Showing posts with label corruption. Show all posts
Showing posts with label corruption. Show all posts

Friday, 23 March 2018

The president doth protest too much, methinks

On 15 March 2018 the mainstream media reported that the Special Counsel Russia Investigation has served a subpoena on the Trump Organisation.

Since then US President Donald J Trump has removed an FBI deputy-director and tweeted his defiance of Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

As usual the only words in Trump's tweets that can be relied on are connecting words like "and", "or" & "but'  - everthing else is bound to be a distortion of fact or a downright lie.

Monday, 19 March 2018

Trump brings out the knives in his effort to derail the FBI-Mueller investigation into Russian involvment in his presidential campaign

What occurred.....

Andrew McCabe became acting head of the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) after the sudden firing of James B. Comey on 9 May 2017 and, as acting head gave evidence before a US Senate committee in which he contradicted the WhiteHouse’s assertion that James B. Comey, the F.B.I. director fired by PresidentTrump...had lost the support of rank-and-file F.B.I. agents.

US President Donald Trump's reaction was hostile across multiple tweets over the following months and he implied that McCabe might be fired before he could retire.  

On 15 March 2018 The New York Times reported:

WASHINGTON — The special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, has subpoenaed the Trump Organization in recent weeks to turn over documents, including some related to Russia, according to two people briefed on the matter. The order is the first known instance of the special counsel demanding records directly related to President Trump’s businesses, bringing the investigation closer to the president.

Following hard on the heels of the Comey firing Mueller had been appointed to conduct an investigation into Russian links to Trump's 2015- 2016 presidential campaign.

The following day, 16 March, U.S. ABC News reported:

Former FBI deputy director Andy McCabe was fired Friday from the federal government, just two days before he was set to retire, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced in a statement late Friday night.

Nearly 24 hours earlier, McCabe was inside the Justice Department making the case to keep his job until Sunday when he officially qualifies for retirement benefits. His firing means his full pension — built after nearly 22 years in government — is in jeopardy.

After formal announcement of the McCabe sacking Trump tweeted this:

That Trump's move against McCabe is a step on the road to firing Special Counsel Robert Mueller might be inferred from the Dowd quote below. 

According to The Daily Beast  on 17 March 2018:

“I pray that Acting Attorney General Rosenstein will follow the brilliant and courageous example of the FBI Office of Professional Responsibility and Attorney General Jeff Sessions and bring an end to alleged Russia Collusion investigation manufactured by McCabe’s boss James Comey based upon a fraudulent and corrupt Dossier,” Dowd then wrote.
He told The Daily Beast he was speaking on behalf of the president, in his capacity as the president’s attorney.

McCabe's response.....

Statement released by Andrew McCabe's lawyer - sourced from Twitter

Friday, 16 March 2018

What a farce is the Dept of Home Affairs under Peter Dutton

In early July 2017 it was reported that Roman Quaedvlieg​ the head of the federal government's Australian Border Force had taken indefinite leave on full-pay since May following an external investigation by the Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity.

Despite a rather sordid tale coming to light coyly wrapped in phrases like 'inappropriate behaviour relating to a personal relationship' Mr. Quaedvlieg​ refused to resign and the Prime Minister continued to sit on the results of two reviews of the investigation and his conduct in office.

To date Roman Quaedvlieg has been paid in excess of $500,000 while on leave.

It wasn't until details of the PM&C review were leaked to the media and Prime Minister Turnbull and Minister for Home Affairs Dutton felt a need to sweep the decks clean ahead of the forthcoming federal election that the Governor-General was finally requested to sack Quaedvlieg and the announcement was released on 16 March 2018.
[Australian Border Force Act 2015—Subsection 21(4)—Statement of Grounds of Termination of Appointment as Australian Border Force Commissioner]

According to ABC News on 16 March 2018; His sacking ends a drawn-out and expensive internal investigation that will trigger a restructure in Peter Dutton's new super-ministry, Home Affairs. Mr Quaedvlieg was a former chief police officer in the ACT and the inaugural Border Force Commissioner.

