TIME Hong Kong

Hong Kong Billionaire Convicted of Conspiracy to Bribe Top Official

Thomas Kwok
Thomas Kwok, co-chairman of Hong Kong developer Sun Hung Kai Properties, arrives at the High Court in Hong Kong on Dec. 19, 2014 Kin Cheung—AP

Thomas Kwok has a net worth of over $10 billion, making him one of Asia's richest people

Hong Kong billionaire Thomas Kwok was convicted of conspiring to bribe one of the city’s former top officials on Friday, following five days of deliberations by a nine-member jury.

Kwok was found guilty of colluding with Hong Kong’s former No.2 government official Rafael Hui to make payments of $1.1 million and ensure favorable treatment for his real estate company, Bloomberg reports.

Kwok’s brother Raymond, who was also arrested in March 2012 and is co-chairman of the world’s second largest real estate company Sun Hung Kai, was cleared of all charges, while two others were convicted for their role in the scandal.

Both brothers are worth around $10 billion each, placing them in the top tier of Asia’s richest people.

Hui, the former chief secretary of Hong Kong, was convicted on five charges including conspiracy to accept bribes while he was in office.

[Bloomberg]

TIME Soccer

FIFA’s Ethics Investigator Quits Over the Handling of His World Cup Probe

FIFA's Michael Garcia photographed during a press conference at the Home of FIFA in Zurich, Switzerland, on Friday, 27. July 2012 Walter Bieri—Keystone/AP

"My role in this process is at an end," says Michael Garcia

FIFA’s independent ethics investigator Michael Garcia has resigned in protest over the handling of his report on the controversial bidding for the 2018 and 2022 World Cup.

Garcia said FIFA’s 42-page summary of his 430-page report was “erroneous.” He quit after the world soccer governing body rejected his complaint, the BBC reports.

“It is the lack of leadership on these issues within FIFA that leads me to conclude that my role in this process is at an end,” he said.

FIFA president Sepp Blatter said: “I am surprised by Mr Garcia’s decision. The work of the ethics committee will nonetheless continue.”

Garcia’s report probed alleged corruption in the designation of Russia and Qatar as World Cup hosts in 2018 and 2022. His resignation adds to the turmoil surrounding the organization.

“We wanted all transparency but this is a new failure for FIFA,” said Michel Platini, president of the governing body of European soccer, UEFA.

FIFA said in a statement that the acting chairman of the ethics committee would take Garcia’s place, pending the election of a successor.

[BBC]

TIME China

Obama Issues a Warning Over Xi Jinping’s Growing Power

President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping attend a press conference at the Great Hall of People on Nov. 12, 2014 in Beijing.
President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping attend a press conference at the Great Hall of People on Nov. 12, 2014 in Beijing. Feng Li—Getty Images

The Chinese President worries his neighbors with his fierce nationalism, Obama says

U.S. President Barack Obama on Wednesday gave a stern assessment of what he called Chinese President Xi Jinping’s quick consolidation of power, expressing worries about China’s dubious human rights record and insistent nationalism.

Obama told members of the Business Roundtable in Washington that the Chinese President “has consolidated power faster and more comprehensively than probably anybody since Deng Xiaoping,” referring to the Chinese leader who succeeded Mao Zedong in 1978, Reuters reports.

“Everybody’s been impressed by [Xi’s] clout inside of China after only a year and a half or two years,” he said. A recent TIME cover described the leader of the world’s most populous nation as an “emperor” and opined that he would be China’s most consequential leader since Deng.

Yet that clout, Obama said, has been put to regressive uses, including the enactment of policies that suppress dissent and harm human rights, as well as encourage a fierce “nationalism that worries his [Xi’s] neighbors.” Despite a highly publicized anti-corruption drive, China has also backslid 20 places to #100 on the 2014 Corruption Perceptions Index, a Berlin-based watchdog’s well-respected ranking of countries by transparency.

Still, Obama added that Xi appears to be sincere in his wish for “good relations” with the United States. Obama traveled to Beijing last month to meet the Chinese president and attend the APEC summit, where the two leaders announced a blockbuster deal on addressing climate change. Obama told the roundtable that American businesses in China should speak up if they feel “strong-armed” by Chinese authorities on various issues, even if doing so jeopardizes their success in the Chinese market.

