Media

FILE PHOTO: Swedbank sign is seen on the local headquarters building in Tallinn
FILE PHOTO: Swedbank sign is seen on the local headquarters building in Tallinn, Estonia March 25, 2019. REUTERS/Ints Kalnins

June 18, 2019

By Esha Vaish

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) – Swedbank has suspended with immediate effect the two most senior executives of its Estonian business, which is being investigated over alleged money laundering.

Sweden’s oldest retail bank has already parted ways with its chief executive and chairman this year after alleged links to a money laundering scandal at Danske Bank, and is being investigated in the United States, Sweden and the Baltics.

The most recent allegations, reported by Swedish state TV in March, said that Swedbank processed gross transactions of up to 20 billion euros a year from high-risk, mostly Russian non-resident clients, through Estonia from 2010 to 2016.

Although Swedbank initially denied the allegations, which first related to between 2007 and 2015, mounting shareholder pressure for transparency led to the bank’s admission in April to failings in combating money laundering and an internal inquiry into compliance with anti-money laundering rules.

Robert Kitt, who has been Estonia CEO since 2015, and Vaiko Tammevali, Estonia CFO since 2014, had both been suspended, Swedbank said in a statement late on Monday.

“(The) decision is a consequence of the ongoing internal investigation,” Charlotte Elsnitz, Swedbank’s head of Baltic Banking, told journalists at a news conference on Tuesday.

Elsnitz declined to give any details about the reason for the suspensions, but said Swedbank remained committed to Estonia, where it is the largest bank with more than 900,000 private and 132,000 business customers.

Kitt and Tammevali, both Estonian, have worked at the bank for more than 15 years. Kitt’s previous jobs include heading the wealth management and corporate banking units, while Tammevali’s included leading the private banking and credit risk units.

“It has been a fantastic journey. Fiercely tense, frantically interesting, with fantastic colleagues and a team. But every race is running out of time and my mandate in Swedbank Estonia as (Head of Unit) ended today,” Estonian media quoted Kitt as saying in a statement posted on Facebook.

Reuters could not immediately independently verify the statement, which was confirmed by a Swedbank spokeswoman, while Kitt did not respond to requests for comment.

Tammevali could not immediately be reached.

Credit Suisse analysts said that the suspensions could help Swedbank in any discussions with authorities.

The Estonian financial regulator declined to comment and said that their investigation with Sweden and other Baltic authorities was ongoing, while Swedbank said it was cooperating fully with authorities.

Swedbank said Olavi Lepp, its chief risk officer, had been named acting CEO of Swedbank Estonia, while Anna Kouts, its head of treasury, would become acting CFO in the Baltic country.

The bank’s shares, which have lost about a third in value since the scandal broke, were down 1.6 percent at 138.35 Swedish crowns at 0930 GMT.

(Reporting by Johannes Hellstrom and Esha Vaish, editing by Deepa Babington/Keith Weir/Alexander Smith)

Source: OANN

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It’s been 27 years since an incumbent U.S. president lost re-election, and judging by the health of the economy and other traditional metrics, Donald Trump looks unlikely to break the trend.

In addition to presiding over sustained growth and low unemployment, Trump enjoys a nation at relative peace, a well-funded campaign and the strong backing of the Republican Party. And yet, as he prepares to formally kick off his 2020 re-election bid with a prime-time speech in Florida, he has reason to be circumspect, Shannon Pettypiece and Mike Dorning report.

Most private forecasters expect the economy to slow entering the election year, as U.S. trade disputes threaten global commerce — hurting core voters like farmers — and the fiscal stimulus from Trump’s 2018 tax cut fades.

Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into election meddling by Russia, alongside other controversies that have dogged Trump’s administration, are also potential liabilities.

Trump trails six of his Democratic rivals in hypothetical head-to-head contests, a poll showed last week. And no president since 1952 has been re-elected with an approval rating below 48%. Trump has not exceeded 46% in Gallup polls since taking office.

Much hinges on the Democrats. The question is whether they can select a challenger able to attract the funding and support in battleground states needed to deny Trump a second term.

Global Headlines

Iran under pressure | The Pentagon plans to send about 1,000 more troops to the Middle East, even as Trump described as “very minor” the recent attacks on two tankers in the Gulf of Oman that the U.S. has blamed on Iran. The Pentagon also released new photos and a timeline it said bolstered the case that Iran was behind the incidents. Tehran denies any involvement.

