Chinese national charged with destroying hard drive during FBI probe into possible transfer of sensitive software to China
#California; #US; #FBI; #SecurityBreach
Washington, Aug 30 Canadian-Media): A Chinese national and researcher at the University of California, Los Angeles has been arrested on federal charges of destroying evidence to obstruct an FBI investigation after he was observed throwing a damaged hard drive into a dumpster outside his apartment, the Justice Department announced Aug 30.
Image credit: Website
Guan Lei, 29, of Alhambra, was arrested pursuant to a one-count criminal complaint unsealed this afternoon during his initial appearance in United States District Court.
The criminal complaint alleges that Guan, who was in the U.S. on a J-1 non-immigrant visa, threw a damaged hard drive into a trash dumpster near his residence on July 25.
The FBI recovered the damaged hard drive after Guan was not allowed to board a flight to China and after Guan refused the FBI’s request to examine his computer. The affidavit in support of the complaint notes that the internal hard drive “was irreparably damaged and that all previous data associated with the hard drive appears to have been removed deliberately and by force.”
According to the complaint, Guan is being investigated for possibly transferring sensitive U.S. software or technical data to China’s National University of Defense Technology (NUDT) and falsely denying his association with the Chinese military – the People’s Liberation Army – in connection with his 2018 visa application and in interviews with federal law enforcement.
Guan later admitted that he had participated in military training and wore military uniforms while at NUDT. One of Guan’s NUDT faculty advisors in China was also a lieutenant general in the PLA who developed computers used by the PLA General Staff Department, the PLA General Armament Department, Air Force, military weather forecasts, and nuclear technology.
NUDT is “suspected of procuring U.S.-origin items to develop supercomputers with nuclear explosive applications” and has been placed on the Department of Commerce’s Entity List for nuclear nonproliferation reasons, according to the affidavit.
In addition to destroying the hard drive, the complaint alleges that Guan concealed digital storage devices from investigators and falsely told federal officials that he had not had any contact with the Chinese consulate during his nearly two-year stay in the U.S.
During his initial appearance this afternoon, Guan was ordered detained by a United States Magistrate Judge, who scheduled an arraignment for Sept. 17, 2020 .
A criminal complaint contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
The felony offense of destruction of evidence carries a statutory maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison.
This case is being investigated by the FBI, Homeland Security Investigations, and U.S. Customs and Border Protection. The U.S. Department of State’s Diplomatic Security Service has provided substantial assistance during the investigation.
This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Will Rollins and George Pence of the Terrorism and Export Crimes Section.
#BritishColumbia; #Huawei; #MengWanzhou; #NewEvidenceForDefenceClaims
British Columbia, Aug 15 (Canadian-Media): New evidence for defence claims were introduced in Court documents filed ahead of hearing of next month for Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou, who is fighting extradition to the United States where she faces charges of fraud and conspiracy, media reports said.
Meng Wanzhou. Image credit: Wikimedia Commons
Wanzhou's lawyers had claimed omissions of facts by American prosecutors which seriously undermine the case against the Huawei executive who faced charges of fraud and conspiracy.
Seven new pieces of evidence were presented by Meng's defence team for consideration by B.C. Supreme Court Associate Chief Justice Heather Holmes next month when Meng's lawyers will argue to have the case tossed out.
Meng was arrested at Vancouver International Airport in December 2018 after arriving on a flight from Hong Kong, en route to Mexico and Argentina.
She is accused of lying to an HSBC executive in Hong Kong in 2013 about Huawei's relationship with Skycom, a company accused of violating U.S. economic sanctions against Iran.
Meng's lawyers will appear before Holmes next week for the release of information from documents provided by Crown to the defence team related to the conspiracy argument.
That hearing is expected to last a week. Meng is planning to appear by phone.
Eeeks after her initial arrest Meng was released on $10 million bailis and is currently living under a form of house arrest in Vancouver.
For security reasons, she is required to wear an ankle monitoring bracelet and is followed by around the clock private security.
#UN; #ChildLabor; #Slavery; #Prostitution; #Trafficking;
Geneva/UN, Aug 4 (Canadian-Media): All 187 countries that are members of the UN International Labour Organization (ILO) have now ratified a convention to protect children from the worst forms of child labour, including slavery, prostitution and trafficking.
