US benchmark borrowing costs plunged to levels last seen in 1946 and those for Germany and the UK hit all-time lows as investors took fright at what they see as a disjointed policy response to the debt crisis in Spain and Italy. In a striking sign of the flight to haven assets, German two-year bond yields fell to zero for the first time, below the equivalent rate for Japan, meaning investors are willing to lend to Berlin for no return. US 10-year yields fell as low as 1.62 per cent, a level last reached in March 1946, according to Global Financial Data. German benchmark yields reached 1.26 per cent while Denmark's came close to breaching the 1 per cent level, hitting 1.09 per cent. UK rates fell to 1.64 per cent, the lowest since records for benchmark borrowing costs began in 1703. "They are extreme levels because we are in an extremely perilous situation. People just want to put their money somewhere where they think they will get it back. People may soon be paying Germany or the US to look after their money," said Gary Jenkins, head of Swordfish Research, an independent credit analysis company. The flight to safety came as the situation in Italy and Spain, the eurozone's third- and fourth-largest economies, deteriorated further. Italy held a disappointing debt auction and saw its benchmark borrowing costs rise above 6 per cent for the first time since January. The euro fell 0.8 per cent against the dollar to under $1.24 for the first time in two years. Confusion over how the Spanish government's rescue of Bankia, the stricken lender, will be structured led the premium Madrid pays over Berlin to borrow to hit fresh highs for the euro era at 540 basis points. Analysts said the elevated level meant that clearing houses could soon raise the amount of margin, or collateral, that traders need to post against Spanish debt, a move that led to the escalation of crises in Portugal and Ireland. The European Central Bank has made clear to Spain that it cannot use the bank's liquidity operations as part of a recapitalision of Bankia. However, the central bank said on Wednesday it had not been officially consulted on the plans. Equity markets globally fell on the eurozone fears with bourses in Paris, Frankfurt and London all dropping 2 per cent. But Nick Gartside, international chief investment officer for JPMorgan Asset Management, noted that while US bond yields had halved since April last year the S&P 500 equity market was at the same level. "One of those two markets is mispriced. Core government bonds are an efficient market and they are ahead," he added. Investors said borrowing costs for the US, UK and Germany were likely to continue to fall amid a worsening economic backdrop and the threat of more central bank intervention. Wealth managers have been moving client assets into currency havens in recent weeks, with the Swiss franc and the US dollar among the biggest beneficiaries "Risk aversion, a rapidly slowing global economy and unusually low policy rates will pin these short and intermediate maturity bonds at unprecedented low levels for quite a while," said Mohamed El-Erian, chief executive of Pimco, one of the world's largest bond investors. Mr Gartside said he could easily see German rates going below 1 per cent, following a path that only Japan and Switzerland have taken among major economies, while the US and UK could dip under 1.5 per cent. Markets are increasingly resigned to more turmoil until policy makers take more radical action. The two most popular plans of action for investors are for the ECB to buy Spanish and Italian bonds in unlimited size or for eurozone countries to agree on a fiscal union involving the pooling of debt. "You have to throw everything at it. Spain is just too big for half measures. The next intervention has to be not just massive in size but it has to show a total commitment," said Mr Jenkins. He recommends that the ECB set targets either for the premium Spain and Italy pay to borrow over Germany or for their yields.
Thursday, 31 May 2012
Property prices in the capital’s most sought-after postcodes have been driven up by investors moving funds out of assets held in euros to buy into what is seen as a “safe haven” alternative. Foreign money seeking a refuge from the wider economic turmoil accounted for 60pc of acquisitions of prime central London property between 2007 and 2011, according to a report by Fathom Consulting for Development Securities. If the shared currency broke up completely, London property would initially be boosted by the continued flight towards a safe haven, the report predicts. But, once the break-up had taken place, demand for these assets as an insurance against this event would start to ebb. “Although fears about a messy end to the euro debt crisis may account for much of the gain in prime central London (PCL) prices that has taken place over the past two years, we find that a break-up of the single currency area is also the single greatest threat to PCL,” said researchers.
Wednesday, 30 May 2012
Mr Coulson, 44, was detained at his home in Dulwich at 6.30am by seven officers from Strathclyde police and taken to Glasgow where he will be questioned.
The case centres on claims that he misled a court about his knowledge of phone-hacking during a criminal trial in Glasgow. The former News of the World editor, hired by the Prime Minister as his director of communications, told a court in 2010 that he had no knowledge of illegal voicemail interception when in charge of the tabloid.
During the perjury trial of former Scottish MP Tommy Sheridan, Mr Coulson said: “I don’t accept there was a culture of phone hacking at the News of the World.” He also denied knowing that the
newspaper paid corrupt police officers for tip-offs. Mr Cameron has faced questions over his decision to bring Mr Coulson into the heart of government. Mr Coulson has already been arrested by the Met on suspicion of phone-hacking and bribing public officials.
The perjury charge, which carries a maximum prison sentence of seven years, is potentially the most serious facing the former Conservative Party spokesman.
One Downing Street source said the arrest came as a “complete surprise”.
Mr Coulson was a major witness in a trial involving Sheridan who was accused of lying in court during a libel victory against the NoW.
Coulson was editor when it published a story that labelled Sheridan an adulterer who visited swingers’ clubs. He was called as a witness and told the court that he had no knowledge of illegal activities by reporters.
Sheridan was jailed for three years last year after being found guilty of perjury during his 2006 defamation action against the NoW. He had successfully sued the newspaper over its claims.
Strathclyde police announced its probe into Mr Coulson last July but it was thought to be taking a back seat as five major Scotland Yard inquiries into the Murdoch media empire rumbled on.
However, the Standard can disclose that officers from Scotland recently visited London to interview several former NoW staff about their old boss.
Under Scottish law a suspect is detained on suspicion of an offence unlike in England and Wales where a suspect is arrested. Mr Coulson has not been charged.
Tuesday, 29 May 2012
Britain’s internet giants on Tuesday declared their intention to band together to oppose an automatic block on online porn. The association which represents internet service providers said it should not be up to them to “police” the net. But the MP leading the campaign to protect children from hardcore porn on the web said she thought the ISPs were against the scheme because it would hit their commercial interests. Claire Perry added that it was time for the internet to be regulated in the same way as television. The Daily Mail is campaigning for an automatic block on adult content on the web, with adults having to “opt in” if they want to see it. But ministers and the ISPs prefer a less stringent “opt out” system under which parents are simply offered the choice to install a filter to protect their children from sexual material. On Monday, the High Court ruled that the five major ISPs had to block users’ access to an illegal content-sharing website, The Pirate Bay - proving the state could take action against porn if it wanted to. Yesterday, the Internet Service Providers’ Association launched its fightback on Radio 4’s Today programme. The organisation’s secretary general Nicholas Lansman said it did not believe ISPs should be thrust into the position of “judge and jury” when it comes to combating piracy. “It’s not for the ISPs to be the police of all that content,” he said. “It’s not down to an ISP to decide what content the people of Britain should look at. “It is only part of the solution. Determined downloaders will be able to circumvent these blocks.” On porn, he said ISPs have been taking action. “Blocking is one method but there are lots of other methods the industry has been using,” he said. “Large ISPs who provide 98 percent of the consumer internet provide services to consumers such as end-user filtering and in the case of TalkTalk, network level filtering that many parents are using to prevent their children from accessing this.” But Mrs Perry, the Tory MP for Devizes, said the ISPs’ efforts were “just not good enough”. She added: “I think what we’re seeing with the Pirate Bay decision is a continuum of change that’s going on that says actually internet service providers - who don’t forget make £3-billion a year from access fees, from selling access to British households - have a role to play. We know that 80 percent of people have an internet connection already, we know that only four out of ten households actually use the sort of filters that are supposed to keep our families safe, and, you know, it’s just not good enough. “We don’t want to ban pornography, we don’t want to make it illegal. But what we want is better protection that preserves consumer choice, and that is where an opt-in solution delivers on both counts.” The MP said she believed ISPs are reluctant to introduce more stringent content filters because they benefit commercially from file sharing. “I just wonder about the commercial pressures here,” she said. “I’d be interested to know what the revenue looks like from consumers. “I imagine that accessing illegal file sharing sites is actually a really popular thing amongst consumers, and that may be one of the reasons that the ISPs are reluctant to do it.” She also said she thought the internet should be held to the same standards as other forms of media. “I think the time is coming when the internet should not be treated differently. We don’t accept it with any other media, with telly or mobile phones or anything else - why should the internet be different?” - Daily Mail
Cocaine with an estimated street value of £3.3m has been seized from a container ship docked in Portsmouth. Packages of the drug were found on Hope Bay while it was docked at Flat House Quay, after it arrived from Colombia. Border Force officers discovered the 33kg (73lb) haul concealed in a hold as containers of fruit were unloaded. A further 32kg (70.5lb) of the drug, with a street value of £3.2m, was discovered when the vessel later arrived in Flushing, Holland. The second haul was found after Dutch customs had been alerted by UK border officials. Although the first haul was found on 30 April, the seizure can only now be reported following the conclusion of a joint exercise by the Border Force, Dutch customs and French customs investigations service, the DNRED. No arrests have been made but inquiries are ongoing into the two seizures, the Border Force said. Andy Lumb, from the Border Force, said: "The trade in illegal drugs and other banned substances is a world-wide problem and one that requires close partnership between law enforcement agencies across borders. "As this detection shows, our officers are on constant alert, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year to keep drugs, other smuggled goods and illegal persons out of the UK."
