NEW YORK: Eleven years after letting Jeffrey Epstein off lightly with a secret deal, federal prosecutors made another run at putting the billionaire financier behind bars on sex charges, accusing him Monday of abusing dozens of underage girls as young as 14.The 66-year-old hedge fund manager who once socialized with some of the world’s most powerful people was charged in a newly unsealed indictment with sex trafficking and conspiracy and could get up to 45 years in prison.Prosecutors said the evidence included a “vast trove” of hundreds or even thousands of lewd photographs of young women or girls, discovered in a search of his New York mansion.Epstein, who was arrested over the weekend as he arrived in the US from Paris aboard his private jet, was brought into court Monday in a blue jail uniform, his hair disheveled, and pleaded not guilty. His lawyers argued that the matter had been settled a decade ago with a plea agreement in Florida involving similar allegations.“This is ancient stuff,” Epstein attorney Reid Weingarten said in court, calling the case essentially a “redo” by the government.The defendant was ordered jailed for a bail hearing next Monday, when prosecutors plan to argue that the rich world traveler might flee if released.Epstein was accused of paying underage girls hundreds of dollars in cash for massages and then molesting them at his homes in Florida and New York from 2002 through 2005.He “intentionally sought out minors and knew that many of his victims were in fact under the age of 18,” prosecutors said. He also allegedly paid some of his victims to recruit additional girls.“In this way, Epstein created a vast network of underage victims for him to sexually exploit in locations including New York and Palm Beach,” prosecutors said.US Attorney Geoffrey Berman of New York said that the non-prosecution agreement that spared Epstein from a heavy prison sentence a decade ago is binding only on federal prosecutors in Florida, where the deal was made, not on authorities in New York.“While the charged conduct is from a number of years ago, it is still profoundly important to the many alleged victims — now young women,” Berman said. “They deserve their day in court. We are proud to be standing up for them by bringing this indictment.”Assistant US Attorney Alex Rossmiller said that while there is some overlap between the Florida and New York cases, one of the counts against Epstein is based entirely on New York victims.Federal authorities said new accusers have come forward since Epstein’s arrest, and they urged other possible victims to contact the FBI.Some of Epstein’s accusers welcomed the indictment.“The news of my abuser’s arrest today is a step in the right direction to finally hold Epstein accountable for his crimes and restore my faith that power and money can’t triumph over justice,” Sarah Ransome said through her lawyer.Prosecutors in New York are seeking the forfeiture of Epstein’s mansion, a seven-story, 21,000-square-foot townhouse less than a block from Central Park. The home, formerly a prep school, is across the street from a home owned by Bill Cosby and has been valued at approximately $77 million.Epstein, who is unmarried and whose friends have included President Donald Trump, former President Bill Clinton and Britain’s Prince Andrew, was arrested Saturday at an airport in New Jersey, just outside New York City. Prosecutors said they would oppose his release on bail.“He has enormous wealth. The charges are very serious and carry with them a maximum sentence of 45 years, which to someone of Epstein’s age is basically a life sentence,” Berman said, “so we think he has every incentive to try and flee the jurisdiction.”Epstein’s arrest came amid increased #MeToo-era scrutiny of the 2008 non-prosecution agreement that allowed Epstein to maintain his jet-set lifestyle that includes a Bentley and homes in Paris and the US Virgin Islands, where he owns an island.Under the once-secret deal — overseen by Alexander Acosta, who was the US attorney in Miami at the time and is now Trump’s labor secretary — Epstein pleaded guilty to state charges of soliciting a minor for prostitution. He avoided a possible life sentence and served 13 months in jail, during which he was allowed out to go to his office during the day.The deal also required that he reach financial settlements with dozens of his alleged victims and register as a sex offender.Acosta has defended the agreement as appropriate, though the White House said in February that it was looking into his handling of the case.The new charges were brought by the public corruption unit within the US attorney’s office in New York, which normally handles cases against politicians. Berman would not comment on why that was so and cautioned against reading anything into it.Attorney General William Barr declined to comment on Epstein’s case and would not say offer an opinion whether federal prosecutors mishandled it initially, saying he has recused himself from the matter.According to court records in Florida, authorities say at least 40 underage girls were brought into Epstein’s Palm Beach mansion for sexual encounters after being recruited around the world.Some of Epstein’s alleged victims have accused Prince Andrew and former Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz with taking part in Epstein’s sex ring. Buckingham Palace has vehemently denied any involvement by Andrew, and Dershowitz has accused the victims of lying about him.The non-prosecution agreement, examined in detail in a series of stories in The Miami Herald, is being challenged in federal court in Florida. A federal judge ruled earlier this year that Epstein’s victims should have been consulted under the law about the agreement, and he is now weighing whether to invalidate it.Federal prosecutors recently filed court papers in the Florida case contending the deal must stand.“The past cannot be undone; the government committed itself to the NPA, and the parties have not disputed that Epstein complied with its provisions,” prosecutors wrote.
