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Archive for June, 2017

Walking through the streets of Neutral Bay on Sydney’s north shore, a humble and unassuming woman on the way to the convenience store she ran gave no hint of a darker side.

But inside her Yeo Street apartment, and in the presence of organised crime figures she did business for, Ping He assumed the role of the “godmother”.

This petite 52-year-old mother was at the helm of a lucrative money laundering ring, washing hundreds of thousands of dollars of drug proceeds offshore.

Her arrest was a major scalp in a lengthy NSW Organised Crime Squad investigation that shone a light on the scale of the illicit money laundering industry in Australia.

The intricacies of this investigation can now be detailed after He pleaded guilty last month to one outstanding charge.

Detectives put He – also known as “Angel” – – under surveillance in 2014 after learning of her extensive links to Asian organised crime figures.

He, who owned Danny’s Convenience Store in Neutral Bay, was part of a syndicate that laundered money from Australia to China and back again. Some of it would end up in the hands of Sydney-based Chinese nationals with gambling habits, court documents show.

The end game was to launder the proceeds of drug sales through numerous transactions with remitting agencies to mask the true source so it eventually appeared the money was from a legitimate source.

James Zhu, 48, who has been sentenced to five years jail from drug and money laundering offencesPhoto: NSW Police

Sometimes He, who charged maybe 1-2 per cent commission, would organise someone to travel to Melbourne with loads of cash to flush money through remitting agencies over the border.

The players in her syndicate referred to each other by titles like “Big head”, “team leader” and “godmother”.

In August, 2014, a surveillance device in He’s unit recorded convicted drug supplier James Zhu, 48, and another man counting $300,000 on a cash counting machine.

“I’m going to take my commission first, f**k how much should it be?” asked Zhu, who referred to himself as “the master”.

“$300,00, 2 per cent, $6000…do I take $6000?”

He replied: “Right, fine you take $6000, mine is $9000.”

A few days later, He was heard telling a courier how to split $250,000 into $50,000 lots and deposit it into one bank account via multiple remitters.

In May 2014, He used a remitter to move client He Ren’s drug sale proceeds from China to Australia. That money was directed to Chinese nationals in Australia who had deposited funds in He’s Chinese bank account.

“This transaction … showed the accused was using Ren’s drug-related funds to facilitate money transfers to other people who required funds moved from China to Australia for their own purpose,” a fact sheet tendered in court states.

He was also heard discussing drug prices with 52-year-old Ren, using terms like apples and oranges as code for ounces of methamphetamine.

Fearing Ren was on the police radar, Zhu urged He to stay away from him.

“Did you know how Ren made so much money,” Zhu told He in 2014.

“In the past it was me giving Ren f**king opportunities all the way along.”

Sweeping police raids resulted in the trio’s arrest and a swathe of charges.

He – the leader of the syndicate – was sentenced last month to five years’ jail, with a non-parole period of three years, for dealing with proceeds of crime.

She is due to be sentenced for participating in a criminal group charge in November.

www.money-au.com

Michelle Carter arrives at court in Taunton, MA on June 16, 2017 to hear the verdict in her trial.MURDER BY TEXT CASE.

John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe/Getty Images

A Massachusetts judge has found 20-year-old Michelle Carter guilty of involuntary manslaughter in the 2014 suicide of her boyfriend, Conrad Roy III, who Carter repeatedly encouraged to commit suicide via text message. The American Civil Liberties Union has condemned the ruling, arguing it “imperils free speech” and could set a new precedent that chills people’s First Amendment rights when communicating via tech tools like text and social media.

But legal experts say Carter’s crime isn’t altogether new, and that it has little to do with texts. It’s based on a long history of legal precedent laying out when speech can be considered a crime and what role the law believes one individual can play in causing another’s suicide. Given that history, the fact that Carter’s communication with her boyfriend happened to play out over hundreds of text messages is almost irrelevant, and shouldn’t have much bearing on what people can and can’t say via smartphone.

“This story is news because it involves technology, but people have been using words to commit crimes as long as there have been crimes,” says Neil Richards, a professor at Washington University Law School, who specializes in speech and constitutional law. “People commit crimes with words, and now people use tech to communicate words, so now people are using tech to commit crimes with words.”

Joseph Cataldo, an attorney for Carter, told CNN’s Jake Tapper that Carter’s messages are protected speech. “These text messages Michelle Carter sent to Conrad Roy are speech. There’s no action,” Cataldo said. “He took his own life. He took all the actions necessary to cause his own death.”

And yet, according to Danielle Citron, author of the book Hate Crimes in Cyberspace, there are 21 crimes that have to do explicitly with speech—things like threats, extortion, aiding and abetting, and conspiracy. None of these types of speech are protected by the First Amendment. “If the First Amendment’s a house, where inside speech is protected, threats can’t walk in the door. Neither can extortion. Neither can solicitation of a crime,” Citron says. In other words, not all speech is covered by the First Amendment’s proverbial roof.