Two protesters campaigning for the release of gangster Domenyk Noonan have been arrested after a demonstration outside Strangeways prison.
The two men, who were both wearing balaclavas throughout the protest, were arrested for filming prison guards on their camera phones as they left and entered Strangeways. The pair were among eight protesters who blew air horns and vuvuzelas outside the prison to show their support for the ‘celebrity gangster’ and TV star. Noonan, 47, is currently in custody after breaching the terms of his release from prison under licence. He was arrested during the August riots on suspicion of conspiracy to commit violent disorder but no criminal charges have been brought. He was originally locked up for nine-and-a-half years in 2005 after a gun was found in the boot of his car. Friend and protest organiser Joe Cochrane, 44, said the demonstration was to highlight the ‘injustice’ of Noonan’s continued incarceration. He said: “He has been locked up since last summer yet no charges have been brought against him. “Since he’s been in there he’s lost his business and people have lost their jobs and all the while he’s sat in prison without charge. “We’re receiving messages of support for him from all around the world as people can see for themselves what an injustice this is. “We want to show our support and to show him we are still fighting his corner and to show how loyal we are to this cause.” The protest was planned to take place during visiting hours when Noonan would be able to hear the toot of the vuvuzelas. The group’s last protest saw demonstrator John Cain, 25, glue his hands to the Strangeways prison gates. Under the terms of his licence, Noonan remains in jail pending a parole hearing which will take place next month.
Amateur boxer Mark Short was celebrating at a party when the masked man walked in and opened fire four times with a revolver
THREE men and a woman have been arrested over the murder of a man shot in the neck in a pub by a gunman wearing a balaclava.
Amateur boxer Mark Short, 23, was celebrating at a party when the masked man walked in and opened fire four times with a revolver shortly before midnight on Friday.
Three revellers were wounded.
Police today said they made four arrests – a man, 34, on suspicion of murder; a woman, 52, on suspicion of conspiracy to murder and possessing class A drugs and two men, 21 and 18, suspected of assisting an offender.
Two men, 26 and 25, were hit in the leg and another, 29, was shot in his lower back at the Cotton Tree pub in Droylsden, Greater Manchester.
They are in hospital but their injuries are not thought to be life-threatening.
Chief Superintendent Nick Adderley, of Greater Manchester Police, said: “We don’t believe this to be a random attack, although we are not clear about the intended victim.
"We understand this was a family occasion and a lone gunman walked in and opened fire on males by the pool table.”
He escaped in a Ford Focus later found abandoned and on fire. It is understood that two people may have been waiting outside the pub in the getaway car.
Floral tributes were left at the scene, with one saying: “Bye Mark. So sad. May you have a bed in heaven.”
Monday, 28 May 2012
Lindsay Sandiford, a 56-year-old British woman, has been arrested on suspicion of trafficking cocaine worth around £1.6m into Bali, where the death penalty still exists for this type of crime.
Ms Sandiford was detained on May 19 after she was found to have the 4.7kg haul in a suitcase as she arrived in the Balinese capital Denpasar on a Thai Airways flight from Bangkok.
Four other people - three Britons and an Indian national, who are thought to have been the intended recipients of the drugs - are also being questioned.
Ms Sandiford - who told authorities in Indonesia she was a housewife - could face death by firing squad if convicted.
She was pictured yesterday at a press conference in the Indonesian holiday town of Kuta, wearing an orange inmate's T-shirt, surrounded by brown packages which were cut open by a customs official.
Indonesian customs officer Made Wijaya said the drugs were found in the lining of Ms Sandiford's case after a routine X-ray screening at the airport.
'We are working hard to stop thest type of international smugglers bringing their drugs into Bali and harming our people,' Wijaya said.
'If this woman, and anyone else who is subsequently charged, is found guilty, the punishment will be the death penalty.'
Indonesia has some of the toughest anti-drug laws in the world, with traffickers put to death in the past and others facing life imprisonment.
Currently around 140 people - a third of them foreigners - are on death row for drug-related offences.
A Foreign Office spokesman said they were aware of the arrest and standing by to provide consular assistance.
Sunday, 27 May 2012
AROUND half a million pounds was paid out to informers by cops in the last two years, The Scottish Sun can reveal today. GORDON MELDRUM, DEPUTY CHIEF CONSTABLE THE use of informants has proved essential in cases ranging from serious organised crime to housebreaking and assault. The authorisation for working with any such informant is taken by a senior police officer and kept under regular scrutiny. In addition, each force is closely audited on their use of informants and is subject to a robust annual inspection by the Office of Surveillance Commissioners. They are a valuable resource and their use is a justifiable and proportionate tactic to help protect the public. Related Stories Scottish Sun Says The country’s two biggest forces forked out more than £400,000 to grasses — but the real cost is certain to be even HIGHER as six of the country’s eight police authorities refused to say how much they coughed up to sources. Strathclyde Police paid snitches £207,014 in 2011/12 — and another £177,989 the previous year. Meanwhile Lothian and Borders splashed out £22,595 for inside information in 2010/11. Last night Strathclyde Police insisted that rewarding contacts was a vital law enforcement tool and that hush money helped nail a string of dangerous criminals. A spokeswoman added: “Money spent on covert human intelligence sources (CHIS) delivers significant benefits to Strathclyde Police and the communities it serves. “Intelligence provided by informants over the past year has contributed to disrupting the activities of organised crime groups which has led to a number of seizures of controlled drugs with a total street value in excess of £1million. “The info gained has also provided valuable intelligence in murder and other serious violent crime investigations. “It has helped to shorten those investigations which in turn saves on costs and allows investigators to tackle other crimes. “Firearms and assets gained through criminal activities have also been seized through the good work of CHIS.” Our Freedom of Information request showed payments across the country peaked in 2008/09 when £296,872 went to informants. But some forces claimed they could not release figures because it could lead to criminals identifying where informants have been used. Tayside Police said: “The disclosure of the information would also provide criminals and criminal groups with a valuable insight into police coverage and capabilities.” Central Scotland, Grampian and Dumfries and Galloway forces made similar replies. Northern Constabulary did not respond to the FOI submission. Former top cop Graeme Pearson, now a Labour MSP, said grasses were a vital part of police work. But the former head of the Scottish Crime and Drug Enforcement Agency and ex-Strathclyde DeputyChief Constable said he never paid cash for information. He said: “These payments underline how times have changed and the currency now is about money. “But those who are worth their money are worth their weight in gold for the quality information they give.” And explaining how he would groom an informant for info, he added: “I would usually go for a coffee or a pint of beer or even breakfast with them. “Often you were a form of mentor who could advise them as criminals have the same sort of problems as the rest of us. “If someone could give them sensible advice on how to deal with a problem, then they were very grateful. Many lacked social skill, so your advice was very valuable.Many became informants out of jealousy and dislike about what criminals around them were doing. “At the time, and with hindsight, many of them did things that were incredibly brave. “There was no active recruiting policy but you came across them during normal duties.” But he warned: “There is also a line of integrity you cannot cross. “Sometimes the informants got more out of the police than the police did — and that was wrong.” Politicians last night said caution should be shown when paying informants. Tory justice spokesman John Lamont said: “Many people question the ethics of paying for information and indeed who the recipients of such payments are. “It is important the success of such payments are strongly analysed and we don’t have a scenario where these sums are paid out without the utmost assurance it will lead to the streets being made safer.” Labour’s justice spokesman Lewis Macdonald was also broadly supportive. He said: “Clearly, there is a need for police to build intelligence about crime and paying informants is a necessary and important way of doing this. “But it is important we get value for money and senior police officers need to be vigilant to ensure this money is being spent effectively.” But Eben Wilson, director of campaign group TaxpayerScotland, called for better monitoring of the system. He said: “The issue here is not the money. “We need to know if anyone is watching to see if paying informants is creating a market in criminal intelligence that will itself lead to a growth of a more and more expensive informants network. “Also, is the intelligence being obtained always good quality? “There are important issues around accountability and transparency. “If covert human intelligence sources are necessary for efficient policing, who is examining these efficiency claims? “Are these payments being monitored by a third party who can watch out for the emergence of potential corrupt practices? It seems to us that there must always be a general distaste for paying informers any money at all unless it is absolutely clear that it will genuinely deliver significant benefit to the community. “Taxpayers deserve proper stewardship of their money through the actual practice of policing and the way those police are monitored.” A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “This is an operational matter for individual chief constables.”
POLICE arrested 12 people after carrying out drugs raids across Merseyside. The three women and nine men were arrested on suspicion of drug and gun offences after police executed warrants at nine addresses in Bootle, Parr and Haydock on Thursday morning. A 22-year-old man from Bootle was arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to supply controlled drugs and suspicion of possession of a firearm. Two women, aged 24 and 22, from Bootle were arrested on suspicion of possession of a firearm. A 27-year-old man from Bootle was arrested on suspicion of possession with intent to supply controlled drugs and suspicion of possession of a firearm.
