New Jersey man sentenced for role in Russian uranium bribe scheme

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A New Jersey man was sentenced on Monday to a year and a day in prison for conspiracy to commit money laundering in connection with his role in arranging bribes for the awarding of contracts with Russia’s state-owned nuclear energy corporation, the U.S. Justice Department said.

Boris Rubizhevsky, 67, of Closter, New Jersey, was sentenced to prison along with three years of supervised release and a $26,500 fine by U.S. District Judge Theodore Chuang for the District of Maryland, the department said in a statement.

Rubizhevsky pleaded guilty to the money-laundering conspiracy charge in June 2015. He was accused of acting as an intermediary in connection with bribes to co-conspirator Vadim Mikerin, a former nuclear official of Russia’s state-run enterprise Rosatom, the statement said.

Mikerin, former president of a U.S.-based Rosatom subsidiary, pleaded guilty in 2015 to helping orchestrate more than $2 million in bribe payments through secret accounts in Cyprus, Latvia and Switzerland.

Between October 2011 and February 2013, Rubizhevsky and Mikerin agreed to conceal bribes paid from the United States to overseas bank accounts, including a payment to an account in Latvia, the statement said.

Mikerin was sentenced in December 2015 to 48 months in prison for his role in the money-laundering scheme.

Authorities have said those payments went to Russian nuclear energy officials in exchange for contracts to U.S. companies involved in the shipment of uranium from Russia. Attorneys for Rosatom have said Mikerin acted alone.

Mikerin oversaw the shipment of uranium from Russia for use in American power plants. Much of that material was drawn from decommissioned Russian weapons under an agreement with Washington known as the “Megatons to Megawatts” program, which converted the uranium from thousands of nuclear warheads for civilian use in U.S. nuclear power plants.

At one point, the arrangement fueled 10 percent of U.S. electricity, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

Daren Condrey, the former owner of Transport Logistics International, pleaded guilty in 2015 to conspiring to make bribe payments to Mikerin in exchange for uranium shipping contracts. The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act makes it a crime to bribe overseas officials to win business.

Mikerin’s arrest followed a seven-year investigation that began as a U.S. intelligence probe into Russian nuclear officials, according to court records and people familiar with the matter.

(Reporting by Eric Walsh; Additional reporting by Joel Schectman; Editing by Peter Cooney and Lisa Shumaker)

Saudi Arabia makes fresh arrests in anti-graft crackdown: sources

Saudi Arabia makes fresh arrests in anti-graft crackdown: sources

By Stephen Kalin and Katie Paul

RIYADH (Reuters) – Saudi Arabian authorities have made further arrests and frozen more bank accounts in an expanding anti-corruption crackdown on the kingdom’s political and business elite, sources familiar with the matter said on Wednesday

Dozens of royal family members, officials and business executives have already been held in the purge announced on Saturday. They face allegations of money laundering, bribery, extortion and exploiting public office for personal gain.

But the sources, speaking on Wednesday, said a number of other individuals suspected of wrongdoing were detained in an expansion of the crackdown, widely seen as an initiative of the powerful heir to the throne, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Others under scrutiny are being telephoned by investigators about their finances but appear to remain at liberty, one of the sources said, adding that the number of people targeted by the crackdown was expected eventually to rise into the hundreds.

The number of domestic bank accounts frozen as a result of the purge is over 1,700 and rising, up from 1,200 reported on Tuesday, banking sources said.

A number of those held most recently include individuals with links to the immediate family of the late Crown Prince and Defence Minister Prince Sultan bin Abdulaziz who died in 2011, the sources said.

STOCKS FALL

Others appear to be lower-level managers and officials, one of the sources said.

Many Saudis have cheered the purge as an attack on the theft of state funds by the rich, and U.S. President Donald Trump said those arrested had been “‘milking’ their country for years”.

But some Western officials expressed apprehension at the possible ramifications for the secretive tribal and royal politics of the world’s largest oil exporter.

Saudi Arabia’s stock market continued to fall in early trade on Wednesday because of concern about the economic impact of its anti-corruption purge. The Saudi index .TASI was 1.0 percent lower after half an hour of trade. Shares in companies linked to people detained in the investigation slid further.

