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TikTok Fined £12.7Million by UK Regulator Over Child Safety Data Reporting

The popular social media platform TikTok has been fined £12.7 million by the UK's Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) for failing to protect children's privacy and inadequately reporting child safety data.

The ICO's investigation found that TikTok had allowed millions of children under the age of 13 to use the platform without parental consent, in breach of UK data protection laws.

The fine follows a comprehensive investigation by the ICO, which revealed that TikTok not only failed to obtain proper consent from parents or guardians for users under 13 but also lacked transparency in informing users about how their data would be utilised.

This deficiency in transparency and age verification raised significant concerns about the safety and privacy of young users on the platform.

TikTok, owned by the Chinese company ByteDance, has faced global scrutiny over its data privacy practices, particularly regarding younger users.In response to the fine, TikTok expressed disappointment but recognised the need for improvement.

A spokesperson for the company said, "We are committed to ensuring our platform is safe for all users, especially our younger audience. We have made significant changes over the past year to enhance age verification and parental controls."

The ICO's decision comes amid increasing regulatory scrutiny of social media platforms worldwide, with governments and regulators calling for stricter measures to protect user data, especially for vulnerable groups such as children.

The UK government is currently working on the Online Safety Bill, which aims to establish clear legal responsibilities for digital platforms to safeguard users from harmful content.

As digital platforms continue to expand their reach, ensuring the safety and privacy of all users, particularly children, remains a top priority for regulators and lawmakers globally.

The fine against TikTok serves as a stark reminder of the need for robust data protection measures in the digital age.

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Violence Against Women and Girls in UK a 'National Emergency': Enforcement Bodies' Report

Violence against women and girls in England and Wales has been declared a "national emergency," with nearly 3,000 offences recorded daily, according to a new report.

The study, commissioned by two law enforcement bodies, estimates that at least one in every 12 women will be a victim each year, with the actual number expected to be significantly higher.

"Violence against women and girls is a national emergency," said Senior Police Chief Maggie Blyth in comments accompanying the report.

The study revealed that over one million violent crimes against women and girls were recorded by police in 2022-2023. These crimes accounted for just under a fifth of all police-recorded crime, excluding fraud, in England and Wales between April 2022 and March 2023.

The report noted a 37% increase in violence against women and girls between 2018-2019 and the previous year, with domestic abuse being one of the biggest demands on policing.

The study also found that one in 20 adults in England and Wales, or 2.3 million people, will perpetrate crimes against women and girls annually.

"These are cautious estimates, as much crime goes unreported and in policing, we often only see the tip of the iceberg," Blyth said.

She warned that violence against women in both countries had "reached epidemic levels" and called for government intervention in the "overwhelmed" criminal justice system.

Meanwhile, offences related to child sexual abuse and exploitation surged by 435% between 2013 and 2022, from just over 20,000 to nearly 107,000. Offenders are getting younger, with the average age of a suspect now 15.

The report also highlighted that stalking and harassment account for 85% of online-related offences.
Britain's Home Office declared violence against women and girls a national threat to public safety in February last year.

Over the past year, more than 4,500 new officers have been trained to investigate rape and serious sexual offences.

The report detailed a 38% increase in charges for adult rape from the year ending December 2022 to the year ending December 2023.

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Lawyers Seek $122.5 Million Payout in Major Apple Securities Case Settlement

Attorneys who reached a $490 million securities class action settlement with Apple earlier this year are hoping to walk away with a quarter of that amount in legal fees, arguing that the risks they took warrant a hefty reward.

Lawyers at Robbins Geller Rudman & Dowd and Labaton Keller Sucharow this week asked a federal judge, opens new tab in Oakland, California to award them $122.5 million, or about $3,100 an hour for the 65 lawyers and staffers who together devoted 39,500 hours to the case, according to the firms' filings.

Multiplying those hours by the professionals' hourly rates would yield an award of about $27.8 million, they said, arguing that their much larger request is appropriate given their adversary was "the largest – and arguably one of the most powerful – companies on the planet."

The settlement resolves allegations that Apple CEO Tim Cook defrauded shareholders by concealing falling demand for iPhones in China.

When Apple reduced its quarterly revenue forecast by as much as $9 billion in 2019, it was the first time since the iPhone's launch that Apple had cut its revenue forecast. Apple denied the claims.

The firms' $122.5 million request matches the benchmark of 25% of a class action settlement fund for attorney fee awards adopted by federal courts in California and elsewhere in the 9th Circuit.

