NSA’s secret MYSTIC system is capable recording 100% of foreign country’s telephone calls


NSA

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The United States National Security Agency has built a surveillance system capable of recording “100 percent” of a foreign country’s telephone calls, enabling the agency to rewind and review conversations as long as a month after they take place, according to people with direct knowledge of the effort and documents supplied by former contractor Edward Snowden.A senior manager for the program compares it to a time machine – one that can replay the voices from any call without requiring that a person be identified in advance for surveillance.

http://wapo.st/1gyqVaz

The voice interception program, called MYSTIC, began in 2009. Its RETRO tool, short for “retrospective retrieval,” and related projects reached full capacity against the first target nation in 2011. Planning documents two years later anticipated similar operations elsewhere.

In the initial deployment, collection systems are recording “every single” conversation nationwide, storing billions of them in a 30-day rolling buffer that clears the oldest calls as new ones arrive, according to a classified summary.

The call buffer opens a door “into the past,” the summary says, enabling users to “retrieve audio of interest that was not tasked at the time of the original call.” Analysts listen to only a fraction of 1 percent of the calls, but the absolute numbers are high. Each month, they send millions of voice clippings, or “cuts,” for processing and long-term storage.

At the request of U.S. officials, The Washington Post is withholding details that could be used to identify the country where the system is being employed or other countries where its use was envisioned.

No other NSA program disclosed to date has swallowed a nation’s telephone network whole. Outside experts have sometimes described that prospect as disquieting but remote, with notable implications for a growing debate over the NSA’s practice of “bulk collection” abroad.

Bulk methods capture massive data flows “without the use of discriminants,” as President Barack Obama put it in January. By design, they vacuum up all the data they touch – meaning that most of the conversations collected by RETRO would be irrelevant to U.S. national security interests.

In the view of U.S. officials, however, the capability is highly valuable.

In a statement, Caitlin Hayden, spokeswoman for the National Security Council, declined to comment on “specific alleged intelligence activities.” Speaking generally, she said “new or emerging threats” are “often hidden within the large and complex system of modern global communications, and the United States must consequently collect signals intelligence in bulk in certain circumstances in order to identify these threats.”

NSA spokeswoman Vanee Vines, in an emailed statement, said that “continuous and selective reporting of specific techniques and tools used for legitimate U.S. foreign intelligence activities is highly detrimental to the national security of the United States and of our allies, and places at risk those we are sworn to protect.”

Some of the documents provided by Snowden suggest that high-volume eavesdropping may soon be extended to other countries, if it has not been already. The RETRO tool was built three years ago as a “unique one-off capability,” but last year’s secret intelligence budget named five more countries for which the MYSTIC program provides “comprehensive metadata access and content,” with a sixth expected to be in place by last October.

The budget did not say whether the NSA now records calls in quantity in those countries, or expects to do so. A separate document placed high priority on planning “for MYSTIC accesses against projected new mission requirements,” including “voice.”

Ubiquitous voice surveillance, even overseas, pulls in a great deal of content from U.S. citizens who telephone, visit and work in the target country. It may also be seen as inconsistent with Obama’s Jan. 17 pledge “that the United States is not spying on ordinary people who don’t threaten our national security,” regardless of nationality, “and that we take their privacy concerns into account.”

In a presidential policy directive, Obama instructed the NSA and other agencies that bulk acquisition may be used only to gather intelligence on one of six specified threats, including nuclear proliferation and terrorism. The directive, however, also noted that limits on bulk collection “do not apply to signals intelligence data that is temporarily acquired to facilitate targeted collection.”

The emblem of the MYSTIC program depicts a cartoon wizard with a telephone-headed staff. Among the agency’s bulk collection programs disclosed over the past year, its focus on the spoken word is unique. Most of the programs have involved the bulk collection of either metadata – which does not include content – or text, such as email address books.

Telephone calls are often thought to be more ephemeral and less suited than text for processing, storage and search. Indeed, there are indications that the call-recording program has been hindered by the NSA’s limited capacity to store and transmit bulky voice files.

In the first year of its deployment, a program officer wrote that the project “has long since reached the point where it was collecting and sending home far more than the bandwidth could handle.”

Because of similar capacity limits across a range of collection programs, the NSA is leaping forward with cloud-based collection systems and a gargantuan new “mission data repository” in Utah. According to its overview briefing, the Utah facility is designed “to cope with the vast increases in digital data that have accompanied the rise of the global network.”

Christopher Soghoian, the principal technologist for the American Civil Liberties Union, said history suggests that “over the next couple of years they will expand to more countries, retain data longer and expand the secondary uses.”

Spokesmen for the NSA and the Office of Director of National Intelligence James Clapper declined to confirm or deny expansion plans or discuss the criteria for any change.

Based on RETRO’s internal reviews, the NSA has strong motive to deploy it elsewhere. In the documents and interviews, U.S. officials said RETRO is uniquely valuable when an analyst first uncovers a new name or telephone number of interest.

With up to 30 days of recorded conversations in hand, the NSA can pull an instant history of the subject’s movements, associates and plans. Some other U.S. intelligence agencies also have access to RETRO.

Highly classified briefings cite examples in which the tool offered high-stakes intelligence that would not have existed under traditional surveillance programs in which subjects were identified for targeting in advance. Unlike most of the government’s public claims about the value of controversial programs, the briefings supply names, dates, locations and fragments of intercepted calls in convincing detail.

Present and former U.S. officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity to provide context for a classified program, acknowledged that large numbers of conversations involving U.S. citizens would be gathered from the country where RETRO operates.

The NSA does not attempt to filter out their calls, defining them as communications “acquired incidentally as a result of collection directed against appropriate foreign intelligence targets.”

Until about 20 years ago, such incidental collection was unusual unless a U.S. citizen was communicating directly with a foreign intelligence target. In bulk collection systems, which are exponentially more capable than the ones in use throughout the Cold War, calls and other data from U.S. citizens and permanent residents are regularly ingested by the millions.

Under the NSA’s internal “minimization rules,” those intercepted communications “may be retained and processed” and included in intelligence reports. The agency generally removes the names of U.S. callers, but there are several broadly worded exceptions.

An independent group tasked by the White House to review U.S. surveillance policies recommended that incidentally collected U.S. calls and emails – including those obtained overseas – should nearly always “be purged upon detection.” Obama did not accept that recommendation.

Vines, in her statement, said the NSA’s work is “strictly conducted under the rule of law.”

RETRO and MYSTIC are carried out under Executive Order 12333, the traditional grant of presidential authority to intelligence agencies for operations outside the United States.

Since August, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, and others on that panel have been working on plans to assert a greater oversight role for intelligence gathering abroad. Some legislators are now considering whether Congress should also draft new laws to govern those operations.

Experts say there is not much legislation that governs overseas intelligence work.

“Much of the U.S. government’s intelligence collection is not regulated by any statute passed by Congress,” said Timothy H. Edgar, the former director of privacy and civil liberties on Obama’s national security staff. “There’s a lot of focus on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which is understandable, but that’s only a slice of what the intelligence community does.”

All surveillance must be properly authorized for a legitimate intelligence purpose, he said, but that “still leaves a gap for activities that otherwise basically aren’t regulated by law because they’re not covered by FISA.”

Beginning in 2007, Congress loosened 40-year-old restrictions on domestic surveillance because so much foreign data crossed U.S. territory. There were no comparable changes to protect the privacy of U.S. citizens and residents whose calls and emails now routinely cross international borders.

Vines noted that the NSA’s job is to “identify threats within the large and complex system of modern global communications,” where ordinary people share fiber-optic cables with legitimate intelligence targets.

