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FEATURED BRUSSELS: Trial begins for 10-people over Paris 2016 attacks that killed 32

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Ace Press News From Cutting Room Floor: Published: Dec.06: 2022:

#AceNewsDesk – Ten men are now going on trial in the Belgian capital. Six of them have already been found guilty of involvement in the terror attacks in Paris in November 2015, which killed 130 people.

On a bridge overlooking a Brussels canal, Mohamed El Bachiri’s face lights up in the winter sun as he remembers the mum of his three boys.

Mohamed El Bachiri and his wife Loubna
Mohamed El Bachiri lost his wife Loubna in the 2016 Brussels attacks

“Loubna was an angel, she was beautiful, she was always smiling, she was an extraordinary mother and wife,” says Mohamed. 

Thirty-four-year-old teacher Loubna Lafquiri was murdered on the Brussels metro on the morning of 22 March 2016.

In all, 32 people were killed by three suicide bombers in the attacks at Maelbeek station and Zaventem airport. 

Salah Abdeslam, the main suspect in the French trial who was detained four days before the Brussels attacks, is also among the defendants, along with others whom prosecutors claim hosted or helped certain attackers. 

One of the 10, who is presumed killed in Syria, will be tried in absentia.

Map of Brussels attack
Charlotte lived with David and their son Henry in Brussels before David’s death
By Nick Beake: BBC News Europe correspondent

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U.K COURT REPORT: Criminal group which used a religious charity as a front for importing 400 kilos of cannabis convicted

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Ace Press News From Cutting Room Floor: Published: Dec.05: 2022:

#AceNewsDesk – Group used Christian ministry as front for £2 million cannabis importation

The National Crime Agency investigated Dalton Anderson, 50, Alvin Russell, 45, and Sinclair Tucker, 64, after Birmingham based organization Vision Christian Ministries (VCM) was used to smuggle the drugs – worth up to £2m when sold in the UK.

The cannabis was trafficked from Jamaica to the UK, via Birmingham Airport, and had been packed into sealed tins of Calaloo, a Jamaican green vegetable, and Akee fruit.

It  was shipped in three separate consignments addressed to VCM between March and May 2017 and seized by Border Force.

The trio were arrested at the airport on 23 May of that year, while inspecting the third consignment which had just arrived.

NCA investigators established that they organised the imports and collected the drugs from the airport. Anderson and Russell also spent some time in Jamaica when the importations were made, handling money and providing shipping documentation to VCM via Tucker.

All three were charged with conspiracy to import class B drugs (cannabis), with Anderson also charged with possession with intent to supply class B drugs after five kilos of cannabis was found at his home following his arrest.

Anderson was convicted at Birmingham Crown Court on 29 November, with the other two found guilty yesterday (30 November), following a five week trial. They are due to be sentenced at the same court on 27 January next year.

Cannabis in a tin recovered by officers

NCA Operations Manager Rick Mackenzie said:

Anderson, Tucker and Russell cynically used a Christian ministry as a smokescreen to import huge quantities of cannabis into the UK. They wrongly believed that this would put them beyond the reach of the National Crime Agency and our law enforcement partners.

“The NCA works closely with Border Force to disrupt and dismantle criminal networks involved in drug trafficking.”

Assistant Director Inland Border Command for Border Force Paul Harper said:

” This was outstanding work to stop £2 million worth of drugs reaching Britain’s streets and causing further harm to our communities.

“This seizure and others like it send a clear message to anyone considering attempting to smuggle illegal drugs into the country that we remain committed and prepared to tackle drug supply chains.”

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FEATURED AUSTRALIA COURT REPORT: Alkaloids Pharma & Former Export Manager Sentenced for Price Fixing Cartel

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Ace Press News From Cutting Room Floor: Published: Dec.04: 2022:

#AceNewsDesk – The Federal Court has sentenced a family-owned Australian pharmaceutical company and its former export manager for engaging in criminal cartel conduct, following a criminal prosecution by the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions, that arose from an investigation by the ACCC.

Alkaloids of Australia, which produces scopolamine N-butylbromide (SNBB), the active pharmaceutical ingredient used in common anti-spasmodic medications, was convicted and fined $1,987,500.

