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September 24, 2010

Kenyan court jails seven pirates for 2009 attempted hijack of Maltese ship

Kenyan court jails seven pirates for 2009 attempted hijack of Maltese ship

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Friday, September 24, 2010

A court in Mombasa, Kenya has sentenced a group of seven Somali pirates to five years each in jail, according to a statement by the European Union. Anti-piracy mission EU Navfor said the septet were arrested by Spanish navy sailors after attacking Malta-registered cargo vessel Anny Petrakis.

Presiding over the conviction and sentencing, Timothy Ole Tanchut told the men he “…[had] concrete proof that you attacked a vessel in the high seas and I order you to serve five years in prison,” ruling that they will be deported to Somalia after serving their sentences. They have been in custody since May 7 last year when a Spanish crew captured them coming to the aid of the Anny Petrakis. The arrests followed warning shots fired by a naval helicopter.

This is the third pirate gang jailed in the last two years, bringing the total serving sentences in Kenya to around 15; around 100 suspects await trial in custody. Trials have been difficult to arrange owing to issues around finding locations; Kenya has international agreements with the EU, the United States and Denmark, as well as a separate treaty with EU-state the United Kingdom. These allow Kenya to try pirates like these ones handed over by Spain in exchange for support of the nation’s judicial system. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, the European Union, Australia and Canada have all chipped in with donations to fund the court.



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January 20, 2010

According to UN report, bribes cost Afghans US$2.5 billion per year

According to UN report, bribes cost Afghans US$2.5 billion per year

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Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Afghanistan
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Afghan President Hamid Karzai in 2009

According to a newly-released report compiled by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), bribes paid to police, military, and public officials over the past year have cost Afghan civilians collectively over US$2.5 billion, nearly the equivalent of a quarter of the country’s legitimate GDP.

Entitled “Corruption in Afghanistan”, the report was based on polling of approximately 7,600 people in cities and villages around the nation. According to the report, 59% of those surveyed said that government sanctioned corruption was a more pressing concern to them than insecurity (54%) or unemployment (52%).

The report adds that more than half the population had to pay out at least one bribe in 2009. Furthermore, in a country where the economic output is only $425 per person, the average bribe cost nearly $160. Three out of four bribes were paid in cash.

Another finding is that one in every three Afghans believed that bribery was just a normal part of society. That being the case, only 9% of those surveyed—for whatever reason—ever chose to report these type acts to the proper authorities. The reports go on to say that there is a widely-held perception among 54% of Afghans that foreign nations and non-governmental organizations are just in their country “to get rich.”

The head of the UNODC, Antonio Maria Costa, said in a statement to the international media, “The Afghans say that it is impossible to obtain a public service without paying a bribe. Bribery is a crippling tax on people who are already among the world’s poorest.”

Cquote1.svg It’s time to drain the swamp of corruption in Afghanistan, to stop money and trust disappearing down a big black hole. Corruption is the biggest impediment to improving security, development and governance in Afghanistan. Cquote2.svg

—Antonio Maria Costa, Head of the U.N. Office on Drugs & Crime

Costa went on to note that there is a “new caste of rich and powerful individuals who operate outside the traditional power and tribal structures and bid the cost of favors and loyalty to levels not compatible with the under-developed nature of the country. Criminal graft has become similarly monumental, perverse and growing and is having political, economic and even security consequences.”

“It’s time to drain the swamp of corruption in Afghanistan, to stop money and trust disappearing down a big black hole. Corruption is the biggest impediment to improving security, development and governance in Afghanistan.”

This report was released Tuesday, nine days before a scheduled international conference on Afghanistan in London. There, Afghan President Hamid Karzai is expected to face criticism for his perceived passive stance on corruption from the coalition of nations—especially the United States—that have thousands of troops committed to Afghanistan as part of the Global War on Terrorism.

President Karzai was sworn in for a second five-year term last November after a controversial and hard-fought election during which he was widely accused of various types of fraud. Nevertheless, he has staunchly defended his record on corruption, stating that the entire issue had been “blown out of proportion by Western media.”



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October 18, 2009

UN claims over a quarter million human trafficking victims in EU

UN claims over a quarter million human trafficking victims in EU

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Sunday, October 18, 2009

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The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) claims there could be nearly 270,000 victims of human trafficking in the European Union (EU) — over thirty times the last estimate from 2006. The UN’s figures in the Trafficking in Persons; Analysis on Europe report highlights this and, taking advantage of European Anti-Trafficking Day, they are calling for greater efforts to combat the illegal trade.

Today’s announcement aims to bring awareness to the plight of victims, often forced to work illegally in prostitution or labour jobs after being smuggled across borders. Antonio Maria Costa, UNODC executive director, highlighted that few human traffickers are caught, blaming police for not acting sufficiently.

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In the six years since the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children came into force, the majority of EU countries have taken measures to criminalise trafficking both for sexual exploitation and forced labour.

Costa highlighted that around one in 100,000 people were convicted for human trafficking in Europe, noting that this figure was less than “for rare crimes like kidnapping.” Only 9,000 victims were reported in 2006.

“Perhaps police are not finding the traffickers and victims because they are not looking for them,” said Costa.

