$500 billion managed to sneak out of India to foreign tax havens

The chief of India’s federal investigation agency says Indians have illegally deposited an estimated $500bn in overseas tax havens.

Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) director AP Singh said Indians were the largest depositors in foreign banks. Funds were being sent to tax havens such as Mauritius, Switzerland, Lichtenstein and the British Virgin Islands among others, he said…

Mr Singh was speaking at the opening on Monday of the first Interpol global programme on anti-corruption and asset recovery in the Indian capital, Delhi…

Mr Singh said getting information about such illegal transactions was a time-consuming and expensive process as each country where money had been sent had to be approached for help with investigations.

He said there was a lack of political will in the tax havens to part with any information because they were aware of the extent to which their economies had become “geared to this flow of illegal capitals from the poorer countries”…

In a report in November 2010 the US-based group, Global Financial Integrity…India’s underground economy accounted for 50% of the country’s gross domestic product, it said. The report said the illicit outflows of money had increased after economic reforms began in 1991.

I know it ain’t ever easy to get nations to cooperate when a significant portion of their economy is designed to aid criminal activities. But, that is exactly the context which should make penalties easy to establish in the home country.

India can pass laws restricting a nation from doing any business at all, lock-up the possibility of hidden funds being repatriated, as a consequence of criminal behavior. That might be easier than the straight-up economic pressure our DOJ put on Switzerland recently to accomplish the same thing.

Gee, all you need is honest politicians in your own government to pass the laws. 🙂

Rebuilding in Japan after the Tsunami confronts generational conflicts, democracy

At age 39, Yoshiaki Suda, the new mayor of this town that was destroyed by last March’s tsunami, oversees a community where the votes, money and influence lie among its large population of graying residents. But for Onagawa to have a future, he must rebuild it in such a way as to make it attractive to those of his generation and younger.

“That’s the most difficult problem,” Mr. Suda said. “For whom are we rebuilding?”

The reconstruction of Onagawa and the rest of the coast where the tsunami hit is a preview of what may be the most critical test Japan will face in the decades ahead. In a country where power rests disproportionately among older people, how does Japan, which has the world’s most rapidly aging population, use its dwindling resources to build a society that looks to the future as much as to the past…?

So after the tsunami destroyed all 15 of the fishing villages that make up part of Onagawa, Nobutaka Azumi, then the mayor, proposed a reconstruction plan that seemed sensible enough: consolidate the villages. Having just a few centralized communities would save the town money, Mr. Azumi said, and perhaps increase their chances of long-term survival.

But the village elders fought back, saying they wanted the government to rebuild their ancestral villages so that they could spend their last years there. Younger residents, many of whom supported consolidation but were vastly outnumbered, were left grumbling among themselves.

After the mayor persisted, he was pushed out of office by Mr. Suda, who was backed by opponents of consolidation. Mr. Suda now says that all the villages will be rebuilt, including a hamlet with just 22 inhabitants and an island village whose residents are on average 74 years old.

“There were 15 locations, so there will be 15 locations,” Mr. Suda said. “We’re moving forward under the premise that there will be no centralization, though I’m thinking of asking them one last time if this is really O.K., whether their young relatives are in agreement.”

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European Space Agency’s Vega launcher makes first flight


Europe’s new Vega rocket has completed a flawless first flight.

Controllers at the Kourou spaceport in French Guiana ignited the rocket at 07:00 local time (10:00 GMT), and it completed its mission 70 minutes later…

For its first outing, Vega placed nine payloads in orbit, including a physics experiment to test Einstein’s theory of general relativity…

The vehicle is intended to guarantee access to space for an increasingly important class of satellite weighing less than 2.5 tonnes. At the moment, these smaller spacecraft, which include many Earth observation satellites, tend to ride converted Russian nuclear missiles to get into orbit. European operators can sometimes wait many months to get a launch slot on these ICBMs, however.

Vega should allow them to have more control over the schedules of their space projects. It also means that the value of what it is an immensely high-tech enterprise will return to the European economy, not to foreign industry…

Monday’s mission was intended to qualify the overall Vega system, including the rocket vehicle itself and all its ground infrastructure and operations systems.

