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WikiLeaks chief Assange fears US charges

In Uncategorized on December 18, 2010 at 10:27 am

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange said it was “increasingly likely” the US would try to extradite him on charges related to leaked cables as he savoured his first day on bail.

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange (C) holds up a copy of Britain’s Guardian newspaper as he addreses media in the grounds of Ellingham Hall in Norfolk, eastern England, on December 17, 2010.

Speaking Friday outside Ellingham Hall, a friend’s mansion in eastern England, where he must live while on bail, Assange said he was concerned about potential moves from US authorities.


“The big risk, the risk we have always been concerned about, is onwards extradition to the United States. And that seems to be increasingly serious and increasingly likely,” the Australian told reporters.


The 39-year-old founder of the whistle-blowing website is fighting extradition to Sweden, where he is wanted for questioning over allegations that he sexually assaulted two women, which he denies.


But Assange said his lawyers believed a secret US grand jury investigation had been started into his role in WikiLeaks’ release of thousands of leaked US diplomatic cables — a probe he condemned as “illegal”.


Looking relaxed, he said the mansion was a “big improvement” on the London jail where he was held in solitary confinement for nine days before his release on bail Thursday.


Media reports suggest that US prosecutors are trying to build a case against Assange on the grounds that he encouraged a US soldier, Bradley Manning, to steal US cables from a government computer and pass them to WikiLeaks.


Assange said: “I would say that there is a very aggressive investigation, that a lot of face has been lost by some people, and some people have careers to make by pursuing famous cases.”


He said WikiLeaks had pledged 50,000 dollars (38,000 euros) towards Manning’s legal fund.


But he told ABC television in the US that “I had never heard of the name Bradley Manning before it was published in the press.


“WikiLeaks technology (was) designed from the very beginning to make sure that we never know the identities or names of people submitting us material.”


Meanwhile, the Pentagon defended itself against allegations that Manning was being kept in harsh conditions in a military brig at the Quantico Marine base, Virginia, where he has been placed under a maximum security regimen.


Manning was in solitary confinement because he was considered a national security risk, said prison spokesman First Lieutenant Brian Villiard.


“What I will tell you is that he is not treated any differently than any other maximum confinement detainee,” he said.


In interviews with British media, Assange said Manning “is the only one of our military sources who has been accused and that means that he is in a difficult position.”


Meanwhile, in Washington a report by congressional researchers said the Espionage Act and other US laws could be used to prosecute Assange, but there is no known precedent for prosecuting publishers in such a case.


“Leaks of classified information to the press have only rarely been punished as crimes, and we are aware of no case in which a publisher of information obtained through unauthorized disclosure by a government employee has been prosecuted for publishing it,” the report said.


On the Swedish case against him, Assange, a former computer hacker, claimed it was part of a “smear campaign” linked to WikiLeaks. But Swedish prosecutors deny their case is related to WikiLeaks.


Assange’s supporters have put up a 240,000-pound (283,000-euro, 374,000-dollar) surety to ensure he does not flee the country.


He has also been electronically tagged, is subject to a curfew and must report daily to a police station near the mansion in picturesque Suffolk.


The mansion is owned by Vaughan Smith, a former army officer and journalist who founded the Frontline Club in London, which acts as WikiLeaks’ British base.


Assange has vowed the allegations against him will not stop WikiLeaks from releasing further documents.


“People like to present Wikileaks as just me and my backpack — it is not true. We’re a large organisation,” he told reporters Friday.


The latest US cables released by WikiLeaks showed that the former New Zealand Labour Party government led by Helen Clark courted China and France in an attempt to curb American and Australian influence in the Pacific.


They also indicated that Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir siphoned off nine billion dollars (6.79 billion euros) of oil money into British bank accounts.


Meanwhile, according to yet another cable, the Dalai Lama, the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader, said last year the world should focus on climate change in Tibet rather than politics as environmental problems in his Himalayan homeland were more pressing.
 

Source: SGGP

Goldman fraud charges trigger prospect of wider crackdown

In Uncategorized on April 18, 2010 at 7:26 pm

WASHINGTON, April 17, 2010 (AFP) – Wall Street giant Goldman Sachs faced charges of financial fraud Saturday as US financial firms eyed the prospect of a wider crackdown on those that bet on the collapse of the housing market.


