1. Why Isn’t Darrell Issa In Jail?
As we watch U.S. Rep. Darrell Issa, whom Calbuzz first got to know during the 1998 Republican primary for U.S. Senate (won by Matt Fong, who later lost to Sen. Barbara Boxer), we keep wondering why our colleagues in the Washington press corps have not figured out the truth about this guy: he’s a thug.
Having landed by hook and by crook as chairman of the House Oversight Committee, he has used his position to investigate the Obama administration’s every move from Benghazi to Cincinnati, coming up empty at every turn and, along the way, embarrassing himself, the Republican caucus, the House of Representatives and, oh yeah, the state of California.
Issa is a wealthy bully and proven liar with a checkered personal history featuring criminal and civil legal proceedings that involve car thefts, concealed weapons charges and allegations of insurance arson, among his other sterling qualifications for high office. A reasonable man might imagine a less wealthy person perched in Stony Lonesome rather than on the dais of a prestigious and powerful congressional committee.
None of Issa’s past, um, indiscretions are a secret, at least since May 1998, when Lance Williams, then of the San Francisco Examiner, began reporting on the guy. Given that his shady past was admirably re-collated by Ryan Lizza in a 2011 New Yorker profile, Issa’s lies and prominent roles in a long train of extra-legal abuses should be well known to esteemed Washington press hounds who spend their days smooching his expensively draped derriere.
Cliff’s Notes rap sheet: Here’s a compilation of Issa’s dealings, lifting from Lizza’s New Yorker profile, titled “Don’t Look Back,” which borrowed from Lance Williams’s reporting, which itself leaned on Ace Smith’s 1998 opposition research.
– He lied to San Diego Union Tribune that his army unit had provided security of Richard Nixon at the 1971 Pirates-Orioles World Series; Nixon never attended the series.
– He lied that he had won Inc.’s national Entrepreneur of the Year award; he won a regional prize in San Diego and was one of a few hundred nominees for the national award.
– He lied that he had received “the highest possible ratings” while in the Army; at one point he “received unsatisfactory conduct and efficiency ratings and was transferred to a supply depot.”
– In 1971, he stole Jay Bergey’s yellow Dodge Charger which was found abandoned on a highway after Bergey confronted and threatened Issa. No charges were filed.
– On March 15, 1972, Ohio police arrested Issa and his older brother, William, and charged them with stealing a red Maserati from a Cleveland showroom. The judge eventually dismissed the case.
– While the Maserati case was pending, on December 1, 1972, two police officers on patrol in the small town of Adrian, Ohio, stopped Issa driving a yellow Volkswagen the wrong way down a one-way street and found a .25-calibre Colt automatic inside a box of ammunition, along with a “military pouch” that contained “44 rounds of ammo and a tear gas gun and two rounds of ammo for it.” Issa was arrested for carrying a concealed weapon. Issa pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of possession of an unregistered gun. He paid a small fine and was sentenced to six months’ probation.
– According to court records, on December 28, 1979, brother William Issa sold Darrell’s red 1976 Mercedes sedan to Smythe European Motors, in San Jose for $16,000. Soon afterward, Darrell reported the car stolen from the Monterey airport. He later told the police that he had left the title in the trunk. The brothers were indicted for grand theft. Darrell argued that he had no knowledge of William’s activities; William claimed that his brother had authorized him to sell the car, and he produced a document dated a few weeks before the robbery that gave him power of attorney over his brother’s affairs. On February 15th, with the investigation ongoing, Darrell returned to the San Jose dealership and repurchased his car, for $17,000. In August, 1980, the prosecution dropped the case.
– In January, 1981, at an intersection in Cleveland, Issa crashed a truck into a 1959 Thunderbird Classic driven by Juanita Martin, 44. According to court documents, Issa told her that he did not have time to wait for the police and left the scene. Martin ended up in the emergency room the next day with neck and back pain that she said caused “permanent damage.” A month later, she sued Issa for $20,000; they settled for an undisclosed amount.
– At about 2:30 am, September 7, 1982, Issa’s Quantum and Steal Stopper office went up in flames. A fire-analysis report commissioned by the St. Paul insurance company, and dated October 19, 1982, a month after the incident, concluded that the fire was “incendiary.” The report cited “suspicious burn patterns,” such as “two separate major areas of origin,” and it said, “No accidental source of heating power was located at either of these two major areas of origin.” The manner in which stacks of cardboard boxes burned was inconsistent with an accidental fire. A flammable liquid appeared to have been poured over the boxes. The blue flames seen emanating from the roof were evidence, according to the investigators, of burning carbon monoxide that is produced when an accelerant like gasoline ignites. The black smoke was also a clue. “Such black smoke normally occurs in a fire only when a hydrocarbon is burning,” the report said. When investigators tested burn damage from inside the factory, they found “the same identical mixture of flammable hydrocarbons” in four samples taken from diverse locations.
