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Former Fiji leader Frank Bainimarama, suspended police chief avoid jail in corruption case



Frank Bainimarama was given an absolute discharge in a packed Suva’s Magistrates Court on Thursday after last week being convicted of perverting the course of justice.

An absolute discharge is the lowest-level sentence that an offender can get. It means no conviction is registered against Bainimarama.

State broadcaster FBC reports, Magistrate Seini Puamau considered Bainimarama’s health.

The 69-year-old was sentenced alongside suspended police chief Sitiveni Qiliho, who was given a FJ$1500 fine without conviction as well.

The absolute discharge and a fine without conviction was given despite the prosecutors last week urging Magistrate Puamau to order immediate custodial sentences towards the high end of the tariff for both men – which would be no less than five years in jail for Bainimarama and 10 years for Qiliho.

Source : RNZ

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One confirmed dead in Air Taxi Vanuatu plane crash



A man has died from injuries sustained in an Air Taxi Vanuatu plane when it crashed in Montmartre plantation near the capital Port Vila on Monday.

A spokesperson from Vanuatu Tourism confirmed to RNZ Pacific that he was one of the five people aboard.

The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) said the male passenger who was hospitalised on Monday, died due to injuries he has sustained on Tuesday morning.

The CAA were unable to comment further as an investigation is underway and are expected to provide a report in the coming days.

This is Air Taxi’s second plane crash this year following its first in Sola, Vanualava Island, where the Finance Minister John Salong was a passenger on board the aircraft.

Another incident occured in January 2023, but all five passengers walked away unharmed.

An eyewitness told the Vanuatu Daily Post that the aircraft attempted to land on the Montmartre football field initially, but changed direction because the field was crowded with students for their sports day, and landed in the plantation.

“I was at home when the students yelled about the plane crash, and we could smell the aftermath of the crash. This was around 3:30 pm,” the eyewitness was quoted saying.

Director of Tourism, Paul Pio, said locals were onboard the plane.

“We are very saddened by what is a tragic event that happened with the crash. From the information that we recieved there is no tourists or international visitors on that flight.”

Air Taxi Vanuatu offers aerial tours of coral reefs, live volcanoes and waterfalls.

It was also a ‘Trip Advisor Travellers Choice Awards Winner’ for 2024.

RNZ Pacific requested an interview with Air Taxi Vanuatu but found it has temporarily suspended its service.

“It is a very tragic moment for us not only from a tourist perspective but for the entire nation which relies heaviy on aviation connectivity,” Pio said.

“In our current situation we unfortunately have very limited air capacity for domestic services. We rely heavily on those carrriers to be able to transport visitors and local public to travel around Vanuatu,” he said.

In May, the country’s main airline for international travel Air Vanuatu abruptly shut down and suspended its flights due to sudden liquidation.


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2024 could be world’s hottest year as June breaks records



Last month was the hottest June on record, the EU’s climate change monitoring service said on Monday, continuing a streak of exceptional temperatures that some scientists said puts 2024 on track to be the world’s hottest recorded year.

Every month since June 2023 – 13 months in a row – has ranked as the planet’s hottest since records began, compared with the corresponding month in previous years, the European Union’s Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S) said in a monthly bulletin.

The latest data suggest 2024 could outrank 2023 as the hottest year since records began after human-caused climate change and the El Niño natural weather phenomenon both pushed temperatures to record highs in the year so far, some scientists said.

“I now estimate that there is an approximately 95% chance that 2024 beats 2023 to be the warmest year since global surface temperature records began in the mid-1800s,” said Zeke Hausfather, a research scientist at Berkeley Earth.

The changed climate has already unleashed disastrous consequences around the world in 2024.

More than 1,000 people died in fierce heat during the haj pilgrimage last month. Heat deaths were recorded in New Dehli, which endured an unprecedentedly long heatwave, and amongst Greek tourists.