But courts there have sometimes pushed back at the 25% standard in so-called megafund cases where settlements exceed $100 million.

In 2015, for instance, a San Jose federal judge slashed an attorney fee request of 19.54% to around 10% in a $415 million settlement that ended a high-profile lawsuit accusing Apple, Google and two other Silicon Valley companies of conspiring to hold down salaries.

"This 25% benchmark is clearly too high in some cases," said University of Michigan law professor Adam Pritchard, who studies securities class actions. Pritchard co-authored a 2023 study that estimated that Robbins Geller earned more than $1 billion in fees from securities class actions from 2005 to 2018.

Robbins Geller and Labaton said Apple's all-cash $490 million settlement is the third-largest deal of its kind in the Northern District of California, and one of the 40 largest settlements ever in a securities class action.

US District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers is weighing the fee bid as she decides whether to grant final approval to the settlement. She is no stranger to major litigation against Apple, and in 2022 she approved a $26 million fee award in an antitrust class action related to the company's App Store that settled for $100 million.

Rogers is also currently weighing a $217 million fee request from Boies Schiller Flexner, Morgan & Morgan and Susman Godfrey after the firms reached a non-monetary settlement with Google in a consumer privacy case. Google has opposed the fee award.

Responses to the fee request in the Apple securities case are due July 29, and a hearing is scheduled for September 17.

Auction Averted

On the other side of the country, a dispute over a much smaller legal fee briefly caught the attention of South Florida's art scene when it threatened to put a prominent dealer's collection of Latin American and other artwork on the auction block.

A Miami judge cancelled the July 22 auction after the dealer, Gary Nader, put up a half-million-dollar bond to cover legal fees he was ordered to pay his ex-lawyers at Fort Lauderdale firm Stok Kon + Braverman.

Stok Kon's Robert Stok told Reuters he believed the auction could have forced Nader to sell a "large inventory of artwork" worth as much as $100 million.

A lawyer for Nader said his client owed Stok Kon nothing and accused the firm of "extremely aggressive collection tactics."

Stok Kon sued Nader in 2022, alleging he owed more than $216,000 in unpaid fees stemming from the firm's legal work on a failed museum development project.

A judge ruled in April that Nader must pay Stok Kon its fees plus interest, and last month ordered that Nader's sole membership interest in his company, Gary Nader & Company LLC, be auctioned off to satisfy the judgment.

The company's holdings include a building in Miami’s Wynwood Art District that houses Nader's gallery and museum.

The museum on its website said it has 30,000 square feet of exhibition space showcasing art from Latin America and the Caribbean, including a collection of work from Columbian artist Fernando Botero. Nader has appealed the court's judgment.

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Private Equity Titans Compete in £12bn Auction for Major Global School Group

Three private equity firms are competing in the final stages of an auction for school operator Nord Anglia, which is set to be one of the largest European deals of the year.

Bain Capital, Permira, and Veritas Capital are among those through to the last round of the sale process, Financial Times reported, quoting sources familiar with the matter.

Final bids for a majority stake in the London-based group are expected later this month, with the business potentially valued at up to £12bn. Other bidders may still emerge, one source noted.

Nord Anglia’s current owners -- Swedish private equity group EQT and the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board -- are expected to retain a stake in any agreement. The Singaporean sovereign wealth fund GIC is also likely to co-invest alongside a successful bidder, the sources added.

The deal is among the largest potential transactions in Europe this year, alongside Abu Dhabi’s National Oil Company’s potential €14.4bn deal for German chemical group Covestro, and would-be buyers face complications due to the deal’s multibillion-pound size.

Larger private equity takeovers have encountered challenges recently as higher interest rates increase the cost of financing.
Another factor is how the new potential owner might realise a return from the deal, given the business is now so large it would likely need to return to the public markets via an initial public offering, one source said.

Although the European market for new listings has had its strongest start to the year since the Covid-19 pandemic, it remains volatile.

EQT and CPPIB might still consider an IPO for Nord Anglia as a contingency plan if a sale does not proceed, the sources added.
Nord Anglia operates 87 international day and boarding schools across 33 countries, including China, India, the Middle East and the Americas. Over the past two years, the company has added 10 schools mainly through acquisitions.

Some of its schools include Oxford International College in the UK and the exclusive Avenues in New York. In the UK, where Nord Anglia has a limited number of schools, the incoming Labour government has previously proposed removing tax benefits for private schools and imposing business rates on them.

