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KI News Highlights (April 4-10)

Kleptocracy Initiative

April 10, 2015
Inside the Courtroom as a Putin Foe Faces Prison for Poster Theft
Bloomberg
Georgy Alburov, the author of daring investigative reports into valuable assets accumulated by Russian officials, could be sentenced to five years in prison for stealing the poster. Alburov insists he is being punished not for poster-related crimes but rather for identifying a luxury property belonging to Putin’s deputy chief of staff, Vyacheslav Volodin, who’s been described by reports in the liberal press as a leader of the clampdown on Russia’s political opposition.

Macau Luxury Fair Cancelled ‘Because of China Corruption Probe’
BBC
The Europe Asian Watch, Jewelry and Antique Coins Show had to be cancelled because of restrictions on officials entering casinos, the organisers said. In a message posted on the Europe Asian show’s website, event manager Vincci Tung apologised to exhibitors and visitors for cancelling the event because of the “recent political crisis in China” – its fight against corruption. Mr. Tung’s statement said that the government was prohibiting officials of any level from entering casinos, and as the show was being hosted at a casino-hotel, this ruling would directly affect their “VIP customers admission.”

Shell-BG Takeover to Test China’s Pledge on Antitrust Transparency
Reuters
Royal Dutch Shell’s $70 billion (47 billion pound) bid for BG Group Plc will put to the test a pledge by China’s antitrust regime to be more transparent, after it faced strong criticism last year from the United States and Europe. China’s nascent competition law has become one of the biggest wildcards for large cross-border deals in recent years, particularly where natural resources are concerned. Since then MOFCOM, along with China’s two other antitrust agencies, has faced criticism from U.S. and European business lobbies and governments which say China uses its competition law to benefit its strategic interests and protect domestic businesses.

China Is Said to Use Powerful New Weapon to Censor Internet
New York Times
Late last month, China began flooding American websites with a barrage of Internet traffic in an apparent effort to take out services that allow China’s Internet users to view websites otherwise blocked in the country. Initial security reports suggested that China had crippled the services by exploiting its own Internet filter — known as the Great Firewall — to redirect overwhelming amounts of traffic to its targets. Now, researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, and the University of Toronto say China did not use the Great Firewall after all, but rather a powerful new weapon that they are calling the Great Cannon. The Great Cannon, the researchers said in a report published Friday, allows China to intercept foreign web traffic as it flows to Chinese websites, inject malicious code and repurpose the traffic as Beijing sees fit.

April 9, 2015
Mystery of Ukraine’s Richest Man and a Series of Unlikely Suicides
Newsweek
Ukraine’s war with Russian-sponsored separatists is not the only conflict in the country. Across the post-revolutionary nation, reformists inside and outside government are fighting to free corrupted state institutions from the stranglehold of a few incredibly wealthy businessmen. Feuding oligarchs are battling to retain or increase their influence in the new order, and their lieutenants are turning up dead. And Ukraine’s law enforcement doesn’t want to talk about them.

Amid Corruption Crackdown, 10,000 Chinese Officials Want New Jobs
Wall Street Journal
More than 10,000 civil servants are looking to quit their jobs, according to a report by the local employment website Zhaopin, which found new sign-ups from government employees have spiked since the Lunar New Year in late February. Those numbers, which rose 30% from a year ago, are startling for a profession once regarded by the Chinese as a highly sought-after lifelong sinecure. What gives? The Zhaopin report gave a vague explanation for the decline, pointing to “affected ability to fulfil one’s potential in the civil service.” Stagnating pay is also a problem, the report said. Perhaps more pertinently: President Xi Jinping’s war on corruption among officialdom has meant sharp curtailments on civil service perquisites. Government jobs are no longer as lucrative or cushy. Official cars for lower-ranking mandarins have been nixed. Gifts for civil servants, from alcohol to mooncakes, have become a target for graft-busters.