Click here to read how Trump’s campaign vow to get the U.S. out of costly foreign entanglements is colliding with the messy reality of commitments in the Middle East.

Trade turmoil | The chairwoman of the world’s biggest bicycle maker delivered an ominous message to China that its days as a global manufacturing hub may be numbered. Giant Manufacturing started rolling production of its U.S.-bound orders back home to Taiwan when Trump made his tariff threats last year, Cindy Wang reports. Trump’s top trade envoy, Robert Lighthizer, is due to appear before Congress this week to account for the trade conflict.

Scottish dilemma | Scots didn’t vote for Brexit and neither did they elect the Conservatives. So the likelihood of a Brexiteer such as Boris Johnson winning the race to succeed Theresa May as Tory leader and prime minister is forcing some hard choices north of the border. As Alan Crawford and Rodney Jefferson report, the sense in Edinburgh is that another referendum on Scottish independence is now inevitable.

As the Conservative field narrows further today, Alex Morales profiles Rory Stewart, the lesser-known candidate suddenly making waves.

Fall from grace | The holding company of the Brazilian construction and energy giant at the center of a massive Latin America graft probe has filed for bankruptcy protection. Odebrecht has struggled since the “Carwash” investigation, which started in 2014 and brought the construction industry to a halt as access to government projects was cut and executives jailed. The political fallout is still reverberating from Ecuador to Mexico, Peru and Brazil.

Waiting game | Democratic Republic of Congo President Felix Tshisekedi still hasn’t named a cabinet five months after taking office, leaving investors in the mineral-rich nation facing endless delays. After a disputed election, Tshisekedi’s protracted talks with his coalition partner have almost paralyzed a nation ranked by the World Bank as one of the most difficult and corrupt places to do business.

What to Watch

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam today apologized for backing a bill to allow extraditions to China, as she seeks to defuse protests that have rocked the city. She declined to resign or withdraw the bill completely — key demands of protest leaders. Rights groups have urged a transparent probe into the death of Mohamed Mursi, the Muslim Brotherhood foot soldier who became Egypt’s first freely elected civilian president. He collapsed during a court hearing over an espionage case, with state-run media saying he suffered a “sudden heart attack.” Chancellor Angela Merkel’s candidate to head the European Commission — Manfred Weber, a German lawmaker in the European parliament — is struggling for momentum, which means she may need to instead focus on getting her preferred person into the European Central Bank’s top job. U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo meets today with European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini in Washington. Mogherini said yesterday the EU will not support Jared Kushner’s Middle East peace plan without a two-state solution included.

And finally…You used to catch only rare glimpses of them in public — a waiter willing to risk jail time might accept them for the right price, street hawkers making offers for them under their breath. Today, U.S. greenbacks are widely used in Venezuela’s supermarkets and bodegas. As Andrew Rosati reports, with the bolivar devalued into irrelevance by Nicolas Maduro’s regime, the cash printed by the gringos he rails against is king. 

 

–With assistance from Karl Maier and Jon Herskovitz.

To contact the author of this story: Kathleen Hunter in London at khunter9@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Rosalind Mathieson at rmathieson3@bloomberg.net, Alan Crawford

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©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

FILE PHOTO: Myanmar Buddhist monk Wirathu speaks at a rally against constitution change in Yangon
FILE PHOTO: Myanmar Buddhist monk Wirathu speaks at a rally against constitution change in Yangon, Myanmar, May 5, 2019. REUTERS/Ann Wang/File photo

June 18, 2019

By Thu Thu Aung

YANGON (Reuters) – A Myanmar official on Tuesday told a court that a nationalist Buddhist monk, Wirathu, who has evaded arrest on sedition charges, “incited hatred” against leader Aung San Suu Kyi and her government.

Police issued an arrest warrant for Wirathu last month but he has not been detained and has taunted authorities on social media.

Complainant San Min, an administrator in the city of Yangon, told the court he had been ordered by the office of President Win Myint, a close ally of Suu Kyi, to file a legal complaint against the monk.

“Wirathu’s speeches can cause disrespect and incite hatred in the people against Aung San Suu Kyi … (and) the government,” San Min said in his complaint.

Wirathu is infamous as a proponent of anti-Muslim rhetoric that has spread as Myanmar has transitioned from full military rule and as social media sites like Facebook have become popular.

