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US slaps more sanctions on North Korea in bid to block access to illicit fuel

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sanctions on North Korea

The United States Mission to the UN has proposed slapping sanctions on a new list of entities in a bid to shut down “North Korea’s illicit maritime smuggling activities to obtain oil and sell coal”.

In a statement issued on Friday, US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said: “Today’s unprecedented actions make it clear that the United States will not let up on North Korea.

“We are ramping up the pressure on the North Korean regime, and we’re going to use every tool at our disposal, including working with our allies and through the UN, to increase the pressure until North Korea reverses course.

“The world will not accept a nuclear North Korea.”

The move coincided with the US Treasury Department announcing the most wide-ranging tranche of North Korea-related sanctions it has ever issued, targeting one person, 27 companies and 28 vessels in mainland China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Singapore.

Focussing on third-country entities suspected of being involved in supplying oil to North Korea, the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) sanctioned nine international shipping companies and nine of their vessels, and designated 16 North Korean shipping companies.

Speaking about the newly-announced sanctions with reporters during a press conference alongside Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, US President Trump said: “If the sanctions don’t work, we’ll have to go phase two.

“Phase two may be a very rough thing, may be very, very unfortunate for the world. But hopefully the sanctions will work.”

The new package of sanctions comes just weeks after UN experts accused Pyongyang of flagrantly flouting sanctions on oil and gas, and illegally engaging in prohibited ballistic missile cooperation with Syria and Burma.

A UN report obtained by the Associated Press at the beginning February warned that Kim Jong-un’s regime still had access to the global financial system through “deceptive practices combined with critical deficiencies in the implementation of financial sanctions”, while the regime engaged in “widespread conventional arms deals and cyber operations to steal military secrets”.

In January, Trump took to Twitter to accuse the Chinese government of allowing illicit oil sales to be made to the North Korean regime, a move he argued could prevent a peaceful resolution to the escalating confrontation over Kim’s nuclear ambitions.

“Caught RED HANDED – very disappointed that China is allowing oil to go into North Korea. There will never be a friendly solution to the North Korea problem if this continues to happen!” Trump told his followers.

Despite both the US and the UN ramping up pressure on North Korea over its nuclear weapons programme, Pyongyang has largely managed to dodge sanctions thanks to countries such as China and Russia allegedly turning a blind eye to entities that are happy to trade with the repressive state.

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Organised crime police in Australia seize 1.5 tonnes of smuggled tobacco worth A$1.5 million

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1.5 tonnes of smuggled tobacco
1.5 tonnes of smuggled tobacco

Police in Australia discovered a 1.5-tonne consignment of illicit tobacco estimated to be worth A$1.5 million ($1.01 million) in Sydney’s south west earlier this week, according to a statement from New South Wales Police.

Officers from the force’s Strike Force Raptor, which is dedicated to targeting organised criminal activity connected with the country’s motorcycle gangs, found the huge haul after conducting a raid on an industrial unit in the Fairfield district of the city on Tuesday.

Detectives searching the premises after executing a warrant came across 73 boxes that were found to contain loose tobacco weighing almost 1.5 tonnes.

Police said the tobacco was impounded and taken away for further analysis, adding that no arrests had been made in connection with the shipment.

In May of last year, authorities in Australia launched a crackdown on the sale of illicit tobacco that the country’s government said it hoped would raise some A$3.6 billion over a four-year period.

Finance Minister Mathias Cormann said at the time that the initiative would see the government take action to prevent the sale of the 864 tonnes of illicit tobacco that was estimated to make it past the country’s customs agencies every year.

Kelly O’Dwyer, who was the nation’s Minister for Revenue and Financial Services at the time, said: “These measures will shut down the avenues that organised crime syndicates have to access illicit tobacco to fund criminal activity.”

Just months later, officers from Australian Border Force announced that they had arrested a man in connection with the discovery of a record haul of 9.5 million smuggled cigarettes, which were found concealed inside a container in a port city of Fremantle in Western Australia.

The illicit cigarettes, which were thought to have been made in Southeast Asia, would have cost the Australian treasury A$7.66 million in evaded duty had they made it onto the country’s black market.

Earlier this month, the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC) released a report that revealed law enforcement agencies across the country confiscated 30.6 tonnes of illicit drugs last year, noting that methamphetamine remained one of the most consumed and seized illicit drugs in the nation.

Michael Phelan, ACIC CEO, commented: “The estimated street value of the weight of amphetamines, MDMA, cocaine and heroin seized nationally in 2017–18 is nearly $5 billion, underlining the size of the black economy that relates to illicit drugs alone.”

