Iraqi people smuggler who sent thousands across English Channel tracked down by BBC

Barzan Kamal Majeed was given the nickname “Scorpion” due to his WhatsApp avatar. (National Crime Agency)
Barzan Kamal Majeed was given the nickname “Scorpion” due to his WhatsApp avatar. (National Crime Agency)
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Updated 11 May 2024
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Iraqi people smuggler who sent thousands across English Channel tracked down by BBC

Iraqi people smuggler who sent thousands across English Channel tracked down by BBC
  • A BBC report released on Friday revealed how the organization tracked Majeed down and carried an interview with the fugitive

LONDON: A crime boss wanted in several countries for his role in the smuggling of an estimated 10,000 migrants across the English Channel has been tracked down, according to reports in the British media.

Iraqi Kurd Barzan Kamal Majeed, nicknamed “Scorpion” because of his WhatsApp avatar, had been missing since failing to appear in court in Belgium for a sentencing hearing in November 2022.

The UK’s National Crime Agency issued a warrant for his arrest that same year. Majeed had moved to the British city of Nottingham in 2013, but had been deported two years later.

A BBC report released on Friday revealed how the organization tracked Majeed down and carried an interview with the fugitive.

Rob Lawrie, a former soldier who now works with refugee support agencies, assisted the investigation, which tracked Majeed to his home in the Kurdistan city of Sulaymaniyah, close to the border with Iran.

During the interview, Majeed said he had lost count of the number of people he had helped smuggle and admitted that between 2016 and 2019 he was one of two people running a people-smuggling operation in Belgium and France.

However, he denied being the boss of the operation, adding: “A couple of people, when they get arrested, they say: ‘We’re working for him.’ They want to get less (of a) sentence.”

Majeed’s accomplice, Nzar Jabar Mohamad, was given a 10-year prison sentence at a British court in Oct. 2021 after admitting to attempting to bring 21 migrants into the UK.

He also denied culpability for the death of migrants who attempted the crossing, claiming he was merely a “money man” who “just took the money and booked places.” He added: “I never put anybody in a boat and I never killed anybody. Nobody forced them. They wanted to, they were begging the smugglers: ‘Please, please do this for us.’”

His profits from the operation, with some estimates putting the price of a crossing at £6,000 ($7,514) per person, enabled Majeed to purchase a villa in Marmaris in Turkiye, according to the local police

According to government figures, more than 9,000 migrants have crossed the English Channel in small boats so far this year, a 15-percent rise on the same period in 2022, which was a record-breaking year in which more than 45,700 migrants arrived.

In his interview with the BBC, Majeed claimed that some of his former co-smugglers were still operating today and that a few had even been granted British passports.

“In three days, one guy sent 170 or 180 people from Turkey to Italy, still holding a British passport. I want to go to some other country to do business. I can’t.”

Ann Lukowiak, a public prosecutor in Belgium who was part of the team that worked on convicting Scorpion, told the BBC she still hopes Majeed will be extradited from Iraq to face justice one day.

“It’s important to us to have sent the signal that you can’t do what you want,” she said. “We will eventually take him down.”


EU sanctions 19 Chinese firms over links to Russian war effort

EU sanctions 19 Chinese firms over links to Russian war effort
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EU sanctions 19 Chinese firms over links to Russian war effort

EU sanctions 19 Chinese firms over links to Russian war effort
  • These companies are now subject to drastic restrictions over sales of “dual-use goods and technology” that could be used for the “enhancement of Russia’s defense and security sector”

BRUSSELS, Belgium: The European Union Monday imposed sanctions on 19 Chinese companies aimed at punishing what the West believes is Beijing’s support for Russia’s war in Ukraine.
A list published in the EU’s Official Journal includes several companies located in Hong Kong as well as two global satellite giants.
The 14th package of sanctions against Russia added 61 new companies to the list of entities accused of directly “supporting Russia’s military-industrial complex” in the war in Ukraine, bringing the total to 675 firms.
These companies are now subject to drastic restrictions over sales of “dual-use goods and technology” that could be used for the “enhancement of Russia’s defense and security sector.”
China denies Western accusations that it is supporting Russia’s military campaign.
Among the newly added companies are two major players in the Chinese satellite industry involved in the sale of satellites and satellite imagery to Russia’s Wagner mercenary group.
In October, an AFP investigation revealed that Wagner in 2022 signed a contract worth more than $30 million with Chinese firm Beijing Yunze Technology Co. Ltd. to acquire two satellites and use their images.
The contract was signed in November 2022, over half a year into Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine in which the Wagner group under its founder Yevgeny Prigozhin was playing a key role on the battlefield.
The two high-resolution satellites belonged to Chang Guang Satellite Technology, a leading global satellite company which was the unit to be added to the EU’s sanctions list.
Another company named Monday was Head Aerospace Technology, which sells satellite images and was placed on a US sanctions list in 2023 for supplying the Wagner Group.
Even if China does not deliver weapons directly to Russia, the United States and Europe accuse it of selling components and equipment to Moscow’s military industry.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lin Jian has dismissed the claims as “false information.”
Russian-based companies make up about half of the 61 entities added to the EU’s list Monday.
In addition to the 19 Chinese companies, it also added nine from Turkiye, two in Kyrgyzstan, one in India, one in Kazakhstan, and one in the United Arab Emirates.
 

