidewalks, laughing, singing — girls in pink shirts and dresses, boys in white shirts and crisp blue slacks. Chow plowed past them, talking a mile a minute.

“The British Virgin Islands,” he said, “registers 30,000 companies a year. We are at about 11,000. We are catching up.” He said Seychelles has gained ground because, unlike Mauritius and many other offshore centers, it has stood up to pressure from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development and other international powers.

“Mauritius made the mistake of following the rules,” he said. “Whatever the OECD said, they followed, so that actually killed their offshore corporations.” Chow believes Seychelles doesn’t have to do anything the OECD says, because the “OECD has no power — it’s just a think tank.”

He stopped at the Seychelles Yacht Club, a ramshackle affair established in 1964, when the island was still under British rule. Inside, middle-aged white men washed down plates of fried fish with bottles of SeyBrew, the local lager. Chow mentioned he might run for president in 2016, when James Michel will be up for re-election.

Chow doesn’t think the revolving door between Seychelles’ politics and Seychelles’ offshore industry is a problem. He deflected a question about this phenomenon by bringing up U.S. Vice President Joe Biden.

“Where the vice president comes from, what’s it called?”

“Delaware.”

Delaware, like Seychelles, harbors anonymous shell companies that have helped the U.S. state gain a reputation as a haven for fraudsters and arms smugglers. Chow noted a recent study that concluded that the U.S. was one of the easiest places in the world to start an anonymous shell company. In the U.S., he argued, “they don’t ask you for anything.”

Efforts by the U.S. and other Western powers to rein in offshore sanctuaries such as Seychelles have been undermined by questions about big nations’ own role in enabling — and profiting from — the offshore system. Like other offshore operators in Seychelles, Chow thinks it’s unfair to pick on his country when rich and powerful nations are just as culpable in the flow of untraced money — in essence, he argues, the rest of the world does it, so why can’t we?

`They’re going to kill you’

By the time of Hoareau’s murder in 1985, Seychelles’ notoriety as a place of dark intrigues was well established.

Ricci, the master of the country’s offshore industry, likely used the islands as base for helping South Africa get around apartheid-era economic sanctions, according to Ellis, a historian at Leiden University in the Netherlands and an expert on corruption in Africa. One of Ricci’s business partners was a South African intelligence officer who helped lead South Africa’s efforts to circumvent international embargoes.

“That was the kind of crazy place it was … Most of it was just out of some second-rate spy novel.”

David J. Fischer, the U.S. ambassador to Seychelles from 1982 to 1985, said he and other American officials picked up evidence of widespread illicit activities on the islands during this period, including money laundering by New York’s Gambino crime family, dirty cash being moved in and out of the country by French and American banks, even a case involving heroin shipped into the U.S. disguised as canned fish, with the proceeds laundered through Seychelles.

“That was the kind of crazy place it was,” Fischer, now a resident scholar at San Francisco State University, said in an oral history interview with the U.S.-based Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training. “Most of it was just out of some second-rate spy novel.”

As American officials dug into these kinds of cases, many of the connections seemed to trace back to Ricci. Some, Fischer said, also traced to President RenÈ. In one instance, Fischer said, RenÈ’s personal telephone number was discovered in an address book taken off the body of a gangster murdered in a drug-related hit in New Jersey.

Fischer said he went to RenÈ to let him know about his connection to the U.S. murder case, telling him: “You’re over your head with this Mafia business. You’re in with Ricci. … You know that when they’re finished with you, they’re going to kill you.”

This conversation, Fischer said, was the only time he ever saw RenÈ — a “very cool negotiator” — flinch. RenÈ did not reply to phone messages and emails seeking comment for this story.

Questions about Ricci’s role in bugging opposition leaders may have helped prompt Ricci to decamp from Seychelles, leaving a vacuum in the islands’ offshore industry. (Ricci died a few years later.) In 1988, the country passed extensive offshore legislation, looking to expand its market share.

The local offshore industry got a boost in the 1990s with the fall of the Soviet Union. Seychelles, which is on roughly the same time zone as much of Eastern Europe, was a popular choice among those who wanted to quietly move money out of the region, according to Jason Sharman, a political scientist at Australia’s Griffith University. “There’s no doubt that a lot of this was shady business,” Sharman said. In 1995, a man claiming to be the representative for a group of wealthy Russians based in London met with the deputy speaker of the Seychellois legislature and with a counselor to James Michel, who at the time was RenÈ’s finance minister. The man explained that his bosses wanted to invest $115 million through Seychelles. “Strict confidentiality will be maintained as to the source of funds,” the legislator promised. “We will not investigate this. It’s not our concern.”

In what seems to be a not-so-unusual scenario in the islands, the stranger turned out to be an undercover journalist. In a 1996 exposÈ headlined “Crooks Paradise,” The Sunday Times of London reported that the island officials helped him set up a shell company and promised diplomatic status to his supposed Russian bosses, noting that diplomatic luggage would never searched by customs officers. After the initial meeting, the newspaper said, the legislator reported back that he had met with Michel and gotten approval for the arrangement: “He has been fully briefed about your deal and wants it to go ahead. Everything is very positive here.”

Haves and have-nots

In 2004, France-Albert RenÈ stepped down as president, and handed the reins of the country to his protÈgÈ and vice president, James Michel.

Now 69, Michel, who won elections in 2006 and 2011, is always careful to tout his commitment to democracy and his success in maintaining a social safety net for all Seychellois. Every citizen is guaranteed free schooling and health care, he is fond of pointing out, which is not the case in most of Africa.

Still, the gap between rich and poor in Seychelles is one of the largest in the world, according to the Gini index, a measure of income distribution.

Victoria, Seychelles. To spend time in Seychelles is to see this disparity everywhere: the immaculate luxury villa side-by-side with the long-slung concrete shack; the unlovely sprawl of Victoria versus the cloistered paradise of Eden Island, a gated community protected by high walls and roving squads of uniformed security guards.

In the mornings, flatbed pick-up trucks roar back and forth between under-construction luxury resorts and the honeycomb of pre-fab villas and military-style barracks that houses a large population of South Asian workers. Funding for the projects often comes from Chinese and Arab investors, who hire other foreigners to carry out the actual building — leaving native Seychellois out of the loop in the process.

“The people at the top have enriched themselves immensely over the past few years by controlling everything,” said Ferrari, the former opposition politician. “These guys have been involved in any possible business you can think of: construction, transport, trading, instruments. You name it, they’re involved on a level.”

The islands’ political and financial power brokers include members of the Savy family, which, like a long-limbed octopus, touches seemingly everything in Seychelles, from a lucrative insurance company to an array of other business, investment, and real estate concerns.

The Savy name first appeared in Seychellois history in 1785, when a French naval officer named Francois-Blaise Savy landed in Seychelles along with his son and one slave. Over time the Savy clan gobbled up expanses of prime real estate. FrÈgate Island, for instance — the site of what The Times of London has dubbed the most beautiful beach in the universe — was for years owned by the Savy family; local lore has it that a Savy patriach named Harry lost it in a poker game. (Among other high-profile parcels, the Savys still own Bird Island, a popular destination for eco-tourists.)

The Savys are also politically connected. Glenny Savy and his brothers are children of ex-President RenÈ’s former wife. Glenny is also close to the current president, serving on Michel’s National Economic Council as well as leading the government’s Islands Development Company.

Glenny Savy also appears to be linked to Michel through three offshore companies owned wholly or partially by Savy’s wife. These companies are part of a network of British Virgin Islands entities that include a company that lists Michel as shareholder, according to confidential records obtained by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.

The director of these firms is a Mauritius company, Pines Ltd., and they were set up at the request of another Mauritius company, DTOS Ltd., which is owned by GML Group, a Mauritius-based conglomerate that owns a minority share of the Savy family insurance business and has been involved in resorts on the Seychellois Outer Islands overseen by Glenny Savy.

High-end developments are a touchy issue in Seychelles. In 2012, Scottish environmentalist Alex Foulkes, who worked on a conservation project in Seychelles, self-published a book, Fear and Loathing in Paradise, that accused Glenny Savy of treating the Outer Islands as a “personal fiefdom,” opening up economically fragile areas for resorts and other luxury projects.

Neither the Islands Development Company nor representatives for Glenny Savy responded to repeated requests for comment for this story.

`Prisoner in paradise’

In 1995, the Republic of Seychelles enacted the Economic Development Act, a law that offered broad immunity from prosecution and extradition to any foreign national who invested at least $10 million in the local economy.

U.S. officials described it as the equivalent of a “Welcome, Criminals” banner. Britain’s Serious Fraud Office called it “the perfect present for drug barons, fraudsters and money launderers.” Under international pressure, the government backed down, at least on paper. The law was taken off the books.

Still, the spirit of the law lives on. In 2005, reputed Czech mob boss Radovan KrejcÌr arrived in Seychelles seeking asylum, after jumping out a bathroom window back in Prague to escape police who were investigating him on murder and money laundering charges.

Seychelles coast. KrejcÌr now claims he provided financial support to leading Seychellois politicians and, in return, “they offered me and my family a new identity.” He stayed on the islands for two years, but decided to leave as the Czechs pressed Seychelles to extradite him. “It was so boring there, like being a prisoner in paradise,” he said. He headed to South Africa on a Seychellois passport under the name “Egbert Jules Savy.”

KrejcÌr is currently behind bars in South Africa as authorities decide whether to send him back to the Czech Republic to stand trial or to try him in South Africa on kidnapping and assault charges in connection with a botched $2 million crystal meth deal. “I am no angel,” he’s said in his defense. “But I’m not the devil.”

The stories of two other fugitives have gripped the country over the past 18 months. Marek Trajter, a Slovakian who gained Seychellois citizenship in early 2013 after cultivating friendship with one of President Michel’s closest advisors and making charitable donations to government organizations, was deported after Interpol revealed that he was wanted in the murder of a businessman associated with the Slovakian mafia. Also in the news has been Saker el-Materi, son-in-law of deposed Tunisian dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, who fled to Seychelles after a Tunisian court sentenced him to 16 years in jail on corruption charges.

Seychellois authorities have refused Tunisian pleas to deport him, saying they fear that el-Materi would not get a “free and fair” trial in his native land.

