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Int’l crime gangs amass “˜staggering” profits in conflict zones

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UNITED NATIONS: International crime gangs generate around $31.5 billion in illicit profits from conflict zones alone, thus becoming a threat to international peace and security, T. Reitano, Deputy Director of the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime, told the UN Security Council.
Ms. Reitano’s address today was delivered as part of the annual briefing by UN Peacekeeping operations, led by Alexander Zuev, Assistant Secretary-General for the Rule of Law, at the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) and included presentations from UN Police Commissioners, on the work being carried out by Missions in South Sudan, the  Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Haiti.  Zuev said that the growing risks associated with organized crime – which he described as striking “at the heart of the  United Nations’ core business”, have been recognized at the highest levels of the UN, including by Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.  The link between conflict areas and organized crime was described by Ms. Reitano as undeniable: she added that the scale  of money being illicitly generated by organized crime in these areas is “staggering.”
This phenomenon, said Ms. Reitano, is actually sustaining conflicts worldwide, with illegal exploitation and taxation of gold,  oil and other natural resources overtaking traditional “threat finance” sectors, such as kidnapping for ransom and drug trafficking. The actual combatants in conflict zones only receive a small fraction of illicit funds: “By far the larger share of the 31.5 billion dollars goes to political actors at all levels, and associated transnational criminal networks. These, therefore, are the main beneficiaries from instability, violence and lack of state capacity for enforcement, and who thus retain an interested in the perpetuation of conflict… Where crime thrives, there can be no sustainable peace.”
Awale Abdounasir, UN Police Commissioner for the UN stabilization mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) known by its French acronym, MONUSCO, – also addressed the Security Council during the annual briefing session. He explained that the police component of the Mission is assisting the DRC Government in combating organized crime by armed groups, with a mandate to work closely with the national Congolese police force to develop strategies for prevention, as well as the frontline fight. Abdounasir went on to say that governments of countries weakened by crises too often look to a military solution fighting crime syndicates, whereas strengthening of the judicial system by making it more transparent and rigorous would be a more appropriate strategy.
Ms. Reitano noted that UN police units are not sufficiently integrated with other areas of UN Missions, including political functions and other peacekeeping activities, and are significantly under-resourced. Even if peace operations do not actively fight crime, she said, they need to be crime-sensitive: “the way in which criminal actors have become embedded in conflict zones suggests that policing must be a strategic consideration at all stages of a mission’s planning and deployment.”
She warned the Security Council that recent analysis carried out by partner organizations, including the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime and INTERPOL, shows links between illicit trafficking routes in conflict zones – in Africa, Asia, the Middle East, and the Americas – and international terrorism, and concluded by stating the UN System needs a coherent, streamlined and strategic approach to addressing organized crime. The Security Council briefing took place during the 2018 UN Police Week, from November 5 to 9, when UN Peacekeeping Operations and Special Political Missions come to New York to discuss strategic police priorities.

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Student groups clash in QAU

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ISLAMABAD: Two student groups clashed in Quaid e Azam University (QAU) here on Tuesday however, later due to efforts of the city administration the situation was brought under control.
According to official sources, Deputy Commissioner and Senior Superintendent Police reached the site and controlled the situation.
In a tweet, the Deputy Commissioner said, “Negotiations are going on. It’s unfortunate to see that few mischief mongers have disturbed entire university.”

 

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NAB approves 13 inquiries

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Misuse of authority by CAA and PIA officials

ISLAMABAD: An Executive Board meeting of National Accountability Bureau (NAB) chaired by Chairman NAB Justice
Javed Iqbal Tuesday accorded approval to conduct 13 inquiries against ministers and officials. The board approved inquiries against the former federal minister for Housing and Works Akram Khan Durrani,
other officers/ officials, Nisar Ahmed Khoro , former provincial food minister Sindh,officers/ officials of Food Department Sindh, Dr Azam Hussain, former Vice-Chancellor Peoples University of Medical and Health Services, Shaheed Benazirabad,Emad Shah Bukhari, Messers Avenue Ventures, SMC Pvt Limited, officers/ officials of CDA, Nepra Power Plants Pvt limited, public power generation companies, Central Power Generation Agency,officers/officials of NTDC, Messers Shahzada Security Company , Tehkal, Peshawar and others,officers of
a Tourism Corporation Department, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, officers of Revenue department and National Highway Authority, sub-engineer provincial subdivision, Khairpur, Syed Yasin Shah, contractor Agha Muhammad Pathan, and others, contractors and officers of Mepco are also included.
The EBM accorded approval to conduct five investigations against various persons including Senator Robina Khalid, management of Messrs Cosmos Production, Pvt ,Limited,Dr Akhtar Baloch, Vice Chancellor Shaheed Benazirabad Bhutto University Liyari,Karachi, Asim Murtaza Khan, Managing Director Pakistan Petroleum Limited , Hidayatullah Pirzada, former chairman Board of Directors Pakistan Petroleum Limited, Abdul Wahid General Manager Business Development , Rahat Hussain , chief economist Pakistan Petroleum Limited and others,officers of Revenue Department and National Highway Authority, Govt contractor Sardar Ashraf Baloch and others, Abdul Haleem Piracha, former DG of Civil Provincial Housing Authority, Javed Ahmed,Zakiullah, former secretary Housing and others.
Investigations against aforementioned have been referred to chief secretary KP for further action and probe. EBM decided to send investigations against the Civil Aviation Authority to the relevant department for further action as per law. The investigation against former MS Nishter Hospital to chief secretary Punjab and inquiry against officers of Karachi Port Trust to the relevant department for further investigations.
The EBM accorded approval filing two corruption references against former federal minister Arbab Alamgir Khan and Asma Alamgir Khan, former advisor to Prime Minister. They have been accused of having assets unmatched to their income.
The EBM approved filing corruption reference against Dr Ehsan Ali Vice Chancellor Abdul Wali Khan University for abuse of authority and illegal appointments and granting foreign scholarships to favorites causing Rs 483.76 million losses to the national kitty.
The EBM approved closing inquiries against former professor/ head of department cardiothrosic surgery,
Sheikh Zaid Hospital, Lahore Dr. Ajmal Hussat Naqvi, sister Incharge of cardiotherisic surgery department Zahida Majid and others, Director and guarantors of Messers Gia Textile Pvt, Faisalabad.
Dr. Javed said that NAB’s topmost priority was to eliminate corruption from the country by holding everybody accountable and NAB was pursuing accountability policy in true spirit. NAB was trying utmost to purge country from corruption. He directed to conclude corruption cases within prescribed timeframe and other corruption cases should be referred to the anti-corruption establishment.
NAB only believed in uninterrupted work. He also directed NAB officers to take logical conclusion to inquiries, investigations and complaint verifications in light of evidence.