Tuesday, 27 February 2018

The mess that Barnaby left

EDO NSW, on behalf of its client the Inland Rivers Network, has commenced civil enforcement proceedings in the NSW Land and Environment Court in relation to allegations of unlawful water pumping by a large-scale irrigator on the Barwon-Darling River.

The two water access licences at the centre of these allegations allow the licence holder to pump water from the Barwon-Darling River in accordance with specified licence conditions, as well as rules set out in the relevant ‘water sharing plan’. The conditions and rules specify – amongst other things – how much water can be legally pumped in a water accounting year (which is the same as the financial year) and at what times pumping is permissible (which depends on the volume of water flowing in the river at any given time). 

Our client alleges that the holder of these licences pumped water in contravention of some of these conditions and rules, thereby breaching relevant provisions of the Water Management Act 2000 (NSW) (WM Act). The allegations are based on licence data obtained by EDO NSW earlier in 2017 from Water NSW, a state-owned corporation charged with the responsibility of regulating compliance with the WM Act. 

Analysis of this data, along with the relevant rules and publicly available information on river heights, indicates that the licence holder may have pumped significantly more water than was permissible on one licence during the 2014-15 water year, and taken a significant amount of water under another licence during a period of low flow when pumping was not permitted in the 2015-16 water year. Despite being made aware of these allegations by EDO NSW on two occasions, in April and August 2017, and having had access to the data since at least July 2016, Water NSW has not provided any indication that it intends to take compliance action against the licence holder.

Both allegations concern the potentially unlawful pumping of significant volumes of water, which may have had serious impacts on environmental flows in the river and downstream water users. However, our client is particularly concerned by the alleged over-extraction in the 2014/15 water year, as this period was so dry that the Menindee Lakes – which are filled by flows from the Barwon-Darling River – fell to 4 percent of their total storage capacity. This in turn threatened Broken Hill’s water security and led the NSW Government to impose an embargo on water extractions during part of that year in order to improve flows down the Barwon-Darling into the Lakes and Lower Darling River. 

In these proceedings, the Inland Rivers Network is seeking, amongst other things, an injunction preventing the licence holder from continuing to breach the relevant licence conditions. In addition, and in order to make good any depletion of environmental flows caused by the alleged unlawful pumping, our client is also asking the Court to require the licence holder to return to the river system an equivalent volume of water to that alleged to have been unlawfully taken, or to restrain the licence holder from pumping such a volume from the river system, during the next period of low flows in the river system. Failure to comply with a court order constitutes contempt of court, which is a criminal offence. 

EDO NSW is grateful to barristers Tom Howard SC and Natasha Hammond for their assistance in this matter.

Brendan Dobbie, Senior Solicitor at EDO NSW, has carriage of this matter for IRN.

In 2008, then Senator Joyce criticised the Labor government’s purchase of water in the Warrego valley: that is going to have no effect whatsoever in solving the problems of the lower Murray-Darling, and especially the southern states.

Despite the now Deputy Prime Minister and Water Minister’s own fierce criticism of that purchase, he approved the $16,977,600 purchase of another 10.611 gigalitres of water in the Warrego valley in March 2017 at more than twice the price paid by the Labor government. Questions should be raised about what changed the Deputy Prime Minister’s mind and whether that purchase was value for money.

This purchase also has serious implications for the recent amendments to the Basin Plan that was disallowed by the Senate on 14 February 2018.

This purchase was not required to meet the water recovery target in the Warrego under the Murray-Darling Basin Plan. Instead, it was intended to count towards the water recovery target in the Border Rivers. This swap required an amendment to s6.05 of the Basin Plan, which was tabled in parliament and disallowed by the Senate. Yet, the Warrego purchase was not reflected in the Sustainable Diversion Limits (SDLs) put to Parliament as part of the amendments.

Murray-Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) is required to base its recommendations to change SDLs based on best available science, but the proposed amendments allowed MDBA and States to subsequently change the SDLs in a valley without any consideration of the science.

While MDBA was seeking public submissions on changes to valley SDLs, based on science; the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources (DAWR) was in negotiations to change those valley targets, not based on science.

