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Sam Bankman-Fried sentenced to 25 years in prison over FTX fraud

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Sam Bankman-Fried sentenced to 25 years in prison over FTX fraud

Sam Bankman-Fried was found guilty of fraud in November. Photograph: Ed Jones/AFP/Getty Images

Sam Bankman-Fried was found guilty of fraud in November. Photograph: Ed Jones/AFP/Getty Images© Photograph: Ed Jones/AFP/Getty Images

Sam Bankman-Fried, the disgraced cryptocurrency mogul who perpetrated one of the largest financial frauds in history, has been sentenced to 25 years in prison.

The judge, Lewis Kaplan, issued the penalty in a Manhattan courtroom on Thursday. Bankman-Fried, the former chief executive of the now-bankrupt cryptocurrency exchange FTX, was convicted of fraud and conspiracy to launder money late last year.

Prosecutors had sought a sentence of between 40 to 50 years, arguing that Bankman-Fried, 32, showed a lack of remorse for his crimes while leading a life of “unmatched greed and hubris”.

In pre-sentencing arguments filed last month, Bankman-Fried’s lawyer urged the judge to show leniency, and said the maximum potential sentence for his client of 100 years was “grotesque”. Bankman-Fried’s attorneys were seeking a sentence of about seven years in jail.

Related: The rise and fall of Sam Bankman-Fried: an unrepentant ex-mogul faces down decades in prison

Only two years ago, Bankman-Fried was poised to become one of the most financially and politically influential people in the US. His firm FTX was valued at $32bn, and he had become the public face of the cryptocurrency industry, appearing on stage at events with celebrities and former world leaders and testifying before the US Congress. He was a major political donor, pouring money into election campaigns while lobbying lawmakers on crypto regulation.

The descent from crypto golden boy to global pariah happened swiftly. After reports emerged in November 2022 revealing the financial instability of Bankman-Fried’s companies, there was a domino effect on those businesses that included customers making a bank-style run on deposits and investigators freezing FTX assets. FTX declared bankruptcy just nine days after crypto news site Coindesk’s initial report, and Bankman-Fried’s personal net worth fell by billions of dollars.

He was arrested weeks later in the Bahamas, where he and other FTX executives lived and parts of his company were based.

Bankman-Fried’s highly anticipated trial began in October, with prosecutors alleging he misappropriated customer funds while enriching himself and buying up lavish real estate. Once known for unkempt hair and wearing casual clothes at all occasions, Bankman-Fried appeared with a new haircut and suit as he stood trial. In an unusual and ultimately disastrous move, he decided to take the stand in his own defense — leading to a damaging cross-examination where he failed to recall events and appeared to contradict himself.

Many of Bankman-Fried’s top executives and closest allies, including his on-again, off-again girlfriend Caroline Ellison, all testified against him during the trial. Ellison, the former chief executive of FTX’s trading arm Alameda Research, told the court that Bankman-Fried directed her to commit fraud and use FTX customer funds without their knowledge.

The jury in Bankman-Fried’s trial found him guilty on all seven counts of fraud and conspiracy after just four hours of deliberation. Bankman-Fried has maintained that he is innocent.

Story by Nick Robins-Early:The Guardian 

US government must promise there will be no death penalty for Assange

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US government must promise there will be no death penalty for Assange

US government must promise there will be no death penalty for Assange

US government must promise there will be no death penalty for Assange©Getty Images

The United States must give assurances that Julian Assange (pictured) will not face the death penalty before judges will consider dismissing the WikiLeaks founder's bid to bring an extradition appeal, the High Court has ruled. Assange, 52, faces prosecution in the US over an alleged conspiracy to obtain and disclose national defence information following the publication of hundreds of thousands of leaked documents relating to the Afghanistan and Iraq wars. 

Reference: Daily Mail 

Whoopi Goldberg hits back at conspiracy theory that Taylor Swift secretly works with the Pentagon

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Whoopi Goldberg hits back at conspiracy theory that Taylor Swift secretly works with the Pentagon

taylor-swoft-whoopi-goldberg.png

Taylor-swoft-whoopi-goldberg.png© Getty Images

Whoopi Goldberg has hit back at the conspiracy theory that Taylor Swift is secretly working for the Pentagon.

During an episode of The View, which aired on 11 January, the 68-year-old actor and her co-hosts first discussed the theory, after it was featured on a segment from Fox News. Goldberg started the discussion by showing a clip from Fox News, which included Jesse Watters alleging that in 2019, the US Department of Defense’s psychological operations unit pitched the idea of turning Swift into “a [psychological operation] for combatting online misinformation”.

