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Japan's scandal-hit defence chief resigns
Tokyo (AFP) July 28, 2017

US convicts Chinese billionaire in UN bribery scandal
New York (AFP) July 28, 2017 - A New York jury unanimously convicted Chinese billionaire Ng Lap Seng on Thursday in connection with a UN bribery scandal that leaves him risking years in a US prison.

The 69-year-old was found guilty of bribing a former president of the UN General Assembly, who was arrested in October 2015, and a former deputy ambassador for the Dominican Republic.

The wealthy real estate developer from Macau was convicted after a four-week trial on six counts in connection with a years-long scheme to pay more than $1.3 million in bribes to UN officials.

The most serious offenses -- money laundering and conspiracy to commit money laundering -- each carry a maximum sentence of 20 years. The other counts are punishable by up to five and 10 years each.

"Through bribes and no show jobs, Ng turned leaders of the league of nations into his private band of profiteers," said Manhattan's acting chief federal prosecutor, Joon Kim.

"Ng's journey from a Macau real estate mogul to convicted felon should serve as a cautionary tale to all tempted to follow his path."

Ng bribed John Ashe, president of the Assembly for a year from September 2013, and Francis Lorenzo to win UN support for a multi-billion-dollar UN conference center that he wanted to build in Macau.

Four other defendants, including Lorenzo, have pled guilty. The fifth, Ashe, who came from Antigua and Barbuda, died last year.

The arrest of Ashe was a blow to the United Nations, which seeks to promote corruption-free good governance worldwide.

After the arrests, then UN chief Ban Ki-moon promised an examination of the finances of the president's office and ordered an audit to shed light on the murky ties between the United Nations and Ng.

A spokesman said Thursday that the United Nations had "cooperated extensively" in pursuit of justice by turning over "thousands of documents and waiving immunity of officials so that they could testify.

Japan's hawkish defence minister resigned Friday over a long-brewing scandal involving the handling of military documents, in a major political blow to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

Abe, who has seen his popularity plummet in recent weeks over controversies including claims he showed favouritism to a friend in a business deal, immediately apologised to the nation over the saga.

"I feel a keen responsibility," Tomomi Inada told a press conference where she announced her resignation. She called the results of an internal ministry probe which found that some officials had acted inappropriately "extremely regrettable".

She also said she would return a month's salary, despite the probe finding she had not been directly involved in the affair.

The chief of staff of Japan's Ground Self-Defense Force, the army, also resigned, as did the top ranking civil servant in the defence ministry.

Abe said that Fumio Kishida, the foreign minister, will also serve as interim defence chief until a replacement for Inada is named.

The shakeup in the top echelon of Japan's defence establishment comes as the country remains on alert over possible further North Korean missile launches.

Inada, a close confidante of Abe who shares his staunchly nationalist views, was appointed defence minister in August 2016, a time when she was touted as a possible future leader.

But her nearly year-long stint has been characterised by repeated controversy, including criticism of the ministry's handling of log reports filed by Japanese peacekeepers in South Sudan showing worsening security.

The troops, part of a United Nations mission, returned to Japan in May after five years.

Abe, who became prime minister for a second time in December 2012 with a vow to rejuvenate Japan's economy, has been hit by scandals and gaffes involving members of his ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP).

- 'Severe criticism' -

"I apologise from the bottom of my heart to the people for this situation in which a minister resigns," Abe told reporters after the resignation.

"All responsibilities lie with me, the prime minister, in the appointment of cabinet ministers," Abe said, adding he "must seriously accept the people's severe criticism".

The prime minister this week dodged opposition questioning in parliament over the claims of favouritism in a business deal, an accusation he has vigorously denied.

His government's public support ratings have fallen precipitously over the summer, with voters punishing the LDP in local Tokyo elections early this month.

The party suffered a drubbing in the vote for Tokyo's municipal assembly that media and analysts chalked up to a growing perception of "arrogance" on the part of his government.

It lost more than half of its seats, with the result seen as a bellwether for national political sentiment.

Abe will reportedly revamp his cabinet next week in a bid to reboot the government.

During her tenure, Inada delighted conservatives but drew domestic and international criticism in December when she prayed at a controversial war shrine in Tokyo -- the day after accompanying Abe on a symbolic visit of reconciliation to Pearl Harbor in the United States.

Yasukuni Shrine honours millions of mostly Japanese war dead, but is contentious for lionising senior military and political figures convicted of war crimes by an international tribunal.

Days before the Tokyo election Inada called on voters to support the LDP in the name of her ministry and the military.

The comments drew widespread condemnation, forcing Inada to retract her remarks, which were seen as a key reason for her party's unprecedentedly bad performance in the poll.

GAO report details sting operation that defrauded DOD surplus program for police
Washington (UPI) Jul 25, 2017
The Government Accountability Office has issued a report describing a sting operation that revealed serious flaws in the Defense Logistics Agency's Law Enforcement Support Office program for surplus controlled equipment. The report details how the GAO formed a fictitious law enforcement agency and arranged for the transfer of $1.2 million in controlled equipment from the Department of D ... read more

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