Parliament was asked to pass an amendment to the Basin Plan with SDLs that would have been changed based on a deal agreed over a year earlier, if the amendment had passed.

Given that the new SDLs were known and agreed by governments, it is not apparent why the MDBA did not include the new SDLs in the amendment put to parliament.

Wednesday, 31 January 2018

ASIC reveals that AMP, ANZ, CBA, NAB & Westpac unlikely to act in customers' best interests

"The financial advice arms of Australia’s biggest banks have come under fire again, with the corporate watchdog finding their advisers failed to comply with the best interests of customers in 75% of advice files reviewed." [The Guardian, 24 January 2018]

Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC), media release, 24 January 2018:

18-019MR ASIC reports on how large financial institutions manage conflicts of interest in financial advice

An Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) review of financial advice provided by the five biggest vertically integrated financial institutions has identified areas where improvements are needed to the management of conflicts of interest.

The review looked at the products that ANZ, CBA, NAB, Westpac and AMP financial advice licensees were recommending and at the quality of the advice provided on in-house products.

The review was part of a broader set of regulatory reviews of the wealth management and financial advice businesses of the largest banking and financial services institutions as part of ASIC's Wealth Management Project.

The review found that, overall, 79% of the financial products on the firms' approved products lists (APL) were external products and 21% were internal or 'in-house' products. However, 68% of clients’ funds were invested in in-house products.
The split between internal and external product sales varied across different licensees and across different types of financial products. For example, it was more pronounced for platforms compared to direct investments. However, in most cases there was a clear weighting in the products recommended by advisers towards in-house products.

ASIC noted that vertical integration can provide economies of scale and other benefits to both the customer and the financial institution. Consumers might choose advice from large vertically integrated firms because they seek that firm's products due to factors such as convenience and access, and recommendations of 'in-house' products may be appropriate. Nonetheless, conflicts of interest are inherent in vertically integrated firms, and these firms still need to properly manage conflicts of interest in their advisory arms and ensure good quality advice.

ASIC will consult with the financial advice industry (and other relevant groups) on a proposal to introduce more transparent public reporting on approved product lists, including where client funds are invested, for advice licensees that are part of a vertically integrated business. ASIC noted that any such requirement is likely to cover vertically integrated firms beyond those included in this review. The introduction of reporting requirements would improve transparency around management of the conflicts of interests that are inherent in these businesses.
ASIC also examined a sample of files to test whether advice to switch to in-house products satisfied the 'best interests' requirements. ASIC found that in 75% of the advice files reviewed the advisers did not demonstrate compliance with the duty to act in the best interests of their clients. Further, 10% of the advice reviewed was likely to leave the customer in a significantly worse financial position. ASIC will ensure that appropriate customer remediation takes place.

Acting ASIC Chair Peter Kell said that ASIC is already working with the major financial institutions to address the issues that have been identified in the report on quality of advice and management of conflicts of interest.

'There is ongoing work focusing on remediation where advice-related failures have led to poor customer outcomes, and the results of this review will feed into that work,' said Mr Kell.

ASIC is already working with the institutions to improve compliance and advice quality through action such as:
* improvements to monitoring and supervision processes for financial advisers; and
* improvements to adviser recruitment processes and checks. 
ASIC will continue to ban advisers with serious compliance failings.

ASIC highlighted that the findings from this review should be carefully examined by other vertically integrated firms. 'While this review focused on five major financial services firms, the lessons should be considered by all vertically integrated firms in the financial services sector.' 


The review took place during 2015 to 2017.

The licensees included as part of the review were: 

* AMP: AMP Financial Planning Pty Limited and Charter Financial Planning Limited;  
* ANZ: Millennium 3 Financial Planning Pty Ltd and ANZ Financial Planning; 
* CBA: Count Financial Limited and Commonwealth Financial Planning Limited;
* NAB: GWM Adviser Services Limited and NAB Financial Planning;
* Westpac: Securitor Financial Group Ltd and Westpac Financial Planning.

