DCR 10 - International

Posted by M. Moosa Soomro Thursday, September 10, 2009

Hanging on
The New York Times (Opinion, TI mention)

International: British property developer claims police protection after Sydney murder
The Guardian

Afghanistan:Afghan election officials 'corrupt'
The Telegraph

Burundi: Graft costs Burundi $30 mln in six months: NGO
Agence France-Presse

Taiwan: Taiwan's Chen awaits verdict in corruption trial
Associated Press

Turkey: Turkish media group Dogan shares rebound on deal hopes

USA: Records: Martinez aide intervened in dispute between Pentagon, GOP fundraiser
The Miami Herald


International: Hanging on
The New York Times (Opinion, TI mention)


Op-Ed Contributor
Hanging On
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Published: September 9, 2009

NEW YORK — Among the heads of state expected to descend on New York City for the United Nations General Assembly this autumn is an elite subset of their ranks — leaders distinguished by unparalleled longevity in office and general intolerance for dissent.

Muammar el-Qaddafi will have the privilege of speaking at the opening session. It was 40 years ago this month that Qaddafi, then a young army captain, led a coup against King Idris of Libya. Now 67, Qaddafi came to power during the first term of Richard Nixon.

Later that same afternoon, Equatorial Guinea’s President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, in charge since the administration of Jimmy Carter (and two days older than Qaddafi), will address the General Assembly. Obiang seized control in 1979 after deposing and executing Francisco Macias Nguema.

The exceptional staying power of Qaddafi and Obiang is a political curiosity, but comes at a steep price. Despite enormous windfalls from abundant natural energy resources, both Libya and Equatorial Guinea remain deeply impoverished. And after decades of erratic rule, key institutions — to the extent that they operate at all — are largely incapable of meeting ordinary people’s needs.

These two are hardly atypical: The leadership longevity list includes some of the world’s most ruthless and ossified governments. In Cuba, the Castro brothers have held power for four decades, and counting. In Venezuela, President Hugo Chávez has held power now for “only” 10 years. This decade may just be a warm up: In February, Chávez engineered a referendum victory to abolish term limits.

The former Soviet Union is well represented on the list, including the likes of Azerbaijan, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. In Africa, Libya and Equatorial Guinea are part of a large group that also includes Egypt, Angola, Cameroon and Sudan.

Although none of these countries are formally monarchies, some of them feature dynasties in the making. Azerbaijan and Syria, for example, have already undergone father-to-son transfers of power, and others, including Egypt and Libya, are signaling similar successions.

Despite differences in political tradition, culture and history, all of these countries today share at least two critical common features: heavy restrictions on political expression and participation. The bottom line in these settings is political influence, and the economic benefit that accompanies it remains within a well defined circle. Those who challenge the status quo find themselves in jail or worse.

A particularly bleak picture emerges when leader-for-life regimes are placed alongside their respective rankings for media freedom (using data from Freedom House) and corruption (from Transparency International’s annual Corruption Perceptions Index).

Of 20 countries fitting the leader-for-life mold, all are designated as Not Free in Freedom House’s annual media freedom survey. Egypt, whose 81-year-old president, Hosni Mubarak, is serving his fifth six-year term, looks the best of a group of dreadfully poor performers. It ranks 128th out of 195 countries on media freedom.

The story is similarly grim for corruption, where virtually all of these countries are in the bottom quarter of the 180 countries reviewed by Transparency International.

While some argue that the authoritarian leader-for-life model — with its tight control over politics, economic life, and news and information — can deliver stability, there is a significant cost. Scholars and policymakers have long understood the relationship between free and independent news media and reduced levels of corruption, greater governmental effectiveness, stronger rule of law and generally better development results.

Early on in his rule, Robert Mugabe was considered by some as a case study for “strong-handed” leadership that, the thinking went, could deliver benefits for ordinary Zimbabweans. Three decades later, Mugabe has driven Zimbabwe into abject poverty and misery.

Similar strongman arguments are made today in Russia’s case, where Vladimir Putin has pursued a “dictatorship of law” while putting in place the building blocks to remain paramount leader indefinitely. Putin choreographed a handoff of the presidency last year to Dmitry Medvedev, through which Putin, as prime minister, continues to wield enormous influence. There is widespread speculation that Putin may next return to the presidency. In the meantime, Russia’s governance leaves a great deal to be desired.

The refusal of these regimes to allow the emergence of authentic political alternatives and independent watchdogs means that official mismanagement goes unchecked.

