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The European Union, National Governments, And The Mob


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Coronavirus pandemic worsened corruption in EU: survey

3h ago

A new survey by Transparency International has found that 29% of EU residents used well-connected friends or family to receive medical care during the pandemic. At least 6% of people paid bribes to access health care.

The coronavirus pandemic has worsened corruption across the European Union, Transparency International said on Tuesday.

In its annual Global Corruption Barometer report for the EU , the anti-graft watchdog called health care a "hotspot for corruption," adding that graft is of "particular concern during the current COVID-19 pandemic, when citizens urgently need medical support and vaccinations."

Transparency International, headquartered in the German capital of Berlin, surveyed more than 40,000 people in the EU's 27 member states between October and December 2020.

The survey found that 29% of the bloc's residents have used personal connections such as well-connected friends or family to receive medical attention and 6% of people paid an outright bribe to receive health care.

Bribery rates in health care were highest in Romania (22%) and Bulgaria (19%), while relying on personal connections occured most often in the Czech Republic (54%) and Portugal (46%).

Governments using crisis for 'profit'

Many respondents also believed that their governments weren't handling the pandemic in a transparent way. In France, Poland and Spain, 60% of respondents or more said their governments acted in a non-transparent manner.

"Lives can be lost when connected people get a COVID-19 vaccine or medical treatment before those with more urgent needs," the report warned.

"It's crucial that governments across the EU redouble their efforts to ensure a fair and equitable recovery from the ongoing pandemic," it added.

The survey singled out Hungary and Poland as countries using the pandemic as "an excuse to undermine democracy" by imposing measures that weaken democratic institutions.

Politicians saw the health crisis "as a chance to make a profit," the watchdog said, citing lobbying scandals surrounding several German lawmakers.

EU distrust in government

Beyond the coronavirus pandemic, the survey found that a third of EU residents think corruption as a whole is worsening in their country, with almost half saying their government was doing a poor job at handling graft.

Respondents were particularly concerned about "cozy relationships" between governments and the private sector and tax cuts.

Growing perception of corruption in Germany

The survey found that in Germany, one in four people perceive that corruption is worsening.

The survey said 26.4% of respondents believed that the level of corruption in Germany had increased over the past year.

[...] 

https://m.dw.com/en/coronavirus-pandemic-worsened-corruption-in-eu-survey/a-57895128

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Meh. People feel that corruption us worsening because the journalists reported PPE contracts that were pushed through using emergency measures as though they should be judged according to normal practice.

We see it here - should an ITT  be sent out with a six month turnaround evaluation phase, or should we throw money at the problem now and suck up the negatives when there is time for that nonsense?

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Its amazing how much dust and lint one finds when one turns up the lights.

Of course, here in the States the sleazy practices of Congress, DoD, and defense contractors are expected, yet when it looks like there might be some collusion between the NIH and Big Pharma, journos go all Captain Renault.

 

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  • 4 weeks later...
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At least this particular mob is probably not in bed with the local government.

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“No Story Is Worth as Much as My Life”

Fears Mount Following Attack on Dutch Journalist

Did “cocaine baron” Ridouan Taghi commission a hit job on Dutch star reporter Peter R. de Vries? The assassination attempt casts new light on the power of drug gangs in the Netherlands.

By Steffen Lüdke und Alexandra Rojkov

09.07.2021, 18.58 Uhr

Ridouan Taghi had many code words for "murder." He sometimes spoke of "letting someone sleep" or wanting to "deactivate" someone in the encrypted messages he sent to confidants that were reviewed by investigators. But it appears that they always meant the same thing: Taghi wanted to kill someone for getting in the way of his drug business.

Investigators believe the Dutchman with Moroccan roots was involved in the cocaine trade, and that he rose to become one of the country’s biggest smugglers. Taghi has been in prison since December 2019, and for years, he has been considered "public enemy No. 1" in the Netherlands. Prosecutors accuse him of having run his criminal organization "like a well-oiled machine."

But the killings believed to be linked to Taghi didn’t stop with his arrest.

