Subdivision Tips, South Australia (C: +61431138537), https://www.facebook.com/RealEstateSA5000/

Friday, June 23, 2017

New app: Uber, but for an Uber CEO

Wed Jun 21, 2017 | 4:28 PM EDT Travis Kalanick, co-founder and CEO of Uber Technologies Inc. speaks at the Wall Street Journal Digital Live ( WSJDLive ) conference at the Montage hotel in Laguna Beach, California October 20, 2015. Reuters/Mike Blake New app: Uber, but for an Uber CEO By Richard Beales | NEW YORK (Reuters Breakingviews) - Uber co-founder Travis Kalanick has quit as chief executive under a cloud of business and cultural troubles, including harassment allegations. These threaten the ride-hailing service's eye-popping, and currently unwarranted, valuation of $68 billion. In addition to the shortage of senior managers after departures in recent months, he leaves a void right at the top. Using the company's own how-to guide as a template, Breakingviews imagines an Uber-like app that helps fill it.  How to request a CEO: 1. Enter your requirements in the "Who on Earth?" box. Alternatively, if a strong record on scaling startups, taking firms public, tackling cultural and diversity problems and turning money-losing businesses around seems too much to ask of one person, simply tap a shortcut icon at the bottom of your screen, which will connect with your executive search firm. 2. Your default starting point is set to "Desperate." If you are hoping for a different perception, your board and remaining managers will need to work hard to implement recent recommendations on changing the boys'-club culture – even while your request is still pending. 3. Use the slider at the bottom of your screen to toggle between available CEO options. For example: UberXX would limit the search to women, perhaps including ex-Yahoo boss Marissa Mayer, Uber board member Arianna Huffington, Hewlett Packard Enterprise CEO Meg Whitman or even Facebook operating chief Sheryl Sandberg; and UberCAR would seek automotive specialists like former Ford Motor bosses Alan Mulally and Mark Fields, leaders who could push forward the autonomous-driving part of your business. UberPOOL, meanwhile, would alert other Uber board members who already have day jobs, unemployed tech executives such as Nikesh Arora, formerly of Google and SoftBank, or people like Jack Dorsey, who is already running Twitter and Square but may have further capacity. 4. Tap "Request." You may be asked to confirm (a) that you're serious about changing the corporate culture and (b) that your investors have accepted that your current valuation is far lower than assumed in the past. 5. Wait for a CEO candidate to accept your request, if any are brave enough to take the role with Kalanick, who sits on the board and controls the company, riding shotgun. 6. When your request has been accepted you'll see your CEO's résumé and estimated time of arrival. Given the circumstances, that this may come with surge pricing. 7. Your app will notify you when your CEO is close to accepting the job. Failure to confirm the request quickly could result in a damaging delay. 8. Keep in mind this app can be used to replace board members, as well Also In Breakingviews Brexit one year on: an alternative history Viewsroom: Helping Uber hail a new CEO

Friday, June 16, 2017

disclosure shows $594m income in 2016-17

afr NEWS Donald Trump's 98 page financial disclosure shows $594m income in 2016-17 facebook email twitter June 17 2017 - 12:19PM President Donald Trump had personal liabilities of at least $US315.6 million ($415.5 million) to German, US and other lenders as of mid-2017, according to a federal financial disclosure form released late on Friday by the US Office of Government Ethics. He had roughly $US20 million in income from his new marquee Washington hotel, which opened just down the street from the White House last September. Revenues also increased at Mar-a-Lago, the Florida resort known as the "Winter White House." Donald Trump has released his financial disclosure statement which shows personal liabilities of at least $US315.6 million. Donald Trump has released his financial disclosure statement which shows personal liabilities of at least $US315.6 million. Photo: AP Trump reported income of at least $US594 million for 2016 and early 2017 and assets worth at least $US1.4 billion. The 98-page disclosure document posted on the ethics office's website showed liabilities for Trump of at least $US130 million to Deutsche Bank Trust Company Americas, a unit of German-based Deutsche Bank. Donald Trump earned roughly $US20 million in income from his new marquee Washington hotel which opened during the ... Donald Trump earned roughly $US20 million in income from his new marquee Washington hotel which opened during the election campaign in September 2016. Photo: Beth J. Harpaz For example, Trump disclosed a liability to Deutsche exceeding $US50 million for the Old Post Office, a historic Washington property where he has opened a hotel. Trump reported liabilities of at least $US110 million to Ladder Capital, a commercial real estate lender with offices in New York, Los Angeles and Boca Raton, Florida. The largest component of Trump's income was $US115.9 million listed as golf-resort related revenues from Trump National Doral in Miami, down from $US132 million he reported a year ago. Income from many of his other hotels and resorts largely held steady. Revenue from Trump Corporation, his real-estate management company, nearly tripled, to $US18 million, and revenue from Mar-a-Lago grew by 25 per cent, to $US37.25 million. The private club doubled its initiation fee to US$200,000 after Trump's election. Revenue from Mar-a-Lago grew by 25 per cent, to $US37.25 million. The private club doubled its initiation fee to ... Revenue from Mar-a-Lago grew by 25 per cent, to $US37.25 million. The private club doubled its initiation fee to US$200,000 after Trump's election. Photo: Alex Brandon He earned $US11 million from the Miss Universe pageant, after selling the beauty contest back in 2015. Revenue from television shows like "The Apprentice" fell to $US1.1 million, down from $US6 million a year earlier. His assets probably exceeded $US1.4 billion because the disclosure form provided ranges of values. The document showed Trump held officer positions in 565 corporations or other entities before becoming US president. His tenure in most of those posts ended on January 19, the day before his inauguration, and in others in 2015 and 2016. Most of the entities involved were based in the United States, with a handful in Scotland, Ireland, Canada, Brazil, Bermuda and elsewhere. Trump has refused to release his tax returns, which would give a much clearer indication of his wealth and business interests. But he has submitted federal forms disclosing his and his family's income, assets and liabilities. "President Trump welcomed the opportunity to voluntarily file his personal financial disclosure form," the White House said in a statement, adding that the form was "certified by the Office of Government Ethics pursuant to its normal procedures." An Office of Government Ethics spokesman declined to comment on the contents of the report, other than to say it was certified by the office, which is an ethics watchdog for federal government employees. Trump released a disclosure form in May 2016 that his campaign at the time said showed his net worth was $US10 billion. Some critics disputed that figure as overblown.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Rape Victim Sues Uber, Says Execs Portrayed Her as a Liar

NEWS JUN 15 2017, 6:53 PM ET Rape Victim Sues Uber, Says Execs Portrayed Her as a Liar BY ASSOCIATED PRESS advertisement DETROIT — A woman who was raped by an Uber driver in India is suing the company for a second time, alleging that Uber executives got her private medical records and made false statements claiming she fabricated the attack. The lawsuit filed Thursday in a California federal court seeks unspecified damages on behalf of the woman, who is identified only as Jane Doe. Related: Uber Board Member Who Made Sexist Comment During All-Hands Meeting Resigns The allegations compound a long string of image problems for the ride-hailing company, whose CEO took a leave of absence earlier this week after an investigation found a dysfunctional culture that allowed sexual harassment. Twenty employees have been fired, and this week a board member was forced to step down after making a sexist remark at an employee meeting. Uber's Scandal-Plagued 2017, Explained The new lawsuit says Uber executives falsely portrayed the woman as a liar who made up the 2014 rape in collusion with a competing service seeking to undermine Uber's business. But the driver was convicted of rape and sentenced to life in prison. The first lawsuit was settled in 2015, before the allegations regarding the woman's medical records surfaced last week. San Francisco-based Uber issued a statement Thursday that didn't deny the allegations. "No one should have to go through a horrific experience like this, and we're truly sorry that she's had to relive it over the last few weeks," the company said. Related: Uber’s Embattled CEO Travis Kalanick Is Taking Indeterminate Leave The new lawsuit alleges that shortly after the rape, Eric Alexander, then Uber's vice president for business in Asia, got the woman's medical records after a meeting with police in New Delhi. Alexander showed them to Emil Michael, then vice president of business, and CEO Travis Kalanick "so that he (Alexander) could attempt to defame and undermine her very serious allegations of sexual assault and rape," the lawsuit says. Alexander was dismissed from Uber this month after media reports about the medical records, the lawsuit said. Michael left Uber on Monday. Kalanick, who has said he must grow up and needs management help, has taken an indefinite leave. His mother was killed and father was hurt in a May boating accident. advertisement Related: Uber’s Board Accepts Holder Recommendations, Discusses CEO’s Future The lawsuit alleges that Kalanick stated publicly after the rape that Uber would support the woman and her family, then put out false conspiracy theories about the woman. "Rape denial is just another form of the toxic gender discrimination that is endemic at Uber and ingrained in its culture," said Douglas Wigdor, a New York attorney who represents the woman. At the time of the rape, the woman lived in New Delhi, but now she lives in Texas, according to the lawsuit. View Full Experience

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Trump under investigation for possible obstruction of justice: Washington Post

Wed Jun 14, 2017 | 7:25 PM EDT FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump arrives at Newark International airport in Newark, NJ U.S., to spend a weekend at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminister, New Jersey, June 9, 2017. Reuters/Yuri Gripas Trump under investigation for possible obstruction... X U.S. President Donald Trump is being investigated by special counsel Robert Mueller for possible obstruction of justice, the Washington Post reported on Wednesday, citing unidentified officials. Mueller is investigating alleged Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election and possible collusion with the Trump campaign. Former FBI Director James Comey told Congress last week he believes he was fired by Trump to undermine the agency's Russia probe. The Washington Post, citing five people briefed on the requests who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Dan Coats, the director of national intelligence, Mike Rogers, the head of the National Security Agency, and Richard Ledgett, the former deputy director at the NSA, had agreed to be interviewed by Mueller's investigators as early as this week. The obstruction of justice investigation into Trump began days after Comey was fired on May 9, according to people familiar with the matter, the Washington Post said. ADVERTISEMENT Advertisement Scroll to continue with content Trump's legal team quickly denounced the report on Wednesday. "The FBI leak of information regarding the President is outrageous, inexcusable and illegal," a spokesman for Trump’s legal team, Mark Corallo, said. A spokesman for Mueller's team declined to comment. Several legal experts told Reuters that Comey's testimony last week that Trump expected loyalty and told Comey he hoped he could drop an investigation of a former top aide could bolster obstruction of justice allegations against Trump. Also In Big Story 12 Fed raises rates, unveils balance sheet cuts in sign of confidence Global stocks pressured by report on Trump probe, Fed hike, soft U.S. data Comey would not say in his testimony last week whether he thought the president sought to obstruct justice, but added it would be up to special counsel Mueller "to sort that out." After Comey's testimony, Trump said he had been vindicated because his former FBI director confirmed telling Trump on three occasions that he was not under investigation. While a sitting president is unlikely to face criminal prosecution, obstruction of justice could form the basis for impeachment. Any such step would face a steep hurdle as it would require approval by the U.S. House of Representatives, which is controlled by Trump's fellow Republicans. (Additional reporting by Steve Holland Nathan Layne; Reporting by Eric Beech; Editing by Howard Goller)

Breaking News:Travis Air Force Base in California under lockdown orders, people told to 'shelter in place' and standby

