US Charges 22 Chinese Importers with Smuggling Counterfeit Goods into US

A federal court in New York has charged 22 Chinese importers with smuggling nearly half-a-billion dollars in counterfeit goods into the United States from China.

The fake products include such popular luxury items as Louis Vuitton bags, Michael Kors wallets, and Chanel perfume.

Twenty-one of the defendants were arrested Thursday.

U.S. attorneys say the suspects allegedly smuggled the China-made counterfeit goods in large shipping containers disguised as legitimate products and brought them into ports in New York and New Jersey.

The defendants apparently intended to sell the fake products across the United States with a street value of nearly $500 million.

Along with smuggling and trafficking in counterfeit goods, the suspects are also charged with money laundering and immigration fraud.

“The illegal smuggling of counterfeit goods poses a real threat to honest business,” assistant attorney general Brian Benczkowski said. “The Department of Justice is committed to holding accountable those who seek to exploit our borders by smuggling counterfeit goods for sale on the black market.”

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US Charges 22 Chinese Importers with Smuggling Counterfeit Goods into US

A federal court in New York has charged 22 Chinese importers with smuggling nearly half-a-billion dollars in counterfeit goods into the United States from China.

The fake products include such popular luxury items as Louis Vuitton bags, Michael Kors wallets, and Chanel perfume.

Twenty-one of the defendants were arrested Thursday.

U.S. attorneys say the suspects allegedly smuggled the China-made counterfeit goods in large shipping containers disguised as legitimate products and brought them into ports in New York and New Jersey.

The defendants apparently intended to sell the fake products across the United States with a street value of nearly $500 million.

Along with smuggling and trafficking in counterfeit goods, the suspects are also charged with money laundering and immigration fraud.

“The illegal smuggling of counterfeit goods poses a real threat to honest business,” assistant attorney general Brian Benczkowski said. “The Department of Justice is committed to holding accountable those who seek to exploit our borders by smuggling counterfeit goods for sale on the black market.”

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Russia Calls Latest US Sanctions on Companies in Russia, China, and Singapore ‘Useless’

Russia says the latest U.S. sanctions imposed on Russian, Chinese, and Singaporean companies are “destructive” and “useless.”  

The U.S. penalized the three companies Wednesday, accusing them of helping North Korea avoid international sanctions.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said Thursday the new U.S. sanctions come when “joint international efforts” are needed toward a settlement in North Korea. Moscow said the sanctions could undermine denuclearization talks.

The U.S. has accused a Chinese trading company and its affiliate in Singapore of falsifying documents aimed at easing illegal shipments of alcohol and cigarettes into North Korea. The companies are said to have earned more than $1 billion.

A Russian company was also sanctioned for providing port services to North Korean-flagged ships engaged in illegal oil shipments.

The sanctions freeze any assets the companies may have in the United States and bars Americans from doing business with them.

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Russia Calls Latest US Sanctions on Companies in Russia, China, and Singapore ‘Useless’

Russia says the latest U.S. sanctions imposed on Russian, Chinese, and Singaporean companies are “destructive” and “useless.”  

The U.S. penalized the three companies Wednesday, accusing them of helping North Korea avoid international sanctions.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said Thursday the new U.S. sanctions come when “joint international efforts” are needed toward a settlement in North Korea. Moscow said the sanctions could undermine denuclearization talks.

The U.S. has accused a Chinese trading company and its affiliate in Singapore of falsifying documents aimed at easing illegal shipments of alcohol and cigarettes into North Korea. The companies are said to have earned more than $1 billion.

A Russian company was also sanctioned for providing port services to North Korean-flagged ships engaged in illegal oil shipments.

The sanctions freeze any assets the companies may have in the United States and bars Americans from doing business with them.

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Manafort Trial Jury Asks About ‘Reasonable Doubt’ at End of First Day of Deliberations

A jury in Virginia completed its first day of deliberations on Thursday in the bank and tax fraud trial of Paul Manafort, U.S. President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman, after asking the judge for the definition of “reasonable doubt.”

The six men and six women held around seven hours of discussions behind closed doors in the federal courthouse in Alexandria where Manafort, 69, is being tried on 18 counts brought by Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

The case is the first to go to trial stemming from Mueller’s investigation into Russia’s role in the 2016 U.S. election, although the charges largely predate Manafort’s five months working on Trump’s campaign, including three as chairman.

