FILE PHOTO: A woman walks past a Swedbank branch in Riga October 21, 2014. REUTERS/Ints Kalnins
April 25, 2019
STOCKHOLM (Reuters) – Swedbank posted an estimate-beating first-quarter profit on Thursday, but the Swedish bank admitted to previous shortcomings in combating money laundering and said it was cooperating with investigating authorities.
The lender is the subject of a joint investigation by financial watchdogs in Sweden and the Baltics, and the bank also confirmed that it was being probed by U.S. authorities.
Broadcaster SVT has reported that the bank processed gross transactions worth up to 20 billion euros ($22.31 billion) a year from high-risk, non-resident clients, mostly Russian, through its Estonian branch from 2010 to 2016.
Swedbank also failed to report suspicious transactions and activities, the report said.
“Previous internal investigations have indicated shortcomings in Swedbank’s anti-money laundering work,” Acting CEO Anders Karlsson said in a statement.
Shortcomings included reports that certain customers matched against previously known money-laundering cases not being flagged, weaknesses in know-your-customer procedures as well as the absence of investigations and reports to the authorities on certain suspicious transactions, Karlsson added.
Swedbank said an in depth investigation, led by law firm Clifford Chance, was now underway to review its current and historic customer relationships through its Baltic subsidiaries, the bank’s response to previous internal reviews and its anti-money-laundering compliance processes.
The lender also said it would set up a new unit called ‘Anti-Financial Crime’ to combat all areas of financial crime, including anti-money laundering.
Allegations against Swedbank, largely reported by Swedish TV, have linked it to a scandal at Danske Bank, which faces potential lawsuits, fines and sanctions after admitting last year that 200 billion euros of suspicious payments had flowed through its Estonian branch between 2007 and 2015.
Swedbank’s operating profit rose to 6.63 billion Swedish crowns ($703 million) from 6.39 billion a year earlier. Analysts on average were expecting operating earnings of 6.09 billion, according to a poll.
(Reporting by Johan Ahlander and Esha Vaish; Editing by Niklas Pollard and Sherry Jacob-Phillips)
Former Trump campaign adviser Stephen Moore told The Wall Street Journal he would bow out as the president’s nominee for a seat on the Federal Reserve Board if he becomes a liability for Republicans.
“I want to help make America the most prosperous place in the world,” Moore said Wednesday, adding, “I’m totally committed to it as long as the White House is totally committed to it.”
Since President Donald Trump announced Moore as his pick, several media outlets have reported on Moore’s old columns about women in sports.
CNN published an article quoting four columns Moore wrote in the early 2000s for National Review magazine, which included pithy jokes and commentary about banning female announcers and referees from NCAA basketball games and questioning why ESPN would ever air women’s basketball.
Moore earlier Wednesday accused journalists of pulling a Kavanaugh against me” in reference to sexual misconduct allegations that surfaced against Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh during his confirmation process last year.
“It’s been one personal assault after another and a kind of character assassination, having nothing to do with economics,” Moore said during an interview with North Dakota radio station WZFG.
But he told the Journal he would back down “if something I said or something I’ve done becomes a political problem. … I don’t want to be a liability. Why should we risk a Senate seat for a Federal Reserve board person, you know? I mean that just doesn’t make any sense.”
Source: NewsMax Politics
President Donald Trump says he’ll go directly to the U.S. Supreme Court “if the partisan Dems” ever try to impeach him.
But Trump’s strategy could run into a roadblock: the high court itself, which said in 1993 that the framers of the Constitution didn’t intend for the court to have the power to review impeachment proceedings. The Supreme Court ruled that impeachment and removal from office is Congress’ duty alone.
“I DID NOTHING WRONG,” Trump tweeted Wednesday. Trump says not only are there no “High Crimes and Misdemeanors,” one of the bases for impeachment outlined in the U.S. Constitution, “there are no Crimes by me at all.”
He alleges Democrats committed crimes and says they’re looking “to Congress as last hope!” because “We waited for Mueller and WON.”
Source: NewsMax Politics
Immigrants attend a naturalization ceremony to become new U.S. citizens in Los Angeles, California, U.S., April 23, 2019. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
April 23, 2019
By Steve Holland and Roberta Rampton
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Top advisers to President Donald Trump will present him with a proposed immigration plan in coming days that will cover border security and immigration reform, his senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner said on Tuesday.
