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British Museum seeks recovery of some 2,000 stolen items

posted at 12:17:02 UTC by Reuters News Service via Cyprus Mail
file photo: parthenon sculptures on display at british museum in london

Around 2,000 artefacts including gold jewellery and gems had been stolen from the British Museum over a long period of time, but recovery efforts were already under way, the museum’s chair George Osborne said on Saturday.

The museum, one of London’s most popular attractions whose treasures include the Rosetta Stone, an ancient Egyptian relic inscribed with hieroglyphs and other texts, said last week a member of staff had been dismissed after items dating from the 15th century BC to the 19th century AD had been taken from a storeroom.

Museum director Hartwig Fischer said on Friday he would step down after admitting to failings in its investigation into the theft of items from its collection.

Osborne, a former British Chancellor, told BBC radio that not all of the museum’s collection was properly catalogued or registered, a situation not unique among large institutions whose collections had been amassed over hundreds of years.

A “forensic” inquiry was being conducted to find out what had been stolen, Osborne said. “We think it’s around 2,000 items,” he said. “But I have to say that’s a very provisional figure and we’re still actively looking.”

“We’ve already started to recover some of the stolen items,” he added, without giving any details of what had been recovered or how.

Osborne said he did not believe there had been any deliberate cover-up after the museum previously rejected a warning in 2021 that the thefts were happening.

But there could have been some “potential group think” at the top of the institution that could not believe an insider was stealing, he said.

He said the thefts had “certainly been damaging” to the reputation of the museum, which casts itself as a trusted custodian of priceless artefacts from cultures around the world.

“That’s why I’m apologising on behalf of the museum,” he said.

Police said on Thursday said they had interviewed but not charged an unnamed man over the stolen artefacts.

New York Is Full

posted at 12:20:31 UTC by Annie Lowrey via Master Feed : The Atlantic

Since last spring, roughly 100,000 asylum seekers have arrived in New York City. This is a city of immigrants, welcoming to immigrants, built by immigrants. People who were born abroad make up a third of New York’s population and own more than half of its businesses. Yet the city has struggled to accommodate this wave of new arrivals. Migrants are selling candy on the subways, sleeping on the streets in Midtown, waiting for spots in homeless shelters. Families are struggling to access public schools, legal aid, and health care. They are vulnerable to predation and violence.

It is a humanitarian crisis. The city has scrambled to accommodate these new residents, but Mayor Eric Adams says that New York is officially overwhelmed. “We have reached full capacity,” he said bluntly at a press conference last month. “We have no more room in the city.”

The city’s response to the migrants has garnered fierce criticism from both right and left. Republicans have bashed the mayor for wasting resources better spent on long-standing New Yorkers. Democrats have attacked him for allowing a human catastrophe to develop and trying to shift blame to the state and federal government.

Yet Adams is in some profound sense correct. New York is full. It is too full for young families, new businesses, artists, and retirees. It has been too full for years, if not decades. It desperately, immediately needs to make more space for asylum seekers—and for everyone who already lives here.

The current catastrophe is at one level an acute one: Thousands of migrants began to arrive. Many required temporary housing, housing that the city is obligated by the state constitution to provide. The new arrivals filled the shelters. And when the shelters ran out of beds, the city scrambled to set up new ones in scores of other sites, including hotelsoffices, an airport warehouse, and a series of parking lots. But even that was not enough. Migrants are still intermittently sleeping on the streets; others are crowding into substandard, informal housing.

[Derek Thompson: Why Manhattan’s skyscrapers are empty]

Legal-aid lawyers and emergency-service providers have argued that many migrants would have gotten out of the shelters faster if New York City had managed their cases better. “There are a lot of new arrivals who have very specific needs or desires and not a lot of information,” Joshua Goldfein of the Legal Aid Society told me. Some people need driver’s licenses. Some need work permits. Some need a ticket elsewhere in the country. “You would not be full if you had more turnover,” he said. He ticked off a list of the city’s other management failures, including failing to crack down on landlords who refuse to accept housing vouchers.

The state could also do more: barring bedroom communities and towns upstate from refusing new arrivals, for instance. And of course, the federal government—which has an exclusive purview over immigration policy, a multitrillion-dollar budget, and an entire cabinet department devoted to the borders, immigration, and customs—could step in with money, guidance, and administrative capacity.  

Yet the problem is New York’s. And behind this acute crisis is the longer-standing one of an insufficient housing supply.

You can see it by looking at residential-vacancy rates, which have been as low as 2 percent in recent years. You can tell by looking at the size and price of rentals and homes for purchase: The average rent in Manhattan is more than $4,000, and the average home in Brooklyn costs roughly $1 million. You can see it in the shrinking of New York’s middle class and the stagnation of its population and the widening of its income and wealth inequality. Housing supply has simply not kept pace with housing demand, squeezing everyone except for the very rich.