Former FAW-Volkswagen Executive Sentenced to Life for Corruption
Reuters
A former top executive at Volkswagen’s China joint venture with FAW Group Corp was sentenced to life in prison for accepting bribes, state media reported on Thursday, the latest development in corruption investigations involving FAW. A crackdown on graft at state-owned companies like FAW Group is part of a larger campaign by China’s President Xi Jinping to fight graft as well as reform state companies. Shi Tao, former deputy general manager of FAW-Volkswagen Sales Co, was convicted for taking 33 million yuan ($5.3 million) in bribes, state-owned Shanghai Daily reported, citing a court in northeast China’s Jilin province.

Romania: Former Finance Minister Admits Accepting Bribes
OCCRP
Darius Valcov, the former finance minister of Romania, has admitted to prosecutors that he had accepted at least € 1.5 million (US$ 1.6 million) in bribes from several companies in 2012. Romania has been under increasing pressure from European financial institutions to tackle the country’s widespread corruption. According to United Press International, in 2014 Romania saw convictions of graft for a former prime minister, 24 mayors, five members of Parliament, and two former government ministers.

Who’s Your Daddy: Politics and Revenge in China’s Anti-Corruption Campaign
The Diplomat
It is no accident that Nanjing is the first provincial capital in China to have both its mayor and party secretary investigated for corruption. After the fall of Nanjing Mayor Ji Jianye, Ji’s father-in-law took revenge on the party secretary and brought him down as well.

What’s Behind China Life Insurers Buying Up American Real Estate?
Forbes
Two more insurers hopped on the U.S. real estate band wagon this week and bought a majority stake in prime $500 million Boston Seaport district real estate. Who cares if the thing is worth less than that? The Chinese insurance industry is desperate for foreign assets to diversify risks out of local assets and the yuan. “My Chinese clients are looking for ‘safety deposit boxes’ in luxury American real estate. And they are not necessarily trying to make a lot of money from rent, but instead are looking to preserve wealth,” says Marlen Kurzkhov, an attorney with Gusrae Kaplan in New York.

Eight Rules for Dealing with a Rising China
Wall Street Journal
The U.S. and China have the most critical bilateral relationship in the world, and it serves America’s national security, economic health and environmental well-being to keep it strong. I’d like to suggest eight rules for dealing with China—offered not as a scholar or a theorist but as someone who has made more than 100 visits there and spent nearly 25 years dealing with senior Chinese officials.

Russia’s Next Target
Wall Street Journal
Russian forces on Thursday conducted a drill near Moldova, the small, Kremlin-menaced nation wedged between Ukraine and Romania. Having annexed Crimea and pocketed Western concessions in eastern Ukraine, Vladimir Putin is eyeing the territory stretching from the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea that Moscow considers its rightful imperial domain. Mr. Putin is also sending a warning to Moldovans to abandon their dreams of Western integration.

Nordic Nations Agree on Defense Cooperation Against Russia
Reuters
Calling Russia the biggest challenge to European security, Nordic nations agreed on closer defense ties and increased solidarity with the Baltic states on Thursday, aiming to increase regional security through deterrence. “Russia’s actions are the biggest challenge to the European security,” the ministers said. “Russia’s propaganda and political maneuvering are contributing to sowing discord between nations, and inside organizations like NATO and the EU.” The ministers said that closer cooperation in the Nordics and solidarity with the Baltic would improve security through deterrence as it would lift the threshold for military events.

April 8, 2015
Corruption Circle
Institute of Modern Russia
The case of deputy of city council Tatyana Kotlyar, who has registered about a thousand immigrants at her apartment for free, is now being prosecuted in Obninsk. According to writer Alexander Podrabinek, this criminal case against Kotlyar is a natural extension of a thoroughly corrupted political system and illegal laws that contradict the provisions of the Russian Constitution.