On Tuesday evening, Peter R. de Vries, the country’s most famous journalist, left a television studio in downtown Amsterdam, where he had appeared at 6:30 p.m. on a show called "RTL Boulevard." De Vries walked down Lange Leidsedwarstraat toward the public parking lot where he had left his car. Then shots rang out. According to media reports, five bullets were fired at de Vries, with one hitting him in the head. He collapsed and lay motionless on the ground. De Vries is still fighting for his life in the hospital.

The attack on the reporter shocked the Netherlands. The Dutch see their country as open and liberal – and not as the kind of place where journalists must fear for their lives. Politicians and reporters in the country view the attack on de Vries as one against the rule of law. And many suspect that "cocaine baron" Ridouan Taghi, a man who has long made a mockery of that rule of law, is behind the attack.

Opponents in a Drugs Trial

He and de Vries and Taghi are opponents in the Netherlands’ most high-profile drug trial. In addition to being an experienced crime journalist, de Vries also works as a TV host and a media consultant. At the time of his shooting, he had been working with a man named Nabil B., a former accomplice of Taghi’s. In the past, B. had organized getaway cars for the drug lord – but when an attempted murder went wrong, B., fearing for his life, turned himself in to the police. Now, he wants to testify against Taghi in court.

The attack on the reporter could be a message from the underworld, an attempt to intimidate Nabil B., the key witness.

Many people in the Netherlands were deeply shaken the day after the attack, but also angry that an act like this was even possible. Many are now calling for tougher measures in the fight against the drug mafia. And more security for the journalists covering their crimes.

[...]

De Vries became famous by working on cold cases that remained unsolved by police. When investigators gave up, de Vries would step in and start researching. He solved several. Among other achievements, he helped convict the killer of Nicky Verstappen, a boy who had been sexually abused and murdered.

His work on those cases made de Vries famous in the Netherlands, where he could be seen on TV almost every week. Over the years, he increasingly began switching roles, and began working as an adviser to athletes and as a confidant to witnesses wanting to testify against gangster bosses. People like Nabil B., who stood up to "cocaine baron" Taghi.

The day after the crime, Taghi’s lawyer denied that her client had had anything to do with the attack on de Vries. The accusations against him lacked any "factual basis," her law firm wrote in a statement.

So far, there has indeed been no evidence that Taghi ordered de Vries’ murder. The reporter has made many enemies over the course of his career. Little is known about the two suspects arrested by Dutch police after the attack – nor is there a clear link to Taghi. But other evidence points in the drug lord’s direction.

Since the news emerged that Nabil B. intends to testify as the key witness against Taghi, several people in his circle have been murdered. B.’s brother was shot to death in spring 2018 and his lawyer was killed in September 2019. Media outlets that have reported extensively on Taghi’s drug career have also been threatened. And in 2016, Martin Kok, a former criminal and blogger who wrote about organized crime, was killed. "That dog has to sleep,” Taghi reportedly typed in an encrypted message before the murder. In June 2019, someone rammed a van into the front of the offices of the De Telegraaf newspaper. The daily had reported on Taghi’s alleged drug dealings, among other things.

But the attempted murder of a nationally known reporter like de Vries goes beyond the pale. Even fellow journalists who knew about Taghi’s brutality are appalled by the escalation of the violence. Few wanted to talk openly the day after the attack. And those who are willing to do so talk about their worries: about their profession, but also about possible personal harm to them.

[...]

https://www.spiegel.de/international/europe/fears-mount-following-attack-on-dutch-journalist-no-story-is-worth-as-much-as-my-life-a-362189b6-03ab-49b7-b9fc-bb28e3e63a93

Edited by BansheeOne
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Dutch investigative journalist Peter R. de Vries dies

34m ago

Dutch media have reported the death of investigative journalist Peter R. de Vries.

Dutch investigative journalist Peter R. de Vries died on Thursday after being shot in Amsterdam last week, according to a statement from his family. The statement was published by the Dutch station he had regularly worked for, RTL.

What did his family say?

"Peter fought to the end, but was unable to win the battle," the statement said. "Peter has lived by his conviction. On bended knee is no way to be free. We are unbelievably proud of him and at the same time inconsolable."

The 64-year-old reporter covered the underground world of organized crime in the Netherlands.

The attack on de Vries has angered European leaders and press freedom advocates.