On Sept 20, 1982, in an interview with an insurance investigator, Joey Adkins, the former owner of Steal Stopper, said Issa had removed the company’s Apple II computer from the building, including “all hardware, all software, all the instruction books,” and also “the discs for accounts payable, accounts receivable, customer list, everything.” According to Adkins, Issa also transferred a copy of every design used by Steal Stopper from a filing cabinet to a fireproof box. He also said that Issa put in the box some important silk screens used in the production of circuit boards. Insurance officials noted that, less than three weeks before the fire, Issa had increased his insurance from a hundred thousand dollars to four hundred and sixty-two thousand dollars. “Quite frankly,” Adkins told the investigator, “I feel the man set the fire.”
The Ohio state fire marshal never determined the cause of the fire and no one was ever charged with a crime. According to Issa, St. Paul paid Quantum twenty-five thousand dollars, but refused to pay his claim for the Steal Stopper inventory. Issa sued St. Paul for a hundred and seventy-five thousand dollars, and the two parties eventually settled out of court for about twenty thousand dollars.
(Ours is a measured compilation. For a more colorful rendition, check here.) So the next time you see Rep. Darrell Issa on “Meet the Press” or Fox News or any other national media outlet, you might wonder in a quiet moment, “Why is this man not in jail?”
Iconic, post-ironic headline history: As all Calbuzz news junkies of a certain age will instantly recall, that thought, as memorialized in today’s headline, is a journalistic tribute to one of the more famous Page One screamers of all time: “Why Isn’t Sam Sheppard in Jail?”
It was Fourth of July weekend of 1954, when Marilyn Sheppard, the elegant wife of the wealthy Dr. Sam Sheppard, was brutally murdered in the couple’s bedroom in the high-end Northeast Ohio suburb of Bay Village. Working at warp speed, and with a massive assist from what would now be called “the local media,” Cleveland cops, prosecutors and judges railroaded convicted Sheppard on a life sentence that lasted only 10 years before the Supreme Court tossed it, in large part because of what they called “the carnival atmosphere” of his arrest and trial as fomented by the gentlemen and (very few) ladies of the press.
Exhibits A, B, Z and ZZZ in the Supremes’ decision were culled from the columns of the now defunct Cleveland Press, a fiercely aggressive afternoon paper which printed 399 pieces on the case in six months, and which shaped public opinion and pressured local law enforcement types in the days immediately after the sensational killing with a relentless drumbeat of Page One editorials sporting headlines like, “Getting Away with Murder,” “Why Don’t Police Quiz Top Suspect?” and, most infamously, “Why Isn’t Sam Sheppard In Jail?”
At least one future Calbuzzer, despite his tender years at the time, has a clear recollection of ”The Press,” festooned with that bold, black hedder, landing on the apartment stoop around 4 p.m. on Friday, July 30, about six hours before Cleveland’s finest followed the newspaper’s calm and reasoned argument and hauled the man — whom the copy desk invariably referred to as “Dr. Sam” — down to the hoosegow. (Speaking of copy editors and other nit-pickers, we hasten to add that the headline was changed in post-home delivery editions to read, “Quit Stalling — Bring Him In”.)
So, 59 years later, we appropriate that headline, in a post-ironic usage of aesthetic homage, in celebration of America’s extraordinary press freedoms, no matter how abused, because we are nothing if not post-ironic guys. Your mileage may vary.
2. Felony convictions prompt judge to strip Groveland mayor's authority
Circuit Judge Don Briggs signed an order barring Groveland from "recognizing the authority" of the twice-convicted cocaine dealer until further notice. A second order gives the city 20 days to explain to the judge why Rosario should not be permanently removed. The Florida Constitution prohibits convicted felons from holding office.
Rosario narrowly won the mayor's race Nov. 8 in a three-way race, taking 35 percent of the vote. Glen Wilson, one of his opponents, demanded that the city overturn the vote because Rosario was convicted of selling an ounce of cocaine to undercover officers in Philadelphia in 1987.
"It's unfortunate that we've come to this [but] the facts are the facts — he's a convicted felon without receiving a pardon," Wilson said.
Rosario didn't immediately return a call seeking comment.
The Florida Constitution says: "No person convicted of a felony… shall be qualified to vote or hold office until restoration of civil rights or removal of disability."
Rosario hasn't provided documents proving that he has had his civil rights restored, City Attorney Anita Geraci-Carver said. In emails requesting he provide her proof of his clemency, Rosario has not responded.