These cases and others like them have created the perception that Seychelles is up for sale to the highest bidder — that if you have enough cash and enough connections, you can stay on the islands for months or years.

Five years ago, in an effort to address concerns about corruption and about the money flowing through the islands’ offshore industry, the Seychellois government established the Financial Intelligence Unit.

The unit’s director, Declan Barber, a retired military intelligence man from Ireland, said the amount of illegal money coming through the country had been drastically reduced. But it has been by no means eliminated, he acknowledges. Somali pirates, long active in Seychellois waters, continue to throng to the area, as do local and international drug traffickers.

“If Seychelles is allowed to become a haven for criminal money,” Barber said, “what happened in Cyprus will happen here. The criminals will move in and they’ll start to establish networks here. They’ll corrupt the political process through money. They’ll corrupt it through violence and threats of violence. The social fabric will break down. That’s the threat scenario.”

International investigators who track money laundering say that Seychelles has already become a haven — or a least a way station — for dirty money.

Attorneys investigating Russia’s Magnitsky affair, for example, have alleged that mobsters and Russia government insiders stole $230 million out of that country’s treasury, using four Seychellois shell companies as part of the shadowy network that moved the money through Switzerland, Dubai and other locales. In November, the deputy speaker of Bulgaria’s parliament resigned as prosecutors announced they were investigating him and his stepson for tax crimes and money laundering after finding they had wired large sums through accounts in Europe and offshore companies in Seychelles.

`People are afraid’

Philippe BoullÈ If the offshore industry in Seychelles has an Èminence grise, it is Philippe BoullÈ, who runs the profitable offshore services firm, Intershore Consult Group (motto: “Offshore in the palm of your hand”). Along with chairing the offshore industry’s trade association, BoullÈ sits on the board of the Seychelles International Business Authority, a government body that licenses and oversees offshore operators like himself.

A lawyer by trade, BoullÈ believes the authority does a fine job watchdogging offshore activities. “Nobody should be against regulation, you see,” he said.

Offshore banking, BoullÈ argues, should no longer be viewed as suspect. He pointed out that Barclays, which maintains a branch in Seychelles — BoullÈ was once the local chairman — is involved in the offshore world, as are legions of other banks. The offshore world is no longer epitomized by “the old suitcase affair — you know, the Frenchman took a suitcase and went to Honduras, the Italians went to Monaco,” he said. “It’s funny. Somebody wants to do business now, they need a bank account.”

For critics of tax havens, the argument that banks are integral to the offshore world isn’t a defense; it’s evidence of how deep offshore abuses are rooted in the global financial system. Many of the world’s biggest banks — including HSBC and JPMorgan Chase & Co. — have been sanctioned for failing to follow anti-money laundering rules. Barclays itself paid $298 million to settle U.S. criminal charges that it shifted hundreds of millions of dollars on behalf of banks and individuals in Cuba, Iran, Libya and other rogue nations.

BoullÈ’s firm keeps offices in several tax havens around the world, from the British Virgin Islands to Anguilla, Panama and Belize. He says would-be clients who approach him must pass a battery of tests and background checks before he will take them on.

This is a claim echoed by most offshore operators in Seychelles: These days, we play by the rules, and we have nothing to fear. They note that the Al Jazeera undercover correspondents approached 10 offshore providers before they emerged with the evidence featured in the network’s 2012 report.

Cleaning up the offshore center’s image is important for the Seychellois government, which counts the offshore sector as one of the pillars of the country’s economy, along with fishing and tourism. Offshore banking is “something that we cannot afford to trade for any price,” Peter Sinon, the minister of investment, natural resources and industry, has said.

Some critics of Michel’s government say the price of offshore profits may be too high — as least given the freewheeling style in which the islands’ offshore industry now operates. Jean-Paul Isaac, a firebrand opposition blogger who lives in poverty on MahÈ island, advocates for a “strong healthy offshore services sector that attracts legit investment. As opposed to, you know, a jurisdiction that is prepared to sell out … and become an international pariah in the financial services world.”

Isaac, who is in his thirties, lives in a cement-walled shack in the working-class town of Mont Fleuri. In the front yard, chickens jostle for space with a pair of haggard dogs and a moribund Jeep Cherokee. Isaac does most of his blogging in his living room, on a battered desktop computer.

It’s hard to imagine a starker contrast to the nearby resorts, with their teak furniture and palm-frond-shaded courtyards. But as Isaac is quick to point out, how he lives is how most Seychellois live.

“People in Seychelles are afraid,” he said, knotting his fingers behind his head. “People are miserable here. They don’t have money. They don’t have anything. They can’t do nothing.”

Around the world, offshore financial centers are often touted as economic engines that help small, resource-starved places improve themselves. But it is often a few well-connected locals — along with expatriate lawyers and accountants from the U.S., the U.K., Australia and other rich nations — who enjoy most of the profits.

Isaac’s diapered son walked into the living room, followed by Isaac’s girlfriend. As chickens clucked outside, Isaac leaned back into his chair and launched into an extended riff on the toll exacted on the country by offshore intrigues. The middlemen on Seychelles and other havens that service offshore clients, he believes, have made it possible for President Michel and his friends to stow their money half a world away — and for tainted cash to flow in and out of the islands that Isaac calls home.

“These guys, that’s their business, that’s their livelihood, that’s how they’ve made their money,” he sighed. “But essentially [they’re] selling the jurisdiction’s reputation for personal profit.”

1/30/2013

Filed under: madagascar,seychelles,weather — admin @ 6:55 am

8/18/2009

AMID CHINA AIRPORT RIOTS 8,000 TONNES RED BANGKOK SCAM BLASTS 140 FISHING LENTILS KIDNAPPING 79 VENEZUELAN ONE-WAY HOMELESS TICKETS FOR SWINE FLU MOB ON RAMPAGE FROM INDIGENOUS POVERTY AS NEPALESE REFUGEES ARRESTED; SIX ISLANDS BECOME SEVEN WOUNDS KILLING 50 KENYANS IN HEAVY NICARAGUAN RAINFALL WITH BRITISH SIM CARDS FROM 828 TULELE PEISA TOBAGO MACHETES

A mob set ablaze eight buses and several shops after a schoolgirl was run
over by a bus at an unauthorized bus stand near Domjur police station. The
death of Riya Das, a Class-VII student of a local school, triggered mob
fury as locals alleged that the unauthorized bus stand was creating traffic
problems in the area and started setting ablaze buses and shops. Rapid
Action Force (RAF) had to be called in to control the situation.

Violent street battles killed at least 140 people and injured 828 others in
the deadliest ethnic unrest to hit China’s western Xinjiang region in
decades, and officials said the death toll was expected to rise. Police
sealed off streets in parts of the provincial capital, Urumqi, after
discord between ethnic Muslim Uighur people and China’s Han majority
erupted into riots. Witnesses reported a new protest in a second city,
Kashgar.

Venezuelan authorities found the bullet-ridden bodies of three Canadian
boys who had been kidnapped in the South American country, the justice
minister said. The bodies of 17-year-old John Faddoul, along with his
brothers Kevin, 13, and Jason, 12, were found near an electrical tower in
Yare, about 30 miles west of Caracas, Justice Minister Jesse Chacon said.
The body of the boy’s driver, 30-year-old Miguel Ribas, also was found with
them.

A total of 816 people died of swine flu worldwide, with most of the deaths
occurring in South America, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said. So
far, 707 people have died in the Americas, 44 in South-East Asia, 34 in
Europe, 30 in the Western Pacific region and one in the Eastern
Mediterranean region.

Many Strong Voices (MSV), unites indigenous peoples from the Arctic with
those from the tiny coral isles sprinkled throughout the globe’s oceans,
known in the parlance of climate change policy as Small Island Developing
States, or SIDS. MSV was spawned on the heels of a 2005 United Nations
climate policy meeting in Montreal and met for the first time in Belize two
years later. The grounds its constituents call home are as diverse as the
planet has to offer, but as the planet warms they share the same
catastrophe.

On many nights at sea off this Pacific port, Aaron Medina drops bombs that
cause dozens of fish to soar into the air. The 23-year-old fisherman
rubbernecks to ensure no police are around before pulling a 1-pound bomb
from his pocket. It’s an old sardine can wrapped in a cement bag filled
with gunpowder, sugar and sulfur. It is lit with a waterproof wick. “It’s
the only way to survive in fishing today,” said Medina, who has been
fishing with explosives off Corinto, Nicaragua’s largest port, since he was
12 years old.

Already poverty kills 50 children each day in the Pacific, Papua New Guinea
and Timor-Leste – a figure likely to rise as the global financial crisis
hits. Many countries in the Pacific are yet to suffer the full impact of
the global financial crisis but it is about to hit the region with all the
devastation and suffering of a tsunami. There is a critical ‘window of
opportunity’ to act in preparation for its impact but it is an opportunity
that is steadily slipping away. The central lesson learned from every
previous economic crisis is that the poorest people in developing countries
suffer the most and that not enough is done to help them.

Travelers to Thailand have braved a variety of hazards in recent years but
foreign governments are now warning about a new and different one:
duty-free shopping at the airport. Several European tourists say they were
falsely accused of shoplifting at the Thai capital’s main airport and some
recount being taken to seedy motels where they were shaken down for
thousands of dollars by a shady middleman. A British couple paid the
equivalent of $11,000 to secure their release five days after being accused
of stealing a Givenchy wallet that was never found, say police, who along
with airport authorities deny any wrongdoing.

A violent crowd went on the rampage at Jyoti Chowk in Kondhwa damaging
shops and vehicles which forced many shops and commercial establishments to
down their shutters. According to Kondhwa police, around 25 to 30 people,
carrying saffron flags assembled at Jyoti Chowk; first they asked all shops
to close down and started pelting at shops and hotels that were open. Four
two-wheelers, a few cars, a Pune Mahanagar Parivahan Mahamandal Limited bus
and an ATM centre were damaged in the incident. As the situation grew
tense, commercial establishments in the area closed down for an hour. Soon,
the Kondhwa police reached the spot. “We summoned two strike force to bring
the crowd under control,” said Deputy Commissioner of Police Jalinder
Supekar.

