From the monthly archives: July 2014

 


Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “How common are plane crashes?” was written by Aisha Gani, for The Guardian on Thursday 24th July 2014 16.20 UTC

There have been three aviation disasters in the last week: the shooting down last Thursday of the Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine, killing all 283 passengers and 15 crew, the crashing of TransAsia Airways flight GE222 while trying to land at a Taiwanese airport on Wednesday, killing 48 and injuring 10, and the crashing today of Air Algérie flight AH5017‬ from Burkino Faso to Algiers, which was carrying 110 passengers and six crew members.

It seems as though such crashes are happening very frequently at present – but, statistically, how common are plane crashes?

Last year, while more than 3 billion people flew safely on 36.4 million flights, there were 81 aviation accidents, according to the International Air Transport Association (IATA). That was below the five-year average of 86 accidents per year, and the equivalent of one accident per 2.4 million flights.

Last year, while more than 3 billion people flew safely on 36.4 million flights, there were 81 aviation accidents, according to the International Air Transport Association (Iata). That was below the five-year average of 86 accidents per year. (Iata says that for western-built jet aircraft, there were 0.41 "hull loss" accidents per million flights in 2013, equivalent to one such accident per 2.4m flights; a "hull loss" is an accident in which the aircraft is destroyed or substantially damaged and not subsequently repaired).

Only 20% of the 81 accidents recorded by Iata last year caused fatalities; there were 210 fatalities from commercial aviation accidents in 2013, a reduction from the 414 people who lost their lives in 2012 – despite there being a record low of 75 accidents that year.

There were 490 deaths in 2011 and a total of 92 accidents. There was a much higher figure of 786 fatalities in 2010, and 94 accidents. In 2009, there were 685 fatalities and 90 accidents.

This year's high-profile disasters have put the number of fatalities for 2014 at above 700 already – indicating that this is a particularly bad year for air crashes.

Nevertheless, flying has become safer over the last two decades. Between 2001 and 2010 the accident rate was cut by 42%, and two decades ago there were around 2,000 deaths and 250 crashes per year.

The single worst aviation disaster in history before 9/11 was the 1977 Tenerife airport disaster, in which 583 people were killed in a runway collision between two Boeing 747s at Los Rodeos Airport.

• This article was amended on 25 July 2014. An earlier version suggested that the 81 accidents recorded by Iata in 2013 were the equivalent of one accident per 2.4 million flights.

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Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “The Guardian view on America’s botched executions” was written by Editorial, for The Guardian on Thursday 24th July 2014 18.37 UTC

On Wednesday, Arizona took an hour and 58 minutes to execute Joseph Wood, a convicted murderer. Injected with a lethal mix of sedatives and painkillers, Wood was seen to be “gasping and snorting” for more than an hour and was confirmed to be still alive after 70 minutes. One eyewitness counted 660 gasps. Another said Wood was “like a fish on shore gulping for air”. Wood’s death took so long that his lawyers had time to file an emergency appeal while the procedure was taking place.

The eighth amendment to the US constitution outlaws the use of cruel and unusual punishment, but the US supreme court has ruled that the death penalty does not violate that ban. Many would disagree. Penal Reform International classes the death penalty as the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment and more than two-thirds of the world’s nations have now abolished it either in law or in practice, as have 18 US states. Whatever one’s opinion in principle about capital punishment, it is hard not to see Wood’s killing as anything other than needlessly cruel and unusual punishment. It was a shameful act for a civilised country.

Yet it was not exceptional. The Wood execution has many echoes of the botched execution by injection of Clayton Lockett in Oklahoma in April. Similar distress marked the execution of Dennis McGuire in Ohio in January. There have been several other cases – including of botched electrocutions and asphyxiations – since the US restarted executions in 1977.

Amnesty International classes the United States as one of the world’s nine “persistent executioner” states – those which have executed criminals in each of the past five years. The others are Bangladesh, China (which is estimated to execute more prisoners than the whole of the rest of the world put together – all in secret, unlike those in the US), Iran, Iraq, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Yemen. Executions in the US have fallen by half in the past 15 years and the US kills far fewer prisoners than China, Iran and Iraq in particular. But this is not a club to which America should be comfortable belonging. It does massive international damage to the US’s reputation.