City Council members voted 3-2 Tuesday night — with Rosario providing the tie-breaking vote — to further investigate whether his felony convictions bar him from holding public office.
Court records from Pennsylvania show that Rosario was convicted of two felonies 30 years ago.
Rosario's attoney, Jim Jimenez, said Tuesday night that the mayor's civil rights were automatically restored since he didn't serve jail time.
"Pennsylvania law does not require additional action for felons who served under one year," Jimenez said.
But Eustis attorney Derek Schroth, who represents Wilson, said that doesn't apply.
"There are a whole bunch of other rights that are removed when you're a convicted felon: the right to have a firearm, the right to hold public office," he said. "All those rights you need to have clemency."
According to the Florida Office of Executive Clemency, Rosario has not applied or restored his civil rights.
Geraci-Carver, who had asked for the council to consider Rosario's future Tuesday, told told the council in a memo that she checked with authorities in both Pennsylvania and Florida and that neither state had restored Rosario's right to hold public office. Both states, however, recognized his right to cast a vote in a general election.
Rosario came under fire during his campaign for falsely claiming he had been awarded two Bronze Stars and a Purple Heart while serving in the Army. He later said "mistakes happen" and apologized to veterans and anyone else who was offended.
He also claimed to have a 21-year career, but his separation papers show he was on active duty only a year and nine days before being discharged with a permanent disability.
An earlier version of this story misstated that the Groveland city attorney had told a judge that Mayor George Rosario has had ample time to produce documents and failed to do so.
3. Decriminalization Ignored, Rroshi Still Mayor
On December 29, 2016, the Council of Minister fired Rroshi for gross violation of the law, after the KQZ removed his mandate for violation of the decriminalization law. Despite these official decisions, Rroshi continues to act as mayor of Kavaja. He has started his campaign for the elections in June, and recently showed himself in public endorsed by Minister of Finance Arben Ahmetaj.
In the past Elvis Rroshi has been arrested for the falsification of documents and seals. On the decriminalization self-declaration form, he failed to mention that had been convicted in Italy for group rape in 1995.
4. European PM Mario Borghezio (Italy)
5. RJD MP Mohammad Shahabuddin (India)
In a country that appears to be run by competing criminal organizations, Shahabuddin is the standard against which all of the many criminal politicians in India are measured. From campaigning from prison to releasing selfies while jailed, slapping around police officers, and killing off hostile witnesses and journalists, Shahabuddin lives large. A notorious crime figure before his long career as a PM, Shahabuddin has racked up 75 arrests, ten convictions, and has 45 cases pending since he began his political ascension. Recently, he was released from jail after being acquitted in a triple murder case that was disputed in court for 28 years and is now free to continue his political career if he so wishes.
6. Nelson Castro's life of crime primed him for a career in politics
By 2008, Castro had already compiled a record of criminal arrests in two states and had lied in court about voter registration fraud inside his own Bronx apartment.
And that was before he got elected to office.
Bronx Democratic Party leaders anointed Castro in the summer of that year to fill a spot on the Democratic primary ballot for the 86th Assembly District. This was after the incumbent Luis Diaz suddenly resigned to take a job in state government.
Castro was a former staff member for State Sen. Adriano Espaillat and the party bosses were eager to elect a young Dominican politician in the South Bronx, where the Dominican population was growing rapidly.
"We knew Nelson had had some legal troubles before, but no one had any idea at first how bad they were," said one leader who participated in Castro's selection.
Those "troubles" included a 1989 felony arrest in Michigan for larceny.
Michigan court records obtained by the Daily News show that Castro, who was 19 at the time, pled guilty to a misdemeanor conspiracy and was sentenced to 180 days probation.
In 2003, Castro was arrested again in New York, this time for grand larceny. He was accused of pocketing $4,900 in unemployment checks while holding a job. He pled guilty to petty larceny, repaid the money and was slapped with three years probation.
Then in March 2008, Castro was arrested a third time — for driving in East Harlem with a revoked license and as a scofflaw who owed more than $3,000 in parking tickets.
By the time the party leaders learned the details of his run-ins with the law, they'd already put him on the ballot.
"It was an embarrassment because no one had vetted him, so everyone decided to ignore it," the former leader admitted.
"This guy couldn't be trusted from day one, and lots of people knew it," said Mike Soto, a community leader and reformer who has run unsuccessfully for office in the Bronx several times.
Even more disturbing revelations followed.
That August, Soto ran against Castro and sued in Bronx state Supreme Court to throw him off the ballot. In addition to being the choice of the party bosses for the Assembly, Castro had filed nominating petitions for local district leader, and Soto claimed that Castro and his campaign had orchestrated voter registration fraud.
