Category Archives: COUNTRIES

Geneva bank toilets flush with laundered dirty money

FILE PHOTO: A magazine cut-out of a toilet roll made up of paper money, is taped to a screen of a trading terminal at the German stock exchange in Frankfurt, June 3, 2009. REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach/File Photo

FILE PHOTO: A magazine cut-out of a toilet roll made up of paper money, is taped to a screen of a trading terminal at the German stock exchange in Frankfurt, June 3, 2009. REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach/File Photo

GENEVA (Reuters) – Geneva prosecutors are investigating after toilets in a bank and three restaurants were blocked by about $100,000 in high-denomination euro banknotes, they said on Monday.

“We are not so interested in the motive but we want to be sure of the origin of the money,” spokesman Vincent Derouand said, adding that neither throwing money away nor blocking a toilet was a crime.

The Tribune de Geneve newspaper, which first reported the unusual deposit, said the first blockage occurred in the toilet serving the vault at UBS bank (UBSG.S) in Geneva’s financial district, and three nearby bistros found their facilities bunged up with 500-euro notes a few days later.

Derouand said two people had agreed to compensate the restaurants for the costs of the blockage, and the restaurants had withdrawn a complaint that they made when the incident happened in May.

The cash was confiscated during the investigation and it was unclear who would get it if it was found to be lawful. There was no immediate reason to think it was dirty money, Derouand said.

The European Central Bank said last year it had decided to discontinue the 500-euro note because of concerns that it was being used too often for illicit activities including money laundering.

A UBS spokesman declined to comment.

Henry Sapiecha

AUSTRALIANS CAN STILL LIVE LIKE KINGS IN THESE 5 WORLD HOT SPOTS

5 Global hot spots where you can still live like a king

tourist couple hold hands image www.money-au.com

Now that the Aussie dollar is slumping back down below 90 US cents, are we doomed to be the world’s poorest tourists once again? Here are five global hot spots where you can still live like royalty.

When the Aussie dollar was above US$1, Australians were living it up overseas. With some crafty planning, you can still get the holiday of your dreams as long as you pick the right destination. Here are five global hot spots where you can live like royalty, as well as some tips for getting the most from your money overseas.

1. Vietnam

vietnam

A popular location for digital nomads, Vietnam recently opened its first McDonald’s and got added to the Economist’s Big Mac Index, which compares the cost of a Big Mac burger worldwide – it ranks the Vietnamese dong as heavily undervalued. Not that you’ll want to eat burgers with the foodie delights of Hoi An on offer, or the French patisseries in Hanoi.

2. India

india

Bottom of the Big Mac Index at US$1.54 burger with the rupee considered highly undervalued, India’s vast population makes labour cheap, bringing tourism costs down.  Food, travel and accommodation are all super affordable and everyone should see the Taj Mahal in their lifetime.

3. Japan

JAPAN FLAG

Japan was listed as the top emerging destination for Australian tourists on the Expedia foreign exchange index, which ranks destinations whose currencies fell furthest against the AUD over the past year. With the Aussie dollar stretching further in Japan than it does back home, enjoy skiing, cherry blossom season, or get lost in translation in Tokyo.

4. Indonesia

indonesia

Right on Australia’s doorstep, which brings international flight costs down, your Australian dollar will still go a long way here. The Indonesian rupiah has languished ever since the 1997-98 Asian financial crisis, and was ranked fourth in the world by the Expedia foreign exchange index. If you’re bored of Bali, check out the Sumatran tiger or Java’s amazing surf.

5. Greece

greece

If it’s a European getaway you’re after, the Greek islands should be high on your agenda. Still suffering the after effects of the global financial crisis, Greece offers good value for tourists wanting a luxury island getaway. Visit spectacular Santorini and relax at a hilltop resort, or gawk at the Acropolis in Athens. Greece topped Lonely Planet’s best value European destinations in 2013 and there’s never been a better time to island hop.

Top tips for maximising your holiday money

hundred dollars note pile in hand australian image www.money-au.com

Be prepared

Foreign exchange fees can be high, meaning you’ll get far less than the official interbank rate when you buy foreign currency. Airport booths are notoriously bad value, so if you want to take some local cash with you, buy it before you go.

Watch out for fees

Once you’re there, make sure you’re using the right credit card or you could get slugged with hefty transaction fees. Look for a specialist travel-oriented credit card with no currency conversion fees or any international transaction fees on purchases.

Protect yourself

Do all you can to avoid theft and loss. Keeping all your money in one place – in cash – is a huge mistake. Use plastic as often as you can. You can also get purchase protection insurance. Make sure your card has a 24/7 service centre so you can cancel it immediately if the worst does happen.

Once you have your money sorted out, keep costs down further by going local. Fancy hotels and high-end restaurants are a money drain in any destination. Go self-catering, find eateries that locals frequent or eat street food. You’ll get a much more authentic experience, and probably better food, for a fraction of the price.

Henry Sapiecha

Sourced from art of money

http://money-au.com/files/2013/08/hunded-dollar-notes-line.jpg

INTERNATIONAL MONEY TRANSFERS MONITORED WORLDWIDE BY THE CIA

THE CIA IS KEEPING TABS ON INTERNATIONAL MONEY TRANSFERS

CIA LOGO ON FLOOR IMAGE www.money-au (1)$3.5B SIGN RED ON WHITE

WASHINGTON: The CIA is secretly collecting bulk records of international money transfers – including transactions into and out of the United States – under the same law that the National Security Agency uses for its huge database of Americans’ phone records, according to current and former government officials.

