Founder of online Chinese lender sentenced to life for fraud

Founder of online Chinese lender sentenced to life for fraud
In this Jan. 1, 2016 file photo, policemen watch as depositors from Ezubo gather outside the State Bureau for Letters and Calls Reception Division office in Beijing. (AP)
Updated 14 September 2017

Founder of online Chinese lender sentenced to life for fraud

Founder of online Chinese lender sentenced to life for fraud

BEIJING: The founder of a Chinese online peer-to-peer lender has been sentenced to life in prison on charges he defrauded investors of $7.7 billion in one of China’s biggest financial scams.
Ezubo was the biggest competitor in an informal finance industry that Chinese authorities allowed to flourish with little oversight over the past decade to support entrepreneurs who cannot get loans from state banks. A series of lenders have collapsed as economic growth slowed, leaving authorities struggling to defuse protests by depositors.
Ezubo’s founder, Ding Ning, and his younger brother, Ding Dian, were sentenced Tuesday to life by the Beijing No. 1 Intermediate People’s Court for “fundraising fraud,” according to the official Xinhua News Agency.
It said another 24 executives were sentenced to prison terms ranging from three to 15 years.
Two companies affiliated with Ezubo were fined a total of 1.9 billion yuan ($291 million), Xinhua said. It said some defendants also were convicted of offenses including smuggling precious metals and illegal gun possession.
Regulators seized Ezubo in December 2015 on charges of taking deposits without a license. Xinhua said authorities have confiscated the company’s assets to repay depositors but gave no indication how much money was recovered.
Regulators allowed private sector lending to support entrepreneurs who create China’s new jobs and wealth but are largely shut out of lending by the state-owned banking industry. The national bank regulator estimated in 2015 the industry had grown to $1.5 trillion.
Beijing tightened control as defaults mounted following the 2008 financial crisis. The finance industry as a whole has come under tougher scrutiny after a plunge in stock prices in 2015 led to accusations of insider trading and other offenses.
Ding, 34, was a high school dropout who worked at his mother’s hardware factory, where he gained experience running online sales, according to media reports. With no technical or financial training, Ding launched Ezubo in July 2014 and opened marketing offices across China.
Ezubo appeared to gain Beijing’s endorsement when the Cabinet website, gov.cn, published an interview with Ding discussing his life as an entrepreneur. That interview has since been removed.
The seizure of Ezubo prompted protests by depositors who complained the government failed to protect them.
Depositors traveled to Beijing to protest at government offices and the headquarters of state television, which had broadcast advertisements for Ezubo.
Ezubo attracted deposits by promising returns of 9 to 14.6 percent, according to investigators. But authorities say a former executive admitted 95 percent of those borrowers were fictional entities created by Ezubo. In a confession broadcast by state television in February 2016, the executive called the company “a fraud ... a typical Ponzi scheme.”
The court said Ding and other defendants “inflicted huge losses on investors in many parts of China and disrupted the national financial management system,” according to Xinhua.
The Internet has helped lenders attract money from working class or rural depositors, many of them financial novices with little knowledge of the risks involved.
After Ezubo depositors poured out their anger on Chinese social media, police phoned some Internet users to warn them against criticizing the Communist Party online.
One investor from northeastern China who lost 480,000 yuan ($76,000) told The Associated Press that police confiscated her computer and cell phone after she posted online that she might file a petition with the central government.
Earlier, two businesswomen in southern China were sentenced to death in 2012 and 2013 in separate cases on charges of “illegal fundraising.” The penalty for the first was converted to a prison term following an outcry online that it was too severe.


6.3-magnitude earthquake hits central Greece

6.3-magnitude earthquake hits central Greece
Updated 03 March 2021

6.3-magnitude earthquake hits central Greece

6.3-magnitude earthquake hits central Greece

ATHENS: A strong 6.3-magnitude earthquake hit central Greece on Wednesday, the US Geological Survey said, prompting residents in the city of Larissa to rush into the streets according to local media.
The Institute of Geodynamics in Athens said the quake, which could be felt across central and northern Greece, had measured at a magnitude of 6.0.
According to the Athens observatory, the epicentre of the quake was 21 kilometres (13 miles) south of the town of Elassona, near Larissa.