Former Finance Minister Slams Russian Government on Corruption
Moscow Times
While the Russian government is trying to involve itself in more economic spheres, the state is failing to perform its basic functions and corruption has swelled to levels “unimaginable” during the heydays of previous administrations, the head of Russia’s second-largest bank said at an international conference on economic development conference on Tuesday. Today’s Russian state “does not perform its basic regulatory functions,” Zadornov said, according to Interfax. “Very often it does not protect the lives and health of people, it does not serve as a regulator of what the state is obliged to do.” “The state in Russia directly participates, or tries to participate, as a subject of economic activity in practically all major spheres,” Zadornov was quoted as saying.

China Prosecutors Need Up to Two Months to Prepare Zhou Trial: Paper
Reuters
Chinese prosecutors need up to two months to prepare for the trial of former domestic security chief Zhou Yongkang, but despite the high position he held he will be given no special treatment, a state-run newspaper said on Thursday. Zhou, 72, is the most senior Chinese official to be ensnared in a graft scandal since the Communist Party swept to power in 1949. The decision to prosecute him underscores President Xi Jinping’s commitment to fighting graft at the highest levels. Prosecutors charged him last week with bribery, abuse of power and intentional disclosure of state secrets, paving the way for a trial that could expose the inner workings of the Communist Party.

Richest man in China? ‘The Sun King’
CNBC
Call him the “Sun King.” China’s richest man is now Li Hejun, founder of the thin-film solar company Hanergy, according to China’s leading wealth expert. Li Hejun is worth an estimated $26 billion, according to Rupert Hoogewerf, founder of Hurun Report, the leading wealth research firm in China. Greater China now has around 478 billionaires by official count, Hoogewerf said. But he said the official number is just “the tip of the iceburg” and that the real number of billionaires may be closer to 1,200. That’s especially true as more of the Chinese rich tried to shield their wealth from government attention. Hoogewerf said that the government’s crackdown on the rich has been politically popular in China. But it’s put the wealthy on edge. “A lot of the entrepreneurs are getting themselves stirred up because they’re waking up in the morning and trying to work out who’s going to be arrested next,” he said.

Transparency International Classed as ‘Foreign Agent’ in Russia
Deutsche Welle
The Berlin-based anti-corruption organization Transparency International (TI) has been classified as a “foreign agent” by the Russian government. The Ministry of Justice said late Tuesday the decision was made after a review by the public prosecutor. TI is known for its annual reports on bribery, corruption and press freedom. The well-regarded think tank began in Germany in 1993 and has had a Russian branch since 1999. In 2014, TI ranked Russia 136th out of 175 countries on its Corruption Perceptions Index, indicating a high level of graft.

Asia is Becoming the Global Epicenter of Corporate Corruption
Quartz
Asia is quickly becoming the main target of US efforts to crack down on international corruption. The region is the focus of more than 100 ongoing probes under the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which criminalizes bribery by companies and individuals outside of the United States, according to a survey by the law firm Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer. That’s more than twice as many as investigations as in any other region. A spokesman for the law firm told Quartz that more than 80 of the 100 Asian investigations involved China.

China’s Corruption-Hit State Broadcaster CCTV Names New Chief
Hollywood Reporter
The state-run China Central Television (CCTV) network, which has been hit by widespread graft investigations in recent years, has appointed a senior member of the country’s media watchdog, Nie Chenxi, as its new chief. Nie is a computer programming major with no formal journalism and communication education. He worked for the Hebei Provincial Bureau of Statistics and other administrative positions in that province, before becoming head of the propaganda department there in 2006. The media sector has been in the spotlight as part of President Xi Jinping’s corruption crackdown and CCTV has been one of the highest profile targets of the campaign. By appointing a technocrat to the post, the government is signaling that it intends to keep a tight grip on the broadcaster, which has a network of 45 channels and over one billion viewers.