Its former export manager, Christopher Kenneth Joyce, was also convicted and was sentenced to two years and eight months’ imprisonment to be served as an intensive corrections order, including 400 hours of community service.

Mr Joyce was also disqualified from managing corporations for five years and fined $50,000.

In late-2021, Mr Joyce and Alkaloids of Australia pleaded guilty to three criminal charges, and admitted to a further seven offences, in respect of making, attempting to make, and giving effect to several cartel arrangements with overseas pharmaceutical ingredient suppliers that involved price fixing, bid rigging, output restriction and market allocation.

The Court took into account Mr Joyce and Alkaloids of Australia’s early guilty pleas in sentencing.

“We welcome these outcomes, which should serve as a strong reminder that criminal cartel conduct is a serious offence attracting serious consequences, including significant fines, banning orders, and imprisonment for individuals,” ACCC Commissioner Liza Carver said.

“The sentence imposed on Mr Joyce is the longest sentence of imprisonment imposed on an individual under the criminal cartel laws so far.”

The charges relate to five years of cartel conduct in the period from July 2009, when criminal cartel laws came into force in Australia.

“This was a particularly concerning and serious case of cartel conduct by Alkaloids of Australia over a sustained period which included price fixing that had worldwide impact,” Ms Carver said.

The Court heard Mr Joyce (on behalf of Alkaloids of Australia) regularly met at industry conventions and communicated via email and phone with competing manufacturers of SNBB around the world and agreed to fix the minimum price for SNBB, to allocate customers between each other and to arrange what price would be quoted to customers to ensure a particular manufacturer won the sale.

In addition, Mr Joyce (on behalf of Alkaloids of Australia) attempted to induce competing SNBB manufacturers to limit the production of SNBB and/or its precursor plant, Duboisia, which is grown in Australia.

“Alkaloids of Australia produces and supplies an active ingredient derived from a plant predominantly grown and processed in the Kingaroy region in Queensland and exported for use in medications globally, so the cartel conduct potentially increased prices for consumers and businesses around the world,” Ms Carver said.

“Investigating serious cartels remains an important priority for us, because of the harm such anti-competitive conduct has on consumers, other businesses, and the economy as a whole.”

Background:

Alkaloids of Australia is a pharmaceutical ingredient company that produces and supplies SNBB (scopolamine N-butylbromide, also known as hyoscine butylbromide), which is an active pharmaceutical ingredient in antispasmodic medications taken to relieve stomach pain and bowel cramps. The company is based in Queensland.

SNBB is manufactured from the Duboisia plant, which is native to Australia. Duboisia plants are grown commercially in and around Kingaroy in Queensland for the pharmaceutical industry. SNBB is produced in Australia and the medications are then imported into Australia as a final product.

On 1 December 2020, Alkaloids of Australia and its former export manager, Christopher Joyce were charged with criminal cartel offences under the Competition and Consumer Act, formerly called the Trade Practices Act, following an ACCC investigation. 

On 26 October 2021 and 16 November 2021 respectively, Christopher Joyce and Alkaloids of Australia each pleaded guilty to three charges, and admitted guilt in respect of seven further offences, relating to conduct in respect of cartel arrangements between Alkaloids of Australia and other SNBB suppliers.

Additional Notes:

A cartel exists when businesses agree to act together instead of competing with each other. Conduct can include price fixing, sharing markets, rigging bids and controlling the output or limiting the amount of goods and services. More information on cartel conduct can be found on the ACCC’s website at Cartels.

The ACCC investigates cartel conduct, manages the immunity process and, in respect of civil cartel contraventions, takes proceedings in the Federal Court.

The CDPP is responsible for prosecuting criminal cartel offences in accordance with the Prosecution Policy of the Commonwealth. The ACCC refers serious cartel conduct to the CDPP for consideration of prosecution in accordance with the Memorandum of Understanding between the CDPP and the ACCC regarding Serious Cartel Conduct.

For corporations, the maximum fine for each criminal cartel offence before 9 November 2022 is the greater of:

  • $10 million,
  • three times the total benefits that have been obtained and are reasonably attributable to the commission of the offence, or
  • if the total value of the benefits cannot be determined,10 per cent of the corporation’s annual turnover connected with Australia.

An individual convicted of a criminal cartel offence before 9 November 2022 may be sentenced to up to 10 years’ imprisonment or fined up to $444,000, or both.

