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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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UK PM still showing COVID-19 symptoms: Downing Street

Meanwhile, the government’s Chief Medical Officer, Chris Whitty, is also continuing to self-isolate and has not given an update on his condition, Metro newspaper reported.

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Boris Johnson

London, April 3 : UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson was still showing symptoms of coronavirus the day before his seven-day quarantine period was supposed to end, Downing Street has confirmed.

The Prime Minister set aside a week to self-isolate on march 27 in accordance with public health advice and has been leading the government via video conference from hs residence at 10, Downing Street, reports the London-based Metro newspaper.

Asked at a media briefing whether Johnson planned to leave on Friday, a spokesperson said: “We’re following the guidelines from Public Health England (PHE) and from the chief medical officer which state that you need to self-isolate for a period of seven days, so no change in that.”/

The spokesperson described Johnson’s symptoms as “mild”.

Meanwhile, the government’s Chief Medical Officer, Chris Whitty, is also continuing to self-isolate and has not given an update on his condition, Metro newspaper reported.

But Health Secretary Matt Hancock left quarantine on Thursday after seven days and gave a press conference setting out a five-point plan to ramp up testing to 100,000 a day.

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UN: Mass spread of COVID-19 in Global South will impact the world

UN officials say every resource must be mobilised to prevent a ‘wildfire’ of cases in fragile states and refugee camps.

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Antonio Guterres

Coronavirus has upended lives and workplaces around the world, with more than a third of the globe under lockdown.

At the United Nations headquarters in New York, where about 10,000 people usually work, a skeleton staff of a few hundred are on site, ensuring the world body’s vital operations continue – such as peacekeeping and humanitarian operations.

As the COVID-19 pandemic spreads fast, the UN is critically concerned about those most vulnerable, especially refugees and people trapped in conflict situations.

The UN has launched a $2bn global humanitarian appeal to assist fragile states and those most vulnerable.

It says prevention and suppression of the virus must be a priority for leaders of all countries.

Leading UN officials have also called for all conflicts to cease and warring parties to focus their efforts on tackling the coronavirus.

To discuss the global efforts against COVID-19 and the risks facing the world’s most vulnerable populations, Talk to Al Jazeera speaks to Antonio Guterres, the UN secretary-general; Mark Lowcock, the under-secretary-general for Humanitarian Affairs; and Filippo Grandi, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

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Disaster

Coronavirus pandemic to render 18.5mn jobless in Pak

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pakistan coronavirus

Islamabad, April 3 : The Pakistan government has estimated that 12.3 million to 18.5 million people in the country will lose their jobs and the economy will sustain massive losses in just three months due to “moderate to severe shocks from the coronavirus outbreak”, it was reported on Friday.

On Thursday, the Ministry of Planning in a meeting discussed the preliminary estimates, which are based on information received from various government entities and initial research conducted by the Pakistan Institute of Development Economics, reports The Express Tribune.

Initial estimates have showed that in case of limited restrictions, about 1.4 million jobs will be lost, which are equal to 2.2 per cent of Pakistan’s employed workforce.

In a moderate scenario where private offices and most shops are closed, but essential shops were open, the government has estimated that 12.3 million people would become jobless.

“On employment, we can assess that under moderate restrictions employment loss could be up to 12 million, around 20 per cent of the employed labour force,” Jahanzeb Khan, the deputy chairman of the Planning Commission told The Express Tribune.

In case of a complete shutdown, the government has assessed that 18.53 million people or 30 per cent of the labour force will be unemployed.

In monetary terms, the loss of wages will translate into 561 billion Pakistani rupees for three months alone.

The Ministry also assessed losses at 1.2 trillion Pakistani rupees in a limited lockdown scenario, 1.96 trillion in moderate and 2.5 trillion in case of complete restrictions on movement, which symbolises a curfew-like situation.

“It is widely believed that the impact of the virus and severity of lockdowns on the overall economy may have a severe impact on the economic performance parameters,” Khan added.

The government also expected a sharp slowdown in trade activities.

“On the trade side, there is an expected sharp slowdown in imports from 35 per cent up to 60 per cent, depending upon the severity of the crisis,” Khan told The Express Tribune.

Pakistan has so far reported 2,441 confirmed coronavirus cases, with 35 deaths.

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