FILE PHOTO: Indonesia’s incumbent presidential candidate Joko Widodo gestures as he speaks during a campaign rally at Gelora Bung Karno stadium in Jakarta, Indonesia, April 13, 2019. REUTERS/Willy Kurniawan/File Photo
April 24, 2019
By Agustinus Beo Da Costa
JAKARTA (Reuters) – Indonesia’s chief security minister said on Wednesday accusations that the government and security forces conspired with election agencies to conduct systematic fraud during last week’s polls are “baseless” and threatened national security.
President Joko Widodo declared victory after unofficial results from private pollsters gave him about 55 percent of the popular vote. His challenger, former general Prabowo Subianto, has complained of widespread cheating and insists he won.
The “quick count” of vote samples by reputable pollsters has been accurate in previous elections, though the official result will not be announced until May 22.
In 2014, Prabowo had also claimed victory on election day, before contesting the results at the Constitutional Court, which confirmed Widodo’s win.
This year Prabowo’s campaign has said it found discrepancies in the voter list and alleged fraud in areas like East Java, claiming officials punched ballots in favor of Widodo.
Social media has also been awash with conspiracy theories.
“The accusations are tendentious and inconsequential, as well as slanderous, incorrect and baseless. They are directed at delegitimizing the government and election organizers,” Chief Security Minister Wiranto said at a news conference.
The election commission and election supervisory agency were independent bodies with commissioners who were voted into their positions by parliament, he said.
“With this explanation, I hope that the people do not believe misleading news, or moreover are provoked to carry out activities that could disrupt peace and national security,” Wiranto said.
The 2019 vote, which was the biggest single-day election in the world, had been conducted peacefully and in a transparent manner, with many parties monitoring the process including foreign observers, he said.
Wiranto paid tribute to the election officials and security personnel on duty during last Wednesday’s ballot, adding that 139 election staff had died of exhaustion while organizing the votes.
The Herculean challenge of holding simultaneous presidential and parliamentary votes this year has triggered calls for the polls to be held at different times and to use more technology.
According to the election commission’s website, Widodo on Wednesday afternoon had 55.74 percent of the vote and Prabowo 44.26 percent, based on votes tallied at 236,975 polling stations out of 813,350 across Indonesia.
Political analysts have said the size of Widodo’s lead undermined the opposition’s charge that the election was stolen, but they added that Islamist supporters of Prabowo could still hit the streets to dispute the results.
Prabowo’s campaign has said it could rely on “people power” if its complaints were not addressed. Media reports have said thousands of extra police have been deployed in the capital Jakarta to ensure security.
National Police Spokesman Dedi Prasetyo declined to comment on the size of the deployment, but said their job was “to maintain security and order at every stage of the election”.
(Additional reporting by Fanny Potkin; Writing by Ed Davies; Editing by Darren Schuettler)
FILE PHOTO: Mark Nordlicht, Platinum Partners founding partner and chief investment officer, exits after a hearing at U.S. Federal Court in Brooklyn, New York, U.S., January 12, 2017. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid
April 23, 2019
By Brendan Pierson
NEW YORK (Reuters) – Investors in the defunct billion-dollar hedge fund firm Platinum Partners had ample notice they might not get their money back, a lawyer for Platinum founder Mark Nordlicht told jurors on Tuesday, urging them to acquit his client of criminal fraud charges.
In his opening statement in Brooklyn federal court, lawyer Jose Baez said Nordlicht never defrauded investors, who included himself and his own family.
“This case is a fraud,” Baez said of the criminal prosecution, which began more than two years ago with the December 2016 arrest of Nordlicht and other Platinum executives.
The trial began early Tuesday afternoon with an opening statement from Assistant U.S. Attorney Patrick Hein.
He told jurors that Nordlicht and his co-defendants, Platinum’s co-chief investment officer David Levy and its Chief Financial Officer Joseph SanFilippo, bilked investors out of “millions and millions of dollars” in two different schemes.
In one scheme, Hein said Platinum overvalued the often-illiquid assets of its flagship hedge fund, reported false annualized returns topping 17 percent and selectively paid out cash to some investors over others.
In the second scheme, Nordlicht and Levy defrauded bondholders in Black Elk, an oil exploration company Platinum owned, by diverting money from asset sales to Platinum ahead of Black Elk’s 2015 bankruptcy, Hein said.
Baez countered by showing jurors numerous examples of documents given to investors warning that the investments were risky, that Platinum’s investments were not necessarily liquid and that redemptions of cash were at Nordlicht’s discretion.
