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Taliban slams UN report on Afghan civilian casualties

Press TV – February 19, 2015

The Taliban militants have censured the United Nations for what they describe as its “unjust and political motives” in attributing a rise in the number of Afghan civilian casualties in 2014 to the group’s militancy.

“The findings of the report are unjust and we refute them,” the Taliban militant group declared in a Thursday statement, claiming that Afghan government forces may have also contributed to the high civilian toll in the war-ravaged country in the past year.

The development came after the United Nations announced in a Wednesday report that 72 percent of the overall civilian casualties throughout Afghanistan were attributed to the Taliban and other militant groups.

“The United Nations does not show the crimes that the Afghan military under the Kabul administration is committing against civilians,” the Taliban statement further said.

According to the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, more than 10,000 civilian casualties were recorded across the Asian country during 2014, reflecting a 22-percent hike compared to figures from the previous year.

“Rising civilian deaths and injuries in 2014 attests to a failure to fulfill commitments to protect Afghan civilians from harm,” said Nicholas Haysom, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s special representative for Afghanistan.

The report, however, does not attribute any civilian casualties in the war-torn country to the US-led foreign forces, most of which withdrew from the country by the end of 2014.

Washington’s assassination drone strikes and other air raids and military operations conducted by the US-led forces have been widely blamed for large number of civilian casualties since the foreign troops began their military invasion of the country in 2001.

Afghan civilians have been bearing the brunt of the 13-year war in Afghanistan since the US-led occupation of the country under the pretext of a “war on terror.”

February 19, 2015 Posted by | Deception, Illegal Occupation, Militarism, War Crimes | , , | Leave a comment

Briefing – Gaza: Life beneath the drones

By Tom Anderson and Therezia Cooper | Corporate Watch | February 19, 2015

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Unpiloted aircraft, known as drones in the arms industry, have become Israel’s weapon of choice in its attacks on Gaza. In 2012 drones killed more people in Gaza than any other aircraft. In Israel’s ‘Operation Protective Edge’ attack, 37% of those killed died in drone attacks.

In 2013 Corporate Watch visited Gaza for two months to interview the survivors of drone attacks and human rights workers about the effect of living beneath the drones. The interviews tell the story of the survivors and highlights their calls for support from the global solidarity movement.

This briefing compiles the interviews and gives short profiles of some of the companies profiting from Israel’s drone wars: Elbit and IAI.

We hope that reading this briefing will inspire you to take action in solidarity with people living under siege in Gaza. As one survivor of a drone strike told us: “We do not need just words”.

February 19, 2015 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Subjugation - Torture, War Crimes | , , , | Leave a comment

What’s Happening to Canada? Open letter to P.M.

Nader.org

February 18, 2015

The Right Honourable Stephen Harper, P.C., M.P.
80 Wellington Street
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A2

Dear Prime Minister:

Many Americans love Canada and the specific benefits that have come to our country from our northern neighbor’s many achievements (see Canada Firsts by Nader, Conacher and Milleron). Unfortunately, your latest proposed legislation—the new anti-terrorism act—is being described by leading Canadian civil liberties scholars as hazardous to Canadian democracy.

A central criticism was ably summarized in a February 2015 Globe and Mail editorial titled “Parliament Must Reject Harper’s Secret Policeman Bill,” to wit:

“Prime Minister Stephen Harper never tires of telling Canadians that we are at war with the Islamic State. Under the cloud of fear produced by his repeated hyperbole about the scope and nature of the threat, he now wants to turn our domestic spy agency into something that looks disturbingly like a secret police force.

Canadians should not be willing to accept such an obvious threat to their basic liberties. Our existing laws and our society are strong enough to stand up to the threat of terrorism without compromising our values.”

Particularly noticeable in your announcement were your exaggerated expressions that exceed the paranoia of Washington’s chief attack dog, former vice-president Dick Cheney. Mr. Cheney periodically surfaces to update his pathological war mongering oblivious to facts—past and present—including his criminal war of aggression which devastated Iraq—a country that never threatened the U.S.

You are quoted as saying that “jihadi terrorism is one of the most dangerous enemies our world has ever faced” as a predicate for your gross over-reaction that “violent jihadism seeks to destroy” Canadian “rights.” Really? Pray tell, which rights rooted in Canadian law are “jihadis” fighting in the Middle East to obliterate? You talk like George W. Bush.

How does “jihadism” match up with the lives of tens of millions of innocent civilians, destroyed since 1900 by state terrorism—west and east, north and south—or the continuing efforts seeking to seize or occupy territory?

