China: Fraud suspects caught in Ivory Coast

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SHANGHAI CHINA NEWS AGENCY ‘SHINE’)

 

Fraud suspects caught in Ivory Coast

Chen Huizhi
Fraud suspects caught in Ivory Coast

Shanghai police / Ti Gong

The two suspects who are said to have been running a hotel in the Ivory Coast when they were apprehended by Shanghai police.

Two people alleged to have been involved in a fundraising fraud have been flown back to Shanghai from the Ivory Coast, police said on Tuesday.

A man surnamed Peng and a woman surnamed He left China in March 2017. They had been wanted by Interpol since October last year.

Peng, a native of Hunan Province who worked in the iron ore industry, and He are said to have established investment companies in Shanghai and Ningbo, Zhejiang Province, in September 2010 promising high returns.

Police said they established another company in Shanghai in April 2013 and by December 2014 the three companies owed investors from Shanghai over 70 million yuan (US$10 million), while branch companies in Chongqing and Shandong Province also had problems paying investors.

With the total owed amounting to over 100 million yuan by January 2015, police said, the two continued to collect 180 million yuan from the public by promising 35 percent returns from an investment project that didn’t exist.

Police said these funds were used to pay previous debts and for the pair’s own benefit.

An investigation began in September 2017 when police in Changning District received reports from some investors, but the two suspects had left the country.

Police said they received information in February this year that the two were running a hotel in Abidjan in Ivory Coast.

Together with their Ivory Coast counterparts, Shanghai police apprehended the two at the hotel on November 28 and they were flown back to Shanghai on December 2.

Fraud suspects caught in Ivory Coast

Shanghai police

The two suspects alleged to have been involved in a fundraising fraud are accompanied by police as they arrive in Shanghai from Ivory Coast.

Worldwide “Fox Hunt”

Shanghai police said they caught 108 suspects from over 20 countries and regions so far this year as part of China’s “Fox Hunt” campaign targeting economic crime refugees.

On September 5, a man surnamed Ma was extradited from Greece to China.

Ma, who ran a website said to be linked to illegal fundraising sites and who is alleged to have taken kickbacks from those sites for attracting investors, left China in June last year after the case came to light, police said.

Ma was apprehended by Greek police on March 25 this year when he was about to take a flight from Athens.

On November 2, a suspect was returned to Shanghai from Ethiopia after turning himself in.

The suspect, a man surnamed Lu, who worked for a flooring company, is alleged to have illegally sold company products at low prices along with a colleague surnamed Fang. Fang was arrested on a charge of embezzlement.

On November 21, a man surnamed Jia who is said to have issued fake value added tax invoices resulting in a loss of over 2.3 million yuan in tax to the government turned himself in to Shanghai police. He went to Brazil in June 2017.

KENTUCKY GOV. MATT BEVIN ACCUSES SECRETARY OF STATE OF FRAUD AFTER SHE DECLARES HE LOST THE ELECTION

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF NEWSWEEK)

 

KENTUCKY GOV. MATT BEVIN ACCUSES SECRETARY OF STATE OF FRAUD AFTER SHE DECLARES HE LOST THE ELECTION

Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin has accused Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes of fraud for announcing the results of the election live on CNN, and continues to refuse to concede a race that he lost by less than half of a percentage point, says The Hill.

Tuesday night, Bevin lost to Democrat Andy Beshear in a hotly contested race, which was enough to cause him to declare he wouldn’t concede the race, then called for a re-canvassing of voters.

“Kentucky sadly—and it’s not unique to Kentucky—but there’s more than a little bit of history of vote fraud in our state,” Bevin told reporters, adding that his campaign was working on “getting affidavits and other information that will help us to get a better understanding of what did or did not happen.”

He added that there were reports of Kentucky voters being “incorrectly turned away from various voting booths around the state.”

Bevin also accused Alison Lundergan Grimes, the Secretary of State, of committing fraud by announcing the election results live on CNN, mentioning that she is currently the subject of a special state prosecutor’s investigation for allegedly misusing voter records.

“The fact that our secretary of state was on national TV … it was an interesting choice of places for her to go while the roll was being tallied, the votes were being tallied and to call an election,” he said.

“For her to try to jump the gun on this and interject herself into this, it’s something that’s being looked into,” he continued.