X Edition: United States Suspect in baseball field shooting ranted against Trump on social media Politics | Wed Jun 14, 2017 | 7:02pm EDT Suspect in baseball field shooting ranted against Trump on social media left right 4/4 left right James Hodgkinson of Belleville, Illinois is seen in this undated photo posted on his social media account. Social Media via REUTERS 1/4 left right 2/4 left right 3/4 left right 4/4 left right 1/4 By Sue Britt | BELLEVILLE, Ill. The suspect who opened fire on Republican lawmakers as they played baseball on Wednesday raged against Republican U.S. President Donald Trump on social media and idolized Bernie Sanders, whom he saw as the only politician who understood the working class. Authorities identified the gunman as James Hodgkinson, a 66-year-old home inspector from the St. Louis suburb of Belleville, Illinois. He died from injuries sustained in a shoot-out with Capitol Hill police who were at the scene in Alexandria, Virginia, outside Washington. Hodgkinson is believed by investigators to have been a person "of strong views," a senior U.S. official said, without elaborating. The Belleville News-Democrat newspaper posted a photograph of Hodgkinson protesting outside a post office there in 2012, wearing sunglasses and a goatee and holding a homemade placard that read "TAX the Rich." Hodgkinson was a member of many anti-Republican groups on Facebook including "The Road to Hell Is Paved With Republicans," "Terminate The Republican Party," and "Donald Trump is not my President," his profile showed before it was taken down. Trump won the U.S. presidential election in November. Republicans also control both chambers of Congress. "Trump is a Traitor. Trump Has Destroyed Our Democracy. It's Time to Destroy Trump & Co." Hodgkinson wrote in a March 22 post. His profile picture was a U.S. flag with the slogan: "Democratic Socialism explained in 3 words: 'We the People.'" Hodgkinson went to Washington several weeks ago to protest against Trump's election, his brother told the New York Times. The former mayor of Alexandria, Bill Euille, said he talked with the suspect at the local YMCA most mornings for more than a month, and even tried to help find Hodgkinson a job after seeing he was living out of a gym bag, the Washington Post said. Stephen Brennwald, an Alexandria attorney, also saw Hodgkinson at the YMCA wearing long pants rather than gym attire, and said he often seemed to be staring into space. "It's just very freaky to think that this guy who was just sitting in there for weeks, not really doing anything, actually turned out to shoot at people," Brennwald told Reuters. 'DESPICABLE ACT' Hodgkinson's Facebook profile featured a cover photo of Sanders, a U.S. senator from Vermont who ran unsuccessfully to be the Democratic Party's presidential candidate last year. Sanders, an independent who ran as a progressive populist but was defeated by Hillary Clinton, said the suspect had "apparently volunteered" on his campaign. In a statement, Sanders condemned the shooting as a despicable act." One woman who asked not to be named told Reuters that Hodgkinson had contacted her via Facebook as part of a political discussion, but that he subsequently commented on her page that Clinton was a "liar" and a "baby killer." "I actually blocked him at one point," the woman said. A bartender at the Pork Barrel BBQ in Alexandria said Hodgkinson started coming in for beers about a month ago. "He was a regular-looking guy that kind of gave you a sense of the creeps, but you can't really put your finger on it," said Christina Shrimshaw, 27, who served him a handful of times but never remembered him discussing politics. "He would talk about very mundane things, like golf. He was big into watching the Golf Channel." Also In Politics No hint of new gun control push in U.S. Congress after shootings Trump being investigated for possible obstruction of justice: Washington Post A neighbor in Belleville, William Schaumleffel, recalled how in March he heard gunshots and saw Hodgkinson shooting with a long gun toward woods across a corn field from his yard. "I yelled at him: 'Hey, stop shooting over there. There are houses over there,'" Schaumleffel said. Hodgkinson did not stop, he added, so he filed a report with the sheriff's office. Hodgkinson's criminal history included a 2006 arrest on battery charges that were later dismissed, as well as multiple traffic violations, according to state records that identified him as a 5-foot, 6-inch (1.67-metre) man weighing 190 pounds (86 kg), with brown eyes. Most of the infractions were ultimately dropped. Hodgkinson had been licensed as a home inspector and real estate appraiser, but did not renew his home inspector license after it expired last year, state records showed. His license to appraise real estate expired in 1997. According to Facebook, Hodgkinson went to Belleville Township High School West and studied flight training at Southwestern Illinois College. Beginning in mid-2015, Hodgkinson began expressing support for Sanders' 2016 campaign, and federal records showed he donated $18 to the effort. "Bernie is the Only Candidate in Decades that Really Cares about the Working Class," Hodgkinson posted on June 13, 2016. The Belleville News-Democrat published letters he wrote the paper criticizing Republicans, tax policies and income inequality. One from August 2012 read: "I have never said 'life sucks,' only the policies of the Republicans." (Additional reporting by Colleen Jenkins, Diane Bartz, Dustin Volz, Letitia Stein, Gina Cherelus, Mark Hosenball, Chris Kenning, Ian Simpson, Angela Moon, Peter Szkeley and Grant Smith; Writing by Daniel Wallis; Editing by James Dalgleish and Peter Cooney) Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles Next In Politics Senate backs legislation to slap new sanctions on Russia WASHINGTON The U.S. Senate voted overwhelmingly on Wednesday for new sanctions punishing Russia for meddling in the 2016 U.S. election, and to force President Donald Trump to get Congress' approval before easing any existing sanctions. MORE FROM REUTERS   BRIEF-Lianluo Smart Ltd enters into a loan agreement with Digital Grid (Hong Kong) Technology Co Limited 'Nonsense': Powerful Republican denounces White House information shut-out 'Trial of a lifetime' plays out in tiny South Dakota town F-35 jets grounded at U.S. Air Force base in Arizona: officials U.S. Air Force suspends flying ops of Lockheed's F-35 at Luke Air Base Sponsored Content From Around the Web Promoted by Revcontent 50 Illegal Photos Smuggled out of North Korea Manplate Millions of People Are Cancelling Their Netflix Account Because of This One Site Daily Life 9 Ways To Lose Belly Fat When You're Crazy Busy TodaysDiets Angelina Jolie's Daughter Used To Be Adorable, But Today She Looks Insane Hyperactivz What Happens When You Do Planks Every Day? TodaysDiets Crazy Billionaire Reveals How You Can Make $4500/day Easily Starting Today Cash System Trending Stories 1 Fed raises rates, unveils balance sheet cuts in sign of confidence 2 Fire engulfs London tower block, at least 12 dead, dozens injured 3 U.S. lawmaker, others shot on baseball field by man angry with Trump 4 UPS shooting leaves four dead, including gunman, in San Francisco 5 Trump being investigated for possible obstruction of justice: Washington Post Pictures Fire engulfs London tower block Sponsored Topics Follow Reuters: Follow Us On Twitter Follow Us On Facebook Follow Us On RSS Follow Us On Instagram Follow Us On YouTube Follow Us On LinkedIn Subscribe: Feeds | Newsletters | Podcasts | Apps Reuters News Agency | Brand Attribution Guidelines | Careers Reuters is the news and media division of Thomson Reuters. 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Learn more about Thomson Reuters products: Eikon Information, analytics and exclusive news on financial markets - delivered in an intuitive desktop and mobile interface Elektron Everything you need to empower your workflow and enhance your enterprise data management World-Check Screen for heightened risk individual and entities globally to help uncover hidden risks in business relationships and human networks Westlaw Build the strongest argument relying on authoritative content, attorney-editor expertise, and industry defining technology ONESOURCE The most comprehensive solution to manage all your complex and ever-expanding tax and compliance needs CHECKPOINT The industry leader for online information for tax, accounting and finance professionals All quotes delayed a minimum of 15 minutes. See here for a complete list of exchanges and delays. © 2017 Reuters. All Rights Reserved. Site Feedback Corrections Advertising Guidelines Cookies Terms of Use Privacy Policy

SMSFs and Alternative Investment Strategies

> Cleardocs SMSFs and Alternative Investment Strategies This discussion was published on 5 December 2016 and prepared to reflect the position as at the date of publication. REDEEM 20% OFF YOUR FIRST SMSF SMSFs and related party borrowings: ATO releases a revised guidance note and determination on non-arm's length arrangements On 28 September 2016, the ATO released a Practical Compliance Guideline PCG 2016/5 and a Taxation Determination TD 2016/16, in relation to limited recourse borrowing arrangements and 'arm's length terms'. The ATO has revised its previous position and clarified the circumstances, and the extent to which, a SMSF may be exposed to non-arm's length income tax assessments when they enter into these borrowing arrangements. The ATO's revised approach represents a more balanced approach regarding these issues. Stephanie McLennan, Maddocks Lawyers What is the ATO's revised position? The relevant ATO publications The release of the Practical Compliance Guideline (PCG 2016/5) and the Taxation Determination (TD 2016/16) have altered the way the ATO will treat limited recourse borrowing arrangements (LRBAs) with related party lenders, for the purposes of determining exposure to the non-arm's length income (NALI) provisions in section 295-550 of ITAA 1997 (Act). Division 295—Taxation of superannuation entities When will the ATO treat dealings as being on arm's length terms? The ATO will only treat dealings as being on arm's length terms if the arrangements reflect what might be expected to have occurred if the parties to the scheme had been dealing with each other at arm's length. For example: PCG 2016/5 still contains safe-harbour terms for related party loans which, if reflected in the relevant transaction documents, will ensure the NALI provisions do not apply; and the parties must otherwise determine what terms would have been offered to the SMSF trustee by an unrelated third party lender. So apart from the safe-harbour provisions, how will the ATO assess whether the arrangement is on arm's length terms? When assessing whether an arrangement is on arm's length terms, the ATO will assess whether the SMSF has derived more ordinary and statutory income under the scheme then it might have been expected to derive if the parties had been dealing with each other at arm's length in relation to the scheme. In order to determine what the parties might have been expected to derive had the parties been dealing with each other at arm's length (hypothetical situation), one must identify: the steps of the relevant scheme; the parties to the scheme; the amount of ordinary or statutory income that the SMSF might have been expected to derive if the same parties to the scheme had been dealing with each other on an arm's length basis; and the terms of the borrowing arrangement under the hypothetical arrangement, such as: the interest rate; whether the interest rate is fixed or variable; the term of the loan; and the loan to market value ratio. Once the hypothetical situation has been determined, it is necessary to consider whether the SMSF would have or could have entered in to the hypothetical borrowing arrangement. This is a very important assessment and bears out the key difference from the ATO's previous position (as explained further below): If the SMSF could not have or would not have entered in to the hypothetical arrangement, then ALL the ordinary or statutory income from the related party arrangement will be taken into account in assessing the SMSF's exposure to a NALI assessment; If the SMSF could have and would have entered into the hypothetical arrangement, then the NALI provisions may apply to the assessment of tax on the SMSF's taxable income, but only to the extent that taxable income is more than it would have been under the hypothetical situation. Factors the ATO considers concerning whether the SMSF 'could have' include: whether the SMSF's deed imposes any impediments and allows the borrowing arrangement; whether the SMSF has sufficient capital available; the ability of the SMSF to service the arm's length terms; and any legislative or regulatory impediments which might prevent the SMSF from acquiring the asset. Factors the ATO considers concerning whether the SMSF 'would have' include: whether the borrowing arrangement was consistent with the SMSF's investment strategy; whether the borrowing arrangement was the optimal use of the SMSF's funds; and whether the borrowing arrangement, taking into account future income and capital gains, would be earnings accretive. How does the ATO's revised position differ from its previous position? We described in our earlier article the ATO's previous position and explained our alternative view: we note that the ATO's new position corresponds with our alternative view. The ATO's previous position can be summarised as follows: The ATO's approach — of comparing the actual terms to hypothetical arm's length terms — was largely the same as set out above. The ATO asked, in respect of the non-arm's length parties, "have the parties, in respect of [the] dealing, dealt with each other as arm's length parties would do, so that the outcome of their dealing is a matter of real bargaining". [1] The key difference with the ATO's previous position, was that in answering that question, the ATO's position was that: "It might be expected that an arm's length lender would not lend any capital on the loan terms that form part of the scheme. Without that loan it might be expected that there would be no investment in the asset through the Holding Trust and so no ordinary or statutory income might be expected to be derived by the Fund from the asset." In contrast to its current position, the ATO's previous position was that it would not entertain an argument that the loan between the related parties would still have gone ahead, albeit on different terms, stating in the same ID that: "It is no answer to this conclusion to say that the Fund could have obtained a loan from an arm's length lender on different terms or that the Fund could have used other means by which to acquire the asset, as that is not the scheme into which the parties have entered." You will see from the above that: the ATO's revised position is to review the terms of the scheme between the non-arm's length parties and identify what the terms would have been in the hypothetical borrowing arrangement; whereas the ATO's previous position was to substitute the related party lender with an arm's length lender, apply the exact same loan terms, and decide whether or not the arm's length lender would make the loan. The implication of this was that, if the ATO took the view that an arm's length lender would not have provided the loan on the agreed terms, then all income from a non-arm's length LRBA was exposed to an assessment for NALI. The position is now very much in contrast: if one can demonstrate that the SMSF would have and could have entered into a hypothetical LRBA, then the exposure to a NALI assessment is limited to the additional income which the SMSF derives from the actual related party LRBA compared with the hypothetical LRBA. [1] ATO ID 2015/28 All the documents you need. Over 190 current and compliant legal documents are available on Cleardocs. The wide variety of legal documents available provides more clarity for your business while retaining the high quality, compliance and consistency you would expect. Join over 90,000 customers using the Australian legal document service you can trust. REDEEM 20% OFF YOUR FIRST SMSF WITH CLEARDOCS Legal Documents: Company | SMSF | Trusts | Estate Planning | Employment / HR | Business Services Register - it's free | About Cleardocs Find us on Cleardocs Cleardocs Cleardocs Thomas Reuters Australia