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MANILA: The Philippines and India have agreed to boost defense and security cooperation following talks between President Rodrigo Duterte and his Indian counterpart Ram Nath Kovind on Friday.Kovind is in Manila as part of a five-day official visit to the Philippines that began on Thursday.In a joint statement, Duterte said he and Kovind have committed…
MANILA: The Philippines and India have agreed to boost defense and security cooperation following talks between President Rodrigo Duterte and his Indian counterpart Ram Nath Kovind on Friday.Kovind is in Manila as part of a five-day official visit to the Philippines that began on Thursday.In a joint statement, Duterte said he and Kovind have committed to building a “partnership” between the Philippines and India “that enables us to face challenges to our hard-won progress, jointly and effectively.”As Duterte welcomed India’s role in his country’s defense capability upgrade program, against the backdrop of growing security cooperation, he said they have agreed “to continue working together to fight terrorism and violent extremism and other transboundary threats.”Kovind said “both of our countries have been victims of terrorism,” and the two leaders “committed to work closely to defeat and eliminate terrorism in all its formsand manifestations.”He added: “As two vibrant democracies that believe in a rules-based international order, respect for international law and sovereign equality of nations, the Philippines and India are natural partners in the pursuit of their respective national development and security objectives.”The two leaders also agreed to strengthen maritime security ties.“As countries strategically located in the Pacific and Indian oceans, we affirmed our shared interest to protect our maritime commons and advance the rule of law in our maritime domains,” Duterte said.
Indian President Ram Nath Kovind said ‘both of our countries have been victims of terrorism,’ and the two leaders ‘committed to work closely to defeat and eliminate terrorism in all its forms and manifestations.’
He added that they also discussed “the most pressing concerns of our region and beyond, such as maritime security and economic integration.”Following their meeting, they witnessed the signing of maritime, tourism, science, technology and cultural agreements.Among them was a memorandum of understanding between the Philippine Coast Guard and the Indian Navy to enhance maritime security by sharing information on nonmilitary and nongovernment shipping vessels between the two countries.“With the signing of bilateral agreements, we have likewise widened the path toward enhancement of our engagement in maritime security, science and technology, tourism and cultural cooperation,” Duterte said.“We hope to look back on this day as a milestone in our relations, the day when we set out to turn promise into reality, and potential into concrete benefits that bring the greatest positive impact on the lives of our peoples.”
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SYDNEY: An Iraqi man has been charged in Australia with people trafficking in connection with the drowning deaths of more than 350 asylum seekers in 2001, police said Saturday.Maythem Radhi, 43, was arrested at Brisbane airport late Friday after being extradited from New Zealand and has been charged with “organising groups of non-citizens into Australia”.He…
SYDNEY: An Iraqi man has been charged in Australia with people trafficking in connection with the drowning deaths of more than 350 asylum seekers in 2001, police said Saturday.Maythem Radhi, 43, was arrested at Brisbane airport late Friday after being extradited from New Zealand and has been charged with “organising groups of non-citizens into Australia”.He faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted.Police claim he was part of a syndicate that charged 421 mostly Iraqi and Afghan refugees for a place aboard an Indonesian fishing boat known by Australian authorities as SIEV-X in 2001.The vessel sunk in the Indian Ocean while en route to Australia’s Christmas Island, leaving 353 people dead, 146 of them children.”Police will allege in court that the man, then aged 24, took payments from the passengers,” the Australian Federal Police said in a statement on Saturday — exactly 18 years after the disaster.”It will also be alleged that he helped facilitate the transportation and accommodation of people in Indonesia in preparation for their journey to Australia,” they added.Radhi is the third person to face court for their role in the disaster.Iraqi people smuggler Khaleed Shnayf Daoed was extradited from Sweden to Australia in 2003 and received a nine-year sentence two years later, with prosecutors portraying the then 36-year-old as a key organiser for Egyptian people smuggler Abu Quassey.Quassey was convicted in Egypt in December 2003 of causing death through negligence and was sentenced to seven years in prison.Radhi is expected to appear in court later this month.