He speaks in support of the military and opposes Nobel laureate Suu Kyi and her efforts to amend a 2008 charter that cements the generals’ power.

The sedition charge is related to his criticism of the government, not to his comments on Muslims.

The Western Yangon District Court on Tuesday held the first of several hearings to decide whether Wirathu should be formally declared a fugitive from the law, which requires a judge to rule there is evidence he broke the law.

A video was played of a speech Wirathu gave at a rally in Yangon last month, when he argued broadly against democratic governance and warned Myanmar would “drown in a muddy puddle” if its constitution was amended to reduce the political role of the military.

A transcript of a separate speech Wirathu gave in southern Myanmar in April, submitted to the court, records Wirathu crudely criticizing Suu Kyi’s relationships with foreigners. Suu Kyi married and had two sons with the late British academic Michael Aris.

“Tap, tap, tap go her high heels,” the monk said, according to the transcript, referring to when Suu Kyi meets foreigners.

A Buddhist nationalist group said on Monday that Wirathu’s “positive criticism” of Suu Kyi did not merit legal action.

Some human rights activists have said Wirathu should face action for inciting violence against Muslims, especially the Rohingya minority, rather than for comments critical of a politician.

Buddhist authorities have previously censured Wirathu, but a one-year order banning him from speeches expired this year.

(Reporting by Thu Thu Aung; Writing by Simon Lewis; Editing by Robert Birsel)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: French Economy and Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire delivers a speech during a high-level forum on debt at the Finance ministry in Paris
FILE PHOTO: French Economy and Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire delivers a speech during a high-level forum on debt at the Finance ministry in Paris, France, May 7, 2019. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier/File Photo

June 18, 2019

PARIS (Reuters) – Renault’s alliance with Japanese partner Nissan remains French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire’s priority ahead of any further consolidation with the likes of Fiat-Chrysler, he said on Tuesday.

“It is not in our interest at all to weaken this alliance,” Le Maire told Europe 1 radio. The French government is Renault’s biggest shareholder with a 15% stake.

Asked to comment on media reports that Fiat’s top executive had been in Paris over the weekend, Le Maire replied: “It poses me no problems at all if the head of Fiat were to spend his time in Paris.”

(Reporting by Sudip Kar-Gupta; Editing by David Goodman)

Source: OANN

A federal agency recommended counselor Kellyanne Conway be fired for repeatedly violating the Hatch Act, but didn’t offer similar guidance for Obama-era officials cited for Hatch Act rule-breaking.

The Office of the Special Counsel, headed by Henry Kerner, said last week Conway had repeatedly violated the federal law during official media appearances through her endorsements of President Trump’s reelection and attacks on Democrats and recommended she be removed as counselor.

But that investigative body didn’t make similar recommendations when two Obama Cabinet officials — Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius and Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julián Castro — violated the same law, and then-President Barack Obama never fired nor disciplined the top officials for the one-time judgments.

The inconsistently enforced 1939 law precludes most executive branch federal employees aside from the president and vice president from engaging in electioneering and political activity.

When asked about her Hatch Act violations last month, Conway quipped, “Let me know when the jail sentence starts.” Kerner’s report criticized Conway’s “defiant attitude” while labeling her “a repeat offender” and calling upon Trump to “remove Ms. Conway from her federal position immediately.”

When faced with Sebelius and Castro violating the Hatch Act, Obama fired neither official, and his administration defended them.

The OSC said Sebelius violated the Hatch Act “when she made extemporaneous partisan remarks in a speech delivered in her official capacity” in 2012. Sebelius was the keynote speaker at the Human Rights Campaign gala in North Carolina, during which she told the crowd to vote against a state constitutional amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman. Sebelius also told the crowd that “it’s hugely important to make sure that we reelect the president and elect a Democratic governor.”

“These statements were made in Secretary Sebelius’ official capacity and therefore violated the Hatch Act’s prohibition against using official authority or influence to affect the results of an election,” the OSC said.

But the OSC did not recommend that Obama fire Sebelius or recommend any punishment, simply submitting the report along with a response from Sebelius to the president.

Sebelius pushed back against the ruling, telling the agency that “I believe that you should have concluded that any violation was corrected when the event was reclassified as political.” Sebelius said she was happy that “the OSC has not recommended to the President that any particular action be taken” and told the OSC that “I don’t believe that any action would be appropriate.”

