Epstein prison guards charged over falsifying records

This Aug. 13, 2019, file photo, shows the Metropolitan Correctional Center in New York. (AP)
Updated 19 November 2019

Epstein prison guards charged over falsifying records

  • Epstein was found dead in New York’s Metropolitan Correctional Center on August 10 a
  • US justice officials are investigating how he was able to kill himself when he was supposed to be under close watch

NEW YORK: Two guards who were on duty the night Jeffrey Epstein died by suicide in a high-security jail were charged Tuesday with falsifying records after they apparently failed to check on him.
Epstein, 66, was found dead in New York’s Metropolitan Correctional Center on August 10 as he awaited trial on allegations that he trafficked girls as young as 14 for sex.
US justice officials are investigating how the wealthy financier, one of America’s most high-profile on-remand detainees, was able to kill himself when he was supposed to be under close watch.
New York prosecutors charged Tova Noel, 31, and Michael Thomas, 41, Tuesday with making false records to defraud the United States by impairing the lawful function of a federal prison.
The indictment — unsealed in a Manhattan court — accused the defendants of failing to carry out mandated prisoner checks and then signing false records to cover their tracks.
“As alleged, the defendants had a duty to ensure the safety and security of federal inmates in their care at the Metropolitan Correctional Center,” said US attorney Geoffrey Berman.
“Instead, they repeatedly failed to conduct mandated checks on inmates, and lied on official forms to hide their dereliction,” he added.
Epstein was a multi-millionaire hedge fund manager who hobnobbed with countless celebrities over the years, including Britain’s Prince Andrew and US President Donald Trump.
Epstein was charged with one count of sex trafficking of minors and another of conspiracy to commit sex trafficking of minors.
He denied the charges but faced up to 45 years in jail if found guilty.
After his death dozens of women came forward to say they had been abused by him and several have sued his estate for damages.
The prison guards’ indictments were announced a day after another woman accused Epstein of sexually abusing her when she was 15.
The woman, who is using the name Jane Doe 15, told a news conference in Los Angeles the financier took her to his ranch in New Mexico and raped her there.
“Epstein took my sexual innocence in front of a wall of framed photographs of him shaking hands and smiling with celebrities and political leaders. I was only 15 years old,” she said.
“After, he wanted to talk with me about what had just been my first sexual experience and directed me to take time to myself that night to cry. He said that would be beneficial to my growth.”
Epstein’s death fueled several conspiracy theories, mostly speculating that he had been murdered to stop him from revealing compromising information about some of his wealthy acquaintances.
He was convicted in Florida in 2008 of paying young girls for massages but served just 13 months in jail under a secret plea deal struck with the then state prosecutor.


Philippine military says Abu Sayyaf leader still alive

A soldier stands guard in Marawi City. The Philippines has faced several terror threats in the past years. (Reuters/File)
Updated 11 July 2020

Philippine military says Abu Sayyaf leader still alive

  • Sawadjaan, who heads the ASG faction affiliated with Daesh, has been tagged as the mastermind behind the suicide attacks on Sulu Island last year

MANILA: The Philippine military on Friday said that one of the senior leaders of the extremist Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) in Mindanao is still alive.

Armed Forces of the Philippines Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) chief Lt. Gen. Cirilo Sobejana told foreign media that Hatib Hajan Sawadjaan was still “very active,” as he responded to questions about reports that Sawadjaan had died from gunshot wounds sustained during an encounter Monday with Army Scout Rangers on Sulu Island.
Westmincom spokesman Maj. Arvin Encinas told Arab News that Sawadjaan was still alive but seriously injured in the firefight that left five other Abu Sayyaf fighters dead.
Earlier reports quoted police as saying that Sawadjaan had succumbed to the wounds sustained during the 30-minute shootout with the military in the hinterlands of Patikul, Sulu. He was also reportedly buried by his followers and nephew, Mundi Sawadjaan.
Sawadjaan, who heads the ASG faction affiliated with Daesh, has been tagged as the mastermind behind the suicide attacks on Sulu Island last year.
The first attack on the Cathedral of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Jolo town in Jan. 2019 killed 23 people, including an Indonesian couple who carried out the bombing, and wounded 109 others.

HIGHLIGHTS

• Hatib Hajan Sawadjaan is still ‘very active,’ said Lt. Gen. Cirilo Sobejana while responding to questions about reports that Sawadjaan had died from gunshot wounds sustained during an encounter Monday with Army Scout Rangers on Sulu island.

• Sawadjaan has been tagged as the mastermind behind the suicide attacks on Sulu island last year.

The second bombing, which targeted an army counterterrorism unit brigade in Indanan town, killed eight people and injured 22. It was also the first officially confirmed case of a suicide bombing carried out by a Filipino, identified as Norman Lasuca, in the Philippines.
Responding to a question on the engagement between Daesh and Islamist militant groups in Mindanao such as the ASG, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, and the Daulah Islamiyah, Sobejana said there used to be a high intensity of engagement between local militant groups and Daesh.
“But this time, this has been reduced due to the killing of Abu Talha, one of the conduits,” Sobejana said, referring to Talha Jumsah’ alias Abu Talha, a Daesh-trained bomb expert who also served as a conduit for the global terror network and the ASG. Abu Talha was killed in a military operation in November last year.
“What is left right now is Hatib Hadjan Sawadjaan. While he is still very active, he is quite old,” Sobejana said.
Sawadjaan also oversaw the kidnapping of Arab News’ Asia bureau chief, Baker Atyani, in 2012 when he was working as a correspondent for Al-Arabiya.
The US has included Sawadjaan in its list of global terrorists. He was also tagged as the acting emir of Daesh in the Philippines.