For some time now, Carteret Islanders have made eye-catching headlines:
“Going, going… Papua New Guinea atoll sinking fast”. Academics have dubbed
us amongst the world’s first “environmental refugees” and journalists put
us on the “frontline of climate change.” So perhaps you have heard how we
build sea walls and plant mangroves, only to see our land and homes washed
away by storm surges and high tides. Maybe you can even recognise the
tragic irony in the fact that the Carterets people have lived simply
(without cars or electricity) — subsisting mainly on fish, bananas and
vegetables — and have therefore not had much of a “carbon footprint”.

Columns of paramilitary police in green camouflage uniforms and flak vests
marched around Urumqi’s main bazaar — a largely Uighur neighborhood —
carrying batons, long bamboo poles and slingshots. Mobile phone service was
blocked, and Internet links were also cut or slowed down. Rioters
overturned barricades, attacking vehicles and houses, and clashed violently
with police in Urumqi, according to media and witness accounts. State
television aired footage showing protesters attacking and kicking people on
the ground. Other people, who appeared to be Han Chinese, sat dazed with
blood pouring down their faces.

“We lament, despite the efforts that were made 24 hours a day since this
started, we have not been able to prevent this abominable homicide,” Chacon
said. “The three boys were identified by a relative.” Police have said that
the brothers were abducted when unidentified men dressed as police stopped
their car at a roadside checkpoint in Caracas as the boys were on their way
to school. Authorities have not ruled out the possibility that the
kidnappers could in fact be police officers.

In addition, more than 20 countries such as Afghanistan, Belize, Bhutan,
Botswana, Haiti, Namibia, Sudan, Tanzania, and Solomon Islands, among
others, have confirmed swine flu cases. A total of 134,503 people worldwide
have been affected by the influenza A(H1N1) virus, also called swine flu,
so far. The actual figure may be much higher, as countries are no longer
required to report swine flu cases.

“We want to tell the world that the Inuit hunter falling through the ice
and the Pacific Islander fishing on rising seas are connected.” Four years
ago the United States was indicted in front of the Inter-American
Commission on Human Rights for producing the greenhouse gas emissions that
were warming the Arctic homeland at rates twice as fast as elsewhere on the
planet. The warming hasn’t stopped but the network has increased, and the
world they inhabit has become even more tenuous. “This is the start of the
dying of a civilization” warned an economic advisor to the president of the
Seychelles, an archipelago in the Indian Ocean just north of Madagascar.

Medina is part of the nation’s booming blast fishing industry, which is
quickly spreading across Central America’s Pacific coast. The practice is
also common in El Salvador and Honduras. Blast fishing is an illegal but
lucrative practice in which fishermen throw small homemade bombs into the
marine habitat, killing entire schools of fish and wiping out everything
else within the blast zone – including coral reef habitats – thus depleting
fisheries. “In a few years, blast fishing will be everywhere if it
continues like this,” said Reinaldo Bermuti of Nicaragua’s Fisheries
Institute in the capital, Managua. Other authorities fear the practice is
fueling a black market for increasingly potent explosives that could fall
into the hands of gangs or terrorist groups. “That’s why we’re constantly
working on intelligence,” said police investigator Lester Gomez.

Beneath the current financial crisis lies a development emergency with
catastrophic implications if we fail to respond effectively. And those in
the teeth of this economic storm are women and children. The Pacific
Islands countries are already burdened by poverty. One in four households
and almost one in three of the population are below the respective national
poverty lines. One in 10 Pacific Island children are underweight. Almost
one in five children do not enrol in primary school and of those who do
enrol, one in 10 do not complete their primary level schooling. Of course
the biggest sign of how well government action is protecting children is
the death rate of under-five-year-olds. If we add Papua New Guinea and
Timor-Leste, 18,000 Pacific Island children under five die each year – 50
children per day. Yet forecasts based on the impact of the global financial
crisis estimate the number of child deaths could rise by a further 800 each
year.

The Thai government has vowed a crackdown at Bangkok’s scandal-plagued
Suvarnabhumi Airport, which has barely recovered from its public relations
disaster when anti-government protesters shut it for a week and stranded
300,000 visitors. The airport opened in 2006 and has been dogged by
corruption allegations, taxi touts with “broken meters” and baggage thefts
— prompting a recent order for luggage handlers to wear uniforms without
pockets. But the allegations of extortion take things to another level. “We
are quite concerned about this,” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Vimon Kidchob
said. “The government of Thailand is doing everything we can to ensure the
safety of tourists.”

Apparently, the incident occurred after some miscreants showed disrespect
to Shivaji Maharaj. The police have so far arrested five people in
connection with the incident and booked them for rioting and damaging
public property. The police are looking of Amar Dhawane, Maharashtra
Navnirman Sena vice president, Hadapsar Unit, and around 20 unidentified
people involved in the incident. Shrikant Surve (21), Nitin Kakde (23),
Ramesh Patlelu (24) of Wanwadi, Sunil Patil (21) of Kondhwa and Amol Kad
(23) of Katraj are the five arrested

You might know that encroaching salt water has contaminated our fresh water
wells and turned our vegetable plots into swampy breeding grounds for
malaria-carrying mosquitos. Taro, the staple food crop, no longer grows on
the atoll. Carterets Islanders now face severe food shortages, with
government aid coming by boat two or three times a year. However, the story
you have not likely read is the one of government failure and the strategy
we developed in response, so as to engineer our own exile from a drowning
traditional homeland. Carterets people are facing, and will continue to
face, many challenges as we relocate from our ancestral grounds. However,
our plan is one in which we remain as independent and self-sufficient as
possible. We wish to maintain our cultural identity and live sustainably
wherever we are.

Riya was returning home in Domjur’s Uttar Japardah locality and had barely
stepped down a private bus on route 63 when the driver accelerated the
vehicle to park it at the bus stand. At this, she fell and was crushed
under the rear wheels. Angry locals gathered at the spot within moments and
set the bus ablaze. The mob then targeted three other buses on route 63
parked at the bus stand. Then, the mob went on the rampage, setting fire to
five mini buses on the Domjur-Howrah route. The crowd also targeted all the
roadside shops, stalls and shade where bus drivers and conductors rest,
setting these ablaze.

There was little immediate explanation for how so many people died. The
government accused a Uighur businesswoman living in the U.S. of inciting
the riots through phone calls and “propaganda” spread on Web sites. Exile
groups said the violence started only after police began violently cracking
down on a peaceful protest complaining about a fight between Uighur and Han
factory workers in another part of China. The unrest is another troubling
sign for Beijing at how rapid economic development has failed to stem — and
even has exacerbated — resentment among ethnic minorities, who say they are
being marginalized in their homelands as Chinese migrants pour in.

“We really do not have words to express our pain to the Faddoul Diab family
and the Ribas Guerra family for the abominable and lamentable event today,”
Chacon said. Officials have not revealed exactly how much in ransom the
kidnappers demanded, but they have said it was more than $4.5 million — a
figure circulated in the Venezuelan media. A lawyer for the boys’ family,
Santiago Georges, said recently that the family was not in a position to
pay the sum. The boys’ parents were both born in Lebanon, and their father,
John Faddoul, is a naturalized Canadian who has been a businessman in
Venezuela for more than 20 years.

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg defended a city program to send homeless
families out of New York on planes, trains and buses, saying it “saves the
taxpayers of New York City an enormous amount of money.” Speaking in the
Blue Room in City Hall to announce a new finance commissioner, Mr.
Bloomberg was asked if the program simply shifts the homelessness program
to a different place, as some critics of the program have suggested. “I
don’t know, when they get to the other places, whether they find jobs,” Mr.
Bloomberg said. “It may be an easier place for them. If we don’t — we
either have two choices. We can do this program or pay an enormous amount
of money daily to provide housing.”

Some islands in his homeland are composed of granite with spires that rise
into the clouds while others rest on a porous coral platform barely visible
above the ever-lapping waves. Should sea level rise just several feet, as
reports predict, these islands will be inundated. “Who will be prepared to
chuck away a 1,000 year-old album with the history of all their ancestors
overnight?” The near-term goal of MSV is to garner support for the greatest
emissions reductions possible at the UN Climate Conference.

Unlike many of Nicaragua’s coastal areas, Corinto’s rocky shoreline hasn’t
attracted international surfers or real estate investors. But over the past
decade, blast fishing has grown because poverty is rampant, homemade bombs
are increasingly available and law enforcement is lax. Local authorities
estimate fishermen drop 40,000 homemade bombs into the sea every week.
Often working undercover, police confiscated about 1,000 bombs last year,
most of which were seized at highway checkpoints. In 2007, Corinto police
confiscated 650 bombs from a clandestine bomb factory. The Nicaraguan navy
often cruises Pacific waters at night with no lights, hoping to catch
fishermen red-handed. Last year, naval officials say they caught five boats
blast fishing, and seized about 400 bombs. Navy Capt. Francisco Gutierrez
concedes that’s just a fraction of the hundreds of thousands of bombs used
each year.

This tragic ‘headline figure’ would coincide with increased poverty in the
region, falling school attendance, higher malnutrition and deteriorating
access to healthcare. Yet the fact that the full impact of the global
financial crisis has not yet hit the Pacific means there is an opportunity
to brace for its impact. There is time for governments to readjust fiscal
and monetary policy to create a social protection (a safety net) for the
most vulnerable. Investing in children and women is not just a moral
imperative, it is smart economics. Irrefutable evidence has now accumulated
to show the societal benefits of investing in children in good times, as
well as in bad times such as the current global economic downturn.

It’s hardly the image the self-proclaimed “Land of Smiles” wants to
project, particularly as Thailand’s vital tourism industry faces its worst
crisis in years after political instability, the global financial crisis
and swine flu scares. The scandal has spawned lengthy chatter on travel
blogs about other scams to watch for in Thailand and a string of overseas
travel advisories on the perils of duty-free shopping in Bangkok. Ireland
is warning its nationals to “be extremely careful” when browsing at
Suvarnabhumi (pronounced “sue-WANNA-poom”).

