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EU Tax Haven Blacklist Set to Shrink Further

European Union states are set to remove Bahrain, the Marshall Islands and Saint Lucia from a list of tax havens next week, leaving only six jurisdictions on it, an EU document shows.

The planned removals from the EU list drew criticism from an anti-corruption watchdog on Tuesday. The decision is also likely to bring more disapproval from lawmakers and activists who had strongly criticized a first delisting in January that cut the number of jurisdictions named to nine from 17.

The latest decision was taken by the EU Code of Conduct Group, which includes tax experts from the 28 member states, according to an EU document seen by Reuters.

EU finance ministers are expected to endorse the proposal at their regular monthly meeting in Brussels on March 13.

The jurisdictions that remain on the blacklist are American Samoa, Guam, Namibia, Palau, Samoa and Trinidad and Tobago.

Bahrain, the Marshall Islands and Saint Lucia are to be delisted after they made “specific commitments” to adapt their tax rules and practices to EU standards, the document says.

Those commitments are not public.

“This ever-decreasing list of tax havens will soon be so short it will be able to fit on a Post-it. It’s time for the EU to publish how it chooses which countries go on the list and why,” said Elena Gaita, of Transparency International EU, an anti-corruption watchdog.

Panama

In the last cut, EU governments decided to remove Barbados, Grenada, South Korea, Macau, Mongolia, Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates and Panama.

Panama’s delisting caused particular outcry. The EU process to set up a tax-haven blacklist was triggered by publication of the Panama Papers, documents that showed how wealthy individuals and multinational corporations use offshore schemes to reduce their tax bills.

Ministers said January’s delisting signaled that the process was working as countries around the world were agreeing to adopt EU standards on tax transparency.

All delisted countries have been moved to a “gray list,” which includes dozens of jurisdictions that are not in line with EU standards against tax avoidance but have committed to change their rules and practices.

These countries can be moved back to the blacklist if they fail to respect their undertakings.

Blacklist

Blacklisted jurisdictions could face reputational damage and stricter controls on their financial transactions with the EU, although no sanctions have been agreed by member states yet.

The blacklist was set up to discourage the use of shell structures abroad, which in many cases are legal but may hide illicit activities.

It took nearly a year for EU experts to screen an initial 92 jurisdictions around the world before identifying 17 in December that could favor tax avoidance.

EU countries were not screened. They were deemed to be already in line with EU standards against tax avoidance, although anti-corruption activists and lawmakers have repeatedly asked for some EU members such as Malta and Luxembourg to be blacklisted.

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EU Tax Haven Blacklist Set to Shrink Further

European Union states are set to remove Bahrain, the Marshall Islands and Saint Lucia from a list of tax havens next week, leaving only six jurisdictions on it, an EU document shows.

The planned removals from the EU list drew criticism from an anti-corruption watchdog on Tuesday. The decision is also likely to bring more disapproval from lawmakers and activists who had strongly criticized a first delisting in January that cut the number of jurisdictions named to nine from 17.

The latest decision was taken by the EU Code of Conduct Group, which includes tax experts from the 28 member states, according to an EU document seen by Reuters.

EU finance ministers are expected to endorse the proposal at their regular monthly meeting in Brussels on March 13.

The jurisdictions that remain on the blacklist are American Samoa, Guam, Namibia, Palau, Samoa and Trinidad and Tobago.

Bahrain, the Marshall Islands and Saint Lucia are to be delisted after they made “specific commitments” to adapt their tax rules and practices to EU standards, the document says.

Those commitments are not public.

“This ever-decreasing list of tax havens will soon be so short it will be able to fit on a Post-it. It’s time for the EU to publish how it chooses which countries go on the list and why,” said Elena Gaita, of Transparency International EU, an anti-corruption watchdog.

Panama

In the last cut, EU governments decided to remove Barbados, Grenada, South Korea, Macau, Mongolia, Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates and Panama.

Panama’s delisting caused particular outcry. The EU process to set up a tax-haven blacklist was triggered by publication of the Panama Papers, documents that showed how wealthy individuals and multinational corporations use offshore schemes to reduce their tax bills.

Ministers said January’s delisting signaled that the process was working as countries around the world were agreeing to adopt EU standards on tax transparency.

All delisted countries have been moved to a “gray list,” which includes dozens of jurisdictions that are not in line with EU standards against tax avoidance but have committed to change their rules and practices.

These countries can be moved back to the blacklist if they fail to respect their undertakings.

Blacklist

Blacklisted jurisdictions could face reputational damage and stricter controls on their financial transactions with the EU, although no sanctions have been agreed by member states yet.