During the hearing before Special Referee Mary Lynn Dlabola, evidence emerged that 10 people were registered to vote from Castro's one-bedroom apartment at 2269 Hampden Place.
In addition to Castro and his fiancée, the other eight included Castro's cousin, his aunt and uncle, two relatives of his fiancée, and three people who were key figures in the Castro campaign. Most had registered to vote only months before.
But Castro testified in the hearing that he and his fiancée lived alone and that he had no idea all those people were registered there.
Asked why so many people were claiming to live in the same tiny apartment, Castro's lawyer claimed at one point that it was a "common practice in the Dominican community for families to take in relatives."
Dlabola, the special referee, called Castro's testimony "incredible in light of the fact that the majority of the individuals registered at this address are close relatives of the candidate, or individuals involved in his campaign."
She noted that he was "evasive" when questioned on the stand.
Castro also told the court he did not know a man who was actually his coordinator of volunteers. That man happened to have 15 other people registered to vote at his home address.
Despite these "egregious irregularities" in voter registration connected to Castro's campaign, Dlabola did not remove him from the ballot for the Assembly seat because he had been handed that spot through a separate process — by the party leaders.
Her conclusions, however, triggered an investigation by Bronx District Attorney Robert Johnson, and that investigation led the following year to a sealed indictment against Castro for perjury.
And it was that 2009 indictment that eventually ended in Castro agreeing to become undercover informant and wearing a wire to uncover fellow corrupt politicians.
For more than three years, Castro’s dual role in the Bronx remained a secret. It was finally revealed on Thursday, after the arrest of fellow Bronx Assemblyman Eric Stevenson.
The criminal complaint charging Stevenson noted that he was brought down with the help of an individual it identified only as “Assemblyman-1.” The complaint said “Assemblyman-1” was cooperating under a deal in which the Bronx D.A. would drop a charge of perjury and not prosecute him “for certain other offenses.”
A short time later, Castro issued a written statement revealing his undercover work.
“Today I announce that I am resigning my seat in the New York State Assembly, effective Monday, April 8, 2013,” Castro said.
“On July 31, 2009, I was indicted by a Bronx County Grand Jury for committing perjury in a 2008 civil matter, held prior to my election to the Assembly. I appreciate the seriousness of my misconduct. Thereafter, I agreed to cooperate with the Bronx District Attorney's Office and, later, the United States Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York, in conjunction with various investigations aimed at rooting out public corruption,” he said.
“As one result of this cooperation, among other things, this morning a complaint was unsealed ... charging Assemblyman Eric Stevenson and four others with various federal crimes. I continue to cooperate with State and Federal authorities in this prosecution and in other investigations,” Castro added.
That means, though, that for several years prosecutors allowed a person they knew to be a crook to publicly act like he was representing the 86th Assembly District.
So low has politics sunk in this city that people with rap sheets and perjurers are allowed to work in Albany just to catch other crooked politicians?
Oh, and those parking tickets.
By 2010, Castro owed more than $8,600 in tickets.
Asked about his continuing life as a scofflaw, Castro said: "$9,000, really? I know I have $600 in parking tickets."
7. Felony convictions linked to sexual fetish 'haunt me,' Saginaw state House candidate says
But a checkered past that includes stints in prison systems in two states and his current status as a parolee does not preclude the 24-year-old Saginaw man from running for office.
Haskins says he knows his criminal record works against him, but he's undeterred.
"Those are things that haunt me to this day," Haskins said. "I'm just trying to move on from that and do what I can."
Haskins' criminal charges stem from trespassing on private and public property in four cases from April 2010 to January 2011, when he was sent to prison. As part of the break-ins, he started vehicles to facilitate an uncommon sexual fetish Haskins called "cranking" in interviews with police.
Haskins says his life has changed and he hopes voters will see him not for what he once was, but for who he is and what he wants to do for his community.
"I have dreams, and I want to make a difference," he said.
Come November, Haskins will appear as the Republican candidate on the ballot seeking election to Michigan's 95th District House seat. State Rep. Stacy Erwin Oakes, D-Saginaw, created a wide-open race when she announced her plan to run for state Senate.
Haskins will face the winner of the August Democratic primary, in which Norman Braddock, a former Saginaw city councilman, and Bridgeport Township Trustee Vanessa Guerra are facing off.
The 95th District consists of the cities of Saginaw and Zilwaukee and the townships of Kochville, Zilwaukee, Carrollton, Buena Vista, Bridgeport, Spaulding and James.
'Young and stupid'
Haskins' legal trouble dates to his teen years, prison records show.