The plan will cover stopping illegal immigration – one of Trump’s signature campaign issues – and will also include proposals for a merit-based immigration system, a guest worker program for agriculture and seasonal work, and measures for improving trade flow, Kushner said.
Speaking at a Time Magazine forum, Kushner said he would present what he described as a “very detailed” plan to Trump at the end of the week or early next week.
“He’ll make some changes, likely, and then he’ll decide what he wants to do with it,” Kushner said.
Trump pledged to build a wall on the southern border with Mexico in his 2016 run for office, and has since fought with Congress and in the courts for funding to pay for the barrier.
He has argued the wall is needed to prevent illegal migrants from Central America from entering the country, and has pushed to change laws to make it easier to deport immigrants.
Kushner has held about 50 listening sessions with conservative groups on immigration, a senior administration official said. He has been working with White House economic adviser Kevin Hassett and policy adviser Stephen Miller on the plan.
Any immigration overhaul would require legislation from Congress to pass – a difficult order in the time leading up to the next presidential election in November 2020, particularly since Democrats control the House of Representatives.
(Reporting by Steve Holland and Roberta Rampton; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)
Chinese President Xi Jinping reviews the honor guards of the Chinese People’s Liberation (PLA) Navy before boarding the destroyer Xining for the naval parade celebrating the 70th founding anniversary of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy in Qingdao, Shandong province, China April 23, 2019. Xinhua via REUTERS
April 23, 2019
By Ben Blanchard
QINGDAO, China (Reuters) – China showed off the first of its new generation of guided missile destroyers on Tuesday as President Xi Jinping reviewed a major naval parade through mist and rain to mark 70 years since the founding of China’s navy.
Xi is overseeing a sweeping plan to refurbish the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) by developing everything from stealth jets to aircraft carriers as China ramps up its presence in the disputed South China Sea and around self-ruled Taiwan, which has rattled nerves around the region and in Washington.
The navy has been a major beneficiary of the modernization, with China looking to project power far from its shores and protect its trading routes and citizens overseas.
After boarding the destroyer the Xining, which was only commissioned two years ago, Xi watched as a flotilla of Chinese and foreign ships sailed past, in waters off the eastern port city of Qingdao.
“Salute to you, comrades. Comrades, thanks for your hard work,” Xi called out to the officers standing on deck as the ships sailed past, in images carried on state television.
“Hail to you, chairman,” they replied. “Serve the people.”
China’s first domestically produced aircraft carrier, which is still unnamed and undergoing sea trials, was not present, though the carrier the Liaoning was, the report said.
The Liaoning, the country’s first carrier, was bought second-hand from Ukraine in 1998 and refitted in China.
State television also showed pictures of the Nanchang at the review, the first of a new fleet of 10,000-tonne destroyers, though details of that and other ships were hard to determine from the footage, due to the intermittent thick mist and rain.
China had said it would also show new nuclear submarines, and state television did show submarines taking part in the display.
Singapore-based regional security expert Collin Koh said that based on the available evidence, the larger submarine on show was a modified version of China’s existing Jin-class nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines – a key part of its nuclear deterrent.
The navy has four Jin-class submarines, which are based in Hainan island in the south, and the Pentagon says it believes construction on a new generation of ballistic missile submarines will start in the 2020s.
“It does appear that this is a modified version rather than an entirely new submarine, something which would have been a more significant development,” said Koh, of Singapore’s S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies.
“Outside analysts still don’t have a complete picture of the precise modifications.”
China’s last major naval parade was last year in the South China Sea, also overseen by Xi.
Tuesday’s parade featured 32 Chinese vessels and 39 aircraft, as well as warships from 13 foreign countries including India, Japan, Vietnam and Australia.
A total of 61 countries have sent delegations to the event, which includes a naval symposium on Wednesday and Thursday.
‘LONG FOR PEACE’
Earlier, meeting foreign naval officers at Qingdao’s Olympic sailing center, Xi said the navies of the world should work together to protect maritime peace and order.
“The Chinese people love and long for peace, and will unswervingly follow the path of peaceful development,” Xi said, in remarks carried by the official Xinhua news agency.