The blacklist was set up to discourage the use of shell structures abroad, which in many cases are legal but may hide illicit activities.

It took nearly a year for EU experts to screen an initial 92 jurisdictions around the world before identifying 17 in December that could favor tax avoidance.

EU countries were not screened. They were deemed to be already in line with EU standards against tax avoidance, although anti-corruption activists and lawmakers have repeatedly asked for some EU members such as Malta and Luxembourg to be blacklisted.

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Mexico Foreign Minister Looks for More Jamaican Oil Ties

Mexico is looking into ways to deepen energy cooperation with Jamaica, Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray said on Tuesday on a Caribbean trip to promote U.S.-backed efforts to erode Venezuela’s diplomatic influence.

Videgaray said he was hoping to get more Mexican firms to come to Jamaica as suppliers of oil and as potential investors in developing Jamaican oil resources.

Last month, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson announced that Mexico, Canada and the United States were looking at how to mitigate the effect sanctions on OPEC-member Venezuela would have in the Caribbean.

Videgaray, who visited St. Lucia before Jamaica, said deeper Mexican-Jamaican energy ties could serve as a model elsewhere in the island region.

“Whatever we do in Jamaica can be a learning experience for what we do with other Caribbean countries,” he said, without directly mentioning efforts to weaken Venezuela’s support among countries grateful for past oil largesse.

While Jamaica no longer imports Venezuelan crude, it was a founding member of the South American nation’s Petrocaribe program that provided cheap loans for oil to Caribbean nations.

The legacy of the program has helped Venezuela win votes in the Organization of American States to defeat motions against President Nicolas Maduro, whose socialist government has overseen an economic crisis in Venezuela.

Mexico’s oil output has fallen sharply and the energy ministry has said it would be difficult for the country to replace Petrocaribe. 

“We are a market-based economy and any kind of cooperation that we do, and any business that we foster, is according to market principles,” said Videgaray, standing next to his Jamaican counterpart Kamina Johnson Smith.

He added Mexico would be signing a memorandum of understanding to provide technical support to Jamaica’s oil refinery, Petrojam, which is jointly owned by a unit of Venezuelan national oil company PDVSA.

Jamaica already buys spot cargos of crude from Mexico, a major oil supplier to the United States.

Mexico has been gradually opening up its oil sector following a constitutional reform in 2013 that ended decades of monopoly control by national oil company Pemex. Its ability to maximize crude processing has been hobbled, however, by little new investment, accidents and natural disasters.

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Facebook, Twitter Urged to Do More to Police Hate on Sites

Tech giants Facebook, Twitter and Google are taking steps to police terrorists and hate groups on their sites, but more work needs to be done, the Simon Wiesenthal Center said Tuesday.

The organization released its annual digital terrorism and hate report card and gave a B-plus to Facebook, a B-minus to Twitter and a C-plus to Google.

Facebook spokeswoman Christine Chen said the company had no comment on the report. Representatives for Google and Twitter did not immediately return emails seeking comment.

Rabbi Abraham Cooper, the Wiesenthal Center’s associate dean, said Facebook in particular built “a recognition that bad folks might try to use their platform” into its business model. “There is plenty of material they haven’t dealt with to our satisfaction, but overall, especially in terms of hate, there’s zero tolerance,” Cooper said at a New York City news conference.

Rick Eaton, a senior researcher at the Wiesenthal Center, said hateful and violent posts on Instagram, which is part of Facebook, are quickly removed, but not before they can be widely shared.

He pointed to Instagram posts threatening terror attacks at the upcoming World Cup in Moscow. Another post promoted suicide attacks with the message, “You only die once. Why not make it martyrdom.”

Cooper said Twitter used to merit an F rating before it started cracking down on Islamic State tweets in 2016. He said the move came after testimony before a congressional committee revealed that “ISIS was delivering 200,000 tweets a day.”

Cooper and Eaton said that as the big tech companies have gotten more aggressive in shutting down accounts that promote terrorism, racism and anti-Semitism, promoters of terrorism and hate have migrated to other sites such as VK.com, a Facebook lookalike that’s based in Russia.

There also are “alt-tech” sites like GoyFundMe, an alternative to GoFundMe, and BitChute, an alternative to Google-owned YouTube, Cooper said.

“If there’s an existing company that will give them a platform without looking too much at the content, they’ll use it,” he said. “But if not, they are attracted to those platforms that have basically no rules.”

The Los Angeles-based Wiesenthal Center is dedicated to fighting anti-Semitism, hate and terrorism.