Monday, June 12, 2017

Commentary: Inside Trump’s Middle East mess: Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani : Lunch with the FT: Sheikh Hamad Bin-Jaber al-Thani

left right 4/4 left right Saudi Arabia's King Salman (2nd L) welcomes U.S. President Donald Trump at a ceremony at Al Murabba Palace in Riyadh, May 20, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst 1/4 left right 2/4 left right 3/4 left right 4/4 left right 1/4 By Amir Handjani President Donald Trump’s attempt to bring peace and stability to the Middle East has backfired. He has put a major U.S. ally, Qatar, in a geopolitical crisis and damaged his cabinet’s efforts to calm regional tensions. Trump’s recent trip to the area was intended to bring together like-minded Arab states and Israel to hold the line against Iran. That effort has instead divided longstanding American allies. Soon after Trump left the region, several Arab states led by Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates severed diplomatic ties with Qatar, a key enabler of regional U.S. military operations. One of the primary reasons for this rebuke was Qatar's refusal to buy into the narrative that Iran must be isolated from its neighbors. Qatar has reasons for taking a more pragmatic approach with Iran. The source of Qatari wealth is a shared gas field with its  neighbor. The North Dome field (“South Pars” to the Iranians) is the largest gas reservoir in the world. None of Qatar’s Arab neighbors’ economic fortunes are so deeply tied to their relationships with Iran.       By not leaving diplomatic space for Iran and its Arab neighbors to manage their differences, Trump has set the United States alongside the House of Saud on a collision course with Iran’s Shi’ite regime.  This is what the Obama administration tried to avoid (with little success) by concluding the nuclear deal with Tehran and trying to lighten Washington’s footprint in the Gulf.  It seems lost on Trump that other Arab states like Oman and Kuwait also have pragmatic working relationships with Tehran that could prove as useful to this administration as they did for President Obama, who was able to consult with the Sultan of Oman at the start of Washington’s nuclear negotiations with Iran.  MORE FROM REUTERS COMMENTARY Tim Weiner: How Comey's 'smoking gun' could kill the Trump presidency John Lloyd: Theresa May is right to stay. For now. Peter Van Buren: Trump's silver lining in Iraq Trump’s “new” approach is a repackaging of an old idea: that isolating and chastising Iran will produce peace and security for Washington’s allies. And yet the Trump administration has promised to sell more military hardware to Saudi Arabia - a country that has exported the most intolerant form of Sunni Islam around the world. The state-sponsored hard-line Wahhabism promulgated from Riyadh has provided the ideological foundation for groups such as IS and al Qaeda. The recent Islamic State attacks in Tehran have shown that Iran is also a target of the violence that has struck European cities like Paris, Manchester and London. But Trump seems to have little appetite for the nuances and subtleties that previous presidents struggle with as they formulate policy out of often-competing interests. More sophisticated weaponry from Washington will not make Tehran cower. It will have the opposite effect by pushing Tehran to accelerate its ballistic missile program while spending only a fraction of what U.S. allies do on defense. It also presents Russia and China with an opportunity to further fuel a regional arms race by selling armaments to Tehran. Also In Commentary Commentary: What Sessions didn't tell the Senate Commentary: Trump’s silver lining in Iraq Furthermore, Iran’s power extends beyond its borders to Syria, Iraq and Lebanon. Tehran’s armed forces are tested and battle hardened. The Saudis, meanwhile, are still struggling to defeat Houthi rebels in Yemen after two years of airstrikes. It is no coincidence that four of the top five countries of origin for IS’s recruits are also Washington’s top Sunni-majority military partners in the Middle East. Trump seems oblivious to this when crafting his order to ban travelers from six predominantly Muslim nations. Trump’s embrace of the Saudi narrative will also have terrible consequences for U.S. operations in Shia-led Iraq. It is no secret that Iranian-backed militias are on the ground fighting IS, nor that Tehran has great influence in Baghdad. Trump’s bellicose rhetoric could fracture this fragile coalition and further alienate Shi’ites in other parts of the Middle East.   The irony for Trump is that he needs Iran and its Arab neighbors to work together in finding holistic solutions for the sectarian wars that have enflamed the region. Washington can’t impose its will on Tehran without a military confrontation. Trump has promised to bring peace and security to Washington’s Arab partners and to put an end to the Arab/Israeli conflict. Antagonizing Iran and taking actions that embolden regional countries to isolate one another is a recipe for more chaos - not solutions. (Amir Handjani is Senior Non-Resident Fellow at the Atlantic Council and a Fellow with the Truman National Security Project @ahandjani)   The views expressed in this article are not those of Reuters News. ========================================= Qatar can defend economy and currency, finance minister tells CNBC ReutersPublished about 11 hours ago 247     1 Qatar can easily defend its economy and currency against sanctions by other Arab states, Qatari finance minister Ali Sherif al-Emadi told CNBC television in an interview broadcast on Monday. He added that the countries which had imposed sanctions would also lose money because of the damage to business in the region. “A lot of people think we're the only ones to lose in this... If we're going to lose a dollar, they will lose a dollar also.” Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt cut diplomatic and transport ties a week ago, accusing Doha of backing terrorism. The sanctions have disrupted flows of imports and other materials into Qatar and caused many foreign banks to scale back their business with the country. Advertisement But Emadi said the energy sector and economy of the world's top liquefied natural gas exporter were essentially operating as normal and that there had not been a serious impact on supplies of food or other goods. Qatar can import goods from Turkey, the Far East or Europe and it will respond to the crisis by diversifying its economy even more, he told CNBC. The Qatari riyal has come under pressure in the spot and forward foreign exchange markets, but Emadi said neither this nor a near 10 percent plunge in the local stock market was cause for concern. “Our reserves and investment funds are more than 250 percent of gross domestic product, so I don't think there is any reason that people need to be concerned about what's happening or any speculation on the Qatari riyal.” Asked whether Qatar might need to raise money by selling off stakes in large Western companies held by its sovereign wealth fund, Emadi indicated this was not on the cards at present. “We are extremely comfortable with our positions, our investments and liquidity in our systems,” he said. Prices of Qatar's international bonds have dropped sharply, but in answer to another question, Emadi said he saw no need for the government to step into the market and buy those bonds to support prices. ============================= Add to myFT Lunch with the FT: Sheikh Hamad Bin-Jaber al-Thani As PM of Qatar he invested in Britain and intervened in the Arab Spring. In one of his luxury London hotels he talks about what went right — and what went wrong Lunch with the FT Read next David Tang What to do if your taxi driver starts ranting 4 hours ago Share on Twitter (opens new window) Share on Facebook (opens new window) Share on LinkedIn (opens new window) 52 Print this page Save April 15, 2016 by: Roula Khalaf © James Ferguson One of the richest men in Qatar, and the world, Sheikh Hamad Bin-Jaber al-Thani has been the face of the small emirate’s property-buying frenzy in London, either splashing his own family’s wealth or that of the state. You name it, and he’s been involved in buying a stake in it: One Hyde Park, in which he keeps an apartment; Harrods; the Shard; Chelsea Barracks; Canary Wharf; the London Stock Exchange; the Berkeley and the Connaught. So it’s hardly surprising that Fera, the Michelin-star restaurant we meet at, is in Claridge’s, another luxury hotel owned by the Qatari royal. It is three years since HBJ, as he is known in London’s financial circles, stepped down as prime minister of the small state of Qatar, part of a deal in which Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, the ruler at the time, abdicated in favour of his son Tamim. So powerful was HBJ that the only way for the new emir to rule was for both his father and the prime minister to exit. From 2007 to 2013, HBJ was not your typical prime minister. The former emir once said that while he ran the country it was HBJ who owned it. In government as foreign minister for two decades, a post he kept when he took the helm of government, HBJ was known for his willingness to speak his mind, to swing unabashedly from one policy to another. As prime minister he also enjoyed the state’s financial muscle, heading the $250bn Qatar Investment Authority, the emirate’s sovereign wealth fund, generating many of its highest-profile deals but making enemies in the process. More recently, HBJ has had to contend with news-making of a different kind. Qatar’s investment in Barclays at the height of the 2008 financial crisis has been the subject of regulatory and criminal probes by UK authorities, though there is no suggestion that HBJ or Qatar itself acted illegally. His name also appeared in the Panama Papers, which revealed an offshore company used to manage his $300m superyacht moored in Mallorca. I’m ushered to a bare table by the window and reassured that the whole row will remain empty throughout lunch. I order water and wait. A tall, imposing figure walks in a few minutes later — flanked by two aides who promptly disappear — and sits across from me. At 56, HBJ is too young to retire so he travels the globe, making speeches and hobnobbing with leaders in business and politics. But he still spends a lot of time in London, which is a second home for many in the al-Thani family (he has 15 children). I tell him