January 21, 2021

ITALY: Mount Etna Europe's Largest Active Volcano Erupted Off The East Coast Of Sicily Between The Cities Of Messina And Catania.

Where is Mount Etna? Map showing the location of Mount Etna on the east coast of Sicily. Map by Geology.com and MapResources. Nearby Volcanoes: Stromboli, Vesuvius [source: Geology.com]
Simplified plate tectonics cross section showing how Mount Etna is located above a subduction zone formed where the Eurasian and African plates collide. In this subduction zone, a window has torn in the subducting slab. [source: Geology.com]

LivesScience.com
written by Nicoletta Lanese
Wednesday January 20, 2021

New video shows the moment when Mount Etna, Europe's largest active volcano, spewed bubbling lava and hot ash into the Sicilian sky earlier this week.

On Sunday (Jan. 17), lava began "oozing" from the Etna's southeast crater and toward the east, according to Boris Behncke, a volcanologist at the INGV-Osservatorio Etneo in Catania, Sicily, Express reported. By Monday evening, the crater exploded in a "new paroxysmal eruptive episode," releasing bursts of lava, hot ash and gas, Behncke tweeted.

One lava flow spilled over the east side of the crater, snaking toward the uninhabited Valle del Bove, a horseshoe-shape depression in the side of the volcano; a second lava flow was also detected on the northern side of the crater, Express reported. The molten lava glowed red against the dark rock, and it showered the volcano's summit with spectacular sparks.

Italian authorities issued an ash advisory for surrounding cities, and the debris were found as far away as Fleri, which lies 18 miles (28.9 kilometers) from the volcano.

Mount Etna has almost continuous volcanic activity near its summit craters and in the Valle del Bove, Live Science previously reported. These eruptions near the summit, like the one that occured Monday, rarely endanger people living nearby.
Volcanoes Streaming Live Worldwide.

PHILLIPINES: Massive 7.0 Magnitude Earthquake Hit Off Island Coast With Epicenter In The Philippines-Indonesia Border. It Was Too Deep To Cause Major Damage And No Tsunami Warning Was Issued.

dutchsinse published January 21, 2021: Large M7.0 Earthquake strikes West Pacific / Indonesia / Philippines -- UNREST OBVIOUS.

I recommend that you follow dutchsinse on YouTube for regular worldwide earthquake and volcano activity updates. He does great work. He's very dedicated and enthusiastic. I appreciate him.
Seattle Times
written by AP staff
Thursday January 21, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — A powerful earthquake shook parts of the southern Philippines on Thursday night, but authorities said it was too deep to cause major damage and no tsunami warning was issued.

The quake measured magnitude 7.0 and was located 95.8 kilometers (60 miles) below the sea and about 210 kilometers (130 miles) southeast of Pondaguitan in Davao Occidental province, the U.S. Geological Survey said.

In Davao city, President Rodrigo Duterte’s hometown, some residents ran out of their houses as the ground shook and power cables and business signs swayed, but there were no reports of damage or injuries. Duterte was in the presidential palace complex in Manila.

The earthquake was felt in nearby cities and provinces in the region, the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology said.

The USGS said there was a low likelihood of casualties or damage. The U.S. Tsunami Warning System said there was no tsunami threat. Deep earthquakes generally cause less damage on the Earth’s surface.

The southern Davao region has been battered by powerful earthquakes set off by local fault lines in recent years.

The Philippines lies along the Pacific “Ring of Fire,” an arc of faults around the Pacific Ocean where most of the world’s earthquakes occur. It is also lashed by about 20 typhoons and tropical storms each year, making it one of the world’s most disaster-prone countries.

A magnitude 7.7 quake killed nearly 2,000 people in the northern Philippines in 1990.

ARGENTINA: Massive 6.4-6.8 Magnitude Earthquake Rocked Argentina Child Border In South America.

 

dutchsinse published January 18, 2021: Large Earthquake M6.4-M6.8 strikes Argentina Chile Border in South America.

I recommend that you follow dutchsinse on YouTube for regular worldwide earthquake and volcano activity updates. He does great work. He's very dedicated and enthusiastic. I appreciate him.
TRT World News
written by Staff
Monday January 18, 2021

Quake strikes west-central San Juan province at a depth of 10 km, says GFZ German Research Center for Geosciences.

An earthquake of magnitude 6.8 has struck Argentina's San Juan province, the GFZ German Research Center for Geosciences said.

The quake hit the west-central province late on Monday at a depth of 10 km, GFZ said.

The US Tsunami Warning System said no tsunami warning has been issued for the earthquake. The quake was also felt in the provinces of Mendoza, Cordoba, Santa Fe, La Rioja and Buenos Aires.

There were no immediate reports of serious damages or victims.

The US Geological Survey said the quake had a preliminary magnitude of 6.4 and its epicentre was 27.6 km southwest of the town of Porcito.

The quake was followed by a magnitude 5.0 aftershock about a quarter hour later, the USGS said.

"Many neighbours came down from the buildings and houses, went out into the street. The water in the pool moved like the sea," Ricardo, a resident of Mendoza city, told local newspaper Clarin.

Posts on social media showed many homes and buildings shaking, with the seismic activity leaving cracks in roads, while glass bottles fell off the shelves in shops. San Juan Governor Sergio Uñac urged people to remain calm following the earthquake and called on them to reach out in case they need any assistance.

Quake shakes Chile

Strong movement was felt in Chile's capital, Santiago, which is about 300 kilometres from the area hit by the quake.

Chilean officials said there was no damage reported in that nation.

Media in Argentina said electricity failed in the region around Porcito and some goods were shaken from supermarket shelves.

SPAIN: A Building In Central Madrid Belonging To The Catholic Church Collapsed On Wednesday After An Explosion. 3 People Died And Several Injured.

 

On Demand News published January 20, 2021: MASSIVE Explosion Destroys Residential Building in Central Madrid, Spain.
   
Evening Standard published January 20, 2021: Madrid explosion: Three dead after blast rips through building in Spanish capital
NTD News
written by Reuters staff
Wednesday January 20, 2021

MADRID—At least two people died and several were injured when a building in central Madrid belonging to the Catholic Church collapsed on Wednesday after an explosion, Mayor Jose Luis Martinez-Almeida told reporters.