“The warnings and the notices to these investors are everywhere,” he said.
Baez said Nordlicht and the other defendants believed they could recover from a liquidity crunch in 2014 and 2015. He said they ultimately failed because of “leaks” to media about the federal investigation of Platinum, and that there could be something “sinister” behind those leaks.
That drew a sharp rebuke from U.S. District Judge Brian Cogan after the jury left for a break.
Cogan had previously ruled that defense lawyers could not suggest to the jury that the government engaged in misconduct.
“Do you want to be the guy whose representations I can’t really trust?” the judge asked.
Levy’s lawyer, Morris Fodeman, delivered his own opening statement after the break, saying his client always acted “lawfully, properly and in good faith.”
A lawyer for SanFilippo is expected to deliver his opening statement on Wednesday.
(Reporting by Brendan Pierson in New York; Editing by Tom Brown)
FILE PHOTO: The logo of Algerian state energy company Sonatrach is pictured at its headquarters in Algiers, June 26, 2016.Reuters/Ramzi Boudia/File Photo
April 23, 2019
By Lamine Chikhi and Hamid Ould Ahmed
ALGIERS (Reuters) – Algeria’s interim president has sacked Abdelmoumene Ould Kaddour as the chief executive of state energy company Sonatrach, state TV said on Tuesday, creating uncertainty for investors who had started to return to the oil and gas producer.
The interim president, Abdelkader Bensalah, appointed Sonatrach’s head of production and exploration, Rachid Hachichi, to replace Kaddour, state TV reported.
The move casts doubts on whether deals Sonatrach had been working on will go ahead, such as plans to set up a trading joint venture with foreign firms.
Only last week, Kaddour, a U.S.-trained engineer, had said the company would hold talks this week with U.S company Chevron Corp, which last week agreed to buy Anadarko, to discuss a shale gas and oil production partnership
Kaddour had been close to former President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who had put him in charge of overhauling Sonatrach in March 2017 after years of management upheaval, fraud scandals and red tape had deterred foreign investors.
He is the latest departure of top officials and business leaders who had been close to Bouteflika, who stepped down three weeks ago after mass protests calling for a break with the ruling elite.
Hachichi, the new CEO, had been promoted by Kaddour. Hachichi, 55, has spent most of his career at Sonatrach in the exploration and production business. Analysts said Kaddour paid for his close ties to Bouteflika, not because of the strategy he implemented, which was about to start giving some results.
The North African oil giant is an important source of energy for European states trying to reduce dependence on Russia and it also funds a large part of Algeria’s budget.
Kaddour managed to resolve a number of disputes with fellow oil majors, expanding ties with several companies.
Last year, he shifted the focus on petrochemical deals to reduce the North African country’s fuel imports after buying Exxon Mobil’s Augusta refinery in Sicily, Italy. Sonatrach also last year signed a $1.5 billion deal with France’s Total SA to build a polypropylene plant in Algeria.
Algeria’s oil output is estimated at around 1 million barrels per day, and it produces 135 billion cubic meters of gas per year, according to Sonatrach’s figures.
In March industry sources said talks between Exxon Mobil Corp and Algeria to develop a natural gas field in the North African country had stalled because of unrest that broke out on Feb. 22.
Mass protests have continued since Boutefliak’s departure as protesters have called for the removal of the elite that has governed Algeria since independence from France in 1962, and the prosecution of people they see as corrupt.
(Reporting by Lamine Chikhi and Hamid Ould Ahmed; Writing by Ulf Laessing; Editing by Leslie Adler)
FILE PHOTO: The ticker and logo for General Electric Co. is displayed on a screen at the post where it’s traded on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York City, U.S., June 30, 2016. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/File Photo
April 23, 2019
By Jonathan Stempel
(Reuters) – General Electric Co on Tuesday put the remnants of its WMC Mortgage unit into bankruptcy, 11 days after paying a $1.5 billion U.S. fine over defective subprime mortgages issued by WMC before the 2008 financial crisis.
The Chapter 11 filing affords “finality” for WMC, given its limited cash –$175,000– and support from GE, and the threat of further claims, WMC Chief Executive Mark Asdourian said in a filing with the U.S. bankruptcy court in Wilmington, Delaware.
WMC was bought by General Electric’s GE Capital unit in 2004, and originated more than $65 billion of mortgage loans from 2005 to 2007.
It halted originations in 2007 because of the collapse of the U.S. housing and financial markets. WMC sold most of its assets that December to DLJ Capital.