More than 85,000 students up to the age of 18 are enrolled in its schools, alongside 11,000 teachers and thousands more support staff.

EQT’s Baring Private Equity Asia and CPPIB acquired Nord Anglia in 2017, delisting the company from the New York Stock Exchange for £3.4bn, including debt.

Private equity firms face a dual challenge: they are under pressure from their investors to divest assets to return cash, while also needing to make investments from their new buyout funds in a slower market. Education has been a popular sector for investment in private markets.

A consortium led by the Canadian investment group Brookfield agreed last month to invest in the Dubai-based education company GEMS.

Meanwhile, French investor Wendel earlier this month acquired a 50 per cent stake in the European primary and secondary school group Globeducate for €625mn, buying part of current shareholder Providence Equity Partners’ interest.

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Biden Drops Out of Re-election Battle With Donald Trump, Endorses Kamala Harris

Joe Biden dropped out of the US presidential election and endorsed Vice President Kamala Harris as the Democratic Party's new nominee, in a political earthquake that upends an already extraordinary 2024 race for the White House.

Biden, 81, said he was acting in the "best interest of my party and the country" by bowing to weeks of pressure after a disastrous June debate against Donald Trump stoked worries about his age and mental fitness.

The stunning move throws Democrats into fresh turmoil ahead of the November 5 election. But it could also reenergize the demoralized party, with Harris swiftly confirming her goal to become America's first woman president and to "defeat Donald Trump." Biden said he would "speak to the nation later this week".

Trump reacted with a stream of posts on his Truth Social network, saying that because Biden is not "fit to run" for president, he is also not "fit to serve."

However, the dramatic shift will wrong-foot Republicans, whose campaign was solely focused on Biden and will now instead feature 78-year-old Trump -- the oldest presidential nominee in US history -- up against a far younger opponent.

The move also transforms what had been a highly unpopular and dragging Trump-Biden rematch into one of the most compelling presidential campaigns in modern American politics.

Biden's withdrawal had been widely expected at some point. The announcement finally came with no warning as he recovered from Covid at his Delaware beach house.

In a letter posted on X, Biden said it had been the "greatest honor of my life" to be president. He said he would address the nation later this week. The White House later said he had no public events scheduled for Monday.

"While it has been my intention to seek reelection, I believe it is in the best interest of my party and the country for me to stand down and focus solely on fulfilling my duties as President for the remainder of my term," he wrote.

Shortly after, he offered his "full support and endorsement" for Harris, with his campaign filing official notice to change its name to "Harris for President."

Endorsements began streaming in for Harris almost immediately from Democratic big shots as well as those seen as potential rivals for the nomination, such as California Governor Gavin Newsom.

The Democratic fundraising group ActBlue meanwhile reported that Harris received $27.5 million in small-donor contributions over the course of just five hours.

Party Convention in Chicago

Democrats must now scramble to confirm a new candidate at their party convention in Chicago on August 19. Harris, the first Black and South Asian woman vice president in US history, praised Biden for his "selfless and patriotic act" and vowed to "earn and win" the nomination.

Still highly influential former Democratic president Barack Obama cautioned that "uncharted waters" lie ahead. Biden's decision came after a period of enforced isolation, with only a few family members and aides around him to consult at his Rehoboth Beach home, as he nursed a Covid infection.

First Lady Jill Biden reacted by simply reposting his statement, along with two hearts. In a clear sign of how Republicans will try to frame Harris's image, Trump's new running mate JD Vance underlined that she had been "every step of the way" with Biden, "the worst president in my lifetime."

'Mental Decline'

Biden's decision to exit caps a tense and chaotic period in the US election, with Trump having survived an assassination attempt at a campaign rally on July 13, and Democrats tearing themselves apart for weeks over whether Biden should quit. The Democrat is the first president in US history to drop out so late in an election race.

Biden spent more than three weeks resisting calls to step down following the shock of the June 27 debate, during which he often lost his train of thought and stood with mouth agape.

Harris meanwhile struggled to make an impact in her first years in the White House, but performed strongly on the campaign trail on key issues such as abortion.

In recent weeks, the Biden campaign has reportedly been quietly carrying out a head-to-head survey of voters measuring how the former California prosecutor matched up against convicted felon Trump.

Biden took office in January 2021 pledging to heal the "soul of America" after four turbulent years under Trump and the shock of the January 6, 2021 Capitol assault by his supporters.