Initial investigations suggested that the blast in Calle de Toledo, a street leading out from the city center, had been caused by a gas leak, he said.

Smoke billowed out of the collapsed building and rescue workers evacuated elderly people from a nearby nursing home.

A Church official said one church volunteer was missing.

The building was a complex that provided residential training for priests and also gave meals to homeless people, a neighbor said.

January 18, 2021

USA: 14 Of The Worlds Highest-Ranking Leaders Of MS-13 Operated As The Gang's "Board Of Directors" Charged With Terrorism Offenses In The United States And Around The World For 2 Decades.

US Dept of Justice
Thursday, January 14, 2021

Earlier today, an indictment was unsealed in Central Islip, New York charging 14 of the world’s highest-ranking MS-13 leaders who are known today as the Ranfla Nacional, which operated as the Organization’s Board of Directors, and directed MS-13’s violence and criminal activity around the world for almost two decades.

Specifically, the indictment charges the defendants with conspiracy to provide and conceal material support to terrorists, conspiracy to commit acts of terrorism transcending national boundaries, conspiracy to finance terrorism and narco-terrorism conspiracy in connection with the defendants’ leadership of the transnational criminal organization over the past two decades from El Salvador, the United States, Mexico and elsewhere.

Defendant Borromeo Enrique Henriquez, aka “Diablito de Hollywood,” is widely recognized as the most powerful member of the Ranfla Nacional. Three of the indicted defendants, Fredy Ivan Jandres-Parada, aka “Lucky de Park View” and “Lacky de Park View,” Cesar Humberto Lopez-Larios, aka “El Grenas de Stoners” and “Oso de Stoners,” and Hugo Armando Quinteros-Mineros, aka “Flaco de Francis,” remain at large and should be considered armed and dangerous. Members of the public with information concerning their whereabouts are strongly encouraged to contact the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) toll-free MS-13 tip line, 1-866-STP-MS13 (1-866-787-6713), or U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) at (866) 347-2423 or https://www.ice.gov/webform/ice-tip-form. Together, FBI and HSI have offered $20,000 in rewards for information leading to the arrest and conviction of each of the three fugitives. Henriquez and 10 other defendants are in custody in El Salvador. The United States will explore options for their extradition to the United States with the Government of El Salvador.

Acting Attorney General Jeffrey A. Rosen, Acting U.S. Attorney Seth D. DuCharme for the Eastern District of New York (EDNY), Director of Joint Task Force Vulcan (JTFV) John J. Durham, FBI Director Christopher A. Wray, and Executive Associate Director Derek Benner of HSI, announced the unsealing of the indictment.

Acting Attorney General Rosen said, “The indictment announced today is the highest-reaching and most sweeping indictment targeting MS-13 and its command and control structure in U.S. history. When Attorney General Barr announced the creation of JTFV in August 2019, he envisioned a whole-of-government approach that would combine proven prosecution tools from the past with innovative strategies designed specifically to eliminate MS-13 leadership’s ability to operate the gang and direct its terrorist activity. This indictment reflects an important step toward achieving that goal. By working side-by-side with our U.S. law enforcement partners and with our partners in El Salvador, we have charged MS-13’s highest-ranking leaders with operating a transnational criminal organization that utilizes terror to impose their will on neighborhoods, businesses and innocent civilians across the United States and Central America.”

“MS-13 is responsible for a wave of death and violence that has terrorized communities, leaving neighborhoods on Long Island and throughout the Eastern District of New York awash in bloodshed,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Seth D. DuCharme. “Even when incarcerated, the Ranfla Nacional continued to direct MS-13’s global operations, recruit new members, including children, into MS-13, and orchestrate murder and mayhem around the world. Today’s ground-breaking indictment seeks to demolish MS-13 by targeting its command and control structure and holding MS-13’s Board of Directors accountable for their terroristic actions.”

“The FBI is committed to combatting all forms of terrorism that threaten the American people as well as our international partners,” said FBI Director Christopher Wray. “In collaboration with our federal, state, local and international partners, we took aggressive steps to target and pursue some of the highest levels of leadership of MS-13. This operation is a clear signal to others who engage in this type of transnational criminal activity: the FBI will work tirelessly to bring them to justice wherever they are based.”

“For over a decade, HSI has remained steadfast in our resolve to dismantle transnational gangs like MS-13,” said HSI Executive Associate Director Benner. “As one of the most violent and dangerous criminal enterprises, MS-13 and Ranfla Nacional were directly responsible for unthinkable violence and criminal activity in communities across the United States and throughout Central America. As a result of the hard work and substantial resources dedicated to Joint Task Force Vulcan by our domestic and international law enforcement partners, this indictment will have a lasting disruptive effect on the future global illicit activities of this transnational criminal organization.”

As alleged in the indictment, the Ranfla Nacional comprises the highest level of leadership of MS-13. In approximately 2002, the defendants and other MS-13 leaders began establishing a highly organized, hierarchical command and control structure as a means to effectuate their decisions and enforce their orders, even while in prison. They directed acts of violence and murder in El Salvador, the United States, and elsewhere, established military-style training camps for its members and obtained military weapons such as rifles, handguns, grenades, improvised explosive devices (IED) and rocket launchers. As leaders of MS-13, the defendants controlled swaths of territory and engaged in public relations efforts on behalf of the transnational criminal organization. Further, the defendants used MS-13’s large membership in the United States to engage in criminal activities, such as drug trafficking and extortion to raise money to support MS-13’s terrorist activities in El Salvador and elsewhere, and directed members in the United States to commit acts of violence, including murders, to further its goals.