The Obama administration always walks a fine line between courting a cooperative relationship with China and critiquing the nation’s attitude toward human rights. It has found doing so all the harder in recent months, as the central government in Beijing and protesters in Hong Kong remain deeply opposed over the future of China’s most open city.

Xi’s government in Beijing says it has the right to vet candidates for Hong Kong’s top leadership role, an election plan that Hong Kong protesters say flouts democratic principles. China’s official mouthpiece, the People’s Daily, has accused the U.S. of being involved in Hong Kong’s so-called Umbrella Revolution, which erupted in protest over Beijing’s restrictions on candidacy.

The U.S. has said that it supports a “meaningful” choice of candidates for Hong Kong voters, but denies any involvement in the protests that have been going on for 68 days.

Obama told the Chinese president at APEC that the U.S. will “consistently speak out on the right of people to express themselves” and support elections in Hong Kong that are “transparent and fair and reflective of the opinions of people there.” Xi has stressed that the conflict is a domestic affair on which the U.S. should not have an opinion.

TIME China

China Tumbles in Annual Corruption Index

Chinese one-hundred yuan banknotes
Jerome Favre—Bloomberg/Getty Images

See where countries rank from most corrupt to least

China fell 20 spots in this year’s corruption rankings, despite President Xi Jinping’s massive campaign to weed out graft that has disciplined more than 60,000 government officials.

Transparency International’s annual study, released late Tuesday, scored 175 countries and territories based on how corrupt experts perceive them to be. The lowest rankings indicate the highest amounts of corruption. China, the world’s second largest economy, placed 100 on the Index, down from 80 in 2013.

“Fast-growing economies whose governments refuse to be transparent and tolerate corruption, create a culture of impunity in which corruption thrives,” José Ugaz, the chair of Transparency International, said in a statement released with the report. Brazil, Russia and India, the other members of the so-called BRIC developing nations, all placed in the lower two-thirds of the rankings.

Denmark held onto first place as the country seen as least corrupt, while recent and current conflict zones represented some of the poorest-faring countries, including Syria (159), Libya (166) and Somalia, which tied North Korea for last place.

Iraq, where the government said on Monday that an internal review had found some 50,000 soldiers were on the payroll but not showing up for duty, placed 170.

Read next: Hong Kong Protest Leaders Attempt to Surrender to Police

TIME Courts

Judge Overturns One of 9 Convictions Against Former Virginia First Lady

Former Virginia Gov. McDonnell And Wife Appear In Court For Federal Corruption Case
Former Virginia governor Bob McDonnell and his wife Maureen leave the court in Richmond, Va., on Jan. 24, 2014 Mark Wilson—Getty Images

However, eight other convictions stand

A federal judge on Monday overturned one conviction against Maureen McDonnell, the wife of the former Virginia governor, but allowed all other convictions against the couple to stand.

McDonnell and her husband, Bob McDonnell were found guilty in September of collecting more than $165,000 in gifts from a dietary supplement producer, Jonnie R. Williams Sr., in exchange for boosting the product’s reputation, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reports. A federal jury convicted the former governor on 11 of 13 counts and his wife on nine of 13.

The pair had sought to have the charges overturned or to win a new trial.

The former first lady is now guilty of eight charges. The tossed out charge, for obstruction, relates to allegations that she sought to cover up the corruption in a note to Williams.

The couple are expected to be sentenced on Jan 6.

[Richmond Times-Dispatch]

TIME World Cup

Report: Russia’s World Cup Kickbacks Included Picasso Painting

FIFA president Joseph Blatter graces  the ground breaking ceremony of the FIFA Goal Project III
FIFA president Joseph Blatter delivers his speech prior to the Ground Breaking Ceremony of the FIFA Goal Project III for the national teams' training center at the San Lazaro Leisure and Business Park in Cavite province, south of Manila, Philippines, Nov. 30, 2014. Dennis M. Sabangan—EPA

Insiders allege a system of kickbacks helped countries secure bids to host the game

World Cup officials accepted valuable works of art from Russia as it was bidding to host the 2018 soccer tournament, according to a new report published Monday.