For Peter Swire, a member of the president’s review group, the fact that U.S. citizens and foreigners use the same devices, software and networks calls for greater care to safeguard privacy.

“It’s important to have institutional protections so that advanced capabilities used overseas don’t get turned against our democracy at home,” he said.

© 2014, The Washington Post/http://www.ticotimes.net

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China keeps an eye on Abe as Japan PM seeks to rally support from Asean


Japanese PM Abe_Asean Japanese PM Shinzo Abe BEIJING: The Chinese media kept a close eye on Tokyo as leaders from Asean countries gathered in Japan for the Japan-Asean Summit.

The three-day summit, which marks 40 years of ties between Japan and Asean, was seen as an opportunity for Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to rally support against China.

In the latest episode of China-Japan feud, China has declared a new air defence identification zone (ADIZ) over the East China Sea, which overlapped the territory claimed by South Korea and Japan.

As expected, Abe brought up the restriction on freedom of flight during the summit in an indirect reference to China’s air defence zone.

A Japanese official reportedly quoted him as telling the Asean leaders that “moves to unilaterally change the status quo, moves to put restrictions on the international aviation order, which is built on freedom of flight, are strong concerns”.

Under the aircraft identification rules which came into effect on Nov 23, all foreign aircraft intending to enter the zone have to report their flight plans to the Chinese authority and adhere to relevant instructions once they enter the zone.

The Chinese officials reserve the rights to adopt defensive emergency measures when aircraft fail to abide by the identification rules or obey the instructions.

State news agency Xinhua said Japan’s inclusion of air zone safety as a key security issue in the summit was a move to “plant a poisonous thorn”.

In a commentary, it said Abe’s frequent visits to nations in the Asean regional bloc in the past one year aimed at roping in the countries to rein in China.

It criticised Japan of using the East China Sea and South China Sea territorial issues to cause chaos and discord within Asean and to undermine the relationship between Asean and its partners.

Global Times was in the opinion that Japan would not succeed in its bid to get Asean to confront China.

“No matter how Tokyo creates waves, it will not gain a strategic advantage over China in South-East Asia.

“No countries will confront China for the sake of a declining Japan. Even the US, Japan’s patron, has to maintain relations with China while keeping its support to Japan,” it wrote.

During the summit, Japan has promised ¥2 trillion (RM62.7bil) of loans and grants to the region over five years. The pledge was interpreted as an attempt to increase its influence.

Tang Chunfeng, an expert on Japanese issues in the Research Institute of the Chinese Commerce Ministry, told the Chinese version of Global Times that Asean countries viewed Japan as the “God of Prosperity” who is willing to give them money.

“They are reluctant to offend Japan, but at the same time, they will not let China bear a grudge against them. They are only using Japan.”

Tsinghua University’s Institute of Modern International Relations deputy director Liu Yongjiang added that Asean would not take sides in this issue.

“Most Asean countries want the region to develop in a stable and peaceful environment, but Japan is constantly causing trouble.

“It will worry the Asean countries and even lead to dissatisfaction,” he said.

Commenting on Abe’s remarks to gather support from the Asean countries, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hong Lei said China is aware of the relevant reports.

“We believe that countries should not target a third party or undermine the interests of the third party when developing ties with each other.

“They should instead make efforts to maintain regional peace and stability,” he said in a press conference on Friday, the transcript of which was available on the ministry’s website.

Contributed by Tho Xin Yi The Star/Asia News Network

 

Don’t make waves on China’s ADIZ

If Tokyo truly seeks a peaceful and secure Asia-Pacific, then it is in its own interests to call off provocative moves over China’s establishment of the East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ).

According to a recent news report, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is going to stage again its China-is-to-blame game at the summit of Japan and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

It is also reported that Abe seeks to drag the ASEAN members into an agreement to counter Beijing in searching for “maritime and air security.”

While, for the record, it is believed that anyone with only half a brain knows that it is Japan who intentionally set the region on fire in the first place.

Following its provocative purchase of China’s Diaoyu Islands, Japan has wasted no time in trumpeting up the China-threat theory, and deliberately paints itself a victim of Beijing’s development, which is in fact invigorating regional and global economic recovery.

Instead of chilling down the flaring regional tension of its own making and ending the decades-long economic stagnation, the cunning Abe administration has labored to drive wedges between China and its regional partners and neighbors.

Many might wonder why Japan chooses to bury its relations with China half dead over building up mutually beneficial partnership with Beijing, which would mean greater business and trade opportunities?

While, the truth is, Mr. Abe and his government have done their own calculations, but only with a flaw that could backfire.

For decades, an economically-strong Japan has attempted strenuously to return itself to the ranks of a “normal country,” and become an influential power by shaking off military expansion yokes forged by the pacifist constitution in the wake of Japan’s defeat in the Second World War.

To that end, a number of Japanese administrations have been expanding its military powers, buying votes for a permanent seat on the UN Security Council, and denying its history of aggression.

The smarty-pants right-wing Japanese politicians also believed that their ambitions for the comeback of their hegemonic role in the region would be categorically concealed as long as it can promote China’s growth a threat to the US national interests, and safety and security of other regional countries.

In fact, Tokyo has made so big a mistake that its inflammatory moves have already efficiently worried or enraged many of its neighbors. It seems to have forgotten that a constructive relationship with countries around it is the first step toward the final destination of a normal country.

If keep missing that point, Japan, which can never move out of Asia, can now kiss good-bye to its “big dreams.”

Against the backdrop of world peace and global integration, China welcomes closer ties between Japan and ASEAN, and Tokyo’s active participation in the regional integration process. However, Japan should never jeopardize China’s interests and relations with any other third party.

As for China’s establishment of ADIZ, it is just, reasonable and complies with international practices, and Beijing’s normal growth of national defense capacity does not pose a threat to any country.

Beijing always advocates resolving territorial and maritime disputes through dialogue, yet it will never allow any country to infringe upon its territorial sovereignty.

Therefore, if history is too embarrassed for politicians in Tokyo to face, they should at least face the facts on the ground and start to pursue its national agenda in a rational manner. – Xinhua

Abe targets China at Asean Summit  

 China is expected to top the agenda at this weekend’s summit between Japan and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), as Tokyo seeks a united front against China’s newly established Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) and aims to restore its influence in Southeast Asia.

The Japan-ASEAN summit in Tokyo, starting Friday, is held to commemorate Japan’s 40-year ties with the group.

It comes after China’s setting up of the ADIZ over the East China Sea and amid speculation that a similar zone would be imposed over the South China Sea, where several ASEAN countries are locked in territorial disputes with Beijing.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe wasted no time in seeking support from ASEAN countries.

During a meeting with visiting Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak on Thursday, Abe reiterated his criticism of China’s ADIZ. According to Japan’s Kyodo News, Najib expressed his understanding of Japan’s protest.

A draft statement for the leaders “stresses the importance of freedom of flight through airspace over the high seas, as recognized by international law,” Kyodo reported last week. The document reportedly does not single out China.

“Abe intends to defame China and pile up international censure on Beijing,” Gao Hong, a deputy director with the Institute of Japanese Studies at the Chinese Acedemy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times, but noted it is doomed to failure.

Citing the fact that even the US didn’t stand up to demand a revoke of the zone as Japan had wished, Gao said it is unimaginable that ASEAN, who have benefited from China’s good neighborly diplomacy, would act in accordance with Tokyo’s will.

Zhang Yunling, director of the Institute for International Studies under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times that while ASEAN is counting on Japan to counterbalance a rising China, they wouldn’t accept statements that explicitly criticize Beijing.

