TIME brazil

Watch Tens of Thousands Demand Brazil President Rousseff’s Impeachment

Protesters say the President knew about a huge graft scandal at the state oil company Petrobras

More than 1 million people took to the streets across Brazil on Sunday to demonstrate against President Dilma Rousseff.

Many were calling for her impeachment over a massive corruption scandal while she was head of the state oil company Petrobras, Agence France-Presse reports.

Rousseff, 67, also faces anger over rising inflation and a weak economy, especially among lower-income voters who traditionally back her Workers’ Party, locally known as PT.

The biggest demonstration was in São Paulo, Brazil’s most populous city, where some 500,000 people took to the streets, dressed in the yellow and green of the national flag. “Get out, Dilma; get out, PT!” they chanted. Rallies took place in 83 other towns and cities across the country, including the capital, Brasilia, where 40,000 people marched toward Congress.

Opposition parties backed the protests but didn’t go so far as to call for the President’s impeachment.

Petrobras officials allegedly accepted bribes totaling a whopping $3.8 billion in exchange for contracts for refineries, oil tankers and deep-sea platforms, with payments channeled to powerful politicians and political parties.

An investigation into dozens of prominent political figures is under way, but the President, who was chairwoman of the company’s board at the time, has not been directly implicated and denies any involvement.

After the protests, the government said it would introduce measures to fight corruption and impunity.

[AFP]

TIME China

5 Things to Know About China’s Execution of Business Tycoon Liu Han

CHINA-AUSTRALIA-CORRUPTION-POLITICS-HANLONG
AFP—AFP/Getty Images Citizens watch as police stand guard outside the Xianning Intermediate People's Court where Chinese mining tycoon Liu Han stands trial in Xianning, central China's Hubei province on March 31, 2014.

Liu Han was accused of leading a ring of "local thugs and vagrants" in Sichuan province

China executed prominent business tycoon Liu Han on Monday, for leading a “mafia-style” gang of loan sharks, gun runners and contract killers, according to detailed coverage by state-owned media.

The news “sent tremors through Sichuan’s political and business circles,” Xinhua news agency reported, not least because Liu seemed to be included in those circles. That raises a few questions about this mercurial establishment figure, such as:

Was he really an establishment figure?

Measured in wealth, certainly. As chairman of the Hanlong Group, a conglomerate of real estate, mining and energy businesses headquartered in Sichuan province, Liu, 49, had amassed assets totaling $6.4 billion at the time of his arrest, according to Xinhua news agency.

Forbes ranked him the 148th richest business person in China in 2012, and his dealings stretched from Sichuan province in western China to far-flung mining ventures in the U.S. and Australia.

Neither was he shy about flaunting his wealth. In one of the few interviews he granted to the press, Liu emerged from behind the wheel of a Ferrari (one of hundreds of luxury cars he had collected over the years) with a mink coat hanging from his shoulders, the Wall Street Journal reports.

What about political connections?

His influence was largely confined to advisory committees on the margins of the Communist Party, which he allegedly reinforced with bribery payments to local officials, according to testimony provided by his ex-wife, Liu Wei.

In the grand scheme of China’s crackdown on official corruption, however, his stature paled in comparison to ministers recently ousted from national offices, such as Bo Xilai, former Minister of Commerce, or Jiang Jiemin, who oversaw China’s vast network of state-owned enterprises.

If anything it was the nature of the charges brought against Liu that vaulted his case into the public eye.

What crimes did he allegedly commit?

Prosecutors accused Liu of running a crime syndicate of “local thugs and vagrants” in Guanghan, which had been involved in a campaign of intimidation, blackmail and at least nine lethal shootings since the early 1990s.

Investigators also accused Liu and 36 other defendants of running a network of gambling houses and an illicit arms trade, which reportedly resulted in the confiscation of 20 guns, 2,163 shotgun cartridges, and more than 100 knives.

Was he publicly known as a “kingpin?”

On the contrary, Liu’s public reputation prior to the trial was shaped by his philanthropic work, including a donation to the construction of a local elementary school in Sichuan province. He bore the Olympic torch during the 2008 relay in Beijing and served as deputy chairman of the Sichuan Chamber of Commerce.

But privately, local experts said he had a reputation for violent outbursts. “He is the sort of person who would throw a wine bottle at a celebrity’s head at public occasions if he was not happy,” Guo Yukuan, a corruption expert, told TIME.

Does the case end with Liu Han?

Investigators have linked Liu to the son of a much more powerful establishment figure: Zhou Yongkang, China’s former security chief. That’s fueling rumors that Zhou may become the highest-profile target yet in China’s widening investigations of corrupt party officials.