that he’s been referred to in the media as the king of London real estate. “I’m not sure,” he says, “maybe there has been some noise but the Middle East is full of conspiracies and people like to sometimes exaggerate.” HBJ, who when abroad sheds his white robe and headdress for a perfectly tailored suit, certainly seems at home. After a quick glance at the menu, he orders the lemon sole on the bone and asks if the smoked salmon is available; it isn’t, so he picks the grilled salad instead. I opt for the scallop starter followed by halibut in pine oil. By the time a mysterious-looking amuse bouche is placed before us — millet pudding with lovage, and Tunworth and mushroom — we are deep in conversation. I ask HBJ if he has read the recent Atlantic magazine piece “The Obama Doctrine”, an extraordinary account of the US president’s non-interventionist penchant and his attitude towards many allies, whom he describes as “free riders”. Across the Middle East the reaction to “The Obama Doctrine” and the US retreat from the region has been scathing. Yet HBJ tells me everyone should be thanking Obama. “To be frank, I am also depressed, and I don’t blame him,” he says. “We [Arabs] didn’t demonstrate we are an ally you can rely on. We have to have an excellent relationship with the US but the US won’t come to the region like before.” That’s not to say that he doesn’t share the regret of others. “There was never a balance in the US-Gulf relationship. For 30 years the Gulf region led by Saudi Arabia was controlling the oil price for them (the west) — and what did we gain in return? When the price used to drop too much they would say, ‘Control the price’. Yet when the price would go up, they start screaming, they call us a cartel, and say, ‘You can’t do this’.” The first course is served and we move on from Obama to Vladimir Putin, a sore topic for HBJ. Although Russia’s interventions in Syria on the side of the Assad regime fly in the face of Gulf countries’ policy — they are the main backers of Syria’s rebels — the region’s leaders have been beating a path to Moscow. “For Russia it’s a game,” HBJ explains. “The Russians want to prove a point for the region and it has been proven. The point is, ‘Don’t rely on America, rely on us’. But we need to rely on ourselves first, before we go to Russia or America.” Talk of self-reliance is popular in the Middle East today, but when it comes to putting it into practice, the consequences can be disastrous. Nowhere has that been more evident than in Syria, where the US outsourced support for the rebels to Qatar and Saudi Arabia. Money and weapons flowed but with no clear strategy or direction; the whole enterprise was undermined by bickering and competition between the two Gulf states. The Gulf’s Syria policy is closely associated with HBJ, who was often seen as relishing the rivalry between Qatar and Saudi Arabia, Doha’s larger and more powerful neighbour. I ask him whether he accepts some responsibility for the debacle in Syria. “I will tell you one thing and that is maybe the first time I say this: when we started being involved in Syria [around 2012] we had a green light that Qatar would lead this because Saudi Arabia didn’t at that time want to lead. After that there was a change in policy and Saudi Arabia didn’t inform us that they wanted us in the back seat. We ended up competing and it was not healthy.” I’m not convinced, pointing out that the same policies were followed in Libya, where Qatar and the United Arab Emirates have backed opposing sides in the civil war since the demise of the Gaddafi regime in the 2011 revolution. He acknowledges that in Libya, “There were a lot of cookers in the end. That’s why it was spoiled.” As for Saudi Arabia and its intensified power struggle with Iran, the Arabs, he suggests, are following Iran’s lead. “I have to admit one thing: they [the Iranians] are more clever than us, and more patient than us, and the best negotiators. Look at how many years they negotiated [with world powers]. Do you think an Arab country would negotiate for so long?” HBJ is reputed to be a hyperactive character. He takes control when negotiating business deals or political mediations, and rarely gives up. But today he seems pretty relaxed, despite the speed with which he dispatches his sole. He only really loses enthusiasm when I turn the conversation to his recent investments. And no wonder. It has been a rocky ride for companies he and Qatar have poured money into. The QIA is one of the largest shareholders in Volkswagen, which has been battling an emissions cheating scandal. “We are concerned as shareholders,” he admits, but “that’s the market, it goes up sometimes and it goes down sometimes.” It’s not his money on the line in VW in any case. Deutsche Bank, however, is another story: his family became the second-largest investor in Germany’s largest bank in 2014; shares are down 50 per cent in the past year. “We have a long view and we have faith that Deutsche will come back,” he says. “It’s a strong economy . . . and we’re long-term investors.” Don’t judge Qatari investments based on those that made the most headlines, he adds, many others you’ve never heard of are performing well. Still, in the current environment, he insists, “It’s not a good time to invest. It’s good to study and wait”. Among his most controversial investments was the £7.3bn Barclays emergency cash call, where Qatari investors were given handsome fees and free Barclays warrants in addition to their stakes. The deal has been the subject of ongoing regulatory and criminal probes by UK authorities, though there is no suggestion that HBJ or Qatar itself acted illegally. Fera Claridge’s, Brook Street, Mayfair, London W1 Claridge’s, Brook Street, Mayfair, London W1 Scallops £25 Grilled salad £21 Lemon sole £36 Halibut £37 Still water £4.50 Espresso x 2 £9 Total inc service £149.06 By now, HBJ appears to be losing all interest in our conversation. It is not a saga that he wants to discuss, though it doesn’t seem to be fading away. A lawsuit in January alleged that Barclays had paid Qatari investors (HBJ’s family is presumed to be one of them) £346m in secret payments to secure their participation in the bank’s emergency fundraising. The lawsuit was brought by PCP, the investment vehicle of Amanda Staveley, who was another investor in the deal. HBJ won’t comment on any ongoing lawsuits or investigations but says the QIA “did everything in the right, legal way.” Does he regret the investment? “No, I think it’s a good investment. I regret the noise. We thought we had helped the British economy at a bad time and that someone would thank us for it.” He had predicted back in 2008 that Qatar would invest up to £20bn in the UK. “People laughed at me. But now the investments are around £30bn.” Which is why the prospect of Brexit worries him. “Staying in the EU makes the UK stronger and for any investor it would be better.” The other controversy, and one more embarrassing on a personal level, is the lawsuit in London brought by a former official in Qatar alleging that his land had been seized. The claim was struck out in court on the grounds that HBJ had state and diplomatic immunity. He is listed as a counsellor at the Qatari embassy in London — a curiously big step down from the position of prime minister, perhaps, but a sign that he still remains an important link between Europe and Qatar. “I won’t go into the details of the case,” HBJ tells me, appearing tense again. “It’s behind me and I have a way that I don’t talk about these things. I don’t like to talk about these things.” HBJ is still close to the former emir, Sheikh Hamad, and the two often travel together. In Doha, however, he keeps a low profile. Since Sheikh Hamad’s abdication, Sheikh Tamim has sought to reshape government, dismantling power structures left in place by the former prime minister. The Russians want to prove a point in the region — “Don’t rely on America, rely on us”. But we need to rely on ourselves, before we go to Russia or America Entrusted with foreign policy, HBJ had positioned Qatar as a mediator in crises but also taken it on some mischievous adventures. A country that heavily relied on the US for its own security suddenly began extending its own influence into bigger but more deeply troubled Arab states, including Egypt, Syria and Libya, when the Arab Spring upended the old political order in the Middle East. The new government has also looked into conflicts of interest between HBJ’s previous government positions and his sprawling business empire, buying him out of Qatar Airways, for example. His tutelage over the Qatar Investment Authority also ended with the departure of his understudy, Ahmed al-Sayed, last year. The new leadership at the QIA and direct investment arm Qatar Holding are now restructuring the sovereign wealth fund, and minimising the blurring of personal and state investments. While many in Qatar miss HBJ’s personal dynamism, others in the private sector are relieved he no longer wields so much power in the domestic business scene. HBJ suggests I am reading too much into changes in Qatar. “It’s a different approach. Maybe when we were doing this, we created a lot of jealousy, a lot of enemies . . . But I was a soldier in the government and doing things at that time was necessary for Qatar to be recognised, either politically or economically.” He tells me every new government brings in a new team and introduces new policies and that given the collapse in energy prices, Qatar needs to retrench. “Sometimes I thank God that from time to time we get hit by the oil price. Because we get spoiled.” It’s getting late so we order coffee. We argue over the meaning of conflict of interest. Combining business and politics in Qatar is a strange way of life. “Here in the west, this is always mentioned as if it’s one pocket but there is a Chinese wall — what’s personal is personal,” he says. “If you tell Qataris don’t do business if you work in the government, you might not find anyone in a job.” I mention the emir’s comment about him owning the country. “The emir always likes to tell jokes about me,” HBJ says with a chuckle. “Thank God, there are wealthier people in Qatar.” And then comes a warning he’s repeated time and again during lunch: “Not all of what you hear is right.” Roula Khalaf is the FT’s deputy editor Illustration by James Ferguson Letter in response to this article HBJ astonishes with what he does not say / From John Lichter