Responding to the Japan-ASEAN summit, China’s foreign ministry spokesperson Hong Lei on Thursday said that China hopes relevant countries will not target a third party and harm the interests of the third party.

The summit is the second of its kind between Japan and ASEAN. Zhang said, compared to the first summit held in 2003, this year’s summit also eyes competing with China over influence in Southeast Asia.

While Japan used to hold a big sway in the region, China has surpassed it in recent years and is ASEAN’s largest trade partner.

In a bid to restore Japan’s influence, Abe has visited all 10 ASEAN members  since taking office a year ago, bringing a raft of business deals and aid to the region, while pushing for joint action to “maintain regional peace.”

Abe plans to announce at the summit this weekend that Japan will extend 320 billion yen ($3.1 billion) worth of aid to boost disaster prevention and cultural exchange with ASEAN, Kyodo reported on Thursday.

On the sidelines of the summit, Cambodia and Japan are expected to sign four deals including defense cooperation and Japanese assistance for Cambodian road and hospital development.

Reuters reported that Japan is also going to pledge a post-typhoon loan to the Philippines of some 10 billion yen.

Hu Lingyuan, a professor with the Center for Japanese Studies at Fudan University, told the Global Times that Southeast Asia is only second to the US in Japan’s diplomatic priorities.

“In recent years, Japan has been using territorial disputes in the East China Sea and South China Sea to draw Vietnam and the Philippines to its side. It is also helping the US to lower China’s influence in Myanmar,” Hu said, noting the aim is to exert political pressure against China and reap economic benefits.

Although dwarfed by China in trade, Japan has more investment in and contributes more aid to ASEAN, Zhang said, noting “therefore ASEAN countries are willing to maintain close ties with Japan and use the rift between Tokyo and Beijing to maximize their own gains.”

Sidebar: Abe’s 10-country tour of 2013

January 16, Vietnam

The two countries reached economic and security agreements. Japan will provide $500 million in new loans.

January 17, Thailand

The two countries agreed to strengthen economic and security cooperation.

January 18, Indonesia

The two countries discussed economic and security issues, including the East China Sea.

May 24-26, Myanmar

Japan endorsed Myanmar’s reform program by writing off nearly $2 billion in debt and extending new aid worth $400 million.

July 25, Malaysia,

The two agreed to cooperate in high technology such as high-speed rail, water and waste treatment. They will also collaborate in finance and security in the Malacca Strait.

July 26, Singapore

Abe said he intends to promote “strategic diplomacy” in the region, particularly with an eye to strengthening ties and its economic partnership with ASEAN.

July 27, Philippines

Japan agreed to provide 10 patrol boats for its coast guard to help counter recent maritime advances by China.

October 9, Brunei

At the 16th ASEAN-Japan summit in Brunei, Abe called for security cooperation with Asia-Pacific nations “with which we share fundamental values.”

November 15, Cambodia

Japan offers support in investment, democratic reform and health, while promoting it will “proactively contribute to the regional peace and stability.”

November 16, Laos

The two decided to seek the launch of a security dialogue framework. Japan agreed to provide infrastructure and medical aid.

By Yang Jingjie – Global Times

China sets up air defence zone over East China Sea, a strategic move


China air defence zone

VIDEO: AIR DEFENSE ZONE CCTV News – CNTV English.

http://english.cntv.cn/program/china24/20131123/104125.shtml

The Chinese government on Saturday issued a statement on establishing the East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone.

The move, however, provoked anger in Japan, which accused China of “one-sidedly” setting up the zone that covers the disputed Diaoyu islands, and described the zone as “totally unacceptable.”

Having no intention to generate tensions, China’s move is to uphold its own legitimate rights and safeguard what has always been its own.

As pointed out by many military experts, the establishment of the air zone is a necessary, rightful and totally legitimate measure taken by China in protecting its sovereignty and providing air security.

Actually, the establishment of the air zone is not only perfectly legitimate, but also in line with current international practice.

An air defense identification zone is established by a maritime nation to guard against potential air threats. Since the 1950s, more than 20 countries, including the United States, Australia, Germany and Japan itself, have successively established such zones.

China’s Defense Ministry spokesman Yang Yujun has stressed that the zone “has no particular target and will not affect the freedom of flight in relevant airspace.”

Since the zone is both in line with the UN Charter and in respect of relevant international laws and customs, China has every right to decide on its own whether to set up such zones, without getting permission from any other countries.

And Japan should know better than to continue its overreaction and learn to accept the “unacceptable.”

On Saturday, US Secretary of State John Kerry also voiced concerns over the zone, fearing it might “constitute an attempt to change the status quo in the East China Sea,” and increase tensions and risks in the region.

But is it China to blame for upsetting the status quo over the islands?

The status quo of the Diaoyu islands, which had lasted for decades under the principle of shelving the dispute, has already been broken more than one year ago when the Japanese government launched a unilateral move to “purchase” and “nationalize” the islands.

The farce of “buying” the Chinese territories is a sign of Japan’s expanding nationalism and growing belligerence, which should be identified as the real danger in the region.

Instead of “increasing tensions and creating risks,” the setup of China’s air zone could contribute much to regional peace and security by curbing the increasing rampancy of Japan’s right-wing forces, as well as the continuous and dangerous provocations of Japanese politicians, which even Washington should be vigilant against.

The White House has repeatedly said that the United States does not take a position on territorial disputes between China and Japan, a neutral stance the Chinese government has appreciated.

But keeping a blind eye to the dangerous tendency in Japan could prove to be risky and might even jeopardize the US national interests.

Air defense identification zone a strategic decision: experts

The establishment of the East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone is a strategic decision in accordance with China’s current national security situation, experts said.

“Setting up the air defense identification zone can effectively safeguard national sovereignty and security,” said Zhang Junshe, a military expert, adding that the move conforms to the fundamental spirit and principle of international law.

The Chinese government issued a statement on Saturday morning on establishing the East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone. It also issued an announcement on the aircraft identification rules and a diagram for the zone.

According to the announcement, China will take timely measures to deal with air threats and unidentified flying objects from the sea, including identification, monitoring, control and disposition.

“The move also accords with common international practices as the United States and Canada took the lead around the world in setting up such zones starting in the 1950s,” said Xing Hongbo, a military and legal expert, adding that more than 20 countries have set up air defense identification zones since then.

“Various aircraft with high altitude and high-speed flying capabilities have been broadly used around the world with the development of aviation technology, and it’s hard for China to identify an unidentified flying object and adopt countermeasures immediately,” said Meng Xiangqing, a military expert.

The establishment of the zone can help set aside early warning time to ascertain an aircraft’s purpose and attributes and adopt measures to protect air defense security, Meng said. – Xinhua

Property gain tax won’t hurt genuine buyers


Budget 2014_RGPT

Banning DIBS is the right move

FOR many years, the National House Buyers Association (HBA) has been urging the Government to take measures to stem the steep rise in property prices to avoid a “homeless generation” as current property prices are far beyond the reach of many low and middle-income families in urban and suburban areas.This is a ticking time bomb that will result in many social problems if left unchecked.

Real Property Gains Tax (RPGT)

The announcement of the revised rate of tax on gains made in the disposal of properties, namely, the Real Property Gains Tax (RPGT), formerly known as the Anti Speculation Act, under Budget 2014 is far more superior to what had been proposed under Budget 2013 (See table above)

This is because, typically, if the property is purchased directly from the developer, it takes two years (for landed properties) and three years (for strata properties) to be completed.

