EU migration chief hits out at ‘sick minds’ over Greece bribery probe

EU migration chief hits out at ‘sick minds’ over Greece bribery probe

The EU’s migration chief has denounced a major corruption investigation in Greece as an “unprecedented plot”.

Dimitris Avramopoulos is among 10 Greek politicians named by prosecutors in a probe involving the Swiss pharmaceutical company Novartis.

Novartis is accused of paying top politicians bribes in exchange for price-fixing their medicines.

Prosecutors believe this could have cost the state billions during a painful financial crisis.

The allegations relate to a period between 2006 and 2015 – including when Mr Avramopoulos was Greece’s health minister. He is now the EU’s commissioner for migration.

In a statement on Wednesday, he condemned what he called an “unsubstantiated and flawed case file”.

“It is now clear that it is an unprecedented plot which cannot stand in any member state of the European Union. Only sick minds could have invented and attempted it.”

Mr Avramopoulos, who belongs to Greece’s conservative New Democracy party, said the investigation was a bid to “exterminate political opponents”.

AMNA news agency reported that about €50m (£43m) was allegedly paid to politicians.

Among others named in the investigation are former Prime Minister Antonis Samaras (2012-2015) and caretaker Prime Minister Panagiotos Pikramenos (May-June 2012).

All have denied knowledge of, or involvement in, the scheme. Novartis says it is cooperating with the investigation.

Mr Samaras told the Associated Press the allegations were “slander” and said he would file a lawsuit against sitting Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras in response.

The Greek parliament has now been given a case file containing details of the investigation to decide if the former ministers should be prosecuted.

League chief 'wanted' Lincoln to beat Chelsea Under-21s in EFL Trophy

League chief 'wanted' Lincoln to beat Chelsea Under-21s in EFL Trophy
Lincoln City players celebrate beating Chelsea Under-21s on penalties in the EFL Trophy

The EFL’s chief executive “wanted” Lincoln City to beat Chelsea Under-21s in the EFL Trophy semi-final, saying “they are one of our clubs”.

Shaun Harvey said the Imps’ victory would be better for the competition.

Lincoln reached the final after defeating Chelsea Under-21s 4-2 in a penalty shootout after drawing 1-1 on Tuesday night.

“I didn’t want Chelsea’s participation to take away from what our clubs are trying to achieve,” he told BBC Sport.

“I am absolutely delighted that Lincoln did beat Chelsea.”

Harvey also said that while the Premier League is considering implementing a winter break, it “would not be effective” in the EFL.

‘It was a gamble worth taking’

The Imps will play at Wembley for the first time in their 133-year history in the final on Sunday, 8 April, where they will face either Shrewsbury or Yeovil.

Chelsea had been bidding to become the first academy side to reach the final since 16 Category A development squads were admitted into the EFL Trophy last season.

Supporters of some clubs boycotted the competition in response to their inclusion.

“There is no doubt that the final between two EFL clubs is certainly the outcome we would have all wanted to see, both at the start of the competition and as the penalty shootout was being taken last night,” Harvey added.

“Everybody enters into this competition knowing the outcome could be an under-21 side gets in there.

“The balance of the benefits to the game as a whole, financially to our clubs and from an experience perspective for the young players make that gamble worth taking.”

‘The EFL won’t observe a winter break’

The German Bundesliga, Spain’s La Liga, Italy’s Serie A and France Ligue 1 are some of the leagues in Europe to have a winter break in their schedules, and the Premier League is also considering introducing one when the next television rights deal is agreed.

In a statement, the Premier League said it had been “in discussions” with the EFL and the FA, but, due to the intense calendar of the EFL, Harvey says it is not feasible for a winter break to be rolled out below the top flight.

“We have been involved in the discussions to start with. The EFL won’t observe a winter break,” said Harvey.

“We have a 46-game season. We need as many Saturday 3pm kick-offs as possible.

“The reality is if it is about giving the England internationals a break at the Premier League clubs, we can carry on without negatively impacting on that objective.”

Mathew Knowles: Beyonce's dad calls out music industry's 'colourism'

Mathew Knowles: Beyonce's dad calls out music industry's 'colourism'

Beyonce’s father Mathew Knowles has said the music industry must stop ignoring singers with dark skin, saying his daughter’s success was easier because she’s relatively light-skinned.

Radio stations and record labels are guilty of “colourism” – discriminating based on shade of skin – he said.

Asked whether Beyonce was accepted more readily because of her skin tone, he said: “It becomes easier. Absolutely.”

Knowles recently published a book called Racism From the Eyes of a Child.

The 66-year-old’s daughter, Solange, is also a major music star.

Speaking to BBC 5 live, Knowles said virtually no black pop stars with darker skin had broken through in the past decade.

He said: “This is the record industry and the music industry that has chose to have this colourism, because in America you can’t name in the last 10 years… [there’s]maybe one person in the last 10 years that wasn’t a lighter shade of black at pop radio. It’s a 100% fact.”

You might also be interested in:

That is down to discrimination among the music industry rather than the music-buying public, he believes.

“It’s not people who are buying them,” he told 5 live’s Tony Livesey. “It’s the record company, it’s the radio, it’s a belief system. It’s not the general public.

“We have to put pressure on the record industry and we have to put pressure at pop radio that they have got to change their practice.”

In his book, Knowles examines discrimination in America by tracing his family’s roots and telling the story of his upbringing in Alabama in the 1950s, including the fact even his mother disapproved of him having dark-skinned girlfriends.

“She never wanted me to bring home or date someone that was [with a] dark complexion,” he said.

Dozens charged for Infraud cyber-crime site

Dozens charged for Infraud cyber-crime site

Thirty-six people have been charged for their alleged involvement in running a cyber-crime service responsible for more than $530m (£381m) of losses.

The Infraud Organisation is said to have dealt in stolen credit cards and passwords and engaged in bank fraud and ID theft.

As of March 2017, its dark-web-based service’s discussion forum is said to have had 10,901 registered members.

The US Department of Justice said 13 of the suspects were now in custody.

They include UK-based Anthony Nnamdi Okeakpu, who is alleged to have used the nickname “moneymafia”.

Other defendants include Svyatoslav Bondarenko, a Ukranian accused of having created Infraud in October 2010.

Five apprehended defendants were based in the US while others came from France, Canada, Pakistan, Russia Egypt, Italy and Macedonia among other countries.

“As alleged in the indictment, Infraud operated like a business to facilitate cyber-fraud on a global scale,” said acting assistant attorney general John Cronan of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division.

“Its members allegedly caused more than $530m in actual losses to consumers, businesses, and financial institutions alike – and it is alleged that the losses they intended to cause amounted to more than $2.2bn.”

Affected businesses were said to have included HSBC bank and PayPal.

More to follow