Formally known as Convention No. 182, the treaty, adopted two decades ago, achieved universal ratification on Tuesday, making it the most rapidly ratified Convention in the UN agency’s 101-year history.
“Universal ratification of Convention 182 is an historic first that means that all children now have legal protection against the worst forms of child labour,” said ILO Director-General Guy Ryder.
“It reflects a global commitment that the worst forms of child labour, such as slavery, sexual exploitation, the use of children in armed conflict or other illicit or hazardous work that compromises children’s health, morals or psychological wellbeing, have no place in our society.”
Millions of child workers
Ending child labour has been one of the main goals of the ILO, which was founded in 1919.
The UN agency estimates that 152 million children worldwide are affected, with 73 million in hazardous work.
Most child labour takes place in the agriculture sector, mainly due to poverty and parents’ difficulties in finding decent work.
Convention No. 182 calls for the prohibition and elimination of the worst forms of child labour, which includes slavery, forced labour and trafficking.
It forbids the use of children under18 in armed conflict, prostitution, pornography, illicit activities such as drug trafficking, and in hazardous work.
Drop in child labour
The Convention was adopted by ILO member states meeting in Geneva in 1999.
It is one of the organization’s eight Fundamental Conventions, which cover issues such as the elimination of forced labour, the abolition of work-related discrimination and the rights to freedom of association and collective bargaining.
The Pacific island nation Tonga deposited its ratification instruments with the ILO on Tuesday, becoming the final country to do so.
The ILO said incidence of child labour and its worst forms dropped by almost 40 per cent between 2000 and 2016 as ratification rates increased and countries adopted laws and policies, including relating to minimum age to work.
Could COVID-19 reverse gains?
However, the UN agency fears the COVID-19 pandemic could reverse years of gains, especially as progress had slowed in recent years,
particularly among children 5 to 11 years, and in some geographical areas.
As 2021 is the International Year for the Elimination of Child Labour, the ILO plans to raise awareness of the issue to accelerate progress.
#UN; #HumanTrafficking; #GlobalLaw; #CrimePrevention; #GlobalJustice; #UNODC;
Geneva/UN, Aug 1 (Canadian-Media): The UN commemorated World Day against Human Trafficking on Thursday spotlighting the essential – but often overlooked - role of first responders who identify the millions of victims worldwide, helping them secure justice, and rebuild their lives.
“These are the people who work in different sectors - identifying, supporting, counselling and seeking justice for victims of trafficking, and challenging the impunity of the traffickers,” UN Secretary-General António Guterres said in his message on the Day, which is observed annually each 30 July.
‘True shift’ needed
Their role has only become more important in the context of COVID-19, particularly as travel restrictions have forced new dangers upon victims, who are often sold into sexual exploitation, forced labour, forced begging, forced marriage and organ removal, among other activities.
“A true shift is needed in the prevention of and fight against trafficking, which should be genuinely inspired by a human rights agenda to be really effective,” said Maria Grazia Giammarinaro, Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially in women and children, who said many of those exploited in the sex trade are being left to starve by their captors during the lockdowns.
Further, she said workers considered essential during the COVID-19 crisis have been obliged to work under pressure, for long hours without proper safety measures. “The impact of the pandemic confirms that the trend is still - and even more today - towards increasing severe exploitation,” she confirmed.
As 2020 marks the twentieth anniversary of the “Palermo Protocol” to the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime - the main international anti-trafficking instrument – she drew pointed attention to the massive exploitation going unnoticed in many sectors. It is becoming a “systemic component of our economies, worldwide.”
A new vision
She called for a human-rights approach, which would require reforms to international and national legislation, starting with the due diligence obligations of States and businesses, which should be made binding - including in their supply chains.
Trafficked and exploited persons meanwhile should be allowed to appeal negative decisions on residence status and assistance, she said, with the non-punishment principle applied to any illicit activities these persons have been involved in as a direct consequence of their being trafficked. And immigration laws should provide for regular and accessible channels, firewalls between social services, labour inspections and regulation of recruitment and intermediation agencies.
Criminals exploit pandemic, adapt tactics
The Day featured a high-level virtual event highlighting people engaged in the response to human trafficking.
In a video message to participants, Ghada Waly, Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), said more than 70 per cent of detected trafficking victims are women and girls, while nearly one third are children.
“COVID-19 has amplified trafficking dangers,” she said, with job loss, poverty, school closures and a rise in online interactions opening new opportunities for organized crime groups.
