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Archive for the ‘China’ Category

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.

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China’s other big business: Harvesting organs from prisoners while they’re still alive

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It has long been claimed that China performs organ removal from executed prisoners for transplants AFP/Getty Images

WARNING: Disturbing content

It’s a story straight out of a horror movie, but it’s been common practice in China for more than a decade.

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State-run hospitals have secretly harvested body parts from tens of thousands of prisoners, removing their vital organs while they are still alive.

Filmmaker Leon Lee has been following the researchers trying to bring down this inhumane and illegal industry. He says what they found was a form of evil we have not yet seen on this planet.

The Chinese government continues to illegally harvest organs from millions of its innocent prisoners despite saying it had ended the practice two years ago, a decade-long study has alleged.

Experts estimate between 60,000 and 100,000 organs are transplanted annually, and the majority of the hearts, livers and other organs are obtained by executing prisoners of conscience.

In all, approximately 1.5 million transplants have taken place at 712 liver and kidney transplant centres across China since 2000, with over 300,000 of those taking place at unregulated centres.

The report also found many surgeons had simply “lost count” of the quantity of transplants they had been asked to perform on a daily basis, with some having undertaken as many as six liver removals in one day.

The findings were published in an update to the 2009 book ‘Bloody Harvest’ and the 2014 book ‘The Slaughter’.

Falun Gong is a unique form of meditative practice established in 1992 and the Chinese government has fought to eradicate it for decades.

It has long been believed Falun Gong practitioners are being executed ‘on demand’ by the Chinese government, to compensate for the country’s shortage of organ donors.

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Most of the victims are thought to be members of the banned Falun Gong movement.

In 2006, reports emerged that the country’s leaders were executing members of the Falun Gong movement — a quasi-religious group with millions of followers, which is banned in China.

“The vast majority are Falun Gong practitioners,” said Lee. “There are also political dissidents and activists. They are taken without informing the family members.

“In a few cases, the family have accidentally got to see pictures of the body, and could see the surgery line. When they questioned the police, they said it had been suicide and they had done an autopsy.”

Matas and Kilgour, both Nobel Peace Prize nominees, have been speaking across the world about what’s happening, despite having had death threats. They want to see the names of those involved go on a list to face the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

The report was researched and authored by former Canadian secretary of state David Kilgour, human rights lawyer David Matas and journalist Ethan Gutmann to expose widespread medical wrong-doing in the Asian country

China has denied the allegations, and even made a documentary of its own in retaliation to Lee’s Human Harvest. It claims all organ donors are volunteers, and that the practice will stop in August regardless. Not everyone is convinced.

China’s president, Xi Jinping, has been running an anti-corruption campaign, arresting those loyal to ex-leader Jiang Zemin, who were responsible for the persecution of Falun Gong.

Recent remarks from Xi’s top officials suggest the state is shifting its stance, pointing the finger at former security chief Zhou Yongkang for the organ harvesting.

It looks as though the billion-dollar industry is set to die, but it is far too late for the many victims of this abominable crime.

Find out more on the story and watch Leon Lee’s Human Harvest documentary on the SBS website.

China’s cultural revolution 50 years later

The Chinese Communist Party has engaged the state in the mass killings of innocents

The Chinese government officially state that 10,000 organ transplants take place in the country each year, but the trio believe this figure is far lower than the real quantity.

In a statement, Matas said: “We can easily surpass the official Chinese figure just by looking at the two or three biggest hospitals.

“That increased discrepancy leads us to conclude that there has been a far larger slaughter of practitioners of Falun Gong for their organs than we had originally estimated.

“The ultimate conclusion is that the Chinese Communist Party has engaged the state in the mass killings of innocents.”

Falun Gong practitioners were forced to undergo medical tests before their results were put on a database of living organ sources so quick organ matches could be made, the authors claim.

In response to the report, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told a press conference: “I want to say that such stories about forced organ harvesting in China are imaginary and baseless — they don’t have any factual foundation.”

In 2014, China announced that it would end the harvesting of organs from executed prisoners and move to a voluntary donation-based system.

Last year Amnesty International confirmed China remains the world’s largest executioner of prisoners in the charity’s annual report.

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Beijing: A senior Chinese policeman has been jailed for 17 years for embezzling money to buy two Australian homes for his two daughters.

The Australian real estate purchases were among a huge property portfolio, with no obvious legitimate source of funding, Chinese prosecutors said.

Wang Jun Ren police chief of Guta District of Jinzhou City image www.crimefiles.net

One of the homes is a four bedroom, two bathroom house in Revesby Heights in NSW, Australian property records show.

