Connect with us

Frontpage

Romanian prosecutors investigate cryptocurrency funding of #resist protestors

Published

on

The Directorate for Investigating Organised Crime and Terrorism (DIICOT) in Romania is investigating 403 cryptocurrency transactions.  These transactions, valued in total at 14 million US Dollars, were made over a period of three years, writes James Wilson.

The funds entered Romania in order to fund #resist groups and other NGOs who support the National Anti-Corruption Directorate (DNA), Klaus Iohannis, Dacian Ciolos and the Save Romania Union (USR) political party.  Evidence leads to a virtual wallet on the BLOCKCHAIN online platform, funded by the Stefan Batory Foundation in Poland, which itself is funded directly by billionaire George Soros.

Judicial sources informed a journalist from luju.ro that DIICOT had initiated a wide investigation regarding the funding of the #resist movement.  The reason for this investigation is that there have been concerns regarding money-laundering operations and organised crime to provoke actions against the rule of law.

Concerns include the financing of violent groups of protesters who, during 2017 and 2018 and particularly on August 10, 2018, organised actions against the constitution and article 397 of the Penal Code in an attempt to overthrow the PSD-ALDE government.

According to information gathered by DIICOT, by the end of October 2018 403 transactions were made from this wallet, for a total of 14.9 million dollars.  The money appears to have gone to organisations that promoted the street protests, which took place during the last two years in Romania, including the protests of August 10, 2018.

All of this information can be found in the virtual wallet on the BLOCKCHAIN online platform, through which crypto-currency transactions are operated. A screen shot of this wallet in the image below, which shows the total value of transactions at more than 14.9 million US dollars.

According to leads followed by investigators, the recipients of the money from the Stefan Batory Foundation wallet were not just #resist groups, but also various non-governmental organisations known to be supporters of the DNA, Klaus Iohannis, Dacian Cioloş and USR political party.

These groups include Declic, VaVedem, Coruptia Ucide, Oradea Civic, Funky Citizens, Just, Casa Jurnalistului, Vice.com or Rezistenta TV.  The latter hosted interviews with the former Chief Prosecutor of the DNA, Laura Codruţa Kovesi, Monica Macovei and Raluca Prună.

Sources from the DIICOT investigation also confirmed to luju.ro that during the weeks before the protests of August 10, hundreds of thousands of Euros were withdrawn from #resist’s bitcoin.  It is believed these funds were used for the impressive logistics used by the #resist protestors, including renting accommodations for protesters who resided in other cities, paying rent for the secret headquarters of the organisers, IT equipment, promoting messages online through social media, travel costs, pamphlets, the famous ‘Justice for All’ signs.  Large amounts from this wallet were converted directly into cash at ATMs that permit Bitcoin transactions.  Those who could access the #resist wallet used the “localbitcoins” system which allows direct exchanges between cash owners in local currency and those who wanted to convert bitcoin funds.

These revelations are casting the Romania protests in a different light and raising questions internationally about who was behind the protests and what the agenda really was.

James Wilson is a Founding Director of the International Foundation for Better Governance.

EU

EU-Ukraine relations come under the spotlight

Published

on

The EU and U.S are doing a lot for Ukraine on the issue of reforms, not only to economic reforms but reform of the justice system, writes Martin Banks.

Over the past six years, as part of legal reforms, Ukraine has developed and adopted amendments to its constitution, adopting about a dozen laws. 

 The new Supreme Court, the Higher Anti-Corruption Court were created, the qualification assessment of judges and other processes have started, all designed to have a positive impact on the judicial system and the fight against corruption. The EU was actively involved in all these reforms.

The result, though, has not yet met expectations. In 2019, an opinion poll by the Razumkov Centre for the Council of Europe Office in Ukraine showed 46% believe that the judicial reform has “not yet begun at all” and that 43% have a negative attitude towards a judicial reform.

Corruption in Ukraine continues to thrive, and the judicial system has become even more ineffective than before. At the same time, some Ukrainian politicians are actively using the topic of judicial reform for their own interests. In particular, former President Petro Poroshenko used the topic of judicial reform to gain control over the courts. And he succeeded with only a few judges daring to make decisions against Poroshenko's will. 

As a result, the number of experienced judges who have left the system has increased since 2014. Some Ukrainian courts have no judges left at all and the courts have suspended their work, making it difficult or impossible for citizens to access justice at all. 

As of early 2020, the shortage of judicial personnel in the courts was almost 30%. This affects the quality of court proceedings and the timing of consideration of cases. Suspects stay in pretrial detention centers for an inordinate time, cases accumulate, and the dynamics of justice slow down, leading to social tensions.

Almost everybody agrees that the implemented reforms proved to be totally ineffective but why is this happening? Why have all efforts been in vain? The question was to be discussed at an international conference "Dialogue about justice - 2" in Kiev, but the event was badly disrupted.