Late on Tuesday, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and the Saudi central bank sought to ease worries about the crackdown.

They said that while individuals were being targeted and having their bank accounts frozen, national and multinational companies – including those wholly or partly owned by individuals under investigation – would not be disrupted.

Anti-corruption authorities have also frozen the bank accounts of Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, one of the most senior members of the ruling Al Saud, and some of his immediate family members, the sources added.

Prince Mohammed, or MbN as he is known, was ousted as Crown Prince in June when King Salman replaced him with the then Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Since Sunday, the central bank has been expanding the list of accounts it is requiring lenders to freeze on an almost hourly basis, one regional banker said, declining to be named because he was not authorized to speak to media.

RIGHTS CONCERNS

MbN made his first confirmed public appearance since his ousting at the funeral on Tuesday for Prince Mansour bin Muqrin, deputy governor of Asir province, who was killed in a helicopter crash on Sunday. No cause has been given for the crash.

Among business executives detained in the probe so far are billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, chairman of investment firm Kingdom Holding <4280.SE>; Nasser bin Aqeel al-Tayyar, founder of Al Tayyar Travel <1810.SE>; and Amr al-Dabbagh, chairman of builder Red Sea International <4230.SE>.

The U.S. State Department said on Tuesday it had urged Saudi Arabia to carry out any prosecution of officials detained in a “fair and transparent” manner.

Commenting on the purge, Human Rights Watch called on Saudi authorities to “immediately reveal the legal and evidentiary basis for each person’s detention and make certain that each person detained can exercise their due process rights”.

“It’s great that Saudi authorities are declaring that they want to take on the scourge of corruption, but the right way to do that is through diligent judicial investigations against actual wrongdoing, not sensationalistic mass arrests to a luxury hotel,” Right Watch official Sarah Leah Whitson in a statement.

(Reporting by Samia Nakhoul, Stephen Kalin, Katie Paul, Reem Shamseddine and Andrew Torchia; Additional reporting by Tom Arnold in Dubai; Writing by William Maclean; Editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg)

Man arrested after threatening to kill ‘all white police’ at White House

Man arrested after threatening to kill 'all white police' at White House

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A Texas man suspected of traveling to Washington to kill “all white police” at the White House was arrested on Monday by Secret Service agents near the executive mansion, the agency said.

Michael Arega of Dallas, whose age was not listed by authorities, was arrested Monday afternoon after police in suburban Montgomery County, Maryland, issued an alert for the suspect in the Washington area, the Secret Service said.

“Secret Service personnel at the White House immediately increased their posture of readiness and began searching for Arega,” the agency said in a statement.

A little more than an hour after receiving the bulletin, agents spotted Arega on the north side of Pennsylvania Avenue near Lafayette Square, a park across the street from the White House, and he was taken into custody without incident by uniformed Secret Service officers, the agency said.

Arega was not armed when he was arrested, and was under investigation for allegedly making felony threats, Secret Service spokesman Shawn Holtzclaw told Reuters by telephone.

U.S. President Donald Trump was on an overseas trip in Asia at the time.

Arega was handed over to the Washington Metropolitan Police Department, the Secret Service said.

In a report on the incident, police said Arega made threats on Facebook. It was not immediately known if Arega has an attorney.

(Reporting by Roberta Rampton; Additional reporting and writing by Keith Coffman; Editing by Steve Gorman and Mary Milliken)

Senator Rand Paul suffers five broken ribs after assault

Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) speaks to reporters as he arrives for a vote on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., October 18, 2017.

By Bernie Woodall and Pete Schroeder

(Reuters) – U.S. Senator Rand Paul’s return to Washington may be delayed after he suffered five broken ribs during an assault at his Kentucky home, media reported on Sunday, citing a senior adviser to the Republican lawmaker.

Paul’s neighbor, Rene Boucher, has been charged with one count of fourth-degree assault causing minor injury in connection with the incident on Friday, according to authorities. Boucher, 59, was released on bond.

“Senator Paul has five rib fractures including three displaced fractures. This type of injury is caused by high velocity severe force,” Doug Stafford, a senior adviser to Paul, said in a statement, according to multiple media reports.

