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Mogul confesses to bribing Brazil’s president

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Mogul confesses to bribing Brazil's president

Brasilia, May 20 : An owner of Brazil-based global meat-packing giant JBS on Friday confessed that the group had paid bribes to Brazilian President Michel Temer since 2010.

Joesley Batista made the confession to prosecutors as part of plea-bargain testimony related to the scandal surrounding JBS, which has been investigated for alleged bribes paid to meat inspectors and purportedly irregular loans from state development bank BNDES to its holding company, J&F Investimentos.

The documents released by the nation’s highest court further ratchet up pressure on Temer, who was rocked earlier this week by allegations he encouraged the payment of hush money to a former top lawmaker — and potential government witness — convicted earlier this year of graft, Efe reported.

Supreme Court Justice Edson Fachin, who is overseeing cases related to the investigation of a $2 billion bribes-for-inflated-contracts scheme centered on state oil company Petrobras, on Thursday approved an investigation into Temer based on the totality of Batista’s confession.

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Joesley Batista

The most explosive evidence are audio tapes, which Batista secretly recorded during a meeting with the president in Brasilia in March.

On the tapes, the president can be heard apparently recommending that the JBS chairman maintain the flow of money to the former speaker of Brazil’s lower house, the imprisoned Eduardo Cunha, to buy his silence.

Cunha was convicted in March of offenses that included receiving bribes in connection with a contract Petrobras signed in the African nation of Benin.

On the tapes, released to the media, Batista says that he is looking to have his company receive favours from government ministries, that he is in contact with prosecutors who are informing him about investigations and that he is bribing Cunha to keep him from entering into a plea-bargain arrangement.

Temer, for his part, either murmurs apparent approval or simply listens without making any comment, behaviour that legal analysts have interpreted as explicit support for the unlawful actions.

The tapes have led to calls for Temer’s resignation, even from within the ruling coalition his Brazilian Democratic Movement Party (PMDB) leads, while the documents released on Friday by the Supreme Court could further damage the already highly unpopular president.

Temer could be removed from office by different means, including via an impeachment process or a separate one whereby the lower house votes to put him on trial before the Supreme Court.

In one document catalogued as “Attachment 9,” Batista said that between 2010 and 2011 he made monthly payments of 100,000 reais ($29,500 at the current exchange rate) in exchange for “favours” from the Agriculture Ministry.

He also said he would provide evidence to back up the allegations.

The allegations of obstruction of justice against Temer caused Brazil’s stock market to tumble on Thursday, with some analysts saying the president’s woes would make it difficult to continue his austerity drive, including an overhaul of Brazil’s pension system.

Temer, who has vehemently denied any wrongdoing and says he can guarantee the tapes provide no proof of guilt, took over the presidency last year when his predecessor, Dilma Rousseff, was forced to step aside and face an impeachment trial for allegedly violating budget laws.

Temer had been Rousseff’s vice president.

Rousseff, whose Workers’ Party (PT) had governed Brazil since 2003, was eventually ousted from office last year in what she termed a coup.

In the documents released by the Supreme Court, JBS executives also said they paid a total of $80 million to Rousseff and her political mentor and predecessor, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

The plea-bargain testimony indicates the illegal payments were made to facilitate the company’s access to loans from BNDES that date back to 2005.

Lula, who already is facing five corruption trials, including ones related to the Petrobras scheme, has denied any wrongdoing and previously said that anyone who attacks the integrity of BNDES has no idea of the seriousness of that institution.

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Kim, Moon creates history; declare new chapter in inter-Korean ties

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Image: Reuters

Seoul, April 27: The North and South Korea leaders on Friday created history by holding a summit that took place after a gap of over a decade and declared to kickstart a new chapter in the inter-Korean ties.

The summit started in the border village of Panmunjom after the leaders met for the first time at the Military Demarcation Line (MDL) inside the heavily fortified Demilitarized Zone, reports Yonhap News Agency.

“It is good to see you,” Kim said to Moon, waiting just south of the MDL for their first-ever face-off that was quickly followed by a handshake.

“I cannot stop my excitement as we meet here at such a historical place. Also, it is very moving that you, Mr. President, have come to Panmunjom, the demarcation line, to greet me,” the North Korean leader stated.

Kim Jong-un surprised many by inviting Moon to briefly cross the inter-Korean border to the North Korean side, which South Korean officials said was not pre-planned.

The talks started at 10.15 a.m., about 45 minutes after Kim crossed the MDL, becoming the first North Korean leader to do so since post 1950-53 Korean War.

“I say this before President Moon and many journalists here that I will hold good discussions with President Moon with a frank, sincere and honest attitude and make a good outcome,” Kim said at the start of the meeting, televised live.

The South Korean leader expressed his gratitude to Kim for agreeing to hold the summit.

“The moment Chairman Kim crossed the Military Demarcation Line, Panmunjom became a symbol of peace, not a symbol of division. I wish to again express my respect to Chairman Kim Jong-un’s decision that made today’s discussions possible,” he said.