Matt Bevin
Accusing the Secretary of State of fraud for announcing election results on CNN, Matt Bevin held firm on his accusation that voter irregularities were the reason for his loss on Tuesday night .JOHN SOMMERS II/GETTY

“This is from a woman, with all due respect to her, is not exactly rock solid as it comes to following the letter of the law,” he said.

“She’s currently under investigation for misuse of voter files herself. Her father has already been convicted of multiple—I think 10—different federal charges related to election fraud specific to her race,” he added.

Grimes is at the center of two legal cases, according to the Lexington Herald-Leader. In one case, Jared Dearing, executive director of the State Board of Elections, has alleged that Grimes’ office illegally obtained the state’s voter registration database and did illegal searches of it.

In the other, Grimes filed a suit alleging that a new law stripped her office of its power over the State Board of Elections. She claims the law made it a misdemeanor for her office to search the database.

Her father, Jerry Lundergan, served as a Democrat in the Kentucky House of Representatives and the chairman of the Kentucky Democratic Party. In 1989, he was convicted of a felony charge of improperly using his influence, however, that conviction was later thrown out by an appeals court. Last year, he was indicted for making illegal campaign contributions to his daughter during her 2014 race to unseat Sen. Mitch McConnell.

The recanvassing work will be done by November 14, said a board of elections member. The Kentucky State Board of Elections will meet on November 21 to certify the election results.

Bevin’s opponent, Andy Beshear, has 49.2 percent (711,955 votes) to 48.9 percent for Bevin. A Libertarian candidate, John Hicks, received 28,475 votes, or 2.0 percent of the vote. Beshear’s margin of victory ultimately totaled 5,200 votes.

At a news conference held on Wednesday, Beshear said that he hadn’t spoken to Bevin about the recount but that he felt it was “time to move on” from the election, according to CBS News.

Twitter, Facebook accuse China of using fake accounts to undermine Hong Kong protests

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES OF INDIA)

 

Twitter, Facebook accuse China of using fake accounts to undermine Hong Kong protests

Both Twitter and Facebook are blocked in mainland China by the government but available in Hong Kong

WORLD Updated: Aug 21, 2019 09:35 IST

HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent

Anti-extradition bill protesters react as they watch a documentary protest video during a protest outside Siu Hong station in Hong Kong, China, August 20, 2019.
Anti-extradition bill protesters react as they watch a documentary protest video during a protest outside Siu Hong station in Hong Kong, China, August 20, 2019.(REUTERS)

Social media giants Facebook and Twitter accused China of using fake accounts to undermine Hong Kong protests. Beijing hit back, saying it had a right to put out its own views.

‘STATE-BACKED CAMPAIGN’

■ The crackdown was rare in the way that it involved a tip-off from one social media firm, Twitter, to another; Facebook.

■ Both said they took the action after observing a coordinated state-backed effort originating in China that undermined the legitimacy and political positions of the protest movement in Hong Kong

■ Facebook’s head of cybersecurity policy Nathaniel Gleicher told reporters that the bulk of the Facebook accounts were created in 2018.

■ Both Twitter and Facebook are blocked in mainland China by the government but available in Hong Kong.

COMPARISON TO COCKROACHES

■ In examples provided by Facebook, posts described the protesters as cockroaches who “refused to show their faces.”

■ Examples of posts provided by Twitter included a tweet from a user pretending to be a Hong Kong resident with the comment: “…We don’t want you radical people in Hong Kong. Just get out of here!”

■ In another post cited by Facebook, the protesters in Hong Kong were likened to extremist Islamist militants

CHINA CRIES FOUL OVER CRACKDOWN

■ A Chinese minister said on Tuesday that China had a right to put out its own views.

■ Foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang, while declining to directly comment on the Twitter and Facebook actions, said: “What is happening in Hong Kong, and what the truth is, people will naturally have their own judgement. Why is it that China’s official media’s presentation is surely negative or wrong?”