Haskins said he has a juvenile record that includes break-in-related charges from when he was 15. He said he spent two days in a juvenile facility.
Haskins said his crimes focused mainly on breaking into cars and joyriding.
"I was just a lonely, angry kid at the time," he said. "If anything, I could be put on 'World's Dumbest Criminals.'"
Haskins said he was drawn to criminal behavior for the "the thrill."
"I was bored," he said. "It was the rush."
Haskins grew up in Saginaw and lived in Raleigh, North Carolina, from 2006 to 2010.
North Carolina's Department of Public Safety reports a lengthy list of sentences to prison, county jail and probation for offenses Haskins committed in 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009. The offenses include breaking and entering, larceny and trespassing.
After moving to Michigan, Haskins faced multiple charges for similar offenses in 2010 and 2011.
Haskins was released from North Carolina's state prison system in August 2009.
Seven months later, he committed his first offense in Michigan. It resulted in a sentence of 55 days in jail, plus a probation term.
Misdemeanor charges of unlawful use of a motor vehicle and malicious destruction of property resulted from separate incidents in both March and April 2010 at the Saginaw County Mosquito Control property at 211 Congress in Saginaw.
Haskins admitted to police that, on both occasions, he broke into the yard where vehicles were parked, incident reports from the Saginaw County Sheriff's Department show. He said he pulled spark plug wires on sheriff, mosquito control and other vehicles parked there.
"Jordan would remove the spark plug wires and sit in the car and masturbate while the motor was sparking and making noises," the police report states.
Haskins was charged with additional misdemeanor offenses related to a third incident at the mosquito control property in October 2010.
According to that incident report, Haskins again said that he damaged county vehicles by pulling spark plug wires to "masturbate while cranking the engine." Deputies said he told them the act is a sexual fetish he learned about online.
Haskins told The Saginaw News that he has difficulty explaining what drove him to again and again repeat that behavior.
"I was in a messed-up state of mind mentally and emotionally when I did what I did," he said. "That's the only way I can even explain it."
After pleading guilty to charges in the 2010 cases, Haskins was sentenced to 55 days in jail and a one-year probation term. He violated probation in October 2011 when he was found guilty of several new felony offenses related to a similar incident that took place in January 2011.
According to police reports, Haskins said he jumped a fence at the city of Saginaw's parking lot at 1435 S. Washington on Jan. 7, 2011. He told sheriff's deputies in a later interview that he went joyriding in the parking lot and masturbated in a city police cruiser and a city pickup, the report shows.
On Jan. 24, 2011, according to police reports, Haskins jumped a chain-link fence and opened a garage door at Scientific Brake, 314 W. Genesee. Then he drove a truck on the grounds, he told police. Again, police reports state he admitted to "listening to the engine idle and masturbating."
The charges in the Jan. 7, 2011, incident were dismissed as part of a plea agreement in the Scientific Brake case. Haskins pleaded no contest in September 2011 to counts of breaking and entering a building with intent, unlawful driving away of an automobile and malicious destruction of personal property. Haskins was sentenced to one year and eight months in prison and was ordered to pay $10,430 in restitution.
8. Mayor Joe Ganim (Bridgeport, Connecticut)
9. A Murderer Turned Politician Let loose to kill again
British tourist Kuram Shaikah Zaman was murdered while his friend, Russian national Victoria Alexandrovna, was viciously assaulted during a visit to a tourist resort in Tangalle.
According to the International Committee of Red Cross, Zaman worked in the Gaza Strip fitting prosthetic limbs.
Police say the Chairman of the Tangalle Pradeshiya Sabha, Sampath Vidanapathirana is the main suspect in this case.
The politician allegedly stabbed and then gunned down Zaman, a British national of Israeli origin, on the dance floor of The Nature Tangalle.
An eye witness recalled witnessing the sexual assault of Alexandrovna, although charges are yet to be confirmed by authorities.
The tragedy spells disaster for the government’s ‘Visit Sri Lankan’ campaign which has predicted a tourism boom in the next five years.
32 year old Zaman and 23 year old Victoria were in Sri Lanka to celebrate Christmas and see the New Year in together in the picturesque town of Tangalle.
Zaman reportedly organized a Christmas party for his friends to celebrate the holiday season at The Nature Tangalle. However what began as an innocent night with loved ones has ended in bloodshed and an international media frenzy.
The suspect Vidanapathirana, who is known to be a close confidante of MP Namal Rajapaksa, allegedly stabbed Zaman to death at The Nature Tangalle while the victim attempted to settle a brawl between the politician and a local restaurant owner known as Ryan.
Ryan told The Sunday Leader, “It was around 10 p.m. when Vidanapathirana and eleven others walked into the resort to have some dinner and drinks. I was dancing with two foreign girls”.