Hence, under the previous RPGT, speculators could purchase properties from property developers upon their launch and then flip these properties on completion (after two years) and having to pay 10% (i.e. within the 3rd to 5th year).

It is hoped that the revised RPGT rate will deter speculators and, at the same time, not punish genuine house buyers who buy for their own stay or long-term investment. It is worth noting that buyers of residential property could seek a once-in-a-lifetime exemption from the tax.

Budget 2014 is best described as an “excellent mathematical formula” to curb the unbridled escalation of house prices, which has in the last three years skyrocketed. The Government has taken a step in the right direction with measures to slow down the steep rise in property prices due to false demand caused by excessive speculation fuelled by easy housing loans and the previously low RPGT.

Foreign purchasers to pay more

HBA applauds the move to increase the minimum price of property that can be purchased by foreigners from RM500,000 to RM1mil. Foreigners must be prevented from “snapping up” property meant for the lower and middle income.

This artificially inflates prices and creates a domino effect which can result in higher property prices across the industry. This is especially true for development corridors such as Iskandar Malaysia which has seen foreign purchasers arriving in droves and scooping up properties with their advantageous exchange rate.

Banning the Developer Interest-Bearing Scheme (DIBS) 

DIBS is popular with speculators as they pay nothing to make a profit. Their initial down-payments and deposits are sometimes factored into the purchase price by the collusive developers, and some unethical financial institutions do not even require that the developer collect the deposit that has to be paid by the so-called purchaser.

This is one of the factors which induces “bogus” house buyers (which I have written about in this column on Aug 31 entitled: Of Speculators and bogus house buyers) who merely flip the property at the right time.

Kudos to Bank Negara for heeding our call and banning DIBS. It may be worth noting that Singapore banned DIBS in 2009.

Considering the deep pockets of property speculators, the effectiveness of these measures remain to be seen. However, they are expected to make speculation unworthwhile. HBA praises the Prime Minister for putting a stop to DIBS, which is one of the reasons attributed to the steep increase in property prices for three reasons:

1. DIBS encourages speculation as the house buyer does not need to “service” any interest/instalment during the construction stage. This will “lure” and tempt many house buyers to speculate and buy into DIBS projects hoping to flip on completion and make a quick profit with little or no capital upfront. Connivingly, the interest element is “serviced” by the participating developers.

2. DIBS artificially inflates prices as all interests borne by the developer are ultimately imputed into the property price. This in turn creates a domino effect which pulls up property prices in surrounding locations.

3. Bank and financial institution staff conniving with developers using the DIBS model should be investigated on their “modus operandi” in financing those artificially inflated prices (DIBS + sales price) and ignoring guidelines on prudent lending.

Banks and financial institutions are to be prudent and only provide mortgage financing up to the fair value/market value of the property. In this respect, a benchmark of fair value or market value is the current properties available. Somehow, properties sold under DIBS are always priced much higher; 15% to 20% higher compared with those without DIBS.

For standard condominiums costing RM500,000 without DIBS, should the developer market such properties under DIBS, the selling price could be as high as RM650,000. This creates a potential property bubble should the developer default in “servicing” the interest and the borrower/purchaser also defaults. The bank would only be able to recover up to RM500,000 if the said property is auctioned at market value.

In the event of an economic downturn, banks saddled with too much DIBS end-financing could collapse as the losses from such DIBS end-financing will erode the banks’ capital.

The collapse of just one bank/financial institution could cause a systemic collapse of the entire financial industry.

Bank Negara should take action against such bank and financial institution staff who have provided both project financing and end-financing to DIBS projects under the newly-minted Financial Services Act, 2013.

With the RPGT increase, banning of the DIBS and the Government’s aspiration to supply more ‘ownership housing schemes’ at affordable pricing, it is hoped that speculative demand for properties will stabilise to a more realistic level. I have heard that many businessmen do not do business anymore but indulge in property speculation as a livelihood and for income.

It is akin to the stock market dealings that were rampant during a ‘bull run’. Certain things have to be stopped before they become worse like the sub-prime crisis in the US.

If readers were to take a drive around completed projects, they will find signboards advertising units for sale upon the delivery of keys. If the purchaser is purchasing for his own occupation, why is there this need to put up these signboards or appoint estate agents to dispose of the units? It goes to show that some purchasers are merely speculators (not investors) from day one and the banks and financial institutions choose to “close one eye” despite knowing this.

Have the banks ever gone to the ground to check whether the units purchased and financed are actually “owner occupied”? If the property is “owner occupied”, the risk rating is lower and thus, he enjoys a lower interest rate. But if it is non-owner occupied, it should have higher interest rates. Borrowers of “owner occupied” properties are normally required to make a declaration to that effect to enjoy a lower interest rate.

But does the bank participate in this booking of credit risk?

If the property is non-owner occupied, the lending will fall under ‘real estate classification’ and not ‘housing’.

So, there may even be misreporting to Bank Negara and subsequent national statistics.

This column continues next week.

- Contributed by Chang Kim Loong

CHANG KIM LOONG is the honorary secretary-general of the National House Buyers Association (www.hba.org.my), a non-profit, non-governmental organisation (NGO) manned by volunteers. He is also an NGO Councillor at the Subang Jaya Municipality Council.

Related posts:
1. New tax rate on property to keep away flippers
2. Malaysia’s high property taxes may not stop prices going up, sub-sales residential houses likely to soar!
3. Malaysia Tax Budget 2014 Updates

China fights corruption, Bo Xilai sentenced to life in prison


Bo's SentencedBo Xilai (sitting on the defendant’s seat), former secretary of the Chongqing Municipal Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) and a former member of the CPC Central Committee Political Bureau, is sentenced to life imprisonment for bribery, embezzlement and abuse of power at the Jinan Intermediate People’s Court in Jinan City, capital of east China’s Shandong Province, Sept. 22, 2013. He was deprived of political rights for life. The court announced the verdict. (Xinhua/Xie Huanchi) 
Bo's Sentenced1Bo Xilai (C), former secretary of the Chongqing Municipal Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) and a former member of the CPC Central Committee Political Bureau, is sentenced to life imprisonment for bribery, embezzlement and abuse of power, at the Jinan Intermediate People’s Court in Jinan City, capital of east China’s Shandong Province, Sept. 22, 2013. He was deprived of political rights for life. The court announced the verdict. (Xinhua/Xie Huanchi) 

Bo Xilai, former secretary of the Chongqing Municipal Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) and a former member of the CPC Central Committee Political Bureau, was sentenced to life imprisonment on Sunday for bribery, embezzlement and abuse of power.

He was deprived of political rights for life, and his personal assets were also confiscated.

The Jinan Intermediate People’s Court in east China’s Shandong Province announced the verdict.

Bo was found guilty of taking bribes totaling 20.44 million yuan (about $3.3 million), either personally or through his family members, between 1999 and 2012.

Bo’s position had been rising during this period, from the mayor of the Dalian in northeast Liaoning province, to the CPC secretary of the city, to the governor of Liaoning and Commerce Minister.

In return, Bo helped Dalian International Development Co. Ltd., of which Tang Xiaolin was general manager, in taking over the Dalian City liaison office in Shenzhen and also helped Tang obtain quota licenses for importing cars, the court said.

According to court findings, Bo granted Xu Ming, chairman of Dalian Shide Group Co. Ltd., favors in the company’s introduction of a football-like sightseeing hot-air balloon and in its bid for a petrochemical project.

The court found that Bo directly accepted cash totaling 1.1 million yuan from Tang. He was aware of and showed no objection to the fact that his wife Bogu Kailai and their son, Bo Guagua, accepted monetary gains and properties worth 19.33 million yuan from Xu.