ADS ROW

Twitter and Facebook have come under fire from users over showing ads from state-controlled media that criticised the Hong Kong protesters. Twitter said on Monday it would no longer accept advertising from state-controlled news media

First Published: Aug 21, 2019 09:29 IST

India: Donald Trump’s thumbs-up photo with orphaned baby in El Paso sparks controversy

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES OF INDIA)

(TO DONALD TRUMP EVERYTHING IS ALWAYS ALL ABOUT DONALD TRUMP, HE IS SICKENING AND SHALLOW BEYOND HUMAN BELIEF, A TOTAL FRAUD!)(OPED: BY OLDPOET56)

 

Donald Trump’s thumbs-up photo with orphaned baby in El Paso sparks controversy

The optics of the picture of Donald Trump giving a thumbs-up as his wife, Melania, cradles a baby orphaned in the El Paso, Texas mass shooting struck many on social media as demonstrating a lack of empathy or respect for the gravity of the occasion by the president.

WORLD Updated: Aug 10, 2019 09:32 IST

Reuters
Reuters

Reuters
The image was taken on Wednesday at the University Medical Center of El Paso during Donald Trump’s visit to the West Texas border city.
The image was taken on Wednesday at the University Medical Center of El Paso during Donald Trump’s visit to the West Texas border city. (Melania Trump/Twitter)

A photo of US President Donald Trump smiling broadly and giving a thumbs-up as his wife, Melania, cradles a baby orphaned in the El Paso, Texas mass shooting has become a social media talking point days after the first lady posted it on Twitter.

The image was taken on Wednesday at the University Medical Center of El Paso during Trump’s visit to the West Texas border city to meet with first responders, medical personnel and surviving victims from Saturday’s gun violence at a Walmart store.

The president and his wife had travelled earlier in the day to Dayton, Ohio, for a similar hospital condolence call in the wake of a deadly shooting rampage that rocked that city just 13 hours after the bloodshed in El Paso.

The two shootings together claimed 32 lives, including that of the gunman who committed the Dayton massacre.

Trump avoided the press during both hospital visits, which were closed to media coverage, but the White House later released a brief video montage of the visits.

 

Embedded video

Donald J. Trump

@realDonaldTrump

My time spent in Dayton and El Paso with some of the greatest people on earth. Thank you for a job well done!

60.1K people are talking about this

The first lady also tweeted several photos from the visit, including one that shows her standing in front of a University Medical Center of El Paso backdrop cradling a 2-month-old infant whose parents, Andre and Jordon Anchondo, were both slain in the Walmart attack, reportedly as they shielded him from gunfire.

Standing beside the first lady is the smiling president giving a thumbs-up sign. They are flanked by the baby’s aunt and an uncle, Tito Anchondo, who is also smiling and has his arm stretched around Trump’s shoulders as the four pose together.

The optics of the picture struck many on social media as demonstrating a lack of empathy or respect for the gravity of the occasion by the president.

 

View image on TwitterView image on TwitterView image on TwitterView image on Twitter

Melania Trump

@FLOTUS

I met many incredible people in Dayton, Ohio & El Paso, Texas yesterday. Their communities are strong and unbreakable. @potus and I stand with you!

19.5K people are talking about this

“A baby who was taken from home and forced to serve as a prop for the very monster whose hate killed her/his parents,” Democratic strategist Greg Pinelo wrote on Twitter in response to the photo.

But Tito Anchondo, who described himself and his slain brother as Trump supporters, told the Washington Post in an interview published on Friday that he felt consoled by the president’s visit and denied that Trump was there “pushing any kind of political agenda.”

Anchondo said he chose to take his orphaned nephew, baby Paul, to the hospital to meet the president, and said others were politicizing his family’s tragedy. The infant suffered two broken fingers in the shooting, but had since been discharged by doctors.

FBI believed Trump was closely involved in hush-money scheme

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF NBC NEWS)

 

The release of the previously redacted documents came one day after the judge in the case disclosed that prosecutors had concluded their probe into Cohen’s campaign finance crimes.
Image: US-POLITICS-INVESTIGATION-COHEN

Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump’s former personal attorney, leaves the hearing room during a recess for lunch as he testifies before the House Oversight and Reform Committee in the Rayburn House Office Building on Capitol Hill on Feb. 27, 2019.Mandel Ngan / AFP – Getty Images

Mexico Had Agreed To These ‘New’ Measures Months Ago

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN AND THE NEW YORK TIMES)
(THE FRAUD IN CHIEF STRIKES AGAIN, CREATE A PROBLEM, DO NOTHING, THEN FIX THE PROBLEM AND TAKE CREDIT FOR HIS ‘GREAT WORK’, TOTAL FRAUD!)(oped: oldpoet56)

Mexico had already promised to take many of the actions agreed to in Friday’s immigration deal with the US — months before President Donald Trump’s tariff threat, officials from both countries who are familiar with the negotiations told the New York Times in a story published Saturday.

