Ex-Eels boss called before integrity unit

Former Parramatta boss Scott Seward has reportedly been called before the NRL integrity unit as part of the growing investigation into the club’s salary cap dramas.

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According to Fairfax Media, the former Eels chief executive has agreed to be interviewed next week as the embattled club is threatened with the loss of competition points.

Seward has worn the blame for much of the club’s instability since his resignation midway through last season.

He oversaw the contract bungle that almost resulted in Kieran Foran slipping through the club’s net and led to a $525,000 fine for salary cap breaches.

It was reported that the Eels had waived Seward’s non-disclosure agreement but had asked that Eels officials be present at the meeting. However the NRL is unlikely to accept the club’s request.

“The club has agreed for Mr Seward to be interviewed by the NRL’s integrity unit and we welcome the investigation of all relevant material,” an Eels spokesperson said.

“Current club leadership remains firmly of the view that the investigation will in time reveal the truth of the matters currently subject to so much public speculation.

“Since Mr Seward’s tenure, the club has been overhauled and significantly improved the club’s governance. We have done this with the assistance of Price Waterhouse Coopers who made 117 recommendations for reforming the culture of the club.”

The Eels this year avoided being docked four competition points for 2014 salary cap breaches after agreeing to a corporate governance review.

But the NRL has launched a fresh probe into dubious third-party agreements which had allegedly been organised by the club. Under NRL rules, all players’ TPA sponsorships must be made at arm’s length from the club.

Shorten pledges Perth Metronet rail funds

WA Labor’s Metronet rail plan has been boosted by federal opposition leader Bill Shorten pledging federal funding and labelling it his number one infrastructure priority for Perth.

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Metronet was the centrepiece of the state opposition’s 2013 election campaign, when the party estimated it would cost $3.8 billion, although the Liberal state government’s then-Treasurer Troy Buswell claimed it would cost $6.4 billion.

Tim Marney, WA’s Under Treasurer at the time, estimated the project would cost about $500 million more than Labor claimed, but $2 billion less than the Liberal estimate.

Under the plan, rail links will be run right up to suburbs on the edge of the city’s urban sprawl in a bid to ease road congestion and give commuters a swifter alternative to buses.

Labor relaunched Metronet last year, saying it could not give a firm figure for the entire proposal, but the key planks would cost between $2.5 billion and $3 billion.

These elements include the Forrestfield-Airport rail link, which the Liberal state government has also undertaken and budgeted, and fixing dangerous level crossings.

The opposition says it is still working on the final aspects of Metronet and will release the final cost estimate closer to the election in March next year.

Before the last poll, the plan was matched by the WA Liberal’s MAX light rail plan – but that scheme was put on ice as the state government struggled with deficits and mounting debt.

Mr Shorten told reporters in Perth on Tuesday that he’d throw his support behind Metronet if Labor won the federal election, contributing Commonwealth grants.

The rest of it would be funded with debt, he said.

“We want to ease the congestion, we want to improve the productivity – people shouldn’t spend their whole days waiting in traffic to get to and from work,” Mr Shorten said.

WA Labor leader Mark McGowan couldn’t say how much of the project’s multi-billion dollar price tag would be paid for with borrowings, but he was confident the party’s federal leadership would eventually provide firmer details about planned Commonwealth contributions.

“Over time, there will be more forthcoming figures,” Mr McGowan said.

“It will be built over a timeframe that we can afford.

“If Labor is elected at a federal level and if Labor is elected at a state level, you’ll see Metronet come on stream pretty quickly.”

Qld CCC to oversee death in custody probe

Queensland’s Crime and Corruption Commission (CCC) will oversee an independent investigation into the death of a man in police custody on the Gold Coast.

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Officers were called to Victoria Park, Broadbeach, just before 11am on Tuesday following complaints of a disturbance.

Witnesses recalled seeing the man speaking with officers without incident before they attempted to place him into a police van.

Geoff Collins told ABC radio the vehicle didn’t get far before they had to stop.

“They drove down 30 metres, they pulled immediately down the side of the road and started doing CPR on him,” he said.

The Queensland Ambulance Service confirmed it was police officers who called paramedics, who arrived to find the man bleeding from cuts to his face and arms.

It remains unclear how he sustained those injuries.

Paramedics took over CPR but he was not able to be revived.

“Initial information suggests the man began having trouble breathing after being placed in the rear of a police van,” police said in a statement in the afternoon.

Some witnesses said the man was exposing himself before being arrested.

Police were not able to confirm reports he was a well-known homeless man who frequented the area.

