Founder of disastrous Bahamas festival admits swindling investors

Billy McFarland leaves federal court on Tuesday, in New York. He faces a sentence of 8 to 10 years. (AP)
Updated 07 March 2018
0

Founder of disastrous Bahamas festival admits swindling investors

NEW YORK: The entrepreneur behind a luxury music festival in the Bahamas that collapsed in chaos admitted Tuesday that he swindled investors by vastly overstating his financial health.
Billy McFarland, 26, agreed before a federal court in New York to forfeit more than $26 million and pleaded guilty to two counts of wire fraud, a charge that relates to financial deceit, prosecutors said in a statement.
He would have faced up to 20 years in prison for each count but is expected to be sentenced to less time due to his guilty plea.
McFarland was the force behind the Fyre Festival, which had billed itself as the ultimate upscale getaway amid a fast-growing market for music events.
Hundreds of partygoers headed to the Bahamas, some paying more than $100,000 each, but instead found tents that would have looked in place in relief camps and cuisine that was just rudimentary sandwiches.
Prosecutors said McFarland had repeatedly misrepresented himself to build his Fyre Media tech company and the ill-fated festival.
He falsified statements to show investors that his company earned millions of dollars from April 2016 and February 2017 through talent bookings, which in reality has grossed just $57,443, prosecutors said.
The US Attorney’s office said that at least 80 investors fell victim to his scheme, losing more than $24 million.


South Sudan surgeon wins UN prize for treating war-hit refugees

Updated 25 September 2018
0

South Sudan surgeon wins UN prize for treating war-hit refugees

  • South Sudan, the world’s youngest country, has been ravaged by civil war since 2013 after clashes erupted between troops loyal to President Salva Kiir and his former deputy Riek Machar
  • At least 50,000 people have been killed and one in three South Sudanese have been uprooted from their homes

NAIROBI: A South Sudanese surgeon, who has spent two decades helping the sick and injured in the war-torn east African nation, was on Tuesday announced the winner of a UN prize for treating tens of thousands of people forced to flee violence and persecution.
Evan Atar Adaha — a 52-year-old doctor who runs the only hospital in northeastern Maban county — was given the 2018 Nansen Refugee Award for his “humanity and selflessness” where he often risked his safety to serve others, the UN said.
“I feel very humbled. I hope this award can help draw attention to the plight of refugees especially here in Africa where they are often forgotten about,” Adaha told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in an interview.
“You may hear and read about them, but it’s only when you are face-to-face with people who have left everything and are sick with malaria, or are malnourished, or have a bullet wound that you realize how desperate the need for help is.” Nansen Refugee Awardees are recognized by the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) for dedicating their time to help people forced from their homes. Former awardees include Eleanor Roosevelt and Luciano Pavarotti.
South Sudan, the world’s youngest country, has been ravaged by civil war since 2013 after clashes erupted between troops loyal to President Salva Kiir and his former deputy Riek Machar.
The government recently signed a peace agreement with rebels, but the five-year-long war has had a devastating impact.
At least 50,000 people have been killed and one in three South Sudanese have been uprooted from their homes. The country also hosts around 300,000 refugees fleeing violence in neighboring Sudan, according to the UN.
Adaha, known locally as Dr. Atar, has been running Maban hospital — which was once an abandoned health clinic — in the northeastern town of Bunj since 2011.
When he first arrived, he said there was no operating theater and he had to stack tables to create a work area.
Over the years, he has transformed the hospital and created a maternity ward and nutrition center, as well as training young people as nurses and midwives.
The 120-bed hospital now serves around 200,000 people living in Maban county — 70 percent of whom are refugees from Sudan — and conducts about 60 operations weekly but under very difficult circumstances.
Adaha said the only x-ray machine is broken, the operating theater has only one light, and electricity is provided by generators that often break down.
Although the hospital receives support from UNHCR, Adaha said a lack of funds remains his biggest challenge to treating everyone who needs help. “In the hospital, we will treat anyone. It doesn’t matter if you are a rebel, government soldier, refugee or a local person. We have pregnant women, malnourished children and even people who are wounded by bullets,” Adaha said.
“The one rule we have is that no weapons are allowed in the hospital. If you bring a weapon, then we will not treat you. Sometimes it is difficult, but most people now agree.”
The Nansen Refugee Award ceremony takes place on Oct. 1 in Geneva, and the winner will receive $150,000 to fund a project complementing their work.