Before wrapping up their work for the day, the jurors asked U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis four questions, including clarification of the meaning of “reasonable doubt.” To convict Manafort, the standard the jury must use is to find he is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

“The government is not required to prove beyond all possible doubt,” Ellis told lawyers in the courtroom before the jury entered, explaining how he intended to answer. Ellis added that reasonable doubt was “doubt based on reason.”

The other questions delved into details of the case. One involved the government’s requirement for taxpayers filing a report regarding the existence of a foreign bank account.

Another centered on the definition of a “shelf company,” a term referring to a type of inactive company, and legal filing requirements for one. The last question involved how the list of exhibits was numbered.

Trump has called Mueller’s investigation a witch hunt and has complained about Manafort’s treatment.

If convicted on all counts, Manafort could face a sentence of up to 305 years in prison based on the maximum for each count, with the most serious charge carrying up to 30 years.

However, if convicted, he likely would be given between seven and 12 years, according to a range of estimates from three sentencing experts interviewed by Reuters.

‘Can’t Talk’

Ellis began the jury instructions on Wednesday after the prosecution and defense delivered closing arguments, and finished on Thursday morning. “You can’t talk about the case unless all 12 of you are present,” Ellis told the jurors, adding that they could take as long as they like to reach a verdict.

Prosecutors called 27 witnesses during about two weeks of testimony in the closely watched trial. The defense called no witnesses, arguing that prosecutors failed to prove their case.

The case involved millions of dollars Manafort received from pro-Russian politicians in Ukraine for work as a political consultant. Prosecutors accused Manafort of concealing more than $16 million in income from U.S. tax authorities and fraudulently securing $20 million in bank loans.

Witnesses described how Manafort routed $16 million in income hidden in foreign bank accounts to U.S. vendors to purchase real estate, expensive clothing and antique rugs, income he is charged with omitting from his tax returns.

Manafort, a veteran political consultant and prominent figure in Republican circles for decades, made his fortune helping to bring pro-Russian politician Viktor Yanukovych to power in Ukraine in 2010. When Yanukovych fled Ukraine in 2014, the political work dried up and Manafort lied about his finances to get loans from banks, prosecutors said.

The defense attacked the credibility of key prosecution witness Rick Gates, Manafort’s longtime right-hand man who also worked for Trump’s campaign and inauguration team. Gates was indicted by Mueller but pleaded guilty and is cooperating with prosecutors.

On Thursday, Ellis invited others in the courtroom to remain while the jury deliberated and other cases were heard. He then called on a “Mr. Trump,” prompting laughter and a smile from Manafort. Jim Trump, a federal prosecutor involved in another case, responded.

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Manafort Trial Jury Asks About ‘Reasonable Doubt’ at End of First Day of Deliberations

A jury in Virginia completed its first day of deliberations on Thursday in the bank and tax fraud trial of Paul Manafort, U.S. President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman, after asking the judge for the definition of “reasonable doubt.”

The six men and six women held around seven hours of discussions behind closed doors in the federal courthouse in Alexandria where Manafort, 69, is being tried on 18 counts brought by Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

The case is the first to go to trial stemming from Mueller’s investigation into Russia’s role in the 2016 U.S. election, although the charges largely predate Manafort’s five months working on Trump’s campaign, including three as chairman.

Before wrapping up their work for the day, the jurors asked U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis four questions, including clarification of the meaning of “reasonable doubt.” To convict Manafort, the standard the jury must use is to find he is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

“The government is not required to prove beyond all possible doubt,” Ellis told lawyers in the courtroom before the jury entered, explaining how he intended to answer. Ellis added that reasonable doubt was “doubt based on reason.”

The other questions delved into details of the case. One involved the government’s requirement for taxpayers filing a report regarding the existence of a foreign bank account.

Another centered on the definition of a “shelf company,” a term referring to a type of inactive company, and legal filing requirements for one. The last question involved how the list of exhibits was numbered.

Trump has called Mueller’s investigation a witch hunt and has complained about Manafort’s treatment.

If convicted on all counts, Manafort could face a sentence of up to 305 years in prison based on the maximum for each count, with the most serious charge carrying up to 30 years.

However, if convicted, he likely would be given between seven and 12 years, according to a range of estimates from three sentencing experts interviewed by Reuters.