Reading your apoplectic oratory reminds one of the prior history of your country as one of the world’s peacekeepers from the inspiration of Lester Pearson to the United Nations. That noble pursuit has been replaced by deploying Canadian soldiers in the belligerent service of the American Empire and its boomeranging wars, invasions and attacks that violate our Constitution, statutes and international treaties to which both our countries are signatories.

What has all this post-9/11 loss of American life plus injuries and sickness, in addition to trillions of American tax dollars, accomplished? Has it led to the stability of those nations invaded or attacked by the U.S. and its reluctant western “allies?” Just the opposite, the colossal blowback evidenced by the metastasis of al-Qaeda’s offshoots and similar new groups like the self-styled Islamic state are now proliferating in and threatening over a dozen countries.

Have you digested what is happening in Iraq and why Prime Minister Jean Chrétien said no to Washington? Or now chaotic Libya, which like Iraq never had any presence of Al-Qaeda before the U.S.’s destabilizing military attacks? (See the New York Times’ editorial on February 15, 2015 titled “What Libya’s Unraveling Means”.)

Perhaps you will find a former veteran CIA station chief in Islamabad, Pakistan, Robert L. Grenier more credible. Writing in his just released book: 88 Days to Kandahar: A CIA Diary (Simon & Schuster), he sums up U.S. government policy this way: “Our current abandonment of Afghanistan is the product of a…colossal overreach, from 2005 onwards.” He writes, “in the process we overwhelmed a primitive country, with a largely illiterate population, a tiny agrarian economy, a tribal social structure and nascent national institutions. We triggered massive corruption through our profligacy; convinced a substantial number of Afghans that we were, in fact, occupiers and facilitated the resurgence of the Taliban” (Alissa J. Rubin, Robert L. Grenier’s ‘88 Days to Kandahar,’ New York Times, February 15, 2015).

You may recall George W. Bush’s White House counterterrorism czar, Richard Clarke, who wrote in his 2004 book, Against All Enemies: Inside America’s War on Terror—What Really Happened, “It was as if Osama bin Laden, hidden in some high mountain redoubt, were engaging in long-range mind control of George Bush, chanting, ‘Invade Iraq, you must invade Iraq.’”

Mr. Bush committed sociocide against that country’s twenty-seven million people. Over 1 million innocent Iraqi civilians lost their lives, in addition to millions sick and injured. Refugees have reached five million and growing. He destroyed critical public services and sparked sectarian massacres—massive war crimes, which in turn produce ever-expanding blowbacks.

Canadians might be most concerned about your increased dictatorial policies and practices, as well as this bill’s provision for secret law and courts in the name of fighting terrorism—too vaguely defined. Study what comparable practices have done to the United States – a course that you seem to be mimicking, including the militarization of police forces (see The Walrus, December 2014).

If passed, this act, piled on already stringent legal authority, will expand your national security bureaucracies and their jurisdictional disputes, further encourage dragnet snooping and roundups, fuel fear and suspicion among law-abiding Canadians, stifle free speech and civic action and drain billions of dollars from being used for the necessities of Canadian society. This is not hypothetical. Along with an already frayed social safety net, once the envy of the world, you almost got away with a $30 billion dollar purchase of unneeded costly F-35s (including maintenance) to bail out the failing budget-busting F-35 project in Washington.

You may think that Canadians will fall prey to a politics of fear before an election. But you may be misreading the extent to which Canadians will allow the attachment of their Maple Leaf to the aggressive talons of a hijacked American Eagle.

Canada could be a model for independence against the backdrop of bankrupt American military adventures steeped in big business profits… a model that might help both nations restore their better angels.

Sincerely,

Ralph Nader

February 19, 2015 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Militarism, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , | 1 Comment

French Court Prevents Extradition of Alleged Argentine Torturer

teleSUR | February 18, 2015

France’s highest court prevented the extradition of an Argentine alleged torturer, Mario Sandoval, Wednesday.

According to the International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH), a lower court ruled that Sandoval should be extradited to Argentina to face charges of crimes against humanity, deprivation of liberty and acts of torture causing death. France’s supreme court, the Cour de Cassation, overturned that ruling but also ruled that the case should be re-examined.

Sandoval was a federal police officer during Argentina’s so-called “dirty war” where the military dictatorship targeted leftist activists, disappearing and killing as many as 30,000 people. He moved to France after the fall of Argentina’s 1976-1983 military dictatorship and obtained French citizenship in 1997. He is accused of having committed over 600 human rights violations.

According to Argentine newspaper Pagina 12, Sandoval also gave classes to his colleagues on the “anti-subversive fight” that included methods of torture during interrogations.

The extradition request was based on the case of Hernan Abriata, an architecture student and political activist who was kidnapped from his home in 1976. Sandoval is alleged to have taken him to a clandestine prison in 1976, where an estimated 5,000 people were taken and disappeared.