Trump moved to accept the existing agreements in a deal Friday after negotiations prompted by his threat to impose growing tariffs on Mexico in response to the border situation dragged on over several days. Talks between Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard and State Department officials lasted for more than 11 hours Friday.
The Mexican government had pledged to deploy the National Guard nationwide with a focus on its southern border — a key part of Friday’s agreement — during secret meetings in March between former Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and Mexican interior secretary Olga Sanchez in Miami, the officials told the Times.
The deal’s key expansion of a program that would keep asylum seekers in Mexico while their claims are processed was established in two heavily brokered two diplomatic notes exchanged between the two countries, the Times reported. Nielsen announced the Migrant Protection Protocols during a House Judiciary Committee hearing in late December.
One senior government official insisted to the Times that the Mexican government agreed to move to deter migrants faster and more aggressively than they ever had before this week’s talks.
As Ebrard noted in a news conference after the agreement’s announcement Friday, the Mexican government did not accept the US’s push for a safe third country agreement, which would require asylum seekers traveling through Mexico to make their case for American asylum in Mexico.
“They proposed in the first meeting to have (a) third safe state, which is not the case here, which is very important. And on the other hand, we accepted to have a more extended version of (migrants remaining in Mexico during asylum claim processing) and to accelerate the deployment of the national guard,” Ebrard said, calling the deal “a fair play.”
Trump presented the deal as a win in a pair of tweets early Saturday.
“Mexico will try very hard, and if they do that, this will be a very successful agreement for both the United States and Mexico!” the President wrote in a tweet. He continued later: “MEXICO HAS AGREED TO IMMEDIATELY BEGIN BUYING LARGE QUANTITIES OF AGRICULTURAL PRODUCT FROM OUR GREAT PATRIOT FARMERS!”
Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said Saturday that he had a phone call with Trump after negotiators reached a deal Friday.
“I spoke on the telephone with President Trump,” Lopez Obrador tweeted in Spanish on Saturday. “I told him that in Tijuana I would say that I do not lift a clenched fist but an open and frank hand to the president of the United States. We reiterated our disposition to friendship, dialogue and collaboration for the good of our countries.”
Democratic congressional leaders slammed Trump for his attempts to negotiate a deal.
Senate Majority Chuck Schumer jabbed Trump’s repeated return to the issue, tweeting Friday night: “This is an historic night! @realDonaldTrump has announced that he has cut a deal to ‘greatly reduce, or eliminate, Illegal Immigration coming from Mexico and into the United States.’ Now that that problem is solved, I’m sure we won’t be hearing any more about it in the future.”
On Saturday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi accused Trump in a statement of having “undermined America’s preeminent leadership role in the world by recklessly threatening to impose tariffs on our close friend and neighbor to the south.”
Congress, she said, will hold the White House “accountable for its failures to address the humanitarian situation at our southern border.”

Army officials reach out to veteran who was declared foreigner by tribunal

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES OF INDIA)
(THIS SOUNDS LIKE INDIA’S MILITARY INTELLIGENCE IS AS SCREWED UP AS IT IS HERE IN THE U.S.)(I CAN’T HELP BUT WONDER IF INDIA’S VA MEDICAL SYSTEM IS AS BIG A FRAUD ON THEIR SERVICE CONNECTED DISABLED VETERANS AS THE U.S. VERSION IS. I SURE HOPE NOT BECAUSE THE FRAUD IN OUR SYSTEM THAT IS LAID ON OUR DISABLED VETERANS BY THE VA IS BEYOND SICKENING)(oped: oldpoet56)

Army officials reach out to veteran who was declared foreigner by tribunal

After the tribunal in Kamrup Rural district declared him a ‘foreigner’ on May 23, Sanaullah, 52, who has been serving as sub-inspector with the border organisation since retirement from the Indian Army, was detained last week by his own colleagues.

