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CCJ rules St Lucian academic should be registered to vote in B’dos elections

CCJ rules St Lucian academic should be registered to vote in B’dos elections

By CMC

 

Eddy Ventose

(CMC) — The Trinidad-based Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) Sunday ruled that a St Lucian-born academic should be registered as an elector to cast a ballot in the May 24 general elections in Barbados and warned the Chief Elections Officer that failure to carry out the order by midday tomorrow could land her in jail for contempt of court or be fined.

In an unprecedented hearing, the CCJ, which is the Barbados final court, said that Eddy Ventose, a professor of law at the Cave Hill campus of the University of the West Indies (UWI), had satisfied “the necessary legal and regulatory conditions for registration as an elector”.

In the ruling of the five-member panel of judges, read out by the CCJ President Sir Dennis Byron, the court told Angela Taylor, the Chief Electoral Officer “shall register or cause the applicant to be registered as an elector before 12 noon on Monday, the 14th day of May, 2018”.

Dennis said that if Taylor ‘does not comply with the order, you may be held to be in contempt of court and you may be imprisoned and or fined”.

Barbadians go to the polls on May 24 to elect a new government with the contest expected to be between the ruling Democratic Labour Party (DLP) headed by Prime Minister Freundel Stuart and the main opposition Barbados Labour Party (BLP) headed by Mia Mottley, who is seeking to become the first woman head of government in this Caribbean Community (CARICOM) country.

Election day workers, including police, will cast their ballots on May 17.

Political observers had said that the matter before the CCJ, which is Barbados’ highest court, has implications not only for the appellant but also for Commonwealth citizens, living in Barbados, who want to be registered to vote in the general elections.

Ventose, who has lived in Barbados for several years, sought to be included on the Barbados electoral register. He had alleged that under the prevailing laws he is qualified and entitled to be registered.

The Court of Appeal last week ruled that Ventose was entitled to be registered to vote but stopped short of compelling the chief electoral officer to do so, instead, ordering the chief electoral officer to determine Professor Ventose’s claim within 24 hours.

Ventose had asked the CCJ to declare that his name should be on the final voters’ list ahead of its publication this week.

The CCJ said that the request for appeal came late Friday and it responded by scheduling the hearing for Sunday.

Dennis said the application for special leave to appeal filed on Friday had been granted as well as the application “to treat this hearing as an urgent matter.

“The application for special leave to appeal is being treated as the substantive hearing of the appeal,” he said, adding “the appeal is allowed and the orders of the Court of Appeal are set aside”.

Dennis said that the CCJ is satisfied that the applicant has locus standi…under the Administrative Justice Act …to bring judicial review application under Section three of the act. “The long standing policy of the Electoral and Boundaries Commission in relation to Commonwealth citizens to register as electors… is unlawful and ultra vires.

“The court is satisfied that on the basis of judicial finding pronounced in this matter, which has not been appealed, the applicant has satisfied the necessary legal and regulatory conditions for registration as an elector,” Dennis said.

The costs for this court and the court below were awarded to the appellant.

 

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CCCJ

CCJ restores not guilty verdict in “Lusignan massacre” in Guyana

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, May 11, CMC – The Trinidad-based Caribbean Court of Justice Friday restored the 2013 acquittals of  James Hyles and  Mark Williams over their alleged involvement in what has been dubbed the ‘Lusignan Massacre’, in Guyana despite substantial procedural errors at trial.

Gunmen on January 6, 2008, went from house to house on the East Coast Demerara village of Lusignan armed with high powered rifles and killed 11 people including five children, as they slept in their homes.  Hyles and Williams were indicted on 11counts of murder and during their trial the presiding judge allowed a request by Hyles’s attorney to question jurors, before they were sworn in, due to the widespread pre-trial publicity of the case.

CCCJThe trial judge as well as state and defence counsel actively participated in this exercise.

The main prosecution witnesses were two members of the gang allegedly responsible for the massacre, one of whom was charged in connection with the massacre. However, the charges against him were withdrawn a mere two weeks before the trial began.

Hyles and William both denied involvement in the killings, but the jury on found both men not guilty on August 2, 2013 on all counts.

The Director of Public Prosecutions appealed the acquittals, under the newly amended Court of Appeal Act, on the basis that there were material irregularities in the trial.

The Court of Appeal agreed, allowed the appeal, overturned the verdicts of not guilty and sent the matter back to the High Court for a retrial.

But in their appeal to the CCJ, Guyana’s highest court, the appellants urged the Court to allow the appeal on the basis that the DPP’s new power to appeal an acquittal breached their constitutional right to the protection of law. I

They argued that the new law offended the principle against double jeopardy, which prevents an accused person from being tried again on the same, or similar, charges and on the same facts.

However, the Court rejected this argument and reminded the appellants that the wording of the Constitution contemplated the possibility of such an appeal and that in principle, the rule against double jeopardy only protected acquittals which were affirmed by the appellate courts.

