A former US government official in Iraq who is at the center of a bribery and corruption investigation pleaded guilty to five counts in federal court on Thursday, but not before asserting that a US businessman who has also been arrested had set the scandal in motion.
The former official, Robert Stein, pleaded guilty in quick succession to counts of conspiracy, bribery, money laundering, unlawful possession of machine guns and being a felon in possession of a firearm.
Stein admitted stealing at least US$2 million in cash and taking enormous bribes from the businessman, Philip Bloom, in 2003 and 2004 in exchange for accepting rigged bids on construction contracts that Bloom was guaranteed to win. Reference was made to Bloom in the courtroom only as co-conspirator number six, but his identity was clear from the context.
Two senior Army officers who were also government officials in Iraq and are accused as conspirators have been arrested, and more arrests are expected. When the judge asked Stein who had been in charge of the apparent theft and bribery ring within the American-led occupation, he replied, "I'd have to say myself, yes, ma'am."
But asked how the scheme had begun, Stein said, referring to Bloom, "He approached us." As to how the other conspirators had become involved, Stein said, "They just came into play, your honor."
Stein, who was arrested on Nov. 14, is the first to enter a plea in the case, and his words are certain to resonate as other defendants work their way through the courts.
Wearing white sneakers, an orange jumpsuit and wire-rimmed glasses on Thursday, he seemed at times to be disconnected from his surroundings, appearing to study the carpet or the big semicircular overhead lights as Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly at the US District Court for the District of Columbia read the extensive and sometimes lurid charges against him.
‘SERIOUS QUESTIONS’: Three US senators sent a letter to the US commerce secretary asking whether the project ‘takes into consideration national security requirements’ US Senator Chuck Schumer and two other Democratic colleagues have written to top US administration officials asking for details of Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co Ltd’s (TSMC) plan to build a US$12 billion fab in Arizona. Hsinchu-based TSMC on Thursday last week announced that it would build a plant to make 5 nanometer chips by 2024 that would have the capacity to produce 20,000 semiconductor wafers per month. The world’s biggest contract chipmaker already has one chipmaking fab in Camas, Washington, and design centers in Austin, Texas, and San Jose, California. It said it planned to start construction in Arizona next year and
VULNERABLE: Many women do not report sexual harassment by their landlord over fears they could lose the roof over their head, an expert said A growing number of landlords are asking tenants for sex in exchange for housing as COVID-19 lockdowns and job cuts have left many struggling to pay their rent, housing experts said. A survey by the National Fair Housing Alliance of more than 100 fair housing groups combating discrimination across the US found that 13 percent had seen an increase in sexual harassment complaints during the pandemic. “If I did not have sex with him, he was going to put me out,” one woman facing eviction by her property manager told the alliance in an podcast on its Web site. “As a single
MOM’S LONG CAMPAIGN: Mao Yin had been brought up in Mianyang, Sichuan Province, without any idea that he was the target of a decades-long, high-profile search A Chinese man who was stolen from his family as a toddler has been reunited with his parents after 32 years. Mao Yin (毛寅), then two-and-a-half years old, was snatched in 1988 when he was walking home from nursery with his father. His parents finally embraced him again on Monday in Xian, where he was born. After Mao vanished, his mother Li Jingzhi (李靜芝) quit her job and launched a decades-long search for her son, that included sending out more than 100,000 flyers and appearing on numerous TV shows. That long campaign helped 29 other families find their own missing children and made
HUMAN RIGHTS ABUSES? An institute of the Chinese Ministry of Public Security and a company are to be sanctioned over ‘human rights violations and abuses’ The US Department of Commerce on Friday said that it would sanction a Chinese government institute and eight companies over alleged human rights abuses against Uighurs and other minorities in China’s western Xinjiang region. “These nine parties are complicit in human rights violations and abuses committed in China’s campaign of repression, mass arbitrary detention, forced labor and high-technology surveillance against Uighurs, ethnic Kazakhs and other members of Muslim minority groups in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region,” the department said in a statement. The Chinese Ministry of Public Security’s Institute of Forensic Science and Aksu Huafu Textiles Co are to be sanctioned “for