EU policy makers and civil servants cancelled their participation in the conference, when they learned the day before that the panel consisted of some people with a “dubious” reputation.

Even those who decided to take part faced with problems. Immediately after it started, an anonymous message was received about the mining of the Parkovyi ECC building, where the conference participants were gathered. 

 All those present had to leave the premises and wait outside for an hour while police checked the building.

 Why did someone try to disrupt the conference? The Ukrainian edition of "Vzglyad” said the conference tried to “disrupt” organizations and structures that focus on Poroshenko.

Journalists talked to a representative of one such organization engaged in promoting judicial reform in Ukraine who said that in Ukraine only certain NGOs have the right to contact with Europeans on the topic of judicial and other reforms.

Ukraine, he said, has formed a "caste" of reformers who do not allow anyone else to discuss reforms without their permission and it is these who determine who in Ukraine is "dubious", that is, who EU representatives have no right to communicate. 

One of the conference participants was a well-known Ukrainian lawyer, Rostislav Popovich who noted it was the second such high-level discussion on judicial reform - the first one was held last year in the European Parliament. He wrote on his Facebook page:“The Kiev event was attended by people's deputies, judges of higher courts, leading lawyers, MEPs and specialists from Europe, the U.S and Israel. The composition was representative and the topics discussed were topical. But it was very difficult to hold it in Kiev - not because of the coronavirus, but because the conference was disrupted by people who wrote letters to MEPs, demanding that they refuse to participate, speaking of 'odious' participants. 

“Why such a strange reaction? It was because the conference wasn't held by them and they didn't select the participants. They did not want to allow Europeans to learn the truth about the real situation in the country and about those 'reforms' that have been implemented here.”

He believes that in Ukraine there are people “parasitizing on the problems of the judicial system and many other problems.”

According to Popovich, they “monopolize” the right to speak on behalf of the country with Europe and other Western partners."These people, as a rule, do not understand the topic, do not understand the real situation and promote "reforms" that fail one after another and only make the situation worse. At the same time, activists do not bear any responsibility for the result. Moreover, for them, worse is better. As long as there are problems in the country, these people receive grants to fight these problems.”

He argues that the EU communicates in Ukraine exclusively with a small group of people who call themselves civil society - mostly activists, funded by grants from the EU and international organizations. They purport to represent all Ukrainian people and are often the ones with whom European politicians often come into contact to discuss reforms.

In reality, says the lawyer, these activists “represent no one - they have neither support nor even respect among Ukrainians, and are often accused of corruption themselves”.

It was, he states at the insistence of those pushing for judicial reform that those who work directly in the judicial system were “eliminated” - judges, lawyers and lawyers. He says this is an abnormal situation for any country and one reason why the reforms failed.

It is quite understandable why few people in Europe seem to have a good understanding of what is happening in Ukraine, on reason why Europeans involved in promoting certain models of unworkable judicial reform worsen the situation.

Europe should maintain contacts not only with professional activists, but also with a wider range of people in Ukraine to be able to form an objective picture of what is happening in the country. That would ensure the reforms really benefit Ukraine.Ukrainians have already shown that they are against external management by Russia. But now they say that Ukraine has fallen under the external control of the West and Ukrainian people will not accept such a situation.

This could have dramatic consequences and some politicians are already calling for a rejection of European integration with such appeals gaining support among voters.

Continue Reading

Frontpage

London exhibition to highlight two of Kazakhstan’s most influential non-conformist artists

Published

on

 Image: Aisha Bibi (2010) by Almagul Menlibayeva

An exhibition of contemporary Kazakh art is opening its doors in London, writes Lucía de la Torre.

Almagul Menlibayeva: It’s Easy to Be a Line / Yerbossyn Meldibekov: It’s Difficult to be a Point is a dual exhibition featuring two contemporary artists.

The exhibition is curated by Almaty-based arts hub Aspan Gallery, and is the gallery’s first project in the UK. The artists’ work will be on show at London’s Cromwell Place, and will be open to the public for free.

The project brings together Almagul Menlibayeva and Yerbossyn Meldibekov, two Kazakh artists born in the 1960s whose art broke away from the socialist realist conventions of the Soviet era. Menlibayeva’s work fuses video and photography to create telling artworks that explore the female identity in the context of the migration stories of Central Asia, mirroring them with the contemporary migrant crisis.

Meldibekov, whose work has been previously exhibited at the Garage Museum in Moscow, combines performance, installation, video, and photography to explore the changing identity of places and monuments during the Sovietisation and decommunisation of Central Asia.

The exhibition will be open 5-18 October. You can find more information and book your tickets here.