Piling Sand in a Disputed Sea, China Literally Gains Ground
New York Times
Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter, on his first trip to Asia, put the American concerns in more diplomatic language, but the message was the same. In an interview to coincide with his visit, published Wednesday in the Yomiuri Shimbun, one of Japan’s largest dailies, Mr. Carter said China’s actions “seriously increase tensions and reduce prospects for diplomatic solutions” in territory claimed by the Philippines and Vietnam, and indirectly by Taiwan. The issue poses a problem for the Obama administration, not simply because the Philippines is a treaty ally. China is working so quickly that its assertion of sovereignty could become a fait accompli before anything can be done to stop it.

China Life, Ping An Take Majority Stake in $500 Million Boston Property Project
Reuters
China’s two biggest insurers are funding the majority of a $500 million commercial real estate project in the United States, a person with knowledge of the deal said, in the latest offshore property investment by China’s cash-rich financial institutions. China Life Insurance Co Ltd and Ping An Insurance Group Co of China Ltd have partnered New York developer Tishman Speyer Properties LP in a deal that will see each party invest about $167 million in the first phase redevelopment of Boston’s Pier 4, the person said.

April 7, 2015
Property Sales Spike Sparks Money Laundering Fears
Business in Vancouver
As affluent Chinese buyers – spurred by relaxed regulations and a lower Canadian dollar – flood into British Columbia’s real estate market, warnings are rising that some cash deals may contravene federal money laundering rules. “There is a significant problem with Chinese officials who are absconding with state funds, and there’s a massive international manhunt,” David Mulroney, Canada’s former ambassador to China, told an audience at the University of British Columbia on March 31. “China is the No. 1 exporter of hot money in the world,” he added.

Former Chinese Mayor ‘Bulldozer Ji’ Jailed for Corruption
The Guardian
The former mayor of the Chinese city of Nanjing was sentenced Tuesday to 15 years in jail for corruption, in the latest high-profile case under President Xi Jinping’s much-touted anti-graft drive. Ji Jianye was found guilty of taking 11.3 million yuan ($1.9 million) in bribes from 1999 to 2012, the Yantai Intermediate People’s Court said on its Sina Weibo microblog. Authorities have also confiscated property worth two million yuan ($325,000) from the former mayor, who was nicknamed “Bulldozer Ji” for his relentless promotion of construction projects in his city.

China’s Anti-Corruption Cadres Sacked in Anti-Corruption Campaign
Epoch Times
Anti-corruption investigators in the central Chinese province of Shanxi have unveiled their latest target: anti-corruption investigators. A total of 106 cadres in the Shanxi Commission for Discipline Inspection, the provincial anti-corruption instrument, were punished in what state-media called “self-surgery,” from December last year to March this year.

Note from Berlin: Bismarck and Germany’s Pro-Russia Lobby
European Council on Foreign Relations
The German debate about how to treat Russia has been lively. Over the past year, the political mainstream has moved towards a much more critical position towards Russia. But Russia’s aggression against Ukraine and its reckless threats towards Europe have seemed to inspire some dubious forces on the extreme left and right wings of the political spectrum.

Putin and the Dissident
Wall Street Journal
As a deputy in the Russian parliament, Ilya Ponomarev cast last year’s sole vote against the Kremlin’s annexation of Crimea. For this and other thought crimes, his face was plastered on a Moscow billboard labeling him a “national traitor” and his bank accounts were frozen. For most of the last year he has been living abroad. So this week the parliament voted to strip Mr. Ponomarev of his parliamentary immunity. This effectively forces him into exile, since his immunity was the only thing that had been standing in the way of being hit with trumped up criminal charges of taking illicit payments.

How to Discipline 90 Million People
The Atlantic
The circumstances of the People’s Republic of China today are much different than those of the Qing dynasty 300 years ago. For the ever historically minded CCP leaders, however, the lesson should be clear: Guarantee the interests of your officials and they will give you their loyalty. Punishing and threatening only ensures alienation, uncertainty, and fear. The anti-corruption drive will have to wind down at some point, and when it does, China’s leaders will have to better align the interests of rank-and-file party members with their own, in particular by rewarding performance and creativity as opposed to distributing patronage and promoting based on seniority.

