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Court sentences the former head of BTA Bank Ablyazov in absentia to 15 years in prison

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The court sentenced the former chairman of the board of directors of BTA Bank JSC Mukhtar Ablyazov in absentia to 15 years in prison, confirmed on Monday the press service of the Prosecutor General’s Office of the Russian Federation.  The civil claim of BTA Bank for more than 173 billion rubles is also satisfied.

“The Tagansky District Court of Moscow passed a verdict in absentia against the former chairman of the board of directors of BTA Bank JSC Mukhtar Ablyazov, the chairman of the board of the same bank Roman Solodchenko, as well as their subordinates Artur Trofimov, Igor Kononko, Tatyana Paraskevich, Anatoly Ereshchenko and Alexander Udovenko.

"They are found guilty of committing crimes under part 4 of Article 159 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (“Fraud”), part 3 of Article 174.1 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (legalization of property obtained as a result of the commission of a crime), as well as subparagraphs “a”, “b” Part 3 of Art. 165 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (causing particularly large damage by deception by an organized group),” the statement reads.

Ablyazov was sentenced to 15 years in prison, Kononko to 10, Paraskevich to 12 years. Ereshchenko and Udovenko were sentenced to 13 years in prison each. All of them will serve their sentences in a general regime correctional colony. The court also satisfied the civil claim of BTA Bank for over 173 billion rubles.

The court found that in 2006-2009 Ablyazov and his subordinates stole more than 58 billion rubles from the bank. To this end, they issued loans secured by land plots acquired with borrowed funds. Subsequently, Ablyazov organized the illegal termination of the mortgage agreements, and the bank was deprived of the opportunity to foreclose on the pledged items, while the accomplices disposed of the property at their own discretion.

As interim measures against the claim of BTA Bank JSC during the preliminary investigation, arrests were imposed, including on land plots, shares of offshore companies that are Ablyazov’s assets, as well as on his accounts and residential real estate of other accomplices. The total amount of the seized property is estimated at more than 24 billion rubles.

The convicts are on the wanted list.

 

EU

‘Right to disconnect’ should be an EU-wide fundamental right, MEPs say 

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Always on’ culture poses serious risks, MEPs say ©Deagreez/Adobe Stock  

The European Parliament calls for an EU law that grants workers the right to digitally disconnect from work without facing negative repercussions. In their legislative initiative that passed with 472 votes in favour, 126 against and 83 abstentions, MEPs call on the Commission to propose a law that enables those who work digitally to disconnect outside their working hours. It should also establish minimum requirements for remote working and clarify working conditions, hours and rest periods.

The increase in digital resources being used for work purposes has resulted in an ‘always on’ culture, which has a negative impact on the work-life balance of employees, MEPs say. Although working from home has been instrumental in helping safeguard employment and business during the COVID-19 crisis, the combination of long working hours and higher demands also leads to more cases of anxiety, depression, burnout and other mental and physical health issues.

MEPs consider the right to disconnect a fundamental right that allows workers to refrain from engaging in work-related tasks – such as phone calls, emails and other digital communication – outside working hours. This includes holidays and other forms of leave. Member states are encouraged to take all necessary measures to allow workers to exercise this right, including via collective agreements between social partners. They should ensure that workers will not be subjected to discrimination, criticism, dismissal, or other adverse actions by employers.

“We cannot abandon millions of European workers who are exhausted by the pressure to be always 'on' and overly long working hours. Now is the moment to stand by their side and give them what they deserve: the right to disconnect. This is vital for our mental and physical health. It is time to update worker’s rights so that they correspond to the new realities of the digital age,” rapporteur Alex Agius Saliba (S&D, MT) said after the vote.

Background

Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, working from home has increased by almost 30%. This figure is expected to remain high or even increase. Research by Eurofound shows that people who work regularly from home are more than twice as likely to surpass the maximum of 48 working hours per week, compared to those working on their employer’s premises. Almost 30% of those working from home report working in their free time every day or several times a week, compared to less than 5% of office workers.

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Brexit

Scottish government comment on efforts to stay in Erasmus

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Minsters have welcomed the support of around 150 MEPs who have asked the European Commission to explore how Scotland could continue to take part in the popular Erasmus exchange programme. The move comes a week after Further and Higher Education Minister Richard Lochhead held productive talks with Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth Commissioner Mariya Gabriel to explore the idea. Until last year, over 2,000 Scottish students, staff and learners took part in the scheme annually, with Scotland attracting proportionally more Erasmus participants from across Europe - and sending more in the other direction - than any other country in the UK.

Lochhead said: “Losing Erasmus is huge blow for the thousands of Scottish students, community groups and adult learners - from all demographic backgrounds - who can no longer live, study or work in Europe.“It also closes the door for people to come to Scotland on Erasmus to experience our country and culture and it is heartening to see that loss of opportunity recognised by the 145 MEPs from across Europe who want Scotland’s place in Erasmus to continue. I am grateful to Terry Reintke and other MEPs for their efforts and thank them for extending the hand of friendship and solidarity to Scotland’s young people. I sincerely hope we can succeed.

“I have already had a virtual meeting with Commissioner Gabriel. We agreed that withdrawing from Erasmus is highly regrettable and we will continue to explore with the EU how to maximize Scotland’s continued engagement with the programme. I have also spoken with my Welsh Government counterpart and agreed to keep in close contact.”

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EU

Leaders agree on new ‘dark red’ zones for high-risk COVID areas

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At a special meeting of European heads of government, to discuss the rise of infection rates across Europe and the emergence of new, more contagious variants, leaders agreed that the situation warranted the utmost caution and agreed on a new category of ‘dark red zone’ for high-risk areas.

The new category would indicate that the virus was circulating at a very high level. People traveling from dark red areas could be required to do a test before departure, as well as to undergo quarantine after arrival. Non-essential travel in or out of these areas would be strongly discouraged.

The EU has underlined that it is anxious to keep the single market functioning especially concerning the movement of essential workers and goods, von der Leyen described this as of the “utmost importance”. 

The approval of vaccinations and the start of roll-out is encouraging but it is understood that further vigilance is needed. Some states which are more dependent on tourism called for the use of vaccination certificates as a way to open up travel. The leaders debated the use a common approach and agreed that the vaccination document should be seen as a medical document, rather than a travel document - at this stage. Von der Leyen said: “We will discuss the suitability of a common approach to certification.”

Member states agreed to a Council recommendation setting a common framework for the use of rapid antigen tests and the mutual recognition of COVID-19 test results across the EU. The mutual recognition of test results for SARS-CoV2 infection carried by certified health bodies should help facilitate cross-border movement and cross-border contact tracing.

The common list of appropriate COVID-19 rapid antigen tests should be flexible enough for addition, or removal, of those tests whose efficacy is impacted by COVID-19 mutations.

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