Twelve people have been arrested at Bristol's Temple Meads railway station in an operation to stop illegal drugs passing through into the city. Police offers carried out a search between 20:00 BST and 22:00 BST on Friday. A 22-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of possession of cannabis resin with intent to supply. Among others arrested were six people who were cautioned for possession of class B cannabis.
Annual net migration to Britain remains at a record high of more than 250,000 a year despite the declared ambition of the home secretary, Theresa May, to reduce it below 100,000 by the time of the next election, according to figures published on Thursday. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said the politically sensitive figure for net migration – the number of people coming to stay in the UK for longer than 12 months minus the number going to live abroad for more than 12 months – in the year to September 2011 was 252,000. This is only 3,000 below the 255,000 recorded in the previous year to September 2010 and is a rise of 2,000 from the previous quarter's figure of 250,000 in the year to June 2011. The latest figures are a blow to Home Office ministers, who have put in place new curbs on non-European workers, including an annual cap on skilled migrants and a clampdown on overseas students but have yet to see the net migration figures moving in the direction of their target. Downing Street said the government remained committed to getting net migration down to "tens of thousands". "There is evidence that the changes we are making to the rules are starting to have an impact. It is still our intention to bring the levels of net migration back down to the tens of thousands. Clearly it is going to take some time," said the prime minister's official spokesman. New moves to curb the numbers coming to join close family members and spouses by as much as two-thirds are also expected to be detailed shortly. The ONS said that long-term immigration to the UK remained steady at 589,000 – a level it has remained at since 2004. An estimated 252,000 people left Britain to the join the 5 million British citizens already living abroad. About 190,000 people left the UK to work abroad. Studying remains the most common reason for coming to live in Britain with 250,000 overseas students arriving in the year to September 2011 – a similar level to the previous year. The Home Office, however, pointed to the "leading indicator" of more recent data on the number of student visas issued rather than the ONS estimates of student migration which show a 21% fall in overseas students coming to Britain in the year to March 2012. Ministers claim that an apparent 62% fall in the number of student visas between January and March this year shows that a recent drive to curb their numbers is working. The figures also show that the number of people applying for asylum fell slightly to 4,844 in the first three months of 2012, with 706 applicants from Pakistan and 575 from Iran. The number of people detained for immigration reasons in Britain, which is already the highest in Europe, reached new record levels with 7,516 incarcerated in the first three months of this year – an increase of 7%. They included 53 children, of whom 35 were detained in the new "family-friendly" Cedars pre-departure unit near Gatwick airport. The coalition pledged to put an end to child detention. Ministers will be concerned to see that removals and deportations fell again during the first three months of this year to 13,386, a 6% drop compared with the same period in 2011 and more than 25% down from a peak in 2008 when a major effort was made to deport jailed foreign nationals. The number of people granted settlement in Britain in the year to March 2012 fell by 35% from 226,478 to 148,144 but this was mainly because of a backlog of long-term asylum "legacy" cases moving out of the system. The number of new British citizens also fell by 10% to 175,298. The immigration minister, Damian Green, said the figures show signs of progress: "Our tough new rules are now making a real difference with a record 62% drop in student visas in the first quarter of 2012, and overall falls in work visas, family numbers and people settling. "As these policies start to bite we are seeing an end to the years when net migration was consistently on the rise. But the hangover from the old system of weak controls means it is still too high and we will continue our programme of reforms to bring net migration down from the hundreds of thousands to the tens of thousands." However, the Migration Watch UK chairman, Sir Andrew Green, who campaigns for zero net migration, said "tough measures" were now needed: "You cannot expect to repair 15 years of mismanagement in 15 months, but it is still worrying news that net migration is running at a quarter of a million a year. There is no sign of any reduction from the huge numbers that developed under Labour." Yvette Cooper MP, the shadow home secretary, said the government was failing badly on its own immigration target to reduce net migration: "David Cameron said 12 months ago: 'No ifs. No buts. That's a promise we made to the British people.' Yet these figures show that promise is being broken and the net migration figure of 252,000 is barely changed in the last two years, even with the net rise in British citizens leaving the UK. "Migration experts have said the government does not have the policies to deliver on the target, so the prime minister is not being straight with the public on immigration. He should not make promises he can't keep on such an important policy area," said Cooper.
Saturday, 26 May 2012
A man has been shot dead and three other people have been injured in a shooting in a pub in Manchester. Greater Manchester Police said several shots were fired in the Cotton Tree Inn in Droylsden at about 23:50 BST on Friday. The victim, who is in his early 20s, died at the scene. It is understood the three other people are being treated for non-life threatening injuries. A murder inquiry is under way.
The Home Office is drawing up contingency plans to cope with a possible large increase in immigration from Greece if the euro collapses. Home Secretary Theresa May told the Daily Telegraph "work is ongoing" to restrict European immigration in the event of a financial collapse. She said "trends" were being examined to see whether immigration was rising from countries with stricken economies. EU nationals are largely entitled to work anywhere in the single market. If the single currency breaks up, people looking for work abroad may see Britain as an attractive alternative as it is a non-eurozone country. Asked whether emergency immigration controls were being considered , Mrs May said: "It is right that we do some contingency planning on this [and] that is work that is ongoing." Spanish bailout She said there was no evidence that migration was on the rise, but it was "difficult to say how it is going to develop in coming weeks". BBC political correspondent Robin Brant said the government had some room for manoeuvre because there are rules in place for extreme situations which allow for some temporary restrictions on immigration. Details of the contingency plans followed yet more turmoil in the single currency after Spain's fourth-largest bank, Bankia, asked the government for a bailout worth 19bns euros ($24bn; £15bn). European markets fell again as the value of the euro slid. Mrs May also told the Telegraph work is under way to deny illegal immigrants access to work, housing, services and even bank accounts. "The aim is to create here in Britain a really hostile environment for illegal migration," she said. "What we don't want is a situation where people think that they can come here and overstay because they're able to access everything they need." Prime Minister David Cameron said last week the eurozone must decide soon whether it wants to stay together or break-up. He told MPs: "If it wants to carry on as it is it has to build a proper firewall, it has to take steps to secure the weakest members or it has to work out it has to go in a different direction. "It either has to make-up or it is looking at a potential break-up. That is the choice they have to make and it is a choice they can not long put off."
Friday, 25 May 2012
A year after its implementation in May 2011, the European Commission's Privacy and Electronic Communications Directive will finally start to be enforced as of tonight, meaning visitors to websites are required to be informed of, and given choice over, the site's intentions to store their data in cookies. Though there has been fierce opposition to the directive, some companies, such as the BBC, Channel 4 and the Guardian, have now begun implementing measures that range from multiple user choices in the level of information shared with the site, to a single message informing the user that, by continuing to browse, they have automatically agreed to have their information stored. Further reading EU cookie law is a 'restraint to trade online', says online retailer Most UK organisations not compliant with EU cookie law New EU cookie law set to come into force But the majority of companies, it is widely reported, will miss tonight's deadline. While the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) still disagrees that a "one size fits all" policy of standardisation is not the way forward when enforcing cookie legislation, some believe such a framework is the only way forward. Society for engineering and technology professionals, the Institution of Engineering & Technology said, "The implementation of this directive is likely to prove very variable until the introduction of a set of standards on the best way to provide a balance between easy browsing and personal privacy. "We had hoped that more progress would have been made on achieving this in the 12 month implementation delay that the Information Commissioner, Christopher Graham, gave British organisations."
A MILLIONAIRE'S daughter who drove looters around during last summer's riots has been jailed. Laura Johnson, of Sheepcote Lane, Orpington, was found guilty of burgling Comet, in Bugsby’s Way, Charlton, at Inner London Crown Court in April. The former Newstead Wood and St Olave's pupil was also convicted of handling stolen goods - a TV looted from Currys in Stonelake Retail Park, Charlton. The 20-year-old University of Exeter student was this afternoon sentenced to two years imprisonment for each offence, to run concurrently. She will serve seven months in prison due to time spent on a qualifying curfew. A 17-year-old, who can now be named as Christopher Edwards from Catford, was also sentenced to a 12 month detention and training order for his role that night. Edwards was also found guilty of the same charges as Johnson. In addition, he had previously pleaded guilty to burglary at a BP garage on Woolwich Road, Charlton. A suspect who was also in the car fled the scene and is still outstanding. Judge Patricia Lees said: "These offences arise out of and were part of widespread civil disorder which erupted across London in the early part,of August last year. Ads by Google Care Home Refunds Has Your Family Ever Paid For Care? If So You Could Be Owed A Refund www.Care-Home-Refunds.co.uk Home Alarms £99 Home Security System £19pm Police and Keyholder Response www.protect-solutions.com "The effect of that civil disorder upon the decent, law-abiding citizens of this country are well known. "You both come from loving and supportive homes. It seems to me you both revealed a weaker side to your characters in taking advantage of an escalating situation because you thought you could get away with it. "You most probably also got caught up with what you, through immaturity and ill-judgement, thought was an exciting experience." Martin McCarthy, in mitigation for Johnson, described the night in question as a "moment of madness." He said: "At that time she was at least at a very low ebb. "This was completely out of character. The way she acted might have been affected by the emotional turmoil she was in. "This young lady was in a sense acting in a self-destructive fashion. "Her future has been put in real jeopardy. Her studies will not resume after a custodial sentence and her family will find it very difficult to recover." The court heard Johnson's mother wrote a "heart-felt" letter to the judge, describing her behaviour as "self-destructive." During the trial earlier this year, the court heard Johnson had first become involved with one of the men she drove around that night, convicted crack dealer Emmanuel Okubote, through a friend she met while receiving treatment at a psychiatric unit in Bromley. She had become increasingly close to him in the weeks before the riots after confiding in him that she had been raped. On the day of August 8, the worst night of rioting, she had gone to meet Okubote in Catford. She then drove three men around as they stole items, including ones from other looters at knife point, as they directed her where to go. They made several trips back to a house in the Hither Green area, where they dropped off looted items before going back for more. Following the sentencing, Detective Sergeant Mark Gilchrist said: "We are pleased with the result of this investigation. Laura Johnson went out on the evening of August 8 with the intention of stealing from local stores and join in the mass disorder and looting. "We continue to investigate and pursue those involved in the August disorder and are still trawling through a large volume of CCTV footage. Suspects are being identified on a daily basis which is leading to further arrests and court appearances. "We would like to thank all members of the public that have provided us with vital information, which, as in the case of Laura Johnson, has formed part of the prosecution - we are grateful for all the help received and would like to encourage people to continue to assist us and provide us with information which may be pivotal to bringing criminals to justice."