 


Police ask Texas prosecutors to treat attempted drowning of 3-year-old child as a hate crime

Police said that as the mother helped her son, Wolf grabbed the woman’s 3-year-old daughter and forced her underwater. (REUTERS)
Police said that as the mother helped her son, Wolf grabbed the woman’s 3-year-old daughter and forced her underwater. (REUTERS)
Updated 25 June 2024
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Police ask Texas prosecutors to treat attempted drowning of 3-year-old child as a hate crime

Police said that as the mother helped her son, Wolf grabbed the woman’s 3-year-old daughter and forced her underwater. (REUTERS)
  • The mother of the children, who wears a hijab, said in a news release from the Texas chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations that they are Palestinians who became American citizens

DALLAS: A Texas woman allegedly tried to drown a 3-year-old at an apartment complex pool in suburban Dallas after making racist remarks toward the child’s mother in a case investigators are asking to be treated as a hate crime, a police spokeswoman said Monday.
Elizabeth Wolf, 42, has been charged with attempted capital murder and injury to a child. The child’s mother told officers that Wolf told the mother she wasn’t American, along with other racial statements, police said.
The mother of the children, who wears a hijab, said in a news release from the Texas chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations that they are Palestinians who became American citizens. Neither police nor CAIR have released the mother’s name.
Euless police Capt. Brenda Alvarado told The Associated Press that the department has requested that prosecutors in Tarrant County treat the case as a hate crime. A spokeswoman for the district attorney’s office said Monday that they have received the case and are currently reviewing it.
Police said in a statement that when officers arrived to a call about a disturbance between two women on May 19 in Euless, witnesses told officers that a “very intoxicated” Wolf had tried to drown a child and had argued with the child’s mother.
The child’s mother told officers that Wolf had been asking her where she was from and if the two children playing in the pool were hers, police said. The mother told officers that after she answered, Wolf tried to grab the woman’s 6-year-old son but he pulled away from her grasp, causing a scratch on his finger.
Police said that as the mother helped her son, Wolf grabbed the woman’s 3-year-old daughter and forced her underwater. The mother pulled her daughter, who was yelling for help and coughing up water, out of the pool, police said.
Medics evaluated both children, who were cleared.
Wolf has been released on bond. A call to her attorney was not immediately returned Monday.
On Saturday, community leaders came together to denounce the attack on the child and how the woman treated the family.
“The trauma and pain this has caused for the immigrant community broadly and Muslim community more specifically cannot be understated,” said state Rep. Salman Bhojani, whose district includes part of Euless.

 


Kenyan police are leaving for a controversial deployment in Haiti to take on powerful, violent gangs

Kenyan police are leaving for a controversial deployment in Haiti to take on powerful, violent gangs
Updated 25 June 2024
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Kenyan police are leaving for a controversial deployment in Haiti to take on powerful, violent gangs

Kenyan police are leaving for a controversial deployment in Haiti to take on powerful, violent gangs

NAIROBI, Kenya: Hundreds of Kenyan police officers were leaving Monday for Haiti, where they will lead a multinational force against the powerful gangs whose deadly violence spiked this year and helped bring about a change in government.

The deployment is controversial. The government of Kenyan President William Ruto is defying a court’s ruling calling it unconstitutional. And critics have expressed concern about the long history of alleged abuses by police officers.

The 400 police officers are the first of the 1,000 that Kenya expects to send for the United Nations-led force in Haiti. Ruto’s sendoff ceremony on Monday was closed to the media, but his office shared a speech in which he urged the officers to uphold integrity.

“We have mediated many conflicts and are currently engaged in resolving more,” he said. “Don’t let down the confidence the people of Kenya and the international community have in you.”