The maximum fines and civil penalties for cartel conduct by corporations were substantially increased with effect from 9 November 2022, by legislation passed by Parliament in October.

Anyone who thinks they may be involved in cartel conduct is urged to call the ACCC Cartel Immunity Hotline on (02) 9230 3894. More information about the immunity process is available on the ACCC website at Cartels.

You can report suspected cartel conduct by using the anonymous cartel portal……………..Use this form to make a general enquiry…………..ACCC Infocentre: Use this form to make a general enquiry.

ACCC COURT REPORT

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U.S DOJ COURT REPORT: Three Indicted for Involvement in Violent Crisis in Cameroon for Demanding Ransoms & Funding Militia

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Ace Press News From Cutting Room Floor: Published: Dec.03: 2022:

#AceNewsDesk – Conspiracy Included Kidnapping Cameroonians, Demanding Ransoms from U.S. Relatives to Fund Separatist Militia Groups in Cameroon

Three defendants were arrested today and made their initial court appearances in connection with an indictment, unsealed today, charging them for their roles in a conspiracy to provide material support or resources to a conspiracy to kidnap persons and use weapons of mass destruction in a foreign country.

Claude N. Chi, 40, of Lee’s Summit, Missouri; Francis Chenyi, 49, of St. Paul, Minnesota; and Lah Nestor Langmi, 46, of Buffalo, New York, all of whom are U.S. citizens of Cameroonian origin, are charged in a four-count indictment returned under seal by a federal grand jury in Kansas City, Missouri, on Nov. 18, 2022. The indictment was unsealed and made public today following their arrests and initial court appearances.

The federal indictment alleges that Chi, Chenyi and Langmi have supported and raised funds for separatist fighters in Cameroon since Jan. 1, 2018. As alleged, they each held senior level positions within an organization that supported and directed the militant separatist group known as the Ambazonian Restoration Forces and other separatist fighters in Cameroon’s Northwest Region.

Chi, Chenyi and Langmi allegedly solicited and raised funds for equipment, supplies, weapons and explosive materials to be used in attacks against Cameroonian government personnel, security forces and property, along with other civilians believed to be enabling the government.

These funds were raised through online chat applications and payment platforms from individuals located in the United States and abroad. The funds were then transferred from various financial and cryptocurrency accounts controlled by the defendants through intermediaries to the separatist fighters to support attacks in Cameroon.

In addition to more than $350,000 the defendants raised through voluntary donations, the indictment alleges Chi, Chenyi and Langmi conspired with others to kidnap civilians in Cameroon and hold them for ransom. In some instances, U.S. citizens were extorted for ransom payments to secure the release of their kidnapped relatives living in Cameroon. The ransom payments were subsequently transferred to the separatist fighters to fund their operations.

According to the indictment, the defendants authored a document that included a list of expenditures related to improvised explosive devices (IEDs), firearms and ammunition. Other expenditures included funds related to the kidnapping of Cardinal Christian Tumi and of a Cameroonian traditional leader named Sehm Mbinglo II on Nov. 5, 2020.

Chi, Chenyi and Langmi are charged with one count of conspiracy to provide material support or resources intended to be used to carry out a conspiracy to kill, kidnap and maim persons in a foreign country and one count of providing material support or resources intended to be used to carry out a conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction outside the United States. They are additionally charged with one count of receiving money from a ransom demand and one count of participating in a money laundering conspiracy. If convicted, the defendants face a maximum statutory penalty of up to 15 years in prison for the material support charges, up to three years in prison for the receiving money from a ransom demand charge and up to 20 years in prison for the money laundering conspiracy charge.

Assistant Attorney General Matthew G. Olsen of the Justice Department’s National Security Division, U.S. Attorney Teresa A. Moore for the Western District of Missouri, FBI Assistant Director Robert R. Wells and Special Agent in Charge Charles A. Dayoub of the FBI Kansas City Field Office made the announcement.

This is an ongoing investigation. Anyone with information related to this investigation is asked to contact the FBI at 1-800-CALL-FBI or report a tip online at tips.fbi.gov. You can remain anonymous in reporting a tip.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew Blackwood for the Western District of Missouri and Trial Attorney Dmitriy Slavin of the Justice Department’s National Security Division are prosecuting the case.

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