Google plans to warn more than half a million users of a computer infection that may knock their computers off the Internet this summer.
Unknown to most of them, their problem began when international hackers ran an online advertising scam to take control of infected computers around the world. In a highly unusual response, the FBI set up a safety net months ago using government computers to prevent Internet disruptions for those infected users. But that system will be shut down July 9 -- killing connections for those people.
The FBI has run an impressive campaign for months, encouraging people to visit a website that will inform them whether they're infected and explain how to fix the problem. After July 9, infected users won't be able to connect to the Internet.
- LONG ARM OF SCOFFLAW
An online ad scam is having some unintended ramifications: The fix may prevent as many as 360,000 from getting online. Several sites will show if you're infected:
DNS Changer Working Group: can discern whether you’re infected and explain how to fix the problem.
DNSChanger Eye Chart: if the site goes red, you’re in harm’s way. Green means clean.
The FBI website: type in the IP address of your DNS server to find out if it is infected.
Read more on how to stay safe
On Tuesday, May 22, Google announced it would throw its weight into the awareness campaign, rolling out alerts to users via a special message that will appear at the top of the Google search results page for users with affected computers, CNET reported.
“We believe directly messaging affected users on a trusted site and in their preferred language will produce the best possible results,” wrote Google security engineer Damian Menscher in a post on the company’s security blog.
“If more devices are cleaned and steps are taken to better secure the machines against further abuse, the notification effort will be well worth it,” he wrote.
The challenge, and the reason for the awareness campaigns: Most victims don't even know their computers have been infected, although the malicious software probably has slowed their web surfing and disabled their antivirus software, making their machines more vulnerable to other problems.
Last November, when the FBI and other authorities were preparing to take down a hacker ring that had been running an Internet ad scam on a massive network of infected computers, the agency realized this may become an issue.
"We started to realize that we might have a little bit of a problem on our hands because ... if we just pulled the plug on their criminal infrastructure and threw everybody in jail, the victims of this were going to be without Internet service," said Tom Grasso, an FBI supervisory special agent. "The average user would open up Internet Explorer and get `page not found' and think the Internet is broken."
On the night of the arrests, the agency brought in Paul Vixie, chairman and founder of Internet Systems Consortium, to install two Internet servers to take the place of the truckload of impounded rogue servers that infected computers were using. Federal officials planned to keep their servers online until March, giving everyone opportunity to clean their computers.
But it wasn't enough time.
A federal judge in New York extended the deadline until July.
Now, said Grasso, "the full court press is on to get people to address this problem." And it's up to computer users to check their PCs.
- Tom Grasso, an FBI supervisory special agent
This is what happened:
Hackers infected a network of probably more than 570,000 computers worldwide. They took advantage of vulnerabilities in the Microsoft Windows operating system to install malicious software on the victim computers. This turned off antivirus updates and changed the way the computers reconcile website addresses behind the scenes on the Internet's domain name system.
The DNS system is a network of servers that translates a web address -- such as http://www.foxnews.com -- into the numerical addresses that computers use. Victim computers were reprogrammed to use rogue DNS servers owned by the attackers. This allowed the attackers to redirect computers to fraudulent versions of any website.
The hackers earned profits from advertisements that appeared on websites that victims were tricked into visiting. The scam netted the hackers at least $14 million, according to the FBI. It also made thousands of computers reliant on the rogue servers for their Internet browsing.
When the FBI and others arrested six Estonians last November, the agency replaced the rogue servers with Vixie's clean ones. Installing and running the two substitute servers for eight months is costing the federal government about $87,000.
The number of victims is hard to pinpoint, but the FBI believes that on the day of the arrests, at least 568,000 unique Internet addresses were using the rogue servers. Five months later, FBI estimates that the number is down to at least 360,000. The U.S. has the most, about 85,000, federal authorities said. Other countries with more than 20,000 each include Italy, India, England and Germany. Smaller numbers are online in Spain, France, Canada, China and Mexico.
Vixie said most of the victims are probably individual home users, rather than corporations that have technology staffs who routinely check the computers.
FBI officials said they organized an unusual system to avoid any appearance of government intrusion into the Internet or private computers. And while this is the first time the FBI used it, it won't be the last.
"This is the future of what we will be doing," said Eric Strom, a unit chief in the FBI's Cyber Division. "Until there is a change in legal system, both inside and outside the United States, to get up to speed with the cyber problem, we will have to go down these paths, trail-blazing if you will, on these types of investigations."
Now, he said, every time the agency gets near the end of a cyber case, "we get to the point where we say, how are we going to do this, how are we going to clean the system" without creating a bigger mess than before
That is the theory. But in practice, any protection the law offers investors could be difficult to enforce, according to lawyers trying to protect their corporate clients against the upheaval sure to follow if Greece defaults on its debts and adopts a new currency. So their advice is blunt: Remove cash and other liquid assets from Greece and prepare to take a short-term hit on any other investments. “My personal view is that it is irrational for anyone, whether a corporation or an individual, to be leaving money in Greek financial institutions, so long as there is a credible prospect of a euro zone exit,” said Ian Clark, a partner in London for White & Case, a global law firm that has a team of 10 attorneys focusing on the issue. Several multinational corporations have already taken the same view. Vodafone, the mobile phone operator, and GlaxoSmithKline, the pharmaceuticals firm, say they are “sweeping” money out of Greece and into British banks each evening. This applies not just to Greece but to most other euro nations, although Glaxo says it still keeps money in Germany. Corporate attorneys say looking to E.U. law provides only approximate guidance on whether Greece could stop using the euro while remaining in the Union. Although the E.U. prides itself on basing decisions on strict interpretation of the legal texts in its governing treaty and other legislation, the rules on euro membership have proved flexible. For example, while all 27 E.U. nations are supposedly obliged to join the single currency, once they meet certain economic criteria, Britain and Denmark were able to negotiate the option of retaining their own currencies. Sweden is one of the nations technically obliged to join the euro, but since a national referendum opposed the idea in 2003, no one has pressed the country to do so. Similarly, while leaving the euro might, legally, mean quitting the union itself, most experts see this as a technicality that can be circumvented as well. “The treaty doesn’t cover the question of what would happen if a country were to leave the euro and return to its previous currency,” said Stephen Weatherill, Jacques Delors Professor of European Law at Oxford University. “In the absence of any provision, there is plenty of space for European governments to concoct a solution, adopt it and for it to be legally enforceable,” he added. “In general, you can do anything you like, so long as you do not breach pre-existing international obligations.” The mechanics of leaving the euro would surely lead Greece to impose so-called capital controls to stem the flight of money from a currency destined to be devalued. Again, such controls look impossible under E.U. law. But Mr. Weatherill thinks that a loophole allowing for the protection of public security could be invoked. Mr. Clark, of White & Case, a global law firm, points to a clause in Article 65 of the treaty that says that the pledge on free movement should not prevent countries from taking measures “which are justified on grounds of public policy or public security.” Mr. Clark and his team serve clients that include financial institutions like BNP Paribas and hedge funds. In February, Andrew Witty, the chief executive of GlaxoSmithKline, said: “We don’t leave any cash in most European countries” except Germany. Tens of millions of pounds flow into accounts in Britain every day, he said. But, apart from trying to ensure that debts are paid promptly and therefore in euros, legal options for companies are limited. Contracts covered by Greek law, particularly for services delivered in Greece, provide little protection against the currency’s being redenominated and devalued — a development regarded as unlikely until recently. “Greece would, through its laws, be able to amend contracts governed by Greek law or to be performed within the territory of Greece,” Mr. Clark said. “It is the governing law and the place of performance of the contract that is most important.” International contracts, which might be covered by English, German or Swiss law, would be more likely to be honored in the designated currency, though in some cases the wording of the legal document may be vague. And even if the law is on their side, companies would find that to extract payment from a Greek company, they would need a judge in Greece to enforce a ruling from a foreign court. “Enforcement of foreign judgments is harder or easier from country to country within the E.U.,” Mr. Clark said. “Greece has always had a reputation of being a difficult place in which to enforce judgments, from a practical perspective.” That means that international trading partners are likely to share in any losses that accompany a Greek exit from the euro. “International businesses that have long-term interests in Greece are going to have to be pragmatic and probably, in the short term, give some dispensation to their Greek counterparties, rather than trying to enforce the terms of contracts that cannot be performed,” Mr. Clark said.