The dossier of findings, which was submitted by investigative reporters at a British newspaper to a UK Parliamentary committee, includes allegations that Russia’s successful bid to host the tournament in 2018 was bolstered by a handout of a Picasso painting to FIFA executive member Michel Platini. Belgian executive committee member Michel D’Hooghe also allegedly accepted a valuable painting.

Investigative reporters for British newspaper the Sunday Times gathered allegations by unnamed whistleblowers, including a British intelligence agent who reportedly spied on rival countries’ bids to host the World Cup tournament. The dossier also alleges that Russia and Qatar traded votes for their successful bids as part of a gas deal.

Platini dismissed the allegations as “total fabrications,” CNN reports, while D’Hooghe characterized the painting given to him as “absolutely ugly,” and insisted it had no bearing on his vote, which he said did not go in favor of Russia.

The House of Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee accepted the dossier as part of an ongoing investigation into the World Cup bidding process.

TIME

Sony Joins Emirates in Ending Its World Cup Sponsorship

Pressure grows on FIFA

Sony is to end its sponsorship of the FIFA World Cup against the background of a corruption scandal over the awarding of the next two tournaments to Qatar and Russia, according to a report published Tuesday.

Citing a person familiar with the matter, The Wall Street Journal said that the company had decided not to renew its contract as one of six “official partners” of FIFA, the governing body of world soccer, when it expires at the end of this year. The WSJ said the eight-year contract was worth 33 billion yen ($280 million).

The news is further evidence of the price FIFA is paying for its failure to clear up accusations of corruption in the tenders to host the 2018 and 2022 tournaments. The Japanese consumer electronics giant is the second major sponsor to walk away from one of the world’s biggest sporting events within weeks, following Emirates Airlines.

Earlier this month, FIFA refused to publish in full a report by U.S. lawyer Michael J. Garcia into the allegations. Instead, it released selected excerpts of the report, clearing itself of any wrongdoing. Garcia immediately responded that it had materially misrepresented his findings. FIFA’s conclusions effectively ended any prospect of re-staging the tenders.

The incident reignited outrage in Europe’s powerful national soccer associations and leagues at the shortcomings of FIFA’s management, and specifically at its Swiss head, Sepp Blatter.

The German soccer league, one of many which fears that its seasons will be disrupted by the need to move the Qatar tournament away from its traditional summer slot, has called for a European boycott of the tournaments in protest at the alleged cover-up.

In response to the uproar, FIFA later said it had passed the report to another internal committee and to the Swiss attorney-general, saying that “there seem to be grounds for suspicion that, in isolated cases, international transfers of assets with connections to Switzerland took place, which merit examination by the criminal prosecution authorities.”

Sony hasn’t confirmed the report but had earlier called on FIFA to be thorough and transparent in investigating the allegations.

A FIFA spokesman said: “The existing contract with Sony runs until 31 December 2014 and we are currently in discussions with the brand.”

This article originally appeared on Fortune.com

TIME South Korea

Relatives of the South Korean Ferry Owner Have Been Jailed

S. Korea Ferry With Hundreds Of Passengers Sinks
In this handout image provided by the Republic of Korea Coast Guard, a passenger ferry sinks off the coast of Jindo Island on April 16, 2014 in Jindo-gun, South Korea. Handout—Getty Images

A son and two brothers were convicted of embezzling funds

Three family members of the businessman linked to the ill-fated South Korean Sewol ferry, which capsized in April and killed over 300 people, were sentenced to jail on charges of corruption Wednesday.

Korean authorities say that graft may have contributed to the sinking of the vessel, which was illegally modified and overloaded. The boat was owned by the Chonghaejin Marine Company, in which the late tycoon Yoo Byung-eun had an interest, the BBC reported.

Yoo’s 44-year-old son Dae-kyun was convicted of embezzling $6.8 million from company funds and sentenced to three years in prison, and two of Yoo’s brothers were also handed jail terms of one and two years respectively on similar charges.

