Ex-Footballer Investigated Over Child Pornography In Germany

(File photo) German defender Christoph Metzelder during the Euro 2008 Championships quarter-final football match Portugal vs Germany at St Jakob-Park in Basel. Pierre-Philippe MARCOU / AFP


Former Germany and Real Madrid footballer Christoph Metzelder, 38, is under investigation for allegedly sharing child pornography via the messenging service WhatsApp, German prosecutors confirmed Wednesday.

“We can confirm an investigation against Christoph Metzelder on suspicion of sharing child pornography, including digital images,” a spokeswoman for the Hamburg prosecutor’s office, Liddy Oechtering, told AFP.

The 2002 World Cup finalist is alleged to have used WhatsApp to send pornographic photos of children to a woman in Hamburg, Oechtering said.

The woman reported the images to the Hamburg police, who opened investigations alongside public prosecutors in August.

Oechtering confirmed reports that investigators had carried out raids in two locations on Tuesday, but declined to give further details.

According to a report in Spiegel magazine, the raids were on Metzelder’s home and offices in Duesseldorf, and led to the seizure of a laptop and a mobile phone.

Oechtering said the footballer had not been detained, adding that “we are currently analysing the materials seized.”

Metzelder played for major clubs such as Madrid and Borussia Dortmund in a career spanning 15 years.

He retired from football in 2014 and has since worked as a pundit for Sky Sports Germany and president of his local club TuS Haltern.

Since 2006, the 38-year-old has run a foundation in his own name to support socially disadvantaged children across Germany.

He has also recently appeared as a pundit on public broadcaster ARD, who said Wednesday that they had “suspended the co-operation until the accusations have been clarified”.

His is the second high-profile legal case involving a former Germany defender in two days.

On Tuesday, prosecutors in Munich confirmed that Bayern Munich defender Jerome Boateng was under investigation for a reported dangerous assault on his ex-partner.


Sweden Reopens Rape Probe Against Assange

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange/ AFP


Swedish prosecutors said Monday they were reopening a 2010 rape investigation against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

“I have today decided to reopen the investigation … There is still probable cause to suspect that Mr Assange committed rape,” the deputy director of public prosecutions, Eva-Marie Persson, told reporters.


Macron’s Aide Probed Over ‘False Testimony’ In Bodyguard Scandal

In this video grab taken on July 19, 2018 a man is identified as Elysee Chief Security Officer Alexandre Benalla wearing a police visor as he drags away a demonstrator during May 1 protests in Paris.  Tahar Bouhafs / AFP


Paris prosecutors Monday opened a probe into alleged false testimony in the case of French President Emmanuel Macron’s former bodyguard who was filmed hitting protesters at last year’s May Day rally.

Those targeted include the president’s cabinet chief Patrick Strzoda, prosecutors said in a statement.

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The scandal — which saw Alexandre Benalla fired last year after a video emerged of him roughing up protestors — continues to overshadow the Macron presidency.

A perjury probe has been opened targeting Benalla as well as Vincent Crase, a former staffer of Macron’s ruling party, and Strzoda, prosecutors said in a statement.

It comes after several protagonists in the case testified before the commission of inquiry of France’s upper house, the Senate.

The investigations were opened after the Senate signalled deficiencies in testimony to the Paris prosecutors.

The Senate complained of “incoherence and contradictions” in the testimony of Strzoda and two other top aides of Macron, chief of staff Alexis Kohler and presidential security chief Lionel Lavergne.

A former bouncer, Benalla began working as a bodyguard for Macron during the young candidate’s election campaign in 2016 before being promoted to a senior security role in the presidential palace following Macron’s election in May 2017.

After being given leave by the presidency to attend the May Day protest as an observer, he waded into the fray wearing a police helmet, grabbing a female demonstrator by the neck and hitting a male demonstrator.

The presidency initially held off reporting Benalla to the authorities.

Benalla was fired and placed under investigation after Le Monde newspaper broke the story in July 2018. It was Strzoda who authorised Benalla to attend the demonstration.