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Facebook, Twitter Urged to Do More to Police Hate on Sites

Tech giants Facebook, Twitter and Google are taking steps to police terrorists and hate groups on their sites, but more work needs to be done, the Simon Wiesenthal Center said Tuesday.

The organization released its annual digital terrorism and hate report card and gave a B-plus to Facebook, a B-minus to Twitter and a C-plus to Google.

Facebook spokeswoman Christine Chen said the company had no comment on the report. Representatives for Google and Twitter did not immediately return emails seeking comment.

Rabbi Abraham Cooper, the Wiesenthal Center’s associate dean, said Facebook in particular built “a recognition that bad folks might try to use their platform” into its business model. “There is plenty of material they haven’t dealt with to our satisfaction, but overall, especially in terms of hate, there’s zero tolerance,” Cooper said at a New York City news conference.

Rick Eaton, a senior researcher at the Wiesenthal Center, said hateful and violent posts on Instagram, which is part of Facebook, are quickly removed, but not before they can be widely shared.

He pointed to Instagram posts threatening terror attacks at the upcoming World Cup in Moscow. Another post promoted suicide attacks with the message, “You only die once. Why not make it martyrdom.”

Cooper said Twitter used to merit an F rating before it started cracking down on Islamic State tweets in 2016. He said the move came after testimony before a congressional committee revealed that “ISIS was delivering 200,000 tweets a day.”

Cooper and Eaton said that as the big tech companies have gotten more aggressive in shutting down accounts that promote terrorism, racism and anti-Semitism, promoters of terrorism and hate have migrated to other sites such as VK.com, a Facebook lookalike that’s based in Russia.

There also are “alt-tech” sites like GoyFundMe, an alternative to GoFundMe, and BitChute, an alternative to Google-owned YouTube, Cooper said.

“If there’s an existing company that will give them a platform without looking too much at the content, they’ll use it,” he said. “But if not, they are attracted to those platforms that have basically no rules.”

The Los Angeles-based Wiesenthal Center is dedicated to fighting anti-Semitism, hate and terrorism.

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Porsche Says Flying Cab Technology Could Be Ready Within Decade

Porsche is studying flying passenger vehicles but expects it could take up to a decade to finalize technology before they can launch in real traffic, its head of development said Tuesday.

Volkswagen’s sports car division is in the early stages of drawing up a blueprint of a flying taxi as it ponders new mobility solutions for congested urban areas, Porsche R&D chief Michael Steiner said at the Geneva auto show.

The maker of the 911 sports car would join a raft of companies working on designs for flying cars in anticipation of a shift in the transport market toward self-driving vehicles and on-demand digital mobility services.

“We are looking into how individual mobility can take place in congested areas where today and in the future it is unlikely that everyone can drive the way he wants,” Steiner said in an interview.

VW’s auto designer Italdesign and Airbus exhibited an evolved version of the two-seater flying car called Pop.Up at the Geneva show. It is designed to avoid gridlock on city roads and premiered at the annual industry gathering a year ago.

Separately, Porsche expects the cross-utility variant of its all-electric Mission E sports car to attract at least 20,000 buyers if it gets approved for production, Steiner said.

Porsche will decide later this year whether to build the Mission E Cross Turismo concept, which surges to 100 kph (62 mph) in less than 3.5 seconds, he said.

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In Reversal, Former Trump Aide Says He’ll Probably Cooperate with Mueller Probe

A former Trump campaign aide spent much of the day promising to defy a subpoena from special counsel Robert Mueller, even throwing down the challenge to “arrest me,” then backed off his defiance by saying he would probably cooperate in the end.

In an interview Monday night with The Associated Press, Sam Nunberg said he was angry over Mueller’s request to have him appear in front of a grand jury and turn over thousands of emails and other communications with other ex-officials, among them his mentor Roger Stone. But he predicted that, in the end, he’d find a way to comply.

 

“I’m going to end up cooperating with them,” he said.

 

It was a reversal from his tone throughout the day, when he lashed out at Trump and his campaign and threatened to defy Mueller in a series of interviews.

 

“Why do I have to do it?” Nunberg told CNN of the subpoena. “I’m not cooperating,” he said later as he challenged officials to charge him.

 

In the earlier interviews, Nunberg said he thought Mueller may already have incriminating evidence on Trump directly, although he would not say what that evidence might be.

 

“I think he may have done something during the election,” Nunberg told MSNBC of the president, “but I don’t know that for sure.” He later told CNN that Mueller “thinks Trump is the Manchurian candidate.” A reference drawn from a Cold War novel and film, a “Manchurian candidate” is an American brainwashed or otherwise compromised to work on behalf of an adversarial government.