The Argentine government’s lawyer expressed disappointment at the court’s ruling, which according to Sandoval’s lawyer was based on a technicality.

“This is a bad decision, but we can still salvage it somehow,” said Sophie Thonon-Wesfreid, representing Argentina’s government.

In France, once courts rule for an extradition, it must be further approved by governmental decree.

February 19, 2015 Posted by | Subjugation - Torture, Timeless or most popular | , , , | Leave a comment

Bombshell Interview: Cop Reveals That “Planting Evidence And Lying” Are Just “Part Of The Game”

By John Vibes | The Free Thought Project | February 19, 2015

Palm Beach County, Florida – Journalists at the DC Post were looking through message boards that are frequented by law enforcement officers, when they found a post where one officer was causally talking about planting evidence on “mouthy drivers” and “street lawyers.”

The Post then contacted the officer and conducted an anonymous interview with him where he revealed his disturbing perspective.

The officer revealed the illegal and unethical actions that he is proud of taking on the job. The DC Post has also said that they have verified the officer’s position with the Palm Beach County police department, and they have verified many of the claims that he has made.

The original post was titled “Tricks of the trade – let’s exchange!” and featured the following message:

“I have a method for getting people off the street that should not be there. Mouthy drivers, street lawyers, assholes and just anyone else trying to make my job difficult. Under my floor mat, I keep a small plastic dime baggie with Cocaine in residue. Since it’s just residue, if it is ever found during a search of my car like during an inspection, it’s easy enough to explain. It must have stuck to my foot while walking through San Castle. Anyways, no one’s going to question an empty baggie. The residue is the key because you can fully charge some asshole with possession of cocaine, heroin, or whatever just with the residue. How to get it done? “I asked Mr. DOE for his identification. And he pulled out his wallet, I observed a small plastic baggie fall out of his pocket…” You get the idea. easy, right? Best part is, those baggies can be found lots of places so you can always be ready. Don’t forget to wipe the baggie on the person’s skin after you arrest them because you want their DNA on the bag if they say you planted it or fight it in court.”

Other officers on the board responded by sharing similar stories about how they falsely arrest people who don’t adequately bow to their authority.

Later in the interview, when the officer was asked if planting evidence happened regularly within his department, he responded by saying,

“Um, yes it does, on a regular basis. Probably every day in my shift. I work nights on the Road Patrol in a rough, um, mostly black neighborhood. Planting evidence and lying in your reports are just part of the game.

Then straight from the horses mouth, the officer said that this crooked behavior was actually encouraged by the drug war. Continuing his discussion about planting evidence, the officer said,

“Yes, all the time. It is something I see a lot of, whether it was from deputies, supervisors or undercovers and even investigators. It’s almost like you have no emotion with it, that they attach the bodies to it, they’re going to be out of jail tomorrow anyway; nothing is going to happen to them anyway. One of the consequences of the war on drugs is that police officers are pressured to make large numbers of arrests, and it’s easy for some of the less honest cops to plant evidence on innocent people. The drug war inevitably leads to crooked policing — and quotas further incentivize such practices. It doesn’t help that your higher-ups all did the same thing when they were on the road. It’s like a never-ending cycle. Like how molested children accept that as okay behavior and begin molesting children themselves.”

When asked if he would get in trouble with the police department for framing people, the officer laughed and said that this type of behavior was actually encouraged.

“Our top boss, Sheriff Ric Bradshaw, supports this behavior and has for his entire career. As with anything, it depends on who you know in our agency. Last year, we had three deputies on the TAC unit, Kevin Drummond and Jarrod Foster, get caught falsifying information for a warrant. They got a pat on the back for a job well done. Just recently, we had a deputy, I think his name was Booth. He was caught completely lying on a car crash. Back a few more years, our Sheriff was involved a massive coverup of the death of two black deputies. He hid the report for years. This is only the beginning. The Sheriff has been involved in falsification of documents and his underling, Chief Deputy Michael Gauger, has been personally involved in an overtime scandal to steal money from the Sheriff’s Office. Does our Sheriff know about this behavior? Of course he does. We have even had a judge outright accuse my agency of committing fraud upon the court in a public hearing. She was one of the ones who saw through all the lying and covering up our department does to get away with the internal crime committed by deputies on a regular basis,” he said.

Palm Beach County is no special police department, and this officer is not just a bad apple. The problems that are discussed in this interview are systematic, and they occur in every town across the country.

Just this week, we exposed a police department in Missouri whose officers were forced to make arrests or faced losing their job. This leads to otherwise innocent people being charged on a regular basis.