“It is not clear exactly how soon he will return to work, as the pain is considerable as is the difficulty in getting around, including flying,” the reports quoted Stafford as saying. He added that the senator’s type of injury could lead to life-threatening injuries.

Paul, 54, also has lung contusions, Stafford said in the statement, according to the reports.

The Bowling Green Daily News, citing an arrest warrant, said Paul told police his neighbor came on to his property in a gated community just east of Bowling Green and tackled him from behind. Paul had injuries to the face and trouble breathing because of a rib injury, the newspaper said.

It was not clear what motivated the altercation and Paul did not go to the hospital, police said. Paul was mowing his lawn at the time of the attack, television station WAVE-TV in Kentucky reported.

“Kelley and I appreciate the overwhelming support after Friday’s unfortunate event. Thank you for your thoughts and prayers,” Paul said on Twitter on Sunday morning, referring to his wife.

A man who answered Boucher’s phone on Sunday, when a Reuters reporter asked to speak with him, said: “I’m sorry. I can’t talk.”

Kentucky State Police said on Saturday that Paul and Boucher were acquaintances. The suspect is a retired physician, the Bowling Green Daily News said.

The New York Daily News reported that a Facebook page for Boucher contained numerous postings critical of Republican President Donald Trump.

Paul, an ophthalmologist, ran for the Republican presidential nomination before dropping out of the race in February 2016.

 

(Reporting by Bernie Woodall in Fort Lauderdale, Florida; Editing by Peter Cooney and Paul Simao)

 

German police arrest Syrian suspected of planning bomb attack

German police arrest Syrian suspected of planning bomb attack

BERLIN (Reuters) – German police arrested a 19-year-old Syrian suspected of planning an Islamist-motivated bomb attack in Germany with the aim of killing as many people as possible, the federal prosecutor’s office said on Tuesday.

The man, whose name was given as Yamen A., was arrested in the early hours in the northeastern town of Schwerin. Police searched his home and also those of other people not suspected of being directly involved.

“According to the findings so far, Yamen A. made the decision no later than July 2017 to detonate an explosive device in Germany in order to kill and injure as many people as possible,” the prosecutor’s office said in a statement.

“As a result, he began to procure components and chemicals needed to make an explosive device. Whether the suspect had already envisaged a specific target for his bomb attack is still unclear,” the office added.

There were no indications that he was a member of a terrorist organization, it said. It did not say when he arrived in Germany.

Chancellor Angela Merkel, who is trying to form a new coalition government after elections last month, has come under fire for allowing more than one million people to enter Germany over the past two years – many of them refugees from Syria.

Her ‘open door’ refugee policy saw her conservatives bleed support in the election to the anti-immigration Alternative for Germany (AfD), which won seats in the national parliament for the first time.

The prosecutor’s office said it would give an update on the investigation at 2 p.m. (1300 GMT).

(Writing by Paul Carrel; Editing by Peter Graff)

German police rule out terrorism in Munich knife attack

A German police officer guards the site where earlier a man injured several people in a knife attack in Munich, Germany, October 21, 2017. REUTERS/Michael Dalder

By Ayhan Uyanik

MUNICH (Reuters) – German police ruled out a political or religious motive behind a knife attack in the city of Munich on Saturday and said a detained man suspected of injuring eight people had mental health problems.

The arrest of the suspect in his 30s brought calm back to the streets of the Bavarian capital after a tense morning. Police had asked residents to stay home until they find the attacker who had fled on a bicycle.

Munich police chief Hubertus Andrae told a news conference that eight people have been lightly injured in the attack and that the suspect was known to police from previous offences, including burglary.

“We have no indication of a terrorist, political, or religious motive,” Andrae said. “I assume it is to do with a psychological disorder of the perpetrator.”

Police had earlier said they believe the man, who attacked people at several different locations, acted alone.

His victims include a 12-year-old boy and a woman.

(Writing by Joseph Nasr; Editing by Jeremy Gaunt)

Boston man found guilty in Islamic State beheading plot

By Scott Malone

BOSTON (Reuters) – A Boston-area man was found guilty on Wednesday of conspiracy to commit acts of international terrorism and supporting Islamic State for a 2015 plot to attack police and behead a conservative blogger who organized a “Draw Mohammed” contest.