A civil suit filed by the Securities and Exchange Commission Friday accused Goldman of “defrauding investors by misstating and omitting key facts” about a financial product based on subprime mortgage-backed securities.

Goldman Sachs booth is pictured on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange as a television report airs about the company’s lowered stock price on April 16. AFP photo

The securities were a key contributor to the financial crisis that peaked in 2008 because many contained risky mortgages.


The charges are believed to be the first brought against a Wall Street firm for speculating on the collapse of the housing market, which is still struggling to emerge from the worst financial crisis in decades.


Underlining persistent concerns about the unfettered trade, US President Barack Obama said Friday he would veto a Wall Street reform bill that lacked tough rules for complex financial instruments.


“I will veto legislation that does not bring the derivatives market under control and some sort of regulatory framework assures that we don’t have the same sort of crisis we have seen in the past,” Obama said.


The SEC said Goldman failed to tell investors that a major hedge fund had helped put together the controversial financial product known as collateralized debt obligation (CDO) and was at the same time betting against it.


Paulson & Co, one of the world’s largest hedge funds, paid Goldman Sachs to structure a transaction in which it could take speculative positions against mortgage securities chosen by the fund, the commission said in a statement.


The deal, which took place during a massive mortgage meltdown in 2007 and as the country was about to fall into a brutal recession, was said to have cost investors around one billion dollars.


Goldman claimed that it lost 90 million dollars from its own investment in the security.


“We are disappointed that the SEC would bring this action related to a single transaction in the face of an extensive record which establishes that the accusations are unfounded in law and fact,” the company said.


Goldman said it would “vigorously contest them and defend the firm and its reputation.”


Paulson & Co founder John Paulson said he had no role in choosing the mortgages. The 54-year-old fund manager was not named as a defendant in the suit, and Robert Khuzami, director of enforcement at the SEC explained that, unlike Goldman, Paulson & Co had not made misrepresentations to investors buying the security.


The lawsuit also named Fabrice Tourre, then a vice-president at Goldman. He was said to be the creator and salesman of the product, which caused investors to lose about one billion dollars.


“The product was new and complex but the deception and conflicts are old and simple,” said Khuzami in a statement.


Analysts said a long courtroom battle could now be expected.


The authorities have not ruled out the possibility of others involved in the alleged fraud or other similar types of fraud.


“The SEC continues to investigate the practices of investment banks and others involved in the securitization of complex financial products tied to the US housing market as it was beginning to show signs of distress,” said Kenneth Lench, head of the SEC’s structured and new products unit.


It is not known whether the SEC might refer the case to the Department of Justice for criminal prosecution.


“The fact that the only individual charged here, after what was presumably a very thorough investigation, was a vice president rather than a managing director or higher, is relatively reassuring news for Goldman,” said Bank of America-Merrill Lynch research analyst Guy Moszkowski.


He said it seemed most likely that the potential for more serious charges rose dramatically the higher up the management chain the charges went.


Among investors of Goldman’s controversial product were German commercial bank IKB.


Goldman shares dived 12.79 percent Friday to 160.70 dollars, after falling as much as 15 percent when news of the fraud charges first hit the market.


The Dow Jones Industrial Average tumbled 125.91 points or 1.13 percent to end the week at 11,018.66 points, snapping a six-session winning streak that had driven the blue-chip index to a fresh 18-month high.


Oil prices also fell sharply, with New York’s main contract, light sweet crude for delivery in May, slipping 2.27 dollars to 83.24 dollars a barrel.


On Saturday, The New York Times suggested in an editorial the charges may be just the beginning of a broader government campaign against Wall Street.


“Goldman is not the only bank to have sold mortgage-backed securities and then bet against them,” the newspaper said. “We suspect that after Friday, others on Wall Street may have a harder time sleeping.”

d
Source: SGGP

Goldman fraud charges trigger possible wider crackdown

In Uncategorized on April 17, 2010 at 11:03 am

Top Wall Street giant Goldman Sachs faced charges of financial fraud Saturday as US financial firms eyed the prospect of a wider crackdown on those that bet on the collapse of the housing market.