At the same time, competing ideas that could help improve government policies and the lives of ordinary people are suppressed. Whatever stability exists in these settings all too often entails grinding poverty for most citizens and a dependence on the dubious management skills of aging autocrats.

Christopher Walker is director of studies at Freedom House.

International: British property developer claims police protection after Sydney murder
The Guardian


British property developer claims police protection after Sydney murder

guardian.co.uk, Wednesday 9 September 2009 22.41 BST
Article history

A British property developer said tonight he has been placed under British police protection after fears that he could be targeted by the unknown killers who shot dead a Sydney businessman last week in a case that has gripped Australia.

Mark Burby's claims add fresh intrigue to a convoluted tale that already takes in the fabulously wealthy royal family of Brunei, alleged political corruption and a jewel-encrusted Qur'an supposedly obtained from a former KGB agent.

Burby, a Jersey-based entrepreneur, previously best known for winning a £50m legal case against a company owned by relatives of the Sultan of Brunei, said he had received threats from people whose identities he could not reveal, in phone calls and emails. Jersey police and Scotland Yard were treating the matter seriously and providing protection, he said.

Burby said he was worried because he had access to "delicate" information which had also been known to Michael McGurk, a Scottish-born property developer shot dead in front of his 10-year-old son last Thursday evening. McGurk had been embroiled in separate legal action against the Sultan of Brunei over a matchbox-sized Qu'ran in a jewelled case.

There is no suggestion that the Brunei royal family, who rule the tiny, oil-producing nation on the northern tip of Borneo in south-east Asia, played any role in the businessman's death or are linked to the threats against Burby.

McGurk, 48, who was alleged to have underworld connections and was facing charges relating to an alleged firebombing, was shot as he sat in his Mercedes in the drive of the family's mansion in Cremorne, north Sydney. He had told several people he had an audio tape that implicated New South Wales state ministers in corrupt land deals and someone was trying to kill him because of it.

Burby, 43, said he was convinced his connections to McGurk put him at risk, and that the UK police believed this was the case. "I have been receiving threats, and within them has been a definite inference that the same thing could happen to me as happened to Michael," he said. "I showed an email to the police and they have been fantastic, especially considering the information I gave them sounds like something out of a Tom Clancy novel. It took them less than 20 minutes, having seen some corroborating information, to realise this was a serious situation."

Both the Jersey police and Scotland Yard said they were unable to comment.

Burby's dispute with the Brunei royal family came after the sultan's cousin and sister-in-law promised to invest in a tea and coffee retail chain. Burby claimed the money failed to materialise, and won damages in 2005 of nearly £50m, which he has since sought unsuccessfully to recoup.

McGurk failed in his attempt to sue the Sultan of Brunei for allegedly reneging on the purchase of the tiny £5m Qur'an, which he said had been obtained from a former KGB agent and was to be a gift for the sultan's third wife. In Australia, the shock of McGurk's murder – for which police have yet to identify any suspects – has been compounded by the claims about political corruption.

The Labour premier of New South Wales, Nathan Rees, agreed to launch a parliamentary inquiry into allegations arising from the case that planning approval was improperly given to people associated with McGurk.

McGurk, who arrived in Australia in his early 20s, reportedly made a habit of learning "interesting things" about associates to use when deals soured. After his death it emerged that three months ago he had played his supposedly incriminating audio tape to a Labour former federal cabinet minister turned PR executive, Graham Richardson, concerning one of his clients

Although Richardson claimed the tape was inaudible at a crucial section, police have passed the matter to the independent commission against corruption.

Afghanistan:Afghan election officials 'corrupt'
The Telegraph


Afghan election officials 'corrupt'
Afghan electoral officials are corrupt and working to keep Hamid Karzai in power, the leading opposition candidate in the presidential elections has said.

By Ben Farmer in Kabul
Published: 3:36PM BST 10 Sep 2009

Abdullah Abdullah said the Independent Election Commission (IEC) was helping to rig the ballot for the incumbent and such a fraudulent vote would lead to instability.

He outspoken remarks came as a United Nations-backed election complaints watchdog ordered results from 83 polling stations to be cast out because of vote rigging.

Preliminary results from the August 20 poll show it is a near mathematical certainty Hamid Karzai has crossed the 50 per cent threshold needed for first round victory, unless large numbers of his votes are annulled for fraud.

The Karzai-appointed IEC has been accused of failing to vet votes for blatant rigging.

Dr Abdullah said: "It's not independent at all. It's on President Karzai's side. It has been corrupt, and their malpractice is now widespread.

"It's not for the good of the country that somebody who commits massive fraud rules the country for five years," he told the BBC.