“The altercation began because none of the foreign girls wanted to dance with Vidanapathirana. He and his companions then assaulted me and a brawl broke out. It was at this time that Zaman and his friend rushed to the scene from the pool side. When the British tourist tried to settle the fight, Vidanapathirana attacked Zaman with broken bottles”.
Ryan described the growing intensity of the attack saying, “Zaman and Victoria were cut several times before they ran for their lives. I watched as Vidanapathirana and his men followed the couple with a T56 weapon and empty bottles in hand. Since I was hiding behind a wall I could not see exactly how the tourist was killed but I witnessed Victoria being dragged away by four men”.
The scene Ryan goes on to describe is a disturbing one, “they stripped and raped her mercilessly although she was bleeding from her head. Later I saw Zaman lying on the lawn next to the restaurant but did not know whether he was dead or alive,” he added.
While running to the beach for safety, Ryan cannot recall who took the injured to hospital or how Vidanapathirana and his men fled the scene.
“I only came back when I heard the vehicles leaving the hotel. When I returned I saw many tourists fleeing the hotel in fear,” he said.
According to Ryan, the police arrived one hour after the incident and all hotel staff were prohibited from leaving or giving statements.
“All those who were in the hotel when the police arrived were held there for three days for questioning,” he said.
Following the attack, the two tourists were rushed to Tangalle hospital where Zaman was later pronounced dead.
Suffering stab wounds to the head, Alexandrovna was immediately transferred to the Matara General Hospital and later to the Karapitiya Teaching Hospital for an urgent operation. She is now confined to a hospital bed at the Lanka Hospitals in Colombo.
According to the Director of the Karapitiya Teaching Hospital, Dr. Priyani Senadheera, Alexandrovna was brought to Karapitiya for a brain CT scan.
In an exclusive interview, Dr. Senadheera told The Sunday Leader, “The patient suffered a blunt trauma and has sustained a skull fracture. She was immediately admitted to the emergency trauma unit and was taken for an urgent operation. She was kept in the High Dependence Unit of the Neurosurgical Unit until she was transferred to Lanka Hospitals on Tuesday December 27. This was requested by the Chairman of the Sri Lanka Tourist Board Dr. Nalaka Godahewa”.
According to Dr. Senadheera, the Chairman of the Tourist Board made a special visit to the Karapitiya Hospital on Monday December 26, to see Alexandrovna and make arrangements to have her transferred to Lanka Hospitals.
Along with increased care and comfortable quarters, a reliable source from the Karapitiya Hospital told The Sunday Leader that the patient was given a police escort to the ambulance which then transferred her to Colombo.
The care did not stop there. The source explained that, “in addition to the police escort, two uniformed policemen guarded the High Dependence Unit preventing the media from approaching her. Since she is the only person to recall the disturbing incident clearly, the government is trying to prevent her from talking to the media”. The informant wished to remain anonymous.
Sources expressed their concern to The Sunday Leader, that the Buddhist leaders of this country who observe sil and listen to bana every Poya day are the same individuals who give refuge to the criminals who terrorize civilians and tourists on a daily basis.
All sources including the eyewitness told The Sunday Leader they wished to remain anonymous as they fear for their lives. Each informant willingly spoke to the newspaper with a desire to educate the people about the true state of affairs in Tangalle over the past few years. For them, Tangalle and Hambantota are becoming the most dangerous cities in the country.
“Tangalle was one a peaceful town. But if things continue this way it will become one of the most dreadful places to live in” they said.
These people live in constant fear that their families will be attacked by ruling political groups who keep a tight reign on information disseminated to the media.
The Tangalle police have also come under fire from residents, accusing them of not arresting the main suspect immediately after the incident even though they were aware of his location.
“The Tangalle police knew where Vidanapathirana was taking refuge, but did not take any action because of his connection to high level political families in the district,” an angry holiday resort worker explained.
“It is jungle law that prevails in this part of the country. Law and order do not exist in Tangalle, Hambantota and other areas in the district. Anyone with connections to high level political families will not be prosecuted after committing criminal offences”.
This explains why Vidanapathirana was released after murdering an elderly woman in Thalunna in the run-up to the 2010 Presidential elections.
Neighbouring resort workers now fear for their jobs in the wake of this incident. It is clear that the attack will prove to be a major set back for the tourism industry in Tangalle and indeed Sri Lanka.
Outraged workers told The Sunday Leader they have lost faith in the Sri Lankan police and judicial systems as politicians consistently skip prosecution after committing some of the most heinous crimes.