A French Senate commission of inquiry found “major flaws” in the government’s handling of the affair and said it suspected Macron’s aides of trying to cover up some of the details.

Perjury can be punished in France with up to five years in jail.


France Probes Injury Of 73-Year-Old Yellow Vest Protester

French police rush towards Genevieve Legay, an Attac activtist, who collapsed on the ground in Garibaldi Square during a rally by the anti-government “Yellow Vests” (Gilets jaunes) movement in the city of Nice, southeastern France, on March 23, 2019.  Valery HACHE / AFP


French officials faced fresh questions Sunday about the handling of the “yellow vest” protests after an elderly activist was seriously injured during a police charge in the southern city of Nice.

Prosecutors there have opened an inquiry to try to establish what happened Saturday when 73-year-old Genevieve Legay suffered head injuries.

When paramedics evacuated veteran activist Legay from the demonstration she was bleeding from the head, but still conscious, AFP journalists at the scene noted.

Her daughter later said that she had suffered several fractures to the skull and subdural haematomas.

READ ALSO: Thousands Mark Three Months Of France’s ‘Yellow Vest’ Protests

Arie Alimi, the family’s lawyer, told AFP that they would be filing a formal complaint against the authorities for violence against “a vulnerable person”. The region’s governor would be named in the lawsuit, to be submitted on Monday.

“The police charge was very violent,” he said. “Mrs Legay … has been very badly injured.” But contrary to some reports, she was in a stable condition and not in a coma, he added.

Photos and video footage from Saturday’s protest showed her carrying a rainbow-coloured flag with the word “peace” written on it.

Legay is an activist with the social justice campaign group Attac. The group published a message on its website calling for an inquiry to establish who was responsible for her injuries.

 Demos restricted  

In an interview with Nice-Matin published Monday, President Emmanuel Macron wished her “a speedy recovery, and perhaps some form of wisdom”.

“When you are frail and may be pushed around, you do not go to places that are defined as prohibited and do not put yourself in situations like this,” he said.

Both local prosecutors and France’s justice minister Sunday pointed out that protests in some parts of the city center had been banned.

The minister. Nicole Belloubet, was asked about the incident in an interview with French channel BFMTV.

While wishing Legay a speedy recovery, she said, “I do find it curious all the same that when a demonstration had been banned, as was the case in Nice, someone goes with the declared intention of demonstrating in that place there.”

“There were some areas, in some cities, where demonstrations were banned. Following warnings, a person who stays there is likely to commit a crime and it is in this context that the events happened.”

Nice prosecutor Jean-Michel Pretre said they were doing everything they could to find out what happened.

“When you stay in a protest after the regulatory (police) warning that people have to disperse, it’s a crime.”

In Legay’s case, however, it was not clear whether she had been in the banned area, or on the edge of it when police moved against the protesters.

Demonstrations this weekend were also banned in certain parts of Paris and in the centers of Toulouse, Bordeaux, Dijon, and Rennes.

 2,000 convictions 

French courts so far have convicted around 2,000 “yellow vest” protesters of offences since the marches began last November, Belloubet told BFMTV.

“Of the 2,000 convictions that have already taken place, the figure that should be retained is that 40 percent are prison sentences,” she said. They ranged from one month to three years, according to justice ministry figures.

The other 60 percent of convictions involved community service, suspended sentences or other non-custodial sentences, the minister added.

Nearly 1,800 cases arising from the protests, in Paris and other French cities every Saturday since November 17, were still to be resolved and a total of 8,700 people had been detained, she said.

More than 40,000 people took to the streets across France on Saturday for the 19th consecutive week of anti-government protests, Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said.

The government redeployed soldiers from its Sentinelle anti-terror force to guard public buildings in Paris, freeing up 6,000 police in Paris to tackle any flare-ups of violence.


China Probes Factory Blast As Death Toll Hits 47

Chinese President Xi Jinping


Chinese President Xi Jinping ordered local governments Friday to prevent any more industrial disasters after a chemical plant blast left 47 people dead, injured hundreds and flattened an industrial park in the latest such catastrophe to hit the country.