David Wright, 28, was found guilty of five criminal charges for planning with his uncle and a friend to behead blogger Pamela Geller. The plot fell apart after Wright’s uncle said he wanted to kill law enforcement officers instead and was shot dead by police.

During a 3-1/2-week trial, federal prosecutors presented evidence that Wright, who lived in the Boston suburb of Everett, had read and viewed copious amounts of online propaganda from the militant group and vowed to join its cause. They also showed evidence suggesting he had been in touch with members of the Islamic State in Syria.

Wright, his uncle Usamaah Abdullah Rahim and friend Nicholas Rovinski had focused their attention on Pamela Geller, the blogger who organized the “Draw Mohammed” contest in Garland, Texas, which she described as an exercise of free speech, though many Muslims consider cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed offensive.

Two gunman attacked that contest and were shot dead, leading Wright and his counterparts to hatch a plan to behead Geller in New York.

(Reporting by Scott Malone; Editing by Andrew Hay)

Trial of Islamic State beheading plot in Massachusetts nears end

BOSTON (Reuters) – The case of a Massachusetts man who prosecutors say plotted to attack police and behead a conservative blogger on behalf of Islamic State nears a close on Tuesday as lawyers make closing arguments.

Federal prosecutors contend that David Wright, 28, along with his uncle and a friend had plotted to kill the woman who organized the 2015 “Draw Mohammed” contest in Garland, Texas, a plan they said unraveled when the uncle lost patience and said he wanted to kill police officers instead.

Wright, who took the witness stand in his own defense last week, testified that his discussions with the other two men about Islamic state were “role playing” that served as a distraction when he was broke, weighed 530 pounds (240 kg), and was living in his family’s home in the Boston suburb of Everett and spending his days playing video games.

“I created a fantasy world,” Wright testified, denying that there had been a plan to kill Pamela Geller, the organizer of the “Draw Mohammed” contest. “I’m beginning to realize how horrible some of the stuff I said was. It makes me really sick.”

Prosecutors said they had been monitoring communications between Wright, his uncle, Usamaah Abdullah Rahim, and friend Nicholas Rovinski, and heard them plot the attack. They also overheard Rahim when he told the pair he planned to kill law enforcement officers, a message that prompted police to try to question him in a supermarket parking lot.

Rahim pulled a knife on the officers, who shot him dead.

If Wright is found guilty of the charge of conspiracy to commit acts of terrorism transcending national boundaries, he could face a life sentence. He is also charged with conspiracy to support a terrorist organization and obstruction of justice, allegedly for telling Rahim to destroy his phone before attacking police, as well as for attempting to destroy all information on his computer.

Geller had organized the Texas event in May 2015 highlighting cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed, images that many Muslims consider blasphemous. Two gunmen had attacked that event and were shot dead by police.

Geller contends her event was intended as a demonstration of the free-speech rights protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

Rovinski in 2016 pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges. Rahim’s family have denied he had shown any signs of radicalization.

(Reporting by Scott Malone; Additional reporting by Nate Raymond; Editing by Leslie Adler)

Nigeria set to start mass trial of Boko Haram suspects behind closed doors

ABUJA (Reuters) – The trial of more than 1,600 people suspected of ties with Boko Haram was expected to begin in Nigeria on Monday behind closed doors, in the biggest legal investigation into the eight-year militant Islamist insurgency.

More than 20,000 people have been killed and two million forced from their homes in northeastern Nigeria during the insurgency, contributing to what the United Nations has said is among the world’s worst humanitarian crises.

Nigeria’s ministry of justice said last month the trial of around 1,670 people held at the Kainji detention facility would begin at the site, in the central Niger state, on Monday and would be presided over by four judges.

A spokesman for the ministry did not respond to requests for confirmation that the trial had begun. A military spokesman declined to comment, saying questions should be addressed to the judiciary.

The ministry has said that after the Kainji trials are completed, a further 651 people suspected of having links to Boko Haram and currently being held at prisons in Maiduguri, the capital of the northeastern state of Borno, would go on trial.