Wang Jun Ren, 59, was the police chief of Guta District of Jinzhou City in Liaoning province, when he began asking a local property developer for millions of Chinese yuan to pay for the Australian real estate purchases for his family.

In return, he outsourced up to 20 construction projects to the property developer, including the construction of police stations, Chinese court documents show.

In 2008, documents showed Wang took 2.36 million Chinese yuan (440,000) from a Beizhen city property developer to buy a property for his oldest daughter, Wang Ju, and her husband, Jin Jing, in Australia.

In August and December 2011, Wang reimbursed 101,911 Chinese yuan in airfares for his wife and daughters’ return travel to Australia from a police bureau bank account, the court was told.

The Revesby house was bought by Wang Ju and her husband for $840,000 in September 2011.

The house in Revesby Heights.image www.crimefiles.net

In September 2013, Wang used public funds to convert currency into $20,000 to visit his family in Australia.

The same year he took another 4million Chinese yuan from the same property developer to buy an Australian property for his second daughter, Wang Ting. The money was transferred directly to her bank account in small amounts by the property developer’s employees, the court was told.

Wang was arrested in August 2015, confessed and returned some of the money last year. He was originally convicted in August 2016.

Around the time of the trial, his daughter moved out of the Revesby house. She has kept it as an investment property, and purchased another home in Sydney’s Castle Hill for $1.7 million.

But a 17-year-jail sentence and 1million Chinese yuan fine was handed down to Wang after Linghai City prosecutors appealed what they said was the earlier, lenient sentence. His wife has been on bail since December.

Wang was convicted of corruptly taking 174million yuan by himself, and another 24,800 yuan with his wife, taking bribes of 680million yuan, and having a huge amount of property of unknown source. That trial was held in December.

The jail sentence comprised of four years for corruption, 12 years for bribe taking, and four years for the unknown funding source of a huge number of properties.

The court heard evidence from the property developer detailing how he transferred the money to Australia, was told that Wang returned the favour to the property developer by outsourcing the construction projects to his company, including the construction of police stations.

The property developer’s son was employed as Wang’s driver at a police station.

“Extremely huge” bribes involved in handing out procurement contracts

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The former manager of a Chinese state-owned coal-mining firm has been found guilty of accepting bribes and given a death sentence.

From 2005 to 2011 Yu Tieyi was in charge of supplies to Heilongjiang Longmay Mining Holding Group Co Ltd, during which time he was accused of taking bribes in exchange for handing out bloated procurement contracts, according to a Monday report from Xinhua. In delivering the guilty verdict, the court in the northeastern province of Heilongjiang granted Yu Tieyi “leniency” for good behaviour, by giving him a two-year reprieve before the sentence is carried out.

The verdict stated the amount of Yu’s bribes was “extremely huge” and the state had suffered “a great loss,” both warranting the most severe penalty — death sentence without reprieve.

However, the court showed leniency because Yu had behaved well during investigation, reported the crimes of his accomplice, and returned most of the bribes.

The Chinese government under President Xi Jinping has cracked down on deep-rooted corruption since 2013 – with dozens of senior officials investigated or jailed. Known by its Orwellian title, the “Central Discipline Inspection Commission” has netted a number of big fish, including Jiang Jiemin, the former chairman of China National Petroleum Company (CNPC) who in September 2014 came under investigation. Oilprice.com named a number of other prominent oil industry figures swept up by the state that year, including:

Bo Qiliang, PetroChina vice president in charge of CNPC’s overseas business, detained on or around May 13;

Zhang Benquan, general manager of CNPC’s Iran subsidiary, detained in April;

Yan Cunzhang, general manager of PetroChina’s foreign cooperation department, detained in April;

Li Hualin, former CNPC deputy general manager, reportedly a target of a Communist Party corruption probe;

Wang Daofu, former PetroChina chief geologist, under investigation along with Ran Xinquan, former general manager at PetroChina subsidiary Changqing Oilfield Co.;

Sun Weidong, former deputy manager of PetroChina subsidiary Yumen Oilfield Co., under investigation;

Yang Guoling, assistant general manager and senior accountant at Yumen Oilfield Co., indicted for corruption.

In March of this year the deputy general manager of Chinese coal conglomerate Kailuan Group came under investigation for “serious violations of discipline”, Reuters said.

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Beijing:  Chinese authorities have executed a former billionaire mining tycoon connected to the eldest son of retired domestic security chief Zhou Yongkang, the man who became the focus of a high-profile corruption investigation, state media reported.