Thursday’s explosion in the eastern city of Yancheng, Jiangsu province was one of the worst industrial disasters to hit China, with Xi acknowledging that the country has seen a rash of major accidents in recent years.

Xi — who is on a state visit to Italy — urged “all-out efforts” to rescue those trapped and to identify the cause of the accident “as early as possible”, according to the official news agency Xinhua.

The State Council, China’s cabinet, has established a team to investigate the explosion, with State Councilor Wang Yong headed to the scene to lead rescue and response efforts, state media said.

The explosion toppled several buildings in the industrial park and caused a huge fire that raged through the night, while rescuers scrambled to find survivors in the wreckage of the plant owned by a company with a chequered past.

READ ALSO: Three Rescued Days After Indian Building Collapse

The windows of homes a few kilometers (miles) away were shattered.

“We knew we’d be blown up one day,” said one 60-year-old woman surnamed Xiang who had harboured concerns about safety and pollution for a long time.

More than 600 people have received medical treatment following the blast, according to the city government.

Among them, at least 90 are seriously injured. Hundreds of rescuers have been dispatched to the scene, local authorities said, and some 4,000 people have been evacuated from the blast site.

In a shopping street in Yancheng, a bus was converted into a blood donation centre, with about 20 to 30 people lined up.

Local authorities, who are investigating the cause of the accident, said an unspecified number of people were taken into police custody on Friday.

The facility involved in the explosion belonged to Tianjiayi Chemical, a firm with 195 employees established in 2007 that mainly produces raw chemical materials, including anisole, a highly flammable compound.

Tianjiayi Chemical has a history of violating environmental regulations, according to online records from Yancheng city’s environment and ecology bureau.

In 2015 and 2017, the firm was fined for violating rules on solid and water waste management.

 Toxic water 

In the aftermath of the explosion, several residents told AFP they were concerned about pollution from the industrial accident.

“We don’t have drinkable water here,” Xiang said. “Why hasn’t the government sent us some water?”

According to a report released Friday by Jiangsu province’s ecology and environment department, several rivers near the blast site are contaminated with chemicals, including chloroform and dichloromethane.

The force of the explosion — which was so powerful that it apparently triggered a small earthquake — blew out windows and dented metal garage doors of buildings as far as four kilometers (2.5 miles) from the site.

Nearby residents — many of them elderly — have started sweeping up the glass, and in some cases, seemed to have abandoned their homes entirely.

On the road where Xiang lived, consisting of basic two-storey homes, almost all the windows and some window frames were blown in.

The woman was sitting at home when the explosion occurred and said the force rocked her house and badly damaged her front door.

There was no immediate government help, she said, and residents were clearing the street themselves.

“I have no one to help me here,” said a grandmother and single mom surnamed Wang.

“What am I going to do with all the shattered glass on the floor and a broken wall?” the 57-year-old told AFP, tearing up.

 Workers trapped 

The blast toppled buildings, trapping workers. State broadcaster CCTV showed rescuers pulling a survivor from the wreckage.

Workers covered in blood were seen running out of the factory.

An aerial view of the blast area showed a large swath of destruction in the industrial park, where multiple fires had initially raged.

Firefighters extinguished the blaze Friday after battling raging flames through the night. Three chemical tanks and five other areas had been on fire.

Deadly industrial accidents are common in China, where safety regulations are often poorly enforced.

In November, a gas leak at a plant in the northern Chinese city of Zhangjiakou that will host the 2022 Winter Olympics killed 24 people and injured 21 others.

In 2015, China saw one of its worst industrial accidents when giant chemical blasts in the northern port city of Tianjin killed at least 165 people.


Facebook Faces Criminal Probe Of Data Deals – Report

Facebook Faces 'Oppenheimer Moment' Over Trump Scandal


US prosecutors have launched a criminal investigation into Facebook’s practice of sharing users’ data with companies without letting the social network’s members know, The New York Times reported on Wednesday.

A grand jury in New York has subpoenaed information from at least two major smartphone makers about such arrangements with Facebook, according to the Times.

Regulators, investigators and elected officials around the world have already been digging into the data sharing practices of Facebook which has more than two billion users.