Mr Karzai has 54.1 per cent of votes counted and Dr Abdullah 28.3 per cent after nearly 92 per cent of polling stations were tallied.

Pre election polls suggested Mr Karzai was the favourite, but the scale of his lead has caused widespread suspicion.

Full preliminary results are expected on Saturday.

The scale of fraud and Dr Abdullah's uncompromising stance has alarmed the international community which sees a credible poll as key to making progress in Afghanistan.

The Electoral Complaints Commission is sifting through 2,800 complaints about rigging and issued its first orders to throw out results in Kandahar, Paktika and Ghazni provinces.

It has already called for recounts where suspiciously high numbers of voters turned out.

Opponents have complained intimidation, ballot-box stuffing and "ghost" polling stations have delivered huge numbers of votes for the president.

A US election monitoring group said "large numbers of polling stations" had more than 100 per cent turnout.

The National Democratic Institute said it would be "impossible to determine the will of the Afghan people," unless rigging complaints were investigated.

Burundi: Graft costs Burundi $30 mln in six months: NGO
Agence France-Presse


Graft costs Burundi $30 mln in six months: NGO

(AFP) – 16 hours ago

BUJUMBURA — Graft has become a "way of life" affecting all levels of government in Burundi and cost the country 30 million dollars (21 million euros) in the first six months of the year, a corruption watchdog said.

"In the first half alone (we) registered 1,634 cases of corruption and fraud and some ... 30 million dollars of state money siphoned off," Gabriel Rufyiri, the head of anti-graft non-governmental organisation Olucome, said in a press conference late Wednesday at the launch of his group's six-monthly report.

"Unfortunately those in charge of government do nothing to recover this money; on the contrary one gets the impression that corruption has become a way of life affecting all levels of government," Rufyiri said.

He gave the example of sugar imports, complaining that out of 5,920 tonnes of sugar imported in the first half, only 706 tonnes were recorded in customs documents "and no customs officials were investigated".

"We know who is guilty of fraud and we don't investigate them. I get the impression the fraud gets the blessing of the very people who are supposed to fight it," Rufyiri said.

He gave the example of the director of the state-owned real estate company and the finance ministry spokesman, sentenced respectively to 26 and 10 years in prison in January, but who are still in their jobs.

Rufyiri's deputy Ernest Manirumva was stabbed to death in April by unknown attackers who carried off some documents.

Olucome had revealed several cases of large-scale fraud ranging from the illegal sale of a presidential plane in 2006, overbilling of petroleum products that led to the firing of one finance minister, the flight into exile of a second one and the jailing of the head of the central bank.

Burundi's finances have been ruined by 13 years of civil war; some 70 percent of the population lives in poverty.

Taiwan: Taiwan's Chen awaits verdict in corruption trial
Associated Press


Taiwan's Chen awaits verdict in corruption trial

By PETER ENAV (AP) – 21 hours ago

TAIPEI, Taiwan — A Taiwan court will decide Friday if former President Chen Shui-bian is guilty of corruption, in a trial widely seen as a key test of the island's young democracy.

Chen, 58, is accused of embezzling $3.15 million during his 2000-2008 presidency from a special presidential fund, receiving bribes worth at least $9 million in connection with a government land deal, laundering some of the money through Swiss bank accounts, and forging documents.

If convicted, he could be sentenced to life imprisonment.

Chen has pleaded not guilty and claims he is being persecuted for his anti-China views by successor Ma Ying-jeou, a strong advocate of improved ties with Beijing.

Chen's legal travails have galvanized this island of 23 million people, which held its first direct presidential election in 1996, less than a decade after it began dismantling four-decades of strict, one-party rule.

Most Taiwanese are convinced Chen is guilty of at least some of the charges against him, though some of his supporters believe his political views have played a role in his prosecution and that he has been unfairly confined to jail during his trial.

Critics point to a decision to change the three-judge Taipei District Court panel trying Chen after it originally freed him on his own recognizance following his indictment last December. The new judges accepted the prosecutors' argument that he constituted a flight risk, and that if freed, he could collude with alleged co-conspirators.

Political scientist Hsu Yung-ming of Taipei's Soochow University said there were elements of retribution in Chen's treatment.

"Chen's case will serve as a warning for Ma and future leaders so that they may refrain from walking in his footsteps," he said. "At the same time, many question whether Chen is being punished because of political clash between him and the current administration."

Chen, Taiwan's first non-Nationalist Party leader since Chiang Kai-shek fled to the island after losing the Chinese civil war to Mao Zedong's Communists in 1949, rode to power in 2000 on a promise to clean up decades of Nationalist corruption and to deepen Taiwan's de facto independence.

