Court absolves ex-president
A court on Friday absolved former president Francisco Flores of civil responsibility in a case in which he was accused of diverting more than US$15 million in earthquake relief funds donated by Taiwan. Investigators had found that US$10 million of the money, intended to help the victims of two powerful earthquakes in 2001, had in fact gone to Flores’ Nationalist Republican Alliance party, while the rest benefited him personally. However, the court ruled there was no basis for a civil judgement against him, because documents from Taiwan that were presented by the Public Ministry “were not authenticated. They did not fulfill the formalities of the law.” Defense lawyer Edgar Morales Joya said there was no proof against the former president. Flores governed from 1999 to 2004 and died in 2016 while under house arrest on accusations of embezzlement, illicit enrichment and other crimes. His death ended any possibility of a criminal conviction, but prosecutors pursued a civil case.
Six countries quit UNASUR
A South American bloc created a decade ago to counter US influence in the region has temporarily lost half its members after six countries suspended their memberships amid differences over who should lead the group. Chancellor Fernando Huanacuni on Friday said that Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Paraguay and Peru had decided to temporarily leave the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) due to differences over choosing the secretary-general of the group. “We have received a note from the six countries saying they will not participate in UNASUR meetings for a period of one year” until the leadership issue is resolved, Huanacuni said. The Paraguayan Ministry of Foreign Relations said in a statement that the six countries would remain outside UNASUR until they see “concrete results that guarantee its operation.”
Top court rejects Evans case
The Supreme Court has declined to hear an appeal from a mother and father who want to take their terminally ill toddler to Italy for treatment. The decision announced on Friday was another setback for the parents of 23-month-old Alfie Evans. They have been engaged in a protracted legal fight with Alder Hey Children’s Hospital over his care. The decision means an earlier Court of Appeal ruling is to stand. Justices in that court upheld a lower court’s conclusion that it would be pointless to fly the boy to Rome for treatment. Alfie is in a “semi-vegetative state” as the result of a degenerative neurological condition that doctors have been unable to definitively identify.
Swift stalker caught napping
Police said a stalker broke into Taylor Swift’s New York City townhouse and took a nap. Police said officers investigating a reported break-in on Friday found 22-year-old Roger Alvarado asleep in the pop star’s home in the Tribeca neighborhood. Alvarado, of Homestead, Florida, was arrested on charges of stalking, burglary, criminal mischief and trespassing. It was not clear whether he has an attorney who can speak for him. Alvarado was arrested at the same address on Feb. 13 on charges of breaking the front door with a shovel. Swift was not home during Friday’s break-in. The multi-platinum recording artist has dealt with stalkers on both coasts. Police said a Colorado man arrested on Saturday last week outside a Beverly Hills home owned by Swift had a knife, a rope and ammunition.
‘CONFESSED’: A court in Beijing said that former CCP member Ren Zhiqiang abused his power at a state firm and embezzled almost US$7.14 million of public funds A Chinese tycoon who called Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) a clown and criticized his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic was yesterday jailed for 18 years for corruption, bribery and embezzlement of public funds. Ren Zhiqiang (任志強) — once among the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) inner circle — disappeared from the public eye in March, shortly after penning an essay that lambasted Xi’s pandemic response. His outspokenness had earned the former chairman of state-owned property developer Huayuan Group the nickname “Big Cannon.” Yesterday’s verdict said that Ren embezzled almost 50 million yuan (US$7.4 million) of public funds and accepted bribes worth 1.25 million
AUSTRALIAN SITE: China has had a contract with SSC’s Yatharagga station since at least 2011, but the last time it used it was in June 2013. No final date has been given China would lose access to a strategic space tracking station in Western Australia when its contract expires, the facility’s owners said, a decision that cuts into Beijing’s expanding space exploration and navigational capabilities in the Pacific region. The Swedish Space Corp (SSC) has had a contract allowing Beijing access to the satellite antenna at the station since at least 2011. The station is located next to an SSC satellite station primarily used by the US and its agencies, including NASA. The Swedish state-owned company said it would not enter into any new contracts at the Australian site to support Chinese customers after
OFF BORDER ISLAND: The fisheries official disappeared from a patrol vessel wearing a life jacket and leaving behind his shoes, indicating an intentional move, Seoul said North Korean soldiers shot dead a suspected South Korean defector at sea and burned his body as a COVID-19 precaution after he was interrogated in the water over several hours, Seoul military officials said yesterday. It is the first killing of a South Korean citizen by North Korean forces for a decade, and comes with Pyongyang at high alert over the COVID-19 pandemic and inter-Korean relations at a standstill. The fisheries official disappeared from a patrol vessel near the western border island of Yeonpyeong on Monday, the official said. More than 24 hours later, North Korean forces located him in their waters and
The scarcity of commercial flights landing at Sydney Airport has been a disaster for airlines and workers, but for hobby pilots the COVID-19 pandemic has provided the opportunity of a lifetime. The quieter-than-usual runways mean that private pilots have been given the chance to land at the international airport for the first time. When Sydney Flight College club captain Tim Lindley put out a call, he received an overwhelming response. He eventually organized for 14 light aircraft to fly into Sydney airport on Sunday. “For a lot of the pilots involved, including myself, it was a childhood dream to land in a big