At the same time, she said the crisis has overwhelmed social and public services, impacted the work of law enforcement and criminal justice systems, and made it harder for victims to seek help.
For its part, UNODC is providing protective equipment to shelters and helping Governments mitigate COVID-19’s impact on anti-trafficking responses, she said. It also manages the UN Voluntary Trust Fund for Victims of Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children, which helps non-governmental groups assist 3,500 victims a year in more than 40 countries.
Just two trafficking convictions this year
Anita Bhatia, Deputy Executive Director for Resource Management, Sustainability and Partnerships at the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-Women) said a global survey of 100 survivors from 40 countries, and 400 frontline stakeholders, found that survivors face greater difficulties accessing all essential services than they did before the pandemic: food, water, safe accommodation, and now, COVID-19 testing, when needed.
In the few places where these services are available, survivors are “very poorly” informed about them, she said. From the start of the pandemic, every third survivor reports being targeted by an offer related to potential exploitation. “I don’t need to underscore just how dire this problem is,” she said, stressing that perpetrators have been very agile in adapting their tactics to COVID-19.
Without corrective actions, this trend will likely continue beyond the pandemic. International legal frameworks must be strengthened. “Impunity has always been very high, and with pandemic, it has just gotten worse,” she said, noting that only two trafficking convictions have been made globally since start of 2020.
‘Plague’ of COVID no excuse for slavery to flourish - Mira Sorvino
Mira Sorvino, UNODC Goodwill Ambassador for the Global Fight against Human Trafficking, described that statistic as “absolutely chilling to the bone”, given that, at the lowest estimates, there are 30 million people living in conditions of human trafficking.
With so much attention on COVID-19, there must be a scaled response by Governments and civil society to place the focus back on slavery. “Just because we have a plague doesn’t mean that, under our watch, slavery can just proliferate - and the traffickers win,” with control over their traumatized and brutalized subjects.
She pressed Governments to announce targeted actions, establish task forces, organize events that allow victims to speak to these horrors and allocate much more of their budgets to tackle this problem.
Many countries have legal frameworks, but the political will to enact them has been “completely absent” - even before the pandemic. “I have been dismayed at how little the importance of exploited people has meant to the budgeting of national economies,” she said, and how weakly slavery is fought compared to the war on drugs, particularly in the United States, where more is spent on that fight in a few hours than on trafficking domestically and abroad. “It’s shockingly apparent when we see how little money we put into disbanding the organized crime enslaving people”.
To be sure, there are cheap ways to elevate capacities to respond, she said. A UNODC study found that training for judges, lawyers and first responders in the medical community drastically increases the discovery of victims. Laws can be rolled into existence and judicial proceedings – which ground to a halt under the COVID-19 crisis - can be switched online.
Above all, raising survivor voices is paramount to increasing the outcry that will ultimately push Governments into action. “Hearing what they need for a change engaged me at a soul level,” she said. “It made me not able to turn my back.”
Driving that point home, Michael Brosowski, Founder and Co-CEO, Blue Dragon Children’s Foundation in Viet Nam, said that while today’s event has been underway, his organization had brought home a 15-year-old from China who had been sold into the sex trade, a process that has been “thrown into disarray” by COVID-19.
“When we look back on this period, we’ll see that traffickers have still found ways to get their victims across the borders,” he said, citing a “massive” uptick in trafficking of young people in Viet Nam, including from karaoke bars and the fishing sites that would normally be unusual. He appealed for support. “Service providers can do nothing without funding.”
#Orlando; #US; #Cociane; #GIIIJet; #ICE; #HSI
Orlando (US), Aug 1 (Canadian-Media): 2,107 kilograms of cocaine and a Gulfstream III (GIII) jet were seized on July 26 by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) for violating foreign law concerning narcotics by the Government of Guatemala after a collateral request by HSI Orlando and as part of the HSI HOMECORT National Aviation Trafficking Initiative, ICE & HSI reported.
Image credit: Twitter handle
HSI Orlando began monitoring the aircraft since April 2019 after receiving the information in March 2019 that the GIII would likely be sold and then used to transport illegal drugs.
“By using a variety of investigative techniques and leveraging strong partnerships, the coordination efforts during this investigation cannot be understated,” said HSI Orlando Assistant Special Agent in Charge David J. Pezzutti. “Targeting transnational criminal organizations, such as narcotics traffickers, has been a collective, team effort by several agencies and units which culminated in this substantial cocaine seizure.”