As further alleged in the indictment, a central theme of the rules implemented by the Ranfla Nacional was the requirement of loyalty to MS-13, or to the “barrio.” The requirement for loyalty was central to all aspects of life for MS-13 members. Members who disobeyed the rules, showed disloyalty to the gang or to its leaders, cooperated with law enforcement, or disrespected other members were subject to severe punishment, including death. The rules put in place by the Ranfla Nacional allowed the gang to flourish in parts of the United States, including within the EDNY where, under the defendants’ command, MS-13 has committed numerous acts of violence—including murders, attempted murders, assaults, kidnappings, drug trafficking, extortion of individuals and businesses, obstructed justice and sent dues and the proceeds of criminal activity by wire transfer to MS-13 leaders in El Salvador.

As further outlined in the indictment, the Ranfla Nacional has exercised its power over the Government of El Salvador by committing acts of violence and intimidation over government officials, law enforcement and the population of El Salvador at large. In doing so the Ranfla Nacional has ordered the killing of law enforcement and government officials in El Salvador as well as ordering a “green light,” or killing, of a FBI Special Agent detailed to El Salvador investigating MS-13 and its members. Moreover, by controlling the level of MS-13’s violence, the Ranfla Nacional exercised leverage with the Government of El Salvador. For example, as alleged in the indictment, from approximately 2012 until approximately 2015, the Ranfla Nacional entered into a “truce” with the then-Government of El Salvador. As part of this agreement, the Ranfla Nacional directed MS-13 to reduce homicides in El Salvador in exchange for improved prison conditions, benefits and cash payments. In 2015, when this agreement collapsed, the Ranfla Nacional blamed the United States, believing that the U.S. government pressured the government of El Salvador to end the “truce” as a condition of receiving funds from the United States. Thereafter, in early 2016, the Ranfla Nacional began planning for a major campaign of coordinated violence in El Salvador in retaliation for the harsher measures imposed on its members after the end of the “truce.” As alleged in the indictment, the defendants ordered all cliques in El Salvador to create a specialized unit of MS-13 members to target police officers, military members, and government officials in El Salvador. These members underwent military training at MS-13 military training camps in El Salvador. The defendants also ordered all cliques, including those in the United States and in the EDNY, to provide profits from their MS-13-related criminal activity to be used to purchase weapons for the planned attacks on police in El Salvador. In total, the defendants collected over $600,000 U.S. dollars for this fund which was used to purchase weapons, including M-16s and M-60 machine guns, grenades, IEDs, and rocket launchers. Furthermore, the defendants ordered increased violence, including murders, in the EDNY and other parts of the United States, which saw a dramatic increase in MS-13 violence in 2016 and 2017.

Finally, as alleged in the indictment, the Ranfla Nacional directed the expansion of MS-13 activities around the world, most significantly into Mexico, where several high-ranking leaders were sent to organize operations there. In Mexico, MS-13 leaders made connections to obtain narcotics and firearms, conducted business with Mexican drug cartels such as the Zetas, Gulf Cartel, Cártel de Jalisco Nueva Generación (CJNG) and Sinaloa Cartel, and engaged in human trafficking and smuggling.

In August 2019, Attorney General William P. Barr created JTFV to carry out the recommendations of the MS-13 Subcommittee formed under the Attorney General’s Transnational Organized Crime Task Force (TOC Task Force). The Attorney General’s TOC Task Force resulted from President Donald J. Trump’s February 2017 Executive Order directing the Departments of Justice, State, and Homeland Security, and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence to coordinate a whole-of-government approach to dismantle transnational criminal organizations, such as MS-13, and increase the safety of the American people.

Since its creation, JTFV has successfully implemented a whole-of-government approach to combatting MS-13, including increasing coordination and collaboration with foreign law enforcement partners, including El Salvador, Mexico, Honduras and Guatemala; designating priority MS-13 programs, cliques and leaders, who have the most impact on the United States, for targeted prosecutions; and coordinating significant MS-13 indictments in U.S. Attorney’s Offices across the country, including the first use of national security charges against MS-13 leaders.

JTFV has been comprised of members from the Department of Justice’s National Security Division and the Criminal Division, as well as U.S. Attorney’s Offices across the country, including the EDNY; the District of New Jersey; the Northern District of Ohio; the District of Utah; the Eastern District of Virginia; the District of Massachusetts; the Eastern District of Texas; the Southern District of New York; the District of Alaska; the Southern District of Florida; the Southern District of California; the District of Nevada; and the District of Columbia. In addition, all Department of Justice law enforcement agencies are involved in the effort, including the FBI; the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; the U.S. Marshals Service; and the U.S. Bureau of Prisons. In addition, HSI also plays a critical role in JTFV.

Acting Attorney General Rosen expressed his sincere thanks to Attorney General Raul Melara of El Salvador for the assistance of his office, as well as investigators from El Salvador’s Policía Nacional Civil, Centro Antipandilla Transnacional unit for their invaluable cooperation. Additionally, numerous Department of Justice components contributed to this indictment, including: the National Security Division’s Counterterrorism Section; the Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs; the Criminal Division’s Office of Overseas Prosecutorial Development, Assistance and Training; and Organized Crime and Gang Section; and the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces Executive Office. Finally, consistent with President Trump’s Executive Order and the Attorney General’s whole of government approach, the Department of State has provided critical support for JTFV’s mission.

The charges announced today are allegations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law. If convicted, the defendants face a maximum sentence of life in prison.

The government’s case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys James Donnelly, Matthew Shepherd, and Stewart Young from JTFV, and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Paul G. Scotti, Justina L. Geraci, and Megan E. Farrell from the EDNY’s Long Island Criminal Division.

USA: MIT Professor Researcher Charged For Failing To Disclose Contracts, Appointments From China Communist Party (CCP). Senior NASA Scientist Pleads Guilty For Working With CCP.

US Dept of Justice
Thursday, January 14, 2021

BOSTON – A professor and researcher at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) was charged and arrested today in connection with failing to disclose contracts, appointments and awards from various entities in the People’s Republic of China (PRC) to the U.S. Department of Energy.

Gang Chen, 56, was charged by criminal complaint with wire fraud, failing to file a foreign bank account report (FBAR) and making a false statement in a tax return. Chen will make an initial appearance today before Magistrate Judge Donald L. Cabell.