Eric Schultz, an Obama White House spokesman, defended Sebelius as well as the Obama administration’s lack of disciplinary action at the time, saying, “This error was immediately acknowledged by the secretary, promptly corrected, and no taxpayer dollars were misused.”

The OSC also said Castro, now a 2020 presidential contender, violated the Hatch Act’s “prohibition against using one’s official authority or influence to interfere with or affect the result of an election” when he “advocated for and against presidential candidates while appearing in his official capacity” during the 2016 election.

Castro praised Hillary Clinton in a 2016 video interview, saying that “the American people understand that she has a positive vision for the country that includes opportunity for everybody and she can actually get it done” and that “it is very clear that Hillary Clinton is the most experienced, thoughtful, and prepared candidate for president that we have this year.”

Castro, at the time a potential Clinton running mate, told Katie Couric, “I don’t believe that is going to happen, but I am supportive of Secretary Clinton and I believe she is going to make a great president.”

The OSC concluded he “impermissibly mixed his personal political views with official government agency business” but did not recommend he be fired or that any disciplinary action be taken, instead just referring their report and Castro’s response to the president.

Castro acknowledged that, even if it wasn’t his intent to violate the law, he’d made an error.

Joshua Earnest, the Obama White House press secretary, at the time defended Castro along with the Obama administration’s decision not to punish him. “To his credit, Secretary Castro acknowledged the mistake that he made. He owned up to it, and he’s taken the necessary steps to prevent it from happening again.”

Castro said last week he thinks Conway should be fired.

“The difference between me and Kellyanne Conway is … instead of saying, ‘Look, I’m going to take these efforts to make sure that doesn’t happen again,’ she said, ‘to hell with that, I’m going to do it,’” he said at a Fox News town hall.

“She did the wrong thing,” said Castro. “And I support the Office of Special Counsel’s determination that because she repeatedly violated it, even though she was clearly told that it was a violation, that she should be removed from office.”

Pat Cipollone, counsel to the president, said on Thursday that “the report is based on numerous grave legal, factual, and procedural errors.”

Trump defended Conway on Friday, saying “it looks like they’re trying to take away her free speech” and “I’m not going to fire her.”

A Huawei company logo is seen at the Shenzhen International Airport in Shenzhen in Shenzhen
A Huawei company logo is seen at the Shenzhen International Airport in Shenzhen in Shenzhen, Guangdong province, China June 17, 2019. REUTERS/Aly Song

June 18, 2019

By Sijia Jiang

HONG KONG (Reuters) – China’s Huawei Technologies Co Ltd has taken a harder-than-expected hit from a U.S. ban, the company’s founder and CEO Ren Zhengfei said, and slashed revenue expectations for the year.

Ren’s downbeat assessment that the ban will hit revenue by $30 billion, the first time Huawei has quantified the impact of the U.S. action, comes as a surprise after weeks of defiant comments from company executives who maintained Huawei was technologically self-sufficient.

The United States has put Huawei on an export blacklist citing national security issues, barring U.S. suppliers from selling to the world’s largest telecommunications equipment maker and No.2 maker of smartphones, without special approval.

The firm has denied its products pose a security threat.

The ban has forced companies, including Alphabet Inc’s Google and British chip designer ARM to limit or cease their relationships with the Chinese company.

Huawei had not expected that U.S. determination to “crack” the company would be “so strong and so pervasive”, Ren said, speaking at the company’s Shenzhen headquarters on Monday.

Two U.S. tech experts, George Gilder and Nicholas Negroponte, also joined the session.

“We did not expect they would attack us on so many aspects,” Ren said, adding he expects a revival in business in 2021.

“We cannot get components supply, cannot participate in many international organizations, cannot work closely with many universities, cannot use anything with U.S. components, and cannot even establish connection with networks that use such components.”

Huawei, which turned in a revenue of 721.2 billion yuan ($104 billion) last year, expects revenue of around $100 billion this year and the next, Ren said. This compares to an initial target for a growth in 2019 to between $125 billion and $130 billion depending on foreign exchange fluctuations.

TRADE WAR

The Trump administration slapped sanctions on Huawei at a time when U.S.-China trade talks hit rough waters, prompting assertions from China’s leaders about the country’s progress in achieving self-sufficiency in the key semiconductor business.