According to the verdict, Bo Xilai, while Party chief Dalian in 2000, assigned Wang Zhenggang, then urban planning chief of the city, to take charge of a project to be built by Dalian for an unidentified higher authority.

In March 2002, after the project was completed, the higher authority allocated 5 million yuan to refund the project. Wang proposed that Bo, who had moved to become the governor of Liaoning, use money to cover the expenses of his family. Bo consented and asked Wang to approach his wife Bogu Kailai for the matter.

The 5 million yuan was eventually transferred to an account designated by Bogu.

The court’s judgement said on Nov. 13, 2011, Bogu and Zhang Xiaojun murdered British citizen Neil Heywood by poisoning him at the Lucky Holiday Hotel in Chongqing. Heywood’s body was found on Nov. 15.

Guo Weiguo, then deputy police chief of Chongqing, was in charge of the Heywood case, but he failed to pursue the case to protect Bogu, the court said.

On Jan. 28, 2012, Wang Lijun, then Chongqing’s police chief and vice mayor, told Bo Xilai, then Chongqing’s Party chief and member of the CPC Central Committee Political Bureau that Bogu was the suspect.

Bo later lashed out at Wang for framing a murder accusation against Bogu, slapping Wang’s face and smashing a cup.

At the request of Bogu, Bo asked Wu Wenkang, then deputy secretary general of Chongqing’s Party committee, to launch an investigation against Wang Zhi and Wang Pengfei.

The two had been involved in the investigation of the Heywood case but had then handed over a resignation letter in order to expose the murder case.

Bo asked Chongqing’s Public Security Bureau to interrogate Wang Pengfei. Bo proposed and approved the withdrawal of the nomination of Wang Pengfei as a candidate for deputy head of Yubei District of Chongqing.

In his bid to prevent a review of the Heywood case, Bo also violated the organizational procedures and convened a Standing Committee meeting of the CPC Chongqing Municipal Committee to remove Wang Lijun from his position as Chongqing’s police chief.

After Wang Lijun’s defection to the US Consulate General in Chengdu, capital of Sichuan province on Feb. 6, Bo allowed his wife to take part in official meetings to deal with the impact, and sanctioned her suggestion of asking a hospital to fake a diagnosis that Wang suffered from mental illness. Bo also approved the release of the false information that Wang was receiving a “vacation-style treatment.”

The verdict said Bo’s these actions were important reasons behind Wang’s defection and why the Heywood case was not handled in a timely and legal manner.

All these had created an extremely adverse social impact and greatly hurt the interests of the country and its people, the court said.

The court found Bo guilty of bribe-taking, in that as a public servant, he used his power to seek benefits for others and illegally took money and properties from others.

Also as a public servant, Bo took advantage of his position and embezzled public funds with other accomplices, the facts of which constituted the crime of embezzlement.

The court said Bo’s abuse of power is extremely serious and has led to huge losses to the state and the people.

The court held that there are sufficient and authentic evidences to support prosecutors’ charges against Bo: accepting bribes worth 20.44 million yuan (about $3.3 million), embezzling public funds of 5 million yuan and abusing his power.

Though Bo himself and his lawyer had denied all three charges, the court said these charges are supported by testimonies by several witnesses including Tang Xiaolin, Xu Ming, Bogu Kailai, Wang Zhenggang, Wang Lijun and others, as well as other evidence such as photographs of physical evidence, documentary evidence and electronic data.

In addition, Bo himself has also confessed to part of the facts, and his confession corroborated with those facts.

The court did, however, exclude 1.34 million yuan from the bribery accepted by Bo, saying that there are not enough evidence to support the charge that Xu Ming paid the amount in air tickets for Bogu Kailai and Bo Guagua and that Bo was aware of this.

The illicit money and goods that Bo accepted as bribes or embezzled have been recovered or compensated, the court said.

The Jinan Intermediate People’s Court said its verdict was based on the facts, the nature and the circumstances of Bo’s crimes and their harm to the society.

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China’s content-rich microblogs

Weibo brings public confidence in Bo Xilai’s trial openness; Bo contradicts wife made up evidence


Bo-xilai-mobile-microblog
A mobile phone held by the photographer shows a photo from a court’s microblog page of disgraced Chinese politician Bo Xilai standing trial (Reuters)

The widely watched trial of former senior official Bo Xilai was broadcast live on Weibo over the past two days, a surprise for many people at both home and abroad.

Pictures and video clips were shown. Transcripts from both the defense and prosecution were also released, including parts where Bo denied evidence presented by prosecutors.

This degree of transparency has not happened before. This will create a precedent that will bring lasting impact to the future trials of sensitive cases.

This Weibo live feed has served as an important guarantee of a fair trial for Bo in accordance with the law. The live show has addressed various doubts and rumors in and outside China. It demonstrated that the authorities are ready to receive more public scrutiny.

This is not a political trial, nor a moral one. This will only be a trial by law. Even if someone might have personal goals, before the public eye, there is no way to achieve anything in this trial, anything that is not tolerated by the law.

Besides assuring a fair trial for Bo’s case, the Weibo live feed has also convinced more people about China’s sincere desire to improve the rule of law.

For a while, the Chinese public has been complaining about injustice in constant news reports of scandals or social issues.

The open and transparent trial of Bo provided a different picture to the public, which will significantly change the image of the judicial system.

The most important thing now is to have a fair trial for Bo’s case, which will naturally boost the public’s confidence.

We have seen a very good opening of this trial, with widespread applause and support from various walks of life.

Of course, the Weibo live feed is not without risks. Breaking news about Bo’s scandal had already become a sensation. People have been expressing all kinds of opinions online, no matter how much they know of China’s legal system. Foreign media have also shown great interest in covering this.

No matter what ruling the court eventually gives, there must be some different opinions from the public. The Weibo live feed provided great details of the trial, which will only add fuel to the public discussion about this case.

The development of the rule of law needs both the judicial authorities’ hard work in each case and public support.

Major cases will not only avoid “political judgment,” but also “public opinion judgment.”

A fair trial needs to follow strict legal procedures, while under public scrutiny.

But in the end, it is the court that is responsible for giving a ruling according to the law.

Contributed by By Global Times

Bo Contradicts Wife as Chinese Media Stress Trial’s Transparency

Ousted Politburo member Bo Xilai suggested his wife made up evidence to avoid a death sentence and denied covering up a British man’s murder at a trial that state media said was proof no one’s above the law in China.

“I feel there are big discrepancies in the charges I have been accused of,” Bo said yesterday of the claim that he tried to hide his wife Gu Kailai’s involvement in Neil Heywood’s murder, according to a transcript released by the court. Gu was given a suspended death sentence last year for killing Heywood, and Bo is accused of bribery, embezzlement and abuse of power.