A former head of security at Lloyds Bank has been charged in connection with an alleged £2.5m fraud. Jessica Harper, 50, of Croydon, south London, is accused of submitting false invoices to claim payments, between September 2008 and December 2011. At the time she was working as head of fraud and security for digital banking and allegedly made false claims totalling £2,463,750. Ms Harper will appear at Westminster Magistrates' Court on 31 May. She has been charged with one count of fraud by abuse of position. The bank, which is now 39.7% state-owned after being bailed out by the government during the financial crisis, refused to comment on the charging of Ms Harper. A Metropolitan Police spokesman said she was arrested on 21 December 2011 by officers from its fraud squad. Andrew Penhale, from the Crown Prosecution Service's Central Fraud Group, said: "The charge relates to an allegation that between 1 September 2008 and 21 December 2011, Jessica Harper dishonestly and with the intention of making a gain for herself, abused her position as an employee of Lloyds Banking Group, in which she was expected to safeguard the financial interests of Lloyds Banking Group, by submitting false invoices to claim payments totalling £2,463,750.88, to which she was not entitled. "This decision to prosecute was taken in accordance with the Code for Crown Prosecutors. "We have determined that there is a realistic prospect of conviction and a prosecution is in the public interest."
Most of the coins were discovered in a 40ft freight container while smaller amounts were recovered from three addresses in Enfield, Hertfordshire and Essex. About four million of the coins were blank having not yet been stamped. A further 107,000 had been completed and were ready to be put into circulation. Three men were arrested in connection with what police have described as an “industrial scale” counterfeiting operation. On Thursday night the men, aged 52, 43 and 27, were being held at a North London police station on suspicion of a range of offences including production of counterfeit monies, money laundering and fraud. Det Insp Bruce South of the Met’s Project Team said: “This seizure is a significant blow to the network behind it; individuals clearly intent on undermining the UK monetary system by producing counterfeit currency on an industrial scale.
The new head of the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) has questioned the ability of forces to investigate their own officers for corruption after it emerged that more than 8,500 allegations of wrongdoing resulted in just 13 criminal convictions. Officers – including some from the most senior ranks – were accused of crimes including rape, the misuse of corporate credit cards and perverting the course of justice, but most cases were not substantiated and only a tiny fraction ever came to court. Dame Anne Owers said that there was scepticism about the extent to which police officers could investigate colleagues' alleged crimes, and she demanded more resources to supervise inquiries to ensure confidence in the system. "The public is understandably doubtful about the extent to which, in this particular instance, the police can investigate themselves," she said in a report by the IPCC. She concluded that the corruption identified over the three years to 2011 was not endemic or widespread. But she accepted that it was "corrosive of the public trust that is at the heart of policing" with the number of cases increasing. "A serious focus on tackling police corruption is important, not just because it unearths unethical police behaviour, but because of the role it plays in wider public trust," said Dame Anne, a former inspector of prisons. The report was published just after it was announced that the IPCC – which looks into allegations of police misconduct and deaths in custody – will itself be put under the spotlight by a powerful parliamentary committee amid concerns over its record. Its investigation teams include former police officers and the Home Affairs Select Committee will assess whether it is able to carry out impartial inquiries. The IPCC corruption report was ordered by the Home Secretary, Theresa May, because of concerns in the light of the phone-hacking scandal and the role of private investigators. The commission said that it looked at a total of 104 cases and referred less than half of those to prosecutors. It resulted in court cases involving 18 officers, with 13 of them convicted. The highest ranking officer convicted was Ali Dizaei, the former Metropolitan Police commander, who was sacked this month after his release from prison after serving a three-year term for misconduct in public office and perverting the course of justice. He was found guilty of framing a man in a dispute over an unpaid bill for work on his personal website in what the court heard was a "wholesale abuse of power". The report also highlighted the case of the former chief constable of North Yorkshire, Grahame Maxwell, who narrowly avoided the sack after helping a member of his family to get a job. An examination of the cases found that substance abuse, links with criminals and dissatisfaction at work all increased the vulnerability of officers to corruption and needed to be addressed. Policing has been punctuated by scandals over the past four decades that led to notorious miscarriages of justice including the Guildford Four and the Birmingham Six. Deputy Chief Constable Bernard Lawson, of the Association of Chief Police Officers, said: "This report again recognises that corruption is neither endemic nor widespread in the police service. However, the actions of a few corrupt officers can corrode the great work of so many working hard daily to protect the public."
Three bandits were foiled when their attempt to pry open a stolen cash box ran up against a new security system that slathered the bills with glue.
Baffour Amponsah, 25, Brian Ocaya, 28, and Daniel Collins, also 28, were part of a gang that ambushed a cash delivery man working for security company G4S in south London on Jan. 16, 2011. The group stole his cash box but ran into trouble when they retreated to a parking lot to try to open it. Gavin Windsor, a G4S director, said the company’s cash boxes had recently been fitted with a new security system which coats the bills with glue — along with dye and a colorless, traceable liquid known as “smart water” — if it is tampered with. “We now have a system within that box that guarantees that when it’s activated, the glue and the dye and the smart water activates within the box and gives you complete coverage,” Windsor said in a telephone interview. “For all intents and purposes it makes (the money) unusable.” Police said in a statement Wednesday the gang was spotted by a witness less than an hour after the robbery as they struggled with the glued-up bills. Plainclothes officers swooped in and arrested Amponsah and Ocaya at the scene; Collins was arrested several months later. Amponsah pleaded guilty and received four years and two months in jail. Collins and Ocaya were sentenced to six years and six years and ten months respectively. Although dye bombs and traceable solutions have long been used by security companies and law enforcement as a deterrent against cash robberies, Windsor said that using glue to gum up bills was a relatively new innovation, one he says his company and others have been working on.
Prime Minister David Cameron gave the job of ruling on a multi-billion dollar takeover by News Corp to a minister he knew supported the deal, an inquiry heard on Thursday, reigniting accusations he was in hock to Rupert Murdoch. Jeremy Hunt, the Culture Secretary who was handed the task of deciding whether to support Murdoch's $12 billion bid for BSkyB, had previously sent a memo to Cameron detailing his view that the takeover would be good for Britain. Critics say Cameron was far too close to figures at Murdoch's British newspaper arm News International and assiduously courted them in his drive to become Prime Minister. He has since been embarrassed by a series of revelations shedding light on the close ties, including the details of weekend gatherings with Murdoch family members and executives at their respective country homes. However, the suggestion of impropriety over the BSkyB deal, which required the government to take an independent, quasi-judicial stance, could be even more damaging and piles more pressure on an already embattled Hunt. "The Prime Minister should never have given him the job," said Harriet Harman, deputy leader of the opposition Labour party. "It is clear that Jeremy Hunt was not the impartial arbiter he was required to be, and he should already have resigned." The takeover has become a key issue in the long-running controversy in Britain over whether Murdoch and his newspaper executives have undue influence over government, in part because the tabloids can be used to make or break a political career. Murdoch eventually had to ditch the planned takeover amid public outcry over phone-hacking by journalists at his Sunday tabloid, the News of the World. LATEST CHARACTERS The latest characters to be dragged in to the row are Adam Smith, a fresh-faced aide to Hunt and Fred Michel, a News Corp lobbyist, who between them exchanged hundreds of texts, phone calls and emails as Hunt weighed whether to approve the deal. Giving evidence to a press ethics inquiry called as a result of the phone-hacking scandal, Smith, 30, denied that Hunt had been a "cheerleader" for News Corp's bid. Cameron gave Hunt oversight of the process in December 2010 after another minister who held the task was secretly recorded by a newspaper as saying he had "declared war" on Murdoch. In a draft memo sent to Cameron just a month earlier, Hunt said opponents to the takeover should be ignored and that Murdoch's son James, the former chairman of BSkyB, was angry the matter had been referred to regulators. "The UK has the chance to lead the way but if we block it our media sector will suffer for years," the memo said. "We must be very careful that any attempt to block it is done on genuine plurality grounds and not as a result of lobbying by competitors. "I think it would be totally wrong to cave in to the (BBC chief) Mark Thompson, Channel 4, Guardian (newspaper) line that this represents a substantial change of control given that we all know Sky is controlled by News Corp anyway."