READ ALSO: A Day Not To ‘Like’ For Facebook, Hit By Outage, Criminal Probe

The social network’s handling of user data has been a flashpoint for controversy since it admitted last year that Cambridge Analytica, a political consultancy, used an app that may have hijacked the private details of 87 million users.

“It has already been reported that there are ongoing federal investigations, including by the Department of Justice,” a Facebook spokesman said in response to an AFP inquiry.

“As we’ve said before, we are cooperating with investigators and take those probes seriously. We’ve provided public testimony, answered questions, and pledged that we will continue to do so.”

Facebook has shared limited amounts of user data with smartphone makers and other outside partners to enable its services to work well on devices or with applications. Regulators, and now prosecutors, appear intent on determining whether this was done in ways that let users know what was happening and protected privacy.

The California-based social network has announced a series of moves to tighten handling of data, including eliminating most of its data-sharing partnerships with outside companies.

The focus of the grand jury probe was not clear, nor was when it started, according to the Times, which cited unnamed sources.


UEFA Opens Probe Into Neymar’s Referee Rant

Paris Saint-Germain’s Brazilian forward Neymar/ AFP


UEFA have opened disciplinary proceedings on Neymar after his foul-mouthed outburst about referees following Paris Saint-Germain’s controversial Champions League exit to Manchester United last week, the governing body announced on Wednesday.

Injured Brazil forward Neymar launched into a diatribe against the match officials shortly after the defeat on Instagram.

He watched on incredulous from the sidelines at the Parc des Princes as United were awarded a stoppage-time penalty for a debatable handball via the video assistant referee (VAR) system.

Marcus Rashford crashed home the spot-kick to give the Premier League side a last-gasp 3-1 win that saw them into the quarter-finals on away goals.

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“It’s a disgrace. They get four guys who don’t understand football to watch a slow-motion replay in front of the TV … Go fuck yourselves!” Neymar wrote in Portuguese on the social media website.

The 27-year-old was so reportedly enraged he had to be restrained by PSG staff to stop him entering their dressing room.

“A disciplinary investigation has been initiated … in connection with the comments made on social media by the Paris Saint-Germain player Neymar following the above-mentioned match,” UEFA said in a statement.

If found guilty Neymar risks punishment ranging from a fine to suspension.


Man City Dismiss Open Spending Allegations As UEFA Begins Probe

Manchester City’s Argentinian striker Sergio Aguero celebrates scoring his team’s fifth goal, his third, from the penalty spot during the English Premier League football match between Manchester City and Burnley at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester, north west England, on February 10, 2019. Paul ELLIS / AFP


UEFA on Thursday announced they were opening an investigation into whether or not Manchester City broke Financial Fair Play rules, a breach that could lead to a devastating Champions League ban.

However, English champions City insisted the accusations against them are false and that they welcomed the opportunity to clear their name.

German magazine Der Spiegel, using material purportedly obtained from the whistleblowing outlet Football Leaks, alleged in November that City had set up sponsorship deals to circumvent regulations limiting how much money owners can put into a club.

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“The Investigatory Chamber of the independent UEFA Club Financial Control Body has today opened a formal investigation into Manchester City FC for potential breaches of Financial Fair Play (FFP) regulations,” said a UEFA statement on Thursday.

“The investigation will focus on several alleged violations of FFP that were recently made public in various media outlets.”

City responded immediately by saying they supported the investigation and that they had nothing to hide.

“Manchester City welcomes the opening of a formal UEFA investigation as an opportunity to bring to an end the speculation resulting from the illegal hacking and out of context publication of City emails,” the club said in a statement.

“The accusation of financial irregularities are entirely false. The club’s published accounts are full and complete and a matter of legal and regulatory record.”

City had earlier responded to Der Spiegel’s claims by saying there had been an “organised and clear” attempt to damage the club’s reputation.

A ban from UEFA competitions, including the Champions League, is a potential punishment if City are found guilty of FFP breaches.

City were fined 60 million euros ($67.3 million) and subjected to squad, wage and spending caps in a 2014 settlement agreed with UEFA following a previous breach of the rules.