Seventy-nine undocumented migrants from Asia and Africa were arrested in a
Nicaraguan port off the Caribbean Sea, local police said. The migrants from
Ethiopia, Eritrea, Somalia and Nepal said they had arrived by boat at the
eastern port of Bluefields, where their handlers led them to a hotel,
telling them to wait there for a train. But there are no trains in
Nicaragua.

While we call on the Papua New Guinea government to develop policy, we are
not sitting by. Instead, we now want to see the media headlines translate
into practical assistance for our relocation program. And we hope our
carefully designed and community-led action plan can serve as a model for
communities elsewhere that will be affected by climate change in the
future. Situated 86 km Northeast of Bougainville, the main island in the
autonomous region of which the Carterets form part, our atoll is only 1.2
meters above sea level. They say evacuation of the islands was inevitable
as for many, many years erosion has been doing its work. “King tides”, or
particularly high tides, are now doing worse. Originally the Carterets were
six islands, but Huene was split in half by the sea and so now there are
seven. In 1995 a wave ate away most of the shorelines of Piul and Huene
islands. Han island, has suffered from complete inundation.

The mob resisted fire brigade officials and chased them away. Flames spread
as oil tanks of the buses began exploding. Though the bus stand lies along
the boundary wall of Domjur police station, policemen were also prevented
from coming out to quell the mob. The crowd blocked the police station’s
entrance. Fire engines could be sent to the spot only after the RAF lathi
charged the crowd.

Thousands of people took part in the disturbance, unlike recent sporadic
separatist violence carried out by small groups in Xinjiang. The clashes
echoed the violent protest that rocked Tibet last year and left many
Tibetan communities living under clamped-down security ever since. Tensions
between Uighurs and the majority Han Chinese are never far from the surface
in Xinjiang, a sprawling region rich in minerals and oil that borders eight
Central Asian nations. Many Uighurs (pronounced WEE-gers) yearn for
independence and some militants have waged a sporadic, violent separatist
campaign.

The victims were found with gunshot wounds in the head and neck area, and
it appeared they had been shot to death at least two days before their
bodies were found, judicial police chief Marco Chavez said on state
television. “We’re certain that the evidence and the advancements already
made in the investigation will allow us to conclude this investigation,”
Chacon said. Relatives, friends and classmates of three boys had held
vigils and demonstrations in the streets to call for their release.

It costs the city about $36,000 a year to provide shelter for a homeless
family. The average stay in shelter is about nine months. But Mr. Bloomberg
appeared sensitive to the image of flying homeless families to far-flung
places, as the program is set up to do. In the past two years, families
have been provided one-way tickets to Haiti, Peru, Mexico City, St. Croix,
Trinidad and Tobago, Ukraine, Santo Domingo and Casablanca. (The most
popular destinations are Puerto Rico, Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas.)

It was a theme echoed by many MSV participants. Paul Crowley, of the
Climate Law and Policy Project, was nearly moved to tears as he relayed
news that President Obama has said he is willing to work towards a
successful outcome in Copenhagen. But for groups like the Inuits of Alaska,
even a miracle in Copenhagen can’t reverse the damage already done.
Patricia Cochran, an Inupiat Eskimo born and raised in Alaska and current
chair of the ICC, presented a harrowing slideshow of her homeland. In
Shishmaref, homes hug cliffs crumbling because of melting permafrost into
seas more likely to be beset by storm as rising temperatures reduce sea
ice. The media has publicized this town’s problems, but there are half a
dozen other villages just like Shishmaref, noted Cochran. Ice that hunters
have relied on for centuries is melting earlier and shifting in ways locals
don’t understand. Last year a convoy of more than 200 snow mobiles had to
be rescued by helicopter after sea ice unexpectedly broke up, said Cochran.
“There is not one of us without a friend who has taken their snow machine
out and not come back home again,” she said. “That’s what we face every
day. These, in my opinion, are climate related incidents.”

Blast fishing is considered an environmental crime under Nicaraguan law,
punishable by up to four years in prison. Prosecutors can increase jail
time by tacking on illegal weapons possession charges. But prosecuting
cases is difficult because evidence is easily destroyed at sea. Gutierrez
said five fishermen are currently being processed for alleged blast
fishing, but he couldn’t recall the last time anyone went to jail. “They
have a system. It’s almost impossible to arrest them. When they see us
coming, they just sink the bombs in the sea with rocks,” Gutierrez said.
Widespread corruption among local police officers hinders enforcement
efforts, police investigator Gomez said. Many fishermen say police officers
routinely take bribes from bomb manufacturers and their distributors.

Global research by UNICEF, the World Bank and UNESCO has shown we could not
only save a young child from death but we could also help him or her
complete basic education by the age of 13 by investing altogether no more
than $US2,200 per child. Likewise providing micronutrients for the world’s
children who lack essential vitamins and minerals would cost just $US60
million per year and yield annual benefits of more than $1 billion –
implying a 1,500 per cent rate of return. For Pacific leaders this
illustration of the high returns – both in human lives and economic
productivity – for relatively low financial outlays presents a strong case
for paying particular attention to children in economic policy and fiscal
budgets.

“We have received reports that innocent shoppers have been the subject of
allegations of suspected theft and threatened that their cases will not be
heard for several months unless they plead guilty and pay substantial
fines,” says an Irish government travel advisory. It tells shoppers to keep
receipts to avoid “great distress.” The advice was posted after a
41-year-old Irish scientist, who was visiting for an international genetics
symposium, was accused of stealing Bobbi Brown eyeliner. The embassy
declined to discuss details of her case. Britain and Denmark have updated
their online travel advice to warn that Suvarnabhumi’s sprawling duty-free
zone has hard-to-detect demarcation lines between shops and patrons should
not carry unpaid merchandise between them.

“We suppose they were brought from Colombia to the island of San Andres”
and were then transferred to Bluefields, Nicaragua’s main Caribbean port,
“from which they had hoped to continue their journey to the United States
to pursue the American dream,” Deputy Commissioner Rolando Coulson told
reporters. The Colombian island of San Andres, located off Nicaragua’s
Caribbean coast, is used as a transit point for undocumented migrants
headed toward the United States, but many are cheated of their money and
abandoned in Nicaragua, officials say. One of the undocumented migrants,
Lexman Khaatri Chhetri, told the authorities he had spent much of his
savings to reach the American continent.

What climate change’s exact role is, even experts are hard put to answer.
Debate has raged over whether the islands are sinking, if tectonic plates
play a role, and whether sea levels are in fact rising. We do not know much
about science, but we watch helplessly as the tides wash away our shores
year in and year out. We also know that we are losing our cultural heritage
just as the sea relentlessly wipes out our food gardens. To relieve the
land shortage caused by eroding shorelines, in 1984 the government
resettled 10 families from the Carterets to Bougainville, but they returned
to the atoll in 1989 in flight from what began as a protest by landowners
against a mining company and escalated into civil war. Since that time, and
despite many promises, very little has been done by the Bougainville or PNG
government to assist Islanders’ relocation efforts. Tired of empty
promises, the Carterets Council of Elders formed a non-profit association
in late 2006 to organise the voluntary relocation of most of the Carterets’
population of 3,300.

Locals have demanded the removal of the unauthorised bus stand repeatedly.
They say rows of buses are parked on either side of the road — one of the
main thoroughfares of Domjur. This, along with rows of unauthorised shops
and stalls have reduced the road’s width to that of a narrow lane. Locals
allege that in spite of repeated complaints, Domjur police have allowed the
menace to thrive right under its nose.

Uighurs make up the largest ethnic group in Xinjiang, but not in the
capital of Urumqi, which has attracted large numbers of Han Chinese
migrants. The city of 2.3 million is now about overwhelmingly Chinese — a
source of frustration for native Uighurs who say they are being squeezed
out. About 1,000 to 3,000 Uighur demonstrators had gathered in the regional
capital for a protest that apparently spun out of control. Accounts
differed over what happened, but the violence seemed to have started when
the crowd of protesters refused to disperse. The official Xinhua News
Agency reported hundreds of people were arrested and checkpoints ringed the
city to prevent rioters from escaping. Mobile phone service provided by at
least one company was cut to stop people from organizing further action in
Xinjiang. Internet access was blocked or unusually slow in Urumqi. Videos
and text updates about the riots were removed from China-based social
networking sites such as Youku, a YouTube-like video service, and Fanfou, a
Chinese micro-blogging Web site similar to Twitter. A Fanfou search for
posts with the key word Urumqi turned up zero results while Twitter, which
is hosted overseas, yielded hundreds of comments in Chinese and English.
Major Chinese portals such as Sina.com, Sohu.com and 163.com relied solely
on Xinhua for news of the event and turned off the comment function at the
bottom of the stories so people could not publicly react.

The killings come just days after a prominent Italian-born businessman,
74-year-old Filippo Sindoni, was abducted and killed. That case prompted
Italy’s foreign minister to ask Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez’s
government to do everything possible to end the kidnappings of Italians in
the country. Officials in Italy said an Italian businesswoman and her
3-year-old son were freed two months after being abducted in Venezuela.
Four men were arrested for their roles in the crime, officials said.
Violent robberies, kidnappings and murders are frequent in Venezuela. There
were 9,402 homicides reported in 2005, slightly down from 2004, according
to government statistics.

“The average cost is trivial,” Mr. Bloomberg said. “Most go by bus. Very
few go overseas, very few go long distances. Bus is the normal ways we pay
for transportation, rather than air.” In fact, the most common mode of
travel for families in the program is air, not bus. Forty-eight percent
travel by airplane; 37 percent by bus; and 15 percent by train, according
to city data.

“We will not assume the role of powerless victims, we will do everything we
can to ensure our people who have been here for centuries will be here for
centuries more.” Nick Illauq, deputy mayor of the remote Baffin Island
community of Clyde River, in Nunavut, an autonomous Inuit territory at the
top of Canada, voiced concerns about another type of visitor. “We know the
Earth is changing,” said Illauq, “everyone is rushing to the Arctic to get
our resources. To me, that’s my biggest fear. We are very poor, we ask for
money and we don’t get it. We know we are destroying [the Earth] and yet we
rush to find resources. It’s not just the Inuit anymore, it’s not just the
caribou, it’s the baby being born anywhere right now that is going to have
to face all this crap in the future. Imagine what they are going to have to
face! And it’s our fault.”