A civil suit filed by the Securities and Exchange Commission Friday accused Goldman of “defrauding investors by misstating and omitting key facts” about a financial product based on subprime mortgage-backed securities.


The securities were a key contributor to the financial crisis that peaked in 2008 because many contained risky mortgages.


The charges are believed to be the first brought against a Wall Street firm for speculating on the collapse of the housing market, which is still struggling to emerge from the worst financial crisis in decades.


Underlining persistent concerns about the unfettered trade, US President Barack Obama said Friday he would veto a Wall Street reform bill that lacked tough rules for complex financial instruments.


“I will veto legislation that does not bring the derivatives market under control and some sort of regulatory framework assures that we don’t have the same sort of crisis we have seen in the past,” Obama said.


The SEC said Goldman failed to tell investors that a major hedge fund had helped put together the controversial financial product known as collateralized debt obligation (CDO) and was at the same time betting against it.


Paulson & Co, one of the world’s largest hedge funds, paid Goldman Sachs to structure a transaction in which it could take speculative positions against mortgage securities chosen by the fund, the commission said in a statement.


The deal, which took place during a massive mortgage meltdown in 2007 and as the country was about to fall into a brutal recession, was said to have cost investors around one billion dollars.


Goldman claimed that it lost 90 million dollars from its own investment in the security.


“We are disappointed that the SEC would bring this action related to a single transaction in the face of an extensive record which establishes that the accusations are unfounded in law and fact,” the company said.


The firm said it would “vigorously contest them and defend the firm and its reputation.”


Paulson & Co. founder John Paulson said he had no role in choosing the mortgages.


The lawsuit also named Fabrice Tourre, then a vice-president at Goldman. He was said to be the creator and salesman of the product, which caused investors to lose about one billion dollars.


“The product was new and complex but the deception and conflicts are old and simple,” said Robert Khuzami, SEC’s director of the enforcement division in a statement.


Analysts said a long courtroom battle could now be expected.


The authorities have not ruled out the possibility of others involved in the alleged fraud or other similar types of fraud.


“The SEC continues to investigate the practices of investment banks and others involved in the securitization of complex financial products tied to the US housing market as it was beginning to show signs of distress,” said Kenneth Lench, head of the SEC’s structured and new products unit.

It not known whether the SEC might refer the case to the Department of Justice for criminal prosecution.

“The fact that the only individual charged here, after what was presumably a very thorough investigation, was a vice president rather than a managing director or higher, is relatively reassuring news for Goldman,” said Bank of America-Merrill Lynch research analyst Guy Moszkowski.

He said it seemed most likely that the potential for more serious charges rose dramatically the higher up the management chain the charges went.

Among investors of Goldman’s controversial product were German commercial bank IKB.

Paulson was not charged because it was not obligated to disclose any conflict of interest to investors, Khuzami said.

“Goldman made representations to investors, and Paulson did not.”

The firm reportedly made billions of dollars by betting against the housing market in the years before its collapse.

“Paulson did not sponsor or initiate” Goldman’s product, the Paulson firm said in a statement.

Goldman shares dived 12.79 percent Friday to 160.70 dollars, after falling as much as 15 percent when news of the fraud charges first hit the market.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average tumbled 125.91 points or 1.13 percent to end the week at 11,018.66 points, snapping a six-session winning streak that had driven the blue-chip index to a fresh 18-month high.

Oil prices also fell sharply, with New York’s main contract, light sweet crude for delivery in May, slipping 2.27 dollars to 83.24 dollars a barrel.

Source: SGGP

Lawyer: Charges dropped against 9 missionaries

In Uncategorized on April 16, 2010 at 10:27 am

A lawyer says Haiti has dropped kidnapping charges against nine of the 10 U.S. missionaries who were arrested trying to take a busload of children out of the quake-ravaged country.


The group’s leader, Laura Silsby of Boise, Idaho, remains jailed in Haiti. The other nine were let go in February and early March and allowed to leave the country.

The sun sets over the harbor with the destroyed Presidential Palace visible at left, and at right a makeshift camp for displaced people, in Port-au-Prince, Thursday April 15, 2010. Over a million Haitians are living as internally-displaced people following the recent earthquake

Caleb Stegall, an attorney for three of them, told The Associated Press on Thursday that a senior State Department official informed him of the dropped charges.