The same forces shunting families to the suburbs are weighing on the migrants. The same forces driving New Yorkers out of unaffordable apartments and into homeless shelters are weighing on the migrants. Migrants cannot afford housing for the same reason that the city itself struggles to raise money for new facilities. New York really is full.

[Jerusalem Demsas: Meet the latest housing-crisis scapegoat]

Isn’t there space in all of those empty office complexes? Couldn’t the city find more space, if not enough? Sure. But converting office towers into housing requires money and time. And setting up new emergency-shelter facilities takes money and time too. The mayor has said the migrant influx might cost as much as $12 billion; this year, the city estimates it will spend more on the migrant crisis than it does on the parks, fire, and sanitation departments combined.

High housing costs have a way of making every problem a housing problem. A homeless person needing help with a substance-abuse disorder needs housing first. A migrant requiring legal aid more pressingly needs a roof over their head. And high housing costs, of course, force millions of vulnerable people into homelessness. “Our homeless-response system has turned into a crisis-response system,” Gregg Colburn, an associate real-estate professor at the University of Washington’s College of Built Environments, told me. “So many other systems have failed or delegated responsibility to it.”

The opposite is also true: Low housing costs make other problems simpler to solve. Cheap housing reduces the number of people who become homeless. It also allows the entities providing assistance to do more for less, because their overhead costs are lower. And it frees up lawyers to work on immigration cases, substance-use experts to work on substance-use issues, and mental-health counselors to work on mental-health issues.

There is no easy way for the city to help this wave of migrants, not until housing supply goes up and prices come down, or until the federal and state governments provide much, much more aid. “I don’t know if you guys understand what’s going on right now,” Adams said at a press conference this month. “There’s no housing, folks. There’s no housing.”

Charles McGonigal, once the bureau’s chief of counterintelligence in New York, still faces separate federal charges out of Washington.

Charles McGonigal walks outside the federal courthouse in Manhattan.

Charles McGonigal, the F.B.I.’s top counterintelligence official in New York, sought to enrich himself by trading on his job, prosecutors said.Credit…Jefferson Siegel for The New York Times

Michael Rothfeld

The former head of counterintelligence for the F.B.I. in New York pleaded guilty in federal court in Manhattan on Tuesday to a single reduced charge of conspiring to violate U.S. sanctions and laundering payments from a prominent Russian oligarch.

The plea by the former agent, Charles F. McGonigal, represented a remarkable turn for a man who once occupied one of the most sensitive and trusted positions in the American intelligence community, placing him among the highest-ranking F.B.I. officials ever to be convicted of a crime.

Appearing before Judge Jennifer H. Rearden of Federal District Court on Tuesday, an emotional Mr. McGonigal stood up and said that he had broken the law after his retirement in 2018 from the bureau, where he had been an expert in Russian counterintelligence, by aiding an effort by Oleg V. Deripaska, a Russian billionaire under U.S. sanctions, to investigate a rival.

“I have understood what my actions have resulted in, and I’m deeply remorseful,” Mr. McGonigal said, his voice breaking. “My actions were never intended to hurt the United States, the F.B.I. and my family and friends.”

The conspiracy charge he pleaded guilty to was newly filed by prosecutors on Tuesday, replacing the original indictment handed up by a grand jury in January that had included more serious charges of violating U.S. sanctions and laundering money. Under the plea deal, the maximum prison term Mr. McGonigal could serve is five years, instead of the sentence of up to 20 years he might otherwise have faced.

In court, Mr. McGonigal, 55, told the judge that he had known he could not legally perform services for Mr. Deripaska, who was placed on a U.S. sanctions list in 2018. He said he had understood that his work in the second half of 2021 to collect “open source” negative information on Vladimir Potanin, an oligarch who was a business competitor of Mr. Deripaska, was likely to be used in an effort to get Mr. Potanin placed on the sanctions list as well.

He admitted knowingly arranging for payments to be routed from a Russian bank through a company in Cyprus, and then to a corporation in New Jersey, to conceal that the source of the money was Mr. Deripaska.

Judge Rearden scheduled Mr. McGonigal’s sentencing for Dec. 14.

In the initial charging document, prosecutors from the U.S. attorney’s office for the Southern District of New York said that Mr. McGonigal and an associate had received payments totaling more than $200,000 for their work investigating Mr. Potanin under a contract with an aide to Mr. Deripaska. They also hired subcontractors for the investigation, the indictment said.

But on Tuesday, Mr. McGonigal told the judge that in the end he had netted only $17,500, and he agreed to forfeit that amount.

The plea brings the prosecution of Mr. McGonigal in New York to a relatively speedy conclusion after fewer than seven months. He had been arrested by F.B.I. agents in January at John F. Kennedy Airport upon his return from an overseas business trip.