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Asia Property

Asia Property https://amp.ft.com/content/3e2380b2-45f1-11e7-8519-9f94ee97d996 India, Pakistan and one man’s battle to recover his ancestral home The heir to the last Raja of Mahmudabad has spent decades fighting to claim his inheritance, despite being branded a national ‘enemy’ The crumbling Mahmudabad Qila, the family’s spiritual home near Lucknow whose legal status is bitterly contested The crumbling Mahmudabad Qila, the family’s spiritual home near Lucknow whose legal status is bitterly contested © Abhishek Bali June 9, 2017 10:16 am by Amy Kazmin I am gaping at a large dilapidated hall that my host, Mohammad Amir Mohammad Khan, recalls as a formal receiving room, where his mother entertained friends. Once-plush carpets are worn away; the desultorily placed furnishings include an elaborately carved wooden swing. On the chipped, mustard-coloured wall hangs an austere portrait of Khan’s father, the last Raja of Mahmudabad, the pious, ascetic scion of a powerful Shia Muslim family that for centuries ruled one of India’s largest feudal estates — and had the luxurious lifestyle that went with it. The sombre voice of my host — Suleiman to his family and friends — breaks the stillness of the heat. “I try not to think of the past,” he says. “I try, but I’m not successful. With apologies to Yeats, one drowns in a beauty that has long since vanished from the earth.” A hall in the Muqeem Manzil wing of the Qila A hall in the Muqeem Manzil wing of the Qila © Abhishek Bali In fact, Khan — heir to the Mahmudabad legacy — is consumed by the past; in particular, the cataclysmic partition of the British-ruled Indian subcontinent into Hindu-majority India and Muslim-majority Pakistan. This violent split in 1947 haunts his family, and all of South Asia, even today. For two hours, we had sat in a dimly lit, antiquated office in his rundown childhood home — a book-filled wing of Lucknow’s Kaiserbagh Palace — talking of nothing but the past. We spoke of his family’s history; his gilded childhood, and the long battle over his ancestral properties, while I sipped fresh lemon soda as a tonic against the 40C heat. One of the small family dining rooms in the Mahmudabad home One of the small family dining rooms in the Mahmudabad home © Abhishek Bali The Mahmudabad family were talukdars, or feudal lords, who controlled more than 400 villages and their associated lands in Awadh province, north India. The family seat was the Mahmudabad Qila, or fort, originally built in the 17th century, destroyed in the 1857 rebellion against British rule; and rebuilt in the years following. Over the years, the family also accumulated extensive property holdings, including shopping areas and palaces in the city of Lucknow, various bungalows on vast land parcels, and a 75-room, British-built hotel in the hill station of Nainital. During the final years of India’s anti-colonial struggle, Khan’s father was a close ally of Mohammad Ali Jinnah, and a major financier of the Muslim League, which was campaigning for a separate Pakistan. In 1957, a decade after British rule ended, the erstwhile Raja took Pakistani citizenship, a decision with major consequences for those left behind in India, including my now 74-year-old host. Mohammad Amir Mohammad Khan hosting a religious ceremony in Mahmudabad Mohammad Amir Mohammad Khan hosting a religious ceremony in Mahmudabad © Abhishek Bali Over the last four decades, Khan — an Indian citizen, who has twice served as an elected state legislator — has been battling to claim what he considers his rightful inheritance, but which the Indian government has deemed “enemy property” and mostly confiscated. His long struggle appeared to have been won in 2005, when India’s Supreme Court upheld his claim to his inheritance. Yet, as in several cases that have bedevilled multinational companies in India, New Delhi overrode the court verdict, with retroactive changes to the law under which the properties had been taken. Portrait of Khan, with photographs and books at the Kaiserbagh Palace Portrait of Khan, with photographs and books at the Kaiserbagh Palace © Abhishek Bali “When conquerors enter the city, they humiliate those people who had a position of respect in that city,” Khan sighs, as we set out in his ageing Ambassador car to see the crumbling Qila, about 50km from Lucknow. “The harsh reality is it is Muslim property, so therefore it could be treated in any way.” Khan was aged four in 1947 when the Partition his father had advocated led to an estimated 1m people being killed and more than 10m displaced. Fleeing the turmoil, his father took his son to the Shia holy city of Karbala in Iraq. “It was a kind of a penance, which he felt he had to go through in order to expiate what he was responsible for,” Khan says. Aged nine, Khan was sent back to India with his mother to study at Lucknow’s elite La Martiniere school. In the city, they lived in a wing of the 19th-century Kaiserbagh Palace, built by the last Nawab of Awadh. The British had partitioned the palace — and allocated sections to feudal families — in 1857, after annexing the kingdom. Khan sitting inside his Ambassador car at the Qila Khan sitting inside his Ambassador car at the Qila © Abhishek Bali Amid chandeliers, carpets and ornate furniture, the young princeling did his schoolwork — an learnt Urdu and Farsi poetry and courtly etiquette — and was shielded from the rough and tumble of young boys’ games. There were also regular visits to the Qila, the family’s spiritual home. He was surrounded by the remnants of a wealthy Muslim elite reeling from Partition. “It was a feeling that it was a kind of calamity that had put up a wall between brothers,” he says. Although the erstwhile Raja took up Pakistani citizenship in 1957, it wasn’t until 1965 — when Khan was an undergraduate at Cambridge, studying maths — that the full impact would be felt. Hall in the Muqeem Manzil with a model of Lucknow’s Butler Palace, one of the Mahmudabad properties Hall in the Muqeem Manzil with a model of Lucknow’s Butler Palace, one of the Mahmudabad properties © Abhishek Bali That September, skirmishes between Indian and Pakistani troops erupted into full-scale war. Days later, New Delhi issued its “Enemy Property Order”, seizing assets in India owned by Pakistani citizens, including the Mahmudabad properties. The Qila was surrounded by armed police and sealed. It is fiercely debated whether New Delhi meant to permanently confiscate these assets, or simply sequester them to prevent Pakistanis from using their wealth against India. Islamabad imposed a similar law targeting Indian-owned properties in Pakistan. After the fighting ended, the two countries agreed to discuss the return of such properties, though Islamabad later angered New Delhi by selling off what it had taken. Formal dining and ballroom in the Muqeem Manzil wing Formal dining and ballroom in the Muqeem Manzil wing © Abhishek Bali In the late 1960s the Indian authorities unsealed the Qila, restoring the family’s access, but other properties, many then occupied by government bodies, remained out of reach. After his father died in London in 1973, Khan, then studying for a PhD in astrophysics at Cambridge, petitioned New Delhi for the return of his father’s lands. Shortly afterwards, he left his studies to return to India, following anxious letters from home about the deteriorating family finances. Kaiserbagh Palace, Khan’s childhood home in Lucknow Kaiserbagh Palace, Khan’s childhood home in Lucknow © Abhishek Bali “I couldn’t concentrate. There were problems here,” he says. “My uncle had to sell many things . . . objects d’art, paintings, chandeliers, carpets. I came back. I couldn’t bear to think I was in Cambridge and not helping out.” Initially, Khan made personal appeals to the powerful, including prime minister Indira Gandhi. In 1981, he received a call informing him that Gandhi’s Cabinet had decided to return 25 per cent of the estate, but nothing ever came of it. The formal drawing room at Kaiserbagh called Jhoolenwala Kamra, where most gatherings and dinners take place The formal drawing room at Kaiserbagh called Jhoolenwala Kamra, where most gatherings and dinners take place © Abhishek Bali Khan finally turned to the courts. In 2001, the Bombay High Court ruled in his favour, stating that the Enemy Property Act of 1968 had not stripped the Raja of Mahmudabad of his “right, title and interest” in his Indian properties, but had merely given the government the temporary “management and control.” The Raja’s heir, Khan, was now entitled to these lands. “By no stretch of the imagination can he be said to be an enemy or enemy subject,” the judgment said. New Delhi appealed. But in 2005, the Supreme Court upheld the ruling, accusing the government of “mala fide intentions . . . to retain the possession of huge properties without any authority of law”. It ordered government officials to vacate any of the properties they were using, and return the estate. Khan outside the Kaiserbagh Palace Khan outside the Kaiserbagh Palace © Abhishek Bali Victory was shortlived. In 2010 — as thousands of shopkeepers ensconced in Mahmudabad commercial properties in Lucknow agitated against their potential eviction — the Congress party promulgated an emergency ordinance to override the Supreme Court verdict, and retake control of the property. In March this year, prime minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist government amended the Enemy Property Act to keep the estate out of Khan’s hands for good. The new amendments redefine India’s “enemies” to include both Pakistani citizens and their legal heirs, even if they are Indian citizens. Hunting trophy Hunting trophy © Abhishek Bali The new rule stipulates that normal succession laws will not apply to enemy properties. It also retrospectively nullifies the transfer of any enemy properties, a clause that will affect anyone who had bought Indian properties owned by Pakistani citizens since the mid-1960s. Khan is now challenging the constitutionality of the new legislation — a battle likely to take years. Meanwhile, the Qila, with its legal status still disputed, continues to deteriorate, though the family still visits regularly for religious events. It is a shell of its former self, with little inside except religious objects, books and a few pieces of aged furniture. A hallway at Kaiserbagh A hallway at Kaiserbagh © Abhishek Bali I wonder if Khan truly has the stomach for the fight. He answers in Arabic, with a quote from the Koran, then switches into English. “I have entrusted my matter to the lord,” he says. “My lord is ever watchful of his servants,” he says. I also wonder whether he regrets spending his adult life in India fighting for an inheritance he may never be able to claim, especially now that India has legally branded him a national “enemy.” Khan draws strength from the Russian poet Anna Akhmatova, who was persecuted in the Soviet Union and watched many of her friends go into exile. As tears well, and choking with emotion, he recites, slightly inaccurately, her verse: “Not under the vault of another sky. Not in the cradle of another earth. I was with my people then, where my people were doomed to be.” Amy Kazmin is the FT’s South Asia bureau chief From cricketers to Bollywood stars: the high-profile Indians who lost their lands Mansoor Ali Khan Pataudi, c1966 Mansoor Ali Khan Pataudi, c1966 © Bob Thomas/Getty Images New Delhi’s recent changes to the 1960s-era Enemy Property Act affect other Indian Muslim families whose relatives migrated to Pakistan. As of May 2016, India’s Custodian of Enemy Property held 11,880 acres of land, worth an estimated $16bn; shares in 266 listed companies, then valued at $400m; plus gold, jewellery, bank deposits and bonds. Prime minister Narendra Modi’s government is also investigating whether there are other assets in India that can be designated enemy property that were not previously recognised as such. Between 2014 and 2016, the custodian hired 108 additional surveyors and supervisors to assist in its task. In 2015, lands in the city of Bhopal that had belonged to the princely state’s last Nawab, Hamidullah Khan, were designated as enemy properties, because Khan’s eldest daughter and customary legal heir, Abida, had settled in Pakistan in 1950. Her younger sister, Sajida, had remained in India and was given control of the Bhopal property as regent. Sajida’s son, Mansoor Ali Khan Pataudi, popularly known as “Tiger Pataudi,” captained India’s national cricket team in the 1960s and 1970s; her grandson, Saif Ali Khan, is one of Bollywood’s biggest contemporary stars. Yet with the legal changes Modi’s government has pushed through, the family’s claims to the ancestral lands have been legally nullified, as have been the rights of many who bought land from the family over the past few decades. Photographs: Abhishek Bali for the FT; Bob Thomas/Getty Images Copyright The Financial Times Limited . All rights reserved. Please don't cut articles from FT.com and redistribute by email or post to the web. 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Saturday, June 10, 2017

Refusal of Protection visa application

24 Nov 2016 - 5:43pm Conflicting information on Facebook can lead to visa refusal A computer screen showing social networking web site Facebook (AAP) Hide Grid Image 1/ Video Audio The Department of Immigration has turned down the visa application of an asylum seeker on the basis of information on the applicant's Facebook page. Language English By Shamsher Kainth 24 Nov 2016 - 4:12 PM  UPDATED 24 Nov 2016 - 5:43 PM The Federal Circuit Court of Australia has ruled that the material on Facebook page of an applicant is “information” that is “evidentiary material”. The ruling has come in the case of a South Asian man seeking the grant of Protection visa in Australia. The 36-year-old male petitioner’s application for a protection visa had been earlier declined by a delegate of the Immigration Minister in July 2014.   The applicant who arrived in Australia on a visitor visa in October 2013 claimed in his Protection Visa application that he had converted from Islam to Christianity before he left his country. He also claimed that he had been baptised at a church in Australia after arriving here.  The applicant claimed that he had ongoing fear for his life if he were to return to his country as a consequence of his religious conversion.  However, the Immigration Department concluded that he had fabricated his claims of conversion to Christianity. During his interview with an officer of the department, the applicant was told that his Facebook page still stated that he was a Muslim. However, the actual decision record didn’t mention the Facebook information being the reason for refusal of the application.   As the applicant sought a review of the decision by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, it was held that the information on his Facebook page was inconsistent with his claim to have converted to Christianity. The Tribunal upheld the refusal of Protection visa application. In the Federal Circuit Court, the applicant’s legal representative said that the Tribunal’s decision had a procedural error as the Tribunal did not give the applicant clear particulars of the Facebook material. While the Immigration Minister’s representative countered this by claiming that the Facebook page wasn’t “information” within the meaning of the applicable act, it only had bearing on the applicant’s credibility. However, Judge Dowdy held that the material on Facebook page was indeed “information” and that he should have been given the particulars of it. The Judge set aside the tribunal’s order considering that the applicant should have been provided the reason for the refusal of his visa application.    “His Facebook page accordingly, at the very least, “undermined” his claim to have a well-founded fear of persecution and a potential for harm by reason of his asserted Christian religion.” "Accordingly, having regard to the way this case has been conducted, the decision of the Tribunal, notwithstanding the strength of its other findings which led it not to be satisfied that the Applicant met the Refugee Convention Criterion in s.36(2)(a) or the complementary protection criterion obligations under s.36(2)(aa) were applicable, must be set aside," the judgment read. Seasoned lawyer and editor of Migration Alliance website, Michael Arch advises caution with use of social media.  “You have to be very careful about what you put on Facebook and social media these days. I am aware of cases where social media posts have been held in the court which played a part in determining the outcome of cases.” Mr. Arch says the Department of Immigration is extra cautious in dealing with applications for the protection visas.  “The department is particularly difficult with protection visas. They look for any information that is contrary to what the applicant has supplied in the application and it is held against you," he says. Michael Arch's blog about this case can be read on Migration Alliance.

