Thirteen years into their probe, US investigators have assembled a team of smugglers, accountants and associates to testify against Colombian cartel kingpin Gilberto Rodriguez Orejuela -- the biggest catch in the war on drugs to see the inside of a US jail. \nOrejuela, 65, and his brother, Miguel, are charged with running a drug network responsible for producing 80 percent of the US cocaine supply in the 1990s. \nThe strategist among the founders of the Cali cartel faces an initial court appearance yesterday and an extended wait, most likely in solitary confinement, before his trial on drug, money laundering and obstruction of justice charges. \nA federal magistrate was simply expected to ask Rodriguez Orejuela for his name and age at a hearing that typically lasts less than five minutes. \nDefense attorney Jose Quinon said he had no plans to ask for bond. \n"I feel that I'm a new man," Rodriguez Orejuela told Colombian radio station W shortly before he was flown to Miami on Saturday. "I feel innocent of the charges they are making against me and I will respond to them." \nA portion of the interview was published Sunday by the Colombian newspaper El Tiempo. But the drug cartel leader -- who spent nearly a decade in prison in Col-ombia before his extradition -- said he has confidence in the US justice system. \nLike extradited Medellin cartel kingpin Fabio Ochoa before him, Rodriguez Orejuela can expect to wait months for trial while he and his defense team review government evidence, including testimony by turncoats hoping to shrink their US prison sentences by telling what they know about the Cali cocaine empire. \nJurors could be swayed by arguments that criminal witnesses are untrustworthy when testifying for personal gain. But prosecutors have hard evidence to support the wagging tongues: hundreds of hours of taped telephone conversations involving Orejuela's jailed brother Miguel, who is known to spend hours at a time on the phone. \nWith details to hide on more than 250 tonnes of smuggled cocaine, the brothers tried unsuccessfully to buy the loyalty of their closest associates by paying fellow inmates in the organization and their families, US prosecutors say. \nInvestigators said the 17 witnesses scheduled to testify against Rodriguez Orejuela include recipients of such payments. \nNine were named by US Customs and Immigration Enforcement agent Ed Kacerosky in a 64-page compendium of evidence offered last February in support of extradition. Eight others are anonymous. \nThose ready to confront Rodriguez Orejuela include Fernando Flores Garmendia, who admitted running a Venezuelan smuggling arm that carried tonnes of concrete posts stuffed with drugs, flying drug cash out of New York and Puerto Rico and bribing Colombian political and government figures until his arrest in August 1998. \nThe Cali cartel contributed millions of dollars to the successful presidential election campaign of Ernesto Samper in 1994, souring relations with Washington. \nAnother witness, cartel intelligence chief Jorge Salcedo Cabrera, is credited by US agents with offering the crucial details that led to Miguel Orejuela's arrest. His personal accountant, Guillermo Pallomari Gonzalez, surrendered in 1995 and already has testified at three US trials. His specialty is translating cartel ledgers. \nAdmitted trafficker George Morales acknowledged playing key roles both in the cartel. He admitted being a cocaine distributor in Miami for the brothers in 1988, and said he helped smuggle a container filled with pumpkins and cocaine from Panama to Miami while sharing space with Miguel Orejuela's in Colombia's La Picota jail in 2000. \nThe brothers controlled about 80 percent of the world cocaine market after rival Medellin drug lord Pablo Escobar was killed in 1993. The Andean nation is the world's largest producer of cocaine.
Henry Tong (湯偉雄) and Elaine To (杜依蘭) were preparing to spend their first wedding anniversary in separate prison cells until their acquittal for rioting during Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protests. There were gasps and tears of relief in court on Friday last week as a judge declared prosecutors had failed to prove that the couple took part in clashes with police in July last year. The pair walked free in a ruling that has potential consequences for hundreds of other protesters facing similar charges. However, they have a long journey ahead as they try to rebuild their lives and business. “We have already been punished,”
WARNINGS OVER COMPLACENCY: The curves of new infections in numerous countries is climbing, while others see the the first new infections in months Spikes in COVID-19 infections in Asia have dispelled any notion that the region might be over the worst, with Australia and India yesterday reporting record daily infections, Vietnam fretting over a new surge and North Korea urging vigilance. Asian nations had largely prided themselves on rapidly containing initial outbreaks after the coronavirus emerged in central China late last year, but flare-ups this month have shown the danger of complacency. “We’ve got to be careful not to slip into some idea that there’s some golden immunity that Australia has in relation to this virus,” Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison told reporters. Australia recorded its
The Australian government yesterday said that it plans to give Google and Facebook three months to negotiate with media businesses fair pay for news content. In releasing a draft of a mandatory code of conduct, Canberra aims to succeed where other nations have failed in making tech firms pay for news siphoned from commercial media companies. Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said that Google and Facebook would be the first platforms targeted by the proposed legislation, but others could follow. “It’s about a fair go for Australian news media businesses, it’s about ensuring that we have increased competition, increased consumer protection and a sustainable
‘COVIDIOTS’: Politicians condemned the protest that came amid surging infections in the country, while a marcher said government-induced fear weakened the body Loudly chanting their opposition to masks and vaccines, thousands of people on Saturday gathered in Berlin to protest against COVID-19 restrictions before being dispersed by police. Police put turnout at about 20,000 — well below the 500,000 organizers had announced as they urged a “day of freedom” from months of virus curbs. Despite Germany’s comparatively low toll, authorities are concerned at a rise in infections over the past few weeks and politicians took to social media to criticize the rally as irresponsible. “We are the second wave,” shouted the crowd, a mixture of hard left and right and conspiracy theorists, as they converged