Overcoming a reputation for verbal flubs, Obama's former vice president gave strong backing to Ukraine's battle against Russia's 2022 invasion, pushed through a massive Covid recovery plan and historic green industry subsidies.

But he faced criticism over the catastrophic US withdrawal from Afghanistan, high inflation, and his support for Israel's war in Gaza -- while concerns over his age only mounted.

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ICJ Declares Israel's Occupation of Palestinian Territories Illegal, Urges Withdrawal

The United Nations' highest court said on Friday that Israel's occupation of Palestinian territories and settlements there is illegal and should be withdrawn as soon as possible, in its strongest findings to date on the Israel-Palestinian conflict.

The advisory opinion by judges at the International Court of Justice (ICJ), known as the World Court, is not binding but carries weight under international law and may weaken support for Israel.

"Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and the regime associated with them, have been established and are being maintained in violation of international law," President Nawaf Salam said, reading the findings of a 15-judge panel.

The court said Israel's obligations include paying restitution for harm and "the evacuation of all settlers from existing settlements".

In a swift reaction, Israel's foreign ministry rejected the opinion as "fundamentally wrong" and one-sided, and repeated its stance that a political settlement in the region can only be reached through negotiations.
"The Jewish nation cannot be an occupier in its own land," Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office said in a statement.

The opinion also angered West Bank settlers as well as politicians such as Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, whose nationalist religious party is close to the settler movement and who himself lives in a West Bank settlement.

"The answer to The Hague - Sovereignty now," he said in a post on the social media platform X, in an apparent appeal to formally annex the West Bank.

Israel Gantz, head of the Binyamin Regional Council, one of the largest settler councils, said the ICJ opinion was "contrary to the Bible, morality, and international law".

The ICJ opinion also found that the UN Security Council, the General Assembly, and all states have an obligation not to recognise the occupation as legal nor "render aid or assistance" towards maintaining Israel's presence in the occupied territories.

The United States is Israel's biggest military ally and supporter. The Palestinian Foreign Ministry called the opinion "historic" and urged states to adhere to it.

"No aid. No assistance. No complicity. No money, no arms, no trade...no actions of any kind to support Israel's illegal occupation," Palestinian envoy Riyad al-Maliki said outside the court in The Hague.

The case stems from a 2022 request for a legal opinion from the UN General Assembly, predating the war in Gaza that began in October.

Israel captured the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem - areas of historic Palestine which the Palestinians want for a state - in the 1967 Middle East war and has since built settlements in the West Bank and steadily expanded them.

Israeli leaders argue the territories are not occupied in legal terms because they are on disputed lands, but the United Nations and most of the international community regard them as occupied territory.

In February, more than 50 states presented their views before the court, with Palestinian representatives asking the court to find that Israel must withdraw from all the occupied areas and dismantle illegal settlements.

Israel did not participate in the oral hearings but filed a written statement telling the court that issuing an advisory opinion would be "harmful" to attempts to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The majority of states participating asked the court to find the occupation illegal, while a handful, including Canada and Britain, argued it should refuse to give an advisory opinion.

The United States had asked the court not to order the unconditional withdrawal of Israeli forces from the Palestinian territories. The US position was that the court should issue no decision that could hurt negotiations toward a two-state solution on a "land for peace" principle.

In 2004 the ICJ gave an advisory ruling that an Israeli separation barrier around most of the West Bank was illegal and Israeli settlements were established in breach of international law. Israel dismissed that ruling.

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ByteDance Loses Challenge to Gatekeeper Status Under EU Digital Markets Act

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The General Court of the European Union (GC) on Wednesday ruled that ByteDance, the parent company of TikTok, qualifies as a gatekeeper under the Digital Markets Act (DMA), which subjects the company to stricter regulations aimed at ensuring fair competition and user rights.

The Commission assigned ByteDance gatekeeper status in September 2023 under the DMA. Gatekeeper status under the DMA imposes additional obligations on companies with “a significant impact on their relevant digital market” to uphold European competition law.

The DMA can be seen as an extension of Article 102 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), which prohibits the abuse of dominance in market competition. Other companies that have been assigned gatekeeper status include Alphabet (Google), Amazon, Apple, Meta, and Microsoft.

The General Court based its decision on several factors, including ByteDance’s significant market influence through its popular platform TikTok, control over critical digital infrastructure, and ability to set rules for other market participants.
The court noted that ByteDance’s substantial user base and extensive data collection capabilities position it as a critical player in the digital market.