But Gutierrez is hopeful that a one-year program to educate fishermen about
the pitfalls of the practice is finally paying off. One month, for the
first time, fishermen turned in more than 311 bombs. “We’ve been trying to
persuade them in meetings,” Gutierrez said. But Medina believes blast
fishing is more widespread than authorities suspect. He says virtually
every fisherman he knows has traded in traditional nets, lines and hooks
for explosives. And the handful of clandestine bombmakers who sell
explosives for about $2 apiece are making more powerful explosives, he
adds. Most recently, Nicaraguan police caught two fishermen with 10-pound
bombs wrapped in cement bags – more destructive and risky than the usual
sardine-can-size bombs. Medina says even 15-pound bombs are now available
on the black market. Injuries and deaths Medina also says some bombs have
exploded while being handled by colleagues, causing loss of life and limbs.
In the past three years, Corinto authorities have reported two deaths, nine
cases of lost limbs and two men who were blinded by explosions.

Governments in the Pacific must not stray from their commitments to
children and women at this time of crisis. They must take all necessary
measures to enhance the role of women as economic agents and to protect
social sector budgets, especially to maintain and, if warranted, expand
essential social services for children and women. There are already
alarming signs that budget cuts have been made or are on their way. Budget
cuts are not necessarily bad, if there is greater efficiency and if the cut
does not impact on social protection measures, it can produce a benefit.
But social protection budgets are all too often a victim of the budget
razor.

British couple Stephen Ingram, 49, and Xi Lin, 45, technology experts from
Cambridge, took the alleged scam public. Their ordeal was pieced together
based on accounts from police, airport and embassy officials and an
interview the couple gave to British media. The couple was approached by
airport security before boarding a flight to London and told that security
cameras showed they had taken a Givenchy wallet. King Power, the company
that owns the duty-free store, has posted CCTV footage on its Web site that
appears to show Lin putting her hand in her bag while browsing a wallet
display. The security guards found nothing, but turned the couple over to
police, said Sombat Dechapanichkul, managing director of King Power Duty
Free Co. “We are not aware of what happened next. It was then the job of
the police to proceed with the case,” said Sombat. Ingram told The Sunday
Times of London that they were questioned at an airport police office and
then transferred to a nearby police station where their passports were
confiscated and they spent the night in jail. The next morning they were
introduced to a translator — a Sri Lankan named Tony — who said he could
arrange bail and get their case dropped, warning it could otherwise drag on
for months. Tony took them to a nearby motel, called the Valentine Resort,
Ingram said. The couple managed a visit to the British Embassy but then
returned to the hotel fearing Tony, who had warned they would be watched,
Ingram said.

The association was named Tulele Peisa, which means “sailing the waves on
our own”. This name choice reflects the elders’ desire to see Carteret
Islanders remain strong and self-reliant, not becoming dependent on food
handouts for their survival. After much hard work, the first five fathers
moved to Tinputz, onto land donated by the Catholic Church. These fathers
are already building gardens so that their wives and children can join them
later when there is food. “I have volunteered to relocate as I would like
my family to be able to plant food crops like taro, banana, casava, yams
and other vegetables that we cannot grow on the island,” said Charles
Tsibi. “I also want my family to grow some cash crops like cocoa to sustain
our future life here in Marau, Tinputz.” According to a recent Tulele Peisa
survey, 80 other families would like to move immediately and 50 wish to
move later on. Twenty families have already relocated on their own. Thirty
families remain unsure about relocating.

State-owned Trading Corporation of Bangladesh (TCB) has issued an
international tender to import 8,000 tonnes of whole, husked red lentils.
The tendered cargo should include 3,000 tonnes of category A and 5,000
tonnes of category B whole, husked red lentils. TCB classified lentil
grains measuring 1.50-3.00 mm commonly known as Nepali/Indian variety and
3.50-4.50 mm Turkish variety as category A and category B respectively. A
tenderer may offer for both or either of the two items to supply the cargo,
to Chittagong port. Most of Bangladesh’s population of nearly 150 million
eat lentils along with the country’s staple food, rice, every day. It is
now sold at 110 taka ($1.60) per kg. Commerce ministry officials said more
essential commodities would be imported to keep prices stable especially
during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan. ($1=69.06 taka)

The demonstrators were demanding justice for two Uighurs killed last month
during a fight with Han Chinese co-workers at a factory in southern China.
Uighur activists and exiles say the millions of Han Chinese who have
settled here in recent years are gradually squeezing the Turkic people out
of their homeland. But many Chinese believe the Uighurs are backward and
ungrateful for the economic development the Chinese have brought to the
poor region. Wu Nong, director of the news office of the Xinjiang
provincial government, said more than 260 vehicles were attacked or set on
fire and 203 shops were damaged. She said 140 people were killed and 828
injured in the violence. She did not say how many of the victims were Han
or Uighurs.

The U.S. Coast Guard reported that it had seized 36 bales of cocaine valued
at $55 million off Venezuela’s coast during a routine Caribbean patrol. The
crew of a go-fast boat threw the drugs into the sea when they spotted the
Coast Guard personnel on board the British frigate HMS Iron Duke. The
British and U.S. forces had detected the boat some 40 kilometers (25 miles)
west of Curacao, an island north of Venezuela. The Coast Guardsmen managed
to recover the drug packets from the water and, after boarding and
inspecting the go-fast boat, arrested four men, according to a communique.
“This is an outstanding example of the partnership between the U.S. and our
regional and NATO colleagues to stem the flow of illegal narcotics to
Europe and North America,” said Capt. Steven A. Banks, the head of Law
Enforcement for District Seven.

Kenya will register SIM cards to fight crime. The problem of criminals
using unregistered numbers became apparent last year during post-election
violence. After several months of battling criminals who have been using
untraceable mobile-phone numbers, the Kenyan government has given a
six-month ultimatum to mobile service operators to streamline registration
of SIM (Subscriber Identity Module) cards. The challenge of criminals using
unregistered numbers became apparent last year during post-election
problems when people used SMS (Short Message Service) messages to instigate
violence. The police had no way of identifying the culprits because there
was no registration information linked to the phones used.

The heaviest rainfall in 53 years left at least 10 people dead and
thousands stranded in floods across Bangladesh’s capital. Dhaka residents
were still escaping the rain while traffic ground to a halt with 80 percent
of roads underwater. The national weather office said more than 33cm of
rain fell in the city within 12 hours – the most in a single day since
1956. Thousands in low-lying areas of the city were isolated, while 10
people were electrocuted by broken power lines in their homes. Some
residents are frustrated at the situation. [Shakina Begum, Resident]: “We
are now stuck in rain water. The whole area is flooded. We are facing a
serious shortage of drinking water, our children can’t go to school, and we
can’t go shopping. We are facing a serious problem and can’t go anywhere.”
Forecasts are for more rain in the next few days. Flooding caused by
monsoon rains is common in Bangladesh, a delta nation of 150 million
people.

Medina only works at night, where he and his colleagues stick a flashlight
into the water to attract fish – usually sardines – before dropping bombs
anchored by rocks. The explosion, which kills everything within a 10-foot
radius, sends a few dozen sardines into the boat that are later used as
bait to attract larger fish such as snapper. Fishermen jump in with snorkel
masks to net remaining fish that float around the boat. Bigger explosives
cause an even greater radius of dead or stunned fish and require scuba gear
to dive deep into the ocean. “They go out to sea with one bomb and bring in
400 kilos (880 pounds) of fish,” Medina said of fishermen who use larger
bombs. As the resource is depleted by blast fishing, fishermen are now
lucky to bring in 100 kilos of fish on a given trip instead of 400 kilos a
decade ago, Medina says. While Medina and other local fishermen claim they
have little choice but to use explosives, Helen Fox of the World Wildlife
Foundation says they are motivated by making a quick buck. “It’s a case of
greed rather than need,” said Fox. But Medina says he has little recourse
in a nation with the second-lowest annual per capita income in the Western
Hemisphere at $3,000. “We’re deteriorating the fauna,” he said. “But
there’s no other way to bring money home.”

Of course the budget of many Pacific countries lack the reserves to respond
fully to such an economic crisis. It is therefore important that donors
maintain their aid commitments to the Pacific and ensure investments
benefit those most in need. To the Australian Government’s credit it has
maintained, even slightly increased, its aid budget. It is now hoped
Australia – as host of this year’s Pacific Island Forum – can also
facilitate a policy response across the Pacific that is going to shield the
most vulnerable – children and women – from the ravages of this economic
crisis.

An investigation found that the couple transferred into Tony’s bank account
400,000 baht ($11,800) — half for bail and the other half for Tony’s
“fees,” said police Col. Teeradej Panurak, who oversaw the case. “Tony came
in to translate for us. We can’t control what the accused agree to with a
translator,” said Teeradej. He said the couple was released because there
was not enough evidence to press charges. A visiting British government
official recently raised the case with Thai authorities, and the British
Embassy was consulting other embassies about the alleged scam.

Turning to crime, home invasions: it’s the term for armed attacks on
families in the confines of their homes. And these types of crimes seem to
be getting more frequent throughout the country. There was the most recent
invasion upstairs of Tow Tow Grocery on Fairweather Street in Belize City.
The victims were elderly mother and her daughter – both Belizean Americans
vacationing from Los Angeles. The incident happened quite early in the
night, while seventy-two year old Olive Arnold was in her bed watching the
local news. Her daughter, Rose Holland, was on the front porch with a
cousin while the thieves entered through the back door. The mother and
daughter just arrived in town and have been returning to Belize every year
since 1985. Holland feels the culprits had been planning to pounce since
the day they arrived and the experience has shaken them up so much that
they are not coming back home in a hurry.