INDIA Updated: Jun 02, 2019 11:36 IST

Sadiq Naqvi
Sadiq Naqvi
Hindustan Times, Guwahati
NRC,foreigner tribunal,indian army
Based upon an inquiry report conducted by the border organisation of Assam Police in 2008, which identified Sanaullah as a labourer and marked as a suspected illegal immigrant.(PTI)

A day after the author of an inquiry report which labelled an ex-Indian Army subedar a ‘foreigner’ told a local channel in the northeast that it was a case of mistaken identity, Indian Army officials reached out to the detained man, Mohammed Sanaullah’s family, offering support.

Based upon an inquiry report conducted by the border organisation of Assam Police in 2008, which identified Sanaullah as a labourer and marked as a suspected illegal immigrant, his case was referred to the foreigners tribunal, a quasi-judicial body which adjudicates on cases of illegal immigrants identified either by Assam Police or the Election Commission of India (ECI).

After the tribunal in Kamrup Rural district declared him a ‘foreigner’ on May 23, Sanaullah, 52, who has been serving as sub-inspector with the border organisation since retirement from the Indian Army, was detained last week by his own colleagues at the border organisation and sent to a detention centre.

“I want to see my husband before we celebrate Eid. This is what I told the army officers, the ex-army men and the public who have been reaching out to me,” said Sanima Begum, Sanaullah’s wife.

The hopes of the family, however, rest on the writ petition filed in the high court on Saturday against the tribunal’s order declaring him a foreigner, which Sanaullah’s lawyers say, may come up for hearing this week.

Joshi Narain Dutt, director of Assam Directorate of Sainik Welfare, who has been following up on the developments, said the family will have to seek legal recourse (which it has done, by moving the HC) but that the DSW is “offering broad guidance.”

Also read | NRC: Ensure fair procedure adopted

According to Sanima Begum, Joshi and a group of ex-servicemen met the family on Saturday and promised support. “If after 30 years of service by my husband, the army will not come forward to help, who else would ?” said Sanima Begum.

Another army official Hindustan Times spoke to, said they will not be able to help the family directly unless they received orders from their superiors.

However, he dismissed the possibility of an illegal immigrant getting appointed in the Army. “In 1987, when Sanaullah was appointed, police verification report must have verified his antecedents,” the official said.

A senior official at the headquarters of the border organisation said a report has been sought from the district officials on the case. “It is possible that the local field official filed an erroneous inquiry report,” this official said.

First Published: Jun 02, 2019 07:26 IST

Mitch McConnell, My Homes State Habitual Fraud And Liar?

(THIS WAS SENT TO ME BY A LONG TIME FRIEND IN ILLINOIS VIA FB)

 

18 hrs

Image may contain: 3 people, text

Cryptocurrency-related crime will surpass all other cyber attacks in 2018

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL NEWSPAPER)

 

Cryptocurrency-related crime will surpass all other cyberattacks in 2018: expert

Leading experts at Tel Aviv cybersecurity conference weigh pros and cons of cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, and the risks of blockchain technology in financial transactions

Illustrative image of bitcoins (Courtesy BitsofGold)

Illustrative image of bitcoins (Courtesy BitsofGold)

Cryptocurrency-related attacks will surpass all other types of cyberattacks in 2018, a leading expert warned.

Issuing the bleak prediction, Lotem Finkelsteen, a threat intelligence analyst with the Israeli cybersecurity company Check Point Software Technologies, said “not a day goes by without our hearing about a new ICO [initial coin offering] scam or mining attack.”

By “cryptocurrency-related cyberattacks,” he appeared to be referring to any form of cybercrime involving or related to cryptocurrencies, including financial scams and hacking.

Blockchain, the technology that underpins cryptocurrencies, “is suffering from reputational damage,” said Finkelsteen. “And that is one of the main obstacles for blockchain technology to move forward.”

Lotem Finkelsteen (Twitter)

Finkelsteen was speaking on a panel at an event entitled “Blockchain, The New Digital Age” at Tel Aviv University’s annual Cyber Week cybersecurity conference. Other panelists at the event were more optimistic about the positive potential for blockchain and cryptocurrency technology.

“There are real projects rolling out,” said John Velissarios, Principal Director and Global Blockchain Technology Lead at Accenture, a global management consulting company. “We’re seeing blockchain applications for capital markets, exchanges, clearing and settlement systems and payment systems. The technology is evolving and the applications are becoming more significant.”