As a designated gatekeeper, ByteDance will now be required to adhere to stringent regulations under the DMA. These include ensuring data portability, maintaining interoperability with third-party services, providing business users access to performance data, and avoiding practices that favour its services over competitors. Failure to comply could result in significant fines.

In rejecting ByteDance’s argument that their impact on the European internal market was limited, using TikTok’s European user base as evidence of financial capacity, the GC also ruled that ByteDance’s assertion of an infringement on their right to defence and principle of equal treatment was unfounded.

In response to the ruling, a company spokesperson told Reuters, “We believe that TikTok operates in a highly competitive environment and that our practices align with EU regulations.” ByteDance has not announced plans to appeal the decision.

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Judge Dismisses Trump's Criminal Case Over Unlawful Appointment of Special Counsel

A Florida judge appointed by Donald Trump has dismissed the criminal case against him on charges of mishandling top-secret documents, in a stunning victory for the former president who immediately called for an end to his other pending cases.

The staggering decision effectively removes a major legal threat for Trump, who faces multiple criminal cases as he tries to regain the White House from US President Joe Biden.

It will add to his seemingly unstoppable momentum on the first day of the Republican National Convention, where he is set to become the party's official nominee for president just days after surviving an assassination attempt.

In her ruling, Federal Judge Aileen Cannon said that Special Counsel Jack Smith was unlawfully appointed and that the case should therefore be dismissed.

Smith was appointed as special counsel in 2022 by Biden-appointee Attorney General Merrick Garland. He was tasked with overseeing the investigations into Trump's handling of classified documents after he left office, as well as his efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election results.

The Trump-appointed judge made her ruling after lawyers for the 78-year-old argued for a partial stay of proceedings to allow for an assessment of a new Supreme Court ruling that a former president has broad immunity from prosecution.

"Former President Trump's Motion to Dismiss Indictment Based on the Unlawful Appointment and Funding of Special Counsel Jack Smith is granted," Cannon wrote in her order.

In a 93-page opinion, Cannon said Smith's appointment and funding usurped the role of Congress, echoing a recent opinion put forward by Clarence Thomas, one of the conservatives who dominate the Supreme Court.

"The Court is convinced that Special Counsel Smith's prosecution of this action breaches two structural cornerstones of our constitutional scheme -- the role of Congress in the appointment of constitutional officers, and the role of Congress in authorising expenditures by law," she concluded. "The clerk is directed to close this case," the judge wrote.

Cannon did not make a ruling on the merits of the case. But the fact she came to a decision after being accused by critics of slow-walking the case, opens the door for prosecutors to appeal and potentially have it re-heard by another judge.

The decision followed Trump's momentous win earlier this month at the Supreme Court that gives former presidents broad immunity for their official acts while in office.

This decision has helped Trump in his quest to delay the trials he faces until after the November election.
These include charges in Washington and Georgia related to efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election he lost to Democrat Joe Biden.

"This dismissal of the Lawless Indictment in Florida should be just the first step, followed quickly by the dismissal of ALL the Witch Hunts," Trump said on his Truth Social platform.

In the Florida case, Trump was facing 31 counts of "wilful retention of national defence information," each punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

He also faced charges of conspiracy to obstruct justice and making false statements. Trump allegedly kept classified documents which included records from the Pentagon and CIA -- unsecured at his Mar-a-Lago home and thwarted efforts to retrieve them. The material included secret nuclear and defence documents, according to prosecutors.

Republicans contended the prosecution was unfair and selective, after a federal prosecutor in February opted not to pursue charges against Biden, who kept some classified material at his home after leaving the vice presidency in 2017."

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Withheld Evidence: Judge Dismisses Baldwin Manslaughter Charges in 'Rust' Shooting Case

A New Mexico judge dismissed involuntary manslaughter charges against Alec Baldwin on Friday, agreeing with his lawyers that prosecutors and police withheld evidence on the source of the live round that killed "Rust" cinematographer Halyna Hutchins in 2021.

Three days after Baldwin's trial began, New Mexico district court Judge Mary Marlowe Sommer threw out the case as the actors' lawyers alleged a "cover up" by prosecutors who have been plagued by missteps since first filing charges 18 months ago.

Breaking down in tears, the multiple Emmy-award winning actor hugged his wife Hilaria Baldwin as other family members wept in the public gallery.

Baldwin faced an unprecedented criminal prosecution as an actor for an on-set shooting and his lawyers said prosecutors dragged him through a "cesspool of improprieties." Baldwin and his family left court without speaking to reporters.

