Why did we think the continent would be brought to its knees? – Channel 4 News



21 Dec 2020

How have so many African nations managed to contain the coronavirus and why we have we left them out of the Covid conversation?

 


The world predicted a Covid catastrophe in Africa, but as 2020 draws to a close, the continent has seemingly managed to contain the virus and keep deaths low. How have so many African nations managed to control coronavirus, and why we have we left them out of the Covid conversation?

Our Africa correspondent, Jamal Osman, asks why we talk about the success of New Zealand and South Korea but not Rwanda and Senegal – and whether Africa may get left behind as the world rolls out a vaccine.

Sources: ITN, Al Jazeera, CBC News, France 24, KTN News Kenya, AfricaNews, Sky News

 

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The damning evidence that brought Crown Resorts to its knees


The independent inquiry into Crown Resorts promised to investigate allegations of sordid dealings within one of Australia’s biggest casino operators, seemingly within sight of regulators and police.

The evidence laid out over the course of months painted a picture of an organisation fixated on doing whatever it could to rake in millions of high-roller dollars, sometimes at the risk of its own staff, while leaving the door open to criminal syndicates.

Such revelations have the potential to strip the gaming giant of its licence for its soon-to-open Sydney casino and usher in a new era of accountability across the gaming sector.

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The allegations at the centre of the Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority inquiry

Inquiry sparked after years of bad press

The inquiry by the Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority (ILGA) is the culmination of years of media scrutiny, including a landmark Four Corners investigation in 2014 and a damning 60 Minutes piece last year.

These investigations uncovered evidence Crown turned a blind eye to money laundering by organised criminal syndicates working through junket operators to infiltrate its casinos in Melbourne and Perth.

Crown repeatedly denied allegations at the time, releasing a full-page newspaper statement in 2019 calling the media reports a smear campaign and listing the reasons why it stood by its integrity.

This very statement would later be dissected, with various board members admitting to the inquiry that Crown’s statement was misleading and in parts, flat out wrong.

While Crown’s board maintains it had no proof of dodgy dealings, the inquiry heard that other agencies did, including the Australian Federal Police, corporate regulator AUSTRAC and two of Australia’s largest banks.

Red-flags not raised with the board

Former Crown chairman John Alexander was quizzed about his knowledge of one such incident in 2018 that should have been a major cause for concern.

It was the discovery of $5.6 million in cash in a Crown Melbourne gaming room run by its junket operator partner Suncity, despite rules that no more than $100,000 be kept there at any time.

Mr Alexander maintained that senior staff should have elevated the concerns with the board but did not.

The Crown Resorts key players.

He also acknowledged he had no training in anti-money laundering before or during his tenure.

A similar admission was given by Crown’s risk committee chairman, former Qantas boss Geoff Dixon, who said during his 12 years with Crown there had been no formal anti-money-laundering training.

Director and current chairwoman Helen Coonan made even more frank admissions when pushed for answers by Commissioner Patricia Bergin.

Ms Coonan acknowledged the company facilitated money-laundering because its policies were so lax.

Then there were admissions that a company-wide program to detect such incidents was considered but is yet to be implemented.

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Crown Resorts chair admits the company laundered money due to oversight

The banks flagged concerns, why didn’t Crown?

Countless questions have also been raised about what Crown’s board knew of the bank accounts it used for its VIP high-roller accounts.

Every year millions of dollars passed through these accounts, held in the name of two Crown subsidiaries: Riverbank and Southbank.

The inquiry was told serious concerns were raised first by ANZ bank, which closed the accounts in 2014.

The Commonwealth Bank followed suit five years later but not before giving Crown a show-cause notice.

In one example, multiple deposits were lodged in Commonwealth Bank branches across Sydney into the same patron account on one day.

The amounts all mysteriously fell short of the $10,000 declaration limit — proving the deposits were limited in order to fly under the radar of authorities.

Despite being appointed director of Riverbank and Southbank, former chairman John Alexander said he had no idea how or why the accounts had been shut down until recently.

But he defended his position, saying the company’s compliance officer never raised it with him or the board.

Junket operators source of big business

The millions of dollars in cash coming in through Crown’s VIP business were typically sourced from China by Macau-based junket operators with nefarious links to organised crime, the inquiry heard.