But he quickly fell afoul of the Nationalists' majority in the legislature and his alleged tendency to play fast and loose with accepted procedures, including his lax management of a special presidential fund, meant to promote Taiwan's overseas interests.

Complicating matters was China's outright hostility, based on Chen's pro-independence views, and his tense relations with the United States, Taiwan's most important foreign partner.

Washington saw Chen's support for independence as raising the possibility of a war with Beijing, and pressured him to desist — with only limited success.

Chen's wife Wu Shu-chen, their son and several associates are standing trial with him.

Last week Wu was convicted on perjury charges and sentenced to a year in prison. She remains free on her own recognizance.

Turkey: Turkish media group Dogan shares rebound on deal hopes


Turkish media group Dogan shares rebound on deal hopes
Thu Sep 10, 2009 4:59am EDT

By Paul de Bendern

ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Shares in Turkey's top media group Dogan, locked in a long-running feud with the government, rebounded on Thursday after losing more than a third in value in the past two days due to a record $2.51 billion tax fine.

Critics of the government say Dogan Yayin is being unfairly punished because of its often harsh coverage of the government of Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, particularly over corruption allegations earlier this year. The government denies this.

The Finance Ministry fined Dogan Yayin 3.76 billion lira this week for unpaid taxes and penalties in what is the largest ever fine for a Turkish company.

Shares in Dogan Yayin, which owns top-selling newspaper Hurriyet (HURGZ.IS) and co-owns with Time Warner (TWX.N) broadcaster CNN Turk, rose 8.5 percent on Thursday after losses of 36 percent in the past two days.

Analysts said upbeat comments on Wednesday about the possibility of negotiating a settlement between the Finance Ministry and Dogan Yayin were encouraging investors.

It was the second major fine this year for Dogan Yayin, which controls more than half of the non-state media market and has been at odds in recent years with Erdogan over its coverage of the Islamist-rooted government.

Earlier this year Erdogan called on ruling AK Party members to boycott Dogan newspapers because of their coverage of the government.

International press groups have criticized the frequent statements by the prime minister against Dogan. The European Union, which Turkey hopes to join, has also raised concern.

Turkey's main opposition Republican People's Party on Wednesday accused the government of using the Finance Ministry's tax authority to punish a media group critical of the AK Party.

The government rejects the accusations, saying the Finance Ministry's tax authority is autonomous.

The fine roughly equals the $2.7 billion combined market value of the firm and its parent company, Dogan Holding (DOHOL.IS), raising concerns about the impact on the group's finances.

Senior government sources told Reuters on Wednesday that Dogan Yayin would need to raise collateral during the process.

"The stock was sold heavily yesterday. It opened with strong buying. It is very hard to reach a verdict. The collateral issue will be observed very closely, and the volatility in the stock may continue," said Tuncay Tursucu, head of research at Meksa Investment in Istanbul.

(Additional reporting by Birsen Altayli; Editing by Hans Peters)

USA: Records: Martinez aide intervened in dispute between Pentagon, GOP fundraiser
The Miami Herald


Records: Martinez aide intervened in dispute between Pentagon, GOP fundraiser
Records show that an aide to Sen. Mel Martinez urged the Pentagon to come to a `fair resolution' in its contract dispute with an oil company owned by GOP fundraiser Harry Sargeant III.
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Sen. Mel Martinez's office repeatedly intervened in a 2007 legal dispute between the Defense Department and a company owned by a top Republican fundraiser who is now at the center of a campaign-finance investigation, according to records obtained by The Miami Herald.

In a series of phone calls and e-mails, a Martinez aide urged Pentagon contract officers to seek a ``fair resolution'' to $14 million in contract claims sought by the International Oil Trading Co., a fuel-supply company co-owned by Harry Sargeant III of Boca Raton.

At one point, Pentagon officials told the senator's office it was ``not appropriate'' to discuss any settlements while the company's lawsuit was pending in court, records show.

As Martinez's staffer was lobbying the Pentagon, Sargeant and his wife donated $50,000 to the Republican National Committee -- then headed by Martinez. At the time, Sargeant was the finance chairman of the Republican Party of Florida.

Martinez, who will step down from his Senate seat next week, did not respond to several interview requests made through his press secretary.

In the past, he has said the RNC donations were unrelated to Sargeant's contract dispute.

Sargeant's company ultimately received $3.2 million from the Defense Department -- settling claims the Pentagon had initially denied entirely. The Pentagon says Martinez played no role in the settlement.