Also this week, the Free Thought Project conducted a report to show what happens to cops who try to expose this corruption. Several officers within the Chicago police department were threatened with “going home in a casket” for exposing this same vile practice within their ranks.

February 19, 2015 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Deception, Subjugation - Torture | , , | 4 Comments

Gitmo torturer allegedly had long history with Chicago Police Dept.

RT | February 19, 2015

A former Chicago homicide detective accused in a federal civil rights lawsuit over wrongful conviction is alleged to also have carried out interrogations at Guantanamo Bay, where his methods were described as “illegal,” “immoral” and “unconstitutional.”

The veteran police detective is reportedly the same Richard Zuley who became an interrogator of a high profile detainee at Guantanamo Bay as a US Navy reserve lieutenant from 2002-2004, according to a report by the Guardian. He is said to have exported his interrogation techniques.

Zuley is alleged to be the chief of a “Special Projects Team” at the naval base prison. His involvement was first reported by the Wall Street Journal reporter, Jess Bravin in his book “The Terror Counts: Rough Justice at Guantanamo Bay.”

According to a memoir serialized last month in the Guardian, Guantanamo Bay detainee Mohamedou Ould Slahi said he was shackled for extensive periods of time, had his family threatened, was told to implicate others and was coerced into signing a false confession. Slahi was suspected of being a recruiter for Al-Qaeda. Zuley’s role in the torture of Slahi was also identified by blogger Jeffery Kaye from footnotes in a Nov. 2008 Senate Armed Services Committee report looking into the treatment of detainees.

The case of Slahi was singled out as a primary example of detainee abuse. Mark Fallon, the former deputy commander of Guantanamo’s now-closed investigative task force, said Zuley’s interrogation of Slahi, “was illegal, it was immoral, it was ineffective and it was unconstitutional.”

In Chicago, three current inmates and a former convicted prisoner are accusing Zuley and other police officers of similar tactics, including handcuffing them for hours and forcing confessions for crimes they did not commit.

One of the inmates is Lathierial Boyd, who was exonerated by the Chicago’s state attorney’s office for lack of evidence in 2013 after he had served 23 years in prison. It is his federal civil rights lawsuit that charges Zuley with using illicit techniques to get him convicted.

The Guardian identified three other people interrogated by Zuley who are still in state prison. According to the publication, the same state attorney that dismissed all charges against Boyd two years ago has reportedly agreed to review civilian complaints against former detective Zuley.

Zuley, currently employed at the Chicago Department of Aviation, refused to answer the Guardian’s request to take part in the publication’s investigation.

Guantanamo has gained notoriety over the past decade for cruel and inhumane confinement conditions and well-documented use of torture in the camp.

President Barack Obama’s has pledged to shut down the prison camp but nearly 130 detainees are still being held there.

READ MORE:

‘No one went to jail but me’: CIA whistleblower John Kiriakou speaks out

9/11 trial on hold after Gitmo detainees accuse translator of being CIA torturer

February 19, 2015 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Deception, Subjugation - Torture | , , , , | 1 Comment

US Court Overturns Conviction of Former Guantanamo Inmate

Al-Akhbar | February 19, 2015

Former Australian Guantanamo Bay inmate David Hicks expressed relief on Thursday after a US court quashed his terrorism conviction, and demanded Canberra pay his medical bills as he struggles to overcome the effects of alleged torture.

Hicks was held in the notorious US-run prison from January 2002 until May 2007, when he pleaded guilty to providing material support to al-Qaeda.

The plea bargain suspended all but nine months of his seven-year sentence and allowed him to return home. He has since recanted his confession, claiming he only admitted guilt under duress.

Hicks said he was beaten, sexually abused and drugged while in jail.

Three appeals court judges unanimously overturned his conviction, ruling that material support for terrorism was not a war crime and could not be tried by a military court.

“We had been waiting for this decision for years. It is a relief because it is over,” Hicks said in Sydney.

“I am sure no one is surprised by today’s long-awaited acknowledgement by the government of the United States of America of my innocence. Even the Australian government has admitted that I committed no crime.

“It is just unfortunate that because of politics, I was subjected to five-and-a-half years of physical and psychological torture that I will now live with always.”

Hicks was arrested in 2001 in Afghanistan and accused of fighting alongside the Taliban against US-led forces which had invaded the country following the September 11, 2001 attacks in the US.

He admitted to taking part in paramilitary training in Afghanistan and Pakistan, as well as conflicts in Kosovo and Kashmir but maintained he never had extremist intentions.

The Australian government was accused of not doing enough to help him while in Guantanamo, but Hicks said he was “too defeated” to pursue an official apology.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott said the government “did what was needed” and ruled out any apology.

“Look, I’m not in the business of apologizing for the actions that Australian governments take to protect our country. Not now, not ever,” he said.