"The state's withholding of the evidence was wilful and deliberate," Sommer said in delivering her decision. "Dismissal with prejudice is warranted to ensure the integrity of the judicial system and the efficient administration of justice."

The actor's lawyer Alex Spiro told the court that the Santa Fe sheriff's office took possession of live rounds in March as evidence in the case but failed to list them in the "Rust" investigation file or disclose their existence to defense lawyers.

"The real reason you didn't inventory that evidence is because it could have jeopardized the law enforcement case," Spiro told Santa Fe County Sheriff's Office Corporal Alexandria Hancock, the lead investigator on the "Rust" case, in cross examination on Friday.

Erlinda Johnson, one of the state prosecutors on the case, resigned on Friday, the fourth prosecutor to quit or be forced to step down.

"I did not intend to mislead the court," lead state prosecutor Kari Morrissey said after taking the unusual step of defending herself from the witness stand. "My understanding of what was dropped off at the sheriff's office is on this computer screen and it looks absolutely nothing like the live rounds from the set of Rust."

Many legal analysts said the case should never have been brought to trial by the Santa Fe County District Attorney's Office. "The prosecution felt it had to cheat to get the result it wanted," said legal analyst Duncan Levin, a New York defense attorney. "This is the worst of our system on display."

Hutchins died in Hollywood's first on-set shooting in nearly 30 years when Baldwin was directed to point a revolver at her as she set up a camera shot during filming southwest of Santa Fe. The weapon fired a .45 caliber round inadvertently loaded by the movie's armorer Hannah Gutierrez.

The Colt .45 rounds at the center of the dismissal were handed into the sheriff's office on March 6 by Troy Teske, a friend of Thell Reed, the stepfather of Gutierrez, on the same day she was convicted of involuntary manslaughter for Hutchins' death.

A sheriff's office crime scene technician, Marissa Poppel, testified on Thursday that the rounds did not match those collected on the set of Rust which were sent for FBI testing.

But when defense lawyers inspected them they found some had brass casings with the “Starline Brass” logo and silver, nickel primers, just like the six live rounds found on the set of Rust. Others looked like inert dummy rounds taken into evidence on the set.

“That turned out to be completely false, didn’t it?” Baldwin's lawyer Spiro asked Corporal Hancock.
“You’re correct,” she said.

Judge Sommer asked Hancock who had decided to put Teske’s ammunition into a separate case file number.
Hancock said it was the decision of her supervisor, prosecutors and herself.

“Ms. Morrissey was part of that conversation?” asked Sommer, growing visibly angry.
“Yes,” replied Hancock.

Spiro also questioned Morrissey about her attitude toward his client, saying witnesses had reported she had characterized him with expletives and said she would try to teach him a lesson.

"I never said to witnesses that I would teach him a lesson," she said.

Prosecutors had alleged Baldwin played a role in the death of Hutchins because he handled the gun irresponsibly.
His lawyers said Baldwin was failed by Gutierrez and others responsible for safety on the set, and law enforcement agents were more interested in prosecuting their client than finding the source of the live round that killed Hutchins.

Defense lawyers alleged prop supplier Seth Kenney supplied the live rounds to "Rust," an accusation he denied in testimony on Friday.

It remains to be seen whether the dismissal of Baldwin's case would affect Gutierrez's conviction, which is under appeal.

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The Netherlands: The World's Legal Battlefield for International Disputes and High-Stakes Rulings

From conflicts in Ukraine and the Middle East to salt mining in Brazil -- courts in the Netherlands have become Ground Zero in a global legal battlefield with far-reaching implications.

A strong legal tradition, home to many multinationals and international organisations and global ease of reach: the country has several trump cards making it the preferred legal arbiter of choice.

Three months into 2024, the city of The Hague's two most influential international courts have already cast headline-grabbing rulings on Russia's invasion of Ukraine and the spiralling conflict in Israel and the Gaza Strip.

In early March, the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued arrest warrants for two high-ranking Russian commanders, while in January the UN's top International Court of Justice (ICJ) handed down emergency measures telling Israel to boost aid in Gaza and to protect its population.

At the same time, a local civil court handed down a landmark judgement halting the supply of F-35 fighter jet parts from the Netherlands to Israel.

Victims of devastating salt mining in the Brazilian city of Maceio are suing petrochemical giant Braskem for compensation before a Rotterdam court -- one of many international compensation suits launched in recent years.