The Court held that the appellants’ acquittals did not fall into that category.

Before considering the specific procedural issues, the CCJ acknowledged that the requirement, that the acquittal had to be the result of a procedural error(s) or flaw(s) of the trial judge, was a steep hill for an appellate court to climb.

As such, the Court constructed a test specifically for application in prosecution appeals against acquittals. It held that that the prosecution must satisfy the Court that “given, on the one hand, the nature and weight on the evidence and, on the other hand, the seriousness of the judicial error(s) or procedural flaw(s) it can with a substantial degree of certainty be inferred that had the error(s) or flaw(s) not occurred, the trial would not have resulted in the acquittal of the accused”.

While the CCJ did not agree fully with the findings of the lower court, it found that there were some material irregularities, including the way in which the questioning of the jurors was conducted and the failure of the trial judge to investigate an allegation of improper communication between a juror and man alleged to be Hyles’ father.

However, on application of the test, the CCJ held that it could not with the required degree of certainty infer that the acquittals were the result of the errors and that it was possible that the jury simply did not believe, beyond reasonable doubt, the evidence presented by the state.

The CCJ allowed the appeal, set aside the decision of the Court of Appeal of Guyana and restored the jury’s verdict of acquittal of the appellants.

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CCJ rules in favour of Barbadian company

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, Mar 26, CMC – The Trinidad-based Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) Monday said it had no jurisdiction to hear a case in which three employees of a hotel in Barbados had been dismissed and ordered that the matter be heard by the Court of Appeal there expeditiously.

In its ruling the CCJ, the Barbados final court, heard that the workers had first challenged their dismissal in the Magistrate’s Court on the basis that they were sent home without cause in breach of the procedures outlined in their contracts.

The Magistrate Court determined on September 24, 2014, that the way the employees were terminated did violate the terms of their contract.

On the same day, the company, Sandy lane Company Limited, through its attorney, verbally informed the magistrate of its intention to appeal the decision.

The attorney then followed this with a letter to the Magistrate on October I, 2014, informing the  magistrate that he was appealing and requesting the court’s reasons for its decision.

When the matter came on for hearing before the Court of Appeal, it considered whether it could hear the matters since the appeals were not filed within seven days from the date of the magistrate’s judgment as is required by the Magistrate’s Court Act.

But Sandy Lane argued that the appeal was filed in time since the applicable rules governing appeals to the Court of Appeal are found in the Civil Procedure Rules which provide for a time limit of 28 days to appeal. It was also argued that it had given verbal, and written notices, within the seven-day period which would have satisfied the time limit under the Magistrate’s Court Act.

The Court of Appeal, referring to an earlier judgment of the CCJ, determined that its jurisdiction to hear appeals from the Magistrate’s court is governed by the Magistrate’s Court Act and not the Civil Procedure Rules.

As such, the time for filing the notice of appeal was seven days. Further, it held, the Magistrate’s Court Act requires notice to be given to the clerk, not the Magistrate, and this was not done.

The court rejected the letter of 1st October 2014 by the attorney since it was addressed to the Magistrate and not the clerk. The appeal was dismissed.

In its judgment, the CCJ made reference to its ruling in the Deane v Allamby  pointing out that in that case it did not even consider whether the Civil Procedure Rules had any relevance to appeals from a Magistrate’s court since the appellant in that case had not filed a notice of appeal under the Rules.

In this case, the CCJ determined that the appellant had in fact given “immediate, public notice of its intention to appeal” which was subsequently followed by a notice in writing, and both were within the time period prescribed by the Magistrate’s Court Act.

The CCJ ruled that in all the circumstances, notice was given as a matter of substance and it should not matter that neither counsel nor the clerk regarded those notices as compliant with the requirements of the Magistrate’s Court Act.

Therefore, the CCJ concluded, the appellant had complied with the notice requirements under the Magistrate’s Court Act.

The Court opined that the regime for appealing under the Magistrate’s Court Act requires legislative intervention to harmonize it with the procedure under the Civil Procedure Rules, the latter being acknowledged as more convenient for appellants.

The CCJ allowed the appeal and ordered that the appeal to the Court of Appeal be restored and heard on an expedited basis.

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Chris Siinckler

CLICO policy holders receiving payment

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Mar 7, CMC – Finance Minister Chris Sinckler said Wednesday that some policy holders of the financially troubled Colonial Life Insurance Company (CLICO) have started receiving  receive payments on some of the instruments they had with the insurance company.

“We are elated that finally payments are being made, [so] we are coming good with our promise to make our policyholders whole again. It has been a long wait and much suffering,” Sinckler said as he toured Resolution Life Assurance Company Limited, which is now manging the bankrupt insurance company.