“I don’t think (there was) anything wrong with what the police did,” witness Shaun Hyland told the Nine Network.

“I feel sorry for them now.”

Police Commissioner Ian Stewart was reluctant to comment on the incident, having only received an initial briefing.

“I probably shouldn’t comment any further other than to say that our normal process of Ethical Standards Command being involved and taking over the investigation has already commenced,” he said.

“Ethical Standards will provide the independent overview of the investigation that’s going on in relation to this death.”

Police said the coroner had been advised and a report would be prepared.

Countries open Panama Papers probes

Authorities across the globe have opened investigations into the activities of the world’s rich and powerful after a cache of leaked documents from a Panamanian law firm showed possible wrongdoing using offshore company structures.

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The “Panama Papers” have cast light on the financial arrangements of high profile politicians and public figures and the companies and financial institutions they use for such activities.

Among those named in the documents are friends of Russian President Vladimir Putin and relatives of the leaders of China, Britain, Iceland and Pakistan, and the president of Ukraine.

Leading figures and financial institutions responded to the massive leak of more than 11.5 million documents with denials of any wrongdoing as prosecutors and regulators began a review of the reports from the investigation by the US-based International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and other media organisations.

Following the reports, China has moved to limit local access to coverage of the matter with state media denouncing Western reporting on the leak as biased against non-Western leaders.

France, Australia, New Zealand, Austria, Sweden and the Netherlands are among nations that have commenced investigations, and some other countries including the US said they were looking into the matter.

Mossack Fonseca, the Panamanian law firm at the centre of the leaks, has set up more than 240,000 offshore companies for clients around the globe and denies any wrongdoing. It calls itself the victim of a campaign against privacy and claims media reports misrepresent the nature of its business.

Credit Suisse and HSBC, two of the world’s largest wealth managers, on Tuesday dismissed suggestions they were actively using offshore structures to help clients cheat on their taxes.

Both were named among the banks that helped set up complex structures that make it hard for tax collectors and investigators to track the flow of money from one place to another, according to ICIJ.

Credit Suisse chief executive Tidjane Thiam, who is aggressively targeting Asia’s wealthiest for growth, said his bank was only after lawful assets.

Separately, HSBC said the documents pre-dated a thorough reform of its business model.

Both banks have in recent years paid large fines to US authorities over their wealth management or banking operations.

The reports on leaks also pointed to the offshore companies linked to the families of Chinese President Xi Jinping and other powerful current and former Chinese leaders.

China’s government has yet to respond publicly to the allegations.

Searches for the word “Panama” on Chinese search engines bring up stories in Chinese media on the topic, but many of the links have been disabled or only open on to stories about allegations directed at sports stars.

China’s internet regulator did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Global Times, an influential tabloid published by the ruling Communist Party’s official People’s Daily, suggested in an editorial on Tuesday that Western media backed by Washington used such leaks to attack political targets in non-Western countries while minimising coverage of Western leaders.

Global investigations into ‘Panama Papers’ revelations

Governments worldwide are now investigating reports of international tax avoidance following the leak of more than 11 million files from a Panamanian law firm.

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Tens of thousands of rich and powerful people, including hundreds of Australians, have been mentioned in what is seen as an extensive investigation into offshore financial dealings.

Twelve current and former world leaders have had alleged hidden financial dealings exposed in the unprecedented leak of offshore financial records.

The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists has made public more than four decades’ worth of documents from the Panama-based Mossack Fonseca law firm.

The leak has sparked international outrage.

Thousands of protesters in Iceland have taken to the streets, calling for Prime Minister Sigmindur Gunnlaugsson to resign.

Documents revealed have led to allegations he and his wife used an offshore firm to hide financial investments.

While there is no evidence Mr Gunnlaugsson or his wife have done anything illegal, protester Einar Bergmundur says the people of Iceland want the prime minister to step down.

“I’m just protesting the corruption of the government. The prime minister has been hiding his money in Tortola and lying about it.”

But Mr Gunnlaugsson insists his wife’s overseas investments were legal and he has no plans to resign.

“I certainly won’t, because what we’ve seen is the fact that, well, my wife has always paid her taxes. We’ve also seen that she has avoided any conflict of interest by investing in Icelandic companies at the same time I’m in politics. And, finally, we’ve seen that I have been willing to put the interests of the people of Iceland first, even when it’s at a disadvantage to my own family.”

The so-called Panama Papers have led to accusations Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko set up an offshore company during peak fighting between Ukraine and pro-Russian separatists.

Failure to disclose offshore investments is not a criminal offence.

But Radical Party of Ukraine leader Oleh Lyashko says President Poroshenko’s alleged financial dealings are not acceptable.