Republican stalwart Rooney ‘thinking’ about impeachment
WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump gave an atta-boy to Republican Rep. Francis Rooney last year on the congressman’s home turf in swing state Florida.“I love it when he defends me,” the president said then. He might feel differently now.The second-term Republican said publicly Friday what others in his party are not, namely that acting White House…
WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump gave an atta-boy to Republican Rep. Francis Rooney last year on the congressman’s home turf in swing state Florida.“I love it when he defends me,” the president said then. He might feel differently now.The second-term Republican said publicly Friday what others in his party are not, namely that acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney acknowledged a quid pro quo was at work when Trump held up US aid to Ukraine in exchange for Kyiv’s investigation of Democrats and the 2016 elections. Mulvaney later claimed his comments had been misconstrued, but Rooney said he and other Republicans heard them clearly.“He said there’s a quid pro quo,” Rooney said of Mulvaney during a telephone interview. “I just don’t think that the power and prestige of our country is supposed to be used for political things.”Asked whether he thinks Trump’s conduct is impeachable, Rooney replied, “I’m still thinking about it.”Anything short of a “no” on that question, even from only one of 197 Republicans in the House, is notable amid the drive by majority Democrats to impeach Trump. The president has made clear that he does more than notice what he considers acts of disloyalty; he is fond of making examples of Republicans by threatening to sink their re-election bids and following through in a few cases.Friday night, Trump tweeted, “REPUBLICANS MUST STICK TOGETHER AND FIGHT!” That tweet was accompanied by a video targeting Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, who has been critical of Trump’s handling of Turkey’s assault on Syrian Kurds.When Rep. Justin Amash of politically critical Michigan became the first House Republican to call for Trump’s impeachment earlier this year — and quit the party — the backlash from Trump’s orbit was swift.But that was before revelations about Trump’s pressure on Ukraine, which made his impeachment by the end of the year a real possibility. Since the release of a rough transcript of Trump’s call with Ukraine’s president, many current and former administration officials have testified before House impeachment investigators.Then Mulvaney spoke on Thursday. Rooney said in a telephone interview that the chief of staff’s comments marked a turning point for him from giving the president “the benefit of the doubt.” And he said GOP colleagues are newly troubled.“They were all going around saying what the president said — that there wasn’t a quid pro quo,” Rooney said. “There were a lot of Republicans looking at that headline yesterday. I think people were concerned about it.”Rooney said he had not received any blowback from the White House for his comments, though about half of the calls he’s getting are from constituents who are critical, including “some pretty hostile” ones from ardent Trump supporters.Only a year ago, at a presidential rally in Estero, Trump praised Rooney as “a man who’s so great to me on television. This guy is special. He was a great businessman. Now he’s a great congressman, Francis Rooney.”He went on: “I love him when he defends me. He’s brutal. He gets the job done, right, Francis? Thank you, man.”Rooney, 65, is a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee, a solid member of the Republican establishment. Among the wealthiest members of the House, he won his second term last year with 62 percent of the vote. His foreign policy bona fides come in part from his service as ambassador to the Holy See under President George W. Bush.His official biography tells the story of his longtime connection to the GOP. In 1984, the family started Rooney Holdings Inc. One of the company’s subsidiaries counts among its projects the presidential libraries for both Bush and his father, George H. W. Bush, the Dallas Cowboys and Houston Texans football stadiums, the US Capitol Visitor’s Center, the Walter Reed Army Institute for Research and the international terminal at Hartsfield-Jackson Airport in Atlanta.Rooney has at times been a Trump critic. He was one of 13 House Republicans to join a Democratic effort early this year to stop the president from declaring a national emergency to fund his border wall with Mexico.On Friday, Rooney was no longer one of Trump’s defenders, on television or elsewhere.“Whatever may have been gray and unclear before is certainly clear now,” he said on CNN.