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Trump ordered to pay $2 million to charities

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Donald Trump

New York, Nov 8 A New York judge has ordered President Donald Trump to pay $2 million for persistently violating state charities laws as part of a settlement in a civil lawsuit.

The payment is the settlement – and thus the final resolution – in a case filed by the New York Attorney General’s Office after the Trump Foundation, during Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, organised a fundraiser for military veterans and collected almost $3 million that was subsequently disbursed on the eve of the Iowa caucuses at the direction of then campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, Efe news reported on Thursday.

Judge Saliann Scarpulla ruled that the $2 million settlement must be personally paid by Trump for breaching his fiduciary duty to properly oversee the activities of the Trump Foundation.

“I direct Mr. Trump to pay the $2,000,000, which would have gone to the Foundation if it were still in existence, on a pro rata basis to the Approved Recipients,” Scarpulla wrote in her ruling.

The Foundation previously agreed to cease its operations and must pay the settlement to a group of nonprofit organizations.

On November 23, 2018, Scarpulla had refused to throw out the case launched the previous June against Trump, his children Ivanka, Don Jr. and Eric and the foundation bearing his name after defence attorneys argued that a sitting president could not be sued in state court.

New York State Attorney General Letitia James confirmed in a statement an agreement according to which Trump would be fined for damages and improperly using the charitable donations for personal, political and business purposes, including legal settlements, campaign contributions and – in a move that, when it became public, was widely mocked – even to purchase a portrait of himself to hang at one of his hotels.

James wrote that Trump will remain subject to continuous supervision by her office and his childen had to submit to measures to ensure that this type of illegal activity never recurs.

She also wrote that the court decision, along with other agreements that her office is negotiating, were a significant victory in protecting charitable assets and holding accountable anyone who abuses charitable organisations for their personal benefit.

Trump’s attorneys argued that the lawsuit was politically motivated and all donations were used for charitable purposes according to law. Regarding the Trump portrait, the defence team claimed that the real estate mogul bid $10,000 of Foundation money on a portrait of himself at a 2014 charity auction merely to kick off the bidding, but when no one else would bid on the work the Foundation found itself forced to “buy” the painting.

Meanwhile, Trump has consistently attacked the lawsuit, blaming it on “sleazy New York Democrats.”

The $1.78 million in assets currently in the possession of the Trump Foundation, along with the $2 million that Trump will have to personally pay will be disbursed in equal measure to eight charitable organisations: Army Emergency Relief, Children’s Aid Society, Citymeals-on-Wheels, Give an Hour, Martha’s Table, the United Negro College Fund, the United Way of National Capital Area and the US Holocaust Memorial Museum.

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Israeli PM Netanyahu defiant after corruption indictment

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

Jerusalem : Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday became the country’s first prime minister to be indicted in office, on corruption charges, but defiantly condemned the “coup” against him and vowed to hold onto power.

The shock announcement compounded the political chaos gripping Israel, which has been without a government for months and faces the prospect of its third election in a year.

After months of suspense, Israel’s longest-serving premier was charged by Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit with bribery, fraud and breach of trust.

Netanyahu immediately hit back in an often vitriolic 15-minute speech, accusing the judiciary, police and others of plotting against him with “false” and “politically motivated” allegations.

“What is going on here is an attempt to stage a coup against the prime minister,” he charged in a televised address.

“The object of the investigations was to oust the right from government.”

He vowed to stay on as interim premier despite potential court dates and intense political pressure.

“I will continue to lead this country, according to the letter of the law,” he said.

Political rival Benny Gantz, who had been trying to form a coalition government, said it was a “very sad” day for Israel to indict a leader, but called on Netanyahu to “step down from his position and focus on the charges against him”.

“There is no coup in Israel, but rather those that have barricaded themselves in power,” he said.

  • ‘Hard and sad day’ –

The 70-year-old premier, nicknamed “Mr Security” and “King Bibi”, has been in power since 2009 and dominates Israel’s political scene.

The indictment comes with crunch talks due on forming a government, after two inconclusive general elections left the country’s political system deadlocked.

Netanyahu is not legally required to resign unless he is convicted and any subsequent appeals process is exhausted, but political pressure is likely to be intense.

He may now ask the parliament, or Knesset, to grant him immunity from prosecution.

The charges against Netanyahu range from receiving gifts worth thousands of dollars to a deal to change regulatory frameworks in favour of a media group in exchange for positive coverage.

Mandelblit said it was a “hard and sad day” for Israel to indict a leader, but it showed no citizen was above the law.

“The citizens of Israel, all of us, and myself, look up to the elected officials, and first and foremost to the prime minister,” Mandelblit said.

“Law enforcement is not a choice. It is not a matter of right or left. It’s not a matter of politics.”

On a day of high political drama, dozens of Netanyahu supporters gathered outside his official residence, many holding pictures of the PM and slogans attacking Mandelblit.

“We are all Netanyahu,” one sign read.

But on Twitter, many hailed the day’s events, and “happy day” quickly became Israel’s top trending phrase.

  • ‘Fight for political life’ –

A perennial fighter, Netanyahu has outlived many political rivals. Hugh Lovatt, Israel-Palestine analyst at the European Council on Foreign Relations, said he wouldn’t give up power easily.