 

Shortly after Nunberg lobbed the first allegation, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders rebuffed him during the White House press briefing.

 

“I definitely think he doesn’t know that for sure because he’s incorrect. As we’ve said many times before, there was no collusion with the Trump campaign,” Sanders said. “He hasn’t worked at the White House, so I certainly can’t speak to him or the lack of knowledge that he clearly has.”

 

Nunberg also said he thinks former Trump foreign policy adviser Carter Page, a key figure in the Russia investigation, worked with the Kremlin. “I believe that Carter Page was colluding with the Russians,” Nunberg said on CNN. “That Carter Page is a weird dude.”

 

Page called Nunberg’s accusations “laughable” in a comment to The Associated Press.

 

The Justice Department and FBI obtained a secret warrant in October 2016 to monitor Page’s communications. His activities during the presidential campaign that raised concerns included a July 2016 trip to Moscow.

 

In the interviews, Nunberg said he believes the president probably knew about the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting between his eldest son, top campaign staff and a team of Russians, which Trump has denied. And he blamed Trump for the investigation into Russia meddling, telling MSNBC that he was “responsible for this investigation … because he was so stupid.”

 

A spokesman for the special counsel’s office declined to comment.

 

During his afternoon tirades, Nunberg detailed his interview with Mueller’s investigators, mocking them for asking such questions as if he had heard Russian being spoken in Trump Tower. He then said he would reject a sweeping demand from Mueller for communications between him and top Trump advisers.

 

“I think it would be funny if they arrested me,” Nunberg said on MSNBC.

 

He later added on CNN: “I’m not going to the grand jury. I’m not going to spend 30 hours going over my emails. I’m not doing it.”

 

Nunberg said he’d already blown a 3 p.m. Monday deadline to turn over the requested communications. He said he’d traded numerous emails a day with Stone and former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, and said spending 80 hours digging through his inbox to find them all was unreasonable.

 

But in his call with the AP, Nunberg said he might be more willing to comply if Mueller’s team limits the scope of its request.

 

“I’m happy if the scope changes and if they send me a subpoena that doesn’t include Carter Page” he said, insisting the two had never spoken.

 

He also said he believes the only reason he’s being asked to testify before the grand jury is to provide information that would be used against Stone, a longtime Trump adviser, which he says he won’t do.

 

Nunberg is the first witness in the ongoing federal Russia investigation to openly promise to defy a subpoena. But he’s not the first to challenge Mueller: Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort filed a lawsuit in January challenging Mueller’s authority to indict him.

 

It’s unclear how much Nunberg would know about the inner workings of the Trump campaign or the White House. He never worked at the White House and was jettisoned from the Trump campaign early on, in August 2015, after racist social media postings surfaced. Trump filed a $10 million lawsuit against Nunberg in July 2016, accusing him of violating a nondisclosure agreement, but they settled the suit one month later.

 

John Dean, a White House counsel to President Richard Nixon during Watergate, tweeted Monday that Nunberg can’t flatly refuse to comply with a grand jury subpoena.

 

“This is not Mr. Nunberg’s decision, and he will be in criminal contempt for refusing to show up. He can take the Fifth Amendment. But he can’t tell the grand Jury to get lost. He’s going to lose this fight.”

 

Nunberg appeared pleased by his performance, telling the AP that he was “doing something I’ve never seen.”

 

“They don’t know what’s going on,'”he said, speculating that Mueller would not appreciate his comments and suggesting the authorities might send police to his apartment.

 

His usual cockiness, however, did appear, at times, to ebb. At the end of an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper, Nunberg asked whether the TV anchor thought he should instead cooperate with Mueller.

 

“If it were me, I would,” Tapper responded, telling Nunberg: “Sometimes life and special prosecutors are not fair, I guess.”

 

 

 

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In Reversal, Former Trump Aide Says He’ll Probably Cooperate with Mueller Probe

A former Trump campaign aide spent much of the day promising to defy a subpoena from special counsel Robert Mueller, even throwing down the challenge to “arrest me,” then backed off his defiance by saying he would probably cooperate in the end.

In an interview Monday night with The Associated Press, Sam Nunberg said he was angry over Mueller’s request to have him appear in front of a grand jury and turn over thousands of emails and other communications with other ex-officials, among them his mentor Roger Stone. But he predicted that, in the end, he’d find a way to comply.

 

“I’m going to end up cooperating with them,” he said.