Two suspects have been arrested so far in connection to the shooting. De Vries had previously received death threats due to his reporting.

https://m.dw.com/en/dutch-investigative-journalist-peter-r-de-vries-dies/a-58218593

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Date 29.07.2021

Malta failed to protect murdered journalist, says inquiry

A public inquiry into the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia has concluded that the Maltese state failed to protect the journalist from threats to her life.

The government of Malta failed to adequately protect anti-corruption journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia and bore responsibility for creating a "culture of impunity," an independent inquiry into the car bomb murder concluded on Thursday.   

The inquiry, conducted by one serving judge and two retired judges, found that a culture of impunity was created by the highest echelons of power within the government of the time.

"The tentacles of impunity then spread to other regulatory bodies and the police, leading to a collapse in the rule of law," said the panel's report.

Prime Minister Robert Abela, who made the inquiry report public, said that the report merited "mature analysis."

"Lessons must be drawn and the reforms must continue with greater resolve," he said.

Who was Daphne Caruana Galizia?

Caruana Galizia, an outspoken and well-known Maltese journalist, started looking into the Panama Papers leaks in 2016 and eventually uncovered offshore companies connected to Malta's business and political world.

Her anti-corruption career, partly as an opinion writer interested in politics, had led her to one of the most important investigative projects in Europe.

When Caruana Galizia began uncovering high-level corruption in the country, she was slapped with both libel and defamation lawsuits that increased dramatically in the final year of her life.

Caruana Galizia was killed in a massive explosion near her home village of Bidnija in October 2017.

The murder caused international outrage, prompted sustained public protests across Malta and close scrutiny by the EU.

[...]

https://www.dw.com/en/malta-failed-to-protect-murdered-journalist-says-inquiry/a-58692005

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Date 16.10.2021

Author Marina Strauss (Brussels)

Is the EU doing enough to protect journalists?

Maltese reporter Daphne Caruana Galizia was killed in a car bomb attack in 2017. Four years later, the EU has pledged to strengthen the safety of journalists. Many, however, feel these promises won't be enough.

When Daphne Caruana Galizia was murdered on October 16, 2017, in a car bomb attack, people were shocked around the world. 

But the Maltese reporter, who was renowned for her investigations into corruption and money laundering, wasn't the only journalist who would be targeted. In the four years since her death, other colleagues including Jan Kuciak from Slovakia, Giorgos Karaivaz from Greece and Peter de Vries from the Netherlands have also been killed. In Europe — the continent that is considered a relatively safe haven for media professionals.

Julie Majerczak, head of the Brussels office of Reporters Without Borders (RSF), told DW that even though that's still the case, the situation has been steadily deteriorating in the last couple of years. "And journalists being murdered is only the tip of the iceberg," she said. 

According to the European Commission, 900 media professionals were attacked in the European Union in 2020. Some of these attacks were physical, but they also included insults and harassment — especially of women, both offline and online.

[...]

EU pledges to 'protect those who create transparency'

The experiences of reporters like Delia and Ciesla have not gone unnoticed in Brussels. The European Commission, the EU's executive body, has recently promised to take more action. 

EU Commission head Ursula von der Leyen dedicated an entire part of her State of the European Union speech in September to the freedom of the press. "Information is a public good," she said. "We must protect those who create transparency — the journalists."

That same day, the commissioner responsible for upholding the rule of law in the EU, Vera Jourova, presented a package of recommendations to help EU countries follow through with that vow. She stressed that it was the first time media freedom and safety had been placed so high on the European agenda.

Specific measures included the creation of independent national support services, including help lines, legal advice, psychological support and shelters for media professionals facing threats.

[...]

"What we absolutely need are legislative measures that are followed by sanctions if breached, not only recommendations," said Majerczak. She fears — as do journalists Delia and Ciesla — that stern words aren't enough to make an impression on some EU governments.

"I'm thinking of Poland, Hungary, Malta, Greece and Bulgaria for example," she said, singling out Bulgaria as "the worst EU student."