The meeting came amid thawing ties this year that followed a height of tension between the North-South Korea.

Pyongyang staged around a dozen of missile tests since Moon became President in May 2017, while also conducting its sixth and most powerful nuclear test in September.

Today’s summit marked the third inter-Korean summit and the first to take place in South Korea.

“I wish for it to be a chance for us to walk forward hand-in-hand while looking toward the future with a determination, instead of (summit) outcomes like those in the past that could not be implemented,” he told Moon.

According to Yonhap News Agency, the two Koreas had agreed to denuclearise their countries and establish permanent peace on the Korean Peninsula in their two previous summits held in 2000 and 2007.

“The world’s eyes and ears are directed toward this place, Panmunjom. The expectations of the people of both the South and the North, as well as our overseas citizens, are also very high,” Moon said.

He further stated, “I wish our talks too will be held frankly, so we can reach an agreement and create a great present for our people and everyone else in the world who wishes for peace”.

Moon will also host a welcoming dinner later in the day for Kim and possibly his wife, Ri Sol-ju.

WeForNews 

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Facebook wary of more users’ data breaches in future

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Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg

San Francisco, April 27: Facebook has warned investors that more users’ data scandals in the future may adversely affect the social networking giant’s reputation and brand image.

In its quarterly report shared with the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), without mentioning Cambridge Analytica, Facebook said that its ongoing investments in safety, security, and content review will identify additional instances of misuse of user data.

“We may also be notified of such incidents or activity via the media or other third parties,” Facebook said on Thursday.

Appearing before the US Congress, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg told the lawmakers that his own personal data was part of 87 million users’ that was “improperly shared” with the British political consultancy firm.

The data was gathered via a quiz app, “thisisyourdigitallife,” developed by Aleksandr Kogan, then a psychology researcher with University of Cambridge, and his company Global Science Research (GSR) which pulled out Facebook users’ data in 2014-2015.

Facebook warned investors that there may be more such data breaches in the future.

“Such incidents and activities may include the use of user data in a manner inconsistent with our terms or policies, the existence of false or undesirable user accounts, election interference, improper ad purchases, activities that threaten people’s safety on- or off-line, or instances of spamming, scraping, or spreading misinformation.

“The discovery of the foregoing may negatively affect user trust and engagement, harm our reputation and brands, and adversely affect our business and financial results,” the company said its quarterly report.

“Any such discoveries may also subject us to additional litigation and regulatory inquiries, which could subject us to monetary penalties and damages, divert management’s time and attention, and lead to enhanced regulatory oversight,” it added.

Facebook on Wednesday beat Wall Street’s estimates by raking in $11.97 billion in revenue for the first quarter of 2018.

The social media giant reported $4.98 billion in profit — up from $4.26 billion in the last quarter.

“Despite facing important challenges, our community continues to grow. More than 2.2 billion people now use Facebook every month and more than 1.4 billion people use it daily,” Zuckerberg said in a statement.

Facebook added 70 million monthly active users (MAUs) to reach 2.196 billion users globally — at 3.14 per cent growth rate.

IANS

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Pompeo sworn-in as 70th US Secretary of State

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Pompeo

Washington, April 27:  Mike Pompeo was sworn in as the 70th US Secretary of State, after the Senate voted to confirm installing the former CIA Director as the nation’s top diplomat, the media reported.

Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito administered the oath at 2 p.m. on Thursday, CNN quoted State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert as saying.

The Senate voted 57-42 to confirm Pompeo.

“I’m delighted to be secretary of state and completely humbled by the responsibility. I’m looking forward to serving the American people and getting to work right away,” Pompeo said in a statement.

Present Republicans approved Pompeo. In addition, independent Senator Angus King of Maine had also announced his support as have several Democrats: Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Doug Jones of Alabama, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Joe Donnelly of Indiana.

In a statement, President Donald Trump welcomed the Senate’s vote.

“Having a patriot of Mike’s immense talent, energy, and intellect leading the Department of State will be an incredible asset for our country at this critical time in history,” said Trump.

“He will always put the interests of America first. He has my trust. He has my support. Today, he has my congratulations on becoming America’s 70th Secretary of State.”

The Thursday vote will allow Pompeo to travel to Brussels, followed by Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Israel and Jordan, reports CNN.

In Belgium, he will represent the US at the NATO foreign ministerial and meet with counterparts, including the Turkish and Italian foreign ministers.

He will then travel to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia where he will meet King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud. From there, he will travel to Israel, where he will meet Prime Minister Netanyahu, and Jordan where he will meet with King Abdullah.

“No other Secretary in recent history has gone on a trip as quickly as he has,” Nauert noted just before Pompeo boarded his flight on Thursday night.

Trump fired his first Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in March. He tapped Pompeo, a former Kansas Republican Congressman, to take the job after the two developed a close relationship during his tenure as the chief intelligence officer.

IANS

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