April 6, 2015
Zhou Yongkang Charges Come As Xi Jinping’s Anti-Corruption Campaign Hits Snags
Wall Street Journal
But Zhou’s prosecution is coming at an important moment for the anticorruption campaign. Specifically, it appears Xi and his supporters are having an increasingly difficult time selling the idea that Beijing’s current approach is successfully rooting out the corruption that too often plagues Chinese politics. First, there’s the fall-off in high-profile news coverage of cadres caught being bad. China’s state-controlled media still runs stories of officials who are being investigated for possible criminal conduct, as with allegations of bribery in the Chongqing city works department and claims of graft committed by a deputy director at the main television network in Anhui province. But the focus in recent weeks has been on the identification and extradition of allegedly corrupt Chinese officials who have fled overseas. By broadcasting about those who are hiding abroad, Beijing is trying to pivot away from the persistence of graft at home.

Putin Refused Poroshenko’s Offer to ‘Take Donbass’ — Forbes
Moscow Times
Russian President Vladimir Putin in February turned down an offer from his Ukrainian counterpart Petro Poroshenko to “take Donbass,” asking Poroshenko whether he was “out of his mind,” Forbes reported Monday. According to a source familiar with the content of the board meeting, Putin recounted the Minsk negotiations, saying: “[Poroshenko] told me directly: ‘Take Donbass.’ I replied: ‘Are you out of your mind, or what? I don’t need Donbass. If you don’t need it — declare it independent,’” Forbes reported.

A Chinese Official’s Diary of Daily Corruption Leads to 29 Arrests
Epoch Times
In China, 28 officials have been disciplined and one awaits sentencing—all due to one man’s diaries. Authorities in the city of Dezhou, Shandong Province announced on April 2 that the efforts of Zhang Leida had helped them break the case wide open, according to Chinese state media. Zhang, the general manager of Dezhou Fuyuan Biological Starch Co., Ltd—an agricultural food production company—kept detailed records of officials who accepted cash, shopping gift cards, special local products, and other items from him as kickbacks. After Zhang’s 20-odd raw diary entries were published online in November last year, Dezhou’s anti-corruption investigators set up a taskforce to look into these allegations.

Ukraine Challenges Oligarch’s Grip on Energy Companies
Reuters
Poroshenko, who is under pressure from Western financial institutions and potential donor governments to clean up Ukraine’s act in exchange for bail-out money, has since announced a campaign to clip the wings of oligarchs who use their wallets to buy influence in parliament and government. He appears to have set his sights on breaking up their dominance of the gas industry, which has been the battleground for competing oligarch interests ever since independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.

France Lets U.S. Lead in Corruption Fight
New York Times
France has been an early and eager supporter of international anticorruption initiatives. It was among the first to sign the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s 2000 Anti-Bribery Convention and the 2004 United Nations Convention Against Corruption, and, in 2009, it led an effort by the Group of 20 nations to bring the world’s tax havens to heel. But when it comes to putting words into action, France lags behind other Western countries. In October, a working group of the O.E.C.D. said it was “seriously concerned” by the “lackluster response” by the French authorities.

Waving Cash, Putin Sows E.U. Divisions in an Effort to Break Sanctions
New York Times
Mr. Putin has methodically targeted, through charm, cash, and the fanning of historical and ideological embers, the European Union’s weakest links in a campaign to assert influence in some of Europe’s most troubled corners. One clear goal is to break fragile Western unity over the conflict in Ukraine.

Poland to Build Watchtowers at Russia’s Kaliningrad Border
Guardian
Poland will build six watchtowers to survey its 200-kilometre-long border with the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad, border police have said. The six towers will be up to 50 metres (164 feet) high and ready in June for round-the-clock surveillance, the spokeswoman for Poland’s border police told the PAP news agency. Russia’s seizure and annexation of Crimea, support for separatists in eastern Ukraine and stepped-up military drills have caused unease in the Baltic states and Poland, which lay behind the Iron Curtain a quarter of a century ago.