Huawei has also said it could roll out its Hongmeng operating system (OS), which is being tested, within nine months if needed, as its phones face being cut off from updates of Google’s Android OS in the wake of the ban.

But industry insiders have remained skeptical that Chinese chip makers can quickly meet the challenge of supplying Huawei’s needs and those of other domestic technology firms.

Negroponte, founder of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media Lab, said the U.S. ban was a mistake.

“Our president has already said publicly that he would reconsider Huawei if we can make a trade deal. So clearly that is not about national security,” he said.

“It is about something else,” Negroponte added.

Huawei’s smartphone sales have, however, been hit by the uncertainty. Ren said the firm’s international smartphone shipments plunged 40%. While he did not give the time period, a spokesman clarified the CEO was referring to the past month.

Bloomberg reported on Sunday that Huawei was preparing for a 40-60% drop in international smartphone shipments.

The CEO, however, said Huawei will not cut research and development spending despite the expected hit from the ban to the company’s finances and would not have large-scale layoffs.

($1 = 6.9239 Chinese yuan)

(Reporting by Sijia Jiang in Hong Kong and Brenda Goh in Shanghai; Writing by Sayantani Ghosh; Editing by Himani Sarkar and Muralikumar Anantharaman)

Source: OANN

Why haven’t efforts to impeach President Trump gained Watergate-style momentum? The lack of energy has created a sense of bafflement and disappointment among some of the president’s most determined adversaries. But there are some simple reasons for it. Here are three:

1.) The facts are different. In Watergate, the underlying crime was a break-in at Democratic National Committee headquarters, perpetrated by burglars paid by President Richard Nixon’s reelection campaign. The scandal proceeded from there. In Trump-Russia, the underlying crime was the hacking of the DNC’s and John Podesta’s emails — a crime committed by Russians in Russia. Special counsel Robert Mueller, who indicted a number of Russians and Russian entities for their actions, spent two years trying to find conspiracy or coordination between the Russians and the Trump campaign. He failed.

That single fact has shaped every other aspect of the Trump-Russia affair. In Watergate, the cover-up flowed from Nixon’s desire to conceal his campaign’s involvement in the break-in and other political dark acts. It formed the bulk of the obstruction of justice case against Nixon, which in turn served as the basis for articles of impeachment. In Trump-Russia, Mueller did not charge, although he clearly suggested, that Trump obstructed the investigation of an event — conspiracy/coordination — that did not happen. That meant the simplest, most plausible motive for obstruction — Trump, knowing he was guilty, tried to cover up his campaign’s conspiracy with Russia — was off the table. Given that, Mueller’s obstruction case veered all over the map. He conceded that Trump had many motives to act as he did — anger at being wrongly accused, concern over his ability to govern, a desire to defend the legitimacy of his election — and that none of them involved covering up conspiracy or coordination with Russia.

That’s a very different set of facts from Watergate. Consider the single most explosive episode of Watergate — the Saturday Night Massacre, in which Nixon fired special prosecutor Archibald Cox. Trump’s opponents say his desire to fire Mueller was Nixonesque. But try to imagine the Saturday Night Massacre with a Trumpian set of facts: What if Nixon told his White House counsel to tell the attorney general to fire Cox, but the counsel ignored the order? Nixon called again, and the counsel ignored him again. Nixon then let the matter drop, and Cox completed his investigation. No Saturday Night Massacre. That alone shows there is simply no comparison between Watergate and Trump-Russia.

2). The press is different. Just as the facts of Trump-Russia are quite unlike Watergate, so the media environment of 2019 is quite unlike what existed in 1974. Back then, there were three 30-minute broadcast network newscasts, CBS, NBC, and ABC. There were two big newspapers, the New York Times and the Washington Post, and TV network executives sat down each day, within a few blocks of each other in Manhattan, to produce newscasts that basically illustrated the papers’ latest stories. There was no Internet, no cable news, no podcasts, no social media, and no talk radio. Nixon, even if he had had strong defenses, faced a solid wall of media opposition.

Today, the situation is much, much different — and infinitely better. There is far more diversity of opinion in the media writ large, and, importantly, popular access to primary sources. That troubles some media figures who miss the old days of news monopoly. “During the Watergate era … there were three networks,” Washington Post media columnist Margaret Sullivan wrote recently. “Now, cable news, talk radio, thousands of websites and social media create a polluted firehose-blast of information mixed with disinformation.”