China’s President Xi Jinping famously vowed to take down both “tigers” and “flies” at the launch of a nationwide anti-graft campaign. Liu’s highly sensationalized downfall may only be the prelude to a much bigger trial to come.

Read More: China’s Biggest Graft Case In Decades Could be Coming Up

TIME mongolia

The Jailing of Foreigners in Mongolia Is Unnerving the Business Community

Justin Kapla
Justin Kapla/AP This undated photo provided by Justin Kapla shows Kapla, of SouthGobi Sands, a Mongolian mining company

In 2011, the resource-rich landlocked nation ranked as one of the fastest growing economies on earth, though falling commodity prices have since taken their toll

On Jan. 30, three men were sentenced to more than five years in prison for tax evasion in Ulan Bator, Mongolia’s capital. A tax case in a remote, landlocked nation’s capital might have gone unnoticed if not for the fact that the three men are foreigners: American Justin Kapla and Filipinos Hilarion Cajucom Jr. and Cristobal David. Rather than symbolizing due process in an emerging democracy, the trial’s numerous irregularities have raised fears that a country struggling with a resource curse has further dulled its economic prospects. Despite Mongolia’s trove of minerals, the first 11 months of 2014 saw foreign direct investment plummet 71%, year on year. “This case sends a message to foreign investors that if they want to do business here, they have to play by Mongolian rules,” says Munkhdul Badral Bontoi, a market analyst in Ulan Bator.

The three foreigners are former employees of a subsidiary of SouthGobi Resources, a Canadian mining outfit whose largest stakeholder is an arm of Rio Tinto, the Anglo-Australian mining giant. (Rio Tinto runs Oyu Tolgoi, the massive copper-and-gold mine that single-handedly contributes around 45% of Mongolia’s total exports.) SouthGobi, which was considering a majority-stake offer from a Chinese state-owned enterprise when its subsidiary’s offices were raided by Mongolian authorities in May 2012, was also fined around $18 million for evading taxes. The case dragged on for almost three years, with the expatriate trio barred from leaving the country, even though formal charges against them were not issued until just eight months ago.

U.S. Ambassador Piper Campbell attended the trial, and the U.S. embassy in Ulan Bator criticized the lack of adequate interpretation for the foreign defendants. “Because of these problems, the defendants stated during the trial that they could not understand the interpretation, nor could they express themselves clearly,” read a statement. “Mr. Kapla’s case has lasted nearly three years and the repeated delays and exit ban have caused him enormous hardship.”

Jackson Cox, chairman of the American Chamber of Commerce in Ulan Bator, who also attended the trial, had other serious concerns. “I want to be talking about investment and stronger trade between Mongolia and the U.S., but this makes it very hard for any of us, whether it’s the government or the private sector,” he says.

Mongolia’s economy has traced a roller-coaster journey in recent years. In 2011, the resource-rich nation ranked as one of the fastest growing economies on earth. In the previous decade, Mongolia’s economy had expanded tenfold, a remarkable development for a country that peacefully traded Soviet satellite status for democracy in 1990. But as resource nationalists claimed more political airspace, the welcome for foreign investment soured. Trading on fears that Mongolia’s mineral patrimony was being stolen by rapacious outsiders, foreign investment laws tightened. Further development of the Oyu Tolgoi mine has stalled, as Rio Tinto and the government bicker over how revenues will be apportioned, delaying billions of dollars in financing. In 2013, scores of mining projects were scrutinized by local courts, with some exploration licenses pulled for alleged graft. Meanwhile, global commodity prices have declined, further wounding the Mongolian economy.

Facing an economic crisis, Mongolians may be ready to reconsider the need for foreign investment. Earlier this year, the government designated nearly one-fifth of the country ready for new mineral exploration, a move opposed not only by resource nationalists but environmentalists as well. Some of the mining-exploration licenses that had been suspended two years ago are being restored. This month, the results of a referendum held by text message, under the direction of new Prime Minister Chimed Saikhanbileg, found that more than half of 302,000 respondents — around 10% of the national population, although some people have more than one mobile phone number — wanted major projects like Oyu Tolgoi to move forward rather than accept budgets cuts and other belt-tightening measures.

SouthGobi and the three men plan to appeal the sentences. The case has highlighted perceived flaws in Mongolia’s judicial system, even as President Tsakhia Elbegdorj vows legal reform. Legal observers wonder why the tax authorities were not more involved in the trial, which was considered a criminal rather than a civil case. Kapla only had executive authority at the SouthGobi subsidiary for six months of the five-year period during which the mining firm was accused of tax delinquency. The day before the sentencing, the prosecutor advised the court that the three men should be subject to fines, without recommending jail time. The next day, however, the prosecutor said the men deserved six years’ imprisonment.