The CIA financial records program, which the officials said is authorised by provisions in the Patriot Act and overseen by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, offers evidence that the extent of government data collection programs is not fully known and that the national debate over privacy and security may be incomplete.

Some details of the CIA program were not clear. But it was confirmed by several current and former officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the matter remains classified.

The data does not include purely domestic transfers or bank-to-bank transactions, several officials said. Another, while not acknowledging the program, suggested that the surveillance court had imposed rules withholding the identity of any Americans from the data the CIA sees, requiring a tie to a terrorist organisation before a search may be run, and mandating that the data be discarded after a certain number of years. The court has imposed several similar rules on the NSA call logs program.

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Several officials also said there was more than one other bulk collection program that has yet to come to light.

“The intelligence community collects bulk data in a number of different ways under multiple authorities,” said one intelligence official.

Dean Boyd, a spokesman for the CIA, declined to confirm whether such a program existed but said that the agency conducted lawful intelligence collection aimed at foreign – not domestic – activities and that it was subject to extensive oversight.

“The CIA protects the nation and upholds the privacy rights of Americans by ensuring that its intelligence collection activities are focused on acquiring foreign intelligence and counterintelligence in accordance with US laws,” he said.

Juan Zarate, a White House and Treasury official under President George W. Bush, said that, unlike telecommunications information, there has generally been less sensitivity about the collection of financial data, in part because the government already collects information about large transactions under the Bank Secrecy Act.

“There is a longstanding legal baseline for the US government to collect financial information,” said Zarate, who is also the author of Treasury’s War, about the crackdown on terrorist financing. He did not acknowledge the CIA program.

Orders for business records from the surveillance court generally prohibit recipients from talking about them. A spokeswoman for one large company that handles money transfers abroad, Western Union, did not directly address a question about whether that firm had been ordered to turn over records in bulk, but said that the company complied with legal requirements to provide information.

“We collect consumer information to comply with the Bank Secrecy Act and other laws,” said the spokeswoman, Luella Chavez D’Angelo. “In doing so, we also protect our consumers’ privacy.”

In recent months, there have been hints in congressional testimony, declassified documents, and litigation that the NSA program – which was disclosed by Edward Snowden, the former NSA contractor – is not unique in collecting records involving Americans.

For example, the American Civil Liberties Union is fighting a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit for documents related to Section 215 of the Patriot Act, the provision that allows the government to compel companies to turn over business records for counterterrorism purposes. Since the government declassified the NSA phone records program, it has released many documents about it in response to the suit.

But the government has notified the ACLU that it is withholding two Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court rulings invoking Section 215 – one dated August 20, 2008, and the other November 23, 2010 – because they discuss matters that remain classified, according to Alexander Abdo, an ACLU lawyer. “It suggests very strongly that there are other programs of surveillance that the public has a right to know about,” Abdo said.

In addition, a US Justice Department “white paper” on the NSA’s call records program, released in August, said that communications logs were “a context” in which the “collection of a large volume of data” was necessary for investigators to be able to analyse links between terrorism suspects and their associates. It did not say that call records were the only context that meets the criteria for bulk gathering.

In hearings on Capitol Hill, government officials have repeatedly avoided saying that phone logs – which include date, duration and numbers of phone calls, but not their content – are the only type of data that would qualify for bulk collection under the Patriot Act provision. In a little-noticed exchange late in an October 3 hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, General Keith Alexander, the NSA director, appeared to go further.

At the hearing, Senator Mazie K. Hirono, D-Hawaii, asked Alexander and James Clapper Jr., the director of national intelligence, a sweeping question: “So what are all of the programs run by the NSA or other federal agencies” that used either Section 215 of the Patriot Act or another surveillance law that allows warrantless wiretapping of phone and emails?

Alexander responded by describing, once again, the NSA’s call records program, adding “none of that is hid from you”, Clapper said nothing.

Moments later, Alexander interjected that he was talking only about what the NSA was doing under the Patriot Act provision and appeared to let slip that other agencies were operating their own programs.

“You know, that’s of course a global thing that others use as well, but for ours, it’s just that way,” Alexander said.

In September, the Obama administration declassified and released a lengthy opinion by Judge Claire Eagan of the surveillance court, written a month earlier and explaining why the panel had given legal blessing to the call log program. A largely overlooked passage of her ruling suggested that the court had also issued orders for at least two other types of bulk data collection.

Specifically, Eagan noted that the court had previously examined the issue of what records were relevant to an investigation for the purpose of “bulk collections”, plural. There followed more than six lines that were censored in the publicly released version of her opinion.

Lawmakers on the House and Senate Judiciary Committees have been trying to gain more information about other bulk collection programs.

In September, Representative Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., an author of the original Patriot Act, sent a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. asking whether the administration was collecting bulk records aside from the phone data. An aide said he had yet to get a response. Even lawmakers on the Intelligence Committees have indicated that they are not sure they understand the entire landscape of what the government is doing in terms of bulk collection.

Senators Dianne Feinstein of California and Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, the top Democrat and Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee, recently sent a classified letter to Clapper, asking for a full accounting of every other national security program that involves bulk collection of data at home or abroad, according to government officials.

The New York Times

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Henry Sapiecha