Clement Nwankwo, a human rights lawyer based in the capital, Abuja, said the trials would provide a more effective deterrent if they were open to the media and public.

“On the Boko Haram issue, stories need to be told for the public to be made aware what has been going on and understand the nature of the crimes committed,” said Nwankwo, adding that secrecy also made it hard to determine whether trials were fair.

“The Nigerian authorities have not been known to be diligent in investigating and properly prosecuting suspects,” he said, warning that a sense of injustice could breed resentment among relatives that could yield future radicalization.

SECRECY

However, Fatima Akilu – who headed the government’s counter violent extremism program under the previous administration – said secrecy was needed to encourage witnesses and judges to take part in the trials because Nigeria does not have a witness protection program.

“A lot of witnesses were afraid to come forward,” Akilu, who was based in the Office of the National Security Adviser from 2012 to 2015, said of previous efforts to pursue trials.

She said judges and witnesses had previously been subjected to death threats.

“If the witnesses don’t come forward there is limited evidence in terms of reaching a conviction, so I think there was little choice,” she said, adding that there were no clear alternatives in the absence of an amnesty program.

Nigeria’s handling of thousands of people accused of ties with Boko Haram insurgents has previously attracted criticism.

The legal process marks a steep escalation in the number of insurgency-related cases being handled by Nigerian authorities.

The Ministry of Justice has said that, as of Sept. 11, only 13 “terrorism cases” had been concluded and nine convictions had been secured.

“The decision to start the trials is a response to persistent complaints by local and international human rights groups over thousands of persons detained without access to lawyers and without any specific charges, said Nnamdi Obasi, of International Crisis Group.

(Reporting by Camillus Eboh, Paul Carsten and Alexis Akwagyiram in Lagos; Editing by Gareth Jones)

Three charged with plotting NY attacks for Islamic State: U.S. prosecutors

By Brendan Pierson

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Three men have been arrested since May of last year on charges of plotting attacks in New York City for Islamic State in the summer of 2016, U.S. prosecutors said on Friday.

The planned attacks, which were thwarted by law enforcement, included detonating explosives in Manhattan’s Times Square and in the city’s subway, according to the office of Acting U.S. Attorney Joon Kim in Manhattan.

One of the men, 19-year-old Canadian citizen Abdulrahman El Bahnasawy, has been in U.S. custody since May 2016, when he was arrested in New Jersey. He pleaded guilty to terrorism charges in October 2016, the prosecutors said.

Talha Haroon, a 19-year-old U.S. citizen, was arrested in Pakistan, where he lives, around September 2016, and Russell Salic, a 37-year-old citizen of the Philippines, was arrested in that country in April of this year, according to Kim’s office.

Prosecutors said they expected Haroon and Salic to be extradited to the United States to face the charges, which include conspiracy to commit acts of terrorism and to support a terrorist organization. If convicted of the most serious charges, they face a maximum sentence of life in prison.

Lawyers for the three men could not immediately be identified.

Prosecutors said El Bahnasawy bought bomb-making materials and helped secure a cabin near New York City from which to stage attacks. They said Haroon planned to travel from Pakistan to help El Bahnasawy carry out attacks, and that Salic helped fund the plot.

According to documents unsealed in federal court in Manhattan on Friday, El Bahnasawy and Haroon planned to carry out attacks during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which ran from early June to early July.

El Bahnasawy told an undercover law enforcement officer posing as a supporter of Islamic State that he wanted to “create the next 9/11,” prosecutors said. El Bahnasawy told the officer of plans to detonate a car bomb in Times Square and “shoot up concerts,” according to prosecutors.

Haroon likewise told the officer that Time Square was “a perfect spot to hit them,” prosecutors said.

Salic, who maintained a pro-Islamic State social media presence, told the undercover officer that he had been communicating with El Bahnasawy, and sent the officer about $423 from the Philippines to help pay for the attacks, according to prosecutors.

El Bahnasawy bought bomb-making materials in Canada, and was arrested the same day he came to the United States, the prosecutors said.

(Reporting By Brendan Pierson in New York; Editing by Andrew Hay and Jonathan Oatis)