Huawei CFO Meng to appear in court, expected to reach agreement with US — source

Huawei CFO Meng to appear in court, expected to reach agreement with US — source
Huawei Technologies Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou returns to a court hearing following a lunch break in Vancouver, Canada in August. (Reuters)
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Updated 24 September 2021

Huawei CFO Meng to appear in court, expected to reach agreement with US — source

Huawei CFO Meng to appear in court, expected to reach agreement with US — source
  • Meng is expected to appear virtually in hearing in Brooklyn federal court
  • The deferred prosecution agreement would remove one of several major disputes between the world's two biggest economies

WASHINGTON: Huawei Technologies Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou and US prosecutors are expected to appear in court to say they have reached an agreement to resolve charges against her, according to a source familiar with the matter, in a process that should allow her to leave Canada.
Meng is expected to appear virtually in hearing in Brooklyn federal court, according to the source. She was arrested at Vancouver International Airport in December 2018 on a US warrant. She had been indicted on bank and wire fraud charges for allegedly misleading HSBC about Huawei’s business dealings in Iran.
The deferred prosecution agreement would remove one of several major disputes between the world’s two biggest economies. The agreement could also potentially pave the way for the release of the two Canadians held in China, who were arrested shortly after Meng was taken in custody in 2018.
A spokeswoman for Huawei declined to comment. A spokesman for the US Attorney’s office in Brooklyn declined to comment. An attorney for Meng could not be immediately reached for comment.
Meng has said she is innocent and has been fighting extradition to the United States from Canada. Meng is confined to Vancouver and monitored 24/7 by private security that she pays for as part of her bail agreement. Meng – who also goes by her English names, Cathy and Sabrina – is the daughter of Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei.
Judicial hearings in her extradition case in Vancouver wrapped up in August, with the date for a ruling to be set on Oct. 21.


PIF to use oil platforms to attract tourists through 'The Rig' project

PIF to use oil platforms to attract tourists through 'The Rig' project
Updated 15 sec ago

PIF to use oil platforms to attract tourists through 'The Rig' project

PIF to use oil platforms to attract tourists through 'The Rig' project

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund (PIF) announced today the launch of “THE RIG”, a new tourism project on oil offshore platforms to be located in the Arabian Gulf.

“THE RIG” will span a combined total area of more than 150,000 square meters and provide a multitude of hospitality offerings, adventures, and aquatic sporting experiences, the PIF said in a statement.


El Salvador explores bitcoin mining powered by volcanoes

 El Salvador explores bitcoin mining powered by volcanoes
Updated 4 min 42 sec ago

El Salvador explores bitcoin mining powered by volcanoes

 El Salvador explores bitcoin mining powered by volcanoes
  • Geothermal power accounts for about a quarter of the country’s total energy mix

BERLIN, EL SALVADOR: At a geothermal power plant near El Salvador’s Tecapa volcano, 300 computers whir inside a trailer as they make complex mathematical calculations day and night verifying transactions for the cryptocurrency bitcoin.
The pilot project has inspired a rash of volcano emojis from President Nayib Bukele, who made bitcoin legal tender in September, and promises of cheap, renewable energy for so-called bitcoin “mining.” Bukele and others say El Salvador’s geothermal resources — generating electricity from high-pressure steam produced by the volcano’s subterranean heat — could be a solution. But the picture in the tiny Central American country is more complicated.
“We don’t spend resources that contaminate the environment, we don’t depend on oil, we don’t depend on natural gas, on any resource that isn’t renewable,” Daniel Alvarez, president of the Rio Lempa Hydroelectric Executive Commission, which oversees the plant, said during a tour on Friday.
Cheap power and a supportive government are the two critical factors for attracting bitcoin mining operations, said Brandon Arvanaghi, a bitcoin mining consultant.
Two years ago, China provided about three-quarters of all the electricity used for crypto mining, with operations flocking to take advantage of its cheap hydroelectric power. But the government began restricting mining and in September declared all transactions involving bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies illegal.
That has led to a scramble to set up mining operations in other countries.
It would appear to be fortuitous for Bukele, who shocked the nation and many around the world with his announcement last summer that bitcoin would become legal tender beside the US dollar in El Salvador. The president sold the plan in part as a way for Salvadorans living overseas — mostly in the US — to send money home to their families more cheaply. It also made him a darling of the bitcoin world.
Bitcoin mining in El Salvador would appear to have a supportive government in Bukele, but cheap electricity is so far just a promise.
El Salvador imports about one-fifth to one-quarter of its electricity. The rest of production is divided among hydroelectric, geothermal and plants fired by fossil fuels.
Geothermal accounts for about a quarter of the country’s energy. El Salvador has 23 volcanoes.
“When you add these renewable sources like these vast abundant areas, a ton of renewable sources and a friendly regime it can be very attractive and El Salvador may very well fit that model,” Arvanaghi said.
Right now, El Salvador’s electricity is not considered particularly cheap.
The website GlobalPetrolPrices.com, which publishes retail energy prices around the world, puts electric costs to households and businesses in El Salvador well above the global average.
Arvanaghi said that bitcoin mining incentivizes the expansion of renewable energy production by providing high demand for cheap power and that miners have shown themselves to be willing to pause a portion of their machines at times when there is less power available from the grid.
Bukele’s promise of cheap power for bitcoin mining then would have to involve a subsidy, at least until renewable capacity expanded and rates declined.
 


