Equivalent of 1.3% of Egypt's GDP in secret Swiss bank accounts
Published 2015-10-03 14:02:21| Amwal Al Ghad English
Egyptians have deposited the equivalent of 1.29 percent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) in HSBC’s Swiss subsidiary HSBC Private Bank (Suisse) over a five-month period in 2006/2007, said a report Wednesday. This recent re-examination of SwissLeaks - a scandal that involved thousands of secret accounts exposed by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists - was jointly conducted by Christian Aid, a British organization fighting poverty, and the US-based Financial Transparency Coalition (FTC). The media coverage of the scandal had revealed the harm tax haven secrecy inflicts through the potential crimes of tax evasion and money laundering because of loopholes in the system. Titled “Viewing #SwissLeaks Through a Different Lens”, the report looked at another angle: it compared the amount held by account holders in individual countries with the size of each country’s GDP, to show that proportionally the countries that lost out most were in the developing world.
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The collapse of a hillside onto a town on the edge of Guatemala City killed at least 25 people and left hundreds missing on Friday, as rescue crews searched for survivors in homes buried by dirt and sludge. Loosened by heavy rains, tons of dirt and trees tumbled onto Santa Catarina Pinula in a valley on the southeastern flank of the capital late on Thursday, flattening dozens of flimsy houses when many residents had gone home for the night. An aerial video broadcast in Guatemalan media showed the tree-lined hillside laid bare above a huge mound of earth, foliage and debris that completely covered part of the town, which hugs the side of a river in a deep ravine. Scores of rescue workers labored until nightfall to recover bodies from the tangle of mangled walls, beds and furniture churned up in the landslide. A Reuters photo showed the face of one person who had apparently been buried alive. Alejandro Maldonado, head of Guatemalan disaster agency CONRED, told a news conference that as many as 600 people could still be missing after the disaster, which he said hit 125 homes. Fire services spokesman Julio Sanchez said 25 bodies had been recovered at the scene, just short of a figure of 26 deaths he had earlier stated. Rescue operations are due to resume at dawn on Saturday. Survivors of the catastrophe were distraught. "I feel like I've lost my loved ones because all my neighbors died," said mother-of-three Melina Hidalgo, 35. She was washing clothes when there was a loud crash and the lights went out. She found neighboring houses covered in soil and mud. Felled electricity poles were giving off sparks and crying people searched for children, Hidalgo added. Guatemalan media said rescuers heard voices under collapsed buildings and earth as they struggled to dig people out. The landslide was one of the worst in recent memory in the impoverished Central American country, which has been in political turmoil as it prepares to elect a new president. Last month, the outgoing president Otto Perez was forced to stand down and was arrested on corruption charges. Marta Guitz, 37, returned from work to find her house buried by the landslide and was unable to reach Dany, her 17-year-old son, who she believed was inside. "My husband is there now, shoveling through soil to find our son," the domestic worker said, her eyes filling with tears. Oscar Raul de Leon and his family abandoned their home and he looked for his cousin, but all he found were the remains of the relative's home. Earlier, authorities said at least 25 people were injured. The government said 600 people were helping sift the rubble for survivors while authorities set up a shelter for those left homeless. In October 2005, heavy rainfall sparked a devastating landslide in Panabaj in southwestern Guatemala, burying the village. Hundreds of people are believed to have died, and many of the bodies were never recovered.
President Barack Obama vehemently rejected Russia's military actions in Syria as self-defeating and dismissed the idea that Moscow was strengthening its hand in the region. He vowed not to let the conflict become a US-Russia "proxy war." At a White House news conference on Friday, Obama pledged to stay the course with his strategy of supporting moderate rebels who oppose Syrian President Bashar Assad, but he dodged questions about whether the US would protect them if they came under Russian attack. Russia's dramatic entry into the Syrian civil war, after a year of airstrikes by the US and its coalition partners, has raised the spectre of dangerous confrontations in the skies over Syria. And it prompted a question at the news conference as to whether Putin was outfoxing the US at a time when the American-led military campaign in Syria has failed to weaken the Islamic State. Obama dismissed that idea with an expression of disdain. "This is not a smart strategic move on Russia's part," he said, referring to Putin's decision to "double down" on his support for Assad by stationing warplanes, air defenses, tanks and troops in Syria. Moscow says it is targeting Islamic State forces and fighting terrorism, but U.S. leaders are skeptical of that and Obama said the Russian president has overplayed his hand. "It's only strengthening ISIL, and that's not good for anybody," Obama contended. He said he hoped Putin would come to realize that allying Russia with Iran to try to keep Assad in power "is just going to get them stuck in a quagmire, and it won't work. And they will be there for a while if they don't take a different course." Obama said Putin has stepped deeper into a conflict that cannot be solved by military power alone, and that his approach is misguided in not distinguishing between Syrian rebels who want Assad ousted and those who are terrorists. "From their perspective they're all terrorists, and that's a recipe for disaster," Obama said in his most extensive comments on the topic since Russia began its airstrikes on Monday. Evoking the Cold War era of US and Soviet forces working behind the scenes to prop up client states, Obama added, "We're not going to make Syria into a proxy war between the United States and Russia." Asked if he felt out-smarted by Putin, Obama argued that Putin was acting in Syria out of political weakness and trying to gin up support at home while Russia's own economy struggles. "As a consequence of these brilliant moves, their economy is contracting 4 percent this year. They're isolated in the world community," Obama said, noting that Russia is under international sanctions for its military intervention in Ukraine. "Russia's not strong as a consequence of what they've been doing. They get attention," he said. "Mr. Putin's action have been successful only insofar as it's boosted his poll ratings inside Russia, which may be why the Beltway is so impressed because that tends to be the measure of the success." Still, Russia's airstrikes have forced the Pentagon to grapple with whether the U.S. should use military force to protect American-trained and -equipped Syrian rebels now that they may be the targets of Russian airstrikes. Senior military leaders and others are working through the thorny legal and foreign policy issues surrounding that subject and are weighing the risks of using force in response to a Russian attack, US officials said Thursday.
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