An Amsterdam court in February quashed an appeal by Russia in a record $50-billion case involving a compensation claim by former shareholders of the dismantled oil giant Yukos.

Recent years have also seen Dutch courts hand down rulings in major climate cases including one won by NGO group Milieudefensie in 2021.

In that case, the court ordered petrochemical giant Shell to curtail greenhouse emissions in what is considered the first major climate change ruling against a corporation.

Legal Hotbed
 
So why is the Netherlands a hotbed of international litigation? "I do think it is potentially easier to launch lawsuits in the Netherlands," said Cecily Rose, assistant professor of public international law at Leiden University.

"The legal bar for bringing collective actions is relatively low in the Netherlands, and this does have the effect of making it easier for NGOs to pursue public interest litigation in Dutch courts," she told AFP.

"Cases with international implications regularly reach the Dutch courts partly because the Netherlands is home to transnational companies with a global reach, such as Shell, Unilever or Heineken," added Leon Castellanos-Jankiewicz, senior researcher at the Asser Institute for International and European Law.

"These multinationals are subject to Dutch law and therefore the Dutch courts have jurisdiction over these entities and their dealings," he told AFP.

The country also has a highly skilled legal workforce and a strong belief in upholding the law. "The Netherlands has a tradition of placing strong emphasis on the development of international law," Castellanos-Jankiewicz said.
"Promoting the development of the international legal order is a permanent objective of Dutch foreign policy," he said.

Coupled with good infrastructure with global reach and the perception that the Netherlands was a "neutral ground" made it an appealing choice for parties seeking an impartial resolution, experts said.

Peace and Justice

The Netherlands also hosted several international courts and tribunals as well as agencies such as the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and Europol, "embedding these organisations in the Dutch legal landscape," legal experts said.

Nestled on the Dutch coast between Amsterdam and Rotterdam, The Hague has always been seen as the "City of Peace and Justice" with its first international arbitral body, the Permanent Court of Arbitration, established in 1899.

Still existing today, the PCA laid the groundwork for later bodies established in the city, including the ICJ after World War II and the ICC, which opened its doors in 2002.

Other international courts, including the now defunct Yugoslav war crimes tribunal (ICTY) and the Kosovo Specialist Chambers also found a home here.

"Although the cases in these jurisdictions are completely independent from the Dutch courts as they belong to the United Nations system, they amplify many issues of global concern," Castellanos-Jankiewicz said.

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Judge Rules Baldwin’s Co-Producer Role Irrelevant in 'Rust' Shooting Case

A New Mexico judge decided that actor Alec Baldwin’s role as co-producer is not relevant to the involuntary manslaughter trial over a fatal shooting on the set of the western film "Rust."

Judge Mary Marlowe Sommer ruled that evidence about Baldwin’s secondary role in the movie would not be allowed at trial, siding with defence attorneys.

“I’m having real difficulty with the state’s position that they want to show that as a producer he didn’t follow guidelines and therefore as an actor, Mr Baldwin did all of these things wrong that resulted in the death of Ms Hutchins because as a producer he allowed these things to happen,” Marlowe Sommer said.

“I’m denying evidence of his status as a producer.”
Special prosecutor Erlinda Johnson argued unsuccessfully to allow evidence that Baldwin’s “role as a producer made him keenly aware of his responsibilities on set” for safety.

“It goes to Mr Baldwin’s knowledge, knowing that his conduct on set was negligent,” she said. Baldwin sat between his lead attorneys, Luke Nikas and Alex Spiro, with a yellow legal pad on the table in front of him.

Last month, Baldwin’s lawyers pushed for the case to be dismissed, arguing that FBI testing of the firearm had damaged the weapon before lawyers could examine it for possible modifications.

The defence team alleged the gun was damaged at the time of the incident and accused prosecutors of withholding potentially “exculpatory evidence.”

Sommer rejected the dismissal request, saying Baldwin’s lawyers had not proved prosecutors acted in bad faith. But the judge also said prosecutors would have to disclose to the jury the “destructive nature of the firearm testing, the resulting loss and its relevance and import.”

Defence attorneys have asked the judge to exclude consideration of Baldwin’s secondary role as a co-producer on "Rust," arguing it’s irrelevant to allegations of negligence and might confuse jurors.

Prosecutors disagree, saying it was likely Baldwin’s imposing role as a producer that emboldened him to act recklessly and disregard the safety of others in allegedly flouting gun-safety protocols.