Friday, June 09, 2017

Trump scolds Qatar as Tillerson seeks to ease crisis

Trump scolds Qatar as Tillerson seeks to ease crisis 8h ago | 01:37 U.S. urges Gulf states to ease blockade against Qatar X By Steve Holland and Yeganeh Torbati | WASHINGTON U.S. President Donald Trump on Friday accused Qatar of being a "high level" sponsor of terrorism, potentially hindering the U.S. Department of State's efforts to ease heightening tensions and a blockade of the Gulf nation by Arab states and others. "The nation of Qatar unfortunately has historically been a funder of terrorism at a very high level," Trump told reporters at the White House. "So we had a decision to make, do we take the easy road or do we finally take a hard but necessary action. We have to stop the funding of terrorism. I decided ... the time had come to call on Qatar to end its funding," Trump said, adding that he helped plan the Qatar action with Arab leaders after a recent summit in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. A senior administration official told Reuters earlier this week that the United States had no indication from the Saudis or Emiratis in Riyadh during Trump's visit last month that they would sever ties with Qatar. The crisis is a major diplomatic test for the United States, which is a close ally of countries on both sides. Trump has called key players in the region since they severed ties with Qatar on Monday. The Trump administration has given mixed signals on whether to isolate Qatar or bring it into talks with other Gulf nations. The confrontation in the region intensified on Friday as Arab states tightened their squeeze on Qatar by putting dozens of figures with links to the country on terrorism blacklists, while Qatar's ally Turkey rushed to its side with plans to send troops. The Pentagon said the blockade was hindering U.S. ability to plan for long-term operations in the region. Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar is home to more than 11,000 U.S. and coalition forces and an important base for the fight against Islamic State. It is the U.S. Air Force's largest base in the region. U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said he expected all parties to find a resolution. "We call on the kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt to ease the blockade against Qatar," he said in Washington. Tillerson told reporters at the State Department that the crisis, which has cut transportation links and trade, had begun hurting ordinary people in Qatar, and that it was impairing business dealings and harming the U.S. battle against the Islamic State militant group. A picture on Facebook showed a supermarket displaying food from Turkey including milk, eggs and chicken. Tillerson demanded that Qatar, as well as the other countries, take steps to curtail support for terrorism. Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states have accused Doha of supporting extremist groups, but Tillerson suggested that all sides needed to do more. "The emir of Qatar has made progress in halting financial support and expelling terrorist elements from his country, but he must do more and he must do it more quickly," Tillerson said. "Others must also continue to eliminate factions of support for violent organizations within their own borders." ADVERTISEMENT On Trump’s Air Force One flight to New Jersey, a senior White House official told reporters that Trump and Tillerson were on the "same page" on Qatar. "The United States wants a resolution to the situation but it wants a resolution on terms consistent with the principles the president laid out in Riyadh,” the official said, adding that Trump was concerned about the humanitarian impact of the crisis but also Qatar's support of "terrorist finance." Riyadh, Cairo and their allies have accused Qatar, the world's richest country per capita, of supporting militant Islamist movements across the region. They have imposed what Qatar said was a blockade of shipping and air traffic and closed Qatar's only land border, causing panic buying at supermarkets and provoking confusion and anxiety across the population. Qatar, which has developed an assertive foreign policy over the past decade, denied that it supports militants and said it was helping to reduce the threat of terrorism by backing groups that fight poverty and seek political reform. Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani called the moves by Arab neighbors and others "clear violations of international law and international humanitarian law. "They will not have a positive impact on the region but a negative one," the minister said during a visit to Germany. The United Arab Emirates said on Friday that Qatar must acknowledge concerns about its "troubling support for extremism" and "re-examine its regional policies." "This will provide the necessary basis for any discussions," UAE ambassador to the United States Yousef Al Otaiba said in a statement on Friday. German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel called for diplomatic efforts to resolve the crisis. "Along with our American colleagues but above all our colleagues in the region, we must try to find solutions, especially lifting the sea and air blockades," Gabriel told reporters. "THE HOUR OF DIPLOMACY" Qatar has vowed to ride out the isolation imposed on it by fellow Arab states and said it would not compromise its sovereignty over foreign policy to resolve the region's biggest diplomatic crisis in years. One U.S. official said that while Qatar needs to do more to combat terrorist financing, it was inaccurate to single out that Gulf nation. “The (counter terrorist-financing) challenges they face aren’t unique to them,” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “There are other countries in the region that grapple with the same issues.” RELATED COVERAGE Merkel says all Gulf nations, Iran, Turkey must work to ease Qatar crisis Qatar is home to 2.7 million people but only about 300,000 citizens. Most of its population is comprised of foreign workers who helped build the tiny finger off the Arabian Peninsula into a natural gas exporting powerhouse, crowned with skyscrapers. Projects include soccer stadiums for the 2022 World Cup. Armed Qatari gunboats patrolled the corniche of the capital Doha on Friday. Tiny Qatar has played an outsized role as a sponsor of factions in wars and revolutions across the Middle East under its 37-year-old ruler, Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, and his father Hamad who stepped down in 2013 after 18 years in power. With supply chains disrupted and concern mounting about economic turbulence, banks and firms in Gulf Arab states were trying to keep business links to Qatar open and avoid a costly firesale of assets. The riyal currency has tumbled and the cost of insuring Qatari debt against default has risen. CLASHING OVER BROTHERHOOD Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Egypt and Bahrain added 59 people to terrorist blacklists, among them 18 Qataris, including Abdullah bin Khalid Al Thani, a former interior minister and member of Qatar's royal family. The Qatari government said the move "reinforces baseless allegations that hold no foundation in fact". "Our position on countering terrorism is stronger than many of the signatories of the joint statement - a fact that has been conveniently ignored by the authors," it said in a statement. Those on the list, including the former interior minister, could not be reached for comment. Many of the others added to the list are figures associated with the Muslim Brotherhood who have made Qatar a base, including Brotherhood spiritual leader Yousef al-Qaradawi. Some are prominent jihadists who have fought in Libya and Syria. Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, whose AK Party has its roots in Islamist politics and who has voiced support for the Brotherhood, signaled his firm backing for Qatar by swiftly signing a law to send troops to a Turkish base there. Turkey will send warplanes and warships to Qatar after an initial deployment of troops, the mass-circulation Hurriyet newspaper said on its website. Turkish officials were not immediately available to comment on the report, but Hurriyet said there were plans to send some 200 to 250 soldiers within two months. (Additional reporting by Tom Finn in Doha, Stephen Kalin, William Maclean and Rania Gamal in Dubai, Andrea Shalal in Germany, David Alexander, Yara Bayoumy, Yeganeh Torbati and Warren Strobel in Washington; Writing by Andrew Hay; Editing by Toni Reinhold)

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

Iranian official says at least 12 dead in Tehran attacks: IRIB

Wed Jun 7, 2017 | 7:09 AM EDT Iranian official says at least 12 dead in Tehran... TEHRAN (Tasnim) – Two terrorist attacks claimed by the Daesh (ISIL) terrorist group in Iran’s capital of Tehran killed 12 people and wounded more than 40 others on Wednesday, medics said. Twelve people have died and 42 others injured in two terrorist attacks in Tehran on Wednesday, head of Iran’s Emergency Medical Services Pirhossein Koulivand told Tasnim. On Wednesday morning, terrorists launched simultaneous attacks on Iran’s parliament building in downtown Tehran and on the mausoleum of late founder of the Islamic Republic Imam Khomeini, south of the city. Four armed assailants, dresses as women, attacked the parliament buildings in the morning. Equipped with AK-47 assault rifles, handguns and suicide vests, the gunmen killed security guards and ordinary people before holding people hostage in the upper floors of the building. Security forces laid a siege to the parliament for several hours. Three of the gunmen were shot dead in an exchange of gunfire, while the other blew himself up. The crisis came to an end at around 10:30 GMT. At least 12 people have died in twin attacks in Tehran on Wednesday, the head of Iran's emergency department, Pir-Hossein Kolivand, was quoted as saying by state broadcaster IRIB. (Reporting by Bozorgmehr Sharafedin; Editing by Hugh Lawson)