In RSF's 2021 World Press Freedom Index, the eastern European state ranked 112 out of 180 countries. According to RSF, the few outspoken journalists in Bulgaria are subjected not only to harassment by the state, but also intimidation and violence

[...]

https://www.dw.com/en/is-the-eu-doing-enough-to-protect-journalists/a-59504133

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Alleged killers of Dutch journalist De Vries go on trial

7h ago

Monday's preliminary hearing is expected to look at the police investigation into the Amsterdam shooting of the crime reporter rather than the evidence itself.

Two men charged with killing Dutch crime reporter Peter R. de Vries in Amsterdam went on trial Monday after a shooting that shocked the Netherlands.

Police arrested a 21-year-old Dutch man and his Polish getaway driver, 35, on July 6 shortly after De Vries was gunned down on an Amsterdam street.

De Vries died from his injuries nine days after being shot.

What is happening at the court case?

The Amsterdam District Court is expected to hear the main details of the police investigation so far and any other requests from the suspects' lawyers.

The preliminary hearing will not evaluate evidence in a case which brought thousands of people onto the streets across the Netherlands to pay their last repects to De Vries.

Experts think that the murder could have been committed by the same organized crime group that de Vries had been trying to lock up in a 16-person court case.

Prosecutors branded the gang a "well-oiled killing machine."

[...] 

https://m.dw.com/en/alleged-killers-of-dutch-journalist-de-vries-go-on-trial/a-59535765

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In the same vein:

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Narco-State Netherlands

The Slippery Dutch Slope from Drug Tolerance to Drug Terror

Drug gangs in the Netherlands have long since graduated from hashish to cocaine - and from dealing on the streets to a spree of contract killings. Police, lawyers, journalists: All are at risk of falling victim to the drug violence that has gripped the country.

By Jürgen Dahlkamp, Jörg Diehl und Roman Lehberger

20.10.2021, 12.00 Uhr

A dark night sky hangs over Amsterdam as Peter Schouten drives home on Nov. 2, 2020. The lawyer is coming from a TV talk show, where he appeared with his colleague Onno de Jong and with Peter R. de Vries, a well-known crime reporter. He is traveling in an armored car, complete with bodyguards, their automatic weapons in the door compartments. Such has been Schouten’s life since he and the other two began working with the country’s most important witness – a criminal who has testified against the Dutch cocaine mafia. The man’s brother has already been shot and killed for this reason, as was his first lawyer, Schouten’s predecessor.

Who is next on the kill list? Schouten? De Jong? De Vries? Schouten looks out through bulletproof glass and sees De Vries walking alone on the street. The car drives up to him and Schouten asks: "Peter, what are you doing here alone in the dark?” De Vries: "I am walking to my car.” Schouten, according to his recollection of the conversation, replies: "But that’s insane.”

Eight months later, on July 6 of this year, De Vries was again walking through Amsterdam’s city center. It was to be his final walk – and would end in another 250 paces. He had become a living legend. As a journalist, he had not only reported on criminal cases, but had also solved many of them through his TV show, "Peter R. de Vries, Kriminalreporter.” A one-man special commission, de Vries was, for his millions of viewers, proof that a single person could accomplish more than the entire law enforcement apparatus. He was brave. Fearless.

And he never used bodyguards.

On that July 6 evening, de Vries was again coming from a TV appearance, strolling along Lange Leidseswarsstraat from the studio to the parking garage where his BMW was parked. On his right and left were typical Dutch brick facades topped with hoisting beams from the old gable lifts. Below them, the kitchens of the world: an Indian restaurant called Bollywood, an Italian named O Sole Mio, a Thai place. There were tables set up outside for people meeting to eat, talk, laugh. Indeed, De Vries’ final steps led him through a street that embodied the country’s self-image: Cosmopolitan, light and lively, safe. A nice façade.

Then the street grew quieter, more residential. De Vries could see the entrance to the parking garage ahead, but he didn’t see the young man lurking on the staircase leading up to the right, to building numbers 176 and 178. The man had been waiting for De Vries. When the reporter walked past, the man fired five shots. One of them hit de Vries in the head.

He collapsed in front of a window plastered with advertising, one of them for a place called Cooldown Café 'De Kleine’ – a bitterly ironic coincidence in this horrific story. "De Kleine” was the former nickname of Ridouan Taghi, the suspected drug kingpin against whom the chief witness had testified.