“When Vidanapathirana was arrested for murdering an elderly woman, the police submitted a medical report to the courts stating he was mentally ill. He was later released on those grounds. If Vidanapathirana is mentally ill, why then is he allowed to continue working in politics?”
The question remains as to whether the police will follow the same course of action in this case. Sources told The Sunday Leader that, following Vidanapathirana’s surrender to the Tangalle police on December 26, authorities from the highest levels of government requested that the officers arrange a comfortable room for Vidanapathirana in the police station.
It is also believed that Vidanapathirana has been directly involved in several other crimes in Tangalle and Hambantota over the past several years.
“Even before he was elected to the Pradeshiya Sabha, Vidanapathirana had committed many crimes with a pistol that he owned. During the last local government election he damaged UNP MP Sajith Premadasa’s vehicle, vandalized the house of a southern provincial council member and has even threatened his own party members,” sources said.
Meanwhile almost all tourists holidaying in nearby resorts had checked out immediately after the incident.
“Although there were several bookings up to mid-January we are concerned about the growing number of cancellations since then. We had great hopes for the winter season but there seems to be a bleak forecast in the wake of this killing”.
When The Sunday Leader visited the Nature Resort Tangalle, the media were prohibited from entering the premises. However our staff photographer was able to capture photos over the parapet wall. The photographs reveal police on constant guard at the hotel and staff running to hide themselves from being photographed.
When The Sunday Leader visited Lanka Hospitals to speak with Alexandrovna in the Intensive Care Unit, permission was not granted. The Chief Executive Officer Lakith Peiris spoke to the newspaper over the phone and explained that only Russian Embassy officials are permitted to see her.
“Her condition has improved a lot and she is recuperating. No visitors other than embassy officials are allowed,” he said.
When asked as to why police protection was given to her, he first said that he does not know but later revealed that it was on request of the Russian Embassy.
“There are three police constables and hospital OICs in the ward. Sources say although the patient is recuperating, she is suffering from a conjunctival hemorrhage in her eye due to injuries sustained to her forehead,” the sources said.
Meanwhile Police Spokesperson SP Ajith Rohana said that Zaman died on admission to Tangalle hospital due to fatal injuries to the neck from a sharp object. Rohana says the gunshot injury he sustained to his head was not as serious as the stab wounds which were the cause of death.
“He died due to stab injuries to the neck and according to the JMO’s report the bullets did not penetrate his skull. The death was due to stab injuries to his neck with a sharp object,” said SP Rohana.
SP Rohana also revealed that although onlookers recalled seeing a T56 used in the attack, it was not the weapon which was used to shoot Zaman.
According to SP Rohana, six suspects including five main suspects and the driver of the vehicle were remanded on Tuesday December 27 and will remain in custody until January 6, 2012 as ordered by the Tangalle Chief Magistrate.
“They will be produced on January 6 for an identification parade,” he said.
SP Rohana revealed that Alexandrovna has been given full security as she is a key witness in this tragedy. “She was in a terrible condition upon admission so we had to provide security until she recovered sufficiently to give a statement. In addition to this, the patient is a foreigner and there is no one for her in this country. So we provided extensive security for her until she leaves the country. We are not sure what plans the perpetrators have for her if she is left unprotected,” he added.
When asked why the police did not allow media presence at the scene of crime after three full days, SP Rohana said it is general practice to seal off a crime scene until all investigations are completed.
He denied any allegations against the Tangalle police for providing special quarters to Vidanapathirana. “This is a baseless allegation. When I checked with the Tangalle police I was informed that the main suspect spent the night in a cell with all the other suspects,” he explained.
Meanwhile UPFA General Secretary and Petroleum Minister Susil Premjayantha has said that stern disciplinary action will be taken to reprimand the Tangalle PS Chairman.
“It is not only this instance. There have been several cases he has been involved in since the local government elections. Once the case is filed in court we will appoint a committee to take disciplinary action against Vidanapathirana and all UPFA members who commit crimes,” he said.
When asked why Vidanapathirana was nominated to the party since his arrest and subsequent release from a previous crime, Minister Premjayantha said he only signs the nomination paper approved by the district leaders and does not know the individuals personally.
Minister Premjayantha told The Sunday Leader, “It is the district leader who must take responsibility in such a case. I do not however, have any suspicions in this instance, I believe the police will do their job without any prejudice”.
ICRC Sri Lanka Spokesperson Sarasi Wijeratne told The Sunday Leader that Zaman was a dedicated ICRC worker in the Gaza Strip and his absence will be felt terribly.
“We are sure that justice will prevail and the culprits will be punished,” said Wijeratne.
President of the Tourist Hotels Association of Sri Lanka Anura Lokuhetti insisted to The Sunday Leader that this random act of violence must be left behind.