“Back then, what was said on those three networks … was largely believed,” Sullivan added. “Much more than now, there was a shared set of facts.”

But it was a limited set of facts — just the ones selected by those network producers in Manhattan. Today’s media diversity, in terms of the Trump-Russia affair, means more facts see the light. And people inclined to support the president, or just be skeptical of the government’s investigative targeting of the Trump campaign, have a way to make their case beyond what anyone had 40-plus years ago.

3.) Congress is different. Differences in the facts of the cases and differences in the media’s ability to report those facts have had a profound effect on lawmakers. They’re better informed, if they want to be, and can make a better defense of the president of their party. And having a significant number of constituents supporting the president makes representatives more likely to support him, too. (Also unlike today, in 1974, opposition party Democrats controlled all of Congress, with 243 seats in the House and 56 in the Senate.)

So, this is a new world. It is perhaps not surprising to hear Democrats wish they could somehow turn today’s Trump-Russia affair into yesterday’s Watergate. If they could just hold televised hearings, they say, that could capture the nation’s attention and give Trump-Russia a Watergate-like urgency. Americans would turn against the president by the millions.

Others believe they just need time. It took Watergate years to grow big enough to oust Nixon, they say. But look at the numbers. The break-in was in June, 1972, and Nixon resigned in August 1974 — a period of two years and two months. In Trump-Russia, the FBI began its investigation nearly three years ago, in July 2016. The Senate began investigating in January 2017. And Mueller took office in May 2017. It’s been a long time.

Trump-Russia could go longer still, and it would not change the basic facts of the case. It is simply a different case in a different world. Try as they might, the president’s opponents can’t make it 1974 again.

FILE PHOTO: Egypt's deposed president Mohamed Mursi greets his lawyers and people from behind bars at a court wearing the red uniform of a prisoner sentenced to death, during his court appearance with Muslim Brotherhood members on the outskirts of Cairo
FILE PHOTO: Egypt’s deposed president Mohamed Mursi greets his lawyers and people from behind bars at a court wearing the red uniform of a prisoner sentenced to death, during his court appearance with Muslim Brotherhood members on the outskirts of Cairo, Egypt, June 21, 2015. REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh/File Photo

June 17, 2019

By Nadine Awadalla and Enas al-Ashray

CAIRO (Reuters) – Former Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi, the first democratically elected head of state in Egypt’s modern history, died on Monday aged 67 after collapsing in a Cairo court while on trial on espionage charges, authorities said.

Mursi, a top figure in the now-banned Muslim Brotherhood, had been in jail since being toppled by the military in 2013 after barely a year in power, following mass protests against his rule.

His death is likely to pile up international pressure on the Egyptian government over its human rights record, especially conditions in prisons where thousands of Islamists and secular activists are held.

The public prosecutor said he had collapsed in a defendants’ cage in the courtroom shortly after addressing the court, and had been pronounced dead in hospital at 4:50 p.m. (1450 GMT). It said initial checks had shown no signs of recent injury on his body.

The Muslim Brotherhood described Mursi’s death as a “full-fledged murder” and called for masses to gather at his funeral in Egypt and outside Egyptian embassies around the world.

Mursi’s family previously said his health had deteriorated in prison and that they were rarely allowed to visit.

His son, Abdullah Mohamed Mursi, told Reuters that the family had not been contacted about the details of the burial and were only communicating with the family through their lawyers.

Mursi’s son had said earlier that authorities were refusing to allow him to be laid to rest in the family burial grounds in his native Nile Delta province of Sharqiya.

“We know nothing about him and no one is in touch with us, and we don’t know if we are going to wash him or say a prayer to him or not,” he said.

Amnesty International called for an “impartial, thorough and transparent” investigation into Mursi’s death.

“The news of Mohamed Mursi’s death in court today is deeply shocking and raises serious questions about his treatment in custody,” the group said in a statement. “Egyptian authorities had the responsibility to ensure that, as a detainee, he had access to proper medical care.”

British MP Crispin Blunt, who had led a delegation of UK lawmakers and lawyers last year in putting out a report on Mursi’s detention, slammed the conditions of Mursi’s incarceration.