Ukrainian Leader is Open to a Vote on Regional Power
New York Times
Referring obliquely to Russia and the Russian-backed separatists, he said: “They started an aggression, they went to war, trying to impose federalization with iron and blood. I will not allow this to happen. Ukrainian people will not allow it to happen.” He added: “For those who wish to put forward the thesis of federalization and cast it as a debate, we have the ultimate tool — a referendum. And as to me, I’m ready to hold a referendum on the state structure of Ukraine, if you find it necessary.”

Chinese Government Officials Flee for the Private Sector Amid Corruption Crackdown
Shanghaiist
Beijing-based jobs website Zhaopin.com has since February, the start of the traditional job-hunting season in China, seen more than 10,000 public servants submitting their resumes to potential private sector employers, the South China Morning Post reports.
Traditionally a career in the civil service was viewed in Chinese society as somewhat of a golden ticket, with officials hoping to leverage the work experience and connections they form during their tenure for financial gain. These days the “iron rice bowl” is not as bountiful as it once was. Under the recent crackdown, perks have been cut and jobs hang in the balance. The salaries of officials are now more transparent and performance appraisals are more stringent. Career advancement is no longer as certain as it once was.

China Declares War on ‘Forbidden Game’ of Golf
CNN Money
Even after China opened up and golf re-emerged in the mid-1980s, largely as a way to attract foreign investment, the sport was saddled with serious image problems. Golf also remains prohibitively expensive in China (this was one thing about which Mao was right) and it has earned a reputation as a self-indulgent, elitist pursuit. In a nation of 700 million peasant farmers, only a small sliver of the population can afford to play the game. That small sliver should not include anyone living off the salary of a public official, but it often has over the years. At best, the public would view these backswinging bureaucrats as out of touch. At worst, they are thought to be totally corrupt. In Guangdong province, the birthplace of golf in modern China, an investigative team has been formed to crack down on officials who took part in any of nine golf-related activities. There’s even a public hotline for reporting suspected golf violations.

How the New York Times is Eluding Censors in China
Quartz
Mirroring: Every time a new article appears on the Times’s Chinese language website, three or four copies of it appear on “mirror” sites scattered around the internet. Using apps: Articles are published on apps targeting the Chinese-language market that have often been ignored by Chinese censors for weeks or months at a time, before being blocked. Pushing news on social media: The New York Times’ official social media accounts, as well as its reporters, are blocked by censors. But the company continues to publicize new articles on social media accounts in China that are repeatedly shut down by the censors and reinvented under new names, in what one person familiar with the strategy described as a “cat-and-mouse game.” Syndicating to local websites and newspapers: Several domestic news outlets continue to purchase the rights to run New York Times stories, like QDaily.

What Did China’s First Daughter Find in America?
New Yorker
On a sunny morning last May, a member of Harvard’s graduating class received her diploma and prepared to depart from campus as quietly as she had arrived. Xi Mingze—the only child of Xi Jinping, the President of China, and his wife, the celebrity soprano Peng Liyuan—crossed the podium at Adams House, the dorm that housed Franklin Roosevelt and Henry Kissinger. She had studied psychology and English and lived under an assumed name, her identity known only to a limited number of faculty and close friends—“less than ten,” according to Kenji Minemura, a correspondent for the Asahi Shimbun, who attended the commencement and wrote about Xi’s experience in America.

April 5, 2015
Russia’s War on Corruption Is Over
Moscow Times
The top managers of major state-owned companies won their recent dispute with the Russian government as to whether they must publish declarations of their income and property. They do not. That victory by the bureaucratic elite is no surprise: The current policy aimed at rallying the population around the president is not conducive to openness and transparency.