“There is no reason to talk too much about this as it is not good for the tourism industry. These things happen regularly in other countries but are left behind in favour of working towards the betterment of the industry and the country as a whole. This was a horrible incident. We have a duty of care to our guests. Those who were involved in this murder should be punished immediately,” Lokuhetti said.
10. Horacio Cartes: Millionaire. Criminal. Business titan. Homophobe. The next president of Paraguay?
Mr Cartes is one of Paraguay’s most influential figures. Over the past two decades the businessman has built up a powerful empire. He owns some 25 companies, spanning the drinks industry, meat production and tobacco, employing thousands. Since 2001, he has also been president of Libertad football club. But damning allegations continue to swirl.
“Cartes has bought farms, a drinks bottling company and a football team,” says Chiqui Avalos, author of The Other Side of HC, an exposé of the leader. “He has also bought a political party and now he might be able to buy a country. This would be terrible.”
The most serious smear against the 56-year-old involves drug trafficking and contraband cigarettes. In 2011, WikiLeaks cables originating from the US embassy in Buenos Aires placed him at the centre of a drugs and money-laundering network operating out of the lawless frontier with Argentina and Brazil. Mr Cartes has publicly denied the allegations and says he has received assurances from the embassy that the US Drugs Enforcement Agency and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms are conducting no investigations against him, something the cables allege.
But the drugs scandals are nothing new. In 2000, drugs enforcement officers intercepted a small plane on one of Mr Cartes’s farms carrying a cargo of of cocaine and marijuana. Mr Cartes said that an unknown plane landing on his property had nothing to do with him.
“When it comes to drug trafficking, Horacio has made it clear what his position is,” says Julio Velazquez, a Colorado senator standing for re-election tomorrow. “There’s no concrete allegation against him. Horacio has investments in the US. Do you think the Americans would allow a narco to bring money into their country?”
Mr Cartes has spent millions of dollars financing his campaign. A political outsider, he only joined the Colorado Party in 2009, the same year he added his name to the electoral register, meaning he had never voted in a Paraguayan election before. In the past, potential Colorado presidential candidates needed to have been party members for 10 years; Mr Cartes had the law overturned.
No expense has been spared bringing in top advisers to oversee his campaign. The focus has been Mr Cartes’s success as a businessman, an idea underlined by Senator Velazquez who mentions his “vision for investment”.
“Cartes obeyed his advisers for much of his campaign,” explains author Chiqui Avalos. “He didn’t open his mouth. The campaign was focused on the Cartes Group, his business interests and the work he’s given people. But in the last two months he has begun giving his own talks – and the results have been terrifying.”
The Colorado leader’s recent ability to put his foot in his own mouth has led the left-wing presidential candidate Mario Ferreiro to state that “a silent Cartes was a mystery. Talking he’s a disaster”. His most polemical statements have centred on his admiration for the traditional Paraguayan family while comparing the LGBT community to “monkeys”. Earlier in the month he said he would “shoot myself in the b*****ks” if he were to discover a son who wanted to marry another man.
“Cartes’s comments are completely immoral,” Sergio Lopez, head of SomosGay, a LGBT organisation based in Asuncion, tells The Independent.
The most recent scandal, however, has been allegations of a secret offshore account in the Cook Islands run by the bank he owns, Amambay Trust, illegal since 2003 according to Paraguayan law. Senator Velazquez says the story is dirt-digging from the opposition and that although the bank was created “there was no movement of cash within it”. So why was it created in the first place? “I’m not in a position to answer that,” he replies.
Mr Cartes isn’t quite the runaway victor he once was, due to the scandals that have stuck to him and a recent alliance the second-placed Liberal candidate Efrain Alegre has made with another party. A poll gave him 47.6 per cent of the vote while Mr Alegre trailed with 32.5 per cent. Some commentators says the margin has now shrunk.
But the Colorado Party is a colossal machine and doesn’t get knocked down easily. Before the leftist former priest Fernando Lugo came to power in 2008, the Colorados had enjoyed an uninterrupted spell of 60 years in power, including the controversial dictatorship of Alfredo Stroessner, Latin America’s longest serving despot. To this day, more people are card-carrying Colorado Party members than any other movement.
“The Colorado Party created this strong patronage system,” says Antonio Soljancic, a social scientist at the Autonomous University of Asuncion. “So in order to get a job you had to show you were a party member. The problem Paraguay has is that, although Stroessner disappeared from the political map, he left a legacy that no one has tried to bury.” For Chiqui Avalos there is still fear surrounding the Colorado Party, making it impossible for him to find publishers for his book. “I think many people will be voting for Cartes out of fear more than anything else,” he says.