During questioning, former chairman James Packer was grilled about what he knew of the junkets partnering with Crown.

He said he knew of at least four operators during his tenure including Suncity, Song, Meg-Star and Qin Si Xin.

Mr Packer was asked why Crown never investigated even though some were named in media reports as having links to organised crime.

He acknowledged they were “good for business” and a major revenue driver but he had no understanding of Crown’s oversight of them, claiming it was the job of senior staff to keep track.

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Former Crown director James Packer faces questions on junkets

Staff in China raised concerns before arrests

Of all the admissions, none stand out like the failure of Crown to protect its own staff.

It ended in more than a dozen Crown employees spending months behind bars in a Chinese jail for the illegal and unlicenced promotion of gambling.

These very staff were at the heart of Crown’s VIP business — sourcing players, organising visas and establishing lines of credit — but all from an unmarked and unlicenced office.

Despite months of warnings in the media from the Chinese Government of an impending crackdown, and in the wake of emails from staff raising concerns for their safety, nothing was done.

Like other board members, Helen Coonan said she had no knowledge of how the staff were operating in China or the threats they faced.

But the hearing was told at least one person knew and withheld the information from the board — former chairman Robert Rankin.

The witness who never showed

As the inquiry came to a close, it became clear the inquiry was still looking for answers from one former chairman, Robert Rankin, who declined to answer questions or appear via video-link.

Counsel assisting, Scott Aspinall accused Mr Rankin of knowing the risk staff faced in China and doing nothing.

“In the absence of such explanations, it is open to find firstly that Mr Rankin failed without justifiable reasons to notify his colleagues from the Crown board of his concerns for the staff in China,” Mr Aspinall said.

“Secondly that Mr Rankin failed without justifiable reason to follow-up on his notification to place the company on high-alert and failed to enable the Crown board to implement appropriate mechanisms to protect the staff in China from the risk of arrest.”

He suggested Mr Rankin be referred to the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) for failing his corporate duties.

Mr Rankin has not responded to these allegations.

Packer’s epic hearings

Of all the witnesses, the one who famously directed Crown in its glory days might end up cutting his ties for good.

During the hearing, James Packer was questioned about the inside information he and his company Consolidated Press Holdings (CPH) were regularly delivered through a “controlling shareholder protocol”, despite having resigned from Crown years ago.

It included financial forecasts and other modelling.

He faced questions over what information CPH shared with Hong Kong-based casino giant Melco, before it bought a major portion of his Crown shares.

And there was the revelation of a threatening email he sent to an unnamed businessman, during a time he planned to privatise Crown back in 2015.

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Former Crown director James Packer reveals he is being treated for bipolar

Mr Packer admitted by sending the emails his behaviour had been “shameful” and “disgraceful” but said at the time he had been unwell.

The inquiry was told of his health concerns in recent years, a battle with bipolar and his treatment with medicine which could leave him with an unreliable memory.

He suggested a future Crown Resorts could look very different and should consider an overhaul of the board and the introduction of caps on shareholders.

It is now in the hands of Commissioner Patricia Bergin to decide if Crown is fit to hold the licence for its new world-class tower at Sydney’s Barangaroo.

If so, she has the power to recommend sweeping new protocols and guidelines to keep Crown and others in check.



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Tasmanian cavers ‘crawling on hands and knees’ during mammoth rescue at Mount Cripps


A Tasmanian caver has recounted the experience of helping rescue his friend in an hours-long overnight operation in a remote area in the state’s rugged west.

A 62-year-old man from Ulverstone in the state’s north-west became stuck in a cave at Cripps Mountain, near Cradle Mountain, on Saturday afternoon after he slipped off a ladder and hurt his back.

Southern Tasmanian Caverneers search and rescue officer Alan Jackson, who has known the man for 20 years, got the call from two of the man’s party, who hiked for hours to get to mobile phone reception.

“They gave me a description of where they were and just asked me to get as many people together as possible to head up there quickly,” Mr Jackson told ABC Radio Hobart.

Mr Jackson was one of about 40 rescuers from groups including Ambulance Tasmania, the State Emergency Service, Police and other caving groups who worked for eight hours to free the man.

It was a complex and long rescue operation.(Supplied: Chris Weare)

The man’s daughter, herself an avid caver, was also part of the rescue team.