The AP was not immediately able to reach the presiding judge for confirmation.


The Baptist missionaries were halted Jan. 30 trying to take 33 children to an orphanage they were setting up in the Dominican Republic.

Source: SGGP

Daimler pleads guilty to US global bribery charges

In Uncategorized on April 2, 2010 at 1:20 pm

WASHINGTON, April 1, 2010 (AFP) – German automaker Daimler pleaded guilty to US charges of bribery and agreed to pay 185 million dollars to settle the affair, the US government said Thursday.


The Justice Department said Daimler and three of its subsidiaries had resolved charges related to a Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) investigation into the company’s worldwide sales practices.


US District Court Judge Richard Leon approved the settlement at a hearing Thursday in Washington.


“Daimler AG’s Russian subsidiary DaimlerChrysler Automotive Russia SAO (DCAR), now known as Mercedes-Benz Russia SAO, and its German subsidiary, Export and Trade Finance GmbH (ETF), each pleaded guilty to criminal informations charging the companies with one count of conspiracy to violate the anti-bribery provisions of the FCPA and one count of violating those provisions,” the Justice Department said in a statement.

A sign reading Daimler can be seen in front of the Mercedes Benz plant of German auto giant Daimler AG in Stuttgart-Untertuerkheim, southern Germany on March 25, 2010. AFP photo

As part of the plea agreements, DCAR and ETF agreed to pay criminal fines of 27.3 million dollars and 29.12 million dollars, respectively, part of the 93.6 million in criminal fines and penalties that Daimler and its subsidiaries paid in total, it said.


“These are significant and widespread violations,” said prosecutor John Darden, speaking in federal court on behalf of the US government.


Darden noted that the sentence is clearly below federal sentencing guidelines.


“Daimler showed excellent cooperation,” said Darden. “The company has undertaken an effort to clean its own house. That reflects a serious change of mind on part of Daimler. This deserves credit.”


Judge Leon acknowledged that it was “a very complex case” as he accepted the plea agreement.


In a separate, related civil case, Daimler agreed to pay 91.4 million dollars to settle a case filed by markets regulator the US Securities and Exchange Commission.


Daimler had earlier admitted to making hundreds of improper payments worth tens of millions of dollars to foreign government officials in at least 22 countries between 1998 and 2008, according to a deferred prosecution agreement filed in a Washington court.


The kickbacks of cash and gifts of luxury armored cars, golf clubs and vacations helped secure government contracts worth millions of dollars in China, Russia, Thailand, Greece, Iraq and other countries.


Prosecutors recommended that the judge impose the 93.6-million-dollar fine and accept the guilty plea of two Daimler subsidiaries. They noted that Daimler had mended its ways and cooperated fully with the investigation.


Daimler regularly presented its findings to prosecutors, fired 45 employees implicated in the bribery and reformed its practices, prosecutors wrote.


The fines are significantly smaller than the 800 million dollars German industrial giant Siemens paid in 2008 to settle a US investigation into its bribery of officials to secure contracts in Argentina, Bangladesh, Iraq and Venezuela.


The bribery first came to light in 2004 when a former Daimler employee filed a whistleblower complaint saying he’d been fired for voicing concern about secret accounts maintained to pay the bribes.

d
Source: SGGP

Ambassadors, charges d’affaires offer incense in Do Temple

In Uncategorized on March 28, 2010 at 2:30 pm




Ambassadors, charges d’affaires offer incense in Do Temple


QĐND – Sunday, March 28, 2010, 21:6 (GMT+7)

Thirty ambassadors, charge d’affaires, heads of diplomatic delegations, representatives of the Untied Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) and international organizations in Vietnam took part in an exchange programme titled “friendship spring walk” to visit historical relics in northern Bac Ninh province on March 27.


The programme is organised by the Vietnam Union of Friendship Organisations (VUFO) in coordination with the Hanoi Union of Friendship Organisations and Bac Ninh provincial People’s Committee.


Participants offered incense at Tieu Pagoda in Tuong Giang commune, Bac Ninh province where King Ly Cong Uan were raised as a youth.