The details of Carter’s case, of course, have as much to do with criminal law as they do First Amendment law. On July 12, 2014, Roy affixed a water pump to his truck in a Kmart parking lot in an attempt to poison himself with carbon monoxide. He and Carter had already exchanged hundreds of texts in which she aggressively encouraged him to kill himself and even suggested the means by which he should do it. But those texts alone aren’t what landed Carter a guilty verdict. Instead, the prosecution argued that when Roy began to feel the effects of the carbon monoxide poisoning and stepped out of his car, Carter was the one who instructed him, via phone call, to “get back in.” And that, Judge Lawrence Moniz said in his decision Friday, was the moment Carter assumed responsibility for Roy’s life and engaged in “wanton and reckless behavior,” knowing it could cause Roy “substantial harm.”

“He breaks that chain of self-causation by exiting the vehicle,” Judge Moniz said. “He takes himself out of that toxic environment that it has become.”

The concept of the causal chain in suicide cases is one that courts have grappled with for decades, says David Gray, who teaches criminal law at University of Maryland’s Francis King Carey School of Law. The most famous defendant in such a case was, perhaps, Dr. Jack Kevorkian, who was tried for murder for allowing terminally ill patients to use his “suicide machine” to kill themselves. Kevorkian was ultimately acquitted because the judge ruled that, although Kevorkian provided his patients with the means to kill themselves, he didn’t actively participate in the “final overt act that causes death.”

“Kevorkian gave them the tools. He may well have wanted it, and believed it was the best thing for them,” says Gray. “But ultimately, they made the final choice. That act broke the causal chain.”

It wasn’t until Kevorkian was actually filmed injecting a patient that he was finally found guilty and sentenced to jail time. At face value, that looks like an argument in Carter’s favor. She was, after all, miles from the scene of Roy’s death when it happened. But Gray says that there are exceptions when the court decides that the person who commits suicide is compromised and not acting as “a free-willed agent.”

“That’s where this case seems to lie,” Gray says. “This young man was very troubled, very vulnerable, and the defendant exploited that vulnerability, expanded that vulnerability, and substituted her agency for his agency by constantly encouraging him to commit suicide.”

Carter also texted a friend following the suicide, saying, “I helped ease him into it and told him it was okay, I was talking to him on the phone when he did it … I could have easily stopped him or called the police but I didn’t.” That, Gray says, establishes “consciousness of guilt.”

“She knew he wasn’t in a position to make free choices for himself,” Gray explains.

But while the case may not set new precedents around digital speech, the fact that it was brought as an involuntary manslaughter case is noteworthy, says Richards. In the past, courts have often tried to apply tech-specific law to such cases. In 2006, for instance, a woman named Lori Drew created a fake Myspace account to communicate with a teenage girl named Megan Meier, who Drew believed was spreading rumors about her daughter online. Drew posed as a 16-year-old boy named Josh Evans and used it to encourage Meier to kill herself, which she eventually did. But instead of being charged with involuntary manslaughter, Drew was charged with (and later acquitted of) violating Myspace’s terms of service, in violation of the 1986 Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.

“The knee-jerk reaction has always been: Something bad is happening using technology. We ought to pass a law about that use of technology,” Richards says. But the Carter case suggests that courts are beginning to look past the use of technology and see the crime for what it is.

And that means those digital crimes come with severe real life consequences. Carter, who will be sentenced on August 3, faces up to 20 years in prison.

www.club-libido.com

Kabul: A massive blast tore through the diplomatic quarter of the Afghan capital on Wednesday morning, killing at least 90 people and wounding more than 450, officials said. The devastation left Kabul in shock and underlined the country’s security struggles as it confronts a sustained wave of insurgent and terrorist attacks.

The suicide truck bomb hit the outside of the highly secure diplomatic area of Kabul killing scores of people. Photo: AP

Interior Ministry officials said a huge quantity of explosives, hidden in a water tanker, detonated at 8.30am during rush hour on a busy boulevard in the Wazir Akbar Khan district, which houses embassies, banks, supermarkets and government ministries. An entire city block was ravaged, with office buildings left in rubble and charred vehicles strewn across the road in one of the deadliest single attacks in Kabul.

The scenes of human horror were appalling, even for a country accustomed to war and violence.

At Wazir Akbar Khan Hospital, a steady stream of ambulances and police trucks delivered burned and mangled bodies, many streaming blood. Medical aides struggled to zip them quickly into body bags as distraught people crowded around, looking for missing relatives.