Friederike Otto, a climate scientist at Imperial College London’s Grantham Institute, said there was a “high chance” 2024 would rank as the hottest year on record.

“El Nino is a naturally occurring phenomenon that will always come and go. We can’t stop El Niño, but we can stop burning oil, gas, and coal,” she said.

The natural El Niño phenomenon, which warms the surface waters in the eastern Pacific Ocean, tends to raise global average temperatures.

That effect subsided in recent months, with the world now in neutral conditions before cooler La Niña conditions are expected to form later this year.

Greenhouse gas emissions from burning fossil fuels are the main cause of climate change.

Despite promises to curb global warming, countries have so far failed collectively to reduce these emissions, pushing temperatures steadily higher for decades.

In the 12 months ending in June, the world’s average temperature was the highest on record for any such period, at 1.64 degrees Celsius above the average in the 1850-1900 pre-industrial period, C3S said.

Source: Reuters and RNZ

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Tate brothers accused of being serial tax evaders



Controversial social media personality Andrew Tate and his brother, Tristan, have been accused of failing to pay any tax on £21 million (NZ$44m) of revenue from their online businesses.

Devon and Cornwall police are bringing a civil claim against the brothers and a third person, referred to only as J.

They are accused of paying no tax in any country on their online business revenue between 2014 and 2022.

The force is seeking to recover around £2.8m in seven frozen bank accounts, an application the three defendants are contesting.

“Andrew Tate and Tristan Tate are serial tax and VAT evaders,” Sarah Clarke KC for Devon and Cornwall Police told Westminster Magistrates’ Court on Monday.

“They, in particular Andrew Tate, are brazen about it.”

Clarke quoted from a video posted online by Andrew Tate, in which he said: “When I lived in England I refused to pay tax.”

The court heard he said his approach was “ignore, ignore, ignore because in the end they go away”.

The court also heard that the brothers had “a huge number of bank accounts” in the UK, seven of which have been frozen.

Clarke said the money – from various products sold on websites including OnlyFans – had been “washed around” a huge number of UK bank accounts.

As well as owning extensive land, property and vehicles in Romania, the Tates had spent their earnings on “fast cars and property”, Clarke said.

“That’s what tax evasion looks like, that’s what money laundering looks like,” she told the court.

The brothers are accused of paying just under $12m into an account in J’s name, and opening a second account in her name, even though she had no role in their businesses, the court heard.

Devon and Cornwall Police allege that this was fraud by false misrepresentation.

Clarke said all three would not provide any evidence in the case.

Money from the brothers’ businesses including Cobra Tate, Hustlers’ University and War Room was paid into the first account, held with payment service provider Stripe.

It was opened in February 2019 in J’s name with an incorrect date of birth, the court heard. Driving licences belonging to both Andrew Tate and J were later submitted to Stripe as proof of identity and address.

The majority of payments out of this account went to one of Andrew Tate’s accounts, the court heard.

J also moved money through her own Revolut bank account, including one payment of £805,000, the court heard.

Of this, £495,000 was paid to Andrew Tate, and £75,000 to an account in J’s name that was later converted to cryptocurrency, it is alleged.

The proceedings are civil, which uses a lower standard of proof than criminal cases.

Chief Magistrate Paul Goldspring will decide on the balance of probabilities whether what the police claim is true.

The case was adjourned until Tuesday.

Andrew Tate is a self-described misogynist and was previously banned from social media platforms for expressing misogynistic views.

In a separate case in Romania, the Tate brothers, former kickboxers who are dual UK-US nationals, are accused of exploiting women via an adult content business, which prosecutors allege operated as a criminal group.

Two female Romanian associates were also named alongside the brothers in an indictment published in June last year, and seven alleged victims were identified.

Andrew Tate has repeatedly claimed Romanian prosecutors have no evidence against him and there is a conspiracy to silence him.

The internet personalities are also wanted in the UK over alleged sexual offences, which they deny.

Source: BBC and RNZ

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