Monday, June 05, 2017

Arab powers sever Qatar ties, citing support for militants

Saudi beef with Qatar may be about gas, not terrorism Published time: 6 Jun, 2017 10:11 Get short URL Saudi beef with Qatar may be about gas, not terrorism LNG tanker © Haryadi Be / Global Look Press 3.5K Saudi Arabia's dispute with Qatar is said to date back to 1995 and stems from the country's success in liquefied natural gas (LNG) production. LNG has given Qatar greater independence from Riyadh and has aligned Doha with Saudi Arabia’s arch-enemy Iran. Read more © Fayez NureldineQataris rush to stock up on food ahead of price hike as only land border shut The LNG revolution made Qatar one of the world's richest nations with an annual per-capita income of $130,000. The country also became the largest exporter of LNG. Qatar’s offshore North Field, which provides all the country’s gas, is shared with Iran. Qatar also hosts US Central Command and bought a $2.7 billion stake in Russia’s oil major Rosneft. “Qatar used to be a kind of Saudi vassal state, but it used the autonomy that its gas wealth created to carve out an independent role for itself,” said Jim Krane, energy research fellow at Rice University’s Baker Institute, in Houston, Texas told Bloomberg. “The rest of the region has been looking for an opportunity to clip Qatar’s wings,” he added. On Monday, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Yemen and other countries cut diplomatic ties with Qatar, accusing the country of supporting terrorism. Read more © Faisal Al Nasser Arab states in the Persian Gulf suspend all flights to and from Qatar LNG wealth has allowed Qatar to form foreign policy, independent from the Saudis. Riyadh has accused Doha of backing the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, Hamas in the Gaza Strip and armed groups opposed by Abu Dhabi and Riyadh in the Libyan and Syrian wars. Moreover, Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries have seen a surge in LNG demand to produce electricity. As Qatar has the lowest extraction costs, the Saudis have to rely on higher-cost LNG imports. “You can question why Qatar has been unwilling to supply its neighboring countries, making them gas poor, There probably was an expectation that Qatar would sell gas to them at a discount price,” Steven Wright, Ph.D. Associate Professor at Qatar University told Bloomberg. Qatar's Foreign minister said on Tuesday Doha was ready for mediation efforts to ease the Gulf rift. Kuwait's ruler Sheikh Sabah Al-Sabah has announced he will travel to Saudi Arabia on Tuesday to mediate an end to the feud. Mon Jun 5, 2017 | 1:54 PM EDT 4h ago | 02:21 Arab powers sever Qatar ties Arab powers sever Qatar ties, citing support for... X By Noah Browning | DUBAI The Arab world's biggest powers cut ties with Qatar on Monday over alleged support for Islamists and Iran, reopening a festering wound two weeks after U.S. President Donald Trump's demand for Muslim states to fight terrorism. Saudi Arabia, Egypt, United Arab Emirates and Bahrain severed diplomatic relations with Qatar in a coordinated move. Yemen, Libya's eastern-based government and the Maldives joined later. Transport links shut down, triggering supply shortages. Qatar, a small peninsular nation of 2.5 million people, denounced the action as predicated on lies about it supporting militants. It has often been accused of being a funding source for Islamists, as has Saudi Arabia. Iran, long at odds with Saudi Arabia and a behind-the-scenes target of the move, blamed Trump's visit last month to Riyadh and called for the sides to overcome their differences. "What is happening is the preliminary result of the sword dance," tweeted Hamid Aboutalebi, deputy chief of staff to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, referring to Trump's joining in a traditional dance with the Saudi king at the meeting. Closing all transport links with Qatar, the three Gulf states gave Qatari visitors and residents two weeks to leave, and Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Egypt banned Qatari planes from landing and forbade them from crossing their air space. The UAE and Saudi Arabia stopped exports of white sugar to Qatar, a potential hit to consumers during the holy month of Ramadan, when demand is high. Some residents in Qatar began stockpiling food and supplies, an expatriate said. "People have stormed into the supermarket hoarding food, especially imported ones ... It's chaos - I've never seen anything like this before," said Eva Tobaji, an expatriate resident in Doha, told Reuters after returning from shopping. Supply difficulties quickly developed. Two Middle East trade sources spoke of thousands of trucks carrying food stuck at the Saudi border, unable make the sole overland frontier crossing into Qatar. About 80 percent of Qatar's food requirements are sourced via bigger Gulf Arab neighbors. Trade sources pointed to the likelihood of shortages growing in Qatar until the crisis eased. Along with Egypt, however, the UAE and Saudi Arabia could be vulnerable to retaliation, being highly dependent on Qatar for liquefied natural gas. The United States called for a resolution of the dispute soon, saying its partnerships with Gulf nations were vital. "All of our partnerships in the Gulf are incredibly important and we count on the parties to find a way to resolve their differences sooner rather than later," a State Department official said. The U.S. military said it had seen no impact to its Gulf-area operations, intended mainly as a bulwark against Iran, and added that it was grateful for Qatar's longstanding support of a U.S. presence and commitment to regional security. ADVERTISEMENT The diplomatic bust-up threatens the international prestige of Qatar, which has a large U.S. military base and is set to host the 2022 soccer World Cup. Soccer's governing body FIFA said on Monday it was in "regular contact" with Qatar's 2022 organizing committee but did not comment directly on the diplomatic situation. The hawkish tone Trump brought in his visit to over 50 Muslim leaders in Riyadh on Tehran and on terrorism is seen as having laid the groundwork for the diplomatic crisis. "You have a shift in the balance of power in the Gulf now because of the new presidency: Trump is strongly opposed to political Islam and Iran," said Jean-Marc Rickli, head of global risk and resilience at the Geneva Centre for Security Policy. "He is totally aligned with Abu Dhabi and Riyadh, who also want no compromise with either Iran or the political Islam promoted by the Muslim Brotherhood." MUSLIM BROTHERHOOD Qatar's backing of Islamists dates to a decision by the current ruling emir's father to end a tradition of automatic deference to Saudi Arabia, the dominant Gulf Arab power, and forge the widest possible array of allies. Doha subsequently cultivated not only Islamists like America's foes Iran, Hamas and the Taliban in pursuit of leverage, but also Washington itself, hosting the largest U.S. air base in the Middle East. Qatar has for years presented itself as a mediator and power broker for the region's many disputes. But Egypt and the Gulf Arab states resent Qatar's support for Islamists, especially the Muslim Brotherhood, which they see as a political enemy. Muslim Brotherhood groups allied to Doha are now mostly on the backfoot in the region, especially after a 2013 military takeover in Egypt ousted the elected Islamist president. The ex-army chief and now president, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, along with Cairo's allies in Saudi Arabia and the UAE, blacklist the Brotherhood as a terrorist organization. The Brotherhood denies this, saying it supports only peaceful politics. Saudi Arabia accused Qatar on Monday of backing militant groups and broadcasting their ideology, an apparent reference to Qatar's influential state-owned satellite channel al Jazeera. Later in the day, the kingdom shut the Saudi bureau of al Jazeera. "(Qatar) embraces multiple terrorist and sectarian groups aimed at disturbing stability in the region, including the Muslim Brotherhood, ISIS (Islamic State) and al-Qaeda," Saudi state news agency SPA said. Al Jazeera says it is an independent news service giving a voice to everyone in the region. Related Coverage VIDEOCountries cut links with Qatar over 'terrorism' VIDEOSpat between Qatar, Gulf Nations won't affect counter-terrorism: U.S. FACT BOX Gulf Arab states, Egypt, sever ties with Qatar U.S. partnerships in Gulf 'incredibly important': U.S. official Global airlines call for open borders after Gulf rift Gulf rift threatens air travel disruption across region and beyond Riyadh also accused Qatar of supporting what it described as Iranian-backed militants in the restive, largely Shi'ite Muslim-populated eastern Saudi region of Qatif, as well as in Bahrain. Qatar was also expelled from the Saudi-led coalition fighting a war in Yemen. The state news agency in Egypt, the Arab world's most populous nation, said Qatari policy "threatens Arab national security and sows the seeds of strife and division within Arab societies according to a deliberate plan aimed at the unity and interests of the Arab nation". Qatar denied it was interfering in the affairs of others. "The campaign of incitement is based on lies that had reached the level of complete fabrications," the Qatari foreign ministry said in a statement. Turkey also called for dialogue to settle the dispute and a government spokesman said President Tayyip Erdogan was working for a diplomatic solution to the rift. FALLOUT A split between Doha and its closest allies could have repercussions around the Middle East, where Gulf states have used their financial and political power to influence events in Libya, Egypt, Syria, Iraq and Yemen. The economic fallout was already hitting home as Abu Dhabi's state-owned Ethihad Airways, Dubai's Emirates Airline and budget carriers Flydubai and Air Arabia said they would suspend all flights to and from Doha indefinitely from Tuesday morning. Qatar Airways said on its official website it had suspended all flights to Saudi Arabia. Many Gulf airports, including in Qatar, are major hubs for international connecting flights. Qatar's stock market index sank 7.3 percent with some of the market's top blue chips hardest hit and some Egyptian banks said they were suspending dealing with Qatari banks. The measures are more severe than during a previous eight-month rift in 2014, when Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the UAE withdrew their ambassadors from Doha, again alleging Qatari support for militant groups. At that time, travel links were maintained and Qataris were not expelled. (Additional reporting by William Maclean, Parisa Hafezi, Omar Fahmy, Mohammed el-Sherif, Sylvia Westall, Tom Finn and Amina Ismail, Yara Bayoumy; Editing by Mark Heinrich) ================ • Reply • Share › Muhammed • 16 hours ago Accusing Qatar of funding Isis is also lies 1 • Reply • Share › Mohammed Alkali • a day ago However do these Arabs realize the fact that their actions against Qatar may push Qatar to become a darling to their arch enemy Iran? With the closure of Saudi Land border to Qatar Iran is already angling to provide the food needs of Qatar further inclining towards Iran. I think the GCC should set aside emotions and then deal with the matter in a more matured manner if not the alternative is fraught with bigger dangers • Reply • Share › − John Kepler Sr. Mohammed Alkali • 21 hours ago The leadership in Qatar has been warned numerous times over the last five years that it was making "poor choices", and that continuing those "poor choices" would have significant consequences. Qatar has persisted in making it's "poor choices"; welcome to the consequences!

Qatar and its neighbors may lose billions from diplomatic split

Mon Jun 5, 2017 | 8:23 AM EDT A map of Qatar is seen in this picture illustration June 5, 2017. Reuters/Thomas White/Illustration Qatar and its neighbors may lose billions from... X By Andrew Torchia and Tom Arnold | DUBAI A diplomatic rift between Qatar and its Gulf neighbors may cost them billions of dollars by slowing trade and investment and making it more expensive for the region to borrow money as it grapples with low oil prices. With an estimated $335 billion of assets in its sovereign wealth fund, Qatar looks able to avoid an economic crisis over the decision on Monday by Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain to cut air, sea and land transport links. The tiny state's newly expanded port facilities mean it can continue liquefied natural gas exports that earned it a trade surplus of $2.7 billion in April, and import by sea goods that used to come over its land border with Saudi Arabia, now closed. But parts of Qatar's economy could suffer badly if the dispute, over Riyadh's allegations that Doha has been supporting terrorism, drags on for months - a prospect that helped to push the Qatari stock market down more than 7 percent on Monday. Fast-growing Qatar Airways, at the center of the tiny state's effort to become a tourism hub, is likely to face losses from being barred some of the Middle East's biggest hubs. Qatar's government has been borrowing at home and abroad to help finance some $200 billion of infrastructure spending as it prepares to host the World Cup soccer tournament in 2022. A drop in Qatari bond prices on Monday suggested the borrowing will become more expensive - possibly slowing some projects. Bonds of other countries in the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council barely moved on Monday, but some foreign bankers said the whole region could end up paying more to borrow if diplomatic tensions persisted. ADVERTISEMENT “If this dispute goes on for a while, the ramifications could be huge,” said an international banker based in the Gulf, declining to be named because of political sensitivities. “Asset managers will not differentiate between Qatar and the rest of the GCC, and international managers will take their hands off any credit from the GCC. If Qatar is seen as a terror financing or compliance issue, then asset managers will be cautious." TRADE Because they all rely heavily on oil and gas exports, the GCC states have only weak trade and investment ties with each other, which will limit the economic fallout of their dispute. The UAE is Qatar's biggest trading partner from the GCC but only its fifth largest globally. Similarly, Saudi Arabia and other GCC countries traditionally account for only about 5 to 10 percent of trading on the Qatari stock market, according to exchange data, suggesting even a total pull-out would not sink the market. Nevertheless, Qatar will face higher costs in some areas. Saudi Arabia and the UAE provided $309 million of Qatar's $1.05 billion of food imports in 2015. Much of them, especially dairy products, came over the Saudi land border; Doha will have to make other arrangements for them. Construction costs in Qatar could also rise, fuelling inflation across the economy, because aluminum and other building materials can no longer be imported by land. Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain withdrew their ambassadors from Qatar for eight months in 2014 over Doha's alleged support of Islamist groups, but that had minimal market or economic impact because it did not involve a ban on transport links. Trade and investment went on much as before. Also In World News Arab powers sever Qatar ties, citing support for militants After London attack, May faces election heat over police cuts This time, Saudi Arabia has promised to "begin legal procedures for immediate understandings with brotherly and friendly countries and international companies to apply the same procedures as soon as possible". It is not clear that Riyadh will be able to persuade more countries to cut links with Doha. But it could try to force foreign companies to make a choice between doing business with Qatar and obtaining access to its own, much larger market, which it is opening up as part of economic reforms. Cairo-based bankers said on Monday that some Egyptian banks had halted dealings with Qatari banks. It was not clear whether GCC banks would do the same; UAE commercial bankers told Reuters they were waiting for guidance from their central bank. Stock markets in Dubai and several other Gulf centers fell on Monday - although not by nearly as much as Qatar - in a sign that investors around the region were worried. “Overall it's not good. I don’t think that the region has been in such turmoil so close to home. And I think everyone is speculating how far these steps will go forward," said Mohammed Ali Yasin, chief executive of Abu Dhabi's NBAD Securities. "Everyone is hoping that there will be intervention by wise people and things will cool down. But what we have seen is a gradual escalation." (Additional reporting by Hadeel Al Sayegh and Davide Barbuscia)

Sunday, June 04, 2017

fraudulent or “ghost” collateral haunts loans across China’s debt-laden banking system

