News & Current Affairs

September 4, 2008

BP moves to settle Russia dispute

BP moves to settle Russia dispute

TNK Plaque

The row has focused attention on the rights of foreign investors in Russia.

BP has signed an agreement aimed at solving a festering dispute over control of its Russian venture TNK-BP.

The boss of TNK-BP, Robert Dudley, will step down as part of the deal with the Russian billionaires that control half of the business.

Three independent directors will also be appointed to TNK-BP’s board.

Mr Dudley’s departure had been central to the power struggle between BP and the Russian investors in the venture, which accounts for 25% of BP’s profits.

The memorandum of understanding, signed on Thursday, also includes the option to list up to 20% of the venture on international markets.

TNK-BP’s Russian partners had long called for Mr Dudley’s departure and Mr Dudley left Russia in July in the face of what he said was “sustained harassment”.

This is a positive signal for the Russian market
Igor Sechin, Russian deputy prime minister

BP said it had agreed to offer a Russian-speaking candidate for the post, with extensive Russian business experience.

The Russian shareholders had accused BP of running TNK-BP like a subsidiary and Mr Dudley of favoring the British shareholder.

BP chairman Peter Sutherland said that the agreement, to be finalised over coming months, would relieve recent tensions between the two sides.

“It will create a stable base from which to grow the joint venture to the benefit of everyone involved, including the Russian state,” Mr Sutherland said

He said that Mr Dudley had been an outstanding chief executive and would be hard to replace.

‘Positive signal’

BP owns 50% of the venture while the Russian shareholding is made up of a number of Russian billionaires who control a consortium known as Alfa Access Renova (AAR).

Russia welcomed the compromise between AAR and BP.

“We are pleased that this situation has been resolved and the shareholders have come to an agreement without the involvement of third parties, including the state,” said Igor Sechin, Deputy Prime Minister of the Russian Federation.

“This is a positive signal for the Russian market. We support the development of TNK-BP and believe that this company has excellent long-term prospects.”

Viktor Vekselberg, chairman of Renova, said the agreement was the result of difficult negotiations.

“Most importantly, emotions were not allowed to prevail over common sense and both sides found the solution that best meets the interests of TNK-BP,” he said.

August 8, 2008

Honduran killer executed in Texas

Honduran killer executed in Texas

Heliberto Chi

Chi was the 411th Texas inmate to die by lethal injection

A Honduran man, who killed his former employer during a robbery  in 2001, has been executed in the US after the Supreme Court rejected a final appeal.

Heliberto Chi, 29, died by lethal injection at a prison in Texas, watched by the two sons of his victim.

His lawyers said Chi was not permitted to contact the Honduran consulate following his arrest – thus violating an international treaty.

Chi was the second foreign national to be put to death this week in Texas.

Chi was in the United States illegally at the time of the 2001 murder.

He was convicted of the fatal shooting of his former boss, Armand Paliotta, at a clothing store in Arlington, Texas, where he had worked as a tailor.

On Wednesday, Mexican Jose Medellin was executed for the murder and rape of a teenager in 1993.

The International Court of Justice had urged Texas not to execute Medellin, as he had not been told of his right to consular help when he was arrested.

August 7, 2008

US claims informant is fraud boss

US claims informant is fraud boss

TJMaxx strore in California

TJX, which owns TJ Maxx, was one the firms whose records were hacked

A former informant of the US secret service has been accused  of being the ringleader in the country’s biggest and most complex identity theft case.

The US Department of Justice claims that Albert “Segvev” Gonzalez and 10 others stole, and then sold more than 40 million bank card numbers.

They allegedly got the data by driving around, finding vulnerable internet networks, and accessing shop records.

Prosecutors said the alleged fraud was an “international conspiracy”.

“During the course of the sophisticated conspiracy Mr Gonzalez and his co-conspirators….hacked into wireless computer networks of major retailers,” said the US Department of Justice.

The method, known as “wardriving”, involves tracking down vulnerable internet wireless signals and using systems to decipher credit and debit card information from a retailer’s system.

While technology has made our lives much easier it has also created new vulnerabilities
Michael Sullivan,
US secret service director

The Department of Justice said that companies affected included TJX Companies, BJ’s Wholesale Club, Boston Market and Barnes & Noble among others.

MasterCard spokesman Chris Monteiro told the BBC: “If a cardholder is concerned at all about the security of their account they should immediately contact their issuing financial institution.”

‘New vulnerabilities’

While the Department of Justice has not put a price on the scale on the scam it says it is the largest and most complex identity fraud to date.

“While technology has made our lives much easier it has also created new vulnerabilities,” said US secret service director Michael Sullivan.

“This case clearly shows how strokes on a keyboard with a criminal purpose can have costly results,” he added

He urged consumers, firms and governments worldwide to develop further ways to protect sensitive personal and business information and detect those that “conspire to exploit technology for criminal gain”.

Perry Tancredi, senior product manager for fraud detection at payment security company VeriSign said that: “Regardless of how strong the security measures, and how vigilant, the weak part of the chain is there is always a human who is responsible and who has overall control over the information.”

Charges

Mr Gonzalez of Miami has been charged with computer fraud, wire fraud, access device fraud, aggravated identify theft and conspiracy.

Mr Gonzalez, who is in New York in pre-trial confinement, now faces a maximum penalty of life is prison.

Charges were also listed against Christopher Scott and Damon Patrick, both of Miami.

The other named individuals in the case were Maksym “Maksik” Yastremskiy of Kharkov, Ukraine, Aleksandr “Jonny Hell” Suvorov of Sillamae, Estonia.

Charges were also levelled against Hung-Ming Chiu and Zhi Zhi Wang, both from China, and someone known only by the nickname “Delpiero”.

Sergey Pavolvich, of Belarus, and Dzmitry Burak and Sergey Storchak, both of Ukraine, were also charged.

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