Capital punishment remains destructively entangled in America’s culture wars. If it is to continue, the US will have to devise a swifter form of licensed execution. The current shambles, much of it the result of desperation in the face of welcome global campaigns against the suppliers of lethal drugs, has created an intolerable situation for prisoners and the nation alike. Until it is fixed, US states should suspend the death penalty. What the US really needs, though, is to find dignified ways to face up to, as a nation, the failure and damage that are associated with a punishment that is now so clearly, in and of itself, both cruel and unusual.

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Ouagadougou airport


Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Air Algérie flight AH5017 wreckage ‘found in Mali'” was written by Kim Willsher in Paris and Monica Mark, west Africa correspondent, for theguardian.com on Thursday 24th July 2014 15.07 UTC

The wreckage of Air Algérie flight AH5017 from Burkina Faso to Algeria, which disappeared from radar with 116 people on board, has been discovered in Tilemsi, Mali, it was claimed on Thursday. However, searches were later said to be continuing.

The French media is quoting Zoheir Houaoui of Air Algérie as saying the plane was carrying 50 French passengers, six Algerians, one Malian, one Belgian, two from Luxembourg, five Canadians, one from Cameroon, four Germans, one Nigerian, eight Lebanese, one Romanian, 24 from Burkino Faso and six so far unidentified passengers. The six crew members – two pilots and four stewards – were all Spanish.

The French president, François Hollande, has called an emergency meeting with the prime minister, Manuel Valls, foreign minister, Laurent Fabius, defence minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, as well as the interior and the transport ministers, for 5pm French time.

Air traffic controllers lost contact with the Swiftair-owned MD-83 about 50 minutes after takeoff at 1.17am local time (0117 GMT), said an Algerian aviation official. The news was not made public until several hours after the flight's scheduled 5.10am arrival in Algiers, by which time officials from Algeria, Burkina Faso and France had issued conflicting details.

algeria plane missing3

The flight path of the plane from Burkina Faso's capital, Ouagadougou, was not immediately clear. The city is in a nearly straight line south of Algiers, passing over Mali, where unrest continues. Rebels who have seized the northern fringe of Mali do not have weapons capable of bringing down a commercial jet at cruising altitude, a Malian official told the Guardian. "What they have is shoulder-fired weapons, and rocket-propelled grenades."

The flight had asked to change route at 1.38am because of a storm, Burkina Faso's transport authorities said. Powerful sandstorms are frequent throughout the Sahara's northern belt around this time of year. Aviation officials in Burkina said they had handed the flight to a control tower in Niger's capital, Niamey, at 1.38am, and that last contact was at about 4.30am. That contradicted an Algerian aviation official, who said the last contact was at 0155 GMT when the plane was flying over Gao, Mali.

Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, the president of Mali, said on Thursday night that the wreckage had been spotted between Aguelhoc and Kidal but did not give details. Two French Mirage-2000 planes were searching the largely inaccessible region of Gao in northern Mali.

Hollande said: "The search will go on for as long as necessary and everything will be done to find this aircraft."

According to the Spanish sports daily Marca, the SwiftAir aircraft was used as the official aircraft for Real Madrid FC between 2007 and 2009.

The French radio station Europe 1 suggested it had been told the number of French on board could be as high as 80. The French transport ministry would only confirm "a number" of French people were on the plane. Of the French passengers, 22 were due to transfer to flights to Paris or Marseilles after landing at Algiers.

French troops are in Mali as part of the ongoing Operation Serval, which started at the beginning of last year and is aimed at ousting Islamist militants in the north of the country.

Hollande was due to fly to the French Indian Ocean island of Réunion on Thursday afternoon, but delayed his flight to follow developments.

• This article was amended on 24 July 2014 to reflect the fact that the claim that the plane's wreckage had been discovered was later cast into doubt.

