Leader of France’s ‘yellow vests’ arrested

The yellow vests became symbolic of the protests in Paris over planned tax hikes. (File/AFP)
Updated 03 January 2019
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Leader of France’s ‘yellow vests’ arrested

  • Eric Drouet — who already faces a trial for carrying a weapon at a previous protest — was held while heading for the Champs-Elysees
  • One political commentator on the BFM news channel, Bruno Jeudy, said the arrest risked turning Drouet into a sort of “martyr”

PARIS: One of the leaders of the “yellow vest” anti-government demonstrations was detained by police in Paris late Wednesday for organizing an unauthorized protest, signalling a harder line by the authorities against the movement.
Eric Drouet — who already faces a trial for carrying a weapon at a previous protest — was held while heading for the Champs-Elysees, which has been the scene of violent clashes over the last month.
“It’s called respecting the rule of law,” Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire said on Thursday as he defended the arrest which drew criticism from some leftist opponents of the government.
“It’s normal that when you break the laws of the republic, you face the consequences,” he added.
A few dozen demonstrators had gathered outside a McDonald’s restaurant near France’s famous Arc de Triomphe war monument and had been waiting for Drouet to arrive early Wednesday evening.
Drouet, a truck driver who appears on television as a spokesman for the “yellow vests,” had called for the demonstration in a video posted on his Facebook page.
The “yellow vest” demonstrations — so-called after the high-visibility jackets they wear — began in rural France in November over fuel taxes and ballooned into a wider revolt against President Emmanuel Macron’s policies and governing style.
The protesters, who have repeatedly flouted laws that require them to declare their demonstrations in advance, have regularly clashed with police in Paris and other big cities.
Drouet, who was filmed on Wednesday night being forced into a police vehicle by dozens of riot police in protective gear, was first arrested last month after he was found carrying a wooden stick at a demonstration.
He faces trial on June 5 for “carrying a prohibited category D weapon,” a judicial source told AFP.
Radical leftist leader Jean-Luc Melenchon, a fierce critic of Macron, tweeted: “Again Eric Drouet arrested, why? Abuse of power. A politicized police targeting and harassing the leaders of the yellow vest movement.”
One political commentator on the BFM news channel, Bruno Jeudy, said the arrest risked turning Drouet into a sort of “martyr” at a time when the “yellow vest” movement appeared to be running out of steam.
Only a couple of hundred people turned up for the last round of demonstrations called on the Champs-Elysees on New Year’s Eve.
In mid-December, after weeks of violence, Macron scrapped unpopular fuel tax rises in response to the protests, promised extra cash for minimum wage earners and tax cuts for pensioners.


Ex-Goldman banker to finish Malaysia legal process before US extradition

Updated 20 February 2019
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Ex-Goldman banker to finish Malaysia legal process before US extradition

  • Goldman’s role is under scrutiny as the Wall Street titan helped arrange $6.5 billion in bonds for 1MDB
  • Authorities in Malaysia and the US accuse former employees of bribery and stealing billions of dollars

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia: A former Goldman Sachs banker accused of involvement in the multi-billion-dollar 1MDB scandal will only be extradited to the United States after legal proceedings against him in Malaysia are completed, a minister said.
Huge sums of public money were purportedly stolen from Malaysian state fund 1MDB and used to buy everything from yachts to art in a scheme that allegedly involved former premier Najib Razak and contributed to his government’s election defeat.
Goldman’s role is under scrutiny as the Wall Street titan helped arrange $6.5 billion in bonds for 1MDB. Authorities in Malaysia and the US accuse former employees of bribery and stealing billions of dollars, and investigators believe cash was laundered through the US financial system.
Malaysian Ng Chong Hwa, a former managing director at the bank, was indicted in November when US authorities also lodged an extradition request. He has been in custody in Malaysia since the US indictment.
Malaysia also filed charges against Ng, more commonly known as Roger Ng, as well as Goldman.
At a court hearing last week, Ng agreed to stop fighting the extradition request and said he wanted to be sent to the US within 30 days.
But Malaysia’s government must approve his extradition, and Interior Minister Muhyiddin Yassin said Ng’s case in Malaysia must go ahead first.
“We will honor the extradition but we will prioritize the case in Malaysia until it is completed. This is the advice of the attorney-general, and we will abide by it,” Yassin said.
Ng’s case will likely come before the Malaysian courts again next month, he said.
Ng was charged in Malaysia in December with four counts related to 1MDB, and has pleaded not guilty. He faces up to 40 years in jail if convicted.
As well as Ng, former Goldman partner Tim Leissner and the bank’s subsidiaries are also accused of making false statements in order to steal billions of dollars, and of bribing officials.
Leissner has already pleaded guilty in the US to 1MDB-linked charges.