NCA arrests South Tyneside men: Drugs gang ‘dismantled’

A gang selling ecstasy around the world on the dark web has been “dismantled”, police have said.

Two men from South Tyneside have been arrested on suspicion of importing and supplying drugs.

The National Crime Agency (NCA) has been investigating after parcels of MDMA destined for Europe, Asia and the USA were intercepted last summer.

Operations manager Martin Clarke said the gang had been “preying on the vulnerable and destroying communities”.

“This investigation shows that those who try to use the dark web and encrypted communication devices to anonymously commit crimes can be identified,” he said.

Drugs with a street value of £4.3m had been recovered, including MDMA, amphetamines and more than 6,000 Diazepam (alprazolam) tablets, the agency said.

Cryptocurrency money laundering

Officers seized mobile phones, computers and drug packaging paraphernalia.

Encrypted messages were analysed to identify those selling drugs and laundering money using cryptocurrency.

The drugs were being imported from Holland and then sold on the dark web under four names: HundredsUK, Hundredsandthousands, Sundaefundae, and 100and1000s.

Two men, aged 24 and 31, have been arrested in South Shields and Hebburn on suspicion of importing and supplying Class A, B and C drugs.

Officers searched other addresses in South Shields and an address in Epsom, Surrey.

The agency was still looking for two people from South Shields who are believed to be overseas, it said.

Source: BBC

Indian agency seeks information, documents from Amazon amid probe: Source

India’s Enforcement Directorate has recently asked Inc for information related to its operations in the country, as the agency continues to investigate the U.S. e-commerce giant, a senior agency source told Reuters on Friday.

Last month, the source at the country’s federal financial-crime fighting agency said the Directorate will examine the findings in a recent Reuters special report which revealed the company has for years given preferential treatment to a small group of sellers on its India platform and used them to circumvent the country’s foreign investment rules.

Amazon has for several years been under investigation by the agency for possible violation of foreign investment rules. Such probes typically take years in India, and in most cases details are not made public.

The Reuters special report was based on internal Amazon documents dated between 2012 and 2019. It provided an inside look at the cat-and-mouse game Amazon has played with India’s government, adjusting its corporate structures each time the government imposed new restrictions aimed at protecting small traders. To read the special report click

On Friday, the senior Enforcement Directorate source told Reuters “obviously we have sought information” from Amazon.

Asked if the agency had sought documents from the company, the source said: “information means information and documents.”

The source declined to comment further on what type of documents had been sought, or if any company executive had been summoned for questioning.

An Amazon spokeswoman in India declined to comment.

In the Reuters report published last month, Amazon said it was confident of its compliance with Indian law. It added that it “does not give preferential treatment to any seller on its marketplace,” and that it “treats all sellers in a fair, transparent, and non-discriminatory manner.”

Indian retailers, which are a crucial part of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s support base, have long alleged that e-commerce giants like Amazon and Walmart’s Flipkart flout federal regulations and that their business practices hurt small traders. The companies deny the allegations.

The documents reviewed by Reuters showed that Amazon helped a small number of sellers prosper on its India platform, giving them discounted fees and helping one cut special deals with big tech manufacturers such as Apple Inc.

The company has also exercised significant control over the inventory of some of the biggest sellers on, the documents showed, even though it says publicly that all sellers operate independently on its platform.

Myanmar coup: Casualties rise as police step up crackdown

A violent crackdown on anti-coup protesters in Myanmar intensified on Sunday with police using live rounds, rubber bullets and tear gas.

Protesters take cover in Yangon
image captionProtesters clash with police in Yangon as the anti-coup rallies continue

Huge protests in cities such as Yangon, Mandalay and Dawei have continued despite the police response.

There are reports of fatalities, although they are difficult to confirm.

The country has been rocked by protests since top government leaders, including Aung San Suu Kyi, were overthrown and detained by the army on 1 February.

Social media footage from Sunday showed protesters running away as police charged at them, makeshift roadblocks being erected, and several people being led away covered in blood.

The police crackdown, which began in earnest on Saturday, was extended as coup leaders sought to quash a largely peaceful civil disobedience campaign that has shown no sign of ending.

What is happening on the ground?

In the largest city, Yangon, police fired bullets after stun grenades and tear gas failed to disperse protesters. Social media images showed blood on the streets as people were helped away by fellow protesters.