‘Can’t Talk’

Ellis began the jury instructions on Wednesday after the prosecution and defense delivered closing arguments, and finished on Thursday morning. “You can’t talk about the case unless all 12 of you are present,” Ellis told the jurors, adding that they could take as long as they like to reach a verdict.

Prosecutors called 27 witnesses during about two weeks of testimony in the closely watched trial. The defense called no witnesses, arguing that prosecutors failed to prove their case.

The case involved millions of dollars Manafort received from pro-Russian politicians in Ukraine for work as a political consultant. Prosecutors accused Manafort of concealing more than $16 million in income from U.S. tax authorities and fraudulently securing $20 million in bank loans.

Witnesses described how Manafort routed $16 million in income hidden in foreign bank accounts to U.S. vendors to purchase real estate, expensive clothing and antique rugs, income he is charged with omitting from his tax returns.

Manafort, a veteran political consultant and prominent figure in Republican circles for decades, made his fortune helping to bring pro-Russian politician Viktor Yanukovych to power in Ukraine in 2010. When Yanukovych fled Ukraine in 2014, the political work dried up and Manafort lied about his finances to get loans from banks, prosecutors said.

The defense attacked the credibility of key prosecution witness Rick Gates, Manafort’s longtime right-hand man who also worked for Trump’s campaign and inauguration team. Gates was indicted by Mueller but pleaded guilty and is cooperating with prosecutors.

On Thursday, Ellis invited others in the courtroom to remain while the jury deliberated and other cases were heard. He then called on a “Mr. Trump,” prompting laughter and a smile from Manafort. Jim Trump, a federal prosecutor involved in another case, responded.

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US Senate Adopts Resolution Backing Free Press After Trump Attacks

The U.S. Senate on Thursday unanimously adopted a resolution affirming support for a free press and declaring that “the press is not the enemy of the people.”

The nonbinding resolution approved by voice vote was a rebuke to President Donald Trump who for more than 18 months has frequently called reporters “the enemy of the people.”

The resolution “reaffirms the vital and indispensable role that the free press serves to inform the electorate, uncover the truth, act as a check on the inherent power of the government, further national discourse and debate, and otherwise advance the most basic and cherished democratic norms and freedoms of the United States.”

The vote comes after more than 350 U.S. newspapers on Thursday launched a coordinated defense of press freedom and a rebuke of President Donald Trump for denouncing some media organizations as enemies of the American people.

“A central pillar of President Trump’s politics is a sustained assault on the free press,” said the editorial by the Boston Globe, which coordinated publication among more than 350 newspapers.

Trump has frequently criticized journalists and described news reports that contradict his opinion or policy positions as fake news.

He lashed out again Thursday, tweeting “THE FAKE NEWS MEDIA IS THE OPPOSITION PARTY. It is very bad for our Great Country….BUT WE ARE WINNING!”

At a Senate hearing, Federal Communications Commission chairman Ajit Pai again said he did not agree that the press was “the enemy of the people” but declined to offer a view of Trump’s anti-press rhetoric.

“We swore an oath to support and defend the Constitution, including the First Amendment,” said Senator Brian Schatz, a Democrat and an author of the resolution. “Today, every senator upheld that oath by sending a message that we support the First Amendment, and we support the freedom of the press in the face of these attacks.”

The White House did not immediately comment on the Senate action.

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US Senate Adopts Resolution Backing Free Press After Trump Attacks

The U.S. Senate on Thursday unanimously adopted a resolution affirming support for a free press and declaring that “the press is not the enemy of the people.”

The nonbinding resolution approved by voice vote was a rebuke to President Donald Trump who for more than 18 months has frequently called reporters “the enemy of the people.”

The resolution “reaffirms the vital and indispensable role that the free press serves to inform the electorate, uncover the truth, act as a check on the inherent power of the government, further national discourse and debate, and otherwise advance the most basic and cherished democratic norms and freedoms of the United States.”

The vote comes after more than 350 U.S. newspapers on Thursday launched a coordinated defense of press freedom and a rebuke of President Donald Trump for denouncing some media organizations as enemies of the American people.

“A central pillar of President Trump’s politics is a sustained assault on the free press,” said the editorial by the Boston Globe, which coordinated publication among more than 350 newspapers.

Trump has frequently criticized journalists and described news reports that contradict his opinion or policy positions as fake news.