According to charging documents, Chen is a naturalized U.S. citizen who was born in China. He is a professor and researcher at MIT where he serves as Director of the MIT Pappalardo Micro/Nano Engineering Laboratory and Director of the Solid-State Solar Thermal Energy Conversion Center (S3TEC). Since approximately 2013, Chen’s research at MIT has been funded by more than $19 million in grants awarded by various U.S. federal agencies.

Since 2012, Chen has allegedly held various appointments with the PRC designed to promote the PRC’s technological and scientific development by providing advice and expertise – sometimes directly to PRC government officials – and often in exchange for financial compensation. This includes acting as an “overseas expert” for the PRC government at the request of the PRC Consulate Office in New York and serving as a member of at least two PRC Talent Programs. Since 2013, Chen allegedly received approximately $29 million of foreign funding, including $19 million from the PRC’s Southern University of Science and Technology (SUSTech).

It is further alleged that Chen’s efforts to promote the PRC’s scientific and economic development were partially detailed in a February 2016 email that Chen sent himself using his MIT e-mail account. The email read:

1. promote chinese collaboration

2. China places innovation (scientific) as key and core not fashion [sic], but because we must do it, from historic trend as well from our stage

3. our economy is no. 2, but from technology (structure of economy) and human resources, we are far from no. 2

4. we are paying big price in environment, not sustainable, as well as from labor cost

5. environment protection and development in same place, environment even higher, clean energy if higher cost, reduce steel, cement. We must count on technology, cannot grow as past

6. communist 18th convention, scientific innovation placed at core. We realize not just independent innovation; but also internationalize to plan for and facilitate. Closed door innovation does not work; innovation as driving force

From at least 2017 to 2019 when Chen was serving in several advisory roles for the PRC and PRC entities, Chen applied for and obtained a U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) grant in order to fund a portion of his research at MIT. In doing so, it is alleged that Chen failed to disclose information about his ongoing affiliations with the PRC as required by DOE.

Chen also allegedly failed to disclose to the IRS in his 2018 tax return that he maintained a bank account in the PRC with more than $10,000 in 2018.

The charge of wire fraud provides for a sentence of up to 20 years in prison, three years of supervised release and a fine of up to $250,000. The charge of making false statements provides for a sentence of up to five years in prison, three years of supervised release and a fine of $250,000. The charge of failing to file an FBAR provides for a sentence of up to five years in prison, three years of supervised release and a fine of $250,000. Sentences are imposed by a federal district court judge based upon the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

United States Attorney Andrew E. Lelling; Joseph R. Bonavolonta, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Boston Field Division; Patrick J. Hegarty, Special Agent in Charge of the U.S. Department of Defense, Defense Criminal Investigative Service, Northeast Field Office; William S. Walker, Acting Special Agent in Charge of Homeland Security Investigation, Boston; Joleen Simpson, Acting Special Agent in Charge of the Internal Revenue Service’s Criminal Investigation in Boston; and Jim Breckenridge, Special Agent in Charge of the Department of Energy, Office of Inspector General made the announcement today. Assistant U.S. Attorneys B. Stephanie Siegmann, Chief of Lelling’s National Security Unit, and Jason Casey and Timothy Kistner also of Lelling’s National Security Unit are prosecuting the case with assistance from Trial Attorney David Aaron of the National Security Division’s Counterintelligence and Export Control Section.

The details contained in the charging documents are allegations. The defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.
US Dept of Justice
Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Audrey Strauss, the Acting United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York (“USAO”), William F. Sweeney Jr., Assistant Director-in-Charge of the New York Field Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”), and Mark J. Zielinski, Special Agent in Charge of the Eastern Field Office, National Aeronautics and Space Administration Office of Inspector General (“NASA OIG”), announced that MEYYA MEYYAPPAN, a senior NASA scientist, pled guilty today to making false statements to the FBI, NASA OIG, and the USAO. MEYYAPPAN pled guilty in Manhattan federal court before U.S. District Judge P. Kevin Castel.

Acting U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss said: “Meyya Meyyappan held a trusted position at NASA, with access to valuable intellectual property. In violation of the terms of his employment and relevant laws and regulations, Meyyappan failed to disclose participation in a Chinese government recruitment program, and subsequently lied about it to NASA investigators, FBI agents, and our Office. Now, having admitted his crime, Meyyappan awaits sentencing.”

FBI Assistant Director William F. Sweeney Jr. said: “Members of U.S. government agencies are strictly prohibited from maintaining undisclosed affiliations with foreign entities, especially those that are actively seeking our intellectual property and technological advances. Meyyappan violated this sacred rule, and then lied to FBI agents about it. Actions like those carried about by Meyyappan can have security implications, and his charges should serve as a warning to others thinking about engaging in the same type of activity.”

NASA OIG Special Agent in Charge Mark J. Zielinski said: “Certain NASA employees are required to disclose affiliations with foreign entities in order to protect NASA’s intellectual property. Failure to do so could allow malicious foreign actors unauthorized access to American taxpayer funded technologies. We thank the FBI and the USAO, SDNY for their assistance throughout this investigation.”

According to the allegations in the Information filed today in Manhattan federal court and other proceedings in this case:

Since in or about 1996, MEYYAPPAN, the defendant, has been employed by NASA, an independent U.S. government agency responsible for the civilian space program, as well as aeronautics and aerospace research. Since in or about 2006, MEYYAPPAN has been Chief Scientist, Exploration Technology at the Center for Nanotechnology, at NASA’s Ames Research Center at Moffett Field in Silicon Valley, California.

In his position at NASA, MEYYAPPAN was subject to certain statutory, regulatory, and agency restrictions and reporting requirements regarding, among other things, outside employment, travel, and compensation. Notwithstanding these prohibitions, MEYYAPPAN participated in China’s Thousand Talents Program, a program established by the Chinese government to recruit individuals with access to or knowledge of foreign technology or intellectual property, and held professorships at universities in China, South Korea, and Japan, and failed to disclose these associations and positions to NASA and the U.S. Office of Government Ethics.