Sunday, 21 January 2018

U.S. Political Retrospective: those first investigations into presidential candidate Donald J Trump

Sometime in September or October 2015 Glenn Simpson of Fusion GPS began a broad investigation of then Republican presidential candidate nominee Donald J Trump under contact for an unspecified client and later commenced another investigation of Trump as official Republican presidential candidate for a different client in the first half of 2016.

Simpson later confirmed the clients to be in the first instance The Washington Free Beacon, a conservative website funded by a major Republican donor and in the second instance the Democratic National Committee and Clinton presidential campaign.

Excerpts from Christopher Steele’s 35-page ‘dossier’ created under contract for research company Fusion GPS:

U.S. SENATE, WASHINGTON, D.C., SENATE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE, excerpts from a partial transcipt of INTERVIEW OF: GLENN SIMPSON, 22 August 2017 (released 9 January 2018 in response to his request) , in which he explains how and where he looked for initial information about Donald Trump:

“In the early -- the very first weekend that I
started boning up on Donald Trump, you know, I
found various references to him having connections
to Italian organized crime and later to a Russian
organized crime figure named Felix Sater,
S-A-T-E-R. It wasn't hard to find, it wasn't any
great achievement, it was in the New York Times,
but as someone who has done a lot of Russian
organized crime investigations as a journalist
originally that caught my attention and became
something that, you know, I focused on while other
people looked at other things.
So from the very beginning of this organized
crime was -- Russian organized crime was a focus of
interest. I guess I should just repeat, you know,
this is a subject that I covered extensively at the
Wall Street Journal. I wrote a series of front-
page articles about various corrupt politicians
from Russia, oligarchs, and one of the things that
I wrote about was the connections between western
politicians and Russian business figures. So, you
know, I was sort of an amateur student of the
subject and I had written about some of these same
Russian crime figures, you know, years earlier in
the U.S. and various frauds and things they were
involved in……

You know, we also conducted a much broader
sort of look at his entire career and his overseas
investments in places like Europe and Latin
America. You know, it wasn't really a Russia
focused investigation for the first half of it.
That was just one component of a broader look at
his business career, his finances. We spent a lot
of time trying to figure out whether he's really as
rich as he says he is because that was the subject
of a libel case that he filed against a journalist
named Tim O'Brien for which there was quite a lot
of discovery and litigation filings detailing
O'Brien's allegation that he was worth, you know,
maybe a fifth to a third of what he claims and
Trump's angry retort that he was worth far more
than that.
So we did things like we looked at the golf
courses and whether they actually ever made any
money and how much debt they had. We looked at the
bankruptcies, how could somebody go through so many
bankruptcies, you know, and still have a billion
dollars in personal assets. So those are the kinds
of things. We looked at a lot of things like his
tax bills. Tax bills are useful because you can
figure out how much money someone is making or how
much they're worth or how much their properties are
worth based on how much they have to pay in taxes.
One of the things we found out was that, you
know, when it comes to paying taxes, Donald Trump
claims to not have much stuff. At least the Trump
organization. So they would make filings with
various state and local authorities saying that
their buildings weren't worth much……

For instance, in the early stage of an
investigation, you know, particularly of Donald
Trump you want to get every lawsuit the guy's ever
been in. So, you know, we collected lawsuits from
around the country and the world. And I do
remember one of the earlier things we did was we
collected a lot of documents from Scotland because
he'd been in a big controversy there about land
use. There had been another one in Ireland. There
was a lot of Freedom of Information Act requests
and that sort of thing.
So in the early phases of something you're
collecting lots of paper on every subject
imaginable. So in the course of reading that
litigation we would follow up on things that were
interesting, such as a libel case against a
journalist that he settled, which, in other words,
he didn't prevail in his attempts to prove that he
was a billionaire.”……

