Lizard smugglers detained
Two Japanese men were charged yesterday with attempting to smuggle 30 lizards out of Australia, with the reptiles fetching high prices on the Asian black market. The Customs and Border Protection Service said the men, aged 38 and 33, were selected for a baggage examination when they recently checked in at Perth International Airport. During an X-ray search, officials found 28 shingleback lizards, another unspecified skink and one bearded dragon. Western Australia Department of Parks and Wildlife senior investigator Rick Dawson said the haul was worth more than A$130,000 (US$122,000). “These lizards are highly sought-after in Asia because they are easy to care for, attractive and exotic,” he said. The men face a range of charges including unlawfully taking protected fauna and subjecting a protected species to cruel treatment. They could face up to 10 years in jail and fines of up to A$170,000.
Man accused of beheadings
Police said on Wednesday they were questioning a man accused of beheading four of his children more than three years after divorcing their mother. Omar Shire Hassan was apprehended late on Tuesday by police in the central town of Beledweyne, about 300km north of the capital, a few hours after allegedly murdering the children who were between three and eight years old. “The dead bodies of the four children were found near a village and have been buried. The man handed himself in and is in custody now. I think he is not mentally fit, but we are questioning him,” regional police commissioner Colonel Isak Ali Abdulle said. He said police understood the man had recently returned to Somalia from Canada, but said the motive for the crime was unclear.
Vandal steals Reagan’s arm
Police were searching on Wednesday for a vandal who damaged a bronze statue of former US president Ronald Reagan and Pope John Paul II in Gdansk by cutting off one of Reagan’s arms and stealing it. The statue was unveiled last year to honor Reagan and the Polish-born pope, who were both widely credited with helping Poland topple communism 24 years ago. The vandalism in the Baltic port city was discovered on Tuesday, setting off the search for the perpetrator, said Lucyna Rykowska, a spokeswoman for Gdansk police. People interviewed by Poland’s TVN24 deplored the vandalism and stressed the popularity of the statue in the park where it is located, saying visitors often leave flowers there. The damage was initially estimated at more than 100,000 zlotys (US$30,000), but the artist who made the statue said it could be repaired for far less.
Gangs use teen assassins
Gangs are using children as young as six to transport drugs and weapons, among other crimes, a senior official said in an interview published on Wednesday. Government data show that gangs also sometimes tap children as young as 11 — and routinely recruit teenagers — to commit murder, Deputy Minister of the Interior Arkel Benitez told the Siglo21 newspaper. Young people who commit a crime in these circumstances cannot be called assassins because “they do not offer the service to kill, but are forced to do so,” Benitez said. Gangs such as Mara Salvatrucha and Barrio 18, the most violent crime groups, force minors to kill as initiation rituals to prove their loyalty, the ministry said. From January to early last month, police arrested 22 youths accused of participating in killings.
US$1 million falls from sky
Suspected drug traffickers tossed a bag containing more than US$1 million from a low-flying airplane, but the loot missed its mark and was seized by police, officials said on Wednesday. “A white bag containing, it later became evident, 26 bundles of cash, was thrown from the aircraft” on Tuesday as it made a low pass over a clandestine airstrip in Santa Cruz Province, the Bolivian Interior Ministry said in a statement. Anti-drug police raided the airstrip, seizing the money along with an automatic rifle and other weapons, cellphones and two vehicles. Police said the money, all in US currency, was in denominations of from US$20 to US$1,000, and was probably proceeds from drug trafficking. Police believe that it was delivered from Paraguay, because it was wrapped with a seal from an unidentified bank in that country.
‘Revenge porn’ outlawed
Posting naked pictures of an ex-partner online can now land you in jail for up to six months in California, after a bill against so-called “revenge porn” was signed into law. The legislative bill went into effect immediately after state Governor Jerry Brown signed it on Tuesday. Anyone convicted of “illegally distributing private images with the intent to harass or annoy” could also face a fine of up to US$1,000. “I want to thank Governor Brown for recognizing that this bill was needed,” said state senator Anthony Cannella, who proposed the legislation including an “urgency clause” to fast-track it into force. “Until now, there was no tool for law enforcement to protect victims... Too many have had their lives upended because of an action of another that they trusted,” he said. Legislation already exists against posting unauthorized pictures of other people which invade their privacy, but the new California law covers pictures that were taken with consent, for example when a couple was together, but which are later posted online without the ex-partner’s agreement. “Revenge porn often begins when relationships end,” Cannella said.
‘Dirty money’ reimbursed
A man who painstakingly gathered and reassembled parts of five US$100 bills eaten by his golden retriever has been reimbursed by the US Treasury for the damaged currency. The Independent Record reports Wayne Klinkel received a US$500 check on Monday. His 12-year-old dog, Sundance, downed all but half of one of the bills in December. Sundance snacked on the cash in the family vehicle while Klinkel and his wife ate at a restaurant. Klinkel says he carefully picked through the dog’s droppings to recover parts of the bills and his daughter recovered more when the snow melted. Klinkel cleaned and reassembled the bills, put them in plastic bags and sent them to the US Treasury in April.
Mayor’s driver arrested
Toronto Mayor Rob Ford said on Wednesday he is surprised and shocked that his friend and occasional driver has been arrested on drug charges. Alexander Lisi, 35, has been charged with trafficking and possession of marijuana, Toronto police say. Ford grabbed international attention earlier this year over allegations that he was caught on video smoking crack cocaine. Ford has said the video does not exist. He acknowledged Lisi is a friend and said he does not abandon his friends. “He’s a friend. He’s a good guy. I don’t throw my friends under the bus,” Ford said. “I’ve never once seen him drink. I’ve never seen him once do drugs so I’m surprised. I’m actually shocked.”