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Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Former Norwegian priest spends embezzled money on prostitutes

Tue Jan 27, 2015 11:53PM
Are Blomhoff
Are Blomhoff
A former Norwegian priest has confessed to spending 15 million kroner (1.9 million dollars), which he embezzled from a welfare organization, on parties and prostitutes in Spain.
"It was totally out of control, the size of the sum shows that," DPA quoted Are Blomhoff as telling the district court in the eastern Norwegian city of Drammen on Tuesday.
Blomhoff told a judge that all the money he embezzled during the seven-year-period had been spent.
The former priest, at the time head of the Stiftelsen Betanien foundation, used a fake account linked to a nursing home foundation in Spain to siphon off the money.
"This is the toughest day of my life -- to admit to something that was so removed from myself, yet part of me," Blomhoff told the court.
Stiftelsen Betanien, which has around 500 employees, runs a nursing school, a daycare center and a hospital in Bergen, western Norway. 
During the court session, Blomhoff also admitted to having a drinking problem and took full blame for his crimes.
"It was almost like an illness, an addiction,” said Blomhoff.
Current Stiftelsen Betanien chairman Christian Hysing-Dahl told state run-media the embezzlement was on its own unacceptable, but “When we see what the money was used for, it just gets even worse.” 
“I think it’s good, though, that the case will come to a close, both for him and us,” Hysing-Dahl said. “Now he’ll get his sentence and can start serving it.”

Spanish court charges 10 priest for child sexual abuse

Tue Jan 27, 2015 9:42PM
Pope Francis
Pope Francis
A judge in Spain has charged 10 Roman Catholic priests with sexually abusing a child in the 2000s.

The priests were charged on Tuesday, five months after Pope Francis phoned the victim to offer the Catholic establishment’s apology. 
According to the court, the abuse started when the victim was a 14-year-old altar boy and lasted until he was 17, in a house rented by the perpetrators in the Spanish city of Granada.
The victim, now 24 years old, had written to the pope explaining the abuse. In August the Pope phoned the victim.
Following the papal conversation, which was later confirmed by the pope himself, an official church investigation was opened, during which the Archbishop of Granada, Francisco Javier Martinez, dismissed several priests, who were linked to the case.

Earlier reports 
According to earlier reports, the victim maintained links with the Roman Catholic Church, by teaching in the conservative Opus Dei organization. 
He had told authorities that he believed other children were also abused by the same group, whose members also had sexual relations with each other.

Zero tolerance
The pope has promised a zero tolerance policy for child sex abuse by clerics following a multitude of scandals related to the church over the last few years.   
Rights groups representing victims say that not enough has been done.
According to the Vatican, around 850 priests accused of the sexual abuse of minors have been defrocked between 2004 and 2013.
The Roman Catholic Church has been hit by numerous scandals in the US and Europe in the past few years, including allegations of covering up the sexual abuse of children by priests to protect the pedophiles as well as its own reputation.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Maid in Hong Kong was ‘unpaid slave’: Prosecutors


January 20, 2015
Erwiana Sulistyaningsih described in vivid detail how she was "tortured", living for months on nothing but bread and rice, sleeping only four hours a day and being so badly beaten by her then-employer.
HONG KONG: A Hong Kong employer accused of starving and beating her Indonesian maid treated the woman as an “unpaid slave”, prosecutors said Tuesday on the last day of hearings in a case which has shocked the city.

In the course of the six-week trial, 23-year-old Erwiana Sulistyaningsih described in vivid detail how she was “tortured”, living for months on nothing but bread and rice, sleeping only four hours a day and being so badly beaten by her then-employer Law Wan-tung that she was knocked unconscious.
Pictures of Sulistyaningsih, who was admitted to hospital in Indonesia last January emaciated and in critical condition, sparked widespread anger in her home country and even drew comment from the president.
In closing arguments prosecutors admitted it was “difficult to determine” when the injuries were inflicted but concluded that Sulistyaningsih was enslaved by Law, 44, who denies all charges of abuse.
“The defendant was never satisfied with her work. The question was why did it take seven months for her to send her away? This certainly defies common sense. The only explantation was that (Sulistyaningsih) was treated like a slave, an unpaid slave,” said prosecutor Louisa Lai.
Law’s defence accused the former maid and another two domestic helpers involved in the case of being “opportunistic”. They said that if Sulistyaningsih’s account were true it would “amount to a horror story”.
“The evidence of Erwiana is unsatisfactory… so exaggerated as to impact on its truth,” said defence lawyer Graham Harris.
He suggested that her injuries could have been accidental.
“Can you rule out as a reasonable hypothesis that any scar or any damage might have been caused by accidental falls?” he asked the judge.
The case has shone a spotlight on the plight of migrant domestic helpers in Asia and the Middle East after reports of torture and even killings.
In March last year a Malaysian couple were sentenced to hang for starving their Indonesian maid to death, while in the same week a Singaporean couple pleaded guilty to abuse after their helper lost 20 kilos in seven months.
Such cases have prompted a clampdown on domestic worker visas in some countries — Myanmar suspended a seven-month-old scheme in September and Indonesia has pledged to stop sending domestic workers abroad from 2017.
Law faces 21 charges — also pertaining to two other former domestic helpers — including grievous bodily harm with intent, criminal intimidation and failure to pay wages. The most serious carry a maximum sentence of life in prison.
Sulistyaningsih and Law were both in court Monday but neither made a statement.
Protesters outside the court shouted “Justice for Erwiana!” and held placards reading “We are not slaves”.
The verdict was set for February 10.