“We do apologise for the length of time that it has taken but some of those matters were beyond our immediate control, as CLICO International Life was under judicial management, supervised by the court and we had to follow those processes to the stage where we are at now,” he noted.

Chris Siinckler
Finance Minister Chris Sinckler (File Photo)

Sinckler said payments were being made from March 1.

Resolution Life chief executive officer, Cheryl Senhouse, said that on average, the payment to the annuitants was about BDS$400,000 (One Barbados dollar=US$0.50 cents) per month and payments were made for January and February of 2018.

“Thereafter, we will be ensuring that current payments to those policyholders remain on track and that the backlog of amounts that is owed to those persons is settled within the six-month timeframe that we originally would have outlined,” she said.

Sicnkler stated that he was happy that Resolution Life, which deals with the portfolio instruments under CLICO; and New Life, which is an asset management company, had been established and were under excellent management.

He said the Freundel Stuart government had played a critical role in ensuring that the companies had gotten to this stage and opined that it should be congratulated for stepping in and filling the breach.

He noted that not many countries in the world would have attempted this type of exercise.

“In fact, when companies fail internationally, in many of the countries that we admire, … the depositors or policyholders usually don’t get bailed out, they usually have to take the bad end of the stick. Barbados has a slightly different tradition.

“We feel that Barbadians who…are encouraged to invest and save, should be given every opportunity to benefit from those investments and savings, and where any failures occur, even though they may not be caused by Government, Government still has a fiduciary responsibility to its citizens to ensure that some value which could potentially be lost is retained,” he added.

Sinckler gave the assurance that the substantial changes government made to the regulatory system would greatly assist and expressed the view that going forward, a situation similar to what occurred with CLICO would not be repeated.

The Finance Minister also disclosed that the second phase of the restructuring would include the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States.

In November last year, the Grenada government expressed its “profound disappointment” at the failure to date to get compensation for CLICO and BAICO policy holders.

Prime Minister Dr Keith Mitchell, said then that Caribbean governments continue to view the situation regarding the collapse of the two insurance companies “as a regional problem, which requires a regional solution”.

Mitchell said that his administration is also committed to bilaterally following up with the Trinidad and Tobago government “on its previous commitment to provide US$100 million dollars for BAICO Policyholders in the ECCU (Eastern Caribbean Currency Union)”.

Last year, the Trinidad and Tobago government defended its decision to seek a court-appointed liquidator to deal with the assets of CL Financial company, the parent company of CLICO,  saying it was seeking to ensure that taxpayers were not on the losing end of a TT$15 billion (US$2.23 billion) interest-free loan.

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Dr. Perkins gets suspended prison sentence and victim compensation fine

Dr. Perkins gets suspended prison sentence and victim compensation fine

 

Dr Franklin Perkins

Dr. Franklin Perkins who was on February 23rd last year, arrested and charged, was found guilty on March 1, 2017, by nine-member panel jury. He was charged for indecently assaulting a nineteen-year-old female in his private surgery at Cudjoe Head, has been granted bail pending sentencing in March next year. Sentencing was carded for March this year.

 

Justice Ian Morley in the high court on Monday morning handed down the sentence by which the 67-year-old medical doctor was ordered to pay the victim $10,000 within three months in default of which he would serve a period of sixmonths in jail. In addition, he has been given an 18-month suspended prison sentence.

 

Judge Ian Morley

The medical doctor has to date denied that he committed the act insisting that it simply was a routine medical examination. Justice Morley said he considered the statements given by persons who spoke in support of Dr. Perkins during his sentencing, adding that he also received a letter from some members of the medical fraternity on Montserrat who expressed surprise and disappointment at the guilty verdict.

 

The judge gave an extended account of the case and according to him, this assault on the victim’s reputation and that of her family indicates an undercurrent of racism, sexism and snobbery in the Montserrat society.

More details will be published in a later issue of TMR when some matters will be highlighted in light of the judge’s ‘findings’ and adjudication.

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daca

Reports say most Americans want legal status for Caribbean ‘Dreamers’

WASHINGTON, Jan. 28,, CMC – Reports here says most Americans want legal status for Caribbean and other “Dreamers,” but a few are adamant that they should be deported.

For Pav Sterry of Columbus, Ohio, legalizing any undocumented immigrants — even those who came as children without a choice in the matter, is just plain wrong, according to the New York Times.

dacaHuy Pham of St. Paul, Minnesota, believes any concessions for the so-called Dreamers   will unleash another tidal wave of illegal immigration while Daniel Cotts of Phoenix, Arizona regards “blanket amnesty” for them as unfair to foreigners who languish for years waiting to come to the US the legal way.

The paper says polls have shown that a large majority of Americans support protection for young Caribbean and other immigrants who were brought to the United States illegally as children.

Yet, there remains a slice of the American public for whom the idea of legalizing an undocumented immigrant has not gotten better with age, the Times said.