“I felt like it was an earthquake, and after that I do not know what happened,” said Mohammed Hassan, 21, who was attending a training program at the Azizi Bank, half a block from the blast, and suffered cuts on his head and arms. “All the staff around me, everyone, was injured.” He said he was brought to the hospital by an Afghan army ranger truck.

The Australian Embassy in Kabul was put into lockdown. News of the blast quickly reached Parliament House in Canberra, where the secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Frances Adamson, rushed out of a Senate estimates hearing to be briefed on the incident.

Australia does not make public the location of its embassy in Kabul for security reasons. Ms Adamson returned to the estimates hearing and said Australia’s diplomatic mission was in lockdown but she believed all staff were safe.

“It was a car bomb near the German embassy, but there are several other important compounds and offices near there too. It is hard to say what the exact target is,” Basir Mujahid, a spokesman for Kabul police, said.

The dead and wounded were almost all Afghan civilians and security forces: policemen, bank clerks, cart pullers, telephone company workers. The dead included at least five women and an Afghan driver for the BBC.

Although many foreign offices are located nearby – many surrounded by high blast walls – there were no reports of foreigners among the casualties. But some workers in diplomatic compounds, including those of Japan and Germany, were among the injured

At least 11 US citizens working as contractors also were injured, a State Department spokesman said.

The Afghan Taliban denied any role in the bombing, which was followed by a second smaller blast in another part of the city. The Taliban spokesman, Zabiullah Mujahid, did not speculate on which group could have carried out the attack but said it should “become clear at a later stage.”

Security agencies had warned that both Taliban insurgents and regional affiliates of the Islamic State were planning to attack high-profile targets in the city in the early part of Ramadan, the Muslim holy month that began last week.

Many injured survivors were cut by shards of glass from storefronts, offices and foreign compounds – as far away as several miles from the blast site. By midmorning, many were limping or being wheeled out of local hospitals, with their clothes covered in blood and their heads, arms or feet wrapped in bandages.

Nearby, distraught families squatted around bloody body bags, guarding them in patches of shade.

There were muffled, choking sounds of men weeping. Most of the dead had been seared by the blast; some were wrapped in cloth but others were half-naked and dripping blood. The Afghan ministry of Public Health placed the death toll at 80 and the injury count at 463.

“What will I tell his children?” a sobbing man said into a cellphone as he knelt beside a bag containing the remains of his brother, a guard in a building near the explosion.

“Look, that one is a woman. Shame, shame,” said an elderly man, pointing to a stretcher with a slender body wrapped in cloth, and a hank of long hair dangling outside.

The government of President Ashraf Ghani issued a statement condemning the twin blasts as “heinous acts that go against the values of humanity as well values of peaceful Afghans.” It also said the attacks “demonstrate the extreme level of atrocity by terrorists against innocent civilians.”

A statement from NATO forces in Afghanistan praised “the courage of Afghan Security Forces, especially the police and first responders.”

“Attacks such as these only serve to strengthen our commitment to our Afghan partners as they seek a peaceful, stable future for their country,” the NATO statement added.

Public anger at the Afghan government built in the traumatic hours after the blast. People with grim, dazed faces strode along the sidewalks, avoiding piles of glass, or sat glumly in modern offices with all their windows gone, watching the news on TV.

“This is an inept government that cannot protect the people and must be dissolved. It is time for an interim government to be formed,” said Mirwais Yasini, a member of parliament.

The Ghani government, weakened by internal tensions, has faced an uphill battle to fend off an aggressive push by Taliban insurgents in recent months, as well as a number of assaults claimed by the Islamic State.

Others expressed disgust for the attackers, especially since they chose Ramadan, a period that Muslims devote to prayer and fasting.

“How can the people who did this call themselves Muslims?” demanded Ahmed Mohibzada, 24, an office worker who had walked to the Wazir Akbar Khan Hospital to donate blood after hearing of the massive number of injured survivors.

He was lying on a gurney in the hospital porch with his sleeve rolled up. “I just felt I had to do something,” he said.

Washington Post, James Mackenzie, Mirwais Harooni

A drug addict who bludgeoned his mother and a young relative to death as they attempted to escape his ice-fuelled rage has been jailed for at least 30 years.

Dressed in prison greens, Lance Rhodes, 36, did not appear to react as he was handed a maximum of 40 years in jail in the NSW Supreme Court on Friday.

He continued to stab her as she lay helpless on the ground. Rhodes then picked up a 28-kilogram concrete statue and repeatedly hit her on the head with it, smashing her skull.

Rhodes returned to the home, grabbed a young child relative by the neck of his shirt and stabbed him in the chest before bashing his head against a wall.

Justice Stephen Campbell said Rhodes was in the grip of an “ice-induced psychosis” when the “terrible events” of September 8, 2015 unfolded.