 

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Wildlife: Eel trafficking in the EU!

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PARIS: Billions of euros worth of critically endangered eels are being trafficked each year from Europe, ending up on tables in China and Japan in what campaigners say is “the largest wildlife crime on Earth.”
Stocks of European eel (Anguilla Anguilla) have plummeted 90 percent in three decades as mankind has developed the wetlands and dammed the rivers it needs to grow and feed in, and experts fear criminal gangs smuggling the lucrative fish are pushing it towards oblivion.
Despite growing alarm from conservationists, hundreds of tonnes of eels are still legally and illegally fished each year. In France – which catches more of the fish than any other EU state — the issue has taken on political dimensions.
“There’s around 10 percent of stocks left compared to 30 years ago due to habitat loss and what we’ve done to the migration pathways in Europe,” Andrew Kerr, chairman of the Sustainable Eel Group (SEG) that works to conserve the species, told the Media.
The eel’s vertiginous decline has provoked some action from governments and law enforcement agencies. It is now listed in the CITES international convention on trade in endangered species, resulting in strict national catch quotas.
The problem, according to Michel Vignaud, head of fishing regulation at France’s National Biodiversity Agency, is exploding Asian demand for a product viewed as both a delicacy and an aphrodisiac.
“We cannot legally export eels outside the EU, but the prices are different in Asia. There is a real Asian demand for eel,” he told the Media. 
The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization said that in 2016 China produced close to a quarter of a million tonnes of eel for consumption, far ahead of Japan – where eating eel is seen as bringing good luck and fertility – and the EU.
The bloc’s law enforcement agency EUROPOL estimates as many as 100 tonnes of baby eels – known as glass eels for their translucent skin – are trafficked abroad each year: equivalent to around 350 million fish.
“Glass eels trafficking involves environmental crime, smuggling, document fraud, tax evasion, and money laundering,” a spokesman told the Media.
The live eels are largely caught – legally or otherwise – in Western Europe before being smuggled eastwards in vans or lorries, often falsely labeled as non-endangered fish, police, and conservationists say.
Criminal gangs then divide the eels into suitcases, up to 50,000 of the tiny fish per bag, which are then flown by commercial airliner to Asia.
The fish are grown in special farms to their full size – up to a meter and a half – and then sold to market for the equivalent of 10 euros each.
“Prices vary so you can only come up with bracket figures, but we’re talking billions (of euros). It’s the biggest wildlife crime by value on Earth,” said Kerr. “It’s the most trafficked and traveled animal on the planet.”
The European eel’s extraordinary life-cycle begins in the topaz waters of the Sargasso Sea. The eggs drift on the current across the Atlantic, often taking up to two years to reach the feeding grounds of Europe.
The baby eels swim up rivers where they live for up to 25 years, feeding on larvae and worms until fully grown before embarking on the 4,000-mile (6,500-kilometre) journey back home to the Caribbean, where they breed and finally die.
But they are under threat from a host of manmade dangers, including illegal fishing, pollution, and the estimated 1.3 million river barriers blocking their path across Europe.
“Our hope is that any eels still alive are left alone by humans,” said Charlotte Nithart, head of the Robin des Bois conservation group.
She said that France’s current legal eel quota – 60 tonnes per year, of which 60 percent must go to restocking efforts — was contributing to the species’ decline.
“We have never said that trafficking alone is responsible for the disappearance of eels,” she said.
“We want to cancel or at least dramatically reduce fishing quotas and reinforce the means to fight to traffic.”
For Guillaume de Preillec, who represents the local fishing committee in Brittany, quotas are “justified” for those whose livelihoods depend on the eel fishing season, which began across France last week.
“If you are in commercial fishing people tell you that when you fish more you earn more. So the fishermen always want more,” he said.
As the numbers of fish arriving on Europe’s shores goes down, smugglers are taking greater risks to sate voracious Asian demand.
“Trying to control the traffickers is getting more dangerous. These are people who operate on the sidelines of mass organized crime,” said Vignaud.
EUROPOL has scored a number of major hauls in recent years, including Spanish police busting an eel-smuggling gang in possession of 350 kilograms of glass eels in April.
But despite such seizures and a handful of ongoing trials, campaigners say the penalties remain flimsy compared with those for other trafficking crimes.
“EUROPOL can act on the level of customs but there’s not a European intervention force to fight trafficking and traffickers,” said Nithart.
Eels are mentioned in England’s 11th-century Domesday Book and used to be an accepted tax payment in medieval times.
But as mass trafficking continues to undermine EU-wide efforts to save the threatened species, there are fears for the future of one of the world’s most storied fish.
“One of the sad things about today, in general, is how human beings are losing touch with nature, and the eel really symbolizes this,” said Kerr.

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