Uncovering Spring Break's Hidden Underbelly

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Sold in Myanmar and trafficked to China

Jonah Fisher reports on woman and children being bought, sold and trafficked from Myanmar to China

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It's been a year since Khin Khin Oo was sold by her father.
Eight thousand yuan ($1,300; £830): That was the price for a cute four-year-old Burmese girl from a broken home.
Crouched in the doorway of her bamboo house, Khin Khin Oo's grandmother Ma Shan told me the story. "I grow corn and rice but my son is a heroin addict so we have no money," she said.
Ma Shan's family life is in disarray. Just a couple of metres away in the dark of the house, her son sits listening to us talk about him, staring blankly ahead.
Ma Shan's daughter isn't in much better shape. She ran off with another man (according to Ma Shan, having been drugged with spiked orange juice), leaving her two small children to live with her parents.
One of them, an energetic boy, plays in the mud by the stilts of the bamboo house, as we look at pictures of his sister Khin Khin Oo.
"One day her father Soe Khine came back for her," Ma Shan recounted. "But after she'd been away four days I knew something was wrong."
A childhood photograph of Khin Khin Oo Khin Khin Oo was sold by her troubled father in Myanmar
An old photograph showing Khin Khin Oo's family The family was plagued by financial problems, Ma Shan said
Map of Myanmar-China border region The Chinese town of Ruili is located near the Burmese border
Fearing the worst, Ma Shan turned detective and, with a village elder, went to speak some of Soe Khine's friends. They quickly found out he was in financial trouble.
"He'd lost all his money playing cards," she said, shaking her head.

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While she was gone, I didn't even want to eat; I was so worried”
Khin Khin Oo's grandmother
At that point, the Burmese police became involved. They found Soe Khine and he confessed that with the help of a local Kachin woman, he had sold his daughter to a Chinese trafficker.
The police followed the trail to the Chinese border town of Ruili, where they discovered that Khin Khin Oo had been traded again, this time for 12,000 yuan ($2,000; £1,277), to a childless couple who wanted to adopt.
After a week and a joint operation with the Chinese police, Khin Khin Oo was rescued and returned to her grandmother.
"While she was gone, I didn't even want to eat. I was so worried," she said.
Luckily Khin Khin Oo had been well treated, with the Chinese couple seemingly unaware that she'd been trafficked.
She was returned to her grandmother in Hankan who, fearing for her safety, sent her back to China this time to live with an aunt.
In this file photo taken on 16 November, 2013, women cuddle their child at Tiananmen Gate in Beijing, China China's one-child policy and the preference for sons has created a shortage of women in the country
Missing women The trafficking of Burmese children like Khin Khin Oo is thankfully rare.
But Myanmar's north-eastern border region with China has become notorious for the exploitation of young women.
China's one-child policy and its preference for sons has created a shortage of women and wives.

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There are four girls from Kutkai township who went to China to work; they haven't been heard from for eight months”
Myint Kyaw Community leader, Namkhan
Demographers estimate that by 2020, there will be a surplus of 24 million men, desperately looking for spouses.
The trafficking that we hear about along the Burmese border is complex, with the families often complicit in the financial transaction being made.
At his table in a camp for displaced people in Namkhan township, community leader Myint Kyaw is flicking through photos of missing women.
"These are four girls aged between 15 and 18 from Kutkai township who went to China to work. They haven't been heard of for eight months," he said.
"This lady is 26 years-old and missing too. We're trying to trace her through our community living in China."
In all, he estimates that about 10% of the local Ta'ang women have been sold or trafficked in some way.
Lamo Bokdin Lamo Bokdin, a victim of human trafficking in Myanmar, says she is now in the process of rebuilding her life
Escaped Lamo Bokdin is one of those women. When she took a job in a restaurant in the Chinese border town of Ruili, she thought she was a normal employee.

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I refused [to marry her brother] but my boss said she would just sell me to someone else”
Lamo Bokdin Burmese trafficking victim

"Then my boss told me I didn't need to work at the restaurant anymore and that I was to marry her brother," she said.
Forty thousand yuan ($6,500; £4,152) had apparently been paid to secure the deal.
"At first I refused but my boss said she would just sell me to someone else." So Lamo was forced to move to her husband's home in Beijing. For three months, she was kept as a prisoner in his house.
"I wasn't allowed to make phone calls and I had to stay inside. My husband said we could only go and visit my parents when we had a baby."
Then after three months of captivity Lamo found a way to escape.
"I lived at the top of the two-storey building. The house had small windows covered with netting - so I cut the net with scissors and jumped down into the street," she explained.
"Luckily, nobody who saw me land cared. So I took a car to the train station where the police helped me get a ticket out of Beijing."
Lamo now shares a tent with her sister and is rebuilding her life. She earns a small amount of money weaving traditional skirts.
She is one of the survivors of a thriving trade in human lives.