Bo Xilai's Wife Gu Kailai People watch a recorded testimony by Gu Kailai, wife of former Chinese Politburo member Bo Xilai, broadcast at a hotel near the Jinan Intermediate People’s Court in Jinan on Aug. 23, 2013. Photographer: Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images.
Bo Xilai Is a Scapegoat in `Show Trial,' Howie Says
Aug. 22 (Bloomberg) — Fraser Howie, a director at Newedge Singapore and co-author of “Red Capitalism: The Fragile Financial Foundation of China’s Extraordinary Rise,” talks about former Politburo member Bo Xilai’s trial. Bo went on trial today for bribery and embezzlement with China’s judiciary as much in the spotlight as the man at the center of the country’s most politically charged case in 30 years. Howie speaks from Singapore with Angie Lau on Bloomberg Television’s “Asia Edge.” (Source: Bloomberg).
Bo Xilai Denied Taking Bribes
Aug. 23 (Bloomberg) –- Bloomberg’s Stephen Engle reports on the start of day two of the Bo Xilai trial on Bloomberg Television’s “First Up.” (Source: Bloomberg) .  
Lam: Trial Is a Choreographed Show
Aug. 23 (Bloomberg) –- Chinese University Of Hong Kong Adjunct Professor Willy Lam discusses the Bo Xilai trial with Rishaad Salamat on Bloomberg Television’s “On The Move Asia.” (Source: Bloomberg)

Bo, 64, mounted a defense that did an effective job of exposing gaps in the case against him, even though the Communist Party remains in control and a guilty verdict is almost certain, according toNicholas Bequelin, a Hong Kong-based researcher for Human Rights Watch. The case has broken with past political trials because the court is releasing live updates and detailed transcripts of the proceedings.

“It’s clear that the party is trying to give maximum legitimacy to the judiciary proceedings that will put an end to the Bo Xilai affair,’ Bequelin said. ‘‘But I think that the effect has been somewhat unexpected for the authorities. Bo is coming out looking pretty good.”

Party Secretary

Bo, a former commerce minister and party secretary of Chongqing municipality, was once considered a rising star in the Communist Party. His downfall in March of last year upended a once-a-decade leadership transition and shone a spotlight on corruption at the party’s highest levels.

Along with bribery and embezzlement charges that had been the focus since the trial began Aug. 22, Bo is charged with abuse of power for allegedly trying to cover up Gu’s role in Heywood’s 2011 murder. The court came to that charge yesterday, and the trial continues today.

Bo was removed as Chongqing party secretary and ousted from the Politburo last year after his former police chief in the city, Wang Lijun, fled to a U.S. consulate with evidence about his wife’s alleged involvement in Heywood’s death. Wang testified yesterday that Bo slapped him in the face when confronted with the possibility that Gu was responsible for the murder.

“My body twitched, and when he was done hitting me, he went back to sit at the table,” Wang testified yesterday. “I noticed my mouth was bleeding, and something was flowing out of my ear.”

Wang was convicted of “bending the law for selfish ends” and sentenced to 15 years in prison last year.

Central Part

Testimony by Gu has been a central part of the prosecution’s case, and included claims yesterday that Bo knew about a 5 million-yuan ($817,000) “consulting fee” given to the family by Wang Zhenggang, a former urban planning official in Dalian when Bo was the city mayor.

“I have feelings for Gu Kailai — she is a relatively weak woman,” Bo said yesterday, according to the transcript. “By telling on someone else she could soon get out of the death penalty. Who could she accuse? All the accusations against me come from Gu Kailai.”

Police cordoned off the streets around the courthouse with metal barricades and yellow plastic tape, emptying out an area about the size of two football fields in what’s normally a crowded city center. The only people on the streets nearby were police in blue uniforms, while black sedans and white vans occasionally came and went from the court building.

Bo’s testimony gave details about his life with Gu, and why she and their son, Bo Guagua, moved abroad. Guagua went to the elite British boarding school Harrow and later to Oxford University, and then graduated from Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government.

Had Affairs

“I did have extramarital affairs — she was very angry about that,” Bo said, adding that he had no need to embezzle money because his wife had made millions of yuan as a lawyer. “So her bringing Guagua abroad was out of anger.”

In a country where the Communist Party maintains strict control of sensitive political trials, the state-run Global Times newspaper said in an editorial the decision to release updates on Weibo, Sina Corp.’s Twitter-like microblogging platform, “served as an important guarantee of a fair trial for Bo in accordance with the law.”

“This degree of transparency has not happened before,” the editorial said. “This will create a precedent that will bring lasting impact to the future trials of sensitive cases.”

The details revealed in the trial demonstrate that “no one is above the law,” the party’s flagship People’s Daily newspaper said. “In the fight against corruption we are after both flies and tigers.”

Hailed Openness

The official Xinhua News Agency said both domestic and foreign media have “hailed the openness and transparency” of the live blogging.

“The public also generally believe that this showcases the Communist Party of China’s resolve in combating corruption and that the move represents historic progress for the rule of law in China,” Xinhua said.

Allowing so much of Bo’s trial to be aired publicly is risky for the Communist Party because it may garner Bo new support from people impressed by his vigorous defense, according to Randy Peerenboom, a law professor at La Trobe University in Melbourne, Australia. That, in turn, may backfire on Bo because the party is still in control, he said.

“If it is the case that Bo Xilai has once again wandered off-script, and the leadership is worried that his cool performance under pressure has won him new admirers, then it is possible that he will receive a much harsher punishment than originally planned,” Peerenboom wrote in an e-mail. 

- Contributed by

Wife and police chief ‘in love triangle’

The most spectacular trial that China has ever witnessed closed with its biggest shock of all as Bo Xilai revealed a tragic love affair between his wife and his city Chongqing’s police chief.

Defiant until the end of his trial on charges of corruption and abuse of power, the 64-year-old fallen leader brushed his lawyers aside to make a final oration that displayed all the bravura that made him such a magnetic figure, and caused China’s other leaders such anxiety.

Behind the biggest drama to hit China‘s Communist Party since the protests in Tiananmen Square, Mr Bo said, was a story of how Chongqing’s police chief, Wang Lijun, had fallen inexorably in love with his wife, Gu Kailai.


 Gu Kailai, wife of ousted Chinese Communist Party Politburo member Bo Xilai
When Mr Bo caught the pair, he claimed, the police chief of the city he ruled had fled his wrath, running to the safety of the United States consulate in a city 160 miles away, a treason which led to their mutual downfall.

“Wang was secretly in love with Gu Kailai for a long time,” Mr Bo told the court, adding that the police chief had declared his passion in a love letter. “In the letter it said he had always had feelings for Kailai and he could not help himself. He even slapped himself in the face eight times.”

“You are acting crazily,” Gu told her suitor, according to Mr Bo. “No, I used to be crazy, but now I am sane,” Wang allegedly replied.

   Former police chief Wang Lijun (Reuters) >>
Mr Bo said Wang had visited his home every day because he was drawn to his wife, and suggested the relationship did not go unrequited.

“They had an extremely special relationship. I was fed up with it,” said Mr Bo. “Gu Kailai even brought Wang’s shoes into my house. I told Zhang Xiaojun (an aide) to get rid of them immediately”.

But when Mr Bo uncovered the relationship, his city’s police chief knew he had made a potentially fatal mistake. “He knew my character. He hurt my family. He hurt my feelings,” Mr Bo said.

There had long been rumours in Chongqing that the previously close bond between Mr Bo and Wang was shattered when they became tangled in a love triangle.

But the allegations by Mr Bo raise new and intriguing questions about the planning of, and the motive for, the murder of Neil Heywood. Wang had previously confessed that he helped Gu plan Mr Heywood’s killing.

Mr Bo’s tale of mad passion caused an instant sensation on the Chinese internet, with one popular post suggesting that the lovers were doomed from the start: Gu was a Scorpio while Wang was a Capricorn and therefore incompatible.

Before revealing the drama in his household, Mr Bo had earlier ridiculed the prosecution’s closing statement, saying: “Even the lowest level television soap cannot have this kind of plot,” he said.

Responding to accusations that he must have been aware of the luxurious lifestyle his family was living, under his nose, Mr Bo asked: “Is Gu Kailai a civilised woman or not?

