Chinese Billionaire Sun Dawu Sentenced To 18 Years In Prison 

Billionaire Sun Dawu is a vocal critic of the Chinese government. Now, Sun has been sentenced to 18 years in prison for “picking quarrels and provoking troubles,” according to an official statement published by the court. 

Sun was arrested back in March, he owns the company Hebei Dawu Agriculture and Animal Husbandry Group, which owns farming operations in China and employs about 9,000 people in poultry processing, pet food production, and other industries. 

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Sun was found guilty of “gathering a crowd to storm state institutions, obstructing public service, picking quarrels and provoking troubles, disrupting production and operation, conducting coercive trade, illegal mining, illegal occupation of agricultural land, illegal absorption of public deposits,” the People’s Court of Gaobeidian said in a statement. 

Dawu was also fined 3.11 million yuan ($480,000) as a part of his sentence. He’s one of very few powerful figures in China who has remained outspoken against the ruling communist party. He publicly accused the government of attempting to cover up the extent of the African swine flu outbreak in 2019, which killed more than 100 million pigs in the nation. 

There have also been local reports that claimed Sun was in the midst of a land dispute with a local government owned farm. Dawu claimed dozens of company employees were injured after a 2020 fight with the police when a group led by Dawu attempted to stop state farm staff from tearing down one of its buildings. 

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Chinese Human Rights Defenders is an advocacy group that recently claimed Sun was “being put on trial as a blatant attempt to punish him for his support of human rights.” 

“Sun Dawu has made extraordinary contributions to improving the life of Chinese citizens living in rural China. His support of rights defenders was an extension of his concern for the welfare of people on the margins of the Chinese economy,” said Ramona Li, senior researcher and advocate for CHRD.

Private enterprises in China have been subjected to multiple restrictive guidelines from the government in recent months. The Communist Party recently said that all private sector entrepreneurs need to be “politically sensible people who will firmly listen to the party.”

Chinese billionaire Ren Zhiqiang was also imprisoned for 18 years back in September 2020 on corruption related offenses. Ren was widely attributed to an essay that referred to Chinese president Xi Jinping as a “clown” for his coronavirus prevention strategy.

Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy Sentenced To Prison 

A French court convicted former French President Nicolas Sarkozy to three years in prison for “corruption and influence peddling,” however, the sentence had two years suspended from it. Sarkozy was president from 2007 to 2012. 

Sarkozy was found guilty of “trying to illegally obtain information from a senior magistrate in 2014 about an ongoing investigation into his campaign finances,” according to the ruling. The judge claimed that Sarkozy does not need to serve time in jail itself and could instead serve his sentence by wearing an electric bracelet at home. 

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This is a historic ruling for the nation, marking the first time a president has been sentenced to jail in France within its modern history. Sarkozy is 66-years-old, and the prosecutor working on the case requested a two-year prison sentence as well as a two-year suspended sentence. 

Sarkozy and his co-defendants, his lawyers Thierry Herzog and former magistrate Gilbert Azibert, were all found guilty and handed prison sentences to a certain degree. An investigation was initially launched last year before enough evidence was able to be compiled to make charges and bring the case to the courtroom; which occurred at the end of last year. 

This incident has been dubbed by French media as the “wiretapping case,” and it apparently began back in 2013 when investigators first bugged phones belonging to Sarkozy and his lawyer Herzog. Investigators discovered that the two men had “promised senior magistrate Gilbert Azibert a prestigious position in Monaco, in exchange for information about an ongoing inquiry into claims that Sarkozy had accepted illegal payments from L’Oreal heiress Liliane Bettencourt for his successful 2007 presidential campaign.”

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These aren’t the only accusations Sarkozy is facing either. In two weeks he will find himself on trial once again after being accused of violating campaign financing rules during his 2012 re-election bid. He worked with a public relations firm during his failed campaign to hide the true cost of it from the media. 