His stance was echoed by John Howard, Australia’s prime minister while Hicks was in jail.

“Nothing alters the fact that by his own admission, Hicks trained with al-Qaeda, met Osama bin Laden on several occasions — describing him as a brother. He reveled in jihad,” Howard said.

“He is not owed an apology by any Australian government.”

Still suffering from the effects of torture

Hicks said he would not be chasing compensation but called on Canberra to pay his medical bills brought on by ongoing dental, back, knee and elbow issues stemming from his time in jail.

“I am in a lot of trouble physically at the moment. It is affecting my ability to do any day job which is my only income,” he said.

“I do think that someone should be responsible for my medical expenses,” Hicks added. “The Australian government, they were aware of the conditions I was being held in at the time. They should at least pay my medical expenses. That is not much to ask for, I don’t think.”

Hicks directly blamed his medical problems on his treatment in Guantanamo Bay.

“It is due to the torture. Being kept in freezing conditions, small rooms for years. Not being able to move or exercise,” he said.

“The body deteriorates over five-and-a-half years, even without the added torture, such as stress positions, being beaten.”

Lawyer Wells Dixon, who argued the appeal in the United States, said the decision demonstrated the failure of the military commissions, used at Guantanamo to try terror suspects outside the normal US court system.

“This decision is an illustration of what happens when you make up a secondary system of justice,” said Dixon, who works at the Center for Constitutional Rights which defends Guantanamo detainees.

Since their creation in 2006, six people have pleaded guilty and been sentenced by Guantanamo courts. The sentencing of three of them was reversed while three more are on appeal.

At least 122 detainees remain in Guantanamo. Fifty-four of those, including 47 Yemenis, have been approved for resettlement, while the rest are considered “too dangerous” to release.

The prison was set up to hold alleged “terror suspects” after the 9/11 attacks, but human rights groups have condemned the jail as a “legal black hole,” where inmates languish for years without being tried in court.

The pace of transfers from the US-run detention center at Guantanamo has picked up in recent months as US President Barack Obama attempts to fulfill a promise he made nearly six years ago when he took office to shut the prison, despite opposition from some lawmakers.

Obama’s envoy overseeing the release of Guantanamo inmates, Cliff Sloan, resigned in December after reportedly becoming frustrated at how long it took the Pentagon to approve transfers of detainees.

The US has been under scrutiny for years over the unethical treatment of detainees at Guantanamo, particularly for its interrogation methods.

Prisoners have reported a wide range of extreme human rights abuses from prison authorities, including brutal physical assault with torture tools, being kept in isolation for years at a time, and sleep and sensory deprivation.

More than 160 Guantanamo detainees are believed to have participated in a wave of hunger strikes in 2013 in protest of their ongoing imprisonment and the conditions they’re subjected to while being jailed indefinitely.

Pre-trial hearings of the alleged co-conspirators of the 9/11 attacks faced new delays last week after two of the five defendants identified a court interpreter as having worked in one of the United States’ notorious CIA prisons where they had been interrogated and tortured.

“I ask you to stop until we can go to the bottom of this,” lawyer David Nevin said on Wednesday.

Nevin, who represents alleged 9/11 mastermind Khaled Sheikh Mohammed, said the government has acknowledged the interpreter was a CIA employee.

The defense claims to have documented numerous cases of the government meddling in the legal process, possibly violating the defendants’ rights to a fair trial.

Microphones have been concealed in smoke detectors, and an FBI agent has infiltrated defense teams, the lawyers claimed.

(AFP, Al-Akhbar)

February 19, 2015 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Deception | , , | Leave a comment

Ukraine Finance Minister’s American ‘Values’

By Robert Parry | Consortium News | February 18, 2015

Ukraine’s new Finance Minister Natalie Jaresko, who has become the face of reform for the U.S.-backed regime in Kiev and will be a key figure handling billions of dollars in Western financial aid, was at the center of insider deals and other questionable activities when she ran a $150 million U.S.-taxpayer-financed investment fund.

Prior to taking Ukrainian citizenship and becoming Finance Minister last December, Jaresko was a former U.S. diplomat who served as chief executive officer of the Western NIS Enterprise Fund (WNISEF), which was created by Congress in the 1990s and overseen by the U.S. Agency for International Development (U.S. AID) to help jumpstart an investment economy in Ukraine.

But Jaresko, who was limited to making $150,000 a year at WNISEF under the U.S. AID grant agreement, managed to earn more than that amount, reporting in 2004 that she was paid $383,259 along with $67,415 in expenses, according to WNISEF’s public filing with the Internal Revenue Service.