Continue Reading

China

Huawei ban spurs new competition for Ericsson and Nokia

Published

on

The crackdown on China’s largest technology company has given startups such as Altiostar Networks Inc. and new entrants including Qualcomm Inc. a rare opportunity to grab a slice of the $35 billion the telecom industry spends each year on this crucial part of mobile phone networks.

“This could break up that tech vendor lock-in that’s been around for decades,” said Andre Fuetsch, chief technology officer of network services at AT&T Inc., the third largest U.S. wireless carrier. “It’s about how do you create a much more competitive, innovative ecosystem.”

Technology gets political

Position on including equipment from China’s Huawei in 5G mobile networks, as of 15 July, 2020

Source: Bloomberg

Base stations are the heart of cellular networks, powering millions of antennas that perch on cell towers and city rooftops all over the world. Until recently, these boxes were a proprietary combination of processors and software that had to be purchased all at once. Huawei, Ericsson and Nokia account for three quarters of this market, which is worth as much as $35 billion a year, according to researcher Dell’Oro Group.

Open radio access network, or O-RAN, changes this by creating an open standard for base station design and ensuring all the software and components work well together -- no matter who is supplying the ingredients.

This is a potentially radical shift. When telecom giants such as AT&T and China Mobile Ltd. want to expand their network they usually have to call their existing supplier and order more of the same because a box from Nokia won’t work with one from Ericsson. The new technology lets wireless carriers mix and match more easily.

The initiative also means that new suppliers can succeed by focusing on one or two components, or a single piece of software, rather than spending lots of time and money building a whole base station from the ground up.

O-RAN gear has been used sparingly since an industry alliance was formed to promote the technology in 2018. But when the U.S. toughened its stance against Huawei last year and encouraged other countries to crack down, interest in O-RAN adoption increased. The Chinese tech giant is a low-cost provider. Now it’s unavailable in some markets, carriers are more willing to look at alternative suppliers embracing the more flexible O-RAN approach.

“Increased geopolitical uncertainty is helping them to get an invite to the table they would not normally have had,” Dell’Oro Group analyst Stefan Pongratz said. “Multiple vendors, not just in Europe but across the world, are basically reassessing their exposure to Huawei.”

How Huawei landed at the centre of global tech tussle: QuickTake

Open standard base stations will generate sales of about $5 billion in the next five years, more than originally predicted, according to Dell’Oro.

Ericsson questions the performance and cost-efficiency of current O-RAN offerings. But the telecom companies, who decide where the money is spent, aren’t being shy about telling incumbent providers to get on board or risk being left behind.

“We’ve been candid with them: This is the architecture that the operator community is pursuing,” said Adam Koeppe, who oversees technology strategy, architecture and planning at Verizon Communications Inc., the biggest U.S. wireless carrier.

The list of companies vying to fill the gap left by Huawei is a mixture of some of the oldest names in technology and newcomers. Qualcomm, Intel Corp.Hewlett Packard EnterpriseDell Technologies Inc.Cisco Systems Inc.Fujitsu Ltd. and NEC Corp. are offering various parts of the new base station technology. Startups such as Altiostar, Airspan Networks and Mavenir Systems are trying to carve out niches, too.

O-RAN proponents point to the success of Rakuten Inc., a Japanese e-commerce provider that has used the technology to break into mobile phone services. The company began 4G wireless service in April and is upgrading to 5G now, using O-RAN suppliers including NEC, Qualcomm, Intel, Altiostar and Airspan. Rakuten said using this more open approach has cut capital expenditure by 40% and reduced operating costs 30%.

Dish Network Corp. is building a 5G wireless network in the U.S. with help from Altiostar. New projects like this are great, but the real opportunity is with operators that are shifting their existing networks to O-RAN, according to Thierry Maupilé, Altiostar’s executive vice president of strategy and product management. The Tewksbury, Massachusetts-based company has raised more than $300 million from investors such as Rakuten, Qualcomm and Cisco.

Why 5G mobile is arriving with a subplot of espionage: QuickTake

O-RAN is part of a broader push to make all kinds of computer networks more flexible and easy to control. By standardizing hardware and using more software in centralized data centers, companies can run networks more cheaply, while fixing and upgrading them more easily. 5G will need this flexibility to work well.

For AT&T, the new approach has already started to help. The company has introduced Samsung equipment based on O-RAN in areas where it had previously been limited to Ericsson gear, AT&T’s Fuetsch said.

Nokia expects to have a full range of O-RAN offerings available in 2021. Some of the final standards aren’t yet set and they need to be completed and tested which will take time, according to Sandro Tavares, global head of marketing.

“O-RAN is supported by more than 20 major operators around the world, so it is pretty clear that there is a strong push for it to happen,” he said. “This is a big move for our industry, and it is clear for the main players that we should not be cutting corners in this process.”

Continue Reading
Advertisement

Facebook

Twitter

Trending