Made in India: Ministers, officials prefer locally-developed vaccine over AstraZeneca

Made in India: Ministers, officials prefer locally-developed vaccine over AstraZeneca
Updated 03 March 2021

Made in India: Ministers, officials prefer locally-developed vaccine over AstraZeneca

Made in India: Ministers, officials prefer locally-developed vaccine over AstraZeneca
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi earlier opted for an Indian-made COVID-19 vaccine

NEW DELHI: Government ministers and officials were following Prime Minister Narendra Modi lead by opting on Tuesday for an Indian-made COVID-19 vaccine approved without late-stage efficacy data, instead of the AstraZeneca one.
India’s health, foreign and law ministers, and state governors, all flocked to Twitter to express support for the much-criticized Bharat Biotech’s COVAXIN vaccine, after it was administered to Modi on Monday.
“Made-in-India vaccines are 100% safe,” Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said after being inoculated with COVAXIN.
Many state officials and doctors have refused to take COVAXIN before its effectiveness could be proved. Bharat Biotech says it has completed the late-stage trial and results will be out this month.
The company said the endorsement by Modi and other ministers would set an example for other Indians and reduce “vaccine hesitancy.” It is seeking to sell COVAXIN to countries including Brazil and the Philippines.
COVAXIN and the AstraZeneca vaccines were approved by India’s regulator in January. The government has distributed to states a total of 50 million doses of the vaccines but only 12 percent of the 12 million people immunized so far have taken COVAXIN, according to government data.


Explosion hits Dutch COVID-19 testing center, no injuries — police

Explosion hits Dutch COVID-19 testing center, no injuries — police
Updated 03 March 2021

Explosion hits Dutch COVID-19 testing center, no injuries — police

Explosion hits Dutch COVID-19 testing center, no injuries — police

AMSTERDAM: Dutch police on Wednesday said a coronavirus testing location north of Amsterdam appeared to have been intentionally targeted after an explosion went off at the location before the site opened.

The blast in the town of Bovenkarspel, 55 km north of the capital, shattered windows but caused no injuries, police from the province of North Holland said in a statement.

They said they had cordoned off the area to investigate.

The explosive “must have been placed” there, police spokesman Menno Hartenberg told Reuters, adding that “something metal” had caused the explosion.

“We don't know yet exactly what exploded, the explosives experts must first investigate,” Hartenberg said.

“What we're saying is that something like that doesn't just happen by accident, it has to be laid,” he spokesman said.


Pakistan Senate election kicks off as Imran Khan’s ruling party looks for majority

Pakistan Senate election kicks off as Imran Khan’s ruling party looks for majority
Updated 03 March 2021

Pakistan Senate election kicks off as Imran Khan’s ruling party looks for majority

Pakistan Senate election kicks off as Imran Khan’s ruling party looks for majority
  • Imran Khan’s coalition does not have a majority in the Senate, needed to pass key legislation

ISLAMABAD/KARACHI: The ruling party of Prime Minister Imran Khan and his political allies will seek to wrest control of Pakistan’s Senate from opposition parties on Wednesday in indirect elections to 37 seats in the 104-member upper house of the country’s parliament.
Though his party won the 2018 general election, Khan’s coalition does not have a majority in the Senate, needed to pass key legislation – including legal reforms sought by global institutions such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and money laundering watchdog the Financial Action Task Force (FATF).
“They have difficulty in legislating, and many laws are stuck,” Ahmed Bilal Mehboob, head of the independent research organization PILDAT, said.
Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI), which translates into Pakistan Movement for Justice, has 12 seats in the Senate, and the two main opposition parties Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz (PML-N) have 12 and 25 seats each.
PTI is looking to go up to 25 seats after the elections, and, along with other coalition parties and independents, have a slender majority in the Senate.
The electoral college for the Senate elections, which are held every three years on half of the chamber’s strength, comprises Pakistan’s four provincial assemblies and the lower house of parliament.
With opposition parties controlling the Senate, the government has had to pass interim legislation through Presidential Ordinances, which expire in 120 days.
The government’s legislators and allies in the lower house of parliament will vote on making Khan’s finance minister, Abdul Hafiz Sheikh, a senator. The result could show how much confidence there is in the administration.
“It could determine who has a majority in parliament... it will be an embarrassment for the government, and could even lead to seeking a fresh vote of confidence,” Mehboob said.
The lead up to the potentially pivotal election has been marked by the government and opposition charging each other with seeking votes through unfair means.


Daesh claims responsibility for attack on media workers in eastern Afghanistan

Daesh claims responsibility for attack on media workers in eastern Afghanistan
Updated 03 March 2021

Daesh claims responsibility for attack on media workers in eastern Afghanistan

Daesh claims responsibility for attack on media workers in eastern Afghanistan
  • Daesh fighters targeted three female employees of a television station

Daesh claimed responsibility for an attack that killed three female media workers in eastern Afghanistan on Tuesday evening.
The militant group, which has a presence in Afghanistan, said its fighters had targeted the three female employees of a television station in the eastern city of Jalalabad, according to SITE Intelligence group.
Three women who worked for Enikas TV aged between 18 and 20 had died and a fourth was critically injured after being shot on their way home from work, Afghan officials had said.