Later, Jaresko’s compensation was removed from public disclosure altogether after she co-founded two entities in 2006: Horizon Capital Associates (HCA) to manage WNISEF’s investments (and collect around $1 million a year in fees) and Emerging Europe Growth Fund (EEGF) to collaborate with WNISEF on investment deals.

Jaresko formed HCA and EEGF with two other WNISEF officers, Mark Iwashko and Lenna Koszarny. They also started a third firm, Horizon Capital Advisors, which “serves as a sub-advisor to the Investment Manager, HCA,” according to WNISEF’s IRS filing for 2006.

U.S. AID apparently found nothing suspicious about these tangled business relationships – and even allowed WNISEF to spend millions of dollars helping EEGF become a follow-on private investment firm – despite the potential conflicts of interest involving Jaresko, the other WNISEF officers and their affiliated companies.

For instance, WNISEF’s 2012 annual report devoted two pages to “related party transactions,” including the management fees to Jaresko’s Horizon Capital ($1,037,603 in 2011 and $1,023,689 in 2012) and WNISEF’s co-investments in projects with the EEGF, where Jaresko was founding partner and chief executive officer. Jaresko’s Horizon Capital managed the investments of both WNISEF and EEGF.

From 2007 to 2011, WNISEF co-invested $4.25 million with EEGF in Kerameya LLC, a Ukrainian brick manufacturer, and WNISEF sold EEGF 15.63 percent of Moldova’s Fincombank for $5 million, the report said. It also listed extensive exchanges of personnel and equipment between WNISEF and Horizon Capital. But it’s difficult for an outsider to ascertain the relative merits of these insider deals and the transactions apparently raised no red flags for U.S. AID officials.

Bonuses for Officers

Regarding compensation, WNISEF’s 2013 filing with the IRS noted that the fund’s officers collected millions of dollars in bonuses for closing out some investments at a profit even as the overall fund was losing money. According to the filing, WNISEF’s $150 million nest egg had shrunk by more than one-third to $94.5 million and likely has declined much more during the economic chaos that followed the U.S.-back coup in February 2014.

But prior to the coup and the resulting civil war, Jaresko’s WNISEF was generously spreading money around. For instance, the 2013 IRS filing reported that the taxpayer-financed fund paid out as “expenses” $7.7 million under a bonus program, including $4.6 million to “current officers,” without identifying who received the money.

The filing made the point that the “long-term equity incentive plan” was “not compensation from Government Grant funds but a separately USAID-approved incentive plan funded from investment sales proceeds” – although those proceeds presumably would have gone into the depleted WNISEF pool if they had not been paid out as bonuses.

The filing also said the bonuses were paid regardless of whether the overall fund was making money, noting that this “compensation was not contingent on revenues or net earnings, but rather on a profitable exit of a portfolio company that exceeds the baseline value set by the board of directors and approved by USAID” – with Jaresko also serving as a director on the board responsible for setting those baseline values.

Another WNISEF director was Jeffrey C. Neal, former chairman of Merrill Lynch’s global investment banking and a co-founder of Horizon Capital, further suggesting how potentially incestuous these relationships may have become.

Though compensation for Jaresko and other officers was shifted outside public view after 2006 – as their pay was moved to the affiliated entities – the 2006 IRS filing says: “It should be noted that as long as HCA earns a management fee from WNISEF, HCA and HCAD [the two Horizon Capital entities] must ensure that a salary cap of $150,000 is adhered to for the proportion of salary attributable to WNISEF funds managed relative to aggregate funds under management.”

But that language would seem to permit compensation well above $150,000 if it could be tied to other managed funds, including EEGF, or come from the incentive program. Such compensation for Jaresko and the other top officers was not reported on later IRS forms despite a line for earnings from “related organizations.” Apparently, Horizon Capital and EEGF were regarded as “unrelated organizations” for the purposes of reporting compensation.

Neither AID officials nor Jaresko responded to specific questions about WNISEF’s possible conflicts of interest, how much money Jaresko made from her involvement with WNISEF and its connected companies, and whether she had fully complied with IRS reporting requirements.

Shared Values?

Despite such ethical questions, Jaresko was cited by New York Times columnist Thomas L. Friedman as an exemplar of the new Ukrainian leaders who “share our values” and deserve unqualified American support. Friedman uncritically quoted Jaresko’s speech to international financial leaders at Davos, Switzerland, in which she castigated Russian President Vladimir Putin:

“Putin fears a Ukraine that demands to live and wants to live and insists on living on European values — with a robust civil society and freedom of speech and religion [and] with a system of values the Ukrainian people have chosen and laid down their lives for.”

However, Jaresko has shown little regard for transparency or other democratic values, such as the right of free speech when it comes to someone questioning her financial dealings. For instance, she has gone to great lengths to block her ex-husband Ihor Figlus from exposing what he regards as her questionable business ethics.