“Did she want me to love her or not? Would she have come and bothered me with these trifles every day? I was the governor of Liaoning province,” he added.

To accusations that his 25-year-old son, Guagua, spent huge sums travelling the world and carousing, Mr Bo said: “If Guagua kept asking for money for fancy watches and cars and international travel, if he wanted us to pay for his friends and owed the bank huge sums of money, would I have loved such a son?”.

Instead, Mr Bo said, his family was so frugal that he was still wore padded winter trousers that his mother had bought for him in the 1960s.

Mr Bo also repeated that much of the evidence against him had been coerced.

“All of the written confessions I signed before were made against my will,” he said, adding that he had hoped, by confessing, to win rehabilitation.

“I had a hope deep in my heart that I would not be expelled from the Party, I would keep membership and I would keep my political life.”

It was unclear whether Mr Bo’s impressive rhetoric would win him more public support, with hundreds of thousands of people reading his statement on the live-feed from court.

But it did little to help his legal case, and his lawyers even admitted that it was only after 2005, when Mr Bo was promoted to higher office, that corruption had stopped. “He woke up,” they said.

Mr Bo’s defiance may also cost him dearly, in the form of a tougher sentence.

“He not only denied crimes that have been fully backed up with solid evidence, but he also recanted his earlier testimony,” the prosecutors said. “His attitude is to refuse to confess wrongdoing… he should receive harsh punishment.”

If convicted, Mr Bo technically faces the death penalty, although a member of China’s Communist Politburo has never been executed.

As he made his final statement, perhaps the last statement he will ever make in public, Mr Bo said: “I know I am not a perfect man, I am subjective and easily angered. I have made some serious mistakes and problems. I failed to manage my family.”

The court will reconvene at a later date to reveal the verdict.

- Contributed by Malcolm Moore, Jinan  Telegraph UK

It’s not about rights or peace


There are many reasons why crimes happen, but let us not get befuddled by the view that we have to sacrifice our rights in order to live in peace.

Sungai Nibong_04 gang members killedMurder victims: Police personnel bringing out the bodies of the five men who were gunned down at an apartment in Sungai Nibong.

It is quite nice to hear the Prime Minister declare that any future development in criminal laws will not infringe upon human rights. Well, let’s hope that is true.

The thing is, by this statement there is an unsaid implication that human rights and crime are something that are somehow related. One retiree for example said that the price for more freedom is higher crime.

I wondered if this is true. After all, in our country, we respect the old, so perhaps there is some wisdom in this octogenarian’s statement.

So, I decided to poke around the information superhighway (Hah! Bet you haven’t hear that term for a while), and I chanced upon a study done by the United Nations office on drugs and crime in 2012. The study was a comprehensive survey of homicides around the world.

If greater freedom equates with greater crime (here the crime in question is murder), then we should see countries with the greatest civil liberties leading the pack. Crickey, a place like Denmark should, theoretically, be littered with dead bodies everywhere. You shouldn’t be able to walk to your corner shop to buy your poached cod or whatever is eaten in those parts, without having to step over cadavers riddled with bullet holes.

After all, they have ratified about thirty human rights treaties (including one against the death penalty); their criminals must be running around high on Carlsberg and whacking every Thor, Dag and Hagen that they come across.

But, this is not the case. They have one of the lowest murder rates in the world. 0.9 per every 100,000 people. To give that some sense of perspective, our murder rate is 2.3 per every 100,000 people. In fact, looking at the study, we see that there is simply no correlation between civil liberties and crime. The regions with the highest homicide rate tend to be those which are desperately poor.

Now this is of course a cursory amble of the Internet on my part and not some serious academic study, but it seems to me that it is very clear that to equate more human rights to more crime is simply not supported by the facts.

The reason I raise this is that we are often faced with the argument that it is one or the other. Rights or peace. This is simply not the case.

In the light of the recent spate of high profile and horrific crimes that we have faced and the police force’s “war” on gangsters, let us not get befuddled by the view that we have to sacrifice our rights in order to live in peace.

There are a myriad of reasons why crimes happen and these must be examined and studied so that any “war” on crime has to be fought on the correct “battlefield”.

For example, poverty and the vast disparity of wealth between the haves and the have not’s seem to be one of the things that the world’s most murder ridden nations have in common.

It sure as heck is not their observance of human rights principles.

So, yes, let us make all efforts to ensure that this country of ours has the least crime possible, but leave our rights (what little of them we have) well enough alone.

 Brave New World by AZMI SHAROM
Azmi Sharom (azmisharom@yahoo.co.uk) is a law teacher. The views expressed here are entirely his own.

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Fears of gangland wars


Shooting incidents spark fears of gangland war 

GEORGE TOWN: The three shooting incidents, including the assassination of a 37-year-old scrap dealer believed to be associated with Gang 36, which occurred over a span of 24 hours, has spawned speculation of a gangland war.

K. Veerappan was shot when he stopped the BMW 530i he was driving near a traffic light in Anson Road at 11.50am on Thursday.

It bore the registration number WVK 3636, which was believed to symbolise the gang’s number.

A motorcyclist rode up next to the car and the pillion rider whipped out a pistol and fired 14 shots, 10 of which hit his neck, cheek and abdomen.

His body was found slumped and his white shirt drenched with his blood.

The driver’s seat side window was shattered by the gunshots.

George Town OCPD Asst Comm Gan Kong Meng said Veerappan had had three previous drug records, adding that the car he was driving belonged to his 38-year-old friend who lives in Lebuh Macallum.

“Forensic policemen recovered 14 9mm-calibre bullet casings at the scene. Two machetes wrapped in newspaper were found in the car’s rear passenger seat,” ACP Gan said.

Before Veerappan’s shooting, a gunman fired at least six shots at a businessman’s bungalow in Jalan Utama. No one was injured in the 1.15am incident which is believed to be a triad’s warning to the businessman.

Only his 29-year old son, his daughter-in-law and a maid were at home at the time of the incident.

ACP Gan said the businessman, in his 60s, who is presently abroad, had lodged a police report last month after receiving an extortion letter containing six bullets.

“His daughter-in-law and maid found glass fragments from the window on the floor and bullet marks on the walls.

“Based on the CCTV footage, the gunman fired randomly from outside the house,” he said.

ACP Gan said the businessman had also received a text message in Chinese demanding that he deposit money into a local bank account.

“We are checking the mobile phone number from which the SMS was sent and also the bank account which has since been frozen.

“We are investigating the case under Section 39 of the Firearms Act and also Section 506 of the Penal Code for criminal intimidation,” he said, adding that police had not ruled out the possibility that the case could be gang-related.

The third shooting occurred in front of an entertainment outlet in Jalan Datuk Keramat where a 43-year-old bouncer was hit in the left thigh at 12.30am yesterday.

A gunman fired seven shots but only one hit the victim nicknamed Too Pek (Stupid in Hokkien).

Pg Hosp_Too Pek
Too Pek being taken for treatment at the Penang Hospital.

The bouncer is believed to be one of the top leaders of the Si Lian (Four Tyres) also known as the 04 Gang.

It was learnt that Too Pek had just gotten out from his BMW when the unidentified assailant on a motorcycle shot him.

“Despite being hit, he managed to make his way into the outlet to seek help from his friends. He was later sent to the Penang Hospital where he received outpatient treatment.

“Two foreign cleaners were questioned by the police after they were spotted sweeping up the seven bullet casings which were later recovered from a dustbin,” said a source.

Gangland rivalry linked to the drug trade is also believed to be behind three other shootings – in Parit Buntar, Perak; Batu Kawan, Penang; and Air Keroh, Malacca.