China's former public security minister, Zhou Yongkang.

Retired domestic security chief Zhou Yongkang

Last year China announced a probe into Zhou Yongkang, one of its most influential politicians of the last decade, in a case that has its roots in a power struggle in the ruling Communist Party. Liu was once a business associate of Zhou’s eldest son, Zhou Bin. State media have not explicitly linked Liu’s case to Zhou Yongkang, but reported that his rise coincided with Zhou’s time as Sichuan province’s party boss.

The party has already probed several of Zhou’s proteges, including Jiang Jiemin, who was the top regulator of state-owned enterprises.

China has embarked on legal reforms, including reducing the use of the death penalty, as public discontent mounts over wrongful punishment. Though wrongful executions have often stirred outrage, capital punishment itself has wide support from the public. Anti-death penalty campaigners say China uses the death penalty far more than other countries. The government does not release the number of executions it carries out, deeming it a state secret.

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Ex-senior Chinese military officer Gu Junshan, who is facing several charges of corruption, including unlawfully selling hundreds of positions in the army, is said to have also shipped billions worth of gold bars for bribes, Hong Kong-based Phoenix Weekly magazine reported Monday.

The gold-obsessed general and former deputy director of the logistics department of the People’s Liberation Army, is said to have been especially fond of solid gold, particularly when it came in the shape of Buddha statues.

But when it was time to receiving “gifts” Gu allegedly preferred ground up gold rather than gold bars, Reuters reports:

When offering [bribes], he would fill up a Mercedes with hundreds of bars of gold and then simply hand over the car keys to the recipient, the report said.

“Gu got exactly what he wanted,” a person with knowledge of the probe told the magazine.

Gu is alleged to have shared much of the spoils of his scams with Xu Caihou, his superior, including giving a 20 million yuan (US$3.1million) debit card to Xu’s daughter as a wedding present, the South China Morning Post reported in March. Xu was forced to retire as deputy head of the powerful Central Military Commission last year.

China intensified a crackdown on corruption in the military in the late 1990s, forbidding army members from engaging in businesses. But officers have been involved in commercial dealings in recent years due to a lack of checks and balances.

Anti-graft advocates believe corruption in the Chinese military is so pervasive that it could undermine the nation’s ability to wage war.

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Kalynda Davis is in custody in China for allegedly trying to smuggle ice to Australia image www.druglinks.info

Kalynda Davis is in custody in China for allegedly trying to smuggle ice to Australia.

She liked playing basketball, posting Instagram photos and going to music festivals.

But Sydney woman Kalynda Davis, 22, is now facing possible death by firing squad in China after being caught allegedly smuggling 75 kilograms of the drug “ice” out of the country.

Consular staff and the family of the young Penrith woman closed ranks on Friday in the hope of minimising publicity on the case.

A family member reported Ms Davis missing from their two-storey Glenmore Park home on November 5, only to find out several days later that she was in custody in China.

She was arrested with Peter Gardner, a 25-year-old from Richmond in Sydney’s north-west, and charged with smuggling a commercial quantity of methylamphetamine from Guangzhou city to Australia.

Friends suggested that Ms Davis had only recently met Mr Gardner and the bizarre turn of events were extremely out of character.

One friend, Cassandra Hoegal, posted online that she “got caught up with the wrong guy”.

Ms Davis was a talented basketball player, making it to state representative teams with the Penrith Panthers and once posting on a social media profile that basketball was “my life

Another friend who played netball with Ms Davis said it was “devastating” and “so very out of character”.

She went to a Christian school and was raised in a well-off family in Sydney’s west. Her father Larry, an ANZ banker, did not return calls on Friday and a spokesman for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said it would not be commenting.

Her Instagram and Facebook profiles, which she used prolifically to share photos from music festivals and basketball games, were shut down.

A NSW police spokesman said Ms Davis was reported missing to them on November 5 and when she was arrested in China the matter was referred to DFAT.

The two are the latest in a spate of arrests of Australians on drug-related charges, some whom are potentially facing the death penalty.

China’s drug laws state that people found guilty of possessing more than 50 grams of meth or heroin, or other narcotic drugs of “large quantities”, could be subject to the death penalty.

DFAT is currently extending consular assistance to nine Australians who are detained on serious drug charges.

The flurry of arrests prompted DFAT to issue an updated travel advisory in September warning travellers of China’s severe drug laws, and the “substantial risks involved in carrying parcels for others which may conceal narcotics”.