(Translated) “We believe that revealed facts concerning creation of offshore companies, opening of secret accounts, secret companies, at the time when hundreds of Ukrainian soldiers were dying at the front line, in Illovaysk entrapment, amounts to committing a crime by the president of Ukraine.”

But Mr Poroshenko has declared his innocence following calls for an investigation into the allegations.

Taking to twitter, Mr Poroshenko says he believes he might be the first top official in Ukraine who treats declaring of assets, paying taxes and conflict of interest issues seriously.

Argentine president Mauricio Macri is also named in the Panama Papers for his role as the director of an offshore company in the Bahamas.

But Mr Macri, too, insists his financial dealings are legal.

(Translated)”I think there is something good in the world we live in, that there is constantly more transparency, right? There is constantly more public awareness of information that was hard to come by before. In the particular case in which I am involved, it is a legal operation done by another person constituting an offshore company to invest in Brazil, an investment that, in the end, never happened and in which I was named the director.”

Associates of Russian president Vladimir Putin and British prime minister David Cameron are also mentioned in the reports.

Oxfam Mexico executive director Ricardo Fuentes says world leaders and their associates named in the Panama Papers must be investigated.

(Translated)”It’s simply that the law be applied, that there be an investigation and apply the law just like with any other citizen who does not pay taxes or who minimises the taxes they pay. It is very simple. Mexico and Latin America need to strengthen their rule of law so that there is no one above the law, including contractors from the government, including personal friends of whomever

In the United States, White House press secretary Josh Earnest says the US administration is not surprised at the extent of international tax avoidance the leak has uncovered.

“It’s not at all a surprise to anybody in the administration — I don’t think it’s a surprise to you — that there are people who are looking for illicit ways to get around US sanctions. And, to the extent that there is any evidence that they are doing that, I think it would only be common sense that we might learn from steps that they have taken to ensure that our sanctions can have the maximum impact.”

 

 

 

China restricts coverage of Panama Papers revelations

China has moved to limit coverage of the massive leak of documents from a Panamanian law firm that may

have exposed financial wrongdoing by some of the world’s rich and powerful, blocking some search terms and removing certain stories online.

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The “Panama Papers” revealed financial arrangements of politicians and public figures including friends of Russian

President Vladimir Putin, relatives of the prime ministers of Britain, Iceland and Pakistan, and the president of Ukraine.

The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), which has published some of the information from the documents, said the files also revealed offshore companies linked to the families of Chinese President Xi Jinping and other powerful current and former Chinese leaders.

While holding money in offshore companies is not illegal, journalists who received the leaked documents said they could provide evidence of wealth hidden for tax evasion, money laundering, sanctions busting, drug deals or other crimes.

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While the Chinese government has yet to respond publicly to the allegations – the Cabinet’s news office did not immediately answer a request for comment – state media have largely avoided any reporting of the topic.

Searches for the word “Panama” on Chinese search engines bring up stories in Chinese media on the topic, but many of the links have been disabled or only open onto stories about allegations directed at sports stars.

Searches for “Panama Papers” in Chinese bring up a warning that the results “may not accord with relevant laws and rules so can’t be shown”.

China’s Internet regulator did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

But the Global Times, an influential tabloid published by the ruling Communist Party’s official People’s Daily, suggested in an editorial on Tuesday that Western media backed by Washington used such leaks to attack political targets in non-Western countries.

“The Western media has taken control of the interpretation each time there has been such a document dump, and Washington has demonstrated particular influence in it,” the paper said.

“Information that is negative to the US can always be minimised, while exposure of non-Western leaders, such as Putin, can get extra spin,” it added.

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The editorial, in both its English and Chinese editions, made no mention of the China connections in the Panama Papers.

China is in the midst of a massive crackdown on corruption overseen by Xi, but the government has repeatedly had to swat away criticism the move is more about an internal power play than actually tackling graft.

Calls to the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, the Communist Party’s graft watchdog leading the crackdown, went unanswered.

Last week, a top party magazine lashed out at critics of the anti-corruption campaign, saying foreign media and individuals from home and abroad were intentionally trying to discredit the effort as a political “power struggle”.

Sydney hospital’s statements ‘misleading’ over under-prescribed chemotherapy drugs

A Sydney hospital has apologised to cancer patients given the wrong dose of chemotherapy drugs after a damning investigation into its handling of improper prescribing by one of its doctors.

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An interim report into oncologist Dr John Grygiel’s under-prescribing of the chemotherapy drug carboplatin to St Vincent’s Hospital cancer patients has slammed the hospital’s reaction to the incident and warned more patients may be affected.