It said they do not dispute that most of the immigrants are eager and hardworking and did not choose their station in life. But for these voters, that is all beside the point.

“I think DACA recipients should be given a few months to get their affairs in order and return to their home countries,” said Sterry, 58, a former math teacher, referring to the Obama-era program, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, that President Trump has ended but which could be revived or replaced in a congressional deal.

And to those who contend that the young immigrants would be marooned in a country they do not remember, Sterry said: “Parents and children can all go home together.”

Less than a quarter of American voters, and in some polls as few as one in 10, share Sterry’s beliefs, the Times said. But it said they show how the country’s conflicted emotions about undocumented Caribbean and other immigrants have stymied legislation  for more than a decade, polarizing the Republican and Democratic parties and most recently leading to the short-lived government shutdown that still did not settle the issue.

Their counterparts on the liberal side are the progressives who are upset with Senate Democrats like Chuck Schumer, the minority leader, for allowing the government to reopen without a guarantee of protection for DACA recipients, known as Dreamers, the Times said.

On the Republican side, it said moderates are feeling the pull of hard-line members  who want any legalization bill to incorporate significant changes to immigration enforcement, including measures Democrats generally oppose, such as funding for a border wall, a sharp reduction in overall migration, and a shift to merit-based admissions from a family-based system that critics call “chain migration.”

The Times said US President Donald Trump has repeatedly expressed support for legalizing DACA recipients. On Wednesday, he said he was open to granting them a path to citizenship “at some point in the future, over a period of 10 to 12 years.”

But he, too, has felt the pull from people in his administration who objected to the program, which was created by former President Barack Obama in 2012, the Times said.

In announcing the end of DACA last September, US Attorney General Jeff Sessions called it  a “unilateral executive amnesty” that had encouraged more illegal immigration and “denied jobs to hundreds of thousands of Americans by allowing those same jobs to go to illegal aliens.”

Voters opposing legalization were often well-informed about some of the details of the immigration debate, such as E-Verify, an electronic worker-verification system that many Republicans want to make mandatory for employers, and the diversity visa lottery,which admits up to 50,000 foreigners a year who must be vetted, but do not need any special skills or family ties to the United States, the Times said.

It said proposals to eliminate the lottery have been circulating for years.

At the same time, a few of those interviewed held to common misconceptions about the young immigrants. Some said the immigrants should not be allowed to become legal if they had not tried to do so before DACA was created. But it is almost impossible for people to secure green cards once they have been here illegally for several years, the paper said.

It said others expressed the sentiment that the immigrants’ parents should have gotten “in line,” though for many foreigners, a legal pathway into the US exists only if they have special skills or relatives in the United States who are citizens.

While these voters remain in the minority, support is not absolute among the majority who want to legalize the young immigrants.

In a CNN poll last week, 84 percent of those surveyed said they supported legal status for Dreamers.

But when given a choice between keeping the government open and passing DACA legislation, 56 percent of those polled said it was more important to keep the government open and only 34 percent said a legalization bill was more important, with the rest believing they were equally important or having no opinion, the Times said.

It said the lack of firm support for the shutdown most likely contributed to Democrats’ decision to end it on Monday.

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Browne at news conference

Opposition legislator files defamation lawsuit against PM

ST. JOHN’S, Antigua, Jan 26, CMC – An opposition has filed a defamation lawsuit against Prime Minister Gaston Browne for allegedly making “outrageous’ statements against him in Parliament recently.

The lawsuit was filed on Thursday and Browne received the documents on Friday media reports here said.

Browne at news conference
Prime Minister Gaston Browne

Daniel, a member of the opposition United Progressive Party (UPP) through his lawyer, Charlesworth Taber, had claimed that Browne had made the statement during a crosstalk in the Parliament Building on January 2, after the Speaker of the House, Sir Gerald Watt, had suspended the sitting due to a disruption in electricity.

They said that the allegations reportedly made by Prime Minister Browne were therefore not under the protection of parliamentary immunity, since the Speaker had already suspended the session.

Daniel had given Prime Minister Browne a two week deadline to apologise indicating that failure to do so would result in the lawsuit for defamation.

The January 10 letter to Prime Minister Browne also made reference to the comments he allegedly made on January 6, while speaking on a radio station, which he owns.

Daniel said he had been further injured by statements made by callers and is asking the court for aggravated damages.

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Harmon press

Guyana beefing up surveillance along its borders

GEORGETOWN, Guyana, Jan 26, CMC – The Guyana government Friday announced plans to beef up surveillance along its borders after an illegal road that links Guyana to Venezuela in one of the border communities had been discovered.

“It is a large border and sometimes things happen before you can do something, but I want to give the nation the assurance that at the level of government and the security forces, we are taking some decisive steps,” Minister of State Joe Harmon told reporters.

Harmon press
Minister of State Joe Harmon (File Photo)

Guyana has in the past expressed concerns about the number of Venezuelans entering the country illegally, mainly in the gold mining areas close to the border.