In a separate case, French prosecutors are looking into an “alleged illegal campaign funding from Libya. Libya’s former deceased leader Muammar Gaddafi allegedly provided Sarkozy’s 2007 campaign with millions of euros shipped to Paris in suitcases,” according to prosecutors. 

Back in 2011 former president Jacques Chirac was found guilty of misusing public funds for his campaign, and was given a two-year suspended prison sentence for the “employment of fictitious officials when he was mayor of Paris in the early 1990’s.” It’s unclear if the additional accusations will add any additional time to Sarkozy’s sentence, but citizens aren’t convinced it will.

Two Journalists Receive Two Years In Prison For Live-Streaming Belarus Protest 

Journalists Darya Chultsova, 23, and Yekaterina Andreyeva, 27, have been sentenced to two years in prison for live-streaming a demonstration in Belarus. The two work for the independent Belsat TV channel and were detained back in November while covering a protest that was in memory of an opposition activist who died in Minsk a few days prior. 

Roman Bondarenko was a local media activist who apparently died from injuries sustained after being beaten by riot police. The Prosecutor General of Belarus announced this week that an investigation into his death is already being launched but “the involvement of employees of the internal affairs bodies in causing Bondarenkp bodily harm has not been established.” 

This Thursday the courts ruled that both Chultsova and Andreyeva were guilty of “organizing a demonstration that grossly violates public order.”

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Investigators revealed that the two journalists allegedly gathered protestors “by talking about it on air, which then led to interruptions of public transport in the area.” The two are maintaining their innocence on the matter. 

“I have everything: youth, a job that I love, prominence and, most importantly, a clear conscience. I want to devote all my energy to the creation of Belarus without political repression. I demand an acquittal for myself, for my colleagues and for hundreds of political prisoners,” Andreyeva said at a previous court hearing, according to local media.

Viasna is a Belarussian human rights group that designated the two young journalists as political prisoners and claimed the charges against them are being enforced because of their work as journalists. Belsat is a politically independent TV channel that’s based in Poland. The channel primarily reports on Belarus and it’s budget relies on Polish state subsidies. 

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Ever since its presidential elections in August of 2020, Belarus has been taken over by mass protests. Alexander Lukashenko has been in power since 1994, and when he secured his sixth term last summer, claims of a rigged election began flooding media outlets and independent observers who were commentating on the manner. 

Tens of thousands of people have been taking to the streets in Belarus, demanding Lukashenko’s resignation. Riot police have since cracked down on the protests, beating and detaining thousands of protestors. Some media outlets have reported that the detention centers these protestors are being held at are riddled with abuse and torture. 

“Just look at Darya and Yekaterina, strong, smiling, and saying goodbyes to their loved ones through bars. Lukashenka can’t break us,” Belarussian opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya said in a tweet on Thursday. As of right now the two journalists will begin their sentence in the coming weeks.

Lying About High-Risk Travel In England Can Get You Up To 10 Years In Prison 

England announced new Covid-19 travel and border policies this Tuesday that state anyone arriving in the country and found to have lied about a recent trip to a country on the British government’s travel ban list could face up to 10 years in prison as a means of curbing the spread of the virus and all the new variants appearing throughout the world. 

Health Secretary Matt Hancock told citizens this Monday that all UK residents, as well as those in Ireland, arriving into England from places on the governments “Red List” will have to purchase a quarantine package that costs around $2,400 per person. This package covers accomodation, virus testing, and other essential services. 

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Individuals who choose not to abide by these restrictions, including those arriving from a Red List country without a hotel already booked to quarantine in, could be subject to a series of heavy fines in addition to a potential prison sentence, according to Hancock.

“I make no apologies for the strength of these measures because we’re dealing with one of the strongest threats to our public health that we’ve faced as a nation. People who flout these rules are putting us all at risk.”

There are about 33 countries on the UK’s Red List for travel due to the slew of new variants appearing. If you enter into the UK from a country not on the list, you can simply quarantine at home, for those who do, however, must buy the coronavirus package mentioned above, and will be placed on “variant surveillance testing” as well. 