An inquiry was ordered earlier this year after it emerged Dr Grygiel under-prescribed carboplatin to 78 head and neck cancer patients between 2012 to 2015.

Twenty-three of those patients have since died of cancer, but the inquiry team was unable to link their deaths to under-dosing.

However the inquiry team’s interim report found nearly all those affected were only told about the under-dosing after it was revealed in a media report.

It also found the hospital’s public statements on the issue contained key omissions and were misleading.

“The response by St Vincent’s, when it realised there was an issue, failed to demonstrate an understanding of the distress this issue was likely to cause to patients and their families,” said the report, which was publicly released on Tuesday.

The report said St Vincent’s showed no urgency to review affected patients, and took too long to responded to concerns about Dr Grygiel once they were escalated.

The authors said the full extent of his prescribing was still unknown, and recommended expanding the inquiry’s scope to include patients Dr Grygiel treated as early as 2006.

In a statement St Vincent’s said it apologised “deeply and unreservedly” to affected patients and their families.

“We are sorry you’ve had to go through this, and we are sorry for letting you down in this way,” the statement said.

NSW Health Minister Jillian Skinner labelled the report findings concerning, and that a number of its recommendations had been accepted in full.

These included recommendations for the inquiry to investigate whether more patients of Dr Grygiel are affected, as well as actions to safeguard the broader health system.

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Peats, Sironen, Leuluai set for NRL return

Nathan Peats, Curtis Sironen and Thomas Leuluai headline the big inclusions for round six of the NRL after teams were named on Tuesday.

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Parramatta hooker Peats will return from three matches out with an elbow injury when the Eels host Canberra on Saturday.

Wests Tigers back-rower Sironen also comes back from three games sidelined with a hamstring injury for the joint venture’s trip to Newcastle on Sunday.

Warriors utility Leuluai is set to play his first game in almost a year when the New Zealanders host Manly on Saturday after a knee injury ended his 2015.

The news of the Kiwi international’s return is a further boost for the Warriors who have managed rare back-to-back wins.

“We have to get through training this week but were expecting Thomas to be back after a long time out,” Warriors coach Andrew McFadden said on Tuesday.

“With Manu (Vatuvei) we’re not sure about his injury but Jonathan (Wright) comes in to fill his spot as he has done for us before.”

Vatuvei suffered a hamstring injury in last weekend’s golden point victory over Sydney Roosters.

St George Illawarra coach Paul McGregor has resisted the temptation to swing the axe after his side’s disastrous 36-0 loss to North Queensland. The former Kangaroos centre has named the same 17 to meet Brisbane at Suncorp Stadium on Thursday night to open round six.

Bryson Goodwin returns on the wing for South Sydney’s clash with arch rivals the Roosters at ANZ Stadium on Friday night. Kirisome Auva’a moves to centre.

Luke Bateman moves onto the Raiders’ bench in place of Sia Soliola, who suffered a fractured arm in the win over Canterbury and will miss up to eight weeks.

Feleti Mateo has been dumped for the Sea Eagles’ trip to Auckland. Tom Symonds comes into Trent Barrett’s side and Jake Trbojevic is back at lock after one game out with a knee complaint.

Both Penrith and North Queensland are unchanged for their match at Pepper Stadium on Saturday night.

Cameron Cullen will make his long-awaited NRL debut for Gold Coast against Cronulla at Shark Park on Sunday. Cullen will join Ash Taylor in the Titans’ halves with Greg Bird moving back to lock.

“I feel Cameron’s ready,” Titans coach Neil Henry said.

“Ash Taylor needs some help there, Tyrone Roberts is not going to be right, Birdy’s better in his position, he’s happy to go back at lock.”

Tariq Sims is back from a five-match suspension for the Knights.

Marika Koroibete returns from a one-match ban onto the wing for Melbourne’s match against Canterbury at AAMI Park on Monday night.

Pat Farmer returns from cross-India run for girls’ education

Australian ultramarathon runner and former federal MP Pat Farmer has returned to Australia after finishing a 64 day-long run through India.

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Members of the Indian government and community figures welcomed him home to Sydney following a run he hopes will help to provide an education to thousands of disadvantaged Indian girls.

The consul general of India in Sydney, B Vanlalvawna, was one of those who met Farmer at Sydney airport.

He said he believed the epic achievement would make a difference for girls’ education in his country.

“I think that the impact … the visibility which he has generated across India will continue to have a lasting impact in the minds of people both in India and Australia,” Mr Vanlalvawna said.