It was, broadly speaking, a kind of
holistic examination of Donald Trump's business
record and his associations, his bankruptcies, his
suppliers, you know, offshore or third-world
suppliers of products that he was selling. You
know, it evolved somewhat quickly into issues of
his relationships to organized crime figures but,
you know, really the gamut of Donald Trump.
What we generally do at the beginning of a
case if it's possible is to order all the books
about the subject from Amazon so we're not
reinventing the wheel and we know what's been
written and said before. So this was typical. We
ordered every Donald Trump book and, to my
surprise, that's a lot of books. I was never very
interested in Donald Trump. He was not a serious
political figure that I'd ever had any exposure to.
He's a New York figure really.
So anyway, we read everything we could read
about Donald Trump. Those books cover his
divorces, his casinos, his early years dealings
with labor unions and mafia figures. I'm trying to
think what else. His taxes certainly have always
been a big issue. Again, it was sort of an
unlimited look at his -- you know, his business and
finances and that sort of thing……

That calls for a somewhat long answer. We
had done an enormous amount of work on Donald Trump
generally at this point in the project and we began
to drill down on specific areas. He [Christopher Steele] was not the
only subcontractor that we engaged. Other parts of
the world required other people. For example, we
were interested in the fact that the Trump family
was selling merchandise under the Trump brand in
the United States that was made in sweat shops in
Asia and South America -- or Latin America. So we
needed someone else for that. So there were other
things. We were not totally focused on Russia at
that time, but we were at a point where we were --
you know, we'd done a lot of reading and research
and we were drilling down on specific areas.
Scotland was another one
So that's the answer. What happens when you
get to this point in an investigation when you've
gathered all of the public record information and
you've begun to exhaust your open source, you know,
resources is that you tend to find specialists who
can take you further into a subject and I had known
Chris since I left the Wall Street Journal. He was
the lead Russianist at MI6 prior to leaving the
government and an extremely well-regarded
investigator, researcher, and, as I say, we're
friends and share interest in Russian kleptocracy
and organized crime issues. I would say that's
broadly why I asked him to see what he could find
out about Donald Trump's business activities in

I mean, one of the key lines here in the
second paragraph says "However, he and his inner
circle have accepted a regular flow of intelligence
from the Kremlin, including on his democratic and
other political rivals."
So the issue with the Trump Tower meeting, as
I understand it, is that the Trump people were
eager to accept intelligence from a foreign
government about their political rivals and that
is, you know, I would say, a form of interference.
If you're getting help from a foreign government
and your help is intelligence, then the foreign
government's interfering. I mean, you know, I
think that also -- of course, in retrospect we now
know this was pretty right on target in terms on
what it says. So anyway --
I mean, it clearly refers to, you know,
them being interested in and willing to -- it
depicts them as accepting information. What we
have seen to date with the disclosures this year is
they were at a minimum super interested in getting

We've seen hacking in politics before, but this
kind of, you know, mass theft of e-mail and then to
dump it all into, you know, the public sphere was
extraordinary and it was criminal.
So the question by now of whether this was
Russia and whether this might have something to do
with the other information that we'd received was,
you know, the immediate question, and I think this
is also -- by the time this memo was written Chris
had already met with the FBI about the first memo.
So he's -- if I can interpret a little bit here.
In his mind this is already a criminal matter,
there's already a potential national security
matter here.
I mean, this is basically about a month later
and there's a lot of events that occurred in
between. You know, after the first memo, you know,
Chris said he was very concerned about whether this
represented a national security threat and said he
wanted to -- he said he thought we were obligated
to tell someone in government, in our government
about this information. He thought from his
perspective there was an issue -- a security issue
about whether a presidential candidate was being
blackmailed. From my perspective there was a law
enforcement issue about whether there was an
illegal conspiracy to violate the campaign laws,
and then somewhere in this time the whole issue of
hacking has also surfaced.
So he proposed to -- he said we should tell
the FBI, it's a national security issue. I didn't
originally agree or disagree, I just put it off and
said I needed to think about it. Then he raised it
again with me. I don't remember the exact sequence
of these events, but my recollection is that I
questioned how we would do that because I don't
know anyone there that I could report something
like this to and be believed and I didn't really
think it was necessarily appropriate for me to do
that. In any event, he said don't worry about
that, I know the perfect person, I have a contact
there, they'll listen to me, they know who I am,
I'll take care of it. I said okay. You know, I
agreed, it's potentially a crime in progress. So,
you know, if we can do that in the most appropriate
way, I said it was okay for him to do that……

A second and complete interview transcript is available:
Trump's wild and inappropriate response to the release of Glenn Simpson interview transcript:

Friday, 19 January 2018

Will Steve Bannon's predictions come true?