After safety briefings and extensive setting up, they reached the man about 1:00am Sunday morning.

He was about 80 metres into a 270-metre-long cave, but the area was very narrow in places and difficult to navigate.

“He’d fallen on the bottom section of an 8 metre drop, so he was in quite a big chamber but there’s a small waterfall in there too so he was wet and cold,” Mr Jackson said.

While the cave itself wasn’t too small, he said the passages leading to it were “generally pretty constricted”.

“You could get through with your helmet on though, which is always a good thing.”

The rescuers rigged a rope up the vertical drop and carefully hoisted the man up, all while avoiding the nearby waterfall.

A group of rescuers stand around an injured caver on a stretcher with a helicopter hovering above
About 60 people were involved in the rescue.(Suppled: Chris Weare)

“We had to thread him through the water, try to keep him dry, and land him at the horizontal passage at the top. It’s all good fun.”

Mr Jackson said getting the man out on a stretcher was the hardest part.

They took three different sized stretchers to the site to use depending on the size of the tunnels and had to use the lightest one — a spine support which left the legs hanging freely.

“When you’ve got about 75 kilograms of dead weight packaged up on a stretcher they can’t help you at all, it’s very difficult to move them.”

Race against hypothermia

Mr Jackson said the biggest concern for the man’s health was the risk of hypothermia.

“Tasmanian caves are always cold, about 7 or 8 degrees all year round, and he’d fallen into the water so he was saturated,” he said.

“He had various injuries in his back and while the paramedics said they probably wouldn’t cause him major problems, it was going to hurt and there would be things broken in there … we’ve since discovered it’s probably a bit worse than that.”

The man was on Monday in a stable condition in the Royal Hobart Hospital, and Mr Jackson said even as the rescue was underway, he lived up to his “long history of being very talkative”.

“He was drugged up to the eyeballs obviously, but he was very lucid, very apologetic and carrying on a lot,” Mr Jackson said.

“I was with him the whole time … I was blocking holes so he wouldn’t fall into them so he slid over the top of me at various points.”

He said it was very touching to watch the man’s daughter’s professionalism during the rescue, and her relief once it was all over.

“She just stayed calm and threw herself at the job…I’m not a very emotional person but it was great to see.”

Mr Jackson said it seemed his friend wouldn’t be giving up adventuring anytime soon.

“I’ve been talking with his wife on the phone and he’s optimistic, making all these ridiculous assertions about the trips he has planned.”



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EFL clubs have been ‘taken out at the knees’ by coronavirus pandemic


Last week League Two side Bradford City suspended season-ticket sales for the 2020-21 season.

Clubs in the EFL face a bleak future as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, says football finance expert Kieran Maguire.

No return date for football below the Premier League has been put in place.

Clubs are facing the possibility that they may be playing behind closed doors until January when they do return to action.

“The industry has been effectively taken out at the knees as a result of the pandemic,” Maguire said.

“Both Macclesfield and Southend failed to pay wages in February. Oldham didn’t pay their March wages until, I think, two days ago, so there’s a backlog in terms of wages being paid.

“How clubs can address that is beyond me if there is no money coming in through the turnstiles, which accounts for around 40-50% of total income for some League One and League Two clubs.”

The EFL will follow the government’s guidelines before making any decisions on whether or not the 2019-20 season can resume, how the issues of promotion and relegation will be decided if not, and when fans can attend matches.

‘Game was living at the edge before pandemic’

Although clubs could see their income boosted by streaming games which are played behind closed doors, this is unlikely to help clubs in the Championship where Maguire suggests cumulative losses for the past year could be “around £650m”.

He added: “The game was living at the edge before the pandemic.

“It’s not a sustainable business model unless you have sugar daddies who are prepared to write out those cheques for £20-30m a year – which to give them credit, most of them have been keen to do for reasons nobody has ever quite managed to fathom.

“But if we now move to a situation where there’s no money coming in, those losses of £20-30m a year in the Championship could easily extend.”

Cardiff boss Neil Harris said on Saturday that he expects player wages to fall and the game to “adjust” when football returns.

He told BBC Wales Sport: “I think football in general and as a whole, I think it will reshape it, starting in the lower leagues upwards.

“We are seeing conversations in League One and League Two about salary caps, spending per team, and I think that can only be a good thing to get the game going again.”



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