While reacting to the conspiracy theory about Swift on The View, Goldberg criticised the Fox News segment for “worrying about the weirdest stuff”. The Sister Act star then praised the singer for how she’s shaped the political world, referring to how Swift managed to drive record-breaking numbers to voter registration on Vote.org, after urging her Instagram followers to take action.

“She got people to go out and vote, including probably all kinds of people that you rather not have voting,” Goldberg said. “If she can get people to do that, why would you say that was a bad thing or talk about it like you were disparaging it?”

After Goldberg called the conspiracy about Swift “baloney,” View host Sunny Hostin chimed in to share her thoughts about Watters. She claimed that as Swift spent part of her childhood in Tennessee – with her career starting in country music – members of the Republican party initially believed that the singer’s political views would align with theirs.

“I think the Jesse Watters of the world thought that she was their princess,” Hostin quipped. “And then all of the sudden, she decides to endorse a Democrat in Tennessee. She was in support of March for Our Lives against gun violence, she supported the LGBTQ community in her music videos. And she said, ‘I’m pro-choice,’ and then she said, ‘And vote.’ They picked the wrong princess.”

Later in the conversation, Goldberg once again criticised the theory that Swift is working with the Pentagon, as the actor went on to shake her head. “I’m tired of dumb people. I’m just, I’m tired of it. I can’t handle it,” she said.

Hostin then referred to how Pentagon spokesperson Sabrina Singh spoke to Politico to push back at the idea that Swift worked with the US Department of Defense.

“As for this conspiracy theory, we are going to shake it off,” she told the publication, referring to a title of Swift’s songs from her 1989 album.

During this week’s segment of Jesse Watters Primetime, the TV host first questioned if Swift was an asset for the Pentagon. “Have you ever wondered why or how she blew up like this?” he asked. “Well, around four years ago, the Pentagon’s Psychological Operations unit floated turning Taylor Swift into an asset during a Nato [North Atlantic Treaty Organization] meeting.”

In addition to his claim that the “Anti-Hero” singer was a “PsyOp for combatting online misinformation,” he continued to question if she worked with the government because of how she’s encouraged her followers to vote.

“Hundreds of thousands of young Taylor Swift fans all of a sudden registered to vote,” he said. “I wonder who got to her, from the White House or from wherever?"

On X, formerly known as Twitter, Andrea Hailey, who’s the Chief Executive Officer of Vote.org, slammed the conspiracy theory that Swift worked with the Pentagon.

“Hi, CEO of Vote.org here. Our partnership with @taylorswift13 is helping all Americans make their voices heard at the ballot box,” Hailey wrote. “Not a psy-op or a Pentagon asset. Just the biggest nonpartisan platform in America helping young people register & cast their vote.”

In September 2023, Swift first called on her fans to register to vote, in honour of National Voter Registration Day. Hours after she made that announcement on social media, Vote.org’s communication director, Nick Morrow, announced that voter registration numbers had gone up immensely.

“Fun fact: after @taylorswift13 posted on Instagram today directing her followers to register to vote on @votedotorg, our site was averaging 13,0000 users every 30 minutes,” Morrow wrote on X/Twitter. “13! Let’s just say her reputation for being a mastermind is very well-earned.”

The Independent has contacted a representative for Fox News and Swift for comment. 

Story by Amber Raiken: Independent

Chinese Cyber-Hacking Ring Charged for Attacking Americans in 14-Year-Long Email Operation

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Chinese Cyber-Hacking Ring Charged for Attacking Americans in 14-Year-Long Email Operation

The United States Justice Department unsealed charges Monday, March 25, against seven Chinese nationals working for the Chinese government to enact a widespread cyber-hacking campaign.

The Justice Department said hackers targeted American and foreign critics of China, businesses, journalists and politicians in a 14-year-long operation, Knewz.com has learned.

The seven Chinese nationals that have been charged by the US Justice Department with conspiracy to commit computer intrusions and conspiracy to commit wire fraud for their involvement in a People’s Republic of China (PRC)-based hacking enterprise. By: U.S. Justice Dept.

The seven Chinese nationals that have been charged by the US Justice Department with conspiracy to commit computer intrusions and conspiracy to commit wire fraud for their involvement in a People’s Republic of China (PRC)-based hacking enterprise. By: U.S. Justice Dept.© Knewz (UK)

The indictment was entered on January 30 but wasn’t unsealed until March 25. The men have been charged with conspiracy to commit computer intrusions and conspiracy to commit wire fraud for their involvement in a People’s Republic of China (PRC)-based hacking enterprise.