Harmon said that the National Security Committee, which is chaired by the President, has been paying attention to the issues and more active surveillance of border communities will be conducted.

He told reporters that the borders of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) country are large and expansive and that people may have been able to construct the illegal roads because of the large land areas without being noticed.

Harmon reiterated that only the crossings that are identified as immigration points ought to be used.

Guyana and Venezuela have a long running border dispute with Georgetown indicating earlier this week that it is still awaiting word from the United Nations Secretary General António Guterres regarding a settlement of the matter.

In November last year, the two countries concluded another round of discussions in the presence of the presence of Guterres’s personal representative, Norwegian diplomat Dag Nylander, who was expected to submit a report to the Secretary general at the end of last year.

Guyana is seeking a final resolution to the decades-old controversy in which Venezuela contends the 1899 Arbitral Award, which delineated the border between the two countries is null and void.

On Thursday President David Granger told the Guyana Defence Force (GDF) that the Air Corps and Coast Guard would be upgraded to allow for continuous surveillance over our airspace, maritime space and land-space and to support search-and-rescue services to persons in distress.

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A German hacker offers a rare look inside the secretive world of Julian Assange and WikiLeaks

A German hacker offers a rare look inside the secretive world of Julian Assange and WikiLeaks

January 17 at 11:03 AM

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange looks out a window at the Ecuadoran Embassy in London in May. Assange has been confined to the embassy since 2012. (Jack Taylor/Getty Images)

The passengers stepping off the Lufthansa flight from Frankfurt, Germany, last month head straight for the passport-scanning machines that allow European residents to enter Britain quickly and without any human interaction.

A lone figure in a black hoodie and jeans breaks off from the pack.

“Too many biometric details,” says Andy Müller-Maguhn, eyeing the cameras on the timesaving devices.

He has come here, as he does most months, to meet with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, the world’s most controversial purveyor of government secrets. For most of the past six years, Assange has been confined to the Ecuadoran Embassy in London, fearful that if he leaves he will be extradited to the United States for prosecution under the Espionage Act. Ecuador recently granted Assange citizenship, but British officials said he is still subject to arrest if he leaves the embassy.

Müller-Maguhn is one of Assange’s few connections to the outside world. He typically brings Assange books, clothes or movies. Once in 2016, he delivered a thumb drive that he says contained personal messages for the WikiLeaks founder, who for security reasons has stopped using email.

These visits have caught the attention of U.S. and European spy chiefs, who have struggled to understand how Assange’s organization operates and how exactly WikiLeaks came to possess a trove of hacked Democratic Party emails that the group released at key moments in the 2016 presidential campaign.

The three major U.S. intelligence agencies — the CIA, the FBI and the National Security Agency — assessed “with high confidence” that Russia relayed to WikiLeaks material it had hacked from the Democratic National Committee and senior Democratic officials. And last year, then-FBI Director James B. Comey said that the bureau believes the transfer was made using a “cut-out,” or a human intermediary or a series of intermediaries.

Exactly how the Russians delivered the email trove to WikiLeaks is the subject of an ongoing examination by U.S. and European intelligence officials. As part of their effort to understand the group’s operations, these officials have taken an intense interest in Müller-Maguhn, who visits Assange monthly, U.S. officials said.

Müller-Maguhn insists that he was never in possession of the material before it was put online and that he did not transport it.

“That would be insane,” he says.

U.S. officials who once dismissed WikiLeaks as a little more than an irritating propaganda machine and Assange as an antiestablishment carnival barker now take a far darker view of the group.

“It’s time to call out WikiLeaks for what it really is: a nonstate hostile intelligence service,” CIA Director Mike Pompeo said in the spring after the group released documents describing CIA hacking tools. In December, he doubled down on that assessment, describing WikiLeaks as a national security threat and suggesting that Assange cannot protect those who pass him state secrets.

“He ought to be a bit less confident about that,” Pompeo said.

In an interview at the Ecuadoran Embassy last month, Assange insisted that Müller-Maguhn never possessed the hacked DNC emails and blasted Pompeo’s statements as “very strange and bombastic.”

Müller-Maguhn is more cautious. “How many of you wouldn’t be scared s—less by the head of the CIA declaring you the next target?” he asks.

The 46-year-old hacker moves through Heathrow Airport like a man who knows that powerful governments are tracking his every move. A Washington Post reporter travels with him as he goes through passport control.

He switches off his cellphone, fearful that British immigration officials have technology that can steal his data. Müller-Maguhn could enter the United Kingdom with his German identification card but prefers to use his passport. “The ID card has my address on it,” he says.

A heavy-set immigration officer looks over Müller-Maguhn’s passport and stares for several seconds at a computer screen.

“Why are you in the U.K?” he asks.

