Alleged dirty cash uncovered
Federal agents who seized more than US$4 million in US banknotes shipped from Alfredo Piano’s Buenos Aires bank uncovered what they claimed was a cache of dirty money. Piano, an 82-year-old Argentine banker, said many of the US$100 bills were filthy, yes — and others had been ravaged by fire, water and even dogs. Piano’s banknotes became the subject of recent scrutiny in federal court in Washington, where the bills were named defendants in a lawsuit called “US versus US$4,245,800 in Mutilated United States Currency.” In it, the authorities alleged that the tattered cash that Piano’s Banco Piano SA had tried to exchange at face value was likely the proceeds of criminal activity.
Haiti benefit raises US$5m
Celebrities Bette Midler, Michael Douglas, Gwyneth Paltrow, Charlize Theron, Piers Morgan, Chelsea Handler, Sarah Silverman, Kathryn Bigelow and Emma Thompson were among the guests at US actor Sean Penn’s third annual Help Haiti Home benefit, which raised more than US$5 million for the J/P Haitian Relief Organization. The dinner party at the Montage Hotel in Beverly Hills, California, included a surprise performance by U2 — the band’s first in four years.
Cocaine plane caught
Authorities have found half a tonne of cocaine on a plane from Venezuela in the latest high-profile drugs haul in the region, authorities said on Sunday. Two people were also arrested during Saturday’s capture, the Venezuelan Attorney-General’s Office said in a brief statement announcing an investigation into the affair. President Otto Perez said on Saturday: “We are on alert and we will be reviewing processes to make sure these planes do not enter Guatemala.”
Pet food price caps mulled
The nation’s socialist revolution is going to the dogs — literally. President Nicolas Maduro on Sunday ordered aides to study extending price caps to dog and cat food as part of the government-funded Mission Nevado campaign to rescue an uncontrolled population of street animals in cities. At an event in Caracas with animal rights activists, the president adopted a gray-and-white calico cat. He said taking care of neglected animals represents the noblest sentiments of the revolution started by his predecessor, former president Hugo Chavez. The Mission Nevado honors the canine sidekick of 19th-century South American liberator Simon Bolivar.
Golden Dawn MP detained
Another Golden Dawn MP was placed behind bars on Sunday, meaning a third of the far-right party’s 18 lawmakers are currently being held in pre-trial detention. Continuing a crackdown against Golden Dawn, Stathis Boukouras was remanded in custody on Sunday afternoon, court officials said. He joined two other MPs, Giorgos Germenis and Panayiotis Iliopoulos, who were also put behind bars at the weekend. All three face charges of joining and directing a criminal organization. In response to his client being placed in custody, Boukouras’s lawyer, Alexis Kougias, said that “Greece is heading to a democratic breakdown.” Three other Golden Dawn MPs, among them the leader Nikos Michaloliakos, have been put in custody since September last year.