Farmer has already raised more than $33,000 to help fund education for Indian girls.

He said the trip also helped him to experience different sides of India.

“[It was] good to see the diversity: the deserts, the mountains, the oceans, the seas, the inlands and the people themselves,” Farmer said.

“So many different cultures, so many different religions.”

However the 4000 kilometre run – from Kanyakumari, in the country’s south, to the foothills of the Himalaya Mountains in the north – was not without its challenges.

Farmer said one moment in particular stood out: “the moments when I was very, very dehydrated and had to be hospitalised for the afternoon”.

“I then got back out on the road later on after that, after being rehydrated, and continued on running from there,” he said.

His wife Tania Farmer travelled alongside him in one of the support vehicles that followed him for the whole journey.

“Everything that’s put in front of him, to still get up every day and just, literally, one step at a time, day after day, and then, finally, he makes it, it’s just … it’s just an incredible thing to witness,” she said.

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Sydney siege: ‘You don’t tell someone who has a gun at their head that’

Sydney siege hostage Marcia Mikhael has recounted her anger that police negotiators could not meet the demands of gunman Man Monis.

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Ms Mikhael spoke to negotiators during the siege and was asked by Monis to get then-Prime Minister Tony Abbott on the phone.

“I didn’t understand why it was so difficult for the prime minister to get on the phone,” she told the inquest.

“I was told, ‘Sorry Marcia, the prime minister is a very busy man'”.

“I’m sorry but you don’t tell someone who has a gun at their head that. I’m going to feel like I’m a piece of nothing and I’m going to die. Just pick up the phone.”

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Ms Mikhael said she had initially thought she was involved in a TV prank during the initial moments of what became a fatal 17-hour ordeal.

She and two colleagues didn’t have time to drink their morning coffees before Monis pulled a sawn-off shotgun from a blue bag and ordered staff to lock the cafe’s doors on December 15, 2014.

After pulling the gun from the bag, Monis said no one was to leave, Ms Mikhael told the inquest into the siege.

“I thought Channel Seven was going to come out of the kitchen and say ‘prank’,” she said.

As the day went on she realised Monis didn’t plan on leaving alive.

“I thought he had a plan to die,” Ms Mikhael told an inquest on Tuesday.

While brandishing a shotgun Monis ordered people to leave their mobile phones on a table and arranged the hostages to stand at windows around the cafe.

Ms Mikhael said she thought Monis had done this to give himself protection and prove the siege was serious.

Ms Mikhael was moved near the front doors where she stood looking out of the cafe, terrified of the scene unfolding behind her.

“I was frozen in fear,” she said.

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As she stood at the doors Senior Constable Paul Withers, the first officer to arrive, managed to catch her attention without alerting Monis.

He gestured to Ms Mikhael and encouraged her to calm her breathing, which she said helped her cope.

“I would like to thank him,” Ms Mikhael said.

Ms Mikhael, was one of 18 people held hostage by Monis for 17 hours with the siege ending in the deaths of cafe manager Tori Johnson, barrister Katrina Dawson and Monis.

Lindt siege end ‘like being in firework’

The final, chaotic moments of the Lindt Cafe siege with guns being fired and flash grenades exploding was

like being inside a firework, hostage Ms Mikhael said.

Ms Mikhael was one of the last captives inside the Sydney cafe and kept her eyes on gunman Man Haron Monis while hiding under tables not far from fellow hostage Katrina Dawson as the 17-hour siege moved towards its violent end.

They had taken cover after the final group to escape the December 14 siege had successfully fled.

Monis, who had shot at the fleeing captives, reloaded his gun and ordered cafe manager Tori Johnson to “come over here right now”, Ms Mikhael told the coronial inquest on Tuesday.

She was lying on her stomach and couldn’t see what happened next – as Monis executed Mr Johnson at point-blank range.

She said police stormed the building soon after.

“There were shots being fired from inside and outside, the sound of little grenades,” she said.

“It was like being inside a firework.”

Officers and Monis were shooting at each other and Ms Mikhael was trying to block out the noise by placing her hands over her ears.

She said it was “the most horrible thing”.

While lying under the tables, Ms Mikhael felt a pain in both legs and realised she had been shot.

She tried to move closer to cover and curled into the fetal position, trying to avoid becoming a target again.

Ms Mikhael said she spent about seven minutes under the tables and described the final minutes of the siege as a “blur”.

After police had stormed the building and killed Monis, two officers carried Ms Mikhael out of the cafe with bullet wounds in both her legs.

“They had to step over Monis and half his head was blown out,” she said.

The inquest is expected to continue for another six weeks.