Jailed Rio Tinto Executive Stern Hu Wants Tony Abbott’s Help
Sydney Morning Herald
Stern Hu’s confession of bribery was made after a promise that co-operation with Chinese authorities would directly lead to freedom.

Russia’s Fridman Forms $16B Fund to Invest in US, European Telecoms
Reuters
Russian billionaire Mikhail Fridman and his Russian partners have come together to create a private-equity-style group that will invest in technology and telecom companies in the U.S. and Europe, the Financial Times reported. The private-equity fund called LetterOne Technology (L1Technology), will utilize its $16 billion in funds – stretchable up to $25 billion – to buy struggling telecom companies that require fresh infusion of capital or technology companies that make apps or streaming services that could be used by its global mobile operations, the FT quoted L1Technology’s Chief Executive Alexey Reznikovich as saying.

Three More Top Chinese Officials to Visit US This Year
WantChinaTimes
China-US relations appear to be making a positive turn with the announcement that three other top officials in addition to Communist Party chief Xi Jinping and top anti-graft official Wang Qishan will be making visits to Washington this year, reports Duowei News, a US-based Chinese political news outlet. The three officials will be Central Military Commission vice chair Fan Changlong, and vice premiers Liu Yandong and Wang Yang. Fan, 67, is the second-most senior military official in China behind Xi, who also serves as CMC chair. It is understood that Fan will discuss several major issues with his US military counterparts, including the US sale of arms to Taiwan, the presence of US ships and aircraft in what China perceives to be its economic zone, concerns about China’s military strategy and other obstacles to military exchanges.

April 4, 2015
Russia ‘Bought’ Marine Le Pen’s Support Over Crimea
Telegraph
France’s Front National may have been given a multi-million-euro loan by a Russian bank as a “reward” for backing President Putin’s annexation of Crimea, according to text messages released by Russian hackers. The publication of excerpts from the messages by the French news website Mediapart has rekindled accusations that Moscow is bankrolling the Front National and other European far-Right groups. However, Marine Le Pen, the Front National leader, said it was “insane” to interpret more than 1,100 pages of text messages as showing that she had agreed to endorse the controversial Crimean referendum last year in return for funding.

China Arrests Environmental Reporter Suspected of Extortion
Reuters
A string of corruption scandals in China’s news media has shaken the faith of the public in the largely state-controlled industry and in response, the media regulator unveiled tougher rules last year. The group’s ringleader, surnamed Chen, is accused of blackmailing businesses into paying hundreds of thousands of yuan to delete embarrassing online reports about their activities on a website for environmental news, the official Xinhua news agency said. Their tactics allegedly reaped more than 6 million yuan ($968,836) in profit, with victims ranging from the province of Shandong to far-flung Inner Mongolia, the agency said in an online report.

Sri Lankan Airlines Accused of ‘Culture of Corruption’(Sri Lankan Airlines Accused of ‘Culture of Corruption’_
BBC
A statement from the prime minister’s office said that an inquiry had unearthed “major security breaches” at Sri Lankan Airlines. The statement alleges irregularities in a $2.3bn purchase of 10 aircraft made under the previous government. The loss-making airline is 95% state-owned and 5% owned by staff. It is the latest in a string of corruption allegations made against the administration of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa. The statement, issued by the office of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, accuses Mr Rajapaksa of making management changes within the airline to allow the $2.3bn-dollar purchase of 10 new aircraft “despite the availability of more cost-effective alternatives.”

Human Rights Activists’ Dismay as Uzbekistan Autocrat Clings to Power
The Guardian
Islam Karimov won a ‘sham election’ in a state condemned for torture and corruption, say critics, who fear it will now get worse. Welcome to Uzbekistan, a country bigger than Germany, with a population of 31 million, where Islam Karimov is now embarking on a fourth term of office, even though the constitution stipulates a two-term maximum for heads of state. Among human rights activists and political dissidents, the gnashing of teeth has already begun.

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