“Everyone should respect each other, treat each other as equals, enhance mutual trust, strengthen maritime dialogue and exchanges, and deepen pragmatic cooperation between navies,” he added.
“There cannot be resorts to force or threats of force at the slightest pretext,” Xi said.
“All countries should adhere to equal consultations, improve crisis communication mechanisms, strengthen regional security cooperation, and promote the proper settlement of maritime-related disputes.”
China has frequently had to rebuff concerns about its military intentions, especially as its defense spending reaches new heights.
Beijing says it has nothing to hide, and invited a small number of foreign media onboard a naval ship to watch the parade, including from Reuters.
China’s last naval battles were with Vietnam in the South China Sea in 1974 and 1988, though these were relatively minor skirmishes. Chinese ships have also participated in international anti-piracy patrols off Somalia since late 2008.
The United States has sent a low-level delegation to Qingdao, led by the naval attache at its Beijing embassy, and no ships.
However, the USS Blue Ridge, the command ship of the Japan-based U.S. Seventh Fleet, is visiting Hong Kong, having arrived in the city on Saturday.
A senior U.S. naval official aboard the ship said the Seventh Fleet would continue its extensive operations in the region, including so-called freedom of navigation operations to challenge excessive maritime claims.
China objects to such patrols close to the Chinese-held features in the Paracels and Spratlys archipelago in the South China Sea, where U.S. warships are routinely shadowed by Chinese vessels.
The U.S. official said he believed an incident last September, when a Chinese destroyer sailed within 45 meters of the American destroyer USS Decatur, was an isolated event and other routine interactions with the PLA navy had proved more professional.
(This story has been refiled to fix grammar in paragraph two.)
(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Additional reporting by Greg Torode in HONG HONG; Editing by Michael Perry, Robert Birsel)
FILE PHOTO: The Samsung Galaxy Fold phone is shown on a screen at Samsung Electronics Co Ltd’s Unpacked event in San Francisco, California, U.S., Feb. 20, 2019 REUTERS/Stephen Nellis
April 23, 2019
By Ju-min Park
SEOUL (Reuters) – Samsung Electronics Co Ltd is retrieving all Galaxy Fold samples distributed to reviewers to investigate reports of broken screens, a day after it postponed the phone’s launch, a person with direct knowledge of the matter said on Tuesday.
The retrieval comes as the world’s biggest smartphone maker met with embarrassment ahead of the foldable device’s U.S. release on April 26, with a handful of technology journalists reporting breaks, bulges and blinking screens after a day’s use.
The South Korean tech giant postponed the handset’s launch for an unspecified period of time while it investigated the matter. It said initial findings showed the issues could be associated with impact on exposed areas of the hinges.
A representative declined to comment further on Tuesday.
Samsung’s share price was 0.4 percent lower as of 0425 GMT, in a flat Seoul market. However, parts suppliers fell, with hinge maker KH Vatec Co Ltd shedding 3.1 percent.
A person with direct knowledge of the supply chain said KH Vatec conducted an internal review of hinges used in the Galaxy Fold and found no defects. The supplier declined to comment.
In March, Samsung released a video showing robots folding Galaxy Fold handsets 200,000 times for its durability test.
Samsung’s head of IT and mobile communications, DJ Koh, has repeatedly said foldables are the future of smartphones.
Though the issue does not hurt Samsung’s balance sheet, the postponement damages the firm’s effort to showcase itself as an innovative first mover, not a fast follower, analysts said.
In some cases, reviewers had peeled off a layer of film which they mistook for a disposable screen protector.
“It’s disastrous that Samsung sent samples to reviewers without clear instructions on how to handle the device, and that the firm needs to fix screen flickering,” said analyst Kim Young-woo at SK Securities.
One Samsung employee, speaking on condition of anonymity, said, “On the bright side, we have an opportunity to nail down this issue and fix it before selling the phones to a massive audience, so they won’t have same complaints.”
Samsung emailed pre-order customers upon delaying the launch, online outlets said on Twitter.
“Your pre-order guarantees your place in the queue for this innovative technology,” Samsung said in the email. “We’ll update you with more specific shipping information in two weeks.”
