Former economy minister Ulyukayev jailed for 8 years over $2 million bribe begins sentence

Former Russian Economy Minister Aleksey Ulyukayev, jailed for 8 years after extorting a $ 2 million bribe, has begun his sentence at a penal colony, the TASS news agency reported on Thursday.

Russian Justice Ministry’s Federal Service for Execution of Punishment, that manages the country’s prison system confirmed the reports but did not disclose the location of his detention.

Ulyukayev was detained in November 2016 on charges of receiving a $ 2 million bribe from the Igor Sechin, the head of Russian state oil firm Rosneft. Investigators found the minister demanded the payment for his support of a positive assessment that would allow Rosneft to complete a deal to purchase the government’s stake in another Russian oil company, Bashneft.

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November 16, 2017. Igor Sechin, CEO, Chairman of the Management Board, Deputy Chairperson of the Board of Directors, Rosneft oil company © Michael Klimentyev

The charges were based on Sechin’s testimony as well as on the evidence of a sting operation, in which Sechin personally handed a bag containing $ 2 million in cash to Ulyukayev, the then-economy minister.

In mid-December 2017 a court in Moscow sentenced Ulyukayev to an eight-year prison term and a fine of over $ 2.2 million. The maximum punishment for the crime that Ulyukayev was charged with is 15 years. In his remarks, the presiding judge said “Ulyukayev acted under a preconceived plan, motivated by personal gain and with full understanding that the process of the privatization of Bashneft depended on his decisions.”

The ex-minister pleaded not guilty at the start of the trial and continued to maintain his innocence up until the announcement of the verdict. After hearing the sentence, Ulyukayev said he considered it unjust.

His defense team confirmed that they would appeal the ruling. On April 12 this year the Moscow City Court upheld Ulyukayev’s fine and prison sentence, but excluded the ban on assuming posts in state agencies and state-run corporations.

Ulyukayev is the first government minister in Russia’s modern history to be found guilty of corruption by a court.

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Kadyrov praises Putin's role in defeating terrorism, restoring Chechen economy

Thanks to Vladimir Putin’s resolute decisions the Chechen people have defeated terrorism and restored the economy in the republic, Ramzan Kadyrov said ahead of the Russian Presidential Inauguration ceremony.

Chechnya has transformed. We all remember that 18 years ago we had no schools, no roads and no infrastructure, the economy was on the lowest possible level and unemployment rate was at 100 percent. And the main problem we faced was international terrorism. Thanks to the Russian President and his resolute decisions we have won the fight with the international terrorism, restored our economy and are now solving the social issues,” Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov said in his comments with Russia 1 TV channel on Monday, shortly before Vladimir Putin’s fourth swearing-in ceremony.

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Head of the Chechen Republic Ramzan Kadyrov talks to reporters after Vladimir Putin's annual Presidential Address to the Federal Assembly © Alexey Kudenko

Kadyrov added that life in Chechnya had changed completely in the course of 18 years as did the views in the Chechen society. “Our people live completely different lives in a prosperous region which is a part of the Russian Federation. This is primarily Vladimir Putin’s achievement,” he said.

After the inauguration ceremony Kadyrov reiterated his position by making a post in his Telegram Messenger-blog. “He has managed to overcome the situation, restore peace in the Caucasus Region, boost Russia’s defense capabilities and repel the external attempts to isolate our country from the outside world,” he wrote.

Kadyrov has repeatedly emphasized Putin’s role in the restoration of Russia’s potential and in saving Chechnya from international terrorism. In mid-April this year the Chechen leader called for changes in the Russian constitution that would allow Putin to be re-elected as president after his current term expires in 2024 (the existing laws forbid one person to occupy the post for more than two consecutive terms).

As long as our incumbent president is in good health we must not think about any other head of state. This is my personal opinion and I am not changing it. Right now there is no alternative to Putin,” Kadyrov said.

He noted that many other nations do well without this type of restriction. “Why can China do this and Germany can do this, but not us? If this is in the people’s interest, why can’t we make changes to the law?” he said.

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Trade wars: Trump claims Chinese president 'will take down' barriers harming US economy

As trade tensions threaten to boil over between the two nations, US President Donald Trump insists his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping will scrap barriers to commerce “because it is the right thing to do.”

Washington is seeking to cut a deal with the Chinese government to eradicate a trade deficit and allow US products to enter the market in Asia more freely. The US president has also accused China of intellectual property theft, through practices that require US business to transfer technology information to Chinese companies.