[BBC]

TIME indonesia

Joko Widodo Sworn In as Indonesia’s President and Faces These 5 Challenges

Incoming Indonesian President Joko Widodo visits Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono
Incoming Indonesian President Joko Widodo, left, is greeted by outgoing president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono during a visit at the presidential palace in Jakarta, Indonesia, on Oct. 19, 2014. Anadolu Agency—Getty Images

The political outsider will be under fierce pressure from the outset

On Oct. 20, Indonesia inaugurates its first President truly of the people. Joko Widodo, known commonly as Jokowi, is unique in Indonesian presidential history because he comes from neither a politically elite nor a military background. Raised in a riverside slum, Jokowi ran a furniture-exporting business in the heartland city of Solo before he successfully ran for his hometown’s mayor in 2005. Two years ago, he was elected governor of Indonesia’s chaotic capital, Jakarta. Although he prevailed in the July presidential election against old-guard candidate Prabowo Subianto — a former general once married to the daughter of Indonesian dictator Suharto — Jokowi, 53, faces numerous challenges as he helms the world’s third largest democracy:

Political Gridlock: Jokowi may have claimed the presidency, but parliament favors Prabowo’s Red and White Coalition, which last month controversially blocked the direct election of governors, mayors and district chiefs. Instead of a popular vote, local legislatures will pick these leaders, preventing the rise of figures outside the political establishment, like Jokowi. Democracy advocates are strategizing how to roll back what some criticize as a legislative coup.

Economic Slowdown: With the commodity boom waning, Indonesia’s recent 6% annual growth looks harder to maintain. Jokowi promises 7% growth by 2018 by moving Indonesia up the value chain, improving logistics and positioning the world’s largest archipelago nation as a global transport hub. But will the populist President resort to the kind of resource nationalism that will spook foreign investors?

Religious Extremism: Indonesia hasn’t suffered a major terrorist strike since 2009 when a pair of luxury Jakarta hotels were targeted by suicide bombers. But it only takes one attack to shatter the sense that Indonesia has tamed a band of radicals who are trying to hijack the moderate, syncretic Islam that has long flourished in the world’s most populous majority-Muslim nation.

Dirty Bureaucracy: Jokowi won votes because of his pristine image and his anti-corruption campaign in Solo and Jakarta. He boasts of having cleaned up the once graft-ridden process by which government permits and licenses were granted. And he helped expand government coffers by enhancing tax collection. Can Jokowi promote transparency in a country notorious for corruption and bureaucratic inefficiency at every level of government?

Ethnic Relations: While mayor of Solo and governor of Jakarta, Jokowi picked deputies who happened to be Christian. In Jakarta, his No. 2 was also Chinese, an ethnicity that has suffered from race rioting. Although the sprawling island nation has maintained remarkable harmony given the diversity of its inhabitants, human-rights groups worry about a recent uptick in ethnic and religious intolerance.

Read this week’s TIME cover on Jokowi’s inauguration here.

TIME Mexico

The Apparent Massacre of Dozens of Students Exposes the Corruption at the Heart of Mexico

Parents of the 43 missing students meet at the teachers rural college in Ayotzinapa, in Guerrero state, Mexico, Oct. 5, 2014.
Parents of the 43 missing students meet at the teachers rural college in Ayotzinapa, in Guerrero state, Mexico, Oct. 5, 2014. Adriana Zehbrauskas—Polaris

The disappearance and presumed killings of scores of students has led to protests against the Mexican government—and drug cartels

The young father’s corpse was left on the street of the southern Mexican town of Iguala with his eyes gouged out and flesh ripped off almost to the skull—a technique typical of the cartel murders that have become too common in this country. But unlike many victims of Mexico’s ongoing drug wars, he was no gang member, police officer or journalist. The body belonged to a 19-year old trainee teacher who had been preparing to participate in a march to commemorate a notorious massacre of Mexican students by the military and police in 1968. Instead of making it to that demonstration, though, the young man found himself the victim of a what will be a new atrocity date on Mexico’s bloody calendar.

The murder, which occurred on the night of Sept. 26 or morning of Sept. 27, was part of a brutal attack on student teachers by corrupt police officers and drug cartel assassins that has provoked protests across the nation. During the violence, at least six students and passersby were killed and another 43 students disappeared, with many last seen being bundled into police cars. Soldiers and federal agents have taken over the city of Iguala and have arrested more than 30 officers and alleged gunmen from a cartel called the Guerreros Unidos or Warriors United. They have also discovered a series of mass graves: on Oct. 4, they found 28 charred bodies and on Thursday night they discovered another four pits where they are unearthing more corpses. Agents are conducting DNA tests to see if the bodies belong to the students.