Other cases have raised eyebrows. Last year, the former chairman of the nation’s Petroleum Authority, Dashzeveg Amarsaikhan, died unexpectedly while in custody as a suspect in a money-laundering case. His supporters allege he had complained of ill health while in prison but his requests for medical care were ignored. He died at the same Detention Facility 461 where the three SouthGobi former employees are now being held.

TIME Thailand

Tourists Are Reporting a Dramatic Surge in Harassment by Thai Police

A tourist policeman stands guard as tourists walk along Khao San road in Bangkok
Chaiwat Subprasom—Reuters A policeman stands guard as tourists walk along Khaosan Road in Bangkok on Jan. 19, 2012

The Land of Smiles? How about the Land of Shakedowns?

Mastercard’s 2014 Global Destination Cities Index recently ranked Bangkok as the second most visited destination in the world after London. Spend a few days this hedonistic metropolis and you’ll soon understand why, for it offers an almost unbeatable mix of culture, edgy nightlife, cheap shopping, comfortable hotels, warm weather and — who can say no? — Thai cuisine.

But since the May 22 coup d’état that saw the ouster of a democratically elected government and martial law declared across the country, many tourists and expatriates in Bangkok have fallen prey to a criminal practice. The victims have little recourse when reporting incidents to the police, because the perpetrators are police officers.

“If you go to Sukhumvit Road, you can see the police looking for tourists who are smoking or drop a cigarette butt, then they ask them for their passport and make them pay 2,000 baht [just over $60]. I see this happening all the time,” says anticorruption politician Chuwit Kamolvisit.

“[And] when the tourists come out of Soi Cowboy [a notorious red-light area], the police ask them if they’ve had drugs and then make them do a pee test on the side of the road. If they don’t want to do the pee test, they have to pay 20,000 baht [about $610].”

Being a former brothel owner, Chuwit’s word isn’t exactly gospel in Thailand. But his claims are apparently corroborated by dozens if not hundreds of first-person reports in the form of local newspaper articles, complaints to embassies, blogs and social-media postings. Some believe that the coup, by disrupting traditional avenues for corruption, has forced aberrant police officers to look for new targets.

On Dec. 10, British Ambassador Mark Kent tweeted, “Met Tourism Minister this morning. Covered range of issues, including reports of stop and search in Bangkok.”

The Twitter feed of Joe Cummings, the former Lonely Planet author who practically ​put Thailand on the backpacker map, is riddled with stories detailing police harassment and extortion. “Random police searches of foreigners in BKK is getting bad,” reads a typical entry dated Dec. 6. “Many reports of innocent tourists forced to pay bribes.”

Then there’s this scathing letter to the editor by tourist Reese Walker published Nov. 29 in the Bangkok Post: “Stopped, frisked and searched. When we asked what reason was for the search, police simply laughed at us. The police even asked my fiance to perform a urine test on the side of the road … [We] won’t be recommending other people to visit Thailand based on two frightening incidents of what we believe to be racial profiling.”

Walker’s letter gives me a real sense of déjà vu because when I was assignment in Bangkok last month, I too became the victim of a police shakedown.

It was Christmas Eve and I was at the upstairs area of a terrace bar in the Silom Road area having a late-night drink. At around 2 a.m. I called it a night and descended to the ground floor. There I saw half a dozen police officers searching the premises and interrogating the bartender, who was handcuffed on a chair. An officer detained me straight away. “What’s going on?” I asked, identifying myself as a journalist.

He made a menacing fist at me, which convinced me to pipe down.

About 15 minutes later, another police officer produced a bag of white powder, shook it near my face and accused me of buying it. I emphatically denied the claim. Meanwhile, other police officers began helping themselves to drinks from the bar. When the bartender protested, they kicked him in the shins.

Eventually, a police officer took me outside where a Thai woman told me if I paid the equivalent of $15,200, I would be released. I told her I hadn’t done anything and would not pay a cent. I was taken back inside, where officers had now detained another four Westerners present at the bar. They then took all five of us in taxis to a nearby police station without a word of explanation.

Over the next four hours we were individually forced to undergo urine tests for drugs, during which a policeman standing guard in the lavatory taunted me by saying, “You cocaine.” Images from popular books and a TV series on the notorious Bangkwang Central Prison penitentiary, the so-called Bangkok Hilton, flashed through my mind.

Next we were taken to a media room with powerful fluorescent lights. Exhausted and disheveled, having not slept the entire night, and with our urine samples lined in front of us, we were photographed in a setting that made us look guilty as sin.