On Sunday, Trump spoke of his close friendship with the Chinese premier but added that trade barriers will come down. “China will take down its trade barriers because it is the right thing to do. Taxes will become reciprocal & a deal will be made on intellectual property. Great future for both countries,” he said.

It’s unclear why Trump appears confident of a positive result. However, any deal could see the US withdrawing from plans to hit Chinese imports worth $ 50 billion with tariffs. China has said it will impose similar trade barriers on products like soybeans, corn products and other agricultural items.

Speaking on Sunday, US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin admitted that there is a risk of a trade war between the United States and China, but he doesn’t expect one. “Our expectation is that we don’t think there will be a trade war; our objective is to continue to have discussions with China… I don’t expect there will be a trade war – it could be, but I don’t expect it at all,” he told CBS’ Face The Nation.

The United States Trade Representative, an agency responsible for developing US trade and investment policy, has identified 1,300 Chinese products that could be slapped with extra import tax.

READ MORE: ‘Trade wars are good’: Trump defends tit-for-tat tariffs

“The proposed list of products is based on extensive interagency economic analysis and would target products that benefit from China’s industrial plans while minimizing the impact on the US economy. Sectors subject to the proposed tariffs include industries such as aerospace, information and communication technology, robotics, and machinery,” the USTR said.

The agency added: “After a detailed investigation, USTR found overwhelming evidence that China’s unreasonable actions are harming the US economy. In the light of such evidence, the appropriate response from China should be to change its behavior, as China’s government pledged to do many times.”

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Pakistan economy set to surpass last year's decade-high growth

Islamabad: Pakistan’s economy is set to surpass last year’s decade-high growth of 5.3 per cent in the current fiscal year 2017-18 but would remain short of the target set by the government, the country’s central bank said on Saturday.

The economy will remain at risk of a widening current account deficit, which is a combination of exorbitant oil imports, significantly maturing external debt repayments and slightly lower worker remittances in the remaining three months of FY18, The State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) said.

The SBP while announcing the reports on the second quarter economic growth also cautioned that the growth would remain short of the 6 per cent target due likely to lower wheat output and late sugarcane crushing, The Express Tribune reported.

“Pakistan’s economy surpassing last year’s growth rate (5.3 per cent) appears strong GDP growth is likely to remain slightly below the target of 6 per cent (in fiscal year 2018),” the SBP said in the second quarterly report for FY18 on the state of Pakistan’s economy.

The deficit will continue to impact the foreign exchange reserves and keep economic managers engaged in making short-term international borrowing. “The risks to overall macroeconomic stability have increased due to widening imbalances in the country’s balance of payments,” the report said.

“Reserves have already fallen to less than three months of the country’s import bill,” it said. The central bank predicted that inflation would remain in the range of 4.5-5.5 per cent against the target of 6 per cent mainly due to low food prices. It stood at 4.2 per cent last year.

Pakistan may attract maximum remittances of USD 20.5 billion from overseas workers in FY18 that would be slightly lower than the target of USD 20.7 billion. Imports may shoot up to USD 54.3 billion against the target of USD 48.8 billion mainly due to heavy oil imports and imports of textile and steel inputs.

At the same time, exports may also surpass the target of USD 23.1 billion to a maximum of USD 24.6 billion. However, the growth would remain insufficient to finance the gap in current account deficit. The credit flow to private sector recovered strongly from mid-January 2018 and increased by Rs 167.9 billion between January 12 and March 16 compared to credit expansion of Rs 60.3 billion in the corresponding period of previous year. 

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‘Not critical’: Russian MP expects EU sanctions to boost economy

The latest extension of economic sanctions by the European Union will not harm Russia’s economy and may even benefit some of its branches, according to an MP representing the opposition party, Fair Russia.

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Members of the Alternative for Germany party on a guided tour of Massandra Winery during their official visit to Crimea © Alexey Malgavko

This was a well-expected move, because the European Union is not an independent subject in international politics, it remains under the rigid control of the USA,” Deputy Head of Fair Russia’s caucus in the State Duma Mikhail Yemelyanov told Regnum news site. “As long as the USA maintains its anti-Russian hysteria, the EU would not dare to lift the sanctions,” he added.

His comments came soon after the EU’s main political body, the European Council, announced that it was extending travel restrictions and asset freezes against Russian citizens and companies over their alleged complicity in the 2014 crisis in Ukraine. The new date for the end of the sanctions is September 15.

The lawmaker also noted that Russian countersanctions would remain in force for the same duration as the EU sanctions that had caused them. “And these countersanctions are helping the economy of the Russian Federation, first of all the agricultural sector, to achieve the desired development rates. This is a very positive thing for our economy,” Yemelyanov said. 

