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Western powers warn Kosovo on changing war crimes court law
Industry News | 2018/01/02 22:44
Five western nations have warned Kosovo against repealing or amending a law on a war crimes court, saying it would suffer negative consequences "in international and Euro-Atlantic integration."

A statement Thursday from the nations — the United States, Britain, France, Germany and Italy — said they were "deeply concerned by ongoing efforts to undermine the work of the Specialist Chambers." It called on Kosovo politicians and lawmakers "to abandon any thought of repealing or re-negotiating any aspect of the law ... (because that) calls into question Kosovo's commitment to the rule of law."

In December, a group of Kosovo lawmakers tried to amend the law, seeking to extend its jurisdiction over Serbs, their former adversaries in the 1998-1999 war for independence. The court now has jurisdiction only over potential war crimes suspects who were Kosovo citizens.

"(This move) puts the interests of certain individuals above the interests of Kosovo society. We condemn such a move," the nations said.

Kosovo detached from Yugoslavia following a three-month NATO air war in 1999 to stop a bloody Serbian crackdown against ethnic Albanian separatists. It then declared unilateral independence from Serbia in 2008, a move recognized by 114 states but not by Serbia.

The court law was passed in 2015 as a result of U.S. and European pressure on Kosovo's government to confront alleged war crimes that the Kosovo Liberation Army committed against ethnic Serbs.



S Carolina Rep. Quinn pleads guilty to corruption charge
Industry News | 2017/12/26 02:18
South Carolina Rep. Rick Quinn Jr. pleaded guilty to corruption charges Wednesday, becoming the third Republican lawmaker convicted in a wide-ranging Statehouse corruption probe.

Prosecutors said they will ask for prison time for the 52-year-old former House Majority leader. Quinn faces up to a year behind bars on a charge of misconduct in office. The other two lawmakers who have pleaded guilty in the investigation have received probation.

Quinn planned to plead guilty to one count of misdemeanor misconduct in office, prosecutor David Pascoe said as Wednesday's hearing started. Pascoe agreed to drop a second charge.

Quinn broke the law by taking $4 million in unreported money from lobbyists, Pascoe said. "It wasn't about service to the people, it was about service to his pocketbook," Pascoe said.

As part of the deal, Pascoe also agreed to drop corruption charges against Quinn's Republican consultant father Richard Quinn Sr., but he must testify before a grand jury that continues to investigate legislators and others and fully cooperate with the State Law Enforcement Division. Quinn has dozens of high-powered clients in the state, including U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham and Attorney General Alan Wilson.

The consulting business, First Impressions, is also pleading guilty to not registering as a lobbyist and will pay a fine. Quinn resigned an hour before the hearing. He called his 21 years in the South Carolina House "one of the greatest honors of my life" in a letter to House Speaker Jay Lucas.


US jury acquits Peruvian defendant in FIFA bribery case
Industry News | 2017/12/26 02:18
A former South American soccer official was acquitted Tuesday of a corruption charge stemming from the FIFA bribery scandal after two others were convicted last week, capping a trial in which U.S. prosecutors sought to expose a culture of greed and corruption among the powerful men who oversee the world's most popular sport.

Jurors found Manuel Burga, the 60-year-old former president of Peru's soccer federation, not guilty of a single racketeering conspiracy charge.

Burga wept when the acquittal was announced. After the verdict, he came out of the courtroom, his eyes wet and said: "God Bless America. That's all I can say."

Burga said he would go home and resume a career as a lawyer that had been largely left behind for the last 15 years during his career as a soccer executive.

"My history in soccer is finished," he said. "I'll go back to the law."

On Friday, jurors told U.S. District Judge Pamela Chen they were deadlocked on Burga's case but had reached guilty verdicts on multiple charges against two other former officials: Juan Napout, of Paraguay, and Jose Maria Marin, of Brazil. Chen gave jurors the holiday weekend to think about Burga's case.

The judge had jailed Marin, 85, and Napout, 59, after their convictions Friday. The two were acquitted on some lesser charges. Burga, meanwhile, was waiting on his passport to return home.

Marin, Burga and Napout had been arrested in 2015. Prosecutors accused them of agreeing to take millions of dollars in bribes from businessmen seeking to lock up lucrative media rights or influence hosting rights for the World Cup and other major tournaments controlled by FIFA.



Greek court backs extraditing Russian bitcoin suspect to US
Industry News | 2017/12/24 02:17
Greece's Supreme Court has ruled in favor of extraditing a Russian cybercrime suspect to the United States to stand trial for allegedly laundering billions of dollars using the virtual currency bitcoin.

Alexander Vinnik made his final appearance at an Athens court Wednesday amid an ongoing legal battle between the U.S. and Russia, who are both seeking his extradition.

Greece's justice minister will ultimately decide on whether Vinnik will be sent to Russia or the U.S.

The case was heard amid growing global interest in virtual currencies and their underlying blockchain technology, fuelled by the ongoing boom in the price of bitcoin.

The 38-year-old former bitcoin platform operator denies any wrongdoing but is not contesting the Russian request on less serious charges.

U.S. authorities accuse Vinnik of laundering $4 billion worth of bitcoins through BTC-e, one of the world's largest digital currency exchanges, which he allegedly operated.

Garrick Hileman, a research fellow at the University of Cambridge, said bitcoin's growing acceptance by mainstream markets makes criminal cases surrounding the currency more significant.

"For bitcoin to continue to attract regulated and institutional investors it will need to operate within the law," he told the AP.

"The United States, with the support of evidence from various cyber sleuths, is arguing that Vinnik and BTC-e were two of the biggest bad actors in the crypto-currency industry. Bringing bad actors to justice will help bitcoin move beyond its tainted history."

Vinnik was arrested at a northern Greek holiday resort in July and a lower court has already approved his extradition to the U.S.

Ilias Spyrliadis, a lawyer for Vinnik's defense, said they would formally respond after Wednesday's decision is published, in about one week.

"The Supreme Court has in essence accepted that our client should be sent to the United States," the lawyer said. "Our client has not made any response. He listened to the ruling as it was read out ... It is now up to the justice minister to decide when and where our client will be sent."


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