City coach Pep Guardiola has always insisted that City would accept a ban but does not believe it is likely after discussions with the club’s UAE owners.

 Questions for PSG, Milan 

“We will not be banned, no. That’s what I think because I trust in my chairman, with my CEO, what they have explained to me,” he said.

“If it happens, because UEFA decide that, we will accept it and move forward.”

City are not the only European heavyweight to be caught up in claims of breaking financial fair play rules.

French champions Paris Saint-Germain quashed reports they could be forced to sell either Kylian Mbappe or Neymar in a bid to circumvent eventual FFP sanctions.

Qatar-owned PSG, who splashed a combined total of more than 400 million euros in 2017 for Brazil star Neymar and France World Cup winner Mbappe, blasted allegations as “totally false and ridiculous”.

Former European champions AC Milan were warned in December that they risk being excluded from European competition if they fail to “break even”.

Milan had already been banned for a year from the Europa League due to breaching FFP regulations before winning an appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) last year.

But UEFA said the former seven-time European champions again face suspension from continental competition in future seasons “should the club not be break-even compliant at 30 June 2021”.


Shakira To Be Questioned For Alleged Tax Fraud In June

UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Shakira attending a press conference at the United Nations in New York by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). Timothy A. CLARY / AFP


Colombian superstar Shakira will be questioned by a court near Barcelona on June 12 for allegedly evading 14.5 million euros ($16.5 million) in taxes, a Spanish court said Tuesday.

In a statement, the high court of Catalonia, where the singer lives with her partner, FC Barcelona footballer Gerard Pique, said she had been summoned to appear before a judge in Esplugues de Llobregat.

The 42-year-old is suspected of not paying taxes in Spain despite being a resident between 2011 and 2014, according to prosecutors.

The case only covers the period from 2012 to 2014, however, as the timeframe to prosecute alleged tax offences in 2011 has expired.

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In a relationship since 2011 Pique, with whom she has two sons, Shakira transferred her official residency to Spain in 2015.

Until then, it was in the Bahamas.

But a spokesman for prosecutors in Barcelona told AFP last year that this didn’t “match reality” with her children and partner in Barcelona.

Shakira’s representatives insist that until 2014 she earned most of her money in international tours and didn’t live more than six months a year in Spain — a prerequisite to be an official tax-paying resident in the country.

With her mix of Latin and Arabic rhythms and rock influences, Shakira is one of the biggest stars from Latin America, scoring major global hits with songs such as “Hips Don’t Lie” and “Whenever, Wherever.”


UN Judicial Expert In Turkey To Probe Khashoggi Murder

Khashoggi Killers 'Will Be Prosecuted In Saudi Arabia' - Govt
Jamal Khashoggi/ AFP


Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu on Monday met with a UN judicial expert who is looking into the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi as Ankara calls for an international inquiry.

The UN special rapporteur on extra-judicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Agnes Callamard, will be in Turkey until Saturday for a series of meetings with authorities including the Istanbul chief prosecutor.

Khashoggi, a Washington Post contributor and Saudi regime critic, was murdered on October 2 in Turkey in what Riyadh called a “rogue” operation, tipping the kingdom into one of its worst diplomatic crises.

Turkish authorities have called for an international probe into the killing which took place at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, complaining of Saudi Arabia’s failure to cooperate.

“Met with @AgnesCallamard, #UN Special Rapporteur on Extra-Judicial Executions, who is in #Turkey to investigate the murder of Jamal Khashoggi,” Cavusoglu wrote on Twitter, sharing a picture from his meeting in Ankara.

In an interview with Turkish media last week, Cavusoglu said the Khashoggi case was “not a part of bilateral ties” with Riyadh.

“We believe this case should be brought to the international arena,” he said.

“It is time for an international probe.”

Nearly four months later, the whereabouts of Khashoggi’s body remains unknown and Turkish officials accuse Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of orchestrating the killing — an allegation Saudi authorities categorically refute.

Earlier this month a trial of 11 accused in the murder opened in Saudi Arabia with the attorney general seeking the death penalty for five defendants.