Tulele Peisa’s plan is for Carteret Islanders to be voluntarily relocated
to three locations on Bougainville (Tinputz, Tearouki and Mabiri) over the
next 10 years. Our immediate need is for funding so that we can accomplish
the initial 3-year phase of our Carterets Integrated Relocation Programme.
The list of objectives is long and challenging but our plan is holistic so
we have faith it will succeed. Firstly, the three host towns have a
population of 10,000 and we are cognisant of the many complexities involved
in integrating the Carteret people into existing communities that are
geographically, culturally, politically and socially different. Therefore
exchange programs involving chiefs, women and youth from host communities
and the Carterets are in progress for establishing relationships and
understanding. While this is going well, the next urgent steps include
securing more land and surveying and pegging site boundaries. Next comes
constructing housing and infrastructure for 120 families. With the help of
the Catholic Church in Bougainville, the relocation programme aims to
provide design and carpentry services and local materials for basic housing
for these families. We also need to get on with implementing agricultural
and income generation projects (like the rehabilitation of cocoa and
coconut blocks), as well as education, health and community development
training programmes.

Xinhua said several hundred people had been arrested in connection with the
riot and police were searching for about 90 other “key suspects.” It also
quoted a local police chief as saying the death toll was expected to rise.
Uighur exiles condemned the crackdown. “We are extremely saddened by the
heavy-handed use of force by the Chinese security forces against the
peaceful demonstrators,” said Alim Seytoff, vice president of the
Washington, D.C.-based Uyghur American Association. “We ask the
international community to condemn China’s killing of innocent Uighurs.
This is a very dark day in the history of the Uighur people,” he said. The
association, led by a former prominent Xinjiang businesswoman now living in
America, Rebiya Kadeer, estimated that 1,000 to 3,000 people took part in
the protest. Xinjiang Governor Nur Bekri said in a televised address early
Monday that Uighur exiles led by Kadeer of caused the violence, saying,
“Rebiya had phone conversations with people in China in order to incite,
and Web sites such as Uighurbiz.cn and Diyarim.com were used to orchestrate
the incitement and spread propaganda.” A government statement quoted by
Xinhua said the violence was “a pre-empted, organized violent crime. It is
instigated and directed from abroad and carried out by outlaws in the
country.”

Later, the government also admitted defeat in an SMS scam believed to be
perpetrated by death-row inmates. The scheme tricked unsuspecting
subscribers into thinking they had won prizes and were required to send
money through the mobile M-Pesa service in order to collect the winnings.
The police recovered phones believed to be used in the scam in a
maximum-security prison, but could not pin down who the owners were due to
a lack of registration information. “To guard against these tendencies, I
am directing the Ministry of Information and Communication to put in place
an elaborate databank that will ensure all mobile telephone subscribers are
registered,” said Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka. Mobile service providers
Zain and Safaricom embraced the idea but noted that registration is not a
panacea to fighting crime. “The issue of subscriber registration has been
oversimplified by the political class and, in itself, it is not a panacea
for addressing rising incidents of crime,” said Michael Joseph, Safaricom
CEO.

Blast or dynamite fishing stuns or kills fish for easy gathering. This
illegal practice indiscriminately kills large numbers of fish and other
marine organisms and can damage or destroy surrounding ecosystems such as
coral reefs. Although outlawed, the practice remains widespread in some 40
nations in Central America, Southeast Asia, the Aegean Sea and Africa,
environmental groups say. In the Philippines, blast fishing dates to before
World War I. During World War II, dynamite-wielding Japanese troops
popularized the practice in Indonesia. Nicaraguan fishermen say the
practice was introduced by bomb-wielding rebels of El Salvador’s Farabundo
Marti Liberation Front seeking a new livelihood after a 12-year civil war
in that country ended in 1992. Fishermen typically use commercial dynamite
or homemade bombs with glass bottles or cans layered with powdered
potassium nitrate and pebbles or ammonium nitrate and a kerosene mixture.

But one lawyer has taken issue with the directive, arguing that the
government’s approach is wrong because registration of subscribers is all
about capturing personal information, which is one of the most vexing legal
issues in the information technology sector. “What we need is very clear
law governing the collection and use of personal information. We failed to
include such a law in the Kenya Communications Amendment Act, and now we
want to patch it up with a presidential directive,” said Michael Murungi, a
Nairobi lawyer. Murungi says there is need to identify the subscribers of
mobile phones in order to deter phone-aided crime, but there is an even
more compelling need for a clear legal framework for the collection, use of
and management of personal information.

A husband and wife from Britain were seriously wounded in a machete attack
in Tobago, police said, comparing the home invasion to a similar one last
year that killed a Swedish couple on the Caribbean island. Authorities
identified the victims as Peter Greene, 65, and his wife, Marion, 59, but
declined to provide details about them or the attack on an island that has
been considered the safer part of the twin-island nation of Trinidad and
Tobago. “It’s a matter of serious concern, this is another serious attack
on tourists,” police superintendent Nadir Khan said. The couple were
airlifted to a regional medical center in Trinidad, but authorities did not
release details about their condition.

Olive Arnold, Victim of Home Invasion “This person come over me and tell me
be quiet. Now I’m not going to be quiet, then he go like – I couldn’t see
his face, he have on a brown cap and a brown shirt and ih gun. And ih tell
me be quiet and I tell him I’m not going to be quiet and I scream. I holler
for them out there and by the time they come to the door, one in a white
t-shirt follow the other one and they all run downstairs.” Rose Holland,
Victim of Home Invasion “I heard my mom screaming so I thought maybe she
fall so I ran in here and when me and Ms. Carol get to the door the guy
standing here and point the gun so we took off back. And they ran behind us
and start chasing us. All three of us fall down on the ground and they jump
on me and say give me everything you got. They tried to pull my bracelet
off and they scratched my hand. When they couldn’t get this off they popped
my Rolex chain off my neck. And they tackled my girlfriend. And she tell
them do you guys know who I am. I’m the mother of so and so. And they say
they don’t care and they popped her chain off too. And then they hopped the
fence back and they left.” Olive Arnold “First, I was gonna come back home
and live, now I tell them no I cannot because the younger generation them
is scandalous. I cannot come back home to live. They take guns like you’re
birds in the air – pop, you know, I’m scared for my life. I’m not coming
back in a hurry right now but I have to come back, but not to live.”

“The plan is slow to achieve but covers all areas dealing with human
relations and has adaptation alternatives, such as small cash income
activities for relocated families,” said elder Tony Tologina, chief of the
Naboin clan. On the long term, we want to build the capacity of Tulele
Peisa to be certain it can carry out its objectives and also develop it as
a resource agency for the Carterets and host communities on Bougainville.
“Tulele Peisa is our own initiative and will continue to co-ordinate and
facilitate the relocation of our island people. After the relocation, TP
will continue to provide monitoring and evaluation skills and further focus
on development options available to our people,” said Rufina Moi, woman
chief. An important part of the programme is that it will also set up a
Conservation and Marine Management Area that will let Carteret Islanders
make sustainable use of our ancestral marine resources. To keep the links
between the relocated Carterets people and their home island, sea resources
and any remaining clan members (who are not yet relocated), the plan
includes developing an equitable sea transport service for freight and
passengers. “In the future, we will keep coming to these reefs and manage
them as our fishing ground,” explained community youth leader Nicholas
Hakata. “When our children come back, they will have a connection to their
heritage.”

Ilham Tohti, a Uighur economics professor at Central Nationalities
University in Beijing and founder of Uighurbiz.cn — one of the implicated
Web sites — said “the relevant authorities” were questioning him about his
Web site. His site has become a lively forum for many issues about Chinese
rule in Xinjiang. Xinjiang’s top Communist Party official, Wang Lequan,
called the incident “a profound lesson learned in blood” and said
authorities “must take the most resolute and strongest measures to deal
with the enemies’ latest attempt at sabotage.” “We also must expose Rebiya
and those like her … we must tear away Rebiya’s mask and let the world see
her true nature.” Seytoff dimissed the accusations against Kadeer. “It’s
common practice for the Chinese government to accuse Ms. Kadeer for any
unrest” in Xinjiang, he said.

Trinidad & Tobago’s Newsday reported that Marion Greene was in serious but
stable condition and that her husband was in critical condition after being
placed in a medically induced coma to treat severe head injuries. Deputy
British Commissioner Jeff Patton described the attack as a “horrible crime”
but declined to discuss it further. Originally from Reading, England, the
couple had been living in the town of Bacolet along Tobago’s southern coast
off-and-on for 10 years. Khan told reporters that robbery has not been
ruled out as a motive and said it was similar to the unsolved killing in
October of Anna Sundsval, 62, and Oke Olsoon, 73, at their home in the Bon
Accord area of Tobago, about 7 miles (10 kilometers) from where the latest
incident occurred. Authorities detained a suspect in that case but released
him for lack of evidence. Khan said his department is “working assiduously”
on the case, but complained of a lack of leads.

Rose Holland “I came in and I guess when they saw me came in, they saw my
car and saw my jewelry and stuff cause I usually wear a lot of jewelry when
I come to Belize. But for one time this year I decided only to wear a few.
And one of my neighbours told me be careful because they are watching you,
be careful. She told me that the morning, which was yesterday morning. Then
in the night, that’s what made me went on the porch, they called me again,
be careful because I guess they hear the plot of what’s going on, so
they’re advising me. How could they have the audacity to just walk in a
person’s home with a gun and look and an ageable lady, be quiet. That is
wrong.”

“We have fully documented our process since beginning our plan and will
continue to, for the sake of developing a model relocation programme,” said
Thomas Bikta, a chief from Piul Island. “At the same time, we are
developing and formulating a Carterets relocation policy that we will
advocate to the Autonomous Bougainville Government and the rest of the
world,” Bikta added. We also intend to build an alliance of vulnerable
Pacific communities impacted by climate change who can lobby and advocate
for justice and policies that recognise and support those affected. We
think the Papua New Guinea government must set an example of such policies
by re-developing the Atolls Integrated Development policy and beginning a
recognized financing mechanism similar to REDD (Reducing Emissions from
Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries). The
committee or board of which must include all relevant stakeholders,
including community representation and other expertise, not just government
officials.