Blockchain technology is the underlying technology of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. A blockchain is a database that is maintained by numerous collaborators, like a Google document. The computers of the collaborators decide through a consensus mechanism how to update the database. Once they decide, the update is rendered immutable through cryptography. The resulting record can be used as proof of ownership without the need for a central authority deciding who owns what.

Many entrepreneurs and computer scientists see enormous potential in blockchain, and believe that the fact that money and other assets can be transferred from person to person without going through a central authority has many real-world applications.

But Haim Pinto, the CTO of Bank Hapoalim, Israel’s largest bank, asserted that there are no blockchain applications that are dependably usable at present, least of all for a trusted institution like a major commercial bank.

“Blockchain is still in a hype cycle,” he said in the panel discussion, arguing that the technology is not yet ready for widespread adoption. “We can’t just take it and use it.”

Pinto said cryptocurrencies present problems for banks seeking to comply with anti-money laundering and privacy regulation.

“As long as we are under anti-money laundering and FATCA rules, we have to know the source of customers’ money,” he said. This requirement, he said, does not jibe with the nature of cryptocurrencies, which can be transferred anonymously.

In addition, said Pinto, cryptocurrencies present a challenge for banks seeking to comply with the EU’s “right to be forgotten” laws, which require that businesses erase clients’ sensitive personal data if they are asked to do so.

“Distributed general ledgers cannot erase anything,” he said, referring to the fact that most blockchains are immutable. “That’s just one of the challenges. In addition, there are mathematical challenges. Distributed general ledgers can’t scale up to the volume of transactions we need to serve.”

Pinto said that most banks around the world are running mainframe computers as their core platforms. Before they can adopt blockchains or distributed general ledgers, they will probably first adopt “open banking,” a new trend in the banking world that refers to the practice of allowing third-party developers to build applications around the bank.

In recent years in Israel, some experts have touted cryptocurrency and blockchain as the next major driver of the Israeli economy, but as The Times of Israel has reported, it is unclear how much of the activity in this new high-tech field is legitimate, how much is mere hype, and how much is outright fraud perpetrated by malevolent actors, including transnational criminal organizations.

A second panel at the event dealt with the non-financial applications of the blockchain.

At that session, Gideon Lichfield, the editor-in-chief of the MIT Technology Review, described enthusiasm about using blockchain technology for supply-chain management.

Gideon Lichfield (Courtesy Cyber Week)

“Businesses see it as a way to track bananas or lettuce from the supplier to the supermarket shelf.”

If some lettuce turns out to be bad, he said, blockchain technology can be used to find out which farm the lettuce came from.

Lichfield questioned why blockchain is a good solution for this, as opposed to a centralized database or some other solution. Nevertheless, he said, if blockchain is an adequate solution, it could become the de facto standard, simply because there is so much hype around, and money being poured into, blockchain technology.

“Big companies don’t want to be left behind,” said Lichfield, ”They jump into this.”

Steve Bassi, the CEO of the cybersecurity company Polyswarm, agreed with the other panelists that blockchain is often proposed as a solution to a problem where a centralized database might work just as well.

Attempting to distill the circumstances under which blockchain could be useful, he asked, “Where do we always cheat each other unless someone else is watching? That is where blockchain might be applicable.”

Another speaker at the final session of the conference on Thursday, Tel Aviv University Economics professor Neil Gandal, presented a paper called “Price Manipulation in the Bitcoin Ecosystem” that he and his colleagues first published in January.

Tel Aviv University Economics Professor Neil Gandal speaks at Cyber Week, June 21, 2018 (Simona Weinglass/Times of Israel)

Gandal contended that Bitcoin’s first major price spike, when it rose from $150 to over $1,000 in late 2013, was likely caused by a single person using trading robots.

Gandal argued that if this could happen once it could happen again, and cited a recent paper by University of Texas economists arguing that Bitcoin’s more recent price spike, when it reached close to $20,000 last year, was also caused by price manipulation.

“It’s possible for a small number of actors to manipulate things,” he said. “We need some sort of regulation [of cryptocurrencies],” he said. “There is a loss of confidence in the system.”