A factory van driver N. Jeevandran, 26 was gunned down while leaving his house for work at Taman Seri Semarak, Parit Buntar on July 31. He had five previous criminal records and was was detained under the Restricted Residence Enactment until the Emergency Ordinance was repealed in 2011.

On May 12, S. Kannan, 37, and G. Suresh, 28, were killed and two others were seriously injured in a shooting at the Bukit Tambun traffic-light junction. They had just left a relative’s wedding when two assailants on a motorcycle pulled up to the vehicle and fired multiple shots at about 10.30pm. Both deceased had criminal records.

Police believe the killings could be related to the shooting of S. Sara-vanan, 39, at Air Keroh in February.
Saravanan, who had travelled from Butterworth to stand trial for a robbery case, was gunned down moments after leaving the courthouse.

- The Star contributed to this story

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How stolen handphones would be useless?


HP stolen
Retrieved goods: Some of the handphones and an iPad recovered from the businessman.

KUALA LUMPUR: Stolen handphones will be rendered unusable within three hours of the owners reporting the devices missing. And even changing the SIM cards will not reactivate them.

The system, to be introduced before the end of the year, is part of a government crime-prevention initiative to reduce phone thefts.

A telecommunications industry source said that industry regulator, the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC), issued a directive to telcos in April to comply with the new requirements for this initiative.

MCMC chairman Datuk Mohamed Sharil Tarmizi said the system was to reduce street crime and handphone thefts since stolen smartphones can be sold at half the retail price in the black market.

“Yes, we are doing this. Many countries like the United States, Australia and Britain already have such a system in place. We got the consumers’ backing,” he said.

HP code
[ Type in your image caption here ]

He said MCMC was ironing out some technical issues with the network operators before the service was launched.

Mohamed Sharil added that the telcos were not to charge their subscribers for the new service.

The operators had been told to instal an Equipment Identity Register (EIR) so that the 15-digit International Mobile Station Equipment Identity (IMEI) code that is unique to every phone can be blacklisted if the device is reported stolen. Each EIR will be linked to a Malaysian Central Equip­ment Iden­tity Register (MCEIR), to which the IMEI codes of stolen phones will be forwarded.

The source said all blacklisted IMEI codes would then be stored in the EIRs to render the phones unusable on any network and to block any attempt to reactivate the devices with new SIM cards. Once blocked, the phone cannot ever be reactivated.

“This can help reduce phone thefts and at the same time, assist the police to identify the thieves or anyone trying to reactivate the device,” the source said.

The telcos had been given three months to comply with the MCMC directive and the deadline expired yesterday.

Malaysia will be the first country in the region to introduce this IMEI barring system, according to the source.

MCEIR will be operated by the MCMC, which has outsourced the managing of the system to Nuemera Malaysia Sdn Bhd. The deal was signed about two months ago.

“Nuemera will operate MCEIR round the clock. It will be responsible for monitoring and generating the IMEI code blacklist. The information will be forwarded to all telcos within 180 minutes of the phones being reported stolen or missing,” said the source.

The source said the initiative would be extended regionally and the effort had been endorsed at the recent Asean Telecommunication Senior Officials Meeting and Asean Telecom­munication Ministerial Meeting.
The Star reported in December last year that the rising popularity of smartphones has made them one of the most sought-after loot.

Consumers laud move to block stolen handphones

PETALING JAYA: Consumer associations have given the thumbs up to the initiative to block stolen handphones from being reused or circulated back into the market.

Describing it as a long-overdue move, Federation of Malaysian Con­sumers Associations (Fomca) deputy president Muhammad Sha’ani Abdul­lah said it would contribute towards lowering street crime, especially snatch thefts.

He called on the Malaysian Com­munications and Multimedia Com­mission (MCMC) to work with other regulators in the region so that this initiative can be expanded to other neighbouring countries too. He was responding to a move to reduce phone thefts as part of the Government’s crime prevention measure.

Penang Consumer Protection Asso­ciation president K. Koris Atan said consumers would embrace the move as it would give them peace of mind knowing that their phones would be rendered useless if stolen.

He also warned telecommunication companies (telcos) not to charge consumers for this as the system was already in place.

Muslim Consumers Association of Malaysia secretary-general Datuk Dr Ma’amor Osman said while this was a good move, he was unsure as to how consumers would reap the benefits as the likelihood of getting back their lost devices was slim.

“I also hope this will not cost the Government much,” he said.

One mobile phone user questioned whether having such a mechanism could work a little “too well”.

“What’s the point of getting your phone back if you can’t use it any more? It is better off lost,” said music teacher, Susan Kuee, 39.

She is also concerned over whether unscrupulous parties could take advantage of the new system to maliciously block other people’s phones.

“Perhaps victims could provide some verifying details before they allow authorities to render a phone useless so that malicious people do not abuse the system,” she said.

- The Star/Asia News Network

Crime Watcher shot, banker killed; are Malaysia sliding to a state of lawlessness?


Crime WatchCrime

ANOTHER day, another shooting. It seems as if we are becoming as dangerous as some South American nations where gun violence seems to be the norm.

It’s just not confined to one or two areas but is happening across the nation.

Three shootings in two days. A 25-year-old man, Jasrafveendeerjeet Singh, was shot in front of a restaurant in Ipoh at 10.15pm. Another man, G. Santhana Samy, 30, was wounded in the thigh when he stopped at a traffic light in Butterworth at 8.30pm.

And in Kuala Lumpur, Arab-Malaysian Development Bank founder Hussain Ahmad Najadi died from multiple bullet wounds. He was shot in Lorong Ceylon while walking with his wife to his car in broad daylight.

These incidents followed the murder attempt of MyWatch chairman R. Sri Sanjeevan in Seremban on Saturday who was shot when his car stopped at the traffic lights.

The police response: the setting-up of yet another “high-powered” task force to investigate the crime. Actually, we have lost count of how many high-owered or high-level committees and task forces have been set up to investigate the various shooting crimes.

In fact, we are still waiting for some indication of the progress made by the task force set up in May to hunt down those responsible for the spate of shooting cases then, including the murder of Customs deputy director-general Datuk Shaharuddin Ibrahim.

Federal CID director Comm Datuk Seri Mohd Bakri Zinin had announced that the special CID task force, headed by Federal principal assistant director of Serious Crime (D9) Senior Asst Comm Datuk Huzir Mohamed would identify and arrest the criminals.

At the same time, Penang police have also set up a separate task force to probe a series of shootings, which left at least four people dead over the past five months.

From seemingly ordinary Joes to prominent people being gunned down, the public can’t help but wonder whether we are on a rapid slide to a state of lawlessness. The sense of insecurity and nervousness is definitely growing.

Apart from gun-toting criminals, robbers are crashing restaurants to rob the patrons en masse.

Eateries that used to operate till the wee hours are now closing early; there are way fewer people who want to risk being robbed while having supper.

Even snatch thieves have grown more vicious and brazen. They do not just grab but often slash their victims to incapacitate them, making their getaway easier.

In such a state of affairs, we are almost relieved to read of cases where the “victim” is an ATM. The thieves who hack away and drag out these cash-vending machines seem almost harmless and preferable to those who prey on people.

Undoubtedly, the police have their hands full. Theirs is no easy task with no easy solutions. So far, they are focusing on identifying weapons smugglers to try to root out the source of gun-related crimes.

But more action and arrests are what is desperately needed because the ferocity and the increasing number of assassinations are striking fear in all of us.

Our top cops may continue to try to assure us that our nation is still very safe but unfortunately, that’s just not good enough.

- The Star Says

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