Some time after dawn we were presented with a typed document — in Thai — and told to sign it. At this, I drew a line and demanded to speak with the Australian embassy. Only then did our tormentors back down, casually informing us we’d all passed our drug tests and would be released — if only we signed on the dotted line. I did so, but I also scribbled, “This is not my signature” on the document before walking back onto the steamy streets of Bangkok at 8 a.m. on Christmas Day, traumatized but elated to be free.

During my detention, I identified myself as a journalist many times and asked for an explanation. None was given to me. After my release, I wrote to the official email address of the Thai police, but it bounced back. I copied half a dozen other government agencies, including the Australian embassy in Bangkok, which is supposed to have a police-liaison unit, but the only reply I got was from the Tourism Authority of Thailand, which said the following:

“The Royal Thai Government and the Royal Thai Police have no such policy to detain, harass, abduct, threaten and drug test Western tourists in Thailand. On the contrary, the Royal Thai Government recognizes the huge importance of tourism and safety for all foreign tourists is an on-going priority for the country.”

One would think that would be the case. Tourism receipts and indirect tourism activity account for 15% of Thailand’s GDP — making it the largest sector in the economy. So why would police be allowed to make omelets from Thailand’s golden eggs?

The most popular theory is that low-ranking street cops, some of whom earn as little as $1 an hour, are seeking out new sources of income, because the military-led government has begun cracking down on the street vendors who were the former targets of police shakedowns. Foreigners make convenient prey because they can be intimidated and, compared with the local population, are relatively wealthy.

“This explanation says the takeover has placed the police, traditionally at odds with the military, in some sort of frenzy amidst proposed restructuring that is likely to deeply disrupt the way the police have operated — both formally and informally,” says Thai political analyst Saksith Saiyasombut.

But Pavin Chachavalpongpun, a Thai political scholar based in Japan who has had his passport revoked for criticizing the military-led government, thinks the practice has, paradoxically, a social-order element to it. Demanding random drug tests from some tourists, or asking for cash for a dropped cigarette butt, the thinking goes, shows other tourists that Thailand’s new rulers want to shed some of the seedier aspects of the country’s image abroad.

“The coup makers came with a mission. And that mission is to rebuild an orderly and clean society,” Pavin says. “They believe that by appearing to be serious about cleaning up society and creating an orderly atmosphere, it will attract more tourists. They even bizarrely announced a new campaign, Tourism and Martial Law, to promote the idea that society under martial law is pleasant.”

He adds: “It will not work, because they don’t understand either the logic of tourists or indeed the economy of tourism.”

Bangkok may have had 16.42 million visitors last year. But that number is down nearly 2 million compared with the previous year, with the drop attributed to the declining ruble and corresponding fall in the number of Russian tourists. Increased fear of flying in the wake of the Malaysia Airlines tragedies has been proffered as another reason, as has general uncertainty about the coup. If action isn’t taken to rein in the Thai police, tourist numbers may fall further still.

Read next: Thai Prisoners May Soon Be Catching the Fish on Your Dinner Plate

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME Philippines

Pope Calls Out Philippines on Corruption and ‘Scandalous’ Inequality

Pope Francis Visits Philippines - Day 2
Lisa Maree Williams—Getty Images Pope Francis waves to thousands of followers as he arrives at the Manila Cathedral on Jan. 16, 2015, in Manila

His remarks come on the first day of a highly anticipated four-day visit

Pope Francis has called on the Philippine government to fulfill its pledges to crack down on the country’s rampant corruption.

Addressing assembled dignitaries, including President Benigno Aquino, at the Malacanang presidential palace in Manila on Friday, the Pontiff called on “everyone, at all levels of society, to reject every form of corruption which diverts resources from the poor.”

He added that “it is now, more than ever, necessary that political leaders be outstanding for honesty, integrity and commitment to the common good” and asked Filipinos “to hear the voice of the poor.” Injustice and oppression, he said, had given rise to “glaring, and indeed scandalous, social inequalities.”

The Pope’s remarks will have resonance for Aquino. When he campaigned for President in 2010, he vowed to fight poverty and tackle corruption and said that for too long the Philippines’ ruling elite had grown rich at the expense of the poor. The campaign message hit home in a country where about 1 in 4 lives in poverty. But while steps in the right direction have been made, official impunity and social inequality persist.

Filipinos, meanwhile, are sure to be pleased by the Pontiff’s comments. The country’s vibrant civil society has fought hard for decades to improve governance and give ordinary people a better shot. Their efforts have been stymied, though, by political infighting, special interests, and sclerotic courts that often operate at the behest of the wealthy and well-connected.

