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German and Spanish police smash major European cannabis trafficking network

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European cannabis trafficking network

Spanish and the German investigators have broken up an organised crime network involved in drug trafficking and other unlawful activities across the EU.

The operation, which was backed by Europol, resulted in the seizure one ton of cannabis, guns, ammunition, eight vehicles and €212,000 ($262,751) in cash, as well as the arrest of 18 suspects.

Members of the gang are said to have coordinated the trafficking of cannabis from Spain to a number of other European countries, but chiefly Germany.

Based in the German city of Bremen, the gang is alleged to have set up cells in Malaga and Granada in Spain, which they used to facilitate the distribution of drugs out of the country.

According to a statement issued by Europol, the network was structured so that if one cell was disrupted by law enforcement authorities, the supply of drugs could still be fulfilled by those that remained operational.

Operation Carambolas was launched when intelligence officers observed a German member of the gang taking delivery of a large shipment of cannabis in southern Spain.

Investigators then raided two major cannabis farms in the south of the country, where nearly 100kgs of the drug were discovered, along with €172,000 in cash.

Two Spanish police officers sustained serious injuries while arresting one of the gang members, according to Europol, which provided information exchange services and cross-checking facilities throughout the course of the operation.

Following the raid, further members of the network were detained and questioned by the police, including nationals from Croatia, Germany, Spain, Albania, Armenia, Serbia, Syria and Turkey.

Spain has long been a major hub for drug traffickers looking to access the European market.

Smugglers routinely use both Portugal and Spain as entry points to other EU countries, having trafficked substances such as cocaine and cannabis from Latin America, North and West Africa, or other locations.

Police in Spain have claimed that significant seizures of both cocaine and cannabis made in the country last year forced traffickers to search for alternative routes into Europe.

Authorities in the country seized 32 tonnes of cocaine in 2017, up from 15 tonnes over the previous 12 months, accounting for 40% of all South American cocaine captured in Europe last year, the interior ministry said in January.

The ministry said its success in 2017 had resulted in traffickers attempting to use other countries such as the Netherlands and Belgium as entry points to Europe.

 

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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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