During her mission, Callemard is due to meet with Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gul and Istanbul chief prosecutor Irfan Fidan, state-run Anadolu news agency reported.


South Korea Probes Sports Sex Assault Allegations


South Korea will launch an inquiry into sexual and other abuses in the nation’s scandal-ridden sports community, the government said Friday, as the sports minister called for an end to its “win-at-all-costs” mentality.

Double Olympic short track gold medallist Shim Suk-hee earlier this month went public with accusations her former coach molested her multiple times, prompting several other victims to come forward.

South Korea is a regional sporting power and regularly in the top 10 medal table places at the summer and winter Olympics.

But in an already intensely competitive society, winning is virtually everything in its sports community and coaches hold immense power over athletes’ careers — intimidating victims from coming forward.

“I want to apologise to athletes, their families and citizens in South Korea for not preventing such incidents of abuse,” said sports minister Do Jong-hwan.

“With this probe, we need to walk away from the winning-at-all-costs philosophy,” he told reporters. “We can no longer push athletes into a fierce competition system under the name of national pride.”

The sports, education and gender equality ministries will draw up a plan to revise relevant laws to jail sports officials who do not report sex crimes in their organisations, Do added.

A separate probe will be launched into the Korea National Sport University, he said, where a staff member has been accused of sexually molesting a student athlete.

Not all the cases involve sexual assaults, and not all the victims are women.

in November, South Korea’s “Garlic Girls” curling team, who shot to fame by winning Olympic silver at last year’s Pyeongchang Games, accused their coaches of verbal abuse and being excessively controlling.

Another speed skater, Noh Seon-yeong, last year accused the Korea Skating Union (KSU) of forcing her brother Jin-kyu — a top medal contender for Sochi 2014 — to stay in training rather than seek medical attention despite chronic pain.

He was later diagnosed with bone cancer following a training injury, never went to Sochi and died in 2016.

“My brother was just used by the KSU, whose members were only interested in collecting Olympic gold medals,” Noh said.


Ex-Trump Lawyer Cohen Ordered To Testify In Senate

Trump Denies Wrongdoing, Slams Cohen 'Stories' On Hush Payments
Cohen                                                                                 Trump

President Donald Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen was subpoenaed Thursday to testify to the Senate Intelligence Committee in the Russia investigation, one day after he postponed a House appearance saying he had been threatened by Trump.

“This morning the Senate Intelligence Committee served Michael Cohen with a subpoena,” Cohen’s attorney Lanny Davis said in an email to AFP.

Davis gave no date, but according to reports, the committee wants him to appear in early February. It was not clear if the testimony will be public or behind closed doors.

On Wednesday, Davis announced that Cohen was putting off voluntary testimony before the House Oversight Committee scheduled for February 7, alleging that Trump and his lawyer Rudy Giuliani had threatened Cohen and his family.

“Due to ongoing threats against his family from President Trump and Mr Giuliani, as recently as this weekend, as well as Mr Cohen’s continued cooperation with ongoing investigations, by the advice of counsel, Mr Cohen’s appearance will be postponed to a later date,” Davis said.

“This is a time where Mr Cohen had to put his family and their safety first,” he added.

Cohen pleaded guilty last year to multiple charges related to work he performed for the president and pledged to cooperate with Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

Mueller leads the investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, a probe that increasingly menaces the White House.

In December, Cohen was sentenced to three years in prison, and Democrats want to see him testify before he reports to prison on March 6.

They are interested in his and the Trump campaign’s contacts with Russia before the 2016 election.

In addition, Cohen has suggested that the White House knew he was going to lie in previous congressional testimony to protect Trump, raising questions about whether he was directed to lie by the president or his aides.

After Cohen postponed his House appearance Wednesday, top Democrats said they still expect him to testify despite the alleged threats, suggesting they also could issue a subpoena.

“When our committees began discussions with Mr Cohen’s attorney, not appearing before Congress was never an option,” Elijah Cummings, the Democrat who leads the Oversight Committee, and House Intelligence Committee head Adam Schiff said in a joint statement.