Tuesday’s filing is part of GE’s effort to address liabilities incurred through many years of expansion under prior management, while improving profitability and cash flow.
“This filing is another important step in the de-risking of GE Capital,” a GE spokeswoman said in a statement about WMC’s bankruptcy. “GE and GE Capital are not part of the filing and the case has no adverse impact on our business operations.”
WMC said the bankruptcy would help it complete a $198 million settlement over its packaging in 2006 of 5,000 mortgage loans into securities sold to investors.
It said that would resolve the last of 14 lawsuits it faced over residential mortgage-backed securities, following $870 million of settlements of the other 13 lawsuits.
The $1.5 billion civil settlement on April 12 resolved U.S. Department of Justice claims that GE concealed the poor quality of WMC’s loans and WMC’s lax fraud controls. GE did not admit wrongdoing.
The case is In re WMC Mortgage LLC, U.S. Bankruptcy Court, District of Delaware, No. 19-bk-10879.
(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Tom Brown)
FILE PHOTO: Mayor of Istanbul Ekrem Imamoglu of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) addresses his supporters during a rally in Istanbul, Turkey, April 21, 2019. REUTERS/Murad Sezer/File Photo
April 23, 2019
ISTANBUL (Reuters) – Turkey’s high election board has rejected part of an effort by President Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling party to have a re-run of elections in Istanbul, dismissing an appeal regarding voters who were dismissed by decrees from government jobs after an attempted coup in 2016, state news agency Anadolu said.
In a petition submitted to cancel and re-run the city elections that it lost three weeks ago, Erdogan’s AK Party cited thousands of ballots cast by people it said were ineligible to vote due to previous government decrees.
Based on initial results and a series of recounts, the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) won the mayoralty in Istanbul, Turkey’s largest city, with a margin of some 13,000 votes.
The new CHP mayor, Ekrem Imamoglu, took office on Wednesday, despite a formal request submitted a day earlier by the AK Party (AKP) to annul and repeat the mayoral elections over what it said were irregularities.
The high election board, the YSK, has not yet ruled on the appeal to annul and rerun the elections due to voting irregularities including faulty entering of voting data, a wider issue that has been described by AK Party as organized fraud.
The YSK also ruled to investigate the status of 41,132 voters, including people who according to the AK Party were dead, ineligible or voted twice, and to look into some ballot box council attendants.
(Writing by Ezgi Erkoyun; Editing by Frances Kerry)
Bob Woodward, the reporter who broke open the Watergate scandal, has called for the FBI and CIA to be investigated regarding the agencies’ handling of the debunked dossier that formed the basis of the Mueller investigation of the Trump campaign.
During an interview with Fox News’s Chris Wallace, Woodward declared that the dossier authored by former British intelligence agent Christopher Steele “has got a lot of garbage in it”.
“What I found out recently, which was really quite surprising, the dossier, which really has got a lot of garbage in it and Mueller found that to be the case, early in building the intelligence community assessment on Russian interference, in an early draft, they actually put the dossier on page two in kind of a breakout box.”
“I think it was the CIA pushing this. Real intelligence experts looked at this and said no, this is not intelligence, this is garbage and they took it out,” Woodward added.
“But in this process, the idea that they would include something like that in one of the great stellar intelligence assessments, as Mueller also found out, is highly questionable.” he added, saying that it “Needs to be investigated.”
Last week, President Trump slammed the FBI, stating that the intelligence agency conspired against his presidential campaign.
Wow! FBI made 11 payments to Fake Dossier’s discredited author, Trump hater Christopher Steele. @OANN @JudicialWatch The Witch Hunt has been a total fraud on your President and the American people! It was brought to you by Dirty Cops, Crooked Hillary and the DNC.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 17, 2019
Trump addressed the ‘fake’ dossier, which was funded in part by Fusion GPS, a political intelligence firm working for the DNC, calling it a “total fraud on your President and the American people!”
He also took aim at “Crooked Hillary” noting that eleven payments were made to the former to British spy Steele by the FBI in 2016.
Judicial Watch is suing for communication and payment records between the FBI, Steele, and his private firm, Orbis Business Intelligence.
BREAKING: JW announced today that it filed a FOIA lawsuit against the DOJ for records of communications and payments between the FBI & former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele and his private firm, Orbis Business Intelligence (1/3).https://t.co/OuMuIGgvpf
— Judicial Watch 🔎 (@JudicialWatch) April 16, 2019