They also visited Do Temple dedicated to 8 kings of the Ly dynasty and enjoyed a performance of Love Duets famous in Bac Ninh and recently recognised by UNESCO as part of the world’s intangible cultural heritage.


Addressing the exchange, Vu Xuan Hong, Chairman of the VUFO, applauded this as a meaningful activity to help the world community learn more about Vietnam’s traditional culture.


On behalf of the diplomatic corps, Moroccan Ambassador El Houcine Fardani, thanked the VUFO and Vietnamese people for their warm affection.


He expressed his hope that Vietnam would successfully fulfill its important role as ASEAN chair and organise the grand celebration of the 1,000th anniversary of Thang Long-Hanoi.


Source: VOV


Source: QDND

Daimler in deal with US over foreign bribery charges: source

In Uncategorized on March 24, 2010 at 3:48 pm

CHICAGO, March 23, 2010 (AFP) – Daimler will pay some 180 million dollars in fines to settle US allegations that the German automaker habitually bribed foreign officials, a source close to the case told AFP Tuesday.


Daimler is accused of paying out millions in cash and gifts of golf clubs, vacations, and luxury Mercedes armored cars to officials in 22 countries to win government contracts.


The deal would end investigations by both criminal prosecutors and securities regulators, said the source who spoke on condition of anonymity.


“There is no (official legal) settlement yet,” the source said. “That’s what the judge is going to decide on April 1” at a hearing.


Spokesmen for Daimler and the US Justice Department declined to comment on the case.


Daimler has previously acknowledged that “improper payments” were made in a number of countries and said it voluntarily shared information from internal investigations with US and German prosecutors.


“Daimler has taken various actions designed to address and resolve the issues identified in the course of its investigation and to safeguard against the recurrence of improper conduct,” the automaker said in its 2009 annual report.


The charges filed in US court show there is “no margin for error” when it comes to complying with bribery rules, said high profile corporate lawyer Jacob Frenkel.


“US criminal prosecutors have been on an international rampage enforcing US bribery laws wherever and whenever possible,” said Frenkel, a former US Securities and Exchange Commission enforcement lawyer and federal prosecutor.


“The message from US prosecutors is if there is a US connection, then they will seize on it to bring charges.”


A criminal complaint filed in Washington accuses Daimler, maker of Mercedes-Benz cars and the world leader in heavy trucks, of engaging in a “longstanding practice of paying bribes” to foreign officials.


It alleges that Daimler made “hundreds of improper payments worth tens of millions of dollars to foreign officials” in order to secure contracts with government customers.


The bribes allegedly included:


-More than 3.0 million euros (4.0 million dollars) in bribes to Russian government officials in order to secure 64.6 million euros in sales.


-4.1 million euros in “commissions,” “gifts” and lavish vacation to Chinese government officials.


-A “birthday gift” of a 300,000-dollar armored Mercedes Benz S-class car to an official in Turkmenistan.


-Kickbacks to Iraqi officials and an agreement not to seek compensation for damages incurred during the first Gulf War in order to secure sales of trucks used for humanitarian purposes through the UN’s Oil for Food program.


-Golf clubs, wedding gifts and other perks totaling about 41,000 dollars to win contracts in Indonesia.


Many of these payments were made through “third party accounts” which were supervised by the most senior management of Daimler’s sales operations, the complaint alleges. It also allegedly maintained a “cash desk” at a factory in Stuttgart.


That cash desk and most of those accounts were eventually shut down after the German government imposed new rules to curtail foreign bribery in 1998.


But the complaint alleges that Daimler did not seriously crack down on foreign bribes until after the US Department of Justice and Securities and Exchange Commission launched investigations.


Some of those payments were made through US-based shell corporations and “corrupt transactions with a territorial connection to the United States resulted in over 50 million dollars in pre-tax profits,” the complaint alleges.


The complaint alleges that the bribes went to officials in: China, Croatia, Egypt, Greece, Hungary, Indonesia, Iraq, Ivory Coast, Latvia, Nigeria, Russia, Serbia and Montenegro, Thailand, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Vietnam and other countries.