“We have some concerns that there may be a pattern in the cases of some of the individuals being arrested,” a spokesman said at the time.

The arrests have been centred on the southern province of Guangdong, a notorious hub for methamphetamine production and home to an anti-drug sweep codenamed Operation Thunder, which has netted hundreds, including dozens of foreigners.

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China Overwhelmingly Supports Death Penalty for Corrupt Officials

It was the back of the restaurant – beyond the fry stand, the grease-slicked counter, the droves of gawking patrons — where the murder happened. The restaurant was a McDonald’s. It was a Wednesday evening. The murderers, who bludgeoned the woman to death with chairs and a mop, belonged to a cult described as China’s “most radical”. Called the Church of the Almighty God, it claims to have a million followers, aggressively promotes doomsday scenarios, wants to destroy the Chinese Communist Party and believes Jesus Christ has returned — as a Chinese woman.

But it was the McDonald’s murder that has consumed a Chinese court’s attention over the last two months. Days ago, two church members were convicted and sentenced to death for a killing that, even by the standards of the Church of the Almighty God, was peculiar and brutal.

According to prosecutors, five members tried to recruit a woman patronising the McDonald’s in question, and asked for her phone number. When she refused, they beat her to death. Zhang Lidong, who arrived that night riding a luxury Porsch Cayenne car, never offered much explanation. “You could just tell she was not a good person,” he said in a state television interview, describing the 35-year-old mother. “She was a demon, the evil spirit. We had to beat her to death.”

Security camera footage shows suspects attacking a woman (identified by red circle) at the McDonald's image www.crimefiles.net

Security camera footage shows suspects attacking a woman (identified by red circle) at the McDonald’s. Photo: Reuters/CCTV

The trial, which brought greater attention to the Christian cult without elucidating its murkier aspects, marked another clash in a decades-long feud between the Chinese authorities and the church. The Chinese have long been suspicious of religious organisations, and have been known to crack down, imprison or even execute dissidents with little provocation.

In late 2012, the state arrested more than 1,300 members after the church fretted over an impending doomsday following the release of the disaster film, 2012. Then this year, following the McDonald’s murder, state media reported that Chinese authorities had arrested 1,000 more cult members.

“The suspects, all seized since June, are allegedly involved in more than 500 cases,” Xinhua said in a brief report. “Among them are nearly a hundred ‘high-level organisers and backbone members.'”

Defendants during their trial for the murder of a woman. Photo Reuters CCTV image www.crimefiles.net

Defendants during their trial for the murder of a woman. Photo: Reuters/CCTV

Adding more confusion is the cult’s convoluted website. It speaks of life’s three stages — ploughing, sowing and harvesting — and offers a series of books, including one depicting a viola floating over a lake amid a flurry of doves. “Follow the lamb,” says the church, which also goes by the name Eastern Lightning. “And sing new songs.” Its Facebook page describes the group thusly: “The Lord Jesus has already Come. God’s sheep hear the voice of God.”

Much of the church’s teaching hinges on Jesus, who to them is now a woman named Yang Xiangbin. Little is known of the woman beyond this: she reportedly suffered some sort of mental breakdown after failing a national exam and “has a history of mental illness,” according to China’s People’s Daily. In the early 1990s, the 30-year-old woman came into the orbit of a square-jawed man named Zhao Weishan in Zhengzhou, Henan province, according to the Christian Research Institute. Weishan claimed God had told him that she was the “female Christ,” and he began attracting followers to her.

The ethos of the group, however, is as much about dissent as it is religion. On its website, it castigates the ruling politburo for its “evil deeds,” labelling it the “Great Red Dragon”. It produces movies telling members what to do if the government captures them: “Even if they beat me to death, my soul is still in God’s hands.”

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A defendant cries during the trial. Photo: Reuters/CCTV

“It’s about as illegal and politically sensitive as religion gets in China,” Emily Dunn, of the University of Melbourne, told CNN. “As the government has cracked down more, Eastern Lightning’s rhetoric has escalated against the government.”

As is the nature of many churches accused of being a cult, the only members who comment on it are those who have extricated themselves under acrimonious conditions. “The strategy is to slowly draw you in,” one 31-year-old former member told the Telegraph. “It is like taking classes in school. They told us there are three steps to believing in God. First you believe in Joseph, then in Christ, then in the female reincarnation of Christ. They asked us to convert more people or God would be upset … At night I would always feel scared when I was alone.”