UNODC asserts the majority of victims are women, forced into prostitution; men are forced to work on building sites or farms, and ten percent of the victims of human trafficking in Europe are children, up from four percent in 2003.

“Lives should not be for sale or for rent on a continent that prohibits slavery and forced labour, and prides itself on upholding human dignity”, Costa asserts.



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December 17, 2008

Somali pirates hijack Indonesian tugboat and Turkish container ship

Somali pirates hijack Indonesian tugboat and Turkish container ship

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Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Map showing Somalia

Two more vessels have been hijacked in Somalia. Pirates have captured an Indonesian tugboat with a barge that was working for French oil firm Total and a Turkish container ship.

The Turkish vessel’s seizure was confirmed by a US Fifth Fleet spokesman. MV Bosphorus Prodigy is a 330 ft (100 m) container vessel flagged in Antigua and Barbuda. It is owned and operated by Isko Marine Company based in Istanbul.

The Fifth Fleet could not confirm the tugboat’s seizure, but an anonymous official with Total in Yemen could. He explained the boat and barge were headed to Malaysia from the Yemeni port of Mukalla. He said the crew consisted of both Indonesians and other nationalities, and that the vessels, which had been hired by a subcontractor, were not carrying any oil at the time.

The new hijackings came as the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime asked for greater policing in the area by international bodies, and for the signing of agreements that allowed the arresting officer to take pirates back to the officer’s country for prosecution.

“Pirates cannot be keelhauled or forced to walk the plank, nor should they be dumped off the Somali coast,” said the office’s head Antonio Maria Costa. “They need to be brought to justice”.



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August 27, 2007

Opium production in Afghanistan reaches record highs

Opium production in Afghanistan reaches record highs

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Monday, August 27, 2007

Opium Poppy

According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) report released Monday, the opium produced in Afghanistan has doubled in the past two years, reaching record highs. The United Nations’ report determined that 93% of the world’s opium is now produced in Afghanistan, up 1% from last year.

In 2007, 193,000 hectares of land in Afghanistan were dedicated to opium poppy cultivation, representing a 17 percent increase over 2006. In addition, the yield per hectare was up from last year, due to favourable weather conditions. In 2007, opium yields were 42.5 kg per hectare, while in 2006 yields were 37.0 kg/ha. Overall in 2007, Afghanistan produced 8,200 tons of opium, an amount 34 percent greater than in 2006.

This marks the sixth consecutive year that production has increased despite the United States’ US$600 million counter-narcotics program in Afghanistan. When commenting on the report’s overall findings, William B. Wood, the American ambassador to Afghanistan, said, “I think it is safe to say that we should be looking for a new strategy, and I think that we are finding one.” He refers to the possibility of such enhanced U.S. efforts including spraying poppy crops with herbicides. This proposal has been opposed by both British and Afghan officials in the past.

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June 8, 2005

President Lula opens U.N. forum to combat corruption

President Lula opens U.N. forum to combat corruption

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Wednesday, June 8, 2005

São Paulo, Brazil — The Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva opened on Tuesday the 4th Global Forum to Combat Corruption in Brasilia, Brazil. The encounter is expected to last from June 7 to 10.

Lula inaugurated the event in company of the Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the Undersecretary-General of the United Nations, Antonio Maria Costa, and the Brazilian Federal Comptroller-General, Waldir Pires.

According to the organizers, the “Global Forum is the result of a worldwide policy to battle against corruption and money-laundering. In short, against those crimes that prevent the money collected by nations from being applied decently on behalf of the population”.

The forum, is sponsored by the Brazilian government and the United Nations. Around one hundred delegations from around the world are expected to debate improvements in anti-corruption methods and international cooperation.

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February 11, 2005

U.N. reports Afghan opium production is up again

U.N. reports Afghan opium production is up again

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Friday, February 11, 2005
Afghanistan is the #1 producer of opium in the world — responsible for 87% of all illicit opium production — according to reports from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), and its opium production has accelerated since the coalition invasion in 2001.

The November 2004 annual reports put out by UNODC show that Afghanistan opium production has been increasing each year since the coalition invasion. The UNODC report for 2004 shows a 64% increase over the previous year in the area of opium production, and a 22% increase in export value for the year(US$2.8 billion).

“It could be brought under control with a good dose of law enforcement, which at the moment is lacking,” Antonio Maria Costa, executive director of UNODC, said in an interview in 2003 when reports showed an increase in hectares under production of 8% over the previous year. “I believe that the war against terrorism, leaving aside addiction, will not be won unless we control the opium economy of Afghanistan.”

Doug Wankel, Counter Narcotics Coordinator at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, said the opium industry in Afghanistan is financing terrorism in an interview with USA Today. “It’s financing subversive activities. It’s financing warlordism. … And if it’s a threat to the government of Afghanistan, it’s a direct threat to the national security interests of the United States.”

Calling the data “disheartening,” UNODC reported that Afghanistan now produces three-fourths of the world’s opium. The report estimated revenues from growing and trafficking to be half of Afghanistan’s gross domestic product.

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  • “Report finds Afghanistan is on the verge of becoming a narcotics state” — Wikinews, March 5, 2005

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