 

It was a reversal from his tone throughout the day, when he lashed out at Trump and his campaign and threatened to defy Mueller in a series of interviews.

 

“Why do I have to do it?” Nunberg told CNN of the subpoena. “I’m not cooperating,” he said later as he challenged officials to charge him.

 

In the earlier interviews, Nunberg said he thought Mueller may already have incriminating evidence on Trump directly, although he would not say what that evidence might be.

 

“I think he may have done something during the election,” Nunberg told MSNBC of the president, “but I don’t know that for sure.” He later told CNN that Mueller “thinks Trump is the Manchurian candidate.” A reference drawn from a Cold War novel and film, a “Manchurian candidate” is an American brainwashed or otherwise compromised to work on behalf of an adversarial government.

 

Shortly after Nunberg lobbed the first allegation, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders rebuffed him during the White House press briefing.

 

“I definitely think he doesn’t know that for sure because he’s incorrect. As we’ve said many times before, there was no collusion with the Trump campaign,” Sanders said. “He hasn’t worked at the White House, so I certainly can’t speak to him or the lack of knowledge that he clearly has.”

 

Nunberg also said he thinks former Trump foreign policy adviser Carter Page, a key figure in the Russia investigation, worked with the Kremlin. “I believe that Carter Page was colluding with the Russians,” Nunberg said on CNN. “That Carter Page is a weird dude.”

 

Page called Nunberg’s accusations “laughable” in a comment to The Associated Press.

 

The Justice Department and FBI obtained a secret warrant in October 2016 to monitor Page’s communications. His activities during the presidential campaign that raised concerns included a July 2016 trip to Moscow.

 

In the interviews, Nunberg said he believes the president probably knew about the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting between his eldest son, top campaign staff and a team of Russians, which Trump has denied. And he blamed Trump for the investigation into Russia meddling, telling MSNBC that he was “responsible for this investigation … because he was so stupid.”

 

A spokesman for the special counsel’s office declined to comment.

 

During his afternoon tirades, Nunberg detailed his interview with Mueller’s investigators, mocking them for asking such questions as if he had heard Russian being spoken in Trump Tower. He then said he would reject a sweeping demand from Mueller for communications between him and top Trump advisers.

 

“I think it would be funny if they arrested me,” Nunberg said on MSNBC.

 

He later added on CNN: “I’m not going to the grand jury. I’m not going to spend 30 hours going over my emails. I’m not doing it.”

 

Nunberg said he’d already blown a 3 p.m. Monday deadline to turn over the requested communications. He said he’d traded numerous emails a day with Stone and former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, and said spending 80 hours digging through his inbox to find them all was unreasonable.

 

But in his call with the AP, Nunberg said he might be more willing to comply if Mueller’s team limits the scope of its request.

 

“I’m happy if the scope changes and if they send me a subpoena that doesn’t include Carter Page” he said, insisting the two had never spoken.

 

He also said he believes the only reason he’s being asked to testify before the grand jury is to provide information that would be used against Stone, a longtime Trump adviser, which he says he won’t do.

 

Nunberg is the first witness in the ongoing federal Russia investigation to openly promise to defy a subpoena. But he’s not the first to challenge Mueller: Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort filed a lawsuit in January challenging Mueller’s authority to indict him.

 

It’s unclear how much Nunberg would know about the inner workings of the Trump campaign or the White House. He never worked at the White House and was jettisoned from the Trump campaign early on, in August 2015, after racist social media postings surfaced. Trump filed a $10 million lawsuit against Nunberg in July 2016, accusing him of violating a nondisclosure agreement, but they settled the suit one month later.

 

John Dean, a White House counsel to President Richard Nixon during Watergate, tweeted Monday that Nunberg can’t flatly refuse to comply with a grand jury subpoena.

 

“This is not Mr. Nunberg’s decision, and he will be in criminal contempt for refusing to show up. He can take the Fifth Amendment. But he can’t tell the grand Jury to get lost. He’s going to lose this fight.”

 

Nunberg appeared pleased by his performance, telling the AP that he was “doing something I’ve never seen.”

 

“They don’t know what’s going on,'”he said, speculating that Mueller would not appreciate his comments and suggesting the authorities might send police to his apartment.

 

His usual cockiness, however, did appear, at times, to ebb. At the end of an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper, Nunberg asked whether the TV anchor thought he should instead cooperate with Mueller.

 

“If it were me, I would,” Tapper responded, telling Nunberg: “Sometimes life and special prosecutors are not fair, I guess.”

 

 

 

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