On or about October 27, 2020, MEYYAPPAN was interviewed by the FBI, NASA OIG, and the USAO, in New York, New York. During that interview, MEYYAPPAN falsely stated, among other things, that he was not a member of the Thousand Talents Program and that he did not hold a professorship at a Chinese university. In truth and in fact, MEYYAPPAN was a member of the Thousand Talents Program and held a professorship at a Chinese university, funded by the Chinese government.

MEYYAPPAN, 66, of Pacifica, California was charged with one count of making false statements, which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a maximum fine of $250,000, or twice the gross gain or loss from the offense. The maximum potential sentence in this case is prescribed by Congress and is provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendant will be determined by the judge. MEYYAPPAN is scheduled to be sentenced before Judge Castel on June 16, 2021, at 2:00 p.m.

Ms. Strauss praised the outstanding work of the FBI and NASA OIG.

This case is being handled by the Office’s Securities and Commodities Fraud Task Force. Assistant United States Attorney Joshua A. Naftalis is in charge of the prosecution.

NETHERLANDS: Dutch Government Resigns Over Child Benefits Scandal. Prime Minister Will Remain Until Elections Scheduled For March 17. Plans To Run For Re-Election. All Political Theatre.

The Guardian, UK
written by Jon Henley Europe correspondent
Friday January 15, 2021
PM Mark Rutte will stay on in caretaker capacity until general elections scheduled for 17 March

The Dutch government has resigned amid an escalating scandal over child benefits in which more than 20,000 families were wrongly accused of fraud by the tax authority.

The move came less than a month before parliament was due to break up ahead of general elections scheduled for 17 March. Prime minister Mark Rutte’s cabinet is to stay on in a caretaker capacity until a new coalition is formed after that vote.

“The government was not up to standard throughout this whole affair,” Rutte told a press conference. “Mistakes were made at every level of the state, with the result that terrible injustice was done to thousands of parents.”

Political responsibility for the scandal lay with the current cabinet, he said, which had decided collectively that it had no option but to resign. “Things cannot ever be allowed to go so terribly wrong again,” Rutte said.

The prime minister, who has headed three coalition governments since 2010, said the government would continue to actively manage the country’s response to the coronavirus crisis. A strict lockdown will remain in place in the Netherlands until at least 9 February and a curfew is under consideration.

Polls suggest Rutte’s People’s party for Freedom and Democracy will win a fourth term in the election, with public opinion still largely backing him. The centre-right party is on course for just under 30% of the vote, more than twice that forecast for the second-placed party, Geert Wilders’ anti-Islam Freedom party.

“This won’t have a huge effect on the governing parties’ polling,” said Rem Korteweg of the Clingendael thinktank. “The minister who was in charge of the child benefits scheme is now in opposition and has resigned; civil servants are being blamed for the predatory tax office. The government is taking ‘political responsibility’ but with little ‘political cost’.”

As many as 26,000 parents were wrongly accused by the Dutch tax authorities of fraudulently claiming child allowance over several years from 2012, with as many as 10,000 families forced to repay tens of thousands of euros, in some cases leading to unemployment, bankruptcies and divorces.

The tax authority admitted last year that at least 11,000 were singled out for special scrutiny because of their ethnic origin or dual nationality, fuelling longstanding allegations of systemic racism in the Netherlands.

Orlando Kadir, an attorney representing about 600 families, said people had been targeted “as a result of ethnic profiling by bureaucrats who picked out their foreign-looking names”. The government has apologised for the tax office’s methods and set aside more than €500m (£450m) in compensation, about €30,000 for each family.

The cabinet’s resignation came after a damning parliamentary report, Unprecedented Injustice, was published last month, which concluded that “fundamental principles of the rule of law had been violated”.

The investigating committee chairman, Chris van Dam, denounced the system as “a mass process with no scope for nuance”. Ministers, MPs, civil servants and court judges all bore a share of responsibility, said the report, which also strongly criticised the government for the way it provided information to parliament.

The opposition Labour party leader, Lodewijk Asscher, who was social affairs minister in the previous government, resigned over the affair on Thursday, conceding that a failed system had “made the government an enemy of its people”.

Twenty of the families involved this week took legal action against Asscher and ministers from three of the parties in the outgoing coalition, alleging criminal negligence through a failure of good governance, racial discrimination and violation of children’s rights.

ESTONIA: Prime Minister Resigns After Investigation Concluded Massive Corruption Pay For Play Scandal. Estonia President Working On Forming A New Government.

The New York Times
written by Andrew Higgins
Wednesday January 13, 2021

MOSCOW — The prime minister of Estonia resigned on Wednesday, his coalition government of centrists and far-right populists engulfed by a corruption scandal over misuse of state loans intended for coronavirus pandemic relief.
I want to point out that the New York Times is referring to PM Juri Ratas party as "Centrists and far-right populists". Whereas in the AP article below, the AP referrs to PM Ratas political party as left-leaning. And they both report the scandal is about to separate issues. The AP article below doesn't mention the tie-in with pandemic relief for companies suffering from government shutdown. (emphasis mine)
The departure of the prime minister, Juri Ratas, signaled an unusual bout of political turbulence in a country that joined the European Union and also NATO in 2004, establishing itself as a bastion of pro-Western stability on Russia’s western border.

This orientation is highly unlikely to change as Mr. Ratas’s most likely successor, the leader of the opposition center-right Reform Party, Kaja Kallas, is a firm supporter of the American-led military alliance. Estonia’s president asked Ms. Kallas on Wednesday to form a new government, but it was unclear whether she could muster the necessary votes in Parliament.

The outgoing prime minister, Mr. Ratas, had headed the tiny Baltic nation’s government since 2016 as leader of the Center Party, whose strongest base of support has been a large ethnic Russian population that liked its sometimes left-leaning policies.

He resigned after reports that his party was among those under criminal investigation over loans by a state agency, KredEx, to a private property project in the port area in Tallinn, Estonia’s Baltic Sea capital. The money was supposed to go to companies hard hit by the pandemic.

Mr. Ratas denied knowingly doing anything wrong but said that, as party leader, he would need to take “political responsibility” for any wrongdoing.

One of the suspects in the case is an adviser to the finance minister, Martin Helme, a far-right politician who leads another party in the coalition and once described his immigration policy as: “If you’re Black, go back.”