Pope Francis is on the first day of a highly anticipated four-day visit to Asia’s most Catholic nation. During his stay, he will tour areas hit hard by Typhoon Haiyan (known locally as Yolanda) in 2013, and deliver Mass to what’s expected to be a millions-strong crowd in the capital.

TIME Philippines

Pope Francis Praises Typhoon Haiyan Survivors and Filipino Migrant Workers

Pope Francis, Benigno Aquino III
Bullit Marquez—AP Pope Francis, right, is welcomed by Philippine President Benigno Aquino III as he arrives for the welcoming ceremony on Jan. 16, 2015, at the Malacanang presidential palace in Manila

Tribute paid to the "heroic strength, faith and resilience" of Filipinos

Pope Francis marked his second day in Asia’s most Catholic nation by praising the contribution made to society by Filipino migrant workers as well as paying tribute to victims and survivors of Typhoon Haiyan, which killed over 6,000 people when it tore through the archipelago nation in November 2013.

Speaking at the Malacanang presidential palace on Friday, the Pontiff told tens of thousands of rapturous Filipinos, as well as President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino, that his “visit is meant to express my closeness to our brothers and sisters who endured the suffering, loss and devastation” caused by Haiyan.

“Together with many people throughout the world, I have admired the heroic strength, faith and resilience demonstrated by so many Filipinos in the face of this natural disaster, and so many others,” he said.

Pope Francis is the first leader of the Holy See in two decades to visit the Philippines, where the 100 million population is 80% Catholic. He arrived in the Southeast Asian nation on Thursday from Sri Lanka, where he called for reconciliation after the island state’s brutal civil war.

Speaking in Manila on Friday, the 78-year-old Argentine also singled out the country’s many migrant workers for praise, citing the “oft-neglected yet real contribution of Filipinos of the diaspora to the life and welfare of the societies in which they live.”

Read the full transcript of his speech here.

TIME russia

Putin Critic Protests House Arrest By Cutting Off Tracking Bracelet

RUSSIA-POLITICS-JUSTICE-NAVALNY-VERDICT
Dmitry Serebryakov—AFP/Getty Images Russian anti-Kremlin opposition leader Alexei Navalny speaks as he attends the verdict announcement of his fraud trial at a court in Moscow on December 30, 2014.

"The bracelet with some effort has been cut off with kitchen scissors"

A leading protest figure in Russia’s beleaguered opposition camp defied the terms of his house arrest on Monday, announcing that he had severed a tracking device that he was ordered to wear by a Russian court.

Alexei Navalny posted a picture of a severed bracelet on his blog, Reuters reports.

“I refuse to comply with the requirements of my illegal detention under house arrest,” Navalny wrote on the blog, which draws up to 1 million readers a month. “The bracelet with some effort has been cut off with kitchen scissors.”

Navalny was handed a suspended sentence in late December on charges of embezzling 30 million rubles from two firms. Russian authorities launched an investigation against Navalny in 2010, shortly after he exposed evidence of corruption in Russia’s state-owned corporation amounting to $4 billion in fraudulent payments.

TIME Hong Kong

Billionaire Hong Kong Tycoon and Former Official Jailed for Corruption

Vincent Yu—AP In this photo taken through a tinted glass, former Hong Kong Chief Secretary Rafael Hui, right, is escorted by a staff member from Hong Kong Correctional Services inside a van outside the High Court in Hong Kong on Dec. 19, 2014

Case seen as a victory for transparency in China's freewheeling financial hub

The former No. 2 official in the Hong Kong government, Rafael Hui, and billionaire Thomas Kwok — until last week co-chairman of the world’s second largest property developer by market value, Sun Hung Kai — were sentenced Tuesday to 7½ and five years in prison respectively on graft charges.

Hui was ordered to pay the Hong Kong government $1.4 million, equivalent to the bribe he had been found guilty of accepting from Kwok, the South China Morning Post reports.

The two are the most prominent Hong Kongers to date to be snared by the city’s Independent Commission Against Corruption. They were found guilty last week of colluding in the early to middle part of the past decade to ensure advantages for Sun Hung Kai.

“It is vitally important in these times the Hong Kong government and business community remain and are seen to remain corruption-free,” said Judge Andrew Macrae, before delivering his sentence on the 66-year-old Hui and 63-year-old Kwok.

Kwok’s top aide Thomas Chan and ex-stock-exchange official Francis Kwan were also sentenced to six and five years respectively. His brother Raymond Kwok was acquitted of all charges.

[SCMP]

TIME Hong Kong

Hong Kong Billionaire Convicted of Conspiracy to Bribe Top Official

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

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

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

"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]

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