A court case seeking to block the deployment is pending, but an initial ruling had called the deployment unconstitutional, citing the lack of a reciprocal agreement between Kenya and Haiti.

US President Joe Biden, however, thanked Ruto for Kenya’s leadership of the multinational force during Ruto’s recent state visit to Washington. The United States has agreed to contribute $300 million to the force, but Biden argued that an American troop presence in Haiti would raise “all kinds of questions that can easily be misrepresented.”

More than 2,500 people were killed or injured in the first three months of the year in Haiti. The spike in violence began in late February and has displaced more than half a million people. Gangs now control at least 80 percent of the capital, Port-au-Prince and key roads. Trapped outside the country as the international airport was closed, Prime Minister Ariel Henry was forced to resign.

The most recent allegations by watchdogs against Kenyan police for using excessive force came last week, when two people died during anti-government protests. One protester was shot dead by a suspected plainclothes officer. The other was killed by a tear gas canister thrown by police.

Kenya’s Independent Policing Oversight Authority is looking into police conduct during the protests in which more than 200 other people were injured.


China lunar probe to return to Earth with samples

China lunar probe to return to Earth with samples
Updated 25 June 2024
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China lunar probe to return to Earth with samples

China lunar probe to return to Earth with samples

BEIJING: A Chinese probe carrying samples from the far side of the Moon is expected to return to Earth on Tuesday, capping a technically complex 53-day mission heralded as a world first.

Beijing has not disclosed the spacecraft’s estimated arrival time, but experts say it will likely touch down in a barren expanse of desert in the northern Inner Mongolia region at around midday (0400 GMT).

It comes bearing soil and rocks from the side of the moon that faces away from Earth, a poorly understood region that scientists say holds great research promise because its rugged features are less smoothed over by ancient lava flows than the near side.

That means the materials harvested there may help us to better understand how the Moon formed and how it has evolved over time.

Chang’e-6 blasted off from a space center on the island province of Hainan on May 3 and descended into the Moon’s immense South Pole-Aitken Basin almost exactly a month later.

It used a drill and robotic arm to scoop up samples, snapped some shots of the pockmarked surface and planted a Chinese flag in the grey soil.

On June 4, the probe made the first ever successful launch from the far side in what Chinese state news agency Xinhua called “an unprecedented feat in human lunar exploration history.”

Authorities have been coy about disclosing updates on the probe’s progress since then.

But China’s space agency said in a social media post on Friday that it was “70 percent” of the way back to Earth.

Plans for China’s “space dream” have shifted into high gear under President Xi Jinping.

Beijing has poured huge resources into its space program over the past decade, targeting ambitious undertakings in an effort to catch up to traditional space powers the United States and Russia.

It has built a space station, landed robotic rovers on Mars and the Moon, and become only the third country to send astronauts into orbit.

But the United States has warned that China’s space program masks military objectives and an effort to establish dominance in space.

China aims to send a crewed mission to the Moon by 2030 and plans to eventually build a base on the lunar surface.

The United States also plans to put astronauts back on the Moon by 2026 with its Artemis 3 mission.


Without naming names, UN chief accuses Israel of misinformation

Without naming names, UN chief accuses Israel of misinformation
Updated 24 June 2024
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Without naming names, UN chief accuses Israel of misinformation

Without naming names, UN chief accuses Israel of misinformation
  • “The truth, in the end, always wins," Guterres says

UNITED NATIONS: United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres accused Israel on Monday of spreading misinformation about him during the more than eight-month-long war between Israel and Palestinian militants Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
“I’ve heard the same source many times saying that I never attacked Hamas, that I never condemned Hamas, that I am a supporters of Hamas,” Guterres told a news conference on information integrity, without naming Israel.
“I have condemned Hamas 102 times, 51 of them in formal speeches, the others in different social platforms,” he said. “The truth, in the end, always wins.”
Israel’s UN Ambassador Gilad Erdan said the condemnations by Guterres were “empty words when compared to his actions.”
“His sole aim has been to help Hamas survive this war. We find it despicable that the secretary-general refuses to abide by the UN’s standards and paints a distorted picture of events on the ground,” Erdan said. “Antonio Guterres is an accomplice to terror and should resign today.”
Relations between the UN and Israel have long been fraught and have only worsened during the Israel-Hamas war.
Israel accused the UN of being biased against it and has accused UN staff of working with Hamas and other militants. The UN is investigating some of the allegations, but has said in many cases it is yet to received evidence from Israel.