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He promised people paradise — and sent them to their deaths

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK POST)

 

He promised people paradise — and sent them to their deaths

In September 1822, about 250 largely impoverished Scots uprooted their lives to embark on what appeared to be the journey of a lifetime, sailing to a prosperous Central American country called Poyais to start anew.

But rather than finding a land overflowing with vegetation, livestock, workable soil and opportunities galore as they were promised, “Poyais” was a barren nightmare of unfarmable land and hostile natives. Expecting to build new and better lives, they had instead fallen victim to one of the most audacious and deadly swindles in history, one that most didn’t survive.

The new book “Hoax: A History of Deception” by Ian Tattersall and Peter Nevraumont (Black Dog & Leventhal), out now, features 50 tales of frauds and cons from throughout history. Perhaps none, though, was more brazen than Gregor MacGregor’s Poyais scam.

MacGregor, a descendant of famed Scottish hero Rob Roy, was a warrior who had fought on Venezuela’s behalf during their war for independence.

“He had a very high public profile,” Tattersall says. “He had great military credentials stemming from his time as a mercenary in South America. He was a person of impeccable credentials . . . with an aura of authority about him.”

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Gregor MacGregorGetty Images

In the early 1820s, upon returning from battle, MacGregor claimed he had been made prince of a territory called Poyais, near the Honduran coast, and that it was perfect for new settlers. He began selling bonds to help develop the area, as well as plots of Poyaisian land and packages that included promises of employment there. While he had been there and did own the land in question, “Poyais” and his title were fictions he invented.

Between hard economic times in Scotland and MacGregor’s sterling reputation, Poyais could not have sounded more inviting to impoverished Scots.

“He told them it was a land of milk and honey where you could get several harvests of crops a year, and there were gold nuggets in the river and game abounding on the landscape,” says Tattersall. “He really made it sound like a nirvana.”

MacGregor convinced seven shiploads of Scots to tear up their lives and relocate, raising around 200,000 pounds in the process, the equivalent of around $25 million in current US dollars.

The first two ships departed for Poyais in September 1822, carrying around 250 passengers total on a two-month journey. The Guardian newspaper reported the following in October 1823: “When the emigrants arrived at [Honduras], nothing could exceed their anguish at finding, where they expected a fine flourishing town with nearly 2,000 inhabitants, only two or three ruined huts.”

Despondent but trapped, the settlers tried to build a town and plant crops, but they had no resources. The soil was unsuitable and there was scant livestock, leaving them little access to food.

Over the next two years, most of the 250 residents died.

“[One of the] particularly heart-wrenching things was an account in the newspaper of a shoemaker called Hellie who shot himself, having been promised the position of shoemaker to the Princess of Poyais, and then finding nothing when he got there,” Tattersall says. “That sort of experience was repeated over and over again with, like, 200 people.”

Why he took these people’s lives and transported them to this insect-infested hell, nobody really understands

A small group of survivors (there is no record of how many — Tattersall guesses “a couple dozen at most”) were eventually rescued by a passing timber trading boat and brought to Belize. By this point, five more Scottish ships filled with people had embarked toward Poyais. Word of the catastrophe got back to Scotland, and the Royal Navy was sent to recall the ships.

Making the tragedy especially senseless was that MacGregor sold his scam bonds and plots in several stages, and had already brought in a fortune before the first ships sailed. He could have easily absconded with his ill-gotten gains and not destroyed all those lives.

“He did this bond scam, then organized the expedition. Why he took these people’s lives and transported them to this insect-infested hell, nobody really understands,” Tattersall says.

When word of the hoax spread throughout Scotland, MacGregor fled to France, where he immediately attempted a similar scam. He was arrested but eventually acquitted. He tried other cons over the next decade, then relocated to Venezuela, where he was regarded a returning hero. He lived there until his death in 1845 at age 58.

Even after profiling 50 fraudsters in his book, Tattersall says he can’t begin to comprehend what might have driven MacGregor to such behavior, especially given that the Scot could have become extremely wealthy from his crime without causing so much tragedy.

“The only suggestion that makes any sense is that he came to believe his own propaganda [about Poyais],” Tattersall says. “It seems unbelievable that [he] could do something so cynical, heartless and unfeeling. It is not a dynamic I could possibly understand.”

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