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As Xi Jinping visits, China’s appetite for American crops deserves a bit more than Cold War politics

John Weber on his farm in Dysart, Iowa
Daylife/Reuters Pictures used by permission

China is half a world away from the 2,300-acre family farm in east-central Iowa where John Weber and his son plant corn and soybeans. But 62-year-old Weber is among a number of Iowa farmers who are benefiting as rising incomes in China lead to demand for billions of dollars of American farm goods.

“There are huge opportunities,” said Weber, who in addition to his corn and soybean business, markets more than 14,000 hogs a year with a partner. “Absolutely huge.”

This week, a visit by Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping to the farm state will underscore the possibilities of the deepening agricultural trade relationship between China and the United States.

Xi, who is expected to replace Hu Jintao as Communist Party chief late this year and then become China’s new president in early 2013, will spend two days in Iowa after meeting President Barack Obama in Washington.

China last year bought $20 billion, or 14 percent, of record U.S. agricultural exports and it is now the largest buyer of U.S. soybeans, while becoming an increasingly important importer of U.S. corn and pork. The farm exports, up from $18.6 billion in 2010, now represent about one fifth of American sales of goods to China and U.S. officials are hoping for a lot more.

Beijing is not only buying food that will go directly to feed its 1.3 billion people but also for feedstuff that is going to the animals raised to meet increasing demand for meat and dairy produce that more Chinese can now afford…

RTFA if you feel you need to be reminded of all the crap reasons raised by xenophobes who would rather choose war over competitive commerce any year.

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Angry members of the Sun staff await Rupert Murdoch

Rupert Murdoch faces revolt from his own staff…after journalists angry at the arrest of five senior colleagues accused the company of throwing them to the wolves.

The 80-year-old media mogul is due to fly into Britain this week to address workers at his Wapping plant and reassure them of his commitment to his remaining UK newspaper titles. But he is likely to receive an angry reception after five more journalists on The Sun were arrested as part of Operation Elveden – the police investigation into allegations of bribery.

The arrests early on Saturday morning were the second batch in a fortnight and sources close to the investigation have indicated that they are unlikely to be the last.

Journalists at The Sun yesterday accused the company’s Management Standards Committee (MSC), which handed a huge amount of information to detectives, of allowing a “witch-hunt” to take place.

One angry journalist said the MSC were behaving like “reptiles” in order to protect the reputation of Mr Murdoch’s parent company in the United States.

Ten senior journalists on the paper have now been arrested and bailed as detectives probe allegations that they illegally paid police officers and other public officials for information. But staff at the paper said many of the allegations were “pathetic” and related to matters many years ago where reporters had bought drinks for contacts in the pursuit of legitimate stories…

One source at Wapping said: “There is a real feeling of anger, deepening anger but also defiance about what is going on. But there is not the mood for a strike, as people are loyal to the paper but perhaps not the people who run it…”

It has also now emerged that the Sun’s parent company News Corp could face an investigation by officials under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. The law allows American companies to be fined hundreds of millions of dollars for illegal activities overseas.

It would be pleasant change in political practices on the part of governments in both the US and UK to offer Murdoch something more than a powder puff spank on his poo-poo. He probably owns more politicians in the British Parliament than Exxon-Mobil does in the US Congress.

Two of my favorite footballers celebrate a goal

Demba Ba and Papiss Cisse are two of my favorite footballers – even if they play for Newcastle United. 🙂 Demba Ba in particular has a shot like a cannon.

But, I got to thinking about the difference in sophistication likely between the UK and the US. Americans get all woo-hoo over Tim Tebow and his Christian prayer pose. That’s just as common among athletes in Europe. Except oftimes those athletes aren’t Christian – they’re Muslim. Their celebration means as much to them as do the poses of Christian athletes.

So – you think there aren’t any Muslims in the NFL? Think, again. Do you think maybe it’s been suggested that for their own safety they shouldn’t kneel and face in the direction of Mecca when they score a touchdown? Tell us what you think would happen?