Mr. McGonigal still faces a second indictment brought by federal prosecutors in Washington on charges that accuse him of concealing his acceptance of $225,000 from a businessman and of hiding dealings in Eastern Europe while working for the bureau. Mr. McGonigal has pleaded not guilty to those charges but is in talks to resolve them; his lawyer, Seth D. DuCharme, told the judge overseeing the Washington case that he expected to provide an update on the talks after Labor Day.

Although Mr. McGonigal was privy to highly classified information, a three-year investigation found no evidence that he had passed secrets to foreign adversaries, according to people with knowledge of the case who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the ongoing matter. The F.B.I. concluded that Mr. McGonigal’s misconduct was limited to corruption, the people said.

Mr. Deripaska, who has been called “Putin’s oligarch” because of his close relationship with the Russian president, Vladimir V. Putin, is among the best known of the businessmen who became rich as Russian state resources were doled out to friends of the Kremlin after the fall of the Soviet Union. Mr. Deripaska and others were also accused last year by federal prosecutors in New York of violating U.S. sanctions through real-estate deals and other actions, including trying to arrange for the oligarch’s girlfriend to give birth to their two children in the United States. Mr. Deripaska, a Russian citizen, is unlikely to be extradited to face the charges in the near future.

The prosecutors in Mr. McGonigal’s New York case have said that before the U.S. government expanded sanctions in 2018, following Russia’s interference in the 2016 American presidential election, Mr. McGonigal had reviewed a preliminary sanctions list with Mr. Deripaska’s name on it. Around the same time, they suggested, Mr. McGonigal was seeking a connection with Mr. Deripaska by arranging a New York Police Department internship for the daughter of one of the oligarch’s aides. (A senior police official has said it was actually a “V.I.P.-type tour.”)

After Mr. McGonigal retired, he and his co-defendant in the New York case, a court interpreter and former Russian diplomat named Sergey Shestakov, referred the same Deripaska aide to a law firm for help getting sanctions removed, according to the original charges in New York.

While negotiating the law firm agreement, Mr. McGonigal met with Mr. Deripaska in Vienna and London, referring to him in electronic communications as “the Vienna client,” prosecutors have said. Mr. Deripaska paid the law firm $175,000 a month; the firm passed $25,000 on to Mr. McGonigal as a consultant and investigator, the prosecutors said.

Mr. Shestakov has pleaded not guilty to violating U.S. sanctions, money laundering, conspiracy and making false statements to the F.B.I. His lawyer, Rita M. Glavin, did not respond to a request for comment.

The deal to investigate Mr. Potanin was made with an aide to Mr. Deripaska in the spring of 2021, prosecutors said.

In November of that year, Mr. McGonigal and Mr. Shestakov were trying to obtain “dark web” files, purportedly about $500 million in hidden assets held by Mr. Potanin, in exchange for a payment of up to $3 million, Rebecca Talia Dell, an assistant U.S. attorney, said in court Tuesday. Before that transaction could be completed, F.B.I. agents seized Mr. McGonigal and Mr. Shestakov’s electronic devices, bringing their work for Mr. Deripaska to an end, prosecutors have said.

A correction was made on : 

An earlier version of this article misstated the scheduled sentencing date for Charles McGonigal, a former F.B.I. official. It is Dec. 14, not Dec. 4.

How we handle corrections

Michael Rothfeld is an investigative reporter on the Metro desk and co-author of the book “The Fixers.” He was part of a team at The Wall Street Journal that won the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for national reporting for stories about hush money deals made on behalf of Donald Trump and a federal investigation of the president’s personal lawyer. More about Michael Rothfeld

A version of this article appears in print on  , Section A, Page 16 of the New York edition with the headline: Former Spy Hunter for F.B.I. Pleads Guilty to a Reduced Charge. Order Reprints | Today’s Paper | Subscribe

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Задержанный якобы следил за объектами “Хезболлы”

Газета Guardian пишет, что генералы НАТО могли убедить Украину изменить стратегию борьбы на фоне замедлившегося контрнаступления. СМИ ссылается на неназванные источники.

Как отмечает издание, на прошлой неделе некоторые высокопоставленные члены командования НАТО, включая командующего американскими силами в Европе, генерала Кристофера Каволи и британского адмирала сэра Энтони Радакина встретились с главнокомандующим украинскими войсками Валерием Залужным на польско-украинской границе.

“Целью пятичасовой встречи было помочь перезагрузить военную стратегию Украины. …Главным вопросом обсуждения были действия, которые могли помочь с остановившимся прогрессом контрнаступления Украины”, — проинформировала газета.

По данным Guardian, в ходе обсуждений стратегия Украины изменилась.

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