In 2012, when Figlus tried to blow the whistle on what he saw as improper loans that Jaresko had taken from Horizon Capital Associates to buy and expand her stake in EEGF, the privately held follow-on fund to WNISEF, Jaresko sent her lawyers to court to silence him and, according to his lawyer, bankrupt him.

The filings in Delaware’s Chancery Court are remarkable not only because Jaresko succeeded in getting the Court to gag her ex-husband through enforcement of a non-disclosure agreement but the Court agreed to redact nearly all the business details, even the confidentiality language at the center of the case.

Since Figlus had given some of his information to a Ukrainian journalist, the court complaint also had the look of a leak investigation, tracking down Figlus’s contacts with the journalist and then using that evidence to secure the restraining order, which Figlus said not only prevented him from discussing business secrets but even talking about his more general concerns about Jaresko’s insider dealings.

The heavy redactions make it hard to fully understand Figlus’s concerns or to assess the size of Jaresko’s borrowing as she expanded her holdings in EEGF, but Figlus did assert that he saw his role as whistle-blowing about improper actions by Jaresko.

In a Oct. 31, 2012, filing, Figlus’s attorney wrote that “At all relevant times, Defendant [Figlus] acted in good faith and with justification, on matters of public interest, and particularly the inequitable conduct set forth herein where such inequitable conduct adversely affects … at least one other limited partner which is REDACTED, and specifically the inequitable conduct included, in addition to the other conduct cited herein, REDACTED.”

The filing added: “The Plaintiffs’ [Jaresko’s and her EEGF partners’] claims are barred, in whole or in part, by public policy, and particularly that a court in equity should not enjoin ‘whistle-blowing’ activities on matters of public interest, and particularly the inequitable conduct set forth herein.” But the details of that conduct were all redacted.

Free Speech

In a defense brief dated Dec. 17, 2012 [see Part One and Part Two], Figlus expanded on his argument that Jaresko’s attempts to have the court gag him amounted to a violation of his constitutional right of free speech:

“The obvious problem with the scope of their Motion is that Plaintiffs are asking the Court to enter an Order that prohibits Defendant Figlus from exercising his freedom of speech without even attempting to provide the Court with any Constitutional support or underpinning for such impairment of Figlus’ rights.

“Plaintiffs cannot do so, because such silencing of speech is Constitutionally impermissible, and would constitute a denial of basic principles of the Bill of Rights in both the United States and Delaware Constitutions. There can be no question that Plaintiffs are seeking a temporary injunction, which constitutes a prior restraint on speech. …

“The Court cannot, consistent with the Federal and State Constitutional guarantees of free speech, enjoin speech except in the most exceptional circumstances, and certainly not when Plaintiffs are seeking to prevent speech that is not even covered by the very contractual provision upon which they are relying.

“Moreover, the Court cannot prevent speech where the matter has at least some public interest REDACTED, except as limited to the very specific and exact language of the speaker’s contractual obligation.”

Figlus also provided a narrative of events as he saw them as a limited partner in EEGF, saying he initially “believed everything she [Jaresko] was doing, you know, was proper.” Later, however, Figlus “learned that Jaresko began borrowing money from HCA REDACTED, but again relied on his spouse, and did not pay attention to the actual financial transactions…

“In early 2010, after Jaresko separated from Figlus, she presented Figlus with, and requested that he execute, a ‘Security Agreement,’ pledging the couple’s partnership interest to the repayment of the loans from HCA. This was Figlus first realization of the amount of loans that Jaresko had taken, and that the partnership interest was being funded through this means. … By late 2011, Jaresko had borrowed approximately REDACTED from HCA to both fund the partnership interest REDACTED. The loans were collateralized only by the EEFG partnership interest. …

“Figlus became increasingly concerned about the partnership and the loans that had been and continued to be given to the insiders to pay for their partnership interests, while excluding other limited partners. Although Figlus was not sophisticated in these matters, he considered that it was inappropriate that HCA was giving loans to insiders to fund their partnership interests, but to no other partners. …

“He talked to an individual at U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) in Washington D.C., because the agency was effectively involved as a limited partner because of the agency’s funding and supervision over WNISEF, but the agency employee did not appear interested in pursuing the question.”

A Spousal Dispute

Meanwhile, Jaresko’s lawyers mocked Figlus’s claims that he was acting as a whistle-blower, claiming that he was actually motivated by a desire “to harm his ex-wife” and had violated the terms of his non-disclosure agreement, which the lawyers convinced the court to exclude from the public record.