(Reporting by Ju-min Park; Additional reporting by Heekyong Yang; Editing by Christopher Cushing)
A worker stands in front of Jakarta-Bandung High Speed Railway exhibition hall at Walini tunnel construction site in West Bandung regency, West Java province, Indonesia, February 21, 2019. REUTERS/Willy Kurniawan
April 23, 2019
By Fanny Potkin and Tabita Diela
WALLINI, Indonesia (Reuters) – In a rural part of Indonesia’s Java island, two orange-clad workers confer in Mandarin over plans to lay tracks on a stretch of a $6 billion high-speed rail project between the capital Jakarta and the textile hub of Bandung.
Both are employees of the state-owned China Railway Engineering Corp (CREC), and have previously worked on a rail project in Uganda, another part of Beijing’s sweeping multi-billion dollar “Belt and Road” initiative (BRI) to connect China with Asia, Europe and beyond.
Delayed for nearly three years over land ownership issues, construction on the 142 km (88-mile) Indonesian line finally kicked into high gear in 2018.
When China hosts its second summit of nations that are part of BRI this week, Beijing is likely to showcase the Indonesian project along with its recent success in getting Malaysia’s East Coast Railway Link (ECRL) back on track after months of negotiations.
Analysts say the two projects will be held up as China’s answers to criticism about high debt and the lack of transparency in the BRI and its attempt to refocus the program on sustainable financing, green growth, and high quality.
China’s foreign ministry said last week Beijing would “work together with all parties to benefit people across the world by jointly promoting the high-quality development of BRI in line with the national conditions of each country”.
The BRI is a key policy of Chinese President Xi Jinping but has been controversial in many Western capitals, particularly Washington, which views it as a means to spread Chinese influence abroad and saddle countries with unsustainable debt through nontransparent projects.
According to a draft communique seen by Reuters, participants at this week’s summit will agree to project financing that respects global debt goals and promotes green growth.
“This bucks the trend of recent negative headlines around the BRI and challenges facing projects in several countries,” said Peter Mumford at the Eurasia Group consultancy.
But in Malaysia, Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamed agreed to put the 668-km ECRL back on track only after cutting the cost of the project from $16 billion to $10.7 billion.
“The risk for China is that other countries, having seen Mahathir’s success, now try to adopt similar tough re-negotiating tactics on BRI projects, which could slow progress elsewhere,” said Mumford.
To be sure, there is no sign of any of the BRI countries attempting to re-negotiate deals signed with Beijing. Analysts say China is likely to use its willingness to work with partner nations and make projects feasible to seek more business.
Bankers familiar with the deal say the Indonesian project is being constructed under “gold-plated terms”.
Of the total $6 billion cost, China’s Development Bank will provide a $4.5 billion loan at 2 percent interest, according a project prospectus seen by Reuters. The remaining 25 percent of the project cost will be funded by equity provided by the consortium.
The loan will have no sovereign guarantees, which are among the most controversial parts of Belt and Road projects, as they shift risk onto the governments of partner countries.
Beijing lobbied hard against Tokyo in 2015 to win the Indonesian project as a way to showcase its high-speed rail expertise to international customers.
“China wanted to deliberately show that its fast train was better than Japan … we asked for the lowest rate possible and they gave 2 percent,” Rini Soemarno, Indonesia’s minister for state-owned enterprises, told reporters earlier this year.
The railway’s financial terms came under debate during April’s presidential election between Indonesian President Joko Widodo and challenger Prabowo Subianto, who pledged to review the project if he pulled off a victory.
While the results are still to be officially confirmed, sample vote counts by independent pollsters show Widodo to be headed for a second term.
At the project site, there seem to be no doubts that it will be completed. Deep in Indonesia’s tea country, workers are directing drilling machines into a hillside, displacing red earth to carve out two tunnels that will lead to the station of Wallini, a tea plantation near Bandung.
Chinese workers there told Reuters they had been at the site for a year and expected to stay until the project’s completion in 2021. Four new satellite towns will be built by the train consortium along the route.
Widodo’s government is currently offering up to $91 billion in infrastructure projects to Chinese companies, according to Luhut Pandjaitan, the coordinating minister for maritime affairs, who said Chinese officials have toured regional governments in search of projects to fund.