The defendants are Ni Gaobin, 38; Weng Ming, 37; Cheng Feng, 34; Peng Yaowen, 38; Sun Xiaohui, 38; Xiong Wang, 35; and Zhao Guangzong, 38. All are believed to reside in China.

Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement: “The Justice Department will not tolerate efforts by China's government to intimidate Americans who serve the public, silence the dissidents who are protected by American laws or steal from American businesses. This case serves as a reminder of the ends to which the Chinese government is willing to go to target and intimidate its critics, including launching malicious cyber operations aimed at threatening the national security of the United States and our allies.”

According to the indictment, the global hacking operation spawned 10,000 malicious emails backed by the Chinese government and targeted journalists, political officials and companies. By: MEGA© Knewz (UK)

According to the indictment, the global hacking operation spawned 10,000 malicious emails backed by the Chinese government and targeted journalists, political officials and companies.

Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco said the ongoing operation was designed to “repress critics of the Chinese regime, compromise government institutions, and steal trade secrets.”

Along with the seven defendants, dozens of identified PRC Ministry of State Security (MSS) intelligence officers, contractor hackers and support personnel were part of the hacking group known as Advanced Persistent Threat 31 (the APT31 Group) - a cyberespionage program run by the MSS’s Hubei State Security Department in Wuhan.

The more than 10,000 malicious emails sent to these targets often appeared to be from prominent news outlets or journalists and appeared to contain legitimate news articles.

The malicious emails contained hidden tracking links. The recipient only had to open the email, and information about them, including their location, internet protocol (IP) addresses, network schematics, and specific devices used to access pertinent email accounts, was transmitted to a server controlled by the defendants and those working with them.

They then used that information to launch more direct and sophisticated targeted hacking, such as compromising the recipients’ home routers and other electronic devices.

Attorney General Merrick Garland said of the indictments,© Knewz (UK)

Tracking link emails were also sent to government officials around the world who had criticized the Chinese government. The targets included every European Union member of the Inter Parliamentary Alliance on China (IPAC), and 43 United Kingdom parliamentary accounts, most of whom were members IPAC or had been outspoken on topics relating to the PRC government.

Targeted U.S. government officials included individuals working in the White House, at the Departments of Justice, Commerce, Treasury, and State, and U.S. Senators and Representatives of both political parties. Private companies attacked included defense contractors who provide services to the US military and "a leading provider of 5G network equipment," the Justice Department said.

FBI Director Christopher Wray said: "Today's announcement exposes China's continuous and brash efforts to undermine our nation's cybersecurity and target Americans and our innovation. As long as China continues to target the US and our partners, the FBI will continue to send a clear message that cyber espionage will not be tolerated, and we will tirelessly pursue those who threaten our nation’s security and prosperity. This indictment underscores our unwavering commitment to disrupt and deter malicious cyber activity, and safeguard our citizens, businesses, and critical infrastructure from threats in cyberspace."

FBI Director Christopher Wray said,© Knewz (UK)

Matthew G. Olsen of the Justice Department’s National Security Division said the operation underscores the need to remain vigilant in the face of cybersecurity attacks, particularly ahead of the November 2024 presidential election.

Following the unsealing of the indictment, the department of the U.S. Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) said in a statement Monday that both the U.S. and UK were imposing sanctions on China. The department said it had sanctioned Wuhan Xiaoruizhi Science and Technology Company, Limited (Wuhan XRZ), a Wuhan, China-based MSS front company that served as cover for the malicious cyber operations.

OFAC also said it was designating Zhao Guangzong and Ni Gaobin, two Chinese nationals affiliated with Wuhan XRZ,for their roles in “targeting U.S. entities that operate within U.S. critical infrastructure sectors, directly endangering U.S. national security.” 

Story by Kelly Hartog:KNEWZ

Biggie, Tupac, Suge: How Diddy became the last man standing in the East Coast-West Coast hip hop rivalry

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Biggie, Tupac, Suge: How Diddy became the last man standing in the East Coast-West Coast hip hop rivalry

Sean “Diddy” Combs casts a long shadow over the history of hip hop. One of the industry’s first moguls, his work as an A&R executive, label boss, rapper and producer made him both extravagantly wealthy and internationally famous.

While Combs, 54, may have spent over thirty years at the top of the industry, the news this week of Homeland Security raids on his homes in Los Angeles and Miami puts his legacy in a different light. He is now facing multiple civil lawsuits accusing him of sex trafficking, sexual abuse and rape. He strongly denies all of the allegations against him, while his attorneys have branded the lawsuits and their accusations as money grabs, “baseless” or “sickening.”