The plaintiffs’ brief [see Part One and Part Two] traces Figlus’s contacts with the Ukrainian reporter whose name is also redacted:

“Figlus, having previously received an audit from the General Partner, provided it to REDACTED [the Ukrainian reporter] with full knowledge that the audit was non-public. Also on or about October 2, 2012, REDACTED [the reporter] contacted multiple Limited Partners, informed them that he possessed ‘documented proof’ of alleged impropriety by the General Partner and requested interviews concerning that alleged impropriety.”

The filing noted that on Oct. 3, 2012, the reporter told Figlus that Jaresko “called two REDACTED [his newspaper’s] editors last night crying, not me, for some reason.” (The Ukrainian story was never published.)

After the competing filings, Jaresko’s lawyers successfully secured a restraining order against Figlus from the Delaware Chancery Court and are continuing to pursue the case against him though his lawyer has asserted that his client will make no further effort to expose these financial dealings and is essentially broke.

On May 14, 2014, Figlus filed a complaint with the court claiming that he was being denied distributions from his joint interest in EEGF and saying he was told that it was because the holding was pledged as security against the loans taken out by Jaresko.

But, on the same day, Jaresko’s lawyer, Richard P. Rollo, contradicted that assertion, saying information about Figlus’s distributions was being withheld because EEGF and Horizon Capital “faced significant business interruptions and difficulties given the political crisis in Ukraine.”

The filing suggested that the interlocking investments between EEGF and the U.S.-taxpayer-funded WNISEF were experiencing further trouble from the political instability and civil war sweeping across Ukraine. By last December, Jaresko had resigned from her WNISEF-related positions, taken Ukrainian citizenship and started her new job as Ukraine’s Finance Minister.

In an article about Jaresko’s appointment, John Helmer, a longtime foreign correspondent in Russia, disclosed the outlines of the court dispute with Figlus and identified the Ukrainian reporter as Mark Rachkevych of the Kyiv Post.

“It hasn’t been rare for American spouses to go into the asset management business in the former Soviet Union, and make profits underwritten by the US Government with information supplied from their US Government positions or contacts,” Helmer wrote. “It is exceptional for them to fall out over the loot.”

Earlier this month, when I contacted George Pazuniak, Figlus’s lawyer, about Jaresko’s aggressive enforcement of the non-disclosure agreement, he told me that “at this point, it’s very difficult for me to say very much without having a detrimental effect on my client.” Pazuniak did say, however, that all the redactions were demanded by Jaresko’s lawyers.

Unresponsive Response

I also sent detailed questions to U.S. AID and to Jaresko via several of her associates. Those questions included how much of the $150 million in U.S. taxpayers’ money remained, why Jaresko reported no compensation from “related organizations,” whether she received any of the $4.6 million to WNISEF’s officers in bonuses in 2013, how much money she made in total from her association with WNISEF, what AID officials did in response Figlus’s complaint about possible wrongdoing, and whether Jaresko’s legal campaign to silence her ex-husband was appropriate given her current position and Ukraine’s history of secretive financial dealings.

U.S. AID press officer Annette Y. Aulton got back to me with a response that was unresponsive to my specific questions. Rather than answering about the performance of WNISEF and Jaresko’s compensation, the response commented on the relative success of 10 “Enterprise Funds” that AID has sponsored in Eastern Europe and added:

“There is a twenty year history of oversight of WNISEF operations. Enterprise funds must undergo an annual independent financial audit, submit annual reports to USAID and the IRS, and USAID staff conduct field visits and semi-annual reviews. At the time Horizon Capital assumed management of WNISEF, USAID received disclosures from Natalie Jaresko regarding the change in management structure and at the time USAID found no impropriety during its review.”

One Jaresko associate, Tanya Bega, Horizon Capital’s investor relations manager, said she forwarded my questions to Jaresko last week, but Jaresko did not respond.

Further showing how much Jaresko’s network is penetrating the new Ukrainian government, another associate, Estonian Jaanika Merilo, has been brought on to handle Ukraine’s foreign investments. Merilo’s Ukrainian Venture Capital and Private Equity Association (UVCA), which is committed to “representing interests of private equity investors to policymakers and improving the investment and business climate in Ukraine,” included Jaresko’s Horizon Capital as a founder.

In a way, given Jaresko’s background of parlaying U.S. taxpayer’s money into various insider investment deals, perhaps she does have the experience to handle the incoming $17.5 billion in aid from the International Monetary Fund.

But the question remains whether Jaresko’s is the right kind of experience – and whether the money will go to help the impoverished people of Ukraine or simply wind up lining the pockets of the well-heeled and the well-connected.

–With research by Chelsea Gilmour

~

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his latest book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com).

February 19, 2015 Posted by | Corruption, Economics | , , , , , | Leave a comment