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© Reuters

He also described as “non-critical” the only feasible negative effect from the restrictions – the limited access to credit from EU banks and other financial organizations. “If we look at how the economy is financed, the key rate of Russia’s central bank is much more important than the sanctions imposed by the EU,” he noted.

I personally think that nothing terrible has happened and I also think that this was a positive event, because it will contribute to the development of our agriculture and import-replacement,” the MP concluded.

Russian officials have repeatedly made statements in which they described the sanctions policy of the US, EU and their allies as extremely ineffective. For example, in June 2017, President Vladimir Putin told participants at the St. Petersburg Economic Forum that “The sanctions had helped Russia to switch on its brains, instead of just trading in oil and gas and pushed the nation towards structural changes in the economy.”

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As China gets tough on pollution, will its economy suffer?

LEO YAO thought he had nothing to fear from the environment ministry. Before, when its inspectors visited his cutlery factory, he says, they generated “loud thunder, little rain”. After warning him to clean up, they would, at worst, impose a negligible fine. Not so this time. In August dozens of inspectors swarmed over his workshop in Tianjin, just east of Beijing, and ordered production to be halted. His doors remain shut today. If he wants to go on making knives and forks, he has been told that he must move to more modern facilities in a less populated area.

Mr Yao’s company, which at its peak employed 80 people, is just one minor casualty in China’s sweeping campaign to reduce pollution. For years the government has vowed to go green, yet made little progress. It has flinched at reining in dirty industries, wary of the mass job losses that seemed likely to ensue. But in the past few months it has taken a harder line and pressed on with pollution controls, hitting coalminers,…Continue reading

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Prince Harry-Meghan Markle wedding could boost UK economy by a whopping £500 million

London: Prince Harry`s wedding to American actress Meghan Markle could provide a 500 million pound boost to Britain`s economy as tourists flock to the country and Britons celebrate, according to an estimate.

Harry, Queen Elizabeth`s grandson and fifth-in-line to the throne, will tie the knot with Markle on May 19 at Windsor Castle, the royal palace home of British kings and queens for almost 1,000 years.

According to the Office for National Statistics, the wedding of Harry`s elder brother William to wife Kate in April 2011 led to an increase of 350,000 visitors to the UK compared to the same month the year before and business valuation consultancy Brand Finance predicted a similar surge in May.

In total, it estimates the nuptials will generate some 500 million pounds ($ 680 million).

“We think approximately 200 million pounds will come from tourism, travel, hotels,” the company`s chief executive David Haigh told Reuters.

About 150 million pounds would be spent on people having parties and celebrating with 50 million coming from people buying T-shirts, hats and other commemorative items, he said. 

The wedding would also be worth about 100 million pounds in free advertising for Britain around the world, he added.

Businesses in Windsor are already gearing up to take advantage of the worldwide interest in the couple, with Harry, 33, one of the most popular members of the British royal family and Markle, 36, best known for her starring role in the TV legal drama “Suits”, providing some Hollywood sparkle.

“It`s going to be a massive boost for the economy, it`s going to be great to see so many people here for the wedding and actually to host the wedding itself,” said Andrew Lee, manager of the Harte and Garter hotel opposite Windsor Castle.

British tourism bosses are already predicting 2018 to be a bumper year for the industry, aided by a fall in the value of the pound since the 2016 vote to leave the European Union which has attracted visitors and deterred Britons from vacationing abroad.

Visit Britain, the national tourism agency, estimates that 41.7 million visits from overseas will be made to the United Kingdom in 2018, generating 26.9 billion pounds in the process. 

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As the global economy picks up, inflation is oddly quiescent

A FEW years ago, the news about the euro-zone economy was uniformly bad to the point of tedium. These days, it is the humdrum diet of benign data that prompts a yawn. Figures this week show that GDP rose by 0.6% in the three months to the end of September (an annualised rate of 2.4%). The European Commission’s economic-sentiment index rose to its highest level in almost 17 years. Yet when the European Central Bank’s governing council gathered on October 26th, it decided to keep interest rates unchanged, at close to zero, and to extend its bond-buying programme (known as quantitative easing, or QE) for a further nine months.

The central bank said it would slow down the pace of bond purchases each month, to €30bn ($ 35bn) from January. But Mario Draghi, the bank’s boss, declined to set an end-date for QE. A hefty dose of easy money will be necessary, he argued, until inflation durably converges on the ECB’s target of just below 2%. It shows few signs of doing so, despite the…Continue reading

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