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Vietnam continues swine-flu vaccination despite charges of scam

In Vietnam Health on January 15, 2010 at 9:23 am








People wear face masks at a public place for fear to contract H1N1 virus. WHO is accused to exaggerate tje threat of swine flu to cause panic and sell vaccine

The Ministry of Health is continuing its vaccination campaign against swine flu since it has yet to hear officially from the World Health Organization about the accusations that drug firms are exaggerating the threat to cause panic and sell their vaccines, an official said.


The ministry has accepted vaccines supplied by the WHO, Dr. Nguyen Huy Nga, head of the ministry’s Preventive Medicine and Environment Department said at a meeting of the National Steering Committee on Human Flu Prevention on January 13.


While WHO has not formally responded to the accusation, some European nations have announced cancellation of vaccine orders.


WHO began an initiative to ensure several low- and middle-income countries get access to the vaccines. Of 35 nations seeking them, Mongolia was the first to get it and Thailand will vaccinate 2 million people this week.


Vietnam has so far reported 11,114 infections, including 53 deaths. In the past week some people have been taken to hospital with severe pneumonia but no deaths have been reported.


Source: SGGP Bookmark & Share

UN-backed court issues first Khmer Rouge genocide charges

In World on December 16, 2009 at 10:38 am

PHNOM PENH, Dec 16, 2009 (AFP) – Cambodia’s UN-backed war crimes court has for the first time issued genocide charges against two leaders of the brutal Khmer Rouge regime, a tribunal spokesman said Wednesday.


Former Khmer Rouge number two Nuon Chea and foreign minister Ieng Sary were both charged over the hardline communist regime’s slaughter of Vietnamese people and ethnic Cham muslims during the 1970s, spokesman Lars Olsen told AFP.


“This week both Nuon Chea and Ieng Sary have been brought before the investigating judges and informed they are being charged with genocide against the Cham muslims and the Vietnamese,” Olsen said.


“This is the first time that anyone has been charged with genocide” at the UN-backed tribunal, he added.


The court announced last month it was investigating incursions into Vietnam as well as executions of Cambodia’s Cham minority committed by the 1975-1979 regime.


Final arguments were heard last month in the trial of prison chief Kaing Guek Eav, known by the alias Duch, who was charged with war crimes, crimes against humanity, torture and premeditated murder in the court’s first trial.


Both Nuon Chea and Ieng Sary have already been charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity.


They are in detention at the court, awaiting trial in the tribunal’s second case along with Ieng Sary’s wife, former social affairs minister Ieng Thirith and former head of state Khieu Samphan.


Led by Pol Pot, who died in 1998, the Khmer Rouge emptied Cambodia’s cities in a bid to forge a communist utopia, wiping out up to two million people through starvation, overwork, torture and execution.


There are now nearly 240,000 Cham Muslims in Cambodia, mainly in the central provinces, forming 1.6 percent of the population in the predominantly Buddhist country, according to a recent survey by the US-based Pew Research Centre.


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Philippines charges clan heir with 25 murders

In World on December 2, 2009 at 5:09 am

Philippine prosecutors on Tuesday filed 25 counts of murder against a clan leader’s son whom they say led the election-related massacre of 57 people last week, officials said.








Ampatuan Mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr. (C) is escorted by National Bureau of Investigation agents after arriving at the Villamor Airbase in Manila

The charges against Andal Ampatuan Jnr were filed in a court in the southern city of Cotabato, which has jurisdiction over the site of the November 23 massacre, said prosecutor Edilberto Jamora.


Other members of the influential Ampatuan clan, including the family patriarch, provincial governor Andal Ampatuan Snr, were also summoned to submit affidavits in the investigation into the massacre in Maguindanao province.


Ampatuan Jnr had previously faced seven counts of murder for the massacre. Jamora said he was only being charged with 25 murders so far because authorities had only processed 25 death certificates.


Alleged armed followers of the Ampatuans murdered 57 people including the wife and two sisters of his bitter rival, Esmael Mangudadatu. Also among those killed were journalists, lawyers and other civilians.


Prosecutors said Ampatuan Jnr led the killings to prevent Mangudadatu from challenging him in the May 2010 race for governor of the province.


The killing has outraged the nation and embarrassed Philippine President Gloria Arroyo, who has longstanding ties with the Ampatuans.


The Ampatuans control many local positions in the southern province of Maguindanao and have hundreds of armed followers there.


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