The seventh National Wastewater Drug Monitoring Programme report, which was released in June by the ACIC, found that Australians are now using twice as much methamphetamine as any other illegal drug.

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Two men jailed over conspiracy to smuggle pig semen hidden in shampoo bottles into Australia

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A court in Australia has jailed two men for illegally importing pig semen from Denmark in shampoo bottles.

Torben Soerensen, Director of pig farm GD Pork, and the company’s Breeding Manager Henning Laue were jailed for a minimum of 18 months and eight months respectively at Perth District Court yesterday over their involvement in the importation of a biosecurity hazard.

GD Pork, which is now in liquidation, was handed a fine of A$500,000 ($338,284).

Prosecutors told the court that the pair had illegally imported the pig semen from the Scandinavian country on numerous occasions between 2009 and 2017 for use in GD Pork’s artificial breeding programme.

Investigators discovered that several of the firm’s breeding sows were direct offspring of Danish boars.

The court was told the ringleaders of the plot were investors in GD Pork’s Danish parent company, who Judge Troy Sweeney said would have faced far stiffer penalties than Soerensen and Henning had they not been beyond the reach of Australian law.

Soerensen, Henning and their co-conspirators plotted to import the semen into Australia on account of the fact that Danish pigs typically produce seven more piglets per year than the indigenous species.

The Australian government upholds strict biosecurity rules, which dictate that the country’s pig stocks must be “closed genetic herds” in order to prevent the spread of disease.

The rules are intended to prevent the importation of so-called “pig plague” into the country, which originated in the US before spreading across Western Europe and can cause infertility, stillborn piglets and pneumonia.

Australian Agriculture Minister Bridget McKenzie said the Australian Government takes any breach of biosecurity legislation seriously, adding: “This case shows a disturbing disregard for the laws that protect the livelihoods of Australia’s 2,700 pork producers, and the quality of the pork that millions of Australians enjoy each year.

“The penalties handed down at the District Court of Western Australia today send a clear message that breaches of Australia’s biosecurity rules will not be tolerated…

“GD Pork imported the semen illegally in an attempt to get an unfair advantage over its competitors, through new genetics.

“These actions could have also exposed Australia’s agricultural industries, environment and the community to serious biosecurity risk.”

A spokesperson from the Western Australian Farmers Federation said the semen smuggling plot was “extremely disappointing” and “a selfish act” that could have seriously damaged the Australian pig farming industry.

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British police warn social media users not to mock drug dealer’s receding hairline

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Police in the UK have warned social media users not to make fun of the receding hairline of a wanted drug dealer whose mugshot they posted online.

Gwent Police last week used Facebook to ask members of the public to help locate drug dealer Jermaine Taylor, who was being recalled to jail after breaching the conditions of his release licence.

Alongside its appeal, the force posted an image of Taylor sporting a thinning head of hair styled in a peculiar fashion, which readers of Gwent Police’s Facebook profile proceeded to mock incessantly.

Before being taken down, the post appealing for information that might lead to the apprehension of the 21-year-old had attracted more than 10,000 Facebook “likes”, tens of thousands of comments and over 14,000 shares.

“Push his release date back further than his hairline, that should teach him,” one user wrote.

Another quipped: “What is it with prisoners released on licence, hair today gone tomorrow…”

The popularity of the post and mean nature of some of the comments posted beneath it prompted Gwent Police to issue a statement warning social media users they could face prosecution if they are nasty to people online.

“We’re really grateful to everyone who is assisting us in locating Jermaine Taylor, and we must admit a few of these comments have made us laugh,” the force said.

“However, when the line is crossed from being funny to abusive, we do have to make sure we are responsible and remind people to be careful about what they write on social media.

“If you say something about someone which is grossly offensive or is of an indecent, obscene or menacing character, then you could be investigated by the police.”

The statement attracted further light-hearted comments, with one Facebook user posting: “Can’t work out what’s thinner. This guy’s hair or Gwent Police’s skin?”

Numerous UK police forces have faced criticism over recent years for targeting internet trolls at a time when violent crime is rocketing across Britain.

In September last year, Chairman of the UK Police Federation John Apter told the Daily Telegraph that detectives in Britain are so busy dealing with trivial matters on the internet that they are unable to tackle real crime.

He spoke out just weeks after South Yorkshire Police encouraged people to report “non-crime hate incidents”, which it said “can include things like offensive or insulting comments, online, in person or in writing”.

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