The clashes in Urumqi echoed last year’s unrest in Tibet, when a peaceful
demonstration by monks in the capital of Lhasa erupted into riots that
spread to surrounding areas, leaving at least 22 dead. The Chinese
government accused Tibet’s exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, of
orchestrating the violence — a charge he denied. Seytoff said he had heard
from two sources that at least two dozen people had been killed by gunfire
or crushed by armored police vehicles just outside Xinjiang University.
Mamet, a 36-year-old restaurant worker, said he saw People’s Armed Police
attack students outside Xinjiang University. “First they fired tear gas at
the students. Then they started beating them and shooting them with
bullets. Big trucks arrived, and students were rounded up and arrested,”
Mamet said. Wang Kui, an official with the Foreign Affairs Department at
the university, said she aware of no such incident. She said no students
from the university were among those killed or injured. “We are not
allowing students to come and go because the situation is chaotic at the
moment,” Wang said. “All the students are at school, and we are taking care
of them. But we are not clear about what’s been going on outside.”

A renowned Scottish gemstone expert was brutally murdered in Kenya by a mob
armed with machetes, clubs, spears — even bows and arrows — in what police
believe was the final fight in a years-long mining dispute. A group of at
least 30 men attacked Campbell Bridges, 71, his son Bruce, and four Kenyan
employees near the Tsavo National Park, a popular tourist site in the
Kenyan bush known for its lions. “My men were cut to ribbons and I took a
panga [machete] to the neck. It was an ambush.” said Bruce Bridges. The
murder was the bloody culmination of a three-year battle between squatters
and Bridges — a senior jewel consultant with Tiffany and Company in New
York. The squatters have reportedly stolen rare tsavorite gems from
Bridges’ team in the past. Bridges’ son charges the local miners with
illegally digging for gems on the family’s 600-hectare property. He also
adds that the Bridges family has received repeated death threats, the most
recent one coming just two weeks ago. “As we drove towards our mining camp
we found huge thorn trees blocking the road. Eight men with machetes,
spears, clubs, knives, bows and arrows appeared shouting ‘We’re going to
kill you all!’ Then more people came down the mountain like ants, 20 or 30
of them,” Bridges said. According to his son, Campbell Bridges was attacked
by two men and was stabbed in the side.

Four Uighur detainees at the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba were
recently released and relocated to Bermuda despite Beijing’s objections
because U.S. officials have said they fear the men would be executed if
they returned to China. Officials have also been trying to transfer 13
others to the Pacific nation of Palau. The men were captured in Afghanistan
and Pakistan in 2001, but the U.S. later determined they were not “enemy
combatants.” Previous mass protests in Xinjiang that were quelled by armed
forces became signal events for the separatist movement. In 1990, about 200
Uighurs shouting for holy war protested through Baren, a town near the
Afghan border, resulting in violence that left at least two dozen people
dead. In 1997, amid a wave of bombings and assassinations, a protest by
several hundred Uighurs in the city of Yining against religious
restrictions turned into an anti-Chinese uprising that left at least 10
dead. In both cases pro-independence groups said the death tolls were
several times higher, and the government never conducted a public
investigation into the events.

The women say they don’t know who their attackers were but they feel they
were held up by two men in their twenties who live in the same area.
Holland said the thieves also stole her cell phone which was in her bedroom
near the back door. While police have not yet retrieved any of the stolen
items, they have detained four suspects. Police believe that while only two
committed the robbery, it was planned by the four suspects. And while they
are in custody now, they are concerned that there will be retaliation
because the other victim who was visiting the home at the time is the
mother of a notorious George Street character.

3/31/2009

PRISON JUMPING SPIDERS BANKRUPT STRANGLED PARADISE WAR APPAREL AID AMID INDEPENDENT CYCLONED TREE PLANTATIONS

South Asia’s export based apparel industry is reeling under the impact of
the global recession as demand for clothing from Western countries slows
down. The industry is one of the biggest employers in this region.

Burmese people beg for food in the rain as aid begins to arrive following
cyclone Nargis. International aid for cyclone victims in Burma was
deliberately blocked by the military regime.

One in every 31 adults, or 7.3 million Americans, is in prison, on parole
or probation, at a cost to the states of $47 billion in 2008.

Police found the body of a strangled woman in a suitcase dumped at
Bangladesh’s Zia International Airport. Security officials alerted customs
and police after the suitcase was found on a trolley outside the airport’s
departure door late yesterday.

It began with British betrayal after the Second World War and has
stubbornly outlived every other conflict. But now, as it marks it diamond
jubilee, the world’s longest-running war is nearing its endgame. The
guerrilla army of the Karen ethnic group, which has been fighting since
1949 for independence from Burma, is facing the greatest crisis in its
history. If Karen resistance collapses, as some believe is likely, it will
be a triumph for the Burmese junta as it consolidates its hold on power.

A British man is allegedly killed by thieves in a raid on his yacht during
a boating holiday off the southern coast. Malcolm Robertson and his wife
Linda were sailing their boat off the coast of southern Thailand when he
was allegedly beaten with a hammer and thrown overboard by a group of men
trying to steal a dinghy.

The Seychelles, the idyllic archipelago in the Indian Ocean off the coast
of Africa, is best known as an island paradise playground for celebrities,
royalty and the ultra-wealthy. These days, it’s better known for something
else: bankruptcy.

The junta’s wilful disregard for the welfare of the 3.4 million survivors
of cyclone Nargis – which struck the Irrawaddy delta last May, killing
140,000 people – and a host of other abuses amount to crimes against
humanity under international law. The storm surge coupled with intense
winds swept away homes, fields, livestock and rice stores, leaving little
or nothing for survivors. But the military regime, which was at the time
preparing for a national referendum on its plans to hold elections in 2010,
insisted it could cope with the disaster despite its scale and shunned most
international relief for weeks.

Criminal correction spending is outpacing budget growth in education,
transportation and public assistance, based on state and federal data. Only
Medicaid spending grew faster than state corrections spending, which
quadrupled in the past two decades. The increases in the number of people
in some form of correctional control occurred as crime rates declined by
about 25 percent in the past two decades.

Customs officials scanned the luggage and found the body of a 35-year-old
woman dumped inside. She was strangled by a rope. She is a married woman
with two children and her husband lives in Malaysia.

After a three-year offensive by the junta, the Karen National Liberation
Army (KNLA) has been forced into increasingly small pockets of resistance.
Deprived of funds and equipment, it is able to do little more than slow the
advance of the Burmese Army as it lays waste to hundreds of villages,
driving thousands of terrified civilians before it.

Executions around the world increased by more than 90 per cent last year.
2,390 people were executed last year. China, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the
United States were responsible for 93 per cent of the executions. China had
the highest figures, carrying out 72 per cent of all executions. Fifty-nine
countries retain the death penalty worldwide but only 25 of them carried
out executions in 2008. In Europe only Belarus carried out the death
sentence. Africa, Botswana and Sudan were the only countries to have
carried out executions. The fact that fewer countries carried out
executions shows we may slowly be moving toward a world that is free of the
death penalty.

The tiny country’s debt burden may be tiny compared to Iceland, which
needed a $2.1 billion bailout from the International Monetary Fund last
fall, but the Seychelles’ problems illustrate the degree to which the
global economic crisis has leveled some economies altogether. And because
of its small size, with just 87,000 people, the Seychelles now has the
unenviable stature of being perhaps the most indebted country in the world.
Public and private debt totals $800 million – roughly the size of the
country’s entire economy.

For the last three years, 40-year-old Phekan sewed buttons on cotton shirts
in a small factory in Gurgaon, on the outskirts of New Delhi earning about
$100 a month. But she lost her job earlier this month after the European
retailer buying the shirts slashed orders. Phekan is worried how she will
continue to live in the city while searching for another job. Phekan says
her landlord will demand rent on the first of the month, and she does not
know how she will pay the money.

The Burmese army obstructed private cyclone relief efforts even among its
own concerned citizens, setting up checkpoints and arresting some of those
trying to provide help. Supplies of overseas relief materials that were
eventually allowed into Burma were confiscated by the military and sold in
markets, the packaging easily identifiable.

As US states face huge budget shortfalls, prisons, which hold 1.5 million
adults, are driving the spending increases. States have shown a preference
for prison spending even though it is cheaper to monitor convicts in
community programs, including probation and parole, which require offenders
to report to law enforcement officers. A survey of 34 states found that
states spent an average of $29,000 a year on prisoners, compared with
$1,250 on probationers and $2,750 on parolees. The study found that despite
more spending on prisons, recidivism rates remained largely unchanged. As
states trim services like education and health care, prison budgets are
growing. Those priorities are misguided.

Three new case studies and a video have been released on the impacts of
monoculture tree plantations on women in Nigeria, Papua New Guinea and
Brazil. These tree plantations provide rubber for car and bus tires, palm
oil for processed foods and pulp for toilet paper – all items being used in
the west. They are also destroying local communities.

Most serious of all, the Karen leadership is losing the support of
neighbouring Thailand, where it was formerly able to organise, arm and –
when necessary – retreat. Trapped between the Burmese Army to the west and
an increasingly unfriendly Thailand to the east, with hundreds of thousands
of their people in wretched refugee camps, the Karen are experiencing a
humanitarian and military catastrophe.

Conservationists searching through the undergrowth of a remote mountain
region have identified up to 50 new species of jumping spiders. Medical
science could benefit from the discoveries through the study of the
chemicals contained in their venoms. Insights into how to develop vision
for robots and how to miniaturise could also be made by the study of the
jumping spider eyes.

Last year, as tourism and fishing revenue began slowing, the Seychelles
defaulted on a $230 million, euro-denominated bond that had been arranged
by Lehman Brothers before its own bankruptcy. The IMF came in in November
with a two-year, $26 million rescue package, and the country has since
taken a series of emergency steps: It laid off 12.5% of government workers
(1,800 people), floated its currency (the Seychelles rupee, which has
fallen from eight to the U.S. dollar to 16, effectively doubling the prices
of imports), lifted foreign exchange controls and agreed to sell state
assets.

Bigger manufacturers are able to absorb the impact of the slowdown, but
many smaller units are badly hit. “The bigger people, because economies of
scale and cost pressures are important, are still going to grow, but it is
small companies which don’t have economies of scale, they might go out of
business.”

The researchers were repeatedly told that surviving men, women and even
children were used as forced labour on reconstruction projects for the
military. “[The army] did not help us, they threatened us,” said one
survivor from the town of Labutta. “Everyone in the village was required to
work for five days, morning and evening without compensation. Children were
required to work too. A boy got injured on his leg and got a fever. After
two or three days he was taken to [Rangoon], but after a few days he died.”