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SAN DIEGO—Jing Wang, the former Executive Vice President and President of Global Business Operations for Qualcomm, Inc. (NASDAQ: QCOM), admitted this afternoon to engaging in insider trading in the stock of both Qualcomm and Atheros Communications, Inc. (“Atheros”) using a nominee brokerage account and an offshore shell company in the British Virgin Islands (“BVI”). Wang also admitted laundering the proceeds of his insider trading using a second BVI shell company, and arranging with his brother and his former stock broker to obstruct investigations by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and Federal Bureau of Investigation.

United States Attorney Laura E. Duffy and Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division announced the guilty pleas by Jing Wang today in Federal Court in San Diego, California. Wang pled guilty to one count of insider trading and one count of laundering of monetary instruments, and was ordered to return to court for sentencing on November 17, 2014 at 9:00 a.m. before the Hon. William Q. Hayes.

“Jing Wang blatantly and repeatedly abused the trust placed in him by Qualcomm and the company’s shareholders. To make matters worse, he then misused the financial system to conceal his insider trading profits, and enlisted his brother and stock broker to obstruct several investigations,” said United States Attorney Duffy. “We will continue to use our excellent partnerships with the Criminal Division, the FBI, IRS-CI and securities regulators to not only prosecute securities fraud, but also ferret out attempts to conceal criminal conduct from government investigators.”

Not satisfied with his lucrative executive position at Qualcomm, Jing Wang traded on insider information about the company’s acquisitions and earnings to gain an illegal advantage in the financial market,” said Assistant Attorney General Caldwell. “Wang then laundered close to $250,000 in insider trading profits, and created a cover-up story to hide his crimes. We will continue to prosecute those who believe they can make easy money by breaking the laws that ensure a level playing field in the financial marketplace.

FBI Special Agent in Charge Daphne Hearn commented, “Trading on inside information is a crime that undermines the public’s faith in our financial markets and puts companies at risk. The FBI will continue to use our investigative expertise and resources to detect, disrupt and dismantle sophisticated fraud schemes to ensure the public maintains full faith and confidence in our financial markets.”

Erick Martinez, Special Agent in Charge for IRS Criminal Investigation commented: “Jing Wang abused his position as a high level executive as if he was immune to our nation’s laws. Pursuing financial crime and money laundering violations by corporate executives like Jing Wang is a priority for IRS Criminal Investigation. Today’s admission of guilt by Mr. Wang is another example of IRS Criminal Investigation’s continued commitment to ensure that the laws of this nation apply to everybody.”

Insider Trading

Wang admitted that in 2006 he used his Merrill Lynch broker in San Diego (Gary Yin) to create a BVI entity entitled Unicorn Global Enterprises (“Unicorn”) and to open a brokerage account for Unicorn at Merrill Lynch. Wang provided documents to Yin to create the false impression that his brother in China, Bing Wang, controlled the account, when in fact Wang was the true owner of the account. This allowed Wang to conceal his true ownership and control of the assets in the account.

Several years later, Qualcomm promoted Wang to Executive Vice President and imposed significant restrictions on his stock trading pursuant to its insider trading policy. As an officer, Wang was exposed to Qualcomm’s confidential business information, and was repeatedly notified that he was not permitted to misuse Qualcomm’s material, non-public information to engage in stock transactions. Despite these warnings, between 2010 and 2011, Wang abused his trusted position at Qualcomm to engage in three separate instances of insider trading.

By early 2010, Wang learned that Qualcomm planned to announce an increased quarterly dividend and a stock repurchase program. On March 1, 2010, Wang fraudulently acted on this market-moving inside information by directing Yin to use all of the assets in the Unicorn account to purchase as much Qualcomm stock as possible before the information became public. After the close of trading on March 1st, Qualcomm issued a press release announcing the dividend increase and stock repurchase program, and the company’s stock later appreciated approximately 10% in value.