One man, a prominent American pastor named Dennis Balcombe, was detained by the Chinese government and questioned about the church. “They’re extremely violent and use sex to try to convert people,” he told Vice Magazine. “I’ve heard stories of Christians being burned, beaten, and told to kill their children. When they kidnap you, you usually don’t get out for six months, and that whole time they’re trying to brainwash you.”

Which is exactly what prosecutors say the church had in mind in May what members approached its victim in the McDonald’s. And when she denied their attempts at recruitment?

“I beat her with all my might and stamped on her too,” Zhang Lidong told state television, the BBC reports. “She was a demon. We had to destroy her.”

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COMPUTER DATA PASSWORD THEFT IMAGE www.crimefiles.net

A hand is silhouetted in front of a computer screen in this picture illustration taken in Berlin May 21, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Pawel Kopczynski

(Reuters) – Community Health Systems Inc (CYH.N), one of the biggest U.S. hospital groups, said on Monday it was the victim of a cyber attack from China, resulting in the theft of Social Security numbers and other personal data belonging to 4.5 million patients.

That would make the attack the largest of its type involving patient information since a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services website started tracking such breaches in 2009. The previous record, an attack on a Montana Department of Public Health server, was disclosed in June and affected about 1 million people.

The attackers appear to be from a sophisticated hacking group in China that has breached other major U.S. companies across several industries, said Charles Carmakal, managing director with FireEye Inc’s (FEYE.O) Mandiant forensics unit, which led the investigation of the attack on Community Health in April and June.

“They have fairly advanced techniques for breaking into organizations as well as maintaining access for fairly long periods of times without getting detected,” he said.

Carmakal and officials with Community Health Systems declined to name the group or say if it was linked to the Chinese government, which U.S. businesses and officials have long accused of orchestrating cyber espionage campaigns around the globe.

In May, a U.S. grand jury indicted five Chinese military officers on charges they hacked into U.S. companies for sensitive manufacturing secrets, the toughest action to date taken by Washington to address cyber spying. China has denied the charges.

FBI spokesman Joshua Campbell said his agency was investigating the case, but declined to elaborate.

The Department of Homeland Security said it believed the incident was isolated to Community Health Systems, although it shared technical details about the attack with other healthcare providers.

An agency official told Reuters it was too soon to confirm who was behind the attack.

“While attribution of this incident is still being determined by a range of partners, we caution against leaping to premature conclusions about who or how many actors are behind these activities,” said the official, who was not authorized to discuss the investigation publicly.

The stolen information included patient names, addresses, birth dates, telephone numbers and Social Security numbers of people who were referred or received services from doctors affiliated with the hospital group in the last five years, the company said in a regulatory filing. It did not include medical or clinical information.

 

NEW SCRUTINY

Cybersecurity has come under increased scrutiny at healthcare providers this year, both by law enforcement and attackers.

The FBI warned the industry in April that its protections were lax compared with other sectors, making it vulnerable to hackers looking for details that could be used to access bank accounts or obtain prescriptions.

Over the past six months Mandiant has seen a spike in cyber attacks on healthcare providers, although this was the first case it had seen in which a sophisticated Chinese group has stolen personal data, according to Carmakal.

Chinese hacking groups are known for seeking out intellectual property such as product design or information that might be of use in business or political negotiations.

Social Security numbers and other personal data are typically stolen by cybercriminals to sell on underground exchanges for use by others in identity theft.

“It’s hard to tell why these guys took the data or what they plan to do with it,” said Carmakal, whose firm monitors about 20 hacking groups in China.

Dmitri Alperovitch, chief technology officer with cybersecurity firm CrowdStrike, said Chinese hackers sometimes attack healthcare providers to obtain medical records of government officials and even potential intelligence assets.

“Maybe they were trying to get at the medical data, but for some reason they couldn’t, so they exfiltrated everything else, figuring that it might somehow be helpful,” Alperovitch said.

The company said the stolen data did not include credit card numbers, or any intellectual property such as data on medical device development.

Community Health, which has 206 hospitals in 29 states, said it has removed malicious software used by the attackers from its systems and completed other remediation steps. It is now notifying patients and regulatory agencies, as required by law.

It also said it is insured against such losses and does not at this time expect a material adverse effect on financial results.

Community Health’s stock was up 62 cents at $51.62 in midday trading on the New York Stock Exchange.

(Reporting by Caroline Humer, Jim Finkle and Shailesh Kuber; Editing by Joyjeet Das, Lisa Von Ahn, Chizu Nomiyama, Dan Grebler and Andre Grenon)

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