Red cards in Ramallah

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Protests in Ramallah in front of Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad's office. / REUTERS

He’s got a Ph.D from Cornell University and once headed the Palestinian Capital Market Authority, which oversees the local stock market. Today, Hassan Abu Libdeh, is facing charges of corruption and has stepped down as the Palestinian economics minister.

Abu Libdeh has denied the charges, saying that they are falsehoods and he is being attacked for political reasons.  A trial is set to begin on  December 12. He is accused of breach of trust, fraud, insider trading and embezzlement of public funds relating to his 2008 tenure at the Palestinian market authority.

The economic minister said he was stepping down to clear his name in court and also lashed out at what he claimed was a media campaign designed to smear him and tarnish his reputation.  For 40 years, he said, he has worked towards “building a homeland for all Palestinians.”  Now, with the possibility of statehood of Palestine under greater consideration, Abu Libdeh said his opponents do not want to see him succeed.

Sweep to  Palestinian Economy Minister linked to embezzlement, insider trading

Tragic reporting from Moscow on a tragic story.

Private investigators concluded that Sergei Magnitsky, the Russian attorney who had reported official corruption and later died in prison, was severely beaten and denied medical treatment while in custody. Even more, the cause of his 2009 death was covered up by government officials.

The report was the result of dogged efforts by William Browder, who ran an investment fund where the 37-year old Magnitsky once worked. The American-born Browder ran Hermitage Capital Market in Moscow. Magnitsky ran afoul of authorities when he exposed an alleged tax fraud involving Interior Ministry officials who he said had stolen $230 million from the state. Those same officials later arrested Magnitsky.

Browder’s report picked up on Magnitsky’s efforts, showing luxury houses and expensive cars allegedly owned by the officials Magnitsky had fingered.  It also showed how Magnitsky was brutally beaten in prison. A video made in prison showed a healthy-looking Magnitsky carrying two suitcases   — two hours later he was dead.

Russian officials declined to comment on Browder’s report.  The whole incident has put a chill on relations between the Russia and the U.S., which has banned entry of some 60 Russian officials associated with the case.

Sweep to New report claims torture 

Former Philippine president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. / reuters

In the Philippines, former President Gloria Arroyo is facing corruption charges that could result in her getting a life term in prison. Her husband, Miguel, is facing separate charges over selling overpriced aircraft to the country’s national police.

Against this backdrop, the current president Benigno S. Aquino III, says he wants to lead an anti-corruption campaign and will submit a national budget that “thrives in daylight.”

That is going to be a challenge. In the Philippines, government infrastructure projects have long provided a slush fund of cash for those with sticky fingers who see massive federal spending as a way to line their own pockets.  It is considered a rule-of-thumb that 30 percent of government projects get skimmed off to corrupt officials.

There’s even been inflation in greed – it used to be that 10 percent of government projects disappeared into the hands of the well-connected.  This skimming also left the country with  government projects that were poorly made and of minimal quality.

President Aquino attempted to send a tough message by going after Mrs. Arroyo and her husband. Those are only two people, however.  Even tougher will be going after the politicians, bureaucrats and contractors who benefited from these payments and built their own infrastructure of greed.

 Sweep to Aquino’s drive v. corruption

Diana Jean Schemo

Diana Jean Schemo

Diana Jean Schemo is co-founding executive editor of 100Reporters and an award-winning former foreign, national and cultural correspondent for The New York Times and the Baltimore Sun.

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