Illegal smuggling of rhino horns has grown after a 20-year decline. (PHOTO: U.S. FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE)
A California father and son team described by federal prosecutors as being “at the apex of the rhino horn smuggling pyramid” in the United States has been sentenced to more than three years in prison on federal wildlife smuggling and money laundering charges.
Vihn Chuong “Jimmy” Kha and his son, Felix Kha, ran a lucrative smuggling operation estimated at $2.5 million that prosecutors linked to a global network of poachers and buyers from China to South Africa, where an average of two of the endangered animals are killed each day.
After a 20-year decline, the traffic in rhino horns has climbed since 2008, and is now valued at up to $8 billion a year, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, making it the most lucrative form of smuggling after arms and drug trafficking. The horns are prized in Asian culture as good luck charms, and are used for medicinal purposes. They have been carved into libation cups in Vietnam and China. [Full Article]
Despite a major push in recent years to crack down on corporate bribes to foreign officials, virtually none of the money paid in penalties has gone back to countries where the crimes occurred. Preliminary results of a report on government settlements in hundreds of bribery cases showed that out of $6.4 billion in penalties, only $185 million, or less than three percent, went to compensate victim countries.
“Countries where the bribes have been paid, where the damages of corruption have taken place, are either not aware at all, or not being involved in the process,” said Oliver Stolpe, a senior advisor to the Stolen Asset Recovery Initiative (StAR) who led the study. StAR is a joint effort of the World Bank and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.
Bradley Manning supporters decorated a security fence with photos during a rally outside Fort Meade on Tuesday. / PHOTO CHAD BOUCHARD
Fort Meade – Sitting in front of a packed military courtroom, Army intelligence officer Bradley Manning pleaded guilty to 10 out of 22 charges that he misused classified information, but pleaded not guilty to the more serious charges of willfully aiding the enemy.
Dressed in full uniform, the 25-year-old Army private told the court in a prepared statement that he passed classified government documents to the website WikiLeaks in part because the U.S. was “risking so much for people who felt so unwilling to cooperate with us, leading to hatred and frustration on both sides.”
“I believe that if the general public had access to the information this could spark a domestic debate as to the role of the military and foreign policy in general,” he said under oath. [Full Article]
Bradley Manning will face 141 prosecution witnesses when his trial begins in June. /PHOTO BRADLEY MANNING SUPPORT NETWORK
Fort Meade –Lawyers for Bradley Manning, accused of releasing thousands of classified documents to the whistleblower website WikiLeaks, may not call most of their proposed witnesses to testify that the leaked documents should never have been classified in the first place, a military judge ruled Wednesday.
Judge Colonel Denise Lind also ruled that long pre-trial delays had not violated Manning’s right to a speedy trial, dealing twin setbacks to Manning’s defense team.
Meanwhile, journalists and academics on Wednesday won a small victory on the transparency front as the Department of Defense released 84 judicial orders and public filings related to the case. The move came in response to press outrage over Freedom of Information Act requests that had been denied. But transparency watchers say the effort is too little, too late.
100Reporters Panel: Stolen Seas from 100Reporters on Vimeo.
Appearing as if from vapor, a band of Somali pirates armed with bazookas suddenly roars toward the CEC Future, a Danish ship plying the perilous Gulf of Aden. The ship’s captain radios for help, and a German pilot picks up the distress call. He tells the captain to hang on. “Five minutes,” the pilot radios. ”We’ll be there in five minutes.” By then, the ship is overrun with pirates, its captain and crew taken hostage.
Thus unfolds Stolen Seas, the riveting documentary by Thymaya Payne, which had its Washington debut at the West End Cinema on January 30th. Payne’s film explores the resurgence of piracy on the high seas, and the unusual relationship that develops between Pers Gullestrup, CEO of the Danish company and Ishmael Ali, the Somali who negotiates on behalf of the pirates.
Following the screening, 100Reporters hosted a brief panel discussion and audience Q&A featuring Matthew Peed, an attorney representing a Somali accused of piracy in U.S. court, Martin Murphy, an expert on piracy and author of several books. Donations accepted, with fun thank you gifts on hand, and Urmila Venugopalan, the South Asia Lead for the Oceans Beyond Piracy Program at One Earth Future. [Full Article]