A doctor told Reuters one man had died in hospital with a bullet wound to the chest.

The protesters remained defiant, with some setting up barricades.

“If they push us, we’ll rise. If they attack us, we’ll defend. We’ll never kneel down to the military boots,” protester Nyan Win Shein told Reuters.

Another, Amy Kyaw, told AFP: “Police started shooting just as we arrived. They didn’t say a word of warning. Some got injured and some teachers are still hiding in neighbours’ houses.”

Some protesters were herded away in police vans.

In the south-eastern city of Dawei, security forces moved to break up a rally.

Medical staff carry away a wounded protester in Dawei
image captionMedical staff carry away a wounded protester in Dawei

There are reports of live rounds being used. The Dawei Watch media outlet said at least one person was killed and more than a dozen wounded. One emergency worker told Reuters there were three deaths, with many more casualties feared.

Police were also cracking down on a large rally in Mandalay, where police used water cannon and fired into the air.

Protests have continued elsewhere, including the north-eastern town of Lashio.

The number of arrests since the protests began has not been confirmed. The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners monitoring group has put the figure at 850, but hundreds more appear to have been detained this weekend.

Where is Aung San Suu Kyi?

Myanmar’s civilian leader has not been seen in public since she was detained in the capital Nay Pyi Taw as the coup began.

Her supporters and many in the international community have demanded her release and the restoration of the November election result that saw her National League for Democracy party win a landslide.

Ms Suu Kyi is scheduled to face court proceedings on Monday on charges of possessing unregistered walkie-talkies and violating coronavirus rules. But her lawyer says he has been unable to speak to her.

Military leaders justified the seizure of power by alleging widespread fraud in the elections, claims dismissed by the electoral committee.

The coup has been widely condemned outside Myanmar, prompting sanctions against the military and other punitive moves.

2px presentational grey line

Myanmar – the basics

  • Myanmar, also known as Burma, became independent from Britain in 1948. For much of its modern history it has been under military rule
  • Restrictions began loosening from 2010 onwards, leading to free elections in 2015 and the installation of a government led by veteran opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi the following year
  • In 2017, militants from the Rohingya ethnic group attacked police posts, and Myanmar’s army and local Buddhist mobs responded with a deadly crackdown, reportedly killing thousands of Rohingya. More than half a million Rohingya fled across the border into Bangladesh, and the UN later called it a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing”
Map with Mandalay

Myanmar coup: Security forces intensify protest crackdown

Myanmar’s security forces intensified a crackdown against protesters on Saturday, with local reports of dozens of detentions and a woman shot.

Myanmar has seen growing unrest since the military seized power and detained key leaders in a coup on 1 February.

Local reports said a woman had been shot in the city of Monwya on Saturday. Her condition is not yet clear.

It comes a day after the country’s envoy to the United Nations pleaded with the organisation to stop the coup.

Ambassador Kyaw Moe Tun, speaking on behalf of the ousted government of Aung San Suu Kyi, appealed for the UN to use “any means necessary to take action” against the military to help “restore the democracy”. 

“We need further strongest possible action from the international community to immediately end the military coup,” he said, signing off his address with a three-finger salute used by pro-democracy protesters.

The country has been rocked by weeks of protests since senior government leaders, including Ms Suu Kyi, were overthrown and detained.

What happened on Saturday? 

Saturday saw further protests in cities across the country, with water cannon reportedly deployed and journalists among dozens detained.

In the main city of Yangon, crowds of protesters were advanced upon by police firing tear gas. Witnesses who spoke to the Reuters news agency said people were arrested and beaten by police, who also reportedly fired into the air, with similar clashes reported in the second city of Mandalay.

Demonstrators move rubbish bins and tires to build barricades during a protest
image captionSome demonstrators built makeshift barricades for protection during protests

A number of local media outlets reported that a woman had been shot at a protest in the central city of Monwya, close to Mandalay. Images and an alleged identity circulated on social media but have not been independently confirmed.

An ambulance service official later told the Reuters news agency she was in hospital, contradicting other reports she had died.

A medic in the town told the AFP news agency he had also seen a man “severely injured” in his leg with at least 10 others treated for more minor injuries. Local media there also reported alleged beatings by plainclothes officers. 