There is no proof that Taghi sent the killer, even though he is the prime suspect. His lawyer says that her client had nothing to do with the De Vries murder. Formerly the most-wanted man in the Netherlands, Taghi has been in custody since his arrest in 2019. At first, he told his interrogators that the state should save its money and just "give me a life sentence.” He has since clammed up, however, and instructed his lawyer to deny all accusations. Still, the testimony of the chief witness isn’t the only thing incriminating him. There is also evidence provided by encrypted messages that have been decoded. These include an excited "Woooooooooooooppppppppwooooooooooppppppppppp hahahaha insch’ allah!” after another murder. His lawyer claims these messages weren’t from Taghi or from his cell phone.

But the shots fired on De Vries were about much more than intimidating a witness. They were a demonstration of power, a show of who has the say in the Netherlands and who can force others into silence.

And if Taghi, the boss in the high-security wing, isn’t behind the murders – the killings of the witness’ brother, of the chief witnesses’ first lawyer, and of De Vries – then the situation would be even more horrific. Because that would mean that other bosses in the international drug trade have gone to war – a war over cocaine, of which billions of euros worth is moved through the Netherlands into Europe every year. And in which a person’s life is only worth the equivalent of a few hundred grams. An execution costs an estimated 50,000 euros – a package deal that includes surveillance, an escape vehicle, a weapon and the killer himself. "In the problem areas of southeastern Amsterdam, young men are queuing up to commit murder on behalf of the gangs,” says Cees, a Dutch investigator who requested that his real name not be used in this story.

The De Vries murder is forcing the Netherlands to finally take stock. How bad has the situation become in the country, and how could things have devolved to this degree? The attack has shaken the country’s sense of itself and laid bare how absurd the cliché was of a supposedly cute, peaceful Netherlands in which a commitment to tolerance allows for people to calmly coexist – a tolerance that extends to soft drugs, because a joint doesn’t hurt anyone.

For a long time, nobody was bothered by the fact that the country’s permissive approach to hash and marijuana had helped brutal mobsters become powerful, and that the gangs had also begun carting tons of hard drugs through the country alongside the soft ones. That every year, 20 people were being killed in that underworld. But then, the gangsters stopped caring about the public peace.

In 2012, a gang war broke out, and ever since, the underworld has been extending its fingers towards the world up above. There was a shooting during which bullets flew into a children’s bedroom. In 2016, a severed head showed up on the sidewalk in front of a café. There have been killings of and threats to people who don’t belong to that milieu and are living a normal life, or to people who have had the courage to stand up for rule of law and freedom of the press. Or simply people who had the misfortune of being mistaken by a contract killer for his target.

The Netherlands, which wants to be so very permissive, is learning how un-free life can be in the grips of the mafia. The Taghi gang’s motto is supposedly "Wie praat, die gaat” – whoever talks, must go. Every journalist who reports about the Moroccan-dominated Mocro gangs. Every prosecutor who investigates them. Every lawyer who represents their opponents. Every witness who testifies against them. They all should be checking under their car for bombs and looking around to see who might be trailing them. They must be prepared to submit to police protection and give up their old lives, and for their family to give theirs up too.

"All boundaries are gone,” says Cees, the investigator. Even Prime Minister Mark Rutte has supposedly fallen into the sights of the Mocro killers. Earlier this month, the police arrested a cousin of Taghi’s. The cousin is a lawyer who is part of the defense team and had constant access to Taghi – and, as indicated by intercepted communications, allegedly acted as Taghi’s channel over the course of several months, helping him deliver orders to the outside. Nothing seems unthinkable, nobody seems safe. DER SPIEGEL has spoken with people who are living under this constant threat and don’t know when it will stop or if it ever will. For them, there is no safety – it’s like living in a narco-state. For many people, living in Holland has become comparable to living in drug-ridden countries in Central and South America.

[...] 

https://www.spiegel.de/international/europe/narco-state-netherlands-the-slippery-dutch-slope-from-drug-tolerance-to-drug-terror-a-4c064859-9faf-495f-b1f7-c74900910568

Edited by BansheeOne
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