The atrocities have triggered national outrage and presented the biggest security-related challenge yet for Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto. Taking power in 2012, Pena Nieto promised to reduce the tens of thousands of cartel killings and modernize a sluggish economy. He has overseen the arrests of major drug lords like Joaquin “Chapo” Guzman, nabbed in February and Vicente Carrillo Fuentes, alias “The Viceroy,” who was detained on Thursday. But while the total number of homicides declined by 15% in his first year in office, parts of Mexico—such as Guerrero state, where Iguala sits—still suffer some of the highest murder rates in the world. There were 2,087 murders last year in Guerrero, a state of 3.4 million people, giving it a rate of 61 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants.

On Oct. 6, Pena Nieto swore the students would receive justice and ordered a major federal operation in response. “This is infuriating, painful and unacceptable,” he said in a televised address to the nation. But human rights groups and family members accused him of being slow to respond to the tragedy, allowing some of the possible perpetrators to escape. Iguala mayor Jose Luis Arbaca fled town more than four days after the shootings and disappearances. It later emerged that Mexico’s intelligence service had a file linking him to the Warriors United cartel. The mayor’s brother-in-law was arrested this week for involvement in the killings. “Very slow, Pena Nieto, very slow,” said Jose Miguel Vivanco, Americas director of Human Rights Watch. “This issue could have been cleared if the federal government had immediately taken responsibility for these students.”

However, the atrocities are also devastating to the opposition Democratic Revolution Party, or PRD. (Pena Nieto is a member of the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, which dominated Mexican politics for most of the 20th century.) Arbaca was a PRD member, and the party’s leader went to the city on Oct. 7 to personally apologize to residents. The governor of Guerrero state is also in the PRD and there have been calls for his resignation. The governor has denied the killing was his fault and called for a referendum on whether he should stay in power. Furthermore, when PRD founder Cuauhtemoc Cardenas joined a protest over the killings in Mexico City on Oct. 8 he was booed and had bottles thrown at him.

The march into Mexico City’s central plaza was joined by tens of thousands of people and was headed by family members of the victims. “I won’t rest until I have my son back,” Mario Cesar Gonzalez, father of 21-year old disappeared student Cesar, told TIME. “This is a problem of corrupt police and politicians working with drug cartels. I am going to fight until we discover the truth of what happened. I don’t care if they kill me. Nothing matters to me except my son.” Most of the disappeared students were the children of poor farmers and workers and went to a university for rural school teachers near Iguala.

Protesters also demonstrated in dozens of other cities across Mexico. In jungle-covered Chiapas state, thousands of the Zapatista rebels who rose up for indigenous rights in 1994 marched in silence in solidarity with the teachers. “Your pain is our pain,” said one banner. In Guerrero state itself, thousands blockaded major highways and shouted outside government buildings.

The killings brought back to the surface another problem that Pena Nieto’s government has been grappling with: vigilante groups that have risen to fight cartels. A Guerrero vigilante militia that operates in villages where many of the students come from has gone to Iguala, promising justice for the students. A local guerrilla group called the Revolutionary Army of Insurgent People said it will form a brigade to attack the Warriors United cartel. ” [We will] confront the political military aspects of this new front of the Mexican narco state,” says a masked man on a video message posted online as he stands besides photos of revolutionaries Emiliano Zapata and Pancho Villa.

The actual motives behind the attack on the students remain murky. About 120 students went into Iguala and had absconded with three buses from the Iguala station, which they wanted to take to the march in Mexico City. Students across Mexico often commandeer buses for their marches, a practice that is largely tolerated by the authorities. It was also reported by Mexican media that the students had disturbed a public event, angering city officials linked to the cartels, while the gangs might have believed the students were invading their turf.

One student who survived the attack said he wasn’t sure why the cartel and police went after them. “It came as a complete shock and surprise. We were relaxed and heading out of town, when suddenly there were bullets being fired from all directions,” said Alejandro, 19, who asked his surname not be used in case of reprisals. “I feel lucky that I am alive. But I think all the time about my companions who were taken. I don’t know what they could been through or how much pain they could have suffered. This makes me very sad and very angry.” Pena Nieto—and the rest of Mexico’s power brokers—should beware of that anger.

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