Suspect Security Suspect Security ‘Ghost collateral’ haunts loans across China’s debt-laden banking system DUPED: Aluminium ingots at the Chinese port of Qingdao, which was the scene of a major collateral fraud case in 2014 in which fake warehouse receipts were used to secure multiple loans with the same batch of metal. REUTERS/Fayen Wong Lax lending practices and overvalued collateral spurred the U.S. financial crisis in 2008. Now, banks in China face risks of their own as fraudulent borrowers and corrupt bankers burden the financial system with loans lacking genuine collateral. By ENGEN THAM Filed May 31, 2017, noon GMT SHANGHAI – The banker at the other end of the phone line was furious, recalled Shanghai lawyer Wang Chaoyu. A pile of steel pledged as collateral for a loan of almost $3 million from his bank, China CITIC, had vanished from a warehouse on the outskirts of the city. Just several months earlier, in mid-2013, Wang and the banker had visited the warehouse and verified that the steel was there. “The first time I went, I saw the steel,” recalled Wang, an attorney at Beijing DHH Law Firm, which represents the Shanghai branch of CITIC. “Afterwards, the banker got in contact with me and said, ‘The pledged assets are no longer there.’” The trouble had begun in 2012, after CITIC loaned the money to Shanghai Hanning Iron and Steel Co Ltd, a privately held steel trader. Hanning failed to meet payments, according to a mediation agreement reviewed by Reuters, and CITIC took ownership of the steel. It was when CITIC moved to retrieve the collateral that the banker visited the warehouse and discovered that the 291-tonne pile of steel was no longer there, Wang said. The bank is still in court trying to recoup its losses. The missing collateral is a setback for CITIC. But it is indicative of a much wider problem that could endanger the health of China’s financial system – fraudulent or “ghost” collateral. When bank auditors in China go looking, they too often find that collateral recorded on the books simply isn’t there. Related content Interactive graphic: China’s rising debt problem China’s reforms not enough to arrest mounting debt, Moody’s says As banks swap corporates for retail borrowers, risks rise In some cases, collateral that has been pledged simply doesn’t exist. In others, it disappears as borrowers in financial distress sell the assets. There are also instances in which the same collateral has been pledged to multiple lenders. One lawyer said he discovered that the same pile of steel was used to secure loans from 10 different lenders. With the mainland facing its slowest growth in over a quarter of a century, defaults are mounting as borrowers struggle to repay their loans. The danger of fraudulent collateral in this situation, say economists, is that it exacerbates the problem of bad debt for China’s banks, increasing the risk of financial turmoil. As growth slows, lenders can expect more nasty surprises, said Xin Qingquan, professor of accounting at Chongqing University. More instances of fake collateral will arise, he said. On May 24, Moody’s Investors Service downgraded China’s credit ratings for the first time in almost three decades. The ratings agency said it expects the financial strength of the economy will erode in the coming years as economic growth slows and debt continues to rise. The 2008 global financial crisis showed how the combination of lax lending standards and overvalued collateral can lead to disaster. The catalyst for that meltdown was the collapse in the value of housing in the United States that served as security for a mountain of highly leveraged lending, the so-called subprime mortgages. Now, banks in the world’s second-biggest economy face their own collateral risks. Fraudulent borrowers, corrupt bankers, poor risk assessment and a weak legal system are conspiring to load China’s financial system with loans lacking genuine collateral. DISAPPEARING STEEL: A person walks past the location of the Shanghai branch of China CITIC.  When a banker from CITIC went to check on a pile of steel in late 2013 that had been pledged as security for a loan of almost $3 million, he found it was no longer there. REUTERS/Engen Tham “The first time I went, I saw the steel. Afterwards, the banker got in contact with me and said, ‘The pledged assets are no longer there.’” Shanghai lawyer Wang Chaoyu A Reuters review of dozens of court cases involving collateralized loans and interviews with lawyers, regulators and 30 bankers in China reveal that fraudulent collateral – in the form of buildings, private apartments, copper and steel – is haunting loans across a wide swath of business and industry. The bankers interviewed by Reuters said they had encountered multiple methods by which loans were fraudulently secured, including the use of fake land certificates and bogus warehouse receipts. Most of the bankers said that kickbacks were prevalent, with loan officers turning a blind eye to the quality of collateral and knowingly accepting dubious and even fraudulent documents. Two of the bankers said they themselves had taken bribes to smooth the approval of loans. Overall, 23 of the 30 bankers described the existence of ghost collateral as a serious problem and expected more instances to emerge as the Chinese economy slows. The bankers interviewed come from 13 banks in China, including some of the nation’s biggest lenders. Curbing illicit payments The China Banking Regulatory Commission (CBRC) is trying to rein in lender misconduct, which includes stepped-up checks on the illicit taking of payments by bankers for the approval of loans. The regulator also recently published a list of new rules aimed at improving oversight of banking operations that will be implemented later this year. While bankers in China say that the new moves are likely to reduce under-the-table payments to bankers for loan approvals, some question how far-reaching the impact will be. Much of the CBRC's anti-corruption drive, they say, still relies on the banks policing themselves and reporting any misconduct to the regulator. One suggestion made by bankers and lawyers: Set up a uniform, nationwide registration system for documenting assets and the collateral pledged to secure them. That would go a long way to ridding China of its fraudulent collateral problem, they say. Engen Tham There are no official statistics or estimates of the problem. But fraudulent collateral is “a huge issue,” said Violet Ho, senior managing director and co-head of Greater China Investigations and Disputes Practice at Kroll, which conducts corporate investigations on the mainland. “Often you also see that the paperwork around collateral may be dodgy, and the bank loan officer knows, the intermediary knows, and the goods owner knows – so it’s essentially a Ponzi scheme.” Even when banks resort to the courts, there’s no guarantee they’ll get their money back. Inadequate legal protections for collateral and the complexity of some borrowers’ business dealings can make it difficult for lenders to foreclose. That’s what happened to CITIC after it made the $2.71 million loan to Hanning Steel. When Hanning defaulted, CITIC won a court order freezing the collateral, after which the parties entered into mediation, lawyer Wang Chaoyu said. But the collateral is still missing. In response to questions from Reuters, CITIC said that the case was still being enforced in the courts and that it had since strengthened its risk management procedures. Representatives of Hanning did not respond to questions. When Reuters visited Hanning’s registered Shanghai address, there was no sign of a company office there. Total debt in China rose to 277 percent of GDP at the end of 2016, according to Swiss bank UBS. That’s a record, and almost twice the figure eight years ago. Bad loans are mounting fast. Officially, just 1.74 percent of commercial bank loans were classified as non-performing at the end of March. But some analysts say lenders often mask the true level of bad debt and so the figure is likely much higher. Fitch Ratings said in a report last September that it had estimated non-performing loans in China’s financial system could be as high as 15 percent to 21 percent. This in a banking sector that has undergone a massive credit expansion. The value of outstanding bank loans ballooned to $17.2 trillion at the end of April from $5.8 trillion at the end of 2009, according to data from China’s central bank. In September last year, the Bank for International Settlements warned that excessive credit growth in China meant there was a growing risk of a banking crisis in the next three years. In a report last September, Fitch Ratings estimated that it would cost as much as $2.1 trillion to clean up China’s bad debt – almost a fifth of annual Chinese economic output. By comparison, during the global financial crisis, the direct cost of rescuing U.S. banks was about eight percent of gross domestic product. Some economists and bankers say Beijing has the tools to avert a financial crisis. They argue that authorities have ample financial reserves to recapitalize the banks. And they say state ownership of lenders and of many large corporate borrowers means Beijing can head off a default or foreclosure that might spark a crisis. But the fact that China’s banking system has been shielded by the expectation of government bailouts means lenders haven’t developed the risk assessment tools needed to judge loan exposure as banks elsewhere have. It is this challenge of assessing the creditworthiness of borrowers that explains why physical collateral is so important for banks in China. The China Banking Regulatory Commission, which is tasked with regulating and safeguarding the sprawling banking sector, did not respond to questions from Reuters. Big foreign banks have not been immune to the risks of fraudulent collateral. In a high-profile case that came to light in June 2014, banking giants including HSBC, Standard Chartered and others were exposed to potential losses totaling several billion dollars on loans to Decheng Mining, a private metals trading company in Qingdao. The company faked warehouse receipts for the same batch of metal, using it as security for multiple loans. METALS SCAM: HSBC’s office in Shanghai’s financial district. The bank was impacted by the Qingdao port collateral fraud case in 2014, along with Standard Chartered and other banks. REUTERS/Carlos Barria “Often you also see that the paperwork around collateral may be dodgy, and the bank loan officer knows, the intermediary knows, and the goods owner knows – so it’s essentially a Ponzi scheme.” Violet Ho, Kroll A spokesman for HSBC disputed the account, saying the bank had “no material exposure of this kind,” without providing details. Standard Chartered declined to comment on the case and Decheng Mining could not be reached for comment. It’s not hard to dupe bankers and lawyers in a physical inspection of collateral. Warehouses often contain hundreds of piles of steel or copper, making it difficult for an untrained observer to identify the specific pile that is serving as security for a loan their bank has issued. “One pile of iron ore looks exactly like every other pile of iron ore, so I may say it’s mine, but it could be anyone’s,” says Kroll’s Violet Ho. The value and quality of security in China’s real estate sector is a concern for bankers in China. Fitch Ratings has mentioned "wildly misleading" property valuations as one reason why high collateral coverage may not protect banks. Another is a sudden fall in property prices. According to Fitch's Grace Wu, over 60 percent of financing in China uses property as collateral in some way. The lack of a consistent and open nationwide property registration system also increases the prevalence of fraudulent collateral. “There is a complete lack of transparency of information,” says Ho. The United States, she notes, has open property records that buyers can search to ascertain the true owner of a building. “You can’t do that in China. There is no easy way to verify the information, so you have to take people’s word for it.” ECHOES OF 2008: A foreclosed home in Stockton, California, in May 2008. Today, bankers in China are concerned about the value and quality of collateral in the country’s real estate sector.  REUTERS/Robert Galbraith Bankers say borrowers often provide them with fake cash-flow statements, so property buyers can be more leveraged than they appear. The falsification of mortgage certificates is also a problem, they say. That’s how the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the World Bank’s investment arm, got taken for tens of millions of dollars by one of China’s richest men. The deception began in 2007, after the IFC lent the money to Hong Kong-listed Zhejiang Glass Co Ltd, then owned by Chinese tycoon Feng Guangcheng. Two years later, the IFC made an unpleasant discovery: In discussions with other banks it found that the collateral for the IFC loan had also been pledged to other lenders, according to a person with direct knowledge of the case. Anxious IFC officials hurriedly dispatched lawyers to the land and company registration authorities in Zhejiang Province, where they made another startling discovery: The stamps on the mortgage certificates for the land, properties and industrial machinery used to secure the loan were fake, people familiar with the case said. Concluding they’d been swindled, IFC officials traveled to the eastern city of Hangzhou in late 2009 to confront Zhejiang Glass’s chairman. Feng, who sat at the head of the table with a junior by his side, didn’t want to dwell on the loan, recalled one person who attended the meeting. He admitted right away that the documents were fake and quickly tried to move the discussion along. Graphic: Moody’s downgraded China’s credit ratings in May, saying it expects growth will slow and debt will continue to rise. Click here “His attitude was, ‘Dead pigs aren’t afraid of boiling water’,” the person said, using a Chinese proverb to describe Feng’s attitude: Any attempt to punish him was futile because the loan was already lost. In 2010, a court ruled that Zhejiang Glass should repay the loan to the IFC. That never happened. In 2012, local media reported that Feng was convicted in a separate fraud case and was sentenced to eight-and-a-half years in prison. The company was declared bankrupt the next year and delisted in Hong Kong. Ultimately, the IFC recovered only 2 percent of its loan, according to a person familiar with the case. In response to questions from Reuters, the IFC called the case an isolated incident related to the larger fraud perpetrated by Zhejiang Glass. Reuters was unable to contact Feng’s lawyers or representatives of Zhejiang Glass, which has been liquidated. Banks are not always unwitting or careless victims. Sometimes, their employees act as facilitators. In 2015, for instance, the former vice president of Agricultural Bank of China Ltd, Yang Kun, was sentenced to life imprisonment for accepting bribes of more than 30 million yuan ($4.4 million) in connection with loans, among other things, according to local media reports. Reuters was unable to contact Yang for comment. reuters investigates More Reuters investigations and long-form narratives In another case, heard in a Shanghai court in 2015, a 37-year-old man named Lou Zhenshen, who controlled a trading company, was convicted of bribing the president of a branch of CITIC Bank with 50,000 yuan (about $7,250) in cash and supermarket vouchers worth 10,000 yuan. According to court records, the judge said Lou had used fake warehouse receipts to apply for loans and had repeatedly used the same metal as collateral. Lou was also convicted of paying a 200,000 yuan bribe to a credit officer at China Minsheng Bank. “Kickbacks for loan approvals is routine,” said Gary Tian, a professor at Macquarie University in Sydney who has researched corruption and bank lending in China. Agricultural Bank did not respond to questions from Reuters about the case involving Yang, and Reuters was unable to contact Lou or his lawyer about the cases involving Minsheng and CITIC. Minsheng didn’t respond to questions. CITIC Bank said that in the past two years it has focused on managing employee behavior, strengthening accountability and raising the cost for employees who violate rules. Still, more than three years since lawyer Wang Chaoyu took the phone call from the incensed CITIC banker about the missing collateral from Hanning Iron and Steel, the lender is still trying to get back some of its money. CITIC is now trying to sell several apartments that were put up as part of the security for the ill-fated loan. Additional reporting by Michelle Price in Hong Kong, Elias Glenn in Beijing and Samuel Shen in Shanghai. Suspect Security By Engen Tham Photo editing: Thomas White Graphics: Jin Wu Design: Catherine Tai Edited by Peter Hirschberg and David Lague Follow Reuters Investigates Other Reuters investigations Modi's Yogi Yoga tycoon Baba Ramdev helped propel Narendra Modi to power in 2014. Since then, business has boomed at Ramdev's consumer products empire. 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