A senior judge said Britain's Serious Fraud Office had failed to set out a "rather simple" case clearly during an investigation into the Tchenguiz brothers, two high-profile property barons, and called for better funding for the agency. Judge John Thomas, who has already slated the fraud-busting agency for "sheer incompetence" in the case linked to the collapse of Iceland's Kaupthing bank in 2008, told the High Court the agency had no excuse for its bungled investigation. "There can't be any excuse for that (not setting out facts clearly) ... This is the story of almost anyone who gets themselves in a wrong position in the markets," he told the last day on Thursday of a three-day hearing, sought by the Tchenguiz brothers, to challenge how the SFO handled the investigation. "The issue here is: were the devices used by the bank, Robert Tchenguiz or Vincent Tchenguiz legitimate or dishonest?" James Eadie, the leading lawyer for the SFO, responded that he was sure the cash-strapped office would welcome any further funding, although he added: "Whether my other masters at the Treasury (finance ministry) will agree is another matter." The SFO has been forced to admit to a litany of errors in the most ambitious case brought under former chief Richard Alderman since it commissioned police to arrest the two Iranian-born brothers and raid properties in March 2011. With new director David Green at the helm -- albeit for just a month -- the agency earlier this week admitted it was urgently reviewing the status of Vincent as a suspect, a move that could see the investigation against him dropped within a month. The Tchenquiz bothers, renowned for their champagne-fuelled parties and super yachts, bedazzled Britain in the 1990s with a string of high-profile property purchases. POLICE PASS BUCK A lawyer for the police, quizzed about the grounds for briefly arresting the brothers last year, noted that officers were following the instructions of the SFO and therefore bore no responsibility for claims of wrongful arrest. The brothers have argued that the Kaupthing bank investigation and high-profile arrest jeopardised their relationships with other lenders and inflicted huge losses on their business interests -- a point the judge has acknowledged. The Tchenguiz business empire, which once included large stakes in retailer J Sainsbury, pub chain Mitchells and Butlers and a vast portfolio of property assets valued at up to 4 billion pounds ($6.3 billion), has been severely dented since the Icelandic banking collapse. But the brothers still maintain a high profile and Vincent and his companies still own and manage around one percent of England's housing stock. The SFO's investigation now hinges in part on whether it can prove Robert's business dealings with Kaupthing were dishonest. The Tchenguiz legal team, which includes Peter Goldsmith, a former attorney general and former Director of Public Prosecutions Ken Macdonald, say the information placed in front of the judge was riddled with misrepresentations, non-disclosures and, possibly inadvertently, false accounting.
Thursday, 24 May 2012
the Health Protection Agency's National Poisons Information Service (NPIS) warned people to leave snakes in the countryside alone following dozens of incidents of bites caused by people picking up venomous adders.
People sought advice over adder bites 196 times between 2009 and 2011, according to NPIS figures. In around half the cases, a person had picked up an adder, the only venomous snake living wild in England, Scotland and Wales. Professor Simon Thomas, director of NPIS Newcastle, said: "Adder numbers have decreased in recent years so they are rare but still present in certain areas. They usually keep well out of sight, but in the summer months are active because the weather is warmer. "Because they are well camouflaged, people can accidentally tread on them, which is when they can bite. They can also bite if picked up." Although bites can occur between February and October, experts say they are most common in the warmer summer months.
Wednesday, 23 May 2012
Gangster Tayfun Ermis, 34, continuously disobeyed the rules of the road while driving his yellow Lamborghini Murcielago
Gangster Tayfun Ermis, 34, continuously disobeyed the rules of the road while driving his yellow Lamborghini Murcielago around central London, racking up the penalty charge notices.
Every time he got a £60 parking fine, he stuffed them into glovebox of his 211mph supercar.
Expensive wheels: When police seized Ermis's car in a drugs bust, they found 71 parking tickets in the glovebox
Westminster Council eventually caught up with the prolific offender after he was jailed in 2011 for his role in a £375m cocaine case.
Ermis was sentenced to two years in prison for money laundering after officers seized one tonne of cocaine on a ship off the coast of Spain.
Police found the parking tickets crammed inside his Lamborghini which they seized during a raid on a drug dealing gang.
Criminal parking: The gangster would drive around London in his Lamborghini, Aston Martin and Bentley - all of which were understood to have had the same fake '1TE' registration plate
The money has finally been paid in full as a result of a confiscation order.
Councillor Daniel Astaire, Westminster's cabinet member for business and parking, said: 'We have made a commitment to provide a safe and affordable city for motorists to use, but this behavior completely undermines that.
'The fact that some motorists don’t think the rules apply to them makes London a difficult place to be a car owner or driver. These rules are in place to ease congestion and make it fair for everyone.'
Three police detectives face accusations of taking illegal payments from private investigators for information in an alleged case of "apparent corruption right at the heart of Scotland Yard". A detective inspector and two detective constables were branded "key culprits" by a lawyer describing the close links between police and a private investigations firm working on the case of Nigerian fraudster James Ibori. Mike Schwarz, a partner at Bindmans LLP, told the Home Affairs Select Committee of possible cash payments made by Risc Management Ltd to sources of theirs who were "presumably police officers or those close to the investigation". Risc Management was hired by the law firm representing Ibori, a former governor of one of Nigeria's richest oil-producing states who was brought to justice in London. He was jailed for 13 years last month after admitting fraud totalling nearly £50 million. Mr Schwarz, whose firm represented one of Ibori's co-accused, told MPs: "What I have seen in that case is serious illegality on behalf of private investigators Risc Management Ltd... which involves apparent corruption right at the heart of New Scotland Yard. The core as I see it is the operation of the police and their connection with the security firm involved, the police being the Proceeds of Corruption Unit within New Scotland Yard. And the problem there is the key culprits appear to be the key players who are the the senior investigating police officer... and two of the key investigators." Together the men "topped and tailed things" in such a way that their own apparent misconduct could not be detected "because they are in control of the information coming in, the evidence coming in, and the evidence going out," he claimed. Mr Schwarz told MPs he had seen material submitted to the committee involving invoices from Risc Management to Ibori's solicitors reporting "payments made by Risc Management to sources that they have, presumably police officers or those close to the investigation". Records showed roughly half a dozen payments amounting to about £20,000 over an eight or nine-month period, he said. "It appears to be inappropriate if not corrupt," he added. He also indicated the information flowed in both directions, with the private investigators passing details from the defence case back to the police as well. Scotland Yard said in a statement: "The Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) is investigating an allegation that illegal payments were made to police officers for information by a private investigation agency. The Directorate of Professional Standards (DPS) referred the matter to the Independent Police Complaints Commission in October 2011 which agreed to supervise a DPS investigation into the allegations. This is an ongoing investigation and it would be inappropriate to comment further at this stage while the investigation is under way."
Saturday, 19 May 2012
A drug dealer who shot an addict in west London with a sub machine gun over a £50 robbery has been jailed for life. Anthony Dickson, 33, died on 24 December 2010 in Marvell Avenue, Hayes, weeks after stealing crack cocaine from a runner working for Anthony Small. Small, 32, of Harlesden, north-west London, also had two prosecution witnesses threatened, the Old Bailey heard. He was found guilty of murder. Fellow drug dealer Max Felicino, 27, of Hayes, was convicted of manslaughter. Small, who also tried to intimidate his former girlfriend into giving him a false alibi, was ordered to serve a minimum term of 34 years. He was convicted of murder last November. 'Disrespecting' The victim stole the drugs from Satwant Virdee who worked as a runner for Small and Felicino, the jury heard. The dealers called Mr Dickson, of The Green, West Drayton, to a park where Small shot him twice at close range, jurors were told. Ahead of the trial Small had two prosecution witnesses threatened and intimidated his ex-girlfriend over providing an alibi, the court heard. Felicino was convicted of manslaughter Sentencing Small, Judge John Bevan QC said: "This was a planned execution over a paltry £50 robbery and a few wraps of Class A. "I suspect that you regarded the victim as disrespecting you, combined with a lack of self-control and a total lack of proportion for what he had done. "What entitles you as a drug dealer to administer a death sentence in addition to the misery you inflict on other drug addicts is beyond me." Felicino, a father-of-three, of Waylands, was sentenced to 14 years for the killing and another three years for smuggling drugs into prison. He was convicted earlier this month. Officers found 57 wraps of heroin, containing about six grams, in his cell at Belmarsh prison, the court heard. The judge told him: "You are intelligent, street-wise and in my judgment entirely lacking in scruples." Both Satwant Virdee, 40, of The Warren, and Clifford Stevenson, 48, of Normandy Drive, of Hayes, were acquitted of the murder. Det Insp Martin Ludlow said: "Anthony Dickson was someone's father and son. His family will have to come to terms with his violent, premeditated murder."
A judge branded the son of murdered hardman David ‘Noddy’ Rice a "serious danger" to the public after jailing him for robbing two barmaids as they left work.
Serial offender Steven Rice waited in the car park of the Life of Riley pub in South Shields before approaching Danielle Hardingham, 21, and Kathryn Barrow, 22, after they finished their shifts.
The 27-year-old punched one of the workers before stealing their handbags on February 2, 2012.
Newcastle Crown Court heard Rice had been released from prison just weeks earlier. He previously served an 18-month prison term after attempting to rob a betting shop.
Michael Bunch, prosecuting, told how Rice had been chatting to his victims in the pub earlier that night and asked them if they wanted to share a taxi.
After they said no, he left and lay in wait outside.