“I’m visiting people,” Müller-Maguhn replies.

The officer pecks at his computer. Necks crane to catch a glimpse of the man clad in all black who is holding up the normally brisk line of passengers headed to early morning business meetings.

After a few minutes, the officer waves through Müller-Maguhn, who is walking toward the exit when the officer remembers one last question.

“Sir, sir, where are you traveling from again?” he shouts.

“Frankfurt,” Müller-Maguhn replies.

And with that he is gone. Behind him, the immigration officer is still typing. The travelers who briefly took notice of Müller-Maguhn are back staring at their phones or marching toward their destinations. Müller-Maguhn heads for the Heathrow Express into London.

Into the embassy

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange speaks to reporters in May from a balcony of the Ecuadoran Embassy in London. (Jack Taylor/Getty Images)

The roots of Müller-Maguhn’s relationship with Assange trace back to his teenage years in the 1980s when his walk to school in Hamburg took him past of the offices of the Chaos Computer Club.

The group embodied postwar Germany’s anti-fascist convictions and the hacker underground’s libertarian ethos. Now the largest hacker club in Europe, it bills itself as “a galactic community of life forms independent of age, sex, race or society orientation that strives across borders for freedom of information.”

Müller-Maguhn soon became a friend, confidant and adviser to the group’s founder, Wau Holland. “They were like a strange couple,” said Peter Glaser, a club member, journalist and friend of both men. “Andy was very young and behaved like an adult, and Wau was older and behaved like a child.”

Müller-Maguhn later parlayed his interest in computers and surveillance into a business that he co-founded in 2003 making encrypted phones. He had hoped to sell the phones to journalists and dissidents but quickly discovered that military and intelligence agencies in Europe, Asia and the Middle East were the only clients who understood the technology and were willing to pay for it.

“This was during the time I was following the path of capitalism,” he said with a smile during one of several lengthy interviews in Berlin.

Müller-Maguhn spent 10 years selling the phones before leaving the company. “You can imagine, I know really strange people in really strange places,” he adds. These days, Müller-Maguhn says, he runs a data center that hosts websites and manages email for businesses. He also works as a security consultant, helping companies and governments safeguard their secrets. One of his clients is in China, a state known for its suppression of the Internet and its surveillance of dissidents.

By Müller-Maguhn’s calculus, the nominally communist government is less prone to violence overseas and less of a threat than the United States is. “They don’t have the wish to apply their standards to the rest of the planet or have others dance to their music,” he says. “So there’s a big difference.”

In recent years, Müller-Maguhn’s consulting and advocacy work has carried him all over the world, including Moscow, where in 2016 and 2017 he attended a security conference organized by the Russian Defense Ministry.

On his way into London for his meeting with Assange, Müller-Maguhn casually mentions that he is just back from a three-day trip to Brazil.

“It was business-related,” he says, declining to elaborate.


London’s Heathrow Airport. (Andy Rain/European Pressphoto Agency)

Müller-Maguhn hops out of a cab in Knightsbridge, a posh section of London that’s home to Harrods department store, the Ecuadoran Embassy and Assange. On this cold December day, the stores are decked out for the Christmas season. Müller-Maguhn raises a camera with a telephoto lens and aims it at a building down the street from the brick embassy where Assange has been holed up since 2012.

The shutter on his Nikon camera clicks as he snaps a few shots, hoping to spot surveillance equipment pointed at Assange and the embassy. Women in fur coats rush by him as Bentleys and Rolls-Royces roll past on the busy road. Müller-Maguhn moves down the sidewalk to get a better angle, takes some more pictures and then slings the Nikon over his shoulder.

Farther down the block and closer to the embassy, he points up toward an apartment building where he suspects that the Spaniards, angry about Assange’s tweets in support of Catalan separatists, may have set up a surveillance team.

Then he bounds up the steps of the building that houses the Ecuadoran Embassy, takes one last glance over his shoulder and rings the bell of the front door, where a guard immediately recognizes him and welcomes him inside.

Müller-Maguhn met Assange through the Chaos Computer Club in 2007 when the WikiLeaks founder was seeking support for his then-fledgling organization.

In those early days, Assange described his creation as a group committed to the mission of publishing original source material so citizens of the world could see “evidence of the truth” about global corporations and their governments.

Just past the doors to the embassy, a guard asks Müller-Maguhn to turn over all electronic devices: cameras, mobile phones, as well as his watch and car keys.

“The last time, they even looked into the fruit I was bringing,” Müller-Maguhn says. “These guys have their job. They have their instructions. So I am not complaining.”

Since WikiLeaks’ early days, Assange’s circle of contacts has contracted significantly. Some allies, such as Daniel Domscheit-Berg, who first invited Assange to the Chaos Computer Club and signed on as WikiLeaks’ spokesman, broke with WikiLeaks in 2010 after Assange released hundreds of thousands of pages of U.S. military documents without redacting the names of local Afghans who had helped the military and could be targeted by the Taliban. Other backers were put off by Assange’s legal troubles and allegations of sexual assault in Sweden or his Manichaean view of the world.