The inclusion of Mr. Helme’s EKRE party in the government, which severely damaged Estonia’s liberal image, followed an election in 2019 in which Mr. Ratas’s Center Party fared poorly but managed to stay in power by forming a coalition with the far right and a rival mainstream conservative party.

Since the collapse in 1991 of the Soviet Union, of which Estonia and two other Baltic states had been part, the country has built a strong economy, becoming one of the most wired and technologically advanced nations in the world.

Unlike neighboring Latvia, which has been hit by a long series of scandals related to its large financial sector, Estonia has enjoyed a reputation for clean government and finances, though this was badly damaged in 2018 when the Estonian branch of Denmark’s Danske Bank was caught up in an international investigation into the laundering of billions of dollars.
The Associated Press
written by Jari Tanner
Wednesday January 13, 2021

HELSINKI — Estonia’s prime minister resigned Wednesday over a corruption scandal involving a key official of his Center Party suspected of accepting a private donation for the party in exchange for a political favor on a real estate deal, prompting new talks on forming a new ruling coalition.

The resignation of Prime Minister Juri Ratas, who is also the Center Party’s leader, automatically triggers the resignation of Estonia’s three-party coalition government, but doesn’t automatically mean a new election.

After Ratas’ announcement, parties immediately started talks on cobbling together a new government. Estonian President Kersti Kaljulaid said she would propose that Kaja Kallas, chairwoman of the main opposition, center-right Reform Party, which emerged as the winner of the 2019 general election, to form the new Cabinet.

Ratas has led a majority coalition of his left-leaning Center Party, the nationalist EKRE party and the conservative Fatherland party since April 2019. He has held the post of prime minister of the Baltic country of 1.3 million since November 2016.

There are currently five political parties represented at Estonia’s 101-seat Riigikogu legislature, or Parliament.

Only a limited number of combinations exist for a majority coalition, particularly as the Reform Party has ruled out cooperation with the populist EKRE, Estonia’s third-largest party, which runs largely on an anti-immigration and anti-European Union agenda.

On Tuesday, Estonia’s security police said it was investigating the offices of state credit agency KredEx over suspicions of corruption regarding a 39 million-euro ($48 million) loan granted to the Porto Franco real estate complex in the harbor district of the capital, Tallinn.

The Public Prosecutor’s Office said separately it suspected the Center Party and five people of criminal involvement in the Porto Franco real estate case including party secretary Mihhail Korb, real estate businessman Hillar Teder and Kersti Kraht, an advisor to the country’s finance minister. Korb announced his resignation late Tuesday.

As the largest political party in Tallinn, the Center Party controls the office of mayor and has final say over how to develop public infrastructure projects such as roads and transport in the capital. Estonian media reported that Tallinn Mayor Mihhail Kolvart has been questioned in the case but isn’t suspected of any wrongdoing.

Teder, whose son Rauno Teder is the main shareholder in Porto Franco, is suspected of cutting a deal with Korb on facilitating access routes to the Porto Franco estate in the harbor district in return for a one million-euro donation to Center. In 2015, Hillar Teder was a suspect in a corruption case case involving former Tallinn Mayor and Center Party leader Edgar Savisaar.

Ratas insisted the real estate project has had no influence in government decision making.

Estonia is a member of the European Union and NATO since 2004.

🚨👇 BONUS INFO RELATED TO COUNTRY 👇🚨

Bloomberg News
written by Ott Ummelas
September 25, 2019

The former head of Danske Bank in Estonia, the unit at the center of a $220 billion money-laundering scandal, was found dead after disappearing from his home on Monday.

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Forbes
written by Frances Coppola
September 30, 2018

Money laundering is a multi-bank phenomenon. Danske Bank Estonia has been revealed as the hub of a $234bn money laundering scheme involving Russian and Eastern European customers. But Danske Bank Estonia couldn’t do this by itself. Much of the money was paid in U.S. dollars, and for that, it needed help from other banks. Banks that had access to Fedwire, the Federal Reserve's electronic settlement system. Big banks, in other words.

It appears that four big banks helped Danske Bank Estonia make its dodgy transactions. J.P. Morgan, Bank of America and Deutsche Bank AG all made dollar transfers on behalf of the Estonian branch’s non-resident customers. And according to the Wall Street Journal, Citigroup’s Moscow branch may have been involved in some financial transfers in and out of Danske Bank Estonia. But how much responsibility do these banks bear for these transfers? Could they reasonably have been expected to know – or suspect - that the money was dirty?

Banks that make transactions on behalf of other banks are known as “correspondent banks”. In the past, correspondent banks often had little information about the originator or final recipient of the money they were transmitting. They simply trusted that their customer bank was acting legally and that its customers were above board. Old habits die very hard: in 2016, the correspondent banks involved in the FIFA corruption case, which include Citigroup, HSBC, Wells Fargo and Barclays, all claimed that they could not have known that the transfers were corrupt.

But these days, banks are expected to “know their customers’ customers”. They are supposed to conduct their own checks to make sure that they are not unwittingly being used to launder dirty money.

In the case of Danske Bank Estonia, one of the correspondent banks did suspect something was wrong. In 2013, J.P. Morgan terminated its correspondent banking relationship with Danske Bank Estonia because it was concerned that it was being used as a conduit for dodgy funds. Deutsche Bank, however, blithely continued to make U.S. dollar wire transfers on behalf of the Estonia branch’s non-resident customers after J.P. Morgan's departure. So did Bank of America, which replaced J.P. Morgan.

From 2014 onward, according to Bloomberg, Deutsche Bank started refusing to make transfers that looked particularly dodgy. But the transaction flow did not fall off dramatically until 2015, when Bank of America and Deutsche Bank both terminated their correspondent bank relationships with Danske Bank Estonia - Bank of America in May, and Deutsche Bank in September. A report from the Danish Financial Supervisory Authority (FSA) – Danske Bank’s regulator – says that an employee at one of these banks warned about the Estonian branch’s suspicious customers:
In that connection, a senior employee from the correspondent bank in question assessed that out of ten non-resident customers from the Estonian branch, the correspondent bank would be comfortable only with servicing one given the customers’ characteristics. The employee also warned Danske Bank against Moldovan customers and customers transferring money to Moldova.
According to the Financial Times, this was a Deutsche Bank employee. But if Deutsche Bank employees were so aware of the suspicious nature of Danske Bank Estonia’s customers and the dodgy nature of some of the money flows, why didn't Deutsche Bank follow J.P. Morgan's example in 2013? Why was it the last to terminate its correspondent bank relationship?