A hooded Rice, who had been drinking all day, accosted the pair as they were about to get into a car.
Jailing Rice for three years, Recorder Martin Bethel QC told him: “You possess a serious risk of danger to the public.”
Rice was jailed for 21 months in 2010 after he attempted to rob Ladbrokes in South Shields in March 2010.
His raid was foiled when a worker at the betting shop punched Rice. He was still lying on the floor when police arrived.
Rice’s dad David “Noddy” Rice, a convicted drug dealer, was gunned down in a gangland execution in 2006 in a car park on South Shields sea front.
Gang boss Allan Foster is still being hunted by police over the shooting.
Friday, 18 May 2012
As part of a crackdown on drug dealers in the West End ahead of the Olympics police have arrested sixteen people. Operation Trafalgar targetted suspected heroin and cocaine dealers in rids overnight. It is the latest phase of the Met's (MPS) largest ever crackdown on crime and anti-social behaviour in the West End. Twelve men and four women were arrested as they entered Soho overnight by plain clothes police folliwng a long eriod of evidence gathering against them. Officers say more arrests are expected in the coming days as searches continue. Deputy Assistant Commissioner Stephen Kavanagh said: "I'm delighted to see that over 16 suspected class A drug dealers have been taken off the streets of Soho, in what must be seen as a clear statement of our intent to make this area a hostile place for drug dealers and other criminals. "This is the latest part of Operation Trafalgar, which is now entering a stronger enforcement phase, in addition to the increased patrols and visibility seen since the initiative was launched in March. "Drug dealing on the streets of the West End or in any part of London can not and will not be tolerated. The action we have taken overnight is the result of a thorough investigation and a substantial evidence gathering effort. However, the work will continue to ensure these people are not replaced by others wishing to sell drugs. To that end officers will be patrolling this area to hold the ground taken from the drug dealers. "Operation Trafalgar is beginning to pay dividends. Violent crime is down by nearly a third while crime overall is down by 10% compared with the same period the previous year. "We want to make sure that visitors to the West End enjoy a positive experience. The Met will continue Operation Trafalgar by being highly visible and utterly intolerant of anti-social behaviour, violence and crime."
Thursday, 17 May 2012
The Metropolitan Police has implemented a system to extract mobile phone data from suspects held in custody. The data includes call history, texts and contacts, and the BBC has learned that it will be retained regardless of whether any charges are brought. The technology is being used in 16 London boroughs, and could potentially be used by police across the UK. Campaign group Privacy International described the move as a "possible breach of human rights law". Until now, officers had to send mobiles off for forensic examination in order to gather and store data, a process which took several weeks. Under the new system, content will be extracted using purpose built terminals in police stations. It will allow officers to connect a suspect's mobile and produce a print out of data from the device, as well as saving digital records of the content.
A man who served more than seven years in jail for a murder he always denied has had his conviction quashed.
Sam Hallam, now 24, was jailed in 2005 for a minimum of 12 years over the death of Essayas Kassahun, 21, in Clerkenwell, central London, in 2004.
The Court of Appeal, which had heard photographs on Mr Hallam's mobile phone could have helped his defence case, ruled his conviction was "unsafe".
He said: "I don't want anyone else ever to suffer what I've been through."
The court's judges said that for "reasons that escape us", two telephones in Mr Hallam's possession at the time of his arrest were not investigated by the police or his then defence team.
There was a failure by police to investigate his alibi, and witnesses who put him at the scene of the murder were unreliable, the court heard.
'Time to recover'
Fresh material in the case included evidence from an acquitted co-accused who said Mr Hallam was not present at the scene and post-trial evidence from Mr Hallam's mobile telephone which showed his true whereabouts on the evening of the crime.
In a statement read outside court by Paul May, who led the campaign to free him, Mr Hallam added: "The identification evidence against me was so unreliable it should have never been put to the jury.
"The Metropolitan Police should have followed up leads which would have proved my innocence of the terrible murder of Essayas Kassahun.
At the scene
Lisa Hampele, BBC News
Court number eight was heaving. People spilled out into the corridor, reporters had to sit on the floor, and the public gallery was full. Lady Justice Hallett took more than an hour to read out the judgement.
In a surprise move, Sam Hallam was freed on bail yesterday, when prosecutors said they were not opposing his appeal.
Then, he was dazed. But today he sported a new haircut, an ironed shirt - and a huge smile. Sitting next to his mother, Wendy, he listened carefully as the reasons for his release were gone through in great detail.
When the judgement came, the reaction was loud. Supporters stood, cheered and shouted "justice has been done".
Mr Hallam calmly sipped from a bottle of water - and looked at his mum.
"They should have disclosed all the relevant evidence in their possession to my lawyers and they didn't.
"I now need time to recover with my family and friends from the nightmare I've suffered for the last seven-and-a-half years.
"Justice has long been denied to me but it has now finally prevailed."
Mr Hallam, who lost a conviction appeal in 2007, also thanked the Criminal Cases Review Commission and Thames Valley Police for the "thorough investigation" they carried out into his case.
He was released on bail by the Court of Appeal on Wednesday after prosecutors said they would not oppose his appeal.
Lady Justice Hallett, who delivered the court's judgement, said Mr Hallam's "inability or unwillingness" to say where he was at the time of the murder had "not exactly helped his case".
But she added: "Given the attachment of young people and the more mature to their mobile phones, we can't understand why someone, either from the investigating team or the defence team, did not think to examine the phones attributable to the appellant.
"Given our limited knowledge, we would have thought that, even a cursory check would have produced some interesting results.
"Further, we would have thought the appellant would have alerted the defence team that he had been taking photos on a new phone which would have helped establish his whereabouts."
Lady Justice Hallett also told the court that one eyewitness account had been a "fleeting glimpse" and there was scope for mistaken identity.
"We now have therefore the real possibility that the failed alibi was consistent with faulty recollection and dysfunctional lifestyle and not a deliberate lie."
She said: "In our judgment, the cumulative effect of these facts is enough to undermine the safety of these convictions."
A spokeswoman for the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said the decision to prosecute had been made on the evidence then available, including from eyewitnesses.
She said: "In its judgment, the Court of Appeal did not criticise the CPS for bringing the prosecution.
"It is now clear that there was other evidence which, in the Court of Appeal's view, has undermined the safety of the conviction of Sam Hallam."
Mr Hallam, of Hoxton, east London, was 18 when he received a life sentence for the murder of trainee chef Mr Kassahun, who died after being stabbed in the head during an attack by a group of youths on the St Luke's estate in October 2004.
At the trial the following year, Mr Hallam and Bullabek Ringbiong, then 20, from Hoxton, were both jailed for murder.
Scott White, 17, also from Hoxton, was convicted of conspiracy to cause grievous bodily harm and was sentenced to eight years' youth detention. In total, six people went on trial for the killing.
Since his conviction, Mr Hallam's family and friends have waged a high-profile campaign for justice, with supporters including actor Ray Winstone, who has criticised the police's handling of the case.
The Metropolitan Police said it was "a matter of deep regret that Sam Hallam lost his liberty" due to an unsafe conviction.
Commander Simon Foy, head of the Homicide and Serious Crime Command, said: "The death of Essayas Kassahun was a tragedy and what followed was a complex investigation for which one person remains convicted."
He said the circumstances of the crime involved a large group of people and this type of investigation often relied on people coming forward to give personal accounts.
He added: "We continue to face challenging investigations such as these and there are undoubtedly certain lessons to be learned for police and the wider criminal justice system from today's judgement."
Tuesday, 15 May 2012
50 Romanian beggars evicted from London's Marble Arch have moved just a few yards away to the exclusive Park Lane area of the city.
They were moved on from the streets around Marble Arch and Oxford Street last month as council workers battle an influx of Romanian crime syndicates ahead of the Olympics.
Unwelcome guests: Some of the 50 Romanian beggars evicted from Marble Arch last Month gambling in Park Lane after setting up a new camp in the exclusive road's central reservation
Growing problem: Officers search the Romanians as police and the council battle to keep a steady influx of migrant pickpockets and prostitutes in check
Coachloads of penniless pickpockets and prostitutes are arriving in the capital every day, many already armed with maps directing them to the best patches, which they have been ordered to defend from rivals.
A British homeless man said it had become too dangerous to sleep out in central London because of Romanian gangs roaming around at night thieving at knifepoint.
Disgusting: The group regularly urinate in the street, in full view of the area's top restaurants and hotels
It repatriated 18 people to Romania recently, but only after the coach company insisted on them being given showers and new clothes before they boarded a bus.
Westminster councillor Nickie Aiken said: 'These people are dispersing but they are not going away. They are either camping in Park Lane or moving into South Mayfair and around Oxford Street.
'The police and council are doing all we can about this but the taxpayers are picking up the bill, mainly the cost of cleansing because they have no toilets.'
Last night, a group of around 20 - split between elderly women with walking sticks and headscarves and men in their 30s with hooded jackets and mobile phones - sat together on a tatty blanket playing dice for piles of £1 coins in the dual carriageway’s central reservation.
Push-along suitcases, beer bottles and carrier bags littered the grass yards from the prestige car dealerships, Speakers’ Corner and some of the capital’s best-known hotels.