“We want to understand whether there was any change in his conditions since we reported in March 2018, and if he continued to be held in the conditions we found, then I’m afraid the Egyptian government are likely to be responsible for his premature death,” he said in remarks to the BBC.

DECADES OF REPRESSION

After decades of repression under Egyptian autocrats, the Brotherhood won a parliamentary election after a popular uprising toppled Hosni Mubarak and his military-backed establishment in 2011.

Mursi was elected to power in 2012 in Egypt’s first free presidential election, having been thrown into the race at the last moment by the disqualification on a technicality of millionaire businessman Khairat al-Shater, by far the Brotherhood’s preferred choice.

His victory marked a radical break with the military men who had provided every Egyptian leader since the overthrow of the monarchy in 1952.

Mursi promised a moderate Islamist agenda to steer Egypt into a new democratic era in which autocracy would be replaced by transparent government that respected human rights and revived the fortunes of a powerful Arab state long in decline.

But the euphoria that greeted the end of an era of presidents who ruled like pharaohs did not last long.

The stocky, bespectacled engineer, born in 1951 in the dying days of the monarchy, told Egyptians he would deliver an “Egyptian renaissance with an Islamic foundation.”

Instead, he alienated millions who accused him of usurping unlimited powers, imposing the Brotherhood’s conservative brand of Islam and mismanaging the economy, all of which he denied.

STATE OF ALERT

Security sources said the Interior Ministry had declared a state of alert on Monday, notably in Sharqiya.

Mursi had been in court for a hearing on charges of espionage emanating from suspected contacts with the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, which had close ties to the Brotherhood.

A source who was in the court at the time told Reuters that Mursi spoke for around 15 minutes and concluded with a line of poetry about his love for Egypt, before collapsing as the other defendants began banging on the soundproof cage.

His body was taken to the Tora prison hospital, state television reported. A heavy security presence was outside the prison on Monday night.

Mursi’s lawyer said his health had been poor in jail. “We had put in several requests for treatment, some were accepted and others were not,” the lawyer, Abdel-Menem Abdel-Maqsood, told Reuters.

Mursi was serving a 20-year prison sentence for a conviction arising from the killing of protesters during demonstrations in 2012, and a life sentence for espionage in a case related to the Gulf state of Qatar. He had denied the charges.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan mourned his fellow Islamist as a martyr.

“Putting doubts aside, he has become a martyr today with the fulfillment of God’s order. … Our prayers are with him,” Erdogan said.

“Condolences to all my brothers who walked the same path as he did. Condolences to the people of Egypt. Condolences to his family and those close to him.”

The Palestinian Islamist group Hamas said Mursi had “served Egypt and the (Muslim) nation and the Palestinian cause.”

Qatar’s emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, a backer of Mursi and his Brotherhood, tweeted his condolences to Mursi’s family “and to the brotherly Egyptian people.”

Egyptian state media carried brief reports of Mursi’s death that made no mention of his former position as president.

(Reporting by Nayera Abdullah and Enas al-Ashray; Additional reporting by Ahmed Mohamed Hassan and Haithem Ahmed in Cairo, Nidal al-Mughrabi in Gaza and Ali Kucukgocmen in Turkey; Writing by Nadine Awadalla and Sami Aboudi; Editing by Kevin Liffey, Toby Chopra and Richard Chang)

Source: OANN

The persistent tension between President Trump and London’s Mayor Sadiq Khan elevated earlier when Khan called Trump a “Poster boy for racists around the world.”

Khan’s comment was part of a response to President Trump’s Saturday tweet that stated, “LONDON needs a new mayor ASAP. Khan is a disaster – will only get worse!” Trump was quoting a tweet from Katie Hopkins which cited the recent wave of knife crimes in Britain’s capital city. Her tweet also referred to London as “Stab-City” and “Khan’s Londonistan.”

Katie Hopkins, an English media personality and columnist known for her controversial views, is outspoken in her criticism of Islamic beliefs and customs. She is often branded by the media as ‘far-right.’

Trump later tweeted that Khan “is a national disgrace who is destroying the City of London.”

In response, Khan said on Monday: “It’s remarkable that you’ve got the president of the USA amplifying the tweets of a far-right activist, amplifying a racist tweet … That’s one of my concerns about Donald Trump — he’s now seen as a poster boy for racists around the world, whether you’re a racist in this country, whether you’re a racist in Hungary, a racist in Italy, or a racist in France.”

