‘Elephant’ expenses probed
A member of the European Parliament is under investigation over suspect expenses claims totalling 1.3 million euros (US$1.8 million), including one item listed as “elephant.” In a request to the European Parliament to waive Hans-Peter Martin’s immunity, the Vienna prosecutors’ office said it suspected the him of embezzling public funds and making money “illicitly for himself or a third party by fraudulent means.” The prosecutor’s request details a series of suspect or unexplained expenses that were claimed either in Austria or via the European Parliament. Among them is a payment of 832,800 euros for “public relations work” that the prosecutor says was made to “businessmen who are friends of Dr Hans-Peter Martin, even though no [equivalent] services were provided.” One claim for 2,200 euros was identified in accounts as being for an “elephant.” Martin says he meant to claim for books about Auschwitz from a publisher called “Ephelant.” The publisher does offer such a book, priced at 22 euros.
Harvard students suspended
About 60 students at Harvard University have been suspended and others disciplined in a mass cheating scandal at the elite college, the administration said on Friday. Faculty of Arts and Sciences dean Michael Smith told staff and students at the university near Boston that “somewhat more than half” of the cases under investigation ended with students being required “to withdraw from the college for a period of time.” When the scandal first became public in August, Harvard said that as many as 125 students were suspected of helping each other in a final exam.
Freed killer recaptured
A convicted murderer who was mistakenly released after a court appearance in Chicago was back in custody yesterday after authorities tracked him down at a house about 100km away. Steven Robbins, 44, was rearrested late on Friday night without incident in the Illinois town of Kankakee, authorities said. The reason Robbins was able to escape in the first place, Illinois officials said, was because they lost paperwork directing them to return him over the state border to Indiana, where he has been serving a 60-year sentence. He was escorted by Cook County sheriff’s deputies to Chicago this week for a court appearance in a separate case involving drug and armed violence charges.After appearing before two Cook County Circuit Court judges, Robbins was taken to a jail on Chicago’s South Side. He was released hours later, instead of being sent back to Indiana to continue his murder sentence.
Hotline aids Spanish police
A call home from an anguished daughter in Spain and images from a soap opera about human trafficking for sexual exploitation led a mother to realize her daughter was in trouble. So she called a sexual abuse hotline set up by the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, prompting an international police operation that led authorities to break up a prostitution ring in the Spanish university town of Salamanca last week. Spanish police raided a nightclub in Salamanca and freed the daughter and five other women who were forced to have sex with customers for US$20, authorities said on Friday. Tipped off by a call to the hotline last June, Spanish police raided a brothel in Ibiza and discovered 28 women of different nationalities who were forced to provide sexual services 24 hours a day.