Later in 2010, Wang executed a second insider trading scheme upon learning that Qualcomm was interested in purchasing Atheros, previously a publicly-traded company based in San Jose, California. On December 1, 2010, fraudulently acting on this inside information, Wang met with Yin and instructed him to sell all Qualcomm shares in the Unicorn account. Wang then told Yin to make preparations to purchase Atheros with the funds in the account, but to wait for further confirmation. Wang’s broker proceeded to liquidate all of the illegally held Qualcomm stock in the Unicorn account, reaping for Wang almost $95,000 from his first insider trading scheme.

On December 6, 2010, while attending a meeting of Qualcomm’s Board of Directors in Hong Kong, China, Wang learned that the Board authorized Qualcomm to make a non-public offer to purchase Atheros for $45 per share. Later that same day, Wang called Yin in San Diego and instructed him to go ahead and use all available funds in the Unicorn account to purchase Atheros stock. The broker followed Wang’s instructions and purchased 10,800 shares at approximately $34 per share. Qualcomm’s offer to purchase Atheros remained confidential until an article appeared in the Dealbook section of the New York Times’ website on January 4, 2011, and Qualcomm made an official announcement of the deal on January 5, 2011. Between the close of trading on January 3, 2011, and the close of trading on January 5, 2011, the price of Atheros stock jumped from approximately $37 to $44—an increase of close to 20%.

Wang’s third foray into insider trading took place just a few weeks later, on January 25, 2011, when he learned that Qualcomm was about to release record financial results. Immediately before the announcement of those earnings, Wang directed Yin to sell all the Atheros stock in the Unicorn account and use all the proceeds to purchase Qualcomm stock. The following day, after Qualcomm announced the record earnings results, Qualcomm’s stock price increased by approximately $4 per share. All told, Wang illegally gained approximately a quarter of a million dollars from these three insider trading schemes.

Money Laundering

Wang also admitted that he took several steps to conceal his insider trading from the SEC and the FBI. For example, Wang transferred all the money in the Unicorn Account—over $525,000—to another BVI nominee brokerage account in the name of “Clearview Resources, Ltd.” (the “Clearview Account”), which Wang had opened using the name of his mother. Wang provided identification documents associated with his mother to Merrill Lynch to open this account and signed his mother’s name on account documents, making it appear that she was in control of the account. However, it was Wang who actually controlled the Clearview Account and its funds. Wang also admitted working with his brother and Yin to fabricate evidence and concoct a false cover story that would blame Bing Wang for the illegal stock trades. For example, Wang gave Yin a number of Merrill Lynch documents related to his Unicorn account and arranged for the broker to take the documents to China, give them to Bing Wang, and use them to help his brother rehearse the false cover story.

Wang was originally indicted in September 2013 after an investigation conducted by the FBI’s San Diego Field Office and the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation’s San Diego Field Division. Wang pled guilty to two of the charges contained in the original indictment, which were refiled again today in a Superseding Information. Bing Wang, who is believed to reside in China, remains charged and is currently wanted on an international arrest warrant. Gary Yin pled guilty to conspiring with Jing Wang and Bing Wang to obstruct justice and launder money, and is currently scheduled to be sentenced on September 15, 2014 (13CR3488-WQH).

In addition to praising the investigative efforts of the FBI and IRS-CI, United States Attorney Duffy and Assistant Attorney General Caldwell expressed their appreciation to the SEC’s Los Angeles Regional Office for its assistance with this matter.

DEFENDANT
Criminal Case No. 13CR3487-WQH

Jing Wang
Age: 51
Del Mar, CA

SUMMARY OF CHARGES

Count 1: Title 15, United States Code, Sections 78j(b), 78ff and 17 C.F.R. § 240.10b-5—Securities Fraud (Insider Trading). Maximum Penalty: 20 years’ custody, a $5 million fine, three years’ supervised release, and a $100 special assessment.

Count 2: Title 18, United States Code, Section 1956—Money Laundering. Maximum Penalty: 20 years’ custody, a fine of $500,000 or twice the value of the property involved in the transaction, three years’ supervised release, and a $100 special assessment.

INVESTIGATING AGENCIES

  • Federal Bureau of Investigation
  • Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation
 
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