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Colombian police seize record 12-tonne cocaine shipment worth $360 million

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12-tonne cocaine shipment

Police in Colombia have seized 12 tonnes of cocaine with an estimated US wholesale market value of $360 million.

The massive US-bound shipment, thought to be the largest ever to have been intercepted in the country, was discovered hidden underground at multiple banana plantations in the northwest Antioquia province, near the border with Panama.

Some 400 anti-narcotics officers were involved in raids on the farms, which are situated close to routes used by traffickers to smuggle drugs into the US.

Local law enforcement officials said the operation that led to the seizure targeted the feared Gulf Clan drug trafficking gang, and that the cocaine belonged to the criminal organisation’s boss, Dairo Úsuga.

Examining the huge haul after it had been laid out across a large lawn in front of a police base, President Juan Manuel Santos said: “Never before, since we began more than 40 years ago to fight against drug trafficking, have we made a seizure of this magnitude.

“Thanks to a police operation with overseas intelligence, from friendly countries, the largest seizure in history was made.”

Santos told reporters the seizure meant police have discovered 362 tonnes of cocaine so far this year, easily surpassing the 317 that were intercepted in the whole of 2016.

Once broken up for sale, the shipment would have been enough to produce 11 million grams with an estimated street value of $660 million.

Police said they had arrested four people in connection with the seizure, but as is often the case with raids of this nature in Colombia, it is unlikely any of those detained hold senior roles in the organisation behind the shipment.

Úsuga, who said he was willing to surrender to authorities earlier this year, remains at large.

Santos said at the time that officials would review Úsuga’s offer to surrender, but warned that members of the Gulf Clan would not receive special treatment after being taken into custody.

The Colombian government claims it has arrested 1,500 members of the Gulf Clan this year, and that its deputy leader has been killed.

It is estimated the group is responsible for around 70% of Colombia’s cocaine production.

Despite the government’s efforts to crack down on cocaine cultivation, Colombia is producing more of the drug than ever.

Last year, farmers in the country grew enough coca plants to produce 850 tonnes of cocaine, according to the UN.

Prior to the seizure of this shipment, the previous largest haul of drugs in the country was an eight-tonne batch of cocaine that was also discovered on a banana plantation in May last year.

This shipment was also thought to belong to the Úsuga clan, despite no senior gang members being apprehended when the drugs were seized.

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Scammers the world over are exploiting public fears over the coronavirus outbreak

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exploiting public fears over the deadly coronavirus outbreak

Scammers across the globe are looking to profit from public fears over the coronavirus outbreak, with reports across the world highlighting how fraudsters seek to profit from the panic created by major disease outbreaks.

On Wednesday, Kyodo News reported that authorities in China have seized more than 31 million counterfeit or substandard face masks as members of the public clamour for such products amid a countrywide shortage.

China’s Ministry of Public Safety said police in the country have dealt with 688 cases involving the manufacture and sale of fake and substandard protective materials, arresting over 1,560 people while doing so.

China’s state-backed Xinhua news agency quotes the ministry as saying that as of Monday, law enforcement officers across the country had dealt with some 22,000 criminal cases related to the coronavirus outbreak.

Addressing a press conference in Beijing today, Vice Minister Du Hangwei revealed that a total of 4,260 suspects have been detained in relation to these alleged offences.

On Sunday, the UK’s People newspaper revealed that phishing scammers are sending elderly and vulnerable British citizens emails that purport to be from the country’s National Health Service in which they demand a payment of £169.99 ($216) for access to “rapid and effective treatment” for the disease.

Elsewhere, Business Insider reports that Facebook has announced that it will take down bogus adverts that guarantee a cure, create a sense of urgency or otherwise attempt to profit from the virus.

In a statement, the company said: “In the weeks after the World Health Organisation’s declared a public health emergency, Facebook is working to support their work in multiple ways, including taking steps to stop ads for products that refer to the coronavirus and create a sense of urgency, like implying a limited supply, or guaranteeing a cure or prevention.

“For example, ads with claims like face masks are 100% guaranteed to prevent the spread of the virus will not be allowed.”

In January, NutraIngredients-USA revealed that the US Natural Products Association (NPA) had asked federal authorities to monitor dietary supplement companies that claim their products can be used to treat the coronavirus.

NPA President and CEO Daniel Fabricant commented: “We have been in touch with some of the ecommerce organisations.

“We are urging them to take a look at how marketers that sell on their sites are tagging products.”

Earlier in February, the US Federal Tarde Commission warned that fraudsters are seeking to take advantage of fears surrounding the disease by setting up websites to sell bogus products.