Protesters in some places, including Yangon, were seen building makeshift barricades to try and hinder the crackdown against them. 

General Min Aung Hlaing has defended the coup he led, but at least three protesters and one policeman have died so far in violence against it.

According to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners monitoring group, more than 770 people have been arrested and sentenced since the coup began. 

At least three journalists were detained Saturday including a photographer from the Associated Press, the AFP news agency reported. 

What is the background to protests? 

Military leaders overthrew the elected government of civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi at the start of the month, justifying the seizure of power by alleging widespread fraud in November elections, which Ms Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) won convincingly.

She was placed under house arrest and charged with possessing illegal walkie-talkies and violating the country’s Natural Disaster Law, but there is growing uncertainty about her whereabouts amid reports on an independent news website on Friday that she had been moved to an undisclosed location.

A lawyer for the 75-year-old ousted leader told Reuters he had also heard she was moved and has been given no access to her ahead of her next hearing.

Protesters are demanding an end to the military’s rule and want Ms Suu Kyi released, along with senior members of her party.

The coup has been widely condemned outside Myanmar, prompting sanctions against the military and other punitive moves.

The Myanmar ambassador’s emotional plea was met with applause at the UN General Assembly in New York on Friday with Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the new US envoy to the body, among those praising his remarks as “courageous”.

Myanmar's ambassador to the United Nations Kyaw Moe Tun holds up three fingers
image captionMyanmar’s ambassador asked for the “strongest possible action” to help

Since the military seized power, it has ordered internet blackouts and also banned social media platforms but demonstrations against the coup have continued daily in spite of the mounting crackdown. 

2px presentational grey line

Myanmar – the basics

  • Myanmar, also known as Burma, became independent from Britain in 1948. For much of its modern history it has been under military rule
  • Restrictions began loosening from 2010 onwards, leading to free elections in 2015 and the installation of a government led by veteran opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi the following year
  • In 2017, militants from the Rohingya ethnic group attacked police posts, and Myanmar’s army and local Buddhist mobs responded with a deadly crackdown, reportedly killing thousands of Rohingya. More than half a million Rohingya fled across the border into Bangladesh, and the UN later called it a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing”
Map with Mandalay

Daniel Prude: No charges for US officers over ‘spit-hood’ death

New York police officers filmed restraining an unarmed black man until he stopped breathing will not be charged over his death, officials say.

Daniel Prude, who had mental health issues, died in Rochester city after officers put him in “spit hood” designed to protect police.

The death in March last year led to days of protests against police.

On Tuesday, New York’s attorney general said a grand jury had declined to indict any officers in the case.

“I know that the Prude family, the Rochester community and communities across the country will rightfully be disappointed by this outcome,” Letitia James said at a news conference.

“My office presented an extensive case, and we sought a different outcome than the one the grand jury handed us today.”

A grand jury is set up by a prosecutor to determine whether there is enough evidence to pursue a prosecution. In legal terms, it determines whether probable cause exists to believe a crime has been committed.

Ms James expressed disappointment with the grand jury’s verdict, alluding to other cases in which officers had not been held accountable for “the unjustified killing of unarmed African Americans”.

Mr Prude’s death was one of the key events in months of unrest over racial injustice in the US last year.

Source: BBC

Cannabis-smoking Tunisians ‘sentenced to 30 years’

Three young Tunisian men are reported to have been sentenced to 30 years in prison for smoking cannabis at a football stadium.

A spokesperson at the regional court that delivered the sentence said that it was based on three separate laws – which include 10 years for drug consumers and traffickers and 20 years for taking drugs in a public place.

An MP has called for a presidential pardon to be issued for the three men.

Rita Ora: Venue was paid to breach Covid rules, police tell committee

Rita Ora’s team offered a restaurant £5,000 to break lockdown rules for her 30th birthday, according to police.

The pop star’s security team also asked for CCTV cameras to be turned off during the party at Casa Cruz, in Notting Hill, on 28 November, amid the second virus lockdown, police said.

CCTV hard drives were wiped two days later, a licensing hearing at Kensington and Chelsea Council heard. 

Ms Ora declined to comment. She has previously apologised for the party.

The 30-year-old flew to Egypt for a private performance on 21 November. On her return the following day, she should have isolated for two weeks.