“Now more than ever Netanyahu will be fighting for his political and personal life,” Lovatt said.

Of the three cases against Netanyahu, the third, known as Case 4,000, is seen as the most serious and carries bribery, fraud and breach of trust charges.

He is alleged to have negotiated with Shaul Elovitch, the controlling shareholder of Israeli telecommunications giant Bezeq, to secure positive coverage on his Walla! news site in exchange for policies benefiting Bezeq.

Elovitch and his wife were also indicted.

Case 1,000 involves allegations Netanyahu and his family received gifts including luxury cigars, champagne and jewellery from wealthy individuals, estimated to be worth more than 700,000 shekels ($200,000, 185,000 euros), in exchange for financial or personal favours.

Another, Case 2,000, concerns allegations Netanyahu sought a deal with the owner of the Yediot Aharonot newspaper that would have seen it give him more favourable coverage.

  • Political turmoil –

The next steps in the process remain unclear, with no trial date yet set.

The developments were set to only deepen the political turmoil in Israel, which has been without a stable majority government for much of the year.

Neither Likud leader Netanyahu nor rival Gantz, head of the centrist Blue and White party, have been able to form a coalition government following deadlocked elections in April and September.

Netanyahu has remained interim prime minister.

The Knesset has 21 days remaining to find a candidate capable of commanding the support of the majority of the country’s 120 MPs, and the indictment is likely to strengthen former army chief Gantz’s claims.

Gantz has reportedly tried to woo Likud MPs to join him in a broad national unity government, but so far there have been no takers.

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Israeli prosecutor accuses Benjamin Netanyahu of fraud, abuse of trust

Both Bezeq and Walla are controlled by the same businessman Shaul Elovitch, who is also charged with his wife Iris.

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Netanyahu Israel

Jerusalem, Nov 22 : Israel’s attorney general has charged Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with bribery, fraud and breach of trust in connection with three separate cases.

Attorney general Avijai Mandelblit formalized the indictment against the acting leader on Thursday, which is a new blow to the unstable and gridlocked Israeli political landscape, Efe news reported.

The prosecution has accused the head of government in connection with three cases, known as Case 1,000, Case 2,000 and Case 3,000, the Ministry of Justice said in a statement.

Mandelblit is expected to present all the allegations in public at a press conference on Thursday evening.

In all three cases, Netanyahu has been accused of fraud and abuse of trust, and in addition in Case 4,000 he is alleged to have committed bribery, the most serious accusation that puts his position in question.

In Case 4,000, also called the Bezeq Case, Netanyahu is accused of having done favors between 2012 and 2017 to Israeli telephony giant Bezeq in exchange for favorable coverage of him and his wife Sara on the Walla news website.

Both Bezeq and Walla are controlled by the same businessman Shaul Elovitch, who is also charged with his wife Iris.

In Case 1,000 he is suspected of accepting luxurious gifts from two millionaires for him and his family, including expensive cigars, jewelry, travel and French champagne worth almost $290,000, in exchange for favors.

Case 2,000 relates to an alleged pact attempt with Arnon Mozes, who is also accused, editor of the national Israeli daily newspaper Yediot Aharonot, to get more positive coverage of him in exchange for damaging the distribution of newspaper rival Israel Hayom.

As a defendant, Netanyahu would not be obliged to leave his post as prime minister or deputy, but if he was convicted, parliament could vote for his dismissal if the crime involves “moral depravity” as is the case with the bribery accusation, according to Israeli law.

Mandelblit called a hearing in October to receive the defense’s arguments before finalizing the indictment that now opens the door to a trial.

After publishing the accusation, the prosecutor’s office sent a copy of the document to the Speaker of the Knesset Yuli Edelstein “in order to allow the prime minister to notify the Knesset if he wishes to request immunity,” something that a specially created committee should deliberate but that cannot be formed without a new government.

The accusation came amid a political deadlock in Israel which has been without an executive since the September elections.

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Speculation over Muralitharan becoming Lanka Governor

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Muttiah Muralitharan

Colombo, Nov 21 (IANS) Muttiah Muralitharan, the famous Sri Lanka off-spinner of yesteryear, is tipped as a governor of Northern Province following the presidential elections that gave a clear majority to Gotabaya Rajapaksa, a former defence minister of the island nation who in his term defeated Tamil militants headed by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, media reports here said, citing anger in the Tamil minority community.

Murli, who scalped 800 Test wickets, is actually an Indian Tamil from Kandy. The 47-year-old had earlier thrown his weight behind Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who was on Monday sworn in as the Sri Lankan president a day after he was declared the winner in the closely fought election.

According to reports, Murali will likley join Rajapaksa presidency as the governor of the Northern province, which has a huge majority of Sri Lankan Tamils.

While no official confirmation is out so far, local Tamils are believed to oppose Murali’s appointement as the former cricketer had backed Gotabaya when he was the Defence Secretary between 2005 and 2015 and was accused of war crimes.

The Tamils, both from India and Sri Lanka, had raised their voice for his arrest and prosecution. However, Sri Lankan government had then rejected the demand for his arrest.

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