After consuming a cocktail of substances, Rhodes stabbed his mother Linda Adams, 63, in the back as she tried to run away from him after he grabbed a large knife from the kitchen of the Lalor Park home they shared.

The boy managed to escape, but Rhodes caught up with him outside and bludgeoned him to death with a stone.

“Die, just fucking die, I don’t care,” Rhodes was heard to say.

Covered in blood, Rhodes attempted to attack another woman, Annabelle Saludo , by getting into her car. He hit the windows, yelled “F—ing open up” and then ran after the car and tried to lift it as the woman attempted to escape.

When Senior Constable Steve Lewis arrived, Rhodes picked up a water meter cover and walked towards him, saying, “Let’s go”.

Ms Adams’ body was found only two metres from the front door of her neighbour’s home. The boy’s body was found near a tree in the yard of the home he had fled.

Justice Campbell said “doubtless this offending would never have occurred” but for Rhodes’ self-induced intoxication

.The child, who can not be named for legal reasons, who was killed.

The court heard that shortly before the killings, Rhodes had returned to his home and said, “We’re going to have some fun tonight”.

“They are in the house … they are in the house … don’t worry I’ll get rid of them,” he was later heard saying.

While Justice Campbell accepted that the attack commenced “impulsively”, he said Rhodes had persisted with it and it was “accompanied by determination”.

The court heard Rhodes had a troubled childhood and started using cannabis when he was a teenager before moving onto heroin, speed and ice.

Before the double murder, he had been consuming ice for nine months.

Rhodes told police he could not remember killing his mother and the child and repeatedly said he was unwell.

“I know I clicked it. I’m insane. I need real professional help,” Rhodes told police in an interview. “I was in a different world.

“Everything was spacey. It was like being in a dark cloud.”

A drug addict who bludgeoned his mother and a young relative to death as they attempted to escape his ice-fuelled rage has been jailed for at least 30 years.

Dressed in prison greens, Lance Rhodes, 36, did not appear to react as he was handed a maximum of 40 years in jail in the NSW Supreme Court on Friday.

In a lengthy on-air monologue, TODAY host Karl Stefanovic attacked the Daily Mail for its coverage of women on the program.

Justice Stephen Campbell said Rhodes was in the grip of an “ice-induced psychosis” when the “terrible events” of September 8, 2015 unfolded.

After consuming a cocktail of substances, Rhodes stabbed his mother Linda Adams, 63, in the back as she tried to run away from him after he grabbed a large knife from the kitchen of the Lalor Park home they shared.

He continued to stab her as she lay helpless on the ground. Rhodes then picked up a 28-kilogram concrete statue and repeatedly hit her on the head with it, smashing her skull.

Rhodes returned to the home, grabbed a young child relative by the neck of his shirt and stabbed him in the chest before bashing his head against a wall.

Lance Rhodes at the crime scene, on the night he was arrested.

Lance Rhodes at the crime scene, on the night he was arrestedPhoto: TNV

Covered in blood, Rhodes attempted to attack another woman, Annabelle Saludo , by getting into her car. He hit the windows, yelled “F—ing open up” and then ran after the car and tried to lift it as the woman attempted to escape.

When Senior Constable Steve Lewis arrived, Rhodes picked up a water meter cover and walked towards him, saying, “Let’s go”.

Ms Adams’ body was found only two metres from the front door of her neighbour’s home. The boy’s body was found near a tree in the yard of the home he had fled.

Justice Campbell said “doubtless this offending would never have occurred” but for Rhodes’ self-induced intoxication.

The court heard that shortly before the killings, Rhodes had returned to his home and said, “We’re going to have some fun tonight”.

“They are in the house … they are in the house … don’t worry I’ll get rid of them,” he was later heard saying.

While Justice Campbell accepted that the attack commenced “impulsively”, he said Rhodes had persisted with it and it was “accompanied by determination”.

The court heard Rhodes had a troubled childhood and started using cannabis when he was a teenager before moving onto heroin, speed and ice.

Before the double murder, he had been consuming ice for nine months.

Rhodes told police he could not remember killing his mother and the child and repeatedly said he was unwell.

“I know I clicked it. I’m insane. I need real professional help,” Rhodes told police in an interview. “I was in a different world.

“Everything was spacey. It was like being in a dark cloud.”

But Justice Campbell was sceptical that Rhodes had no memory of the events, saying his repeated concern to present himself as a paranoid schizophrenic was an attempt to provide justification for his behaviour.

Outside court, Ms Adams’ daughter Tina Rhodes said she loved her mother and the child.

“No matter how long the sentence is, it will not bring back two beautiful people we have lost,” she said.

Rhodes will be eligible for parole in 2045.

www.druglinks.info

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