He lashed out again Thursday, tweeting “THE FAKE NEWS MEDIA IS THE OPPOSITION PARTY. It is very bad for our Great Country….BUT WE ARE WINNING!”

At a Senate hearing, Federal Communications Commission chairman Ajit Pai again said he did not agree that the press was “the enemy of the people” but declined to offer a view of Trump’s anti-press rhetoric.

“We swore an oath to support and defend the Constitution, including the First Amendment,” said Senator Brian Schatz, a Democrat and an author of the resolution. “Today, every senator upheld that oath by sending a message that we support the First Amendment, and we support the freedom of the press in the face of these attacks.”

The White House did not immediately comment on the Senate action.

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Pentagon: Trump’s Military Parade Planned for November Postponed

A military parade requested by U.S. President Donald Trump that had been planned for November in Washington has been postponed until at least next year, the Defense Department said on Thursday.

“We originally targeted November 10, 2018 for this event but have now agreed to explore opportunities in 2019,” Defense Department Spokesman Colonel Rob Manning said in a statement.

A U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said it was unclear exactly what caused the postponement but the increased cost of the event had caused concern and could be one reason.

The parade to honor U.S. military veterans and commemorate the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I could cost more than $90 million, the U.S. official said, citing provisional planning figures that were nearly three times an earlier White House estimate.

The official said the cost estimate of about $92 million had not yet been approved by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and could still be changed and more options could be included.

In February, Trump asked the Pentagon to explore a parade in celebration of American troops, after the Republican president marveled at the Bastille Day military parade he attended in Paris last year.

Earlier this year, the White House budget chief said the parade would cost U.S. taxpayers between $10 million and $30 million.

It was not immediately clear why the recent cost estimate was so much higher than the earlier one, and what exactly it included.

A Pentagon memo from March said the Washington parade route would have a “heavy air component at the end of the parade.”

“Include wheeled vehicles only, no tanks – consideration must be given to minimize damage to local infrastructure,” the memo said.

Critics say the government should not spend money on a costly display of troops and weapons when the Pentagon is struggling to cover the expenses of training, support and personnel.

The District of Columbia Council had ridiculed the idea of a parade on Pennsylvania Avenue, the 1.2-mile (1.9-km) stretch between the Capitol and the White House that is also the site of the Trump International Hotel.

Military parades in the United States are generally rare.

Such parades in other countries are usually staged to celebrate victories in battle or showcase military might.

In 1991, tanks and thousands of troops paraded through Washington to celebrate the ousting of President Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi forces from Kuwait in the Gulf War.

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Pentagon: Trump’s Military Parade Planned for November Postponed

A military parade requested by U.S. President Donald Trump that had been planned for November in Washington has been postponed until at least next year, the Defense Department said on Thursday.

“We originally targeted November 10, 2018 for this event but have now agreed to explore opportunities in 2019,” Defense Department Spokesman Colonel Rob Manning said in a statement.

A U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said it was unclear exactly what caused the postponement but the increased cost of the event had caused concern and could be one reason.

The parade to honor U.S. military veterans and commemorate the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I could cost more than $90 million, the U.S. official said, citing provisional planning figures that were nearly three times an earlier White House estimate.

The official said the cost estimate of about $92 million had not yet been approved by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and could still be changed and more options could be included.

In February, Trump asked the Pentagon to explore a parade in celebration of American troops, after the Republican president marveled at the Bastille Day military parade he attended in Paris last year.

Earlier this year, the White House budget chief said the parade would cost U.S. taxpayers between $10 million and $30 million.

It was not immediately clear why the recent cost estimate was so much higher than the earlier one, and what exactly it included.

A Pentagon memo from March said the Washington parade route would have a “heavy air component at the end of the parade.”

“Include wheeled vehicles only, no tanks – consideration must be given to minimize damage to local infrastructure,” the memo said.

Critics say the government should not spend money on a costly display of troops and weapons when the Pentagon is struggling to cover the expenses of training, support and personnel.

The District of Columbia Council had ridiculed the idea of a parade on Pennsylvania Avenue, the 1.2-mile (1.9-km) stretch between the Capitol and the White House that is also the site of the Trump International Hotel.

Military parades in the United States are generally rare.

Such parades in other countries are usually staged to celebrate victories in battle or showcase military might.

In 1991, tanks and thousands of troops paraded through Washington to celebrate the ousting of President Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi forces from Kuwait in the Gulf War.

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