London’s knife crimes have been the subject of much controversy in the United Kingdom. The deaths which inspired Hopkins’ original tweet included the stabbing deaths of two teenagers. Trump’s comments were defended by British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt who said he was “150% agreed” with Trump.

Tensions between Khan and Trump have gone on since 2016. Khan has repeatedly told the media that President Trump is not welcome in London, while Trump referred to Khan as a “stone cold loser” during his recent trip to the United Kingdom.

FILE PHOTO: Logo of Sotheby's auction house is seen in Zurich
FILE PHOTO: The logo of Sotheby’s auction house is seen at a branch office in Zurich, Switzerland October 25, 2016. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann/File Photo

June 17, 2019

By Sudip Kar-Gupta and Svea Herbst-Bayliss

PARIS/BOSTON (Reuters) – Patrick Drahi, the billionaire behind telecoms and media group Altice, agreed on Monday to buy Sotheby’s in a deal worth $3.7 billion, marking the storied art auction house’s return to private ownership after 31 years.

The acquisition will allow avid art collector Drahi to join rival French billionaire Francois Pinault at the top of the art world and New York society, with Pinault’s holding company Artemis owning a majority stake in Sotheby’s rival Christie’s.

Rival French billionaire and LVMH boss Bernard Arnault is equally active in the arts world via his Louis Vuitton foundation.

Drahi’s expansion in the United States also has echoes of former Vivendi boss Jean-Marie Messier, who helped Vivendi move into entertainment via the Universal business.

Sotheby’s said it would be acquired by BidFair USA, an acquisition vehicle set up by Drahi, which had offered $57 in cash per share to buy out Sotheby’s.

The offer represented a premium of 61% to Sotheby’s closing price on Friday, and gives Sotheby’s a market capitalization of $2.6 billion.

It will result in Sotheby’s returning to private ownership after 31 years as a public company. Founded in London in 1744, Sotheby’s had the distinction of being the oldest company listed on the New York Stock Exchange.

It also marks a new chapter for the auction house that became a destination for a new generation of wealth created on Wall Street, in Silicon Valley and around the world, art experts said.

By having been public, in many ways, Sotheby’s operated at a competitive disadvantage to its main U.S. rival, Christie’s, which was already private, experts said.

“Now the company can become more flexible and nimble as a privately-held enterprise and it will be interesting to see the changes that will be made,” said Abigail Asher, a partner at international art consultants Guggenheim, Asher.

LOEB WELCOMES DEAL

The art world has been a favorite in recent times for investors looking to make extra returns in a world of ultra-low interest rates, with the prices of many expensive works of art having steadily increased.

A report published by Swiss bank UBS and Art Basel in March said that the global art market had enjoyed another uptick in 2018.

Drahi said he would be funding the takeover through financing arranged by French bank BNP Paribas and by equity provided by his own funds. Drahi has also been selling non-core assets in recent years to ease concerns over the debt levels of his businesses.

Drahi said he would not be selling shares in his Altice Europe business, but would be cashing in a small stake in his Altice USA division. Shares in Altice USA fell around 2% on Monday.

“I am making this investment for my family, through my personal holding, with a very long-term perspective,” said Drahi, adding that the takeover also further highlighted how his family had been settling down in the United States.

About five years ago Sotheby’s ended a long-running fight with activist investor Daniel Loeb’s hedge fund Third Point, by asking Loeb and two associates to join Sotheby’s board, and Loeb was instrumental in hiring Smith as CEO.

Loeb, a prominent art collector, on Monday praised the sale.

The price “affirms the value we saw when we first invested in Sotheby’s, and rewards long-term investors like Third Point who believed in its potential,” Loeb told Reuters.

BNP Paribas and Morgan Stanley advised Drahi, while LionTree Advisors worked on behalf of Sotheby’s.

Sotheby’s was founded in London in 1744, and expanded overseas in the 20th century, moving to New York in 1955, Asia and then France in 2001.

Famous items sold by Sotheby’s include the collections of the late Duchess of Windsor, the personal collection of artist Andy Warhol and Edvard Munch’s painting “The Scream” in 2012.

(Reporting by Sudip Kar-Gupta, Svea Herbst-Bayliss and Nivedita Balu; Editing by Deepa Babington and Ed Osmond)

Source: OANN


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