'Police here earlier, no trouble, no problems,' said one man in his 20s in broken English, before adding: 'No camera.'
Rebekah Brooks and her husband Charlie Brooks are among five people who are being charged with perverting the course of justice during the phone-hacking scandal. Mrs Brooks and her racehorse trainer husband Charlie revealed the charges in a statement in which they criticised the decision by the Crown Prosecution Service. They said: "We have this morning been informed by the Office of the Department of Public Prosecutions that we are to be charged with perverting the course of justice. "We deplore this weak and unjust decision. "After the further unprecedented posturing of the CPS we will respond later today after our return from the police station." Mrs Brooks's former PA Cheryl Carter, the company's head of security Mark Hanna, News International chauffeur Paul Edwards and security consultant Daryl Jorsling have also been told they will face charges, the CPS confirmed. An employee of HM Revenue and Customs was arrested today by detectives investigating corrupt payments to public officials. The 50-year-old man was held on suspicion of misconduct in a public office by officers from Operation Elveden. Scotland Yard said a 43-year-old woman was also arrested at the address in north west London. She was held on suspicion of aiding and abetting misconduct in a public office and money-laundering offences. Brooks devoted more than two decades to serving the British arm of Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation empire before her resignation as the phone-hacking scandal intensified last July. The 43-year-old's flair for tabloid journalism and dedication to the firm earned her the position of chief executive of News International. The hacking revelations that finally ended her time at Wapping dogged her tenure in the top job from the start, but she was no stranger to controversy. While editor of the News of the World, Mrs Brooks, nee Wade, launched a "naming and shaming" campaign identifying paedophiles following the murder of schoolgirl Sarah Payne. The campaign boosted circulation and eventually led to new legislation - known as Sarah's Law - but was blamed by some for sparking vigilantism and even thwarting police investigations. Away from the day job, an intriguing private life saw Mrs Brooks thrust briefly into the kind of limelight normally reserved for the subjects of a tabloid exclusive. While married to former EastEnders actor Ross Kemp, she was arrested, but later released without charge, over claims that she had attacked him. She dismissed the incident as a row that got out of hand. The couple divorced and in 2009 she married former racehorse trainer Charlie Brooks, a contemporary of Prime Minister David Cameron at Eton. The couple became key members of the influential Chipping Norton set, which also includes Mr Cameron and his wife Samantha, Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson, Mr Murdoch's daughter Elisabeth and her PR guru husband Matthew Freud. The social links between the group, centred in the affluent and picturesque Oxfordshire Tory heartland, have been thrown into the spotlight since the phone-hacking scandal erupted. In March Mr Cameron was forced to admit riding a retired police horse loaned to Mrs Brooks by Scotland Yard from 2008 to 2010, and his friendship with her was further laid bare at the Leveson Inquiry into press standards last week when she revealed how close she had been to the most powerful people in the country. She enjoyed dozens of lunches and dinners with successive prime ministers and was so friendly with Mr Cameron that he signed off texts to her with "lots of love", the inquiry heard. A formidable networker, Mrs Brooks is also said to have been close to former prime minister Tony Blair and her wedding to Mr Brooks was attended by Mr Cameron and then prime minister Gordon Brown. Her News Corporation career started at the News of the World, where she eventually landed the top job aged 31 in 2000. In 2003 she became the first woman to edit the Sun and in 2009 became News International chief executive.
Rebbeca Brooks learned this morning that she will be taken to court over accusations of perverting the course of justice in relation to the phone hacking scandal.
The former editor of the News of the World and the Sun is to be charged with five others, including her husband Charlie Brooks.
Alison Levitt QC, principal legal adviser to the Director of Public Prosecutions, announced the decision at 10am, days after Mrs Brooks appeared at the Leveson inquiry into press ethics.
Mr and Mrs Brooks said: "We deplore this weak and unjust decision. After the further unprecedented posturing of the CPS we will respond later today after our return from the police station."
Rebekah Brooks arriving at the Leveson Inquiry
Monday, 14 May 2012
Lord O’Donnell, who was Cabinet Secretary until the end of last year, suggested that Mr Hunt should have been “clear” about what was expected of Adam Smith, the special adviser who resigned last month after emails he sent to News Corp were disclosed by the Leveson Inquiry. Asked by Lord Justice Leveson for his opinion on how the relationship between Mr Hunt and Mr Smith “should have worked”, Lord O’Donnell said: “It’s clear in the special advisers’ code [of conduct] that in terms of authorisation ministers should authorise their special advisers as to what they should do, for example with the media. “I would have expected the minister to be clear as to what he thought the special adviser should have been doing.” He also suggested that “all parties” should have been kept informed about the progress of the scrutiny of the News Corp bid for BSkyB. "Talking about process is fine," he said, "but you should make sure that the same information is passed on to all parties in a case...so fairness is absolutely crucial to what happened."
Sunday, 13 May 2012
Two men and four women have been arrested by police investigating the murder of a man stabbed in a street attack. The 29-year-old victim died in hospital after the attack in Wellfield Road in the Bentilee area of Stoke-on-Trent in the early hours of Sunday morning. A 23-year-old man, a 24-year-old man and women aged 16, 20, 21 and 29, all from the Stoke-on-Trent or north Staffordshire area, have been arrested in connection with the death and a murder inquiry has been launched, Staffordshire Police said. Chief Inspector Mark Dean said: "Five people are currently in custody. Specially-trained family liaison officers are offering support to the man's family following their tragic loss. "Local officers are in the community today to offer reassurance to residents as we carry out necessary inquiries at the scene." The area is currently sealed off and being examined by scenes of crime officers. Although a post-mortem examination has yet to be carried out, police said they are treating his death as murder. Police were called to the scene of the attack at 12.45am on Sunday. The victim, who has not yet been identified, was taken to the University Hospital of North Staffordshire but died a short time later.
Saturday, 12 May 2012
George Osborne, was dragged deeper into the furore over the Murdoch empire's links to government as it emerged that he entertained Rebekah Brooks for a weekend at his country residence as Rupert Murdoch was planning to take over BSkyB. Also present for the weekend at Dorneywood, the chancellor's grace and favour residence in Buckinghamshire, was Brooks's friend, Andy Coulson, the former News of the World editor, who at the time was working as David Cameron's director of communications inside No 10. Labour said that the gathering, at a time when the government was evaluating how to react to News Corp's £8bn bid for the whole of BSkyB – the biggest in UK media history – raised fundamental questions about Osborne's judgment. News of the weekend gathering will also increase pressure for Osborne to appear in person at the Leveson inquiry, in addition to David Cameron, culture secretary Jeremy Hunt, education secretary Michael Gove and other senior political figures, to answer questions about their links with the Murdoch team. So far Osborne has been asked only to give written evidence, although his aides said he would now be happy to appear if asked. Details of the Dorneywood sojourn are contained in a lengthy written statement to the Leveson inquiry submitted by Coulson, who appeared before it on Thursday. Listing his meetings with Brooks during his time working for Cameron, Coulson said: "My family and I also spent a weekend at Dorneywood in 2010 as a guest of George Osborne and his wife. Rebekah and her husband were also guests." Osborne has made public four meetings with Brooks during 2010, three of them definitely after the May general election. A spokesman for Osborne said he believed the Dorneywood meeting was one declared by Osborne as having taken place with Brooks in September 2010. The location was not specified, and it was listed by the chancellor as having been a merely "social" event. News of the Murdoch plan to take full control of BSkyB first broke in June 2010, with News Corp informing the European commission in early November of its intention to buy the shares it did not already own. Giving evidence to the inquiry on Friday, Brooks said that, after briefly discussing the BSkyB bid with Cameron at a dinner in December 2010, she had a more substantial conversation with Osborne at a restaurant that month. The next day she emailed News Corp lobbyist Frédéric Michel saying that Osborne had expressed "total bafflement" at Ofcom's latest response to the bid. But she was not asked, when in the witness box, about the weekend at Dorneywood or what was discussed there. Harriet Harman, Labour's deputy leader, said the revelation raised serious questions. "When senior members of a government are looking at a bid such as the BSkyB one they have not only to make sure they act impartially but that they are seen to be acting impartially. "Spending a weekend together with a senior executive of the company seeking approval for a bid such as this is not acting in a way that will be seen to be impartial." Osborne's aides said no discussions of the BSkyB bid took place. But Labour MP Chris Bryant, a prominent critic of News International over phone hacking, said: "After all these revelations it feels like there were two halves of a single clan: in the political wing were Osborne, Cameron, Michael Gove and Jeremy Hunt, and in the media wing were Rebekah Brooks, James Murdoch and Andy Coulson. They seem to have been completely blind to the ethical considerations and to have forgotten that in government they are there for the whole country and not just for the clan." Labour also plans to raise questions about whether the home secretary, Theresa May, sent a message to commiserate with Brooks after she resigned. In a speech to the Blairite pressure group Progress, Labour leader Ed Miliband renewed calls for the culture secretary to resign over suggestions he operated a secret back channel to News Corp. Miliband said: "One of the reasons so many people hate politics so much right now is that they think politicians stand up for the wrong people, not the right people. This is a clear example of that – Jeremy Hunt was standing up for Rupert Murdoch, not for the public interest."