Instead, she threw a birthday party in London, which violated lockdown rules that prevented households mixing indoors.

Rita Ora
image captionRita Ora pictured at the MTV Europe Music Awards last year

Ms Ora has said she “deserved criticism” for her actions, and would donate her fee from the concert to charity. Her team did not want to comment about the latest revelations, which emerged during a licence review for Casa Cruz.

The general manager at Casa Cruz, Scottie Bhattarai, told police he was contacted by a representative of Ms Ora on the day of the party.

Charles Holland, representing the Met Police, told the committee hearing that Mr Bhattarai admitted he had been “contacted by Ms Ora’s representatives and offered £5,000 for the use of the premises that evening”.

In a statement to police, Mr Bhattarai said he had accepted the offer “because he was greedy”. He was “fully aware the event breached coronavirus regulations”, Mr Holland said.

Mr Bhattarai said he began admitting guests at about 19:00 GMT. Between 15 and 20 people were at the venue at the party’s peak, at about 21.00, he said.

Mr Holland said officers arrived at the venue after 21:10 but “were not afforded access”.

Police said they found that Casa Cruz’s CCTV hard drives were blank two days later, with no footage available from the previous month.

Officers said the devices had either been reformatted or the hard-drives had been replaced.

The venue is accused of breaching licensing rules by not allowing police into the premises and failing to provide them with CCTV footage.

It is also alleged that Casa Cruz locked fire doors during the party, a breach of health and safety regulations.

The licensing committee is considering whether to revoke the licence of the restaurant.

Mr Bhattarai is also subject to a criminal investigation, while four party-goers were issued fines at the time. Their identities have not been revealed.

Casa Cruz
image captionCasa Cruz said it was upgrading its CCTV system

Home Secretary Priti Patel condemned Ms Ora’s behaviour as “wrong and irresponsible”.

“There are no excuses whatsoever,” she added.

“We have had a tragic death toll in our country from coronavirus; we are seeing record numbers of people in hospital and a terrible strain on the NHS, and the message is to stay at home and save lives. 

“So these celebrities and influencers should be thinking very, very hard about their own actions and what kind of message that sends out.”

Casa Cruz said it fired Mr Bharratai following the revelations.

The restaurant’s parent company said it was upgrading the CCTV system so footage could not be tampered with in future, the committee heard.

Forty-four written submissions were made by local residents in support of Casa Cruz keeping its licence.

A decision will be made at a later date.

Irish police seize €1m in cash after van stopped in County Kildare

Gardaí (Irish police) have seized more than €1m (£900,200) in cash as part of an operation targeting organised crime.

Shrink-wrapped euros

The money was found in a van intercepted on the M7 in County Kildare on Friday at about 06:30 local time.

A 45-year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of a number of charges and is currently in police custody.

Another €10,000 (£9,000) was found in a follow-up search in the Midlands resulting in about €10,000 (£9,000) also being seized.

Assistant Commissioner John O’Driscoll said it was a “significant advance in our attempt to dismantle organised crime group”.

Police said their investigation continues.

Police arrest 26 NDC protestors at EC Headquarters

The police say it has arrested 26 persons in connection with the demonstration held at the headquarters of the Electoral Commission (EC).

A statement issued by the police said the suspects are being taken through due process and provisionally cautioned.

The police have also cautioned the public to adhere strictly to the public order act which requires organizers of demonstrations to notify the police before embarking on demonstrations.


Police Disperse NDC Demonstrators At EC Headquarters

The Accra Regional Police Command had dispersed supporters of the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) who massed up at the headquarters of the Electoral Commission today [Thursday, December 17, 2020].

Reporting from the EC headquarters, Rainbow Radio’s Fiifi Ankomah said the demonstrators were protesting the results declared by the EC last week.

The chaotic situation led to the blocking of the Kanda Highway and other sections of the Ridge enclave and the firing of tear gas.

The police first fired water at the protestors before firing tear gas to disperse them.

The Director of Operations at the Accra Regional Command ACP Kwesi Ofori speaking to the media said: “The police are moving practically and strategically to make sure that we keep the peace, and it’s been good so far. Initially, we used engagement, which failed so we had to resort to the use of non-electrical equipment like water to get them to move down the street.”