At that time, Deutsche Bank was happily doing a spot of Russian money laundering itself – the “mirror trades” through its Moscow branch for which it last year paid fines totaling $630m to U.S. and U.K. regulators. I suppose it is entirely understandable that a bank that was actively laundering money for its own customers might be little concerned about money laundering by one of its customer banks. But this raises serious concerns about the adequacy of Deutsche Bank's AML processes - concerns that, as we shall see, refuse to go away.

The U.S. regulators are already sniffing round Danske Bank. If the FIFA investigation is anything to go by, their interest will not be limited to the Danish bank. They will also want to know what the correspondent banks thought they were doing. Deutsche Bank was the only correspondent bank to stay with Danske Bank Estonia throughout the period of its known money laundering, and it apparently continued the relationship despite knowing that the Estonian branch’s customers and transactions were suspicious. U.S. regulators might take a dim view of Deutsche’s behavior, especially given the $41m fine it was handed by the Federal Reserve in May 2017 for inadequate AML controls, and the “Problem Bank” designation awarded to its American subsidiary by FDIC.

It seems that BaFIN, the German regulator, thinks so too. Two days after Danske Bank released a report revealing the mammoth scale of its Estonian branch’s money laundering activities, BaFIN reprimanded Deutsche Bank for inadequate AML processes, and imposed an external supervisor to ensure it improved them. The notice on BaFIN’s website is short and to the point:
On 21 September 2018, in order to prevent money laundering and terrorist financing, BaFin ordered that Deutsche Bank AG take appropriate internal safeguards and comply with general due diligence obligations. The issued order is based on section 51 (2) sentence 1 of the German Money Laundering Act (Geldwäschegesetz – GwG). 
To monitor the implementation of the ordered measures, BaFin has appointed a special representative in accordance with section 45c (1) in conjunction with section 45c (2) no. 6 of the German Banking Act(Kreditwesengesetz – KWG). The special representative is to report on and assess the progress of the implementation.
Ostensibly, this follows on from Deutsche Bank’s admission in August 2018 that its AML processes were patchy to say the least. But the timing is exquisite. Could BaFIN be warning off the U.S. regulators? “This baby is ours. We will deal with it.”

Whether or not BaFIN’s reprimand is directly connected with the money laundering revelations, the fact remains that Deutsche Bank has some serious questions to answer regarding its conduct during the period of its correspondent relationship with Danske Bank Estonia.

And so too do the other banks involved. Although their correspondent relationships were of shorter duration, both J.P. Morgan and Bank of America helped to facilitate the enormous dollar flows in and out of Danske Bank Estonia. And although the exact role of Citigroup’s Moscow branch is as yet unclear, the little we know about it sounds suspiciously like Deutsche Bank’s “mirror trades”.

Investigations into the Estonian money laundering scandal are only just beginning. There is much, much more still to be uncovered. But already, an all-too-familiar familiar name has emerged. Funny, isn’t it, how whenever there is some shady activity going on, Deutsche Bank is never far away?

Fobes.com
written by Frances Coppola
September 26, 2018

The Estonian branch of Danske Bank, Denmark’s largest bank, has been revealed as the center of a massive money laundering operation. Between 2007 and 2015, 9.5 million payments were made through this tiny branch by about 15,000 non-resident customers, many of them Russian. The total value of these payments amounted to some 200bn Euros ($236bn), about 10 times Estonia’s GDP. The bank admitted in a press release that it expects “a significant part” of these payments to be “suspicious”.

A report by the Danish law firm Bruun & Hjejle reveals a catalogue of errors, management failures, process deficiencies and negligence. There are even suggestions that some staff colluded and assisted with the illegal activities identified in the report.

Depressingly, however, the report concludes that the CEO, chairman and Board of Danske Bank were not to blame – though the CEO, Thomas Borgen, has nevertheless resigned. Many have taken this to mean that the report was not conducted independently, and indeed as Bruun & Hjejle admits that it does other work for Danske Bank, this could be the case. But the real issue is the narrowness of the report’s scope. It makes little mention of Danske's financial situation. As we shall see, this is a critical omission which badly undermines the report's conclusion.

But first, how did this tiny Baltic branch of a Danish bank become the center of possibly the largest money laundering scandal in the world?

The origins of the problem lie in Estonia’s troubled history. Estonia was incorporated into the U.S.S.R. during the Second World War, and its banking system was integrated with Russia's. But after the dissolution of the U.S.S.R. in 1992, Estonia found itself cut off from Russia's banking system. It had to create a new system in a hurry, and like its neighbor Latvia it did so by means of a free-for-all in private bank licensing. One of the new banks created at this time was Eesti Forekspank.

Forekspank grew by expanding into Russia. By 1997 it had established branches in Moscow and St. Petersburg, and was accepting deposits from Russian customers as well as doing cross-border lending and foreign exchange.

Over the next few years, the Estonian branch’s non-resident portfolio grew, both in activity and in market share. By the end of 2013, it held 44% of total deposits from non-resident customers in Estonian banks (up from 27 per cent in 2007) and 9% of total deposits from non-resident customers in Baltic banks (up from five per cent in 2007). Most of these non-resident customers were companies, many of them shell companies registered in the United Kingdom.

This diagram leaves little doubt as to the principal purpose of the money flows through the non-resident portfolio:

This is what money laundering looks like. Note that sizable deposits came from Latvia and Cyprus, both of which are known to have been involved in laundering Russian money at this time. There is much more Russian money involved than just the 23% from Russia.

The Estonia branch management seem to have been negligent to the point of criminality. For example, this was their record on AML checks:

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The British philosopher John Stuart Mill once observed:
Let not any one pacify his conscience by the delusion that he can do no harm if he takes no part, and forms no opinion. Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing.

