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Friday, November 9, 2012

HSBC Mired By Allegations of Accounts for Drug Dealers and Gun Runners

HSBC, the U.K.’s largest bank, is being investigated by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) for allegedly opening bank accounts for high-profile criminals, according to the Daily Telegraph. A whistle-blower provided the tax authority with a list of drug dealers, gun runners and other criminals who had opened bank accounts in Jersey. Altogether, the 4,388 account holders had close to £700 million in these offshore accounts. Among the account holders are Daniel Bayes, a drug dealer now living in Venezuela, Michael Lee, convicted of possessing 300 weapons at his house in Devon, and a man described by the newspaper as “London’s number two computer crook”. HSBC is legally obliged to report any suspicions about the source of money deposited in its accounts to authorities. “HSBC has a duty of confidentiality and cannot comment on clients even to confirm or deny they are clients”, said a spokesman at the bank.

Argentina Erupts in Protests Against Cristina Kirchner

Buenos Aires was taken over by hundreds of thousands of protesters last night in one of the largest anti-government marches of President Cristina Kirchner’s five-year rule. The estimated 700,000 pot-banging activists denounced what they perceive as her increasing authoritarianism, including attempts to remove constitutional term limits and a fierce clampdown on the country’s media. The organisers called their march “8N”, a response to a government campaign called “7D”, which represents the December 7 deadline given to Clarín, the country’s biggest media group, to sell its assets under anti-monopoly law passed by the government. “This is the start of a dictatorship”, said Elisa Carrió, an opposition lawmaker and former candidate for president. Detractors, like union leader Luis D’Elia, said the demonstration was held by members of a wealthy elite that offers “no viable alternative”.

Human Rights Organisations Question Circumstances Surrounding Death of Iranian Blogger

Human rights organisations have called on Iran to investigate the death of a blogger who was arrested after criticising the government in online posts. Sattar Beheshti, aged 35, died this week while in the custody of the country’s cybercrimes police unit. He maintained a website called My Life for My Iran where he criticised the regime, according to Amnesty International. “The Iranian authorities must immediately carry out an independent investigation into his death, including whether torture played a part in it”, said Amnesty’s Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director, Ann Harrison. A day before his arrest, Beheshti had said he had received a threat because of his blog posts. The message said “tell your mother she will soon be wearing black because you don’t shut your big mouth”. His parents were told to collect his body from Tehran’s Kahrizak prison on November 6. “The family came under pressure to bury the body quickly and was ordered under threat not to inform the media”, said Reporters Without Borders, a press freedom organisation, in a statement. He was buried on the following day.

U.K. to Stop Sending Financial Aid to India by 2015

The U.K. will end all financial assistance to India by 2015. The announcement was made on Friday by the International Development Secretary, Justine Greening. The U.K. will make no new financial commitments to India and will save about £200 million by 2015. “After reviewing the programme and holding discussions with the government of India this week, we agree that now is the time to move to a relationship focusing on skills sharing rather than aid”, said Greening. India’s Minister of Finance, Pranab Mukherjee, had last year described the amount of British aid to India as “a peanut in our total development expenditure”, adding that the country no longer wanted or needed those funds. Secretary Greening said that the move signalled India’s “rapid growth and progress”.

Chinese Economy to Surpass the U.S. by the End of 2016

The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has revealed that China will overtake the U.S. in the next four years to become the world’s biggest economy. India is predicted to surpass Japan in the next year, and the GDP of India and China combined will exceed that of France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the U.K., the U.S. and Canada put together by 2025. Despite the growth in GDP, the OECD expects inequalities to persist. The organisation says living standards in the emerging countries will be at most 60 percent of the level experienced by those in developed countries. OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría warned that “none of these forecasts are set in stone” and that structural reforms could boost living standards in the emerging economies.

Weekend Read: The Fight for the Favelas

Rio de Janeiro has launched a huge offensive against its most dangerous drug gangs and militias before the next World Cup and Olympics. Is the strategy for integrating the urban poor going to hold? In the Financial Times Magazine.

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