Still, with Combs back in the headlines for all the wrong reasons, old rivalries are resurfacing. Earlier this week, his longtime West Coast sparring partner Suge Knight, who is currently serving a 28-year sentence for manslaughter, tweeted from jail: “Justice for 2Pac is coming Keefe D and now Diddy!!!”

The feud between Combs and Knight was at the heart of the East Coast–West Coast hip hop rivalry of the mid-Nineties. They were at that point each the respective heads of the most influential rap labels on either coast of America. In 1991, Knight co-founded Death Row Records in Los Angeles alongside producers Dr Dre, Dick Griffey and The D.O.C, and with acts like NWA and Snoop Dogg on their roster it seemed to some fans that rap had upped sticks from its historic home in New York and relocated to sun-kissed California.

Two years later, in 1993, Combs was fired from his role as an A&R executive at Uptown Records and decided to start his own label, Bad Boy Records. They quickly had a massive hit with the very first album they released, The Notorious B.I.G.’s Ready to Die, and the focal point of the rap universe seemed to swing back towards the Empire State.

Before long Biggie had established himself as the face of East Coast rap, but he had a rival for the national crown: Tupac Shakur. By the time Biggie released Ready to Die, New York-born Shakur had already relocated to the West Coast and released two acclaimed albums and starred in three films.

However, he was also involved in a sexual abuse trial in New York. On 30 November 1994, Shakur arrived at Quad Studios in Manhattan where he was scheduled to record with rapper Little Shawn to help pay his legal fees. When he stepped inside the building two gunmen robbed him, shooting him five times. In the aftermath, Shakur implied in an interview that he believed Biggie and Combs may have been involved in the attack as they saw him as a competitor. Shakur was convicted of the abuse charges and spent time in jail at Rikers Island, where Combs visited him to assure him that Bad Boy Records had not been involved in the shooting.

Things came to a head at the Source Awards in New York the following year, on 3 August 1995. There, Knight famously and publicly took a shot at Combs, needling him for his fondness for appearing in his artists’ music videos and rapping on their songs. “Any artist out there that want to be an artist and want to stay a star, and don’t want to have to worry about the executive producer trying to be all in the videos... All on the records... dancing, come to Death Row!” proclaimed Knight from the stage.

When Combs took the stage later to present another award, he spoke up for unity. “All this East and West – that needs to stop,” he told the audience. “So give it up for everybody from the East and the West that won tonight. One love."

The Notorious B.I.G. with Combs (Erik Pendzich/REX)© Provided by The Independent

The rivalry rumbled on throughout the following year, reaching a bloody climax when Shakur was shot in Las Vegas in September 1996, succumbing to his injuries in the following days. Six months later, in March 1997, Biggie was shot and killed in Los Angeles in what was widely seen as retalitation for Shakur’s death.

Both murders went unsolved for many decades, and without a culprit rumours circulated once again that Combs and Bad Boy Records could have been behind Shakur’s shooting. This rumour has refused to go away despite evidence to the contrary, with the likes of Eminem keeping the theory alive when he rapped on his 2018 song “Killshot”, a diss track largely aimed at Machine Gun Kelly: “But, Kells, the day you put out a hit’s the day Diddy admits/That he put the hit out that got Pac killed, ah!” Granted, Eminem does add at the end of the track: “And I’m just playin’, Diddy / You know I love you.” Shakur’s murder may have moved a step closer to being solved last year, when Duane “Keffe D” Davis, 60, was finally arrested and charged with the crime.

If Knight and Combs still didn’t see eye-to-eye, their paths diverged in the aftermath of the death of their two biggest stars. Knight filed for bankruptcy in 2006, bringing Death Row Records as it was to a close (the brand name has since been bought by Snoop Dogg). In 2017, he was convicted of voluntary manslaughter for killing music executive Terry Carter by driving his car into him. He will not be eligible for parole until 2034.

Combs, for a time, seemed to flourish. He had a string of hits in the late Nineties, including his Biggie tribute “I’ll Be Missing You”. He parlayed his rap success into a Hollywood acting career and made serious money from developing the Cîroc vodka brand with beverage company Diageo (splitting profits 50-50) and television network Revolt TV. In 2022, Forbes estimated that with his musical accomplishments and his business ventures, Combs’ net worth totted up to a cool billion dollars.

As of 2024 however, he is no longer involved with either Cîroc or Revolt and his future looks entirely uncertain. 

Story by Kevin E G Perry: The Independent

 

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