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Hancock claimed that all of these policies will be going into effect as of Thursday of this week, and the government has created contracts with 16 hotels to give them an additional 4,600 rooms for the quarantining measures.

“Anyone who lies on a passenger locator form and tries to conceal that they’ve been in a country on our red list in the 10 days before arrival here will face a prison sentence of up to 10 years.”

Scotland is also tightening its rules on international travel, requiring all citizens entering into the nation on an international flight to quarantine in a designated hotel. “Airports and airlines are battling to survive with almost zero revenue and a huge cost base, and practically every week a further blow lands. Aviation-specific financial support is urgently needed to ensure our sector can get through the year,” Karen Dee, chief executive of the Airport Operators Association, and Tim Alderslade, chief executive of Airlines U.K, said in a statement. 

All of these measures will be indefinitely enforced until more citizens are vaccinated and the pandemic seems to subside more in general. 12.6 million UK residents have received their first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine so far, and the British government is set to announce the next phase of its vaccine rollout program at the start of next week.

Man in Prison

Longest Prison Sentence In College Admissions Scandal Has Just Been Made

Toby MacFarlane, a 56 year old former California insurance executive from Del Mar, is the most recent to be sentenced in the now infamous college admissions scandal that has been rocking the media as of late. MacFarlane received the longest sentence made thus far and will be serving six months in prison for paying upwards of $450,000 to get both of his children into the University of Southern California as fake athletic recruits, the same specific crime committed by actress Lori Loughlin, according to FOX

MacFarlane specifically paid $200,000 to William Singer, the man who acted as the middleman for twelve of the parents involved in the scandal, to pay USC athletic directors off in order to get his daughter admitted to the school as a soccer recruit back in 2014. Additionally MacFarlane paid $250,000 three years later to get his son into USC as a fake basketball recruit (FOX). The money paid allowed MacFarlane’s children to be accepted into the university as “All American” athletes. Singer pocketed most of the bribe, but around $50,000 was taken from both sets of payment and paid to USC athletics official Donna Heinel. Heinel is the same individual who helped Loughlin’s kids also get admitted to the school as Crew recruits. She has pleaded not-guilty to her federal charges and is awaiting trial. 

According to CNN, MacFarlane will also have to pay a fine of $150,000, perform 200 hours of community service upon release, and will most likely be put on probation a year after his release. His son attended the university for a few months but didn’t end up graduating from it, due to the scandal breaking, and his daughter graduated from the university in 2018, both kids never once stepped foot on an athletic field. 

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To get away with it, CNN reports that MacFarlane claimed the payments on his taxes as business expenses, as he was working as a senior executive of the World Financial Group’s Title Insurance Company at the time, so he was able to get tax deductions on the bribes. So far he has paid back the IRS $80,000 of the money he pocketed since being arrested. Also since his arrest MacFarlane lost his job and professional license working in insurance.

“I was entering the most serious personal crisis of [my] life when Singer entered [my] life. My marriage was falling apart, and I was being treated for anxiety, depression and insomnia. I knew it was wrong, but at the time I was feeling completely overwrought and all I could think of was not having to worry about my kids getting into college. Foolishly and selfishly, I took what seemed like an easy way out,” MacFarlane wrote in a letter to the court. 

Prosecutors were anything but sympathetic to this letter, as MacFarlane used the scam not once but twice, and with three years in between each other. Personal turmoil is often never a viable excuse in the court of law, as every human being is going through hardships, but that doesn’t mean everyone else turns to criminal behavior to cope, especially when the individual is one of high financial power and status. 

“Many people experience similar hardships without turning to criminal conduct. By repeating the scheme for his son, MacFarlane demonstrated that it was not just a “transitory lapse in judgment,” Prosecutors wrote in court documents.

More than 50 individuals total have been charged due to their involvement with this scandal. So far, 19 have pleaded guilty to their charges and 15 have contested.