States are looking to make cuts that will have long-term harmful effects.
Corrections is one area they can cut and still have good or better outcomes
than what they are doing now. Focusing on probation and parole could reduce
recidivism and keep crime rates low in the long run. But tougher penalties
for crimes had driven the crime rate down in the first place. One of the
reasons crime rates may be so low is because we changed our federal and
state systems in the past two decades to make sure that people who commit
crimes, especially violent crimes, actually have to serve significant
sentences.

In the case of Nigeria, in 2007, the French tire maker Michelin came in to
the Iguóbazuwa Forest Reserve, a biologically diverse region supplying food
for around 20,000 people. Michelin bulldozed the forest and local farm
lands to convert them into rubber plantations. Women living there lost
their subsistence farms and the local forest which provided medicinal herbs
and plants.

The military situation is as bad as it’s been at any time in the past 60
years. The Karen have less territory, fewer soldiers and fewer resources to
sustain resistance. The Burmese have them more and more surrounded, and
their backs are up against the wall. A Karen leader on the Thai border said
that the KNLA and Burmese Army were fighting near the town of Kawkareik,
close to the Thai border. All year there have been reports of Karen
villagers being driven into the jungle by marauding soldiers.

Along with spiders, which can leap 30 times their own body length,
researchers discovered three previously unknown frogs, two plants and a
stripy gecko. The great age of discovery isn’t over by far. Spider venom
has evolved for millions of years to affect the neurological systems of the
spider’s insect prey and each species of spider gives us another
opportunity to find medically-useful chemicals.

The IMF has given a thumbs-up to the initial progress, but it warned that
the economy would contract 9.5% this year. The government of Australia is
sending tax experts to help overhaul the revenue collection system and
audit local companies. Now the Seychelles is negotiating with the
governments of Britain, France and other Western countries including the
U.S. – the so-called Paris Club – to reschedule $250 million in debt it
owes them. It is asking for 50% of it to be forgiven – a rate it hopes its
commercial creditors will then apply to its remaining $550 million
outstanding.

The industry is impacted slightly less in India, where strong domestic
consumption is providing a market for manufacturers. But the export
dependant industries in Bangladesh and Sri Lanka have been impacted more
severely by shrinking retail sales in the West. An estimated 25 percent of
orders have been cancelled by Western buyers.

The Burmese regime’s response to the disaster violated humanitarian relief
norms and legal frameworks for relief efforts. The systematic abuses may
amount to crimes against humanity under international law through the
creation of conditions where basic survival needs of people are not met,
intentionally causing great suffering, or serious injury to body or to
mental or physical health.

Over all, two-thirds of offenders, or about 5.1 million people in 2008,
were on probation or parole. The study found that states were not
increasing their spending for community supervision in proportion to their
growing caseloads. About $9 out of $10 spent on corrections goes to prison
financing (that includes money spent to house 780,000 people in local
jails). One in 11 African-Americans, or 9.2 percent, are under correctional
control, compared with one in 27 Latinos (3.7 percent) and one in 45 whites
(2.2 percent). Only one out of 89 women is behind bars or monitored,
compared with one out of 18 men.

In Papua New Guinea, monoculture oil palm plantations provide palm oil
which is used to produce soap, cosmetics, processed foods and agrofuels for
the European Union (EU) and other western countries. These plantations,
however, also destroy forests, biodiversity, and local community
livelihoods. Small farmers were promised the opportunity to benefit
financially from the palm plantations and have been using much of their
land for palm oil production, depleting the soil, but earning less than was
promised. Women living near these plantations don’t have enough arable land
to farm and are exposed to toxic pesticides. “Health is a very big concern
in our place right now we breathe in the chemicals… I’m pretty sure we are
inhaling dangerous substances and definitely are dying every minute. Some
women had babies who developed asthma when they were just one or two months
old.” said a woman from the community of Saga.

It’s a cat-and-mouse kind of struggle. The Burmese burn down villages and
relocate the people close to their own camps. The Karen conflict has its
origins in the Second World War, when many Karen fought alongside the
British Army against the invading Japanese. The seven million Karen were
promised their own state by the British but when independence came in 1948
the promise was forgotten. A year later, in January 1949, the Karen began
the armed struggle that has continued ever since.

Jumping spiders with their remarkably miniaturized yet acute eyes could
help us understand how to push the limits of vision. In addition to filling
in the gaps in our planet’s natural history, exploring spider biodiversity
and evolution could potentially inform fields as diverse as medicine and
robotics. Jumping spiders have better vision than other types of spider and
two of their eight eyes are especially well developed for high resolution
vision. In effect, they have evolved a design that has deconstructed the
eyeball and put it together, with modifications, section by section in
miniature. The retina of the spiders could be of particular interest
because instead of the three-dimensional hemisphere in the human eyeball it
has developed like a flat scanner.

“We borrowed more than we can repay. This was wholly irresponsible.”

Heavily reliant on tourism, the Seychelles is desperately searching for
ways to raise capital – at a time when tourism is forecast to drop
precipitously this year. The country has already seen a drop of 15% in
visitor arrivals from the start of 2009; tourism revenue for the year could
drop by some 25% more as a result of the global recession.

The industry was hoping to exceed last year’s exports which totaled over
$10 billion, but is unlikely to meet the target. “The export goal initial
in this year was $13 billion, and we are little scared whether we will be
able to achieve that goal. Buyers are delaying the goods because of falling
demand. We are struggling for survival in these bad days.”

Georgia had 1 in 13 adults under some form of punishment; Idaho, 1 in 18;
the District of Columbia, 1 in 21; Texas, 1 in 22; Massachusetts, 1 in 24;
and Ohio, 1 in 25.

In Brazil, Eucalyptus plantations provide pulp for paper that is used for
toilet and facial tissue, as well as other disposable paper products in the
west. These Eucalyptus plantations, push out local agriculture, deplete the
soil and are water-use intensive, devastating local flora and fauna. One
woman, anonymously interviewed in Southern Brazil, explains that “the
companies only give work to men. The few jobs they give to women are the
ones that pay the least.” Even in the case of men, the companies tend to
hire workers from outside the region, and this influx of strangers
invariably leads to a rise in sexual harassment cases.

In the early decades of the war, the KNU dominated the Irrawaddy Delta,
close to the former Burmese capital Rangoon, as well as areas north of the
city and all of Kayin State. But in the 1990s an increasingly well-armed
Burmese Army made steady gains and in 1995 the KNU was driven out of its
capital, Manerplaw. At this time, Buddhists in the Christian-dominated KNU
broke away to form the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA), which now
fights alongside the Burmese Army. Formerly, the KNU had operated as a
quasi-government, providing schools and clinics and receiving income from
tax, as well as from a profitable trade through Thailand in timber, gold,
zinc and antimony. The loss of territory brought a loss of funds, which
made it harder to arm and equip itself. The KNU claims to have 10,000
soldiers, including village militia men, but the number of active fighters
is probably between 3,000 and 5,000.

The 30 to 50 new species of jumping spiders were spotted and caught during
a survey of a region of Papua New Guinea. Among the new spiders were types
that came from particularly unusual evolutionary branches and zoologists
hope that these will offer new clues into how jumping spiders evolved, a
question that remains a puzzle. There are 5,000 species of jumping spider
yet to be discovered around the world. They evolved much more recently that
other spiders.

Seychelles officials have another idea though: to promote the country’s
longstanding virtue of being an off-shore business haven, with no corporate
tax, no minimum capital requirements, only one shareholder or director
required, and an annual licensing fee of just $100. It also hopes to grow
revenue from fishing licenses in its territorial waters, and soon it will
present a proposal to the United Nations to expand its exclusive rights to
the surrounding seabed, potentially increasing prospects of revenue from
underwater minerals, oil and gas.

The textile and garment factories in the region provide jobs to tens of
millions of people, especially women, and are the biggest employers in the
region after agriculture.

States started spending more on prisons in the 1980s during the last big
crime wave. Basically, when we made these investments, public safety and
crime was the No. 1 concern of voters, so politicians were passing all
kinds of laws to increase sentences. Now, crime is down, but we’re living
with that legacy: the bricks and mortar and the politicians who feel like
they have to talk tough every time they talk about crime.

The impacts of these monoculture plantations are not gender neutral. As
much attention should be placed on gender equality in the nations supplying
the raw materials to support the western lifestyle as they do within their
own borders. They argue that consumers need to understand the impacts of
their consumption on both environmental and social justice, and consider
reducing consumption rates. At the same time, benefitting countries must
push for policies and protections for the environment and the people that
live there. The current monoculture plantation system is not
environmentally or socially sustainable.

Last year the KNU suffered another blow when its respected and charismatic
leader, Pado Mahn Shar, was assassinated at his home in Thailand by
unidentified gunmen. Among many Karen there was a suspicion that the ease
with which the killers escaped, and the failure to apprehend them,
reflected a cooling of the welcome afforded by Thailand. Last month Karen
military commanders were ordered out of Thailand and back across the
border. This probably reflects the Thai Government’s increasing dependence
on Burma for raw materials and energy – the two governments are jointly
planning ambitious hydroelectric dams along the Salween River which forms
part of their border.

Instead of building webs or responding to the motion of prey they have
learnt to distinguish between different animals and their attack techniques
depends on what they are tackling. Instead of sitting at the centre of a
web, jumping spiders found a new way to make a living by wandering around
their habitat and pouncing – like cats – on their prey. Some of them are so
cute. There is a whole lot of beauty in these small spiders if we look
closely enough.

And hopes for expanding tourism remain high. In addition to the usual
roster of luxury-seeking royals and high-spending celebs, the middle-tier
traveler is now being heartily courted, too. The government in early March
announced an “Affordable Seychelles” campaign – what would have until
recently been an oxymoron – with the motto: “Once-in-a-lifetime vacation at
a once-in-a-lifetime price,” based on lower prices caused by the halving in
value of the currency.

The border is a valuable conduit not only for the Karen but for Burmese
struggling to overthrow the military dictatorship. After the junta cracked
down on large pro-democracy demonstrations of monks and activists in 2007,
many of them escaped into Thailand.

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