Still others alleged that the group allowed itself to be used as a tool by the Russians in their campaign to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

“Look, he has messed up with so many people, I have no idea how many people he has left as friends,” Müller-Maguhn says.

2:05
Assange: The fight ‘is far from over’
 
 

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange speaks at Ecuador’s embassy in London on May 19, 2017.

Assange continues to fear that he will be prosecuted by the United States and as a result is afraid to leave the embassy, saying that doing so would lead to his extradition. The Justice Department is considering a case against him, according to people familiar with the matter. Several months ago, Domscheit-Berg said, the FBI sought an interview with him in connection with a long-running grand jury investigation of WikiLeaks’ publication of State Department cables. Domscheit-Berg said in an interview that he rebuffed the request. “No matter the differences that Julian and I had, I’m not going to talk to anybody about what happened,” he said.

WikiLeaks is ‘always just chaos’

As WikiLeaks has contracted and Assange has retreated from public view, it has become harder for Western intelligence agencies to get a sense of how the group operates. An internal CIA report from November said the U.S. intelligence community has “gained few good insights into WikiLeaks’ inner workings.” The agency predicted that Assange’s negative views of Washington would lead the group to continue to “disproportionately” target the United States.

Former WikiLeaks supporters say the group is governed by Assange’s whims. “The way to think of it is always just chaos,” said one former WikiLeaks activist who spoke on the condition of anonymity to offer a frank opinion and avoid retribution from Assange. “There aren’t any systems. There aren’t any procedures — no formal roles, no working hours. It’s all just Julian and whatever he feels like.”

During the 2016 campaign, Assange put out word that he wanted material on Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. “He was kind of asking everybody, ‘Can we get something for the election?’ ” Müller-Maguhn recalls.

Assange signs off on all WikiLeaks publications but does not review everything that comes to the group. “For security reasons, he does not want that,” Müller-Maguhn says. Müller-Maguhn, though, is vague about WikiLeaks’ internal workings.

A former WikiLeaks associate said that Müller-Maguhn and a colleague oversaw submissions through WikiLeaks’ anonymous submission server in 2016 — although Müller-Maguhn denies such involvement.

Asked to explain the submission review process, he replies, “I don’t want to.”

The only reliable way to contact Assange, he says, is through Direct Message on Twitter. “He seems to live on Twitter,” adds Müller-Maguhn, who doesn’t hide his disdain for the platform. “On Twitter you follow people, and that’s what German history forbids you to do,” he says.

The size of WikiLeaks’ staff and its finances are also murky. Neither Müller-Maguhn nor Assange will say how many people work for the group or where they are located. “It seems to be a rather small team,” Müller-Maguhn says.

WikiLeaks has amassed a stash of bitcoin, a digital currency that enables anonymous, bank-free transactions. As of this week, the stockpile is worth about $18 million, although in late December, with the currency’s spike in value, the group was sitting on $25 million, according to public online ledgers that record such transactions. Over the past several years, the Wau Holland Foundation, which was started in 2003 after the founder of the Chaos Computer Club died, collected hundreds of thousands of dollars for Assange’s group.

Müller-Maguhn sits on the board of the foundation, which seeks to promote “freedom of information and civil courage in various forms.” He says the foundation has provided support for some of WikiLeaks’ releases, such as last year’s “Vault 7” disclosure of CIA hacking tools.

He describes the Vault 7 releases as a public service, adding that the CIA was “messing up other people’s computers and making it look like someone else had done it.”

To Assange, any suggestion that Müller-Maguhn may have served as an intermediary to deliver the DNC emails is “a lame attempt” by U.S. intelligence agencies to hurt the Wau Holland Foundation, which is a key conduit for tax-free donations in Europe.

The threat is all the more significant because the only other source of tax-exempt donations, the U.S.-based Freedom of the Press Foundation, has cut ties to WikiLeaks.

Müller-Maguhn says he cannot say with certainty what was on the USB drive that he delivered to Assange. “How can I prove what was on there?” he says. “I cannot.” But he adds that it would be risky and impractical to deliver sensitive files by hand, rather than through encrypted channels.

“A classical walk-in? You saw too many movies from the 1970s,” he says.

These days, Müller-Maguhn describes his visits to the embassy as motivated by an increasingly rare commodity in Assange’s world: friendship. Assange’s visitors include celebrities, such as actress Pamela Anderson, and politicians, such as Nigel Farage, a vocal advocate for Britain’s exit from the European Union, and Dana Rohrabacher, a GOP congressman from California.

When he talks to visitors, Assange turns on a white noise generator in the embassy conference room to counter listening devices. Above the door, he points out a surveillance camera and indicates that sensitive messages should be communicated only via handwritten notes, shielding the text from the camera with a hand or notepad cover.