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Petition calling for Pornhub to be closed down for hosting videos of sex trafficking victims and children passes 300,000 signatures

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petition calling for Pornhub to be closed down

A petition on Change.org calling for adult website Pornhub to be closed down after it hosted videos featuring sex trafficking victims and child sexual exploitation has attracted more than 300,000 signatures.

Launched by US women’s rights group Exodus Cry, which works to end commercial sexual exploitation, the petition labels Pornhub a “super-predator”, and calls for the website’s executives to be held to account.

The petition cites the case of the mother of a missing 15-year-old girl who discovered that videos featuring the rape and sexual assault of her daughter had been uploaded to Pornhub.

The girl’s trafficker, Christopher Johnson, who can be seen in the films raping the teenager, was arrested in Florida when police matched his appearance in some of the videos and linked it with 7-11 CCTV footage.

In its petition description, Exodus Cry also highlights the case of the owners of adult websites GirlsDoPorn and GirlsDoToys, who were charged with sex trafficking offences after they allegedly tricked young woman into appearing in pornographic films that were uploaded to Pornhub.

Last month, a judge in San Diego awarded nearly $13 million to 22 women who said they were tricked into performing in adult films by GirlsDoPorn owners Michael James Pratt and Matthew Isaac Wolfe.

Noting that one of the most-searched terms on Pornhub is “teen” pornography, Exodus Cry writes in its petition description: “Pornhub is complicit in the trafficking of these women and minors and probably thousands more like them.

“Pornhub is generating millions in advertising and membership revenue with 42 billion visits and six million videos uploaded per year.

“Yet it has no system in place to verify reliably the age or consent of those featured in the pornographic content it hosts and profits from.”

In a statement issued to the UK’s Daily Star, a Pornhub spokesperson said: “In the cases of Christopher Johnson and GirlsDoPorn, the unauthorised, illegal videos were removed from our platform as soon as we were made aware of them, and Pornhub has been assisting law enforcement and legal counsel with both of these investigations.”

Earlier this month, the BBC reported on the story of a woman who was forced to contact Pornhub after it hosted a video of her being raped when she was aged just 14.

Noting that videos of the attack had been posted on the website with titles such as “teen crying and getting slapped around”, Rose Kalemba explained how she emailed the company several times over a period of six months in 2009 to ask for the videos to be taken down, making clear that they depicted het being assaulted as a minor.

The videos were only removed when Kalemba contacted Pornhub posing as a lawyer.

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UK ticket touts who fleeced Harry Potter and Ed Sheeran fans caged for six and a half years

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UK ticket touts who fleeced Harry Potter and Ed Sheeran fans

Two British ticket touts who made millions of pounds by ripping off fans of Harry Potter, Ed Sheeran and Taylor Swift were yesterday jailed for a total of six and a half years following a trial at Leeds Crown Court.

Peter Hunter, 51, was handed a four-year jail term while David Thomas Smith, 66, was sentenced to 30 months behind bars after the pair were found guilty of fraudulently and dishonestly buying and reselling tickets for high-profile music and entertainment events.

Hunter and Smith are said to have raked in at least £11 million ($14.1 million) while running their BZZ Limited company, through which they purchased and sold on hundreds of tickets at hugely inflated prices to fans desperate to see their favourite artists and shows.

The pair, who were found guilty of committing their offences between 2010 and 2017, brought in a net profit of £3.5 million over the final 32 months of their fraud alone.

As well as selling customers overpriced and sometimes invalid tickets, the court found the men had also prevented thousands of people from getting hold of tickets at face value by buying up huge quantities to sell on at a massive profit.

Both men were found guilty of three counts of fraudulent trading and one of possession or control of an article for use in fraud.

A National Trading Standards investigation into Hunter and Smith revealed the pair used a number of dishonest and fraudulent tactics in order to purchase large quantities of tickets from primary ticket providers such as Ticketmaster, Eventim and AXS.

Speaking after sentencing, Lord Toby Harris, Chair of the UK’s National Trading Standards organisation, commented: “This is an important milestone in the fight to tackle online ticket touts who fraudulently buy and resell tickets to thousands of victims to line their own pockets.

“Today’s sentences send a strong message to similar online ticket touts: these are criminal offences that can lead to prison sentences.

“I hope this leads to a step-change in the secondary ticketing market, making it easier and safer for consumers buying tickets in the future.”

In June of last year, Britain’s national fraud reporting centre Action Fraud launched an awareness-raising campaign in which it appealed to music and sports fans to be on their guard against unauthorised ticket sellers ahead of the busy summer period.

The agency said it had received 4,755 reports of ticket fraud in the 13 months to the end of April last year, noting that victims across the UK had lost more than £1.6 million to ticket scammers over that time.

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