On 17 May 2017 Robert S. Mueller III was appointed by acting Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein to serve as Special Counsel investigating any links and/or coordination bet ween the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump,  any matters that arose or may arise directlyfrom the investigation and, any other matters within the scope of 28 C.F.R. §600.4(a).

Thus far Mueller has indicted four individuals - Lieutenant General Michael T. Flynn (Ret.) (plead guilty), Paul J. Manafort, Jr., Richard W. Gates III and George Papadopoulos (plead guilty).

Former White House adviser Steve Bannon's predictions concerning this DOJ/FBI investigation and Donald J. Trump's future had remained semi-private until the release on 5 January 2018 of Michael Wolff's book, "Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House".

Here are two examples.....

Wednesday, 17 January 2018

Rise in perception of corruption in public service

In 2016-17 the Australian Public Service Commission (APS) finalised investigation of 1,720 code of conduct complaints which resulted in 1,494 breach findings. 

Sanctions were applied in the majority of breach cases by way of either official reprimand, reduction in salary or fines. Only 18.3 per cent of sanctions took the form of termination of employment and just 11.3 percent resulted in reduction in classification or reassignment of duties.

The most serious of these breaches by classification appeared to be:
287 breaches involving failure to behave honestly and with integrity;
126 breaches involving failure to use Commonwealth resources in a proper manner and for a proper purpose;
64 breaches involving improper use of: inside information, duties, status, power or authority;
50 breaches involving providing false or misleading information;
44 breaches involving conflict of interest; and
16 breaches involving failure to comply with all applicable Australian laws.

According to the Commission:

  1. Sixty-four per cent of those respondents reported that they had witnessed cronyism.
  2. Twenty-six reported that they had witnessed nepotism in the workplace.
  3. Twenty-one per cent reported that they had witnessed ‘green-lighting’, that is making official decisions that improperly favour a person or company, or disadvantage another.
The Guardian on 10 January 2018 reported this as representing a significant increase from the 2.6% who witnessed corruption in 2013-14 and the 3.6% of respondents in 2014-15.

The Australia Institute, 10 January 2018:

Corruption’s $72.3 billion hit to GDP

New research released today by the Australia Institute estimates the effects of rising perception of corruption in Australia since 2012 could have reduced Australia’s GDP by $72.3 billion, or 4%.

[Full report - see PDF below]

“Since 2012 Australia has slid from 7th to 13th on Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index (CPI), with index score declining from 85 to 79,” said Rod Campbell, Australia Institute Director of Research and co-author of the report.

“Economic analysis estimates each point decline in this score translates into a reduction in GDP per capita of $486. Extrapolating across Australia’s population, our GDP could have been $72.3 billion higher this year had we maintained our 2012 reputation for minimal corruption.

“This is in line with World Economic Forum estimates that corruption costs 5% of GDP worldwide.

“The economic impacts of corruption are well-known. Business costs increase, capital is not allocated efficiency and inequality worsens.

“Australia needs policies to address this threat to our economy.

“A federal ICAC with teeth is needed to increase public trust and tackle the perception of corruption in Australia.

“The perception of corruption is on the rise, the number of public servants who have witnessed corrupt behaviour is on the rise and public trust in federal parliament is at an all-time low.

As well as the obvious democratic cost, corruption and the perception of corruption also costs our economy.

“Not only does corruption cost business, businesses do not want to operate in countries where there is a perception of corruption.”

“This research shows that the business community also has a stake in perceptions of corruption and should be supporting calls for a federal ICAC,” Campbell said.

Type of Publication: 
Download Publication: 
The Australia Institute
Posted on:
10 January 2018