January 17, 2021

ITALY: Italy Government On Verge Of Collapse As Renzi Party Quits Following Arrests And Ensuing Court Case Stemming From The Leonardo Co. Data Hack That Switched US Votes During 2020 Election.

Video of Italian Supreme Court lawyer Professor Alfio D’Urso has presented evidence against arrested Italian defense contractor Leonardo’s Security Head Arturo D’Elia’s involvement in the US Election hacking case. The information was presented to D’Urso by a high-level security services official who also stated that Arturo is willing to testify against all individuals and entities involving in the switching of votes. Arturo D’Elia served as IT security consultant at NATO’s Communication and Information Agency in Rome. He was also the Security Head for the Italian Defense contractor Leonardo SpA whose satellites were used in US Election hacking. Leonardo SpA is the 8th largest defense contractor in the world.
I typed transcript below:

Lawyer of Via Emanuele a Catania do hereby provide the following affidavit of facts as conveyed in several meetings with the high level army of security services officials.

Arturo D’Elia, former head of the IT Department of Leonardo SpA, has been charged by the public prosecutor of Naples, for technology data manipulation and implantation of viruses in the main computers of Leonardo SpA in December, 2020.

Under distraction and direction of U.S. persons working from U.S. Embassy in Rome, undertook the operation to switch data from the U.S. election of 3 November 2020 from significant margin of victory from Donald Trump to Joe Biden in a number of states where Joe Biden was losing the vote totals.

Defendant states that he was working in Pescara facility of Leonardo SpA and utilized military grade cyber warfare encryption capabilities to transmit and switch votes via military satellite from Fucino tower to Frankfurt, Germany. The defendant swears that the data in some cases may have been switched to represent more than total voter registered. The defendant states that he is willing to testify to all individuals and entities involved in the switching of votes from Donald Trump to Joe Biden, where he shall be in total protection for himself and his family. Defendant states he is secured in an undisclosed location. the makeup of the original data  and data switched upon instruction to provide as evidence in court in this matter. I hereby declare and swear the above stated facts have been stated in my presence.

I typed a transcript of first 5 minutes of Maria Zack 30 min interview for you below. Pay attention to the timeline. The evidence was officially being given to members of Congress at 1:12pm and the BLM Antifa Resistance staging of Capitol riot started at 1:10pm BEFORE President Trump finished his speech at the Save America rally in front of 100s of thousand American patriots attending. The very FIRST OBJECTION to electoral votes was at 1:12pm.

Interviewer: We're not going to do our first five today as we most always do. Instead we're going to go right into an interview. We have online Maria Zack. She is in the Washington D.C. area. She is the founder of an organization called Nations in Action. She is going to be telling us about an affidavit delivered to Congress today on this extremely important day in America, January 6th, as the Congress is reviewing the electoral votes coming in from around the country in the midst of obvious widespread concern about their authenticity. She is the founder of Nations in Action. She's also, her organization has partnered with another group called Good Governance, the Institute of Good Governance. They together put some information coming out of Italy related to our elections and without further adieu. This is the breaking story of the day and maybe the year. This story you're about to hear. Maria Zack joins us live. Hi Maria.

Maria Zack: Thank you so much for having me today.

Interviewer: So glad you can come on. Well I didn't want to spoil your story at all. So, I know you delivered an affidavit today in Washington to at least a couple of people in Congress and the President's Chief of Staff coming out of Italy that's relating directly to this whole issue of election fraud in America. And I want to let you tell our listeners what it was that you delivered.

Maria Zack: Yes ma'am. We are very thrilled to partner with The Institute for Good Governance and Nations in Action shares the same passion for honesty and truth in elections. So we have done substantial research over the years. I've even been on the recount teams over the years, including the 2000 recount team. And what was troubling in 2016 in the elections and 2018 with Broward County we exposed that fraud. But never in my life did I think we would have the opportunity to see what act we have seen in taking the election theft to a whole new level. There's so many variations and kinds of theft. But this orchestrated theft that took place in America is breaking today and thank you for helping us break this story. We actually know the person who actually committed the act of uploading the software, where they did, how they did it and that has been put in an affidavit with the top lawyer of Italy and was part of a proceeding, judicial proceeding in a federal court in Italy in the past couple days. So news has been breaking. Italy did it is the global trending hashtag and it is for a reason. This happened. It's very real. The President is right, foreign interference did occur and people need to be prosecuted in our country that actually participated. So that affidavit as you said was drafted and submitted to Congress at 1:12 this afternoon as soon as we could get it over safely. There are people who have their lives at risk for wanting to save our country. They know it's that important. Many believe like we did as America for Italy in World War II that it was time for them to repay saving America and that's exactly what they did. They stepped up amazing patriots.

Interviewer: So I want to be sure our listeners are understanding this affidavit you're describing I have it in front of me and I may even read it at some point in the show. The person is talking about what was uploaded was the instructions to flip votes from Trump to Biden on the evening, late evening November 3rd, early November 4th as the votes are being counted in the unsettled states, this person is attesting he is the one that uploaded the instructions to a satellite owned by Leonardo, the Italian cybersecurity company government contractor, uploaded the instruction to change those in America from Trump to Biden and that went up to a Leonardo owned satellite back to servers in Germany and ultimately back to America. So this is the proof that votes were shifted by foreign powers in our 2020 November elections. Is that correct?

Maria Zack: Yes ma'am. This person has said very precisely that he has been an employee of Leonardo SpA and Leonardo is a very large, I believe the 11th largest defense contractor in the world.

Lt General Thomas McInerney explains what happened at the DC Capitol riot and that white hat special forces blended in with BLM Antifa Resistance paramilitary for the Communist funded Progressives trying to usurp our government right now dressed up like Trump Patriot supporters to stage Capitol attack and blame President Trump. The special forces took Nancy Pelosi's laptop and hard drives with treasure trove of evidence that implicates her and others. Nancy Pelosi confirmed in her 60 minute interview that her laptop and computers were stolen during the Capitol riot.