Sargeant gained notoriety last year as a fundraiser for Republican presidential candidate John McCain, whose campaign returned $50,000 in suspicious donations solicited by a Sargeant business partner. In February, an employee of a Sargeant company was indicted on federal charges of funneling illegal contributions to several candidates, including McCain and Florida Gov. Charlie Crist -- a college buddy of Sargeant's.

The employee, Ala'a al-Ali, is accused of using straw donors in California to steer about $55,000 in illegal contributions to candidates.

Ali, who worked for a Sargeant shipping company in the Dominican Republic, later repaid the donors, avoiding contribution limits, the indictment says.

A month before the indictment, Sargeant stepped down from his role with the Florida GOP. He did not respond to requests for comment.

Sargeant first sought help from Martinez -- a member of the Armed Services Committee -- in 2006, dispatching lobbyist and former Bush administration official Otto Reich to the senator's office after the Defense Department initially denied IOTC's claims for alleged contract violations.

IOTC is one of the top fuel suppliers to American forces in Iraq, earning more than $1.4 billion, records show. Following a congressional inquiry last year, U.S. Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., accused Sargeant's company of ``war profiteering'' and asked the Pentagon to investigate IOTC's contracts.

In an interview with The Miami Herald last year, Martinez said he offered only ``routine'' assistance to Sargeant's company. He said his office helped IOTC obtain information, but he did not try to sway the Pentagon's stance in the case.

``I do this for hundreds of people throughout the state of Florida,'' Martinez said last year.

But the e-mails -- obtained through a request under the Freedom of Information Act -- indicate that Martinez's office was more actively involved in the contract dispute than the senator has publicly acknowledged.

In a May 3, 2007, e-mail to a Pentagon official, Martinez aide John Goetchius said the senator ``wants to raise the level of attention in hope of expediting a fair resolution of these claims.''

A month earlier, Sargeant's company had filed a lawsuit in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, seeking $10.1 million for contract violations -- claims the Pentagon had previously denied.

In another e-mail, dated April 19, 2007, Goetchius -- an expert on military and foreign affairs -- asked how the company's claims could be settled quickly. ``Is there precedent for doing a batch resolution and rounding the numbers up or down and saving time?'' he asked.

Goetchius also transmitted questions from IOTC to the Pentagon, and parroted the company's legal arguments, the records show.

``IOTC still wants to avoid costly, time-consuming litigation,'' the senator's aide wrote in one message to the Pentagon. ``If IOTC had known what to expect, IOTC would have considered bidding at a higher price.''


Contract officers at the Defense Department responded carefully to Goetchius' queries. On two occasions, Pentagon aides refused to discuss details or a potential settlement with Martinez's aide, saying it was ``not appropriate'' to do so while IOTC's claims were pending in court, the e-mail records show.

``I just spoke to John Goetchius,'' one Pentagon staffer wrote to a colleague. ``He wants to avoid the perception of undue influence, but would like to sent [sic] the message that the parties should consider a settlement resolution.''

In September 2007, the Pentagon agreed to pay $3.2 million to settle two of IOTC's contract claims. The Pentagon agreed to the deal after IOTC provided more information to back up its damages claims, said Dennis Gauci, a Defense Department spokesman.

``It is not unusual for members of Congress or their staffs to inquire about issues involving their constituents,'' Gauci said. ``However, neither Senator Martinez nor any member of his staff was ever involved in the resolution process or settlement.''

IOTC also made a third claim demanding $3.8 million to cover the costs of fuel trucks destroyed or abandoned in combat. A military appeals board ruled last year that the Pentagon was not responsible for those losses. IOTC has not taken that claim to court.

Sargeant's company won two more Pentagon fuel contracts, earning a combined profit of $210 million through last year -- and drawing the scrutiny of congressional investigators, who concluded the company charged unreasonably high prices.

The company deploys a fleet of about 300 tankers shipping oil and fuel from Saudia Arabia to Jordan, where the fuel is trucked by convoy to Iraq. IOTC and a subsidiary won approval from the Jordanian government to ship across that country -- a specific requirement of the U.S. military.

Because of the company's agreement with Jordan, the Defense Department awarded the lucrative shipping contracts to IOTC even though its bid prices were more than 30 percent higher than its competitors' prices, congressional investigators found.

A rival contractor filed a federal lawsuit last year accusing IOTC of racketeering, saying the company made payoffs to the Jordanian government to effectively shut out competitors.

In court papers, lawyers for IOTC have called its competitor's claims ``slanderous,'' and said the lawsuit ``mischaracterizes legitimate payments made to the Jordanian government as bribes.''


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