The aircraft was sold, and was taken to Mexico for numerous maintenance flights.
After HSI Orlando was notified on July 25, 2020 that the GIII was en route to the Yucatán Peninsula on a field flight plan, HSI Guatemala and the Joint Interagency Task Force - South (JIATF-S) were contacted to coordinate and prepare ground monitoring efforts to intercept the narcotics-laden aircraft.
The aircraft flew into Venezuela and ended in Guatemalan territory where it was interdicted by the Guatemalan military.
Although the narco-traffickers attempted to bury the cocaine, HSI Guatemala’s Transnational Criminal Investigative Unit participated in seizure, processing the evidence with Ministerio Publico, targeting Guatemalan coordinators via the cocaine air bridge.
Evidence samples would be requested by HSI Guatemala to facilitate future indictments in this ongoing case in the United States.
This joint HSI-led investigation is being supported by Joint Task Force-Investigations HOMECORT, JIATF-S Tactical Analysis Team Guatemala, Federal Aviation Administration, the National Targeting Center-Investigations and U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Air Marine Operations Center.
#LasVegas; #Nevada; #US; #ICE; #HSI; #Cybercrime; #InfraudOrganization
Las Vegas (Nevada), Aug 1 (Canadian-Media): As a result of an investigation led by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigation (HSI) and the Henderson Nevada Police Department, 30-year old Valerian Chiochiu, an author of malicious computer software and a member of the Infraud Organization pleaded guilty before U.S. District Court Judge James C. Mahan in the District of Nevada on July 31 to RICO conspiracy, reported ICE.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE). Image credit: Twitter handle
Sentencing for Chiochiu, a national of the Republic of Moldova, but resided in the United States during the period of the conspiracy, has been scheduled for Dec. 11. His plea came just over a month after the co-founder and administrator of Infraud, Sergey Medvedev of Russia, separately pleaded guilty June 26.
“HSI and our partners are at the forefront of combating financial crimes and illicit activities spread on the Internet,” said HSI Special Agent in Charge for the Las Vegas Office Francisco Burrola. “While criminal operators may continue to grow the reach of their criminal activity, ultimately they do not escape the reach of law enforcement. We continue to investigate, disrupt, and dismantle hidden illegal networks that pose a threat in cyberspace.”
Internet-based cybercriminal enterprise, Infraud was engaged in the large-scale acquisition, sale, and dissemination of stolen identities, compromised debit and credit cards, personally identifiable information, financial and banking information, computer malware, and other contraband.
“Over the course of seven years, Infraud and its alleged conspirators created a sophisticated cybercriminal racketeering scheme that victimized individuals, merchants, and financial institutions to the tune of over half a billion dollars in losses,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Brian C. Rabbitt of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. “The Justice Department is committed to unmasking cyber criminals and their criminal organizations that use the internet for fraudulent schemes.”
The Infraud Organization, was created in October 2010, according to the indictment, by Medvedev and Svyatoslav Bondarenko, aka “Obnon,” “Rector,” and “Helkern,” 34, of Ukraine to promote the Infraud Organization as the premier destination for “carding” —purchase of retail items with counterfeit or stolen credit card information — on the Internet.
It also facilitated illicit digital currency transactions among its members and employed screening protocols to ensure only high quality vendors of stolen cards, personally identifiable information, and other contraband were permitted to advertise to members.
In March 2017, there were 10,901 registered members of the Infraud Organization.
Bondarenko currently remains a fugitive.
According to the indictment, guidance to other Infraud members was provided by Chiochiu on the development, deployment, and use of malware as a means of harvesting stolen data.
As part of his plea agreement, Chiochiu admitted to authoring a strain of malware known to the computer security community as “FastPOS.”
The Infraud Organization inflicted approximately $2.2 billion in intended losses, and more than $568 million in actual losses, during its seven-year history, on financial institutions, merchants, and private individuals, and would have gone on for the foreseeable future if left unchecked.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California also provided assistance with Chiochiu’s case.
The case if being prosecuted by the Deputy Chief Kelly Pearson, Trial Attorneys Chad W. McHenry, and Alexander Gottfried of the Criminal Division’s Organized Crime and Gang Section.