On July 3, 2016, Müller-Maguhn visited Assange at the embassy to celebrate Assange’s 45th birthday. Inside the brick building, Ecuadoran children, dressed in traditional garb, serenaded Assange with little guitars and pipe flutes.

As the children sang, Müller-Maguhn’s mind flashed forward.

“I had this s—ty impression of me standing there watching 50-year-olds making music for us, and Julian would still be there,” he said.

After about two hours inside the embassy last month, Müller-Maguhn emerges from the building, carrying his black leather satchel, stuffed with documents, and his Nikon camera. He quickly makes his way through the Christmas crowds and back to Heathrow Airport for an evening flight home to Germany.

He tries to minimize his time in Britain. “I don’t like to stay overnight in a country that is hostile toward me,” he says.

Jaffe reported from Washington. Greg Miller, Rachel Weiner and Julie Tate in Washington, Karla Adam in London and Stefan Pauly in Berlin contributed to this report.

 
 

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Camillo Gonsalves

Opposition calls Finance Minister to explain himself or resign

KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent, Jan 16, CMC – The main opposition New Democratic Party (NDP) on Monday restated its call for  Minister of Finance Camillo Gonsalves to explain himself amidst the ongoing saga in which former model Yugge Farrell claimed that she was involved in an extra-marital affair with him.

“The principles of decency and good governance in a modern democracy requires that any government minister embroiled in such a salacious scandal must clarify the situation to the satisfaction of the people or resign his position,” the party said in a statement on Monday.

Camillo Gonsalves
Camillo Gonsalves

The statement follows calls by party president and Opposition Leader, Godwin Friday and party chair, Daniel Cummings, on their radio programmes last week for the finance minister to explain what might have happened between him and the model, who has since been charged with abusing the minister’s wife.

“Such a scandal reflects negatively on the high office of the Minister of Finance and brings it into disrepute. Having failed to clarify the matter, Camillo Gonsalves, who professes to love this country and to respect its people, has but one choice. We, therefore, call on him to do the right and honourable thing and resign,” the NDP said.

The statement from the opposition paety comes amidst the ongoing saga which began when Farrell was arraigned on January 4 on a charge that she used abusive language to Camillo’s wife, Karen Duncan-Gonsalves, a Crown counsel in the Attorney General’s Chambers .

At Farrell’s arraignment on January 5, Kingstown Magistrate Bertie Pompey granted a prosecution request that Farrell be sent for two weeks of psychiatric evaluation.

The application was granted in the absence of any supporting evidence by the prosecution and in the face of strong protest by defence counsel Grant Connell.

After Farrell’s court-ordered hospitalisation, a number of documents resembling emails, which persons circulating them are suggesting were written by Farrell have been circulated.  The documents contain unsubstantiated claims about a number of high-profile persons, including that they have “full blown AIDS”.

Some persons have questioned the release of the alleged email in light of the salacious claims made by persons who have no known connection to the ongoing saga.

The NDP, on Monday, condemned the release of “private emails into the public domain which has done nothing but obfuscate the issue more.

“The timing of release of these emails and correspondence attributed to Miss Farrell is suspicious and we question the credibility of the leaked documents. If these documents are evidence in the investigation they should be handed over to the police, not circulated over public media,” the party said.

The NDP also pointed to the media report that Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves and his Deputy, Sir Louis Straker, have advised Camillo, who is also Member of Parliament for East St. George, not to comment on the saga.

“This is an affront as Camillo was elected by the people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines and owes the people of this nation an explanation as to his involvement or not. This high-handed approach demonstrates the level of contempt and disrespect that Ralph Gonsalves and the ULP hold for the people of this nation,” the NDP said.

“It is a matter of public interest, and concern and we have been following the matter as it has unfolded in the media and other public forums,” the party said, noting that over a week has passed and there has been no clear statement on the matter by Camillo.

“As a member of Parliament and Minister of Government, Mr. Camillo Gonsalves has a responsibility to explain to the Vincentian people what, if anything, he knows about the allegations. It is insufficient for him to respond merely through his relatives and other ULP party surrogates,” the NDP said.

The party said that while the matter has been ventilated in public, the situation remains unclear.

It further said that media reports suggest that Farrell’s rights were violated by the way she was dealt with in court.

The party noted that after being allowed to plead to the charge in the Magistrate’s Court, Farrell was sent on the request of the prosecutor to the mental institution for assessment.

“The reports indicate that the procedure was abnormal as no evidence or information was laid before the Magistrate to support such a decision,” the NDP said.

HOwever, on  Tuesday the Prime Minister restated his claim that a magistrate can arrive at a decision in court regarding sending a person for psychiatric evaluation based on information communicated to the magistrate by the prosecution but not relayed to the defence.

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