Two top officials told Reuters Widodo intends to lead a delegation to the Belt and Road forum, where some of those projects are expected to be signed.
One of the officials, Indonesia’s investment board chief, Thomas Lembong, told Reuters he expected this week’s summit to be a turning point, a “Belt and Road 2.0” with China more willing to negotiate.
“The Chinese leadership will do whatever it takes to make Belt and Road a success, even if that means making it more professionalised, transparent, and more cooperative,” he said.
THE SINGAPORE LINK
The revival of the Malaysian project is likely to give China hope of securing another train project: the high speed rail (HSR) between Kuala Lumpur and Singapore, which was postponed by Mahathir after he initially threatened to cancel it.
“China will likely take heart from the ECRL outcome and focus their efforts on ensuring that the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore HSR remains on track,” Harrison Cheng, an analyst at Control Risks, told Reuters.
Beijing had been intent on being awarded the project to prove that its rail expertise could win over rivals in a first-world country like Singapore, with its diplomats describing it as a “must win at all costs project”.
Apart from CREC, consortiums from Japan, South Korea, Europe, Singapore and Malaysia are also in the race, if the project is revived.
A source in the Singaporean government said Malaysia would have to pay significant penalties to cancel the project altogether.
Mahathir as well as Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong will take part in this week’s Belt and Road summit, which could see China make a renewed push for the project.
(Reporting by Fanny Potkin and Tabita Diela in JAKARTA and WALLINI; Additional reporting by Gayatri Suroyo and Cindy Silviana in JAKARTA, Sumeet Chatterjee in HONG KONG, Brenda Goh in SHANGHAI, Joseph Sipalan and Liz Lee in Kuala Lumpur, and Joe Brock and John Geddie in SINGAPORE, Editing by Ed Davies and Raju Gopalakrishnan)
FILE PHOTO: Singer Prince performs in a surprise appearance on the “American Idol” television show finale at the Kodak Theater in Hollywood, California in this May 24, 2006 file photo. REUTERS/Chris Pizzello/Files
April 22, 2019
By Alex Dobuzinskis
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – An unfinished memoir that Prince was writing before his 2016 death will be released in October, with previously unseen photos and other material rounding out the book, the publisher Penguin Random House said on Monday.
The Grammy Award-winning artist, known for his androgynous style and sexually-charged songs, announced in March 2016 at a New York City club that he was working on a memoir.
Prince held that news conference and brief concert about a month before he died at age 57 of an accidental overdose of the opioid fentanyl.
Part of Prince’s forthcoming book, titled “The Beautiful Ones,” is “the exquisite memoir he began writing before his tragic death,” with that unfinished section devoted to his childhood, Penguin Random House said on a web page for the project.
“We’re honored to be publishing Prince’s unfinished memoir, THE BEAUTIFUL ONES, on October 29, 2019,” Random House said in a message on Twitter on Monday.
The book will also contain photos, scrapbooks and lyric sheets and his original handwritten treatment for the 1984 film “Purple Rain,” a quasi-biographical blockbuster that turned Prince into a superstar.
COLLABORATED ON MEMOIR
The book will be published by the imprint Spiegel & Grau. A representative for the publisher could not be reached for further comment.
The writer Dan Piepenbring, who paid homage to Prince in a 2010 essay for the Paris Review, penned an introduction and annotations to the images contained in the book, Penguin Random House said in a statement.
Piepenbring collaborated with Prince on the memoir during the artist’s final months of life.
Prince’s multiple Top 10 hit songs include “When Doves Cry,” “Kiss,” “Little Red Corvette” and “Purple Rain,” the title song from the movie, and his albums sold millions of copies.
A two-year investigation into Prince’s death failed to determine where he obtained a counterfeit painkiller laced with fentanyl, resulting in no criminal charges, authorities said last year when they revealed their findings.
Prince, who was sometimes called “The Purple One,” for his frequent use of that color in outfits, left behind thousands of recordings and videos in the vaults of his home studio in suburban Minneapolis.
Last year, a nine-track album titled “Piano & A Microphone” from Prince’s unreleased collection went on sale, with material from a 1983 home studio cassette of him playing jazz piano versions of his own songs and those of others.
(Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis; editing by Bill Tarrant and G Crosse)