World
US auction house official guilty of smuggling ivory, rhino horn
Washington : An official of a California-based auction house pleaded guilty of smuggling carvings and other items made from protected wildlife worth $1 million.
 
Joseph Chait, a senior auction administrator of the I.M. Chait gallery and auction house, pleaded guilty to smuggling elephant ivory, rhinoceros horn and coral in a New York federal court, prosecutors said on Wednesday. He could face up to 10 years in prison under two related charges, Xinhua news agency reported.
 
Prosecutors said he falsified customs forms to show that items made from protected wildlife were made of bone, wood or plastic. 
 
He also helped overseas clients smuggle such items out of the US.
 
According to sources, one carving made from rhino horn was auctioned for $230,000.
 
The announcement came on the same day as the International Union for Conservation of Nature said in a statement that more than 1,300 rhinos were poached in Africa last year, a record since 2008 when trade in rhino horns became banned in South Africa. 
 
The country is reportedly home to 20,000 rhinos, or 80 percent of the world's rhino population.
 
Disclaimer: Information, facts or opinions expressed in this news article are presented as sourced from IANS and do not reflect views of Moneylife and hence Moneylife is not responsible or liable for the same. As a source and news provider, IANS is responsible for accuracy, completeness, suitability and validity of any information in this article.

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Whistle-blower Hears an Echo
It pays to keep your mouth shut
 
At the end of this piece, one may well ask the question, “Whom does one trust?” If one feels that the police are to be avoided, by the innocent and the not-so-innocent, there is no misgiving. Worse, any involvement with the cops, outside one’s constitutional duties, is fraught with danger. A Gujarati saying goes thus: ‘doorthi doonger ralyamna’. It means that mountains are best seen from afar. 
 
There are clauses, in almost every Romanesque form of law, against self-condemning and self-convicting evidence. In short, it pays to keep your mouth shut. We have invalidity of confessions, except before designated magistrates. And even then, a judicial authority will ask for concrete evidence. Why? We will touch on that at some later date. Right now, we see the hazards of hobnobbing with the cops. Invitation to danger!
 
One hears of informers. In local parlance, they are called, ‘khabris’. They are the ones who pass on the ‘aaj-ki-taaji’ news to the cops. Since no one does it for free, neck-in-noose being the aftermath, it requires compensation. Payment in cash? If funds permit and accounting is possible. Otherwise, the modus operandi is implied blackmail: arm-twisting, threats, pressures on family members or worse. To the honest citizen, it may seem fair play. Is it? 
No country will have such a system as open policy. It flies in the face of democratic institutions, governed by the rule of law. Yet, it exists almost everywhere; and the cops are ingenious. They go after the soft underbelly. 
 
Zaraukas was an informer for the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS). His brief was to tell-tale on smuggling of contraband into the USA. The operative words being, “… into the USA.” Cross-border stuff, not native transport. He was persuaded to be the eyes and ears of the FWS. He lived in Maine, in the north-east of America. A border state, it shares a common boundary with Canada. And therein lies the rub. 
 
One bad apple spoils the others. More infectious than AIDS or Zika or Ebola, the virus of monetary greed took hold of Zaraukas. Proximity to easy cash, and the presumed shelter of being hand-in-glove with the law enforcement agencies, put our man over the line. This is how it all ended. The FWS men met Zaraukas at the Café Vivaldi. Prophetic name for a man about to sing. No opera star, Zaraukas realised that the meeting was a trap. Prevarication seemed in order. Was he there to inform or be interrogated? He was arrested on charges of smuggling and allied violations. The matter went to trial. He was convicted. He appealed.
 
Americans are, correctly, fond of their Constitution, and also in quoting its amendments. In over 200 years, they have had 27 amendments. (By contrast, we have had almost two a year!) The Yanks are especially fond of the first and the fifth amendment and rely on them incessantly. Zaraukas ‘… took the Fifth’, American lingo for relying on the law against incriminating oneself. He complained that he had a right to remain silent and the jury was prejudiced against him for that very fundamental right. 
 
You be the judge. Would you allow his appeal? Or dismiss it?
 
After some convoluted reasoning, the judges kept Zaraukas locked up for 33 months. Guilty, as charged. But the questions that were never asked, raised or thought about were these: Did the authorities suspect Zaraukas of smuggling and take him on as a khabri in order to trap him? 
 
Most informers have their problems with the police; otherwise, they would not take the risk. Did his closeness to a thriving trade, suck him in? His claim to have dealt in non-imported stuff was nullified by his emails and the volume of business he had conducted. Yet, he was not caught with the goods at the border, trafficking and transport being two different things. They were hidden in his home. Above all, was the jury prejudiced by the prosecution harping on Zaraukas insisting on keeping quiet? The judges remained unaffected by his pleas.
 
Whistle-blowing is a hazardous occupation. Zaraukas was lucky. In India, one pays with one’s life. Khabar (information) and kabar (grave) seem synonymous. Adjacent plots? 

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Japan felt over 12,000 aftershocks since 2011 quake
Tokyo : Over 12,000 aftershocks were felt in the coastal areas of Japan since a powerful earthquake struck the region in March 2011, the Meteorological Agency said.
 
Quakes that are considered aftershocks of the magnitude 9.0 temblor are becoming less frequent but their frequency is still at double the level before the great quake five years ago and is expected to remain so for some time, Xinhua cited the agency as saying on Tuesday.
 
As of Sunday, 12,077 quakes that could be felt by humans had occurred in coastal areas stretching from Chiba to Aomori prefecture and farther offshore.
 
During the past year, 615 quakes occurred in the areas, compared with 306 on average between 2001 and 2010. During the first year since the powerful quake, 8,112 temblors occurred, followed by 1,583 quakes in the second year, 1,023 quakes in the third year and 744 quakes in the fourth year.
 
Many of the quakes that still hit have originated in coastal areas. Occasionally, however, a quake with a magnitude of seven or greater hit farther offshore.
 
The agency has not detected a significant change in the number of quakes originating on land before and after the March 11, 2011, quake.
 
After Japan was hit by the powerful quake in 2011, the agency designated as an aftershock zone an offshore area in eastern Japan stretching about 600 km from north to south and around 350 km from east to west.
 
Disclaimer: Information, facts or opinions expressed in this news article are presented as sourced from IANS and do not reflect views of Moneylife and hence Moneylife is not responsible or liable for the same. As a source and news provider, IANS is responsible for accuracy, completeness, suitability and validity of any information in this article.

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