US regulators slap $41m fine on company behind Tether ‘token’

US regulators slap $41m fine on company behind Tether ‘token’
Updated 16 October 2021

US regulators slap $41m fine on company behind Tether ‘token’

US regulators slap $41m fine on company behind Tether ‘token’

NEW YORK:The company behind a digital token called Tether has agreed to pay $41 million to settle charges that it misled investors by claiming the token was fully backed at all times by US dollars and other fiat currencies.

The Commodity Futures Trading Commission said on Friday it charged Tether Holdings Limited with making untrue or misleading statements and omissions in relation to its claims. Specifically, the US regulator found that since launching the token in 2014, Tether Holdings represented that its was a “stablecoin” with its value pegged to fiat currency, including US dollars and euros.

A stablecoin is a digital currency backed by real-world assets such as national currencies or other commodities. Unlike Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, stablecoins are designed to not fluctuate wildly in value.

However, the CFTC determined that at least from June 1, 2016 through Feb. 25, 2019, Tether misrepresented to customers and the market that it maintained sufficient US dollar reserves to back every Tether token in circulation with the equivalent amount of “corresponding fiat currency.”

The agency also found that Tether failed to disclose that it included unsecured receivables and non-fiat assets in its reserves, and that the company falsely represented it would undergo regular audits to prove it was maintaining the fiat currency reserves it needed to back Tether tokens.

In a statement, Tether, which is headquartered Hong Kong and maintains an office in Santa Monica, California, said the CFTC’s findings pertained to certain disclosures about the company’s reserves that were “fully resolved” in February 2019, when the company updated its terms of service.

“As to the Tether reserves, there is no finding that Tether tokens were not fully backed at all times — simply that the reserves were not all in cash and all in a bank account titled in Tether’s name, at all times,” the company said, noting that it has “always maintained adequate reserves and has never failed to satisfy a redemption request.”

Separately, the CFTC also ordered Bitfinex to pay a $1.5 million civil penalty after finding that the cryptocurrency trading platform made illegal, off-exchange retail commodity transactions involving digital assets with US investors and operated as a futures commission merchant without registering to do so.


$590m in ransomware payments reported to US in 2021 as attacks surge

$590m in ransomware payments reported to US in 2021 as attacks surge
Updated 16 October 2021

$590m in ransomware payments reported to US in 2021 as attacks surge

$590m in ransomware payments reported to US in 2021 as attacks surge

WASHINGTON: New data out Friday showed $590 million in ransomware-related payments were reported to US authorities in the first half of 2021 alone, setting a pace to beat totals for the whole previous decade as cyber-extortion booms.

The figure is also 42 percent higher than the amount divulged by financial institutions for all of 2020, the US Treasury report said, and there are strong indicators the true cost could be in the billions.

“If current trends continue, (reports) filed in 2021 are projected to have a higher ransomware-related transaction value than ... filed in the previous 10 years combined,” said Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network.

The heists involve breaking into a company or institution’s network to encrypt its data, then demanding a ransom, typically paid via cryptocurrency in exchange for the digital key to unlock it.

Washington has sought to crack down on a sharp rise in attacks, including issuing its first sanctions against an online exchange where illicit operators have allegedly swapped cryptocurrency for cash.

Recent assaults on a major US oil pipeline, a meatpacking company and the Microsoft Exchange email system drew attention to the vulnerability of US infrastructure to digital pirates who are extorting staggering sums.

Treasury said investigators found over 150 online wallets for cyptocurrency and by analyzing them uncovered roughly $5.2 billion in transactions potentially tied to ransomware payments.

Companies and institutions face intense pressure to pay up in order to get their data unlocked, but also to keep the attack from potentially angry clients and authorities who issue stern warnings not to give cash to criminals.

The report, based on the suspicious activity alerts that financial firms have to file, noted it was unclear if the jump represented increased awareness of the cybercrime.

“This trend potentially reflects the increasing overall prevalence of ransomware-related incidents as well as improved detection and reporting,” Treasury said.


Saudi Commerce Ministry issues 31 licenses for steel, cement export

Saudi Commerce Ministry issues 31 licenses for steel, cement export
Updated 16 October 2021

Saudi Commerce Ministry issues 31 licenses for steel, cement export

Saudi Commerce Ministry issues 31 licenses for steel, cement export

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Commerce Ministry has issued 31 licenses to export steel and cement since the beginning of 2021, Al-Eqtisadiah reported on Saturday.

According to the report, 11 licenses were issued for cement export and 20 to export steel. 

The new licenses come as construction activity begins to recover following the postponement of many projects during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.