The defence team and prosecutors disagree about Baldwin’s contractual authority as a producer over crew members who dealt with weapons and safety.

Prosecutors argue that a state workplace safety investigation, which found serious violations on set, was incomplete, untrustworthy, and should be prohibited from the trial.

Baldwin is charged with a single felony count of involuntary manslaughter, punishable by up to 18 months in prison if he is convicted.

Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, the armourer on set, was convicted of involuntary manslaughter in cinematographer Halyna Hutchins’s death and sentenced to 18 months in prison. She is appealing the conviction.

In October 2021, Baldwin was rehearsing a cross-draw manoeuvre with the revolver when the gun went off, killing Hutchins and wounding director Joel Souza.

Baldwin has pleaded not guilty and claims the gun fired accidentally after he followed instructions to point it towards Hutchins, who was behind the camera. Unaware the gun contained a live round, Baldwin said he pulled back the hammer – not the trigger – and it fired.

Baldwin’s attorneys also want to bar discussion at trial of actor Brandon Lee’s death from a fatal shot to the abdomen while filming a scene from "The Crow" in 1993. In that instance, a makeshift bullet was mistakenly left in a gun from a previous scene and struck Lee while filming a scene that called for using blank rounds.

Prosecutors have agreed not to elicit testimony about "The Crow," but also contend that Baldwin knew about safety risks posed by guns – even when live rounds are not present. Attorneys for Baldwin argue that it was inconceivable that live rounds would wind up on set.

Prosecutors want to exclude a letter signed by crew members that disputes the characterisations of the "Rust" set as chaotic or dangerous prior to the fatal shooting.

Prosecutors also want to exclude from trial the conclusions of the safety investigation into the fatal shooting that place much of the blame on assistant director Dave Halls. Halls has pleaded no contest to negligent use of a firearm and may be called to testify at Baldwin’s trial.

"Rust" Movie Productions paid a $100,000 fine to resolve violations of state safety regulations that were characterised as “serious” but not willful, under a 2023 settlement agreement. Prosecutors say conclusions of the investigation are easily contradicted by more reliable information.

Baldwin’s attorneys say the report cannot be ruled out as evidence and that state occupational safety officer Lorenzo Montoya should be allowed to testify at trial.

Another pre-trial motion might defuse snipping between the prosecution and defense teams. Prosecutors want the judge to preclude accusations of “prosecutorial misconduct” and “personal attacks”.

Prosecutors also want the judge to exclude evidence and arguments designed to garner sympathy for Baldwin, including indications of remorse or the impact of events on his family, arguing that it has no bearing on determining guilt.

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Boeing Agrees to Plead Guilty to Fraud in US Investigation of Fatal 737 MAX Crashes

Boeing has agreed to plead guilty to a criminal fraud conspiracy charge and pay a fine of $243.6 million to resolve a US Justice Department investigation into two 737 MAX fatal crashes, the government said in a court filing.

The plea deal, which requires a judge's approval, would brand the planemaker a convicted felon in connection with crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia over a five-month period in 2018 and 2019 that killed 346 people.

The settlement drew swift criticism from victims' families who wanted Boeing to face a trial and suffer harsher financial consequences.

The Justice Department's (DOJ) push to charge Boeing has deepened an ongoing crisis engulfing Boeing since a separate January in-flight blowout exposed continuing safety and quality issues at the planemaker.

A guilty plea potentially threatens the company's ability to secure lucrative government contracts with the likes of the US Defense Department and NASA, although it could seek waivers.

Boeing became exposed to criminal prosecution after the Justice Department in May found the company violated a 2021 settlement involving the fatal crashes.

Still, the plea spares Boeing a contentious trial that could have exposed the company's decisions ahead of the fatal crashes to even greater public scrutiny. It would also make it easier for the planemaker, which will have a new CEO later this year, to try to move forward as it seeks approval for its planned acquisition of Spirit AeroSystems.

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Meghan Markle Faces Fresh Legal Battle as Samantha Appeals Defamation Case

Meghan Markle faces another potential court battle as her sister, Samantha Markle, prepares to challenge a previous defamation lawsuit that ruled in the duchess' favour, "readying revenge," according to reports.
Samantha is set to take her case to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeal, with her lawyers due to file their initial brief by this month, according to Express UK. She originally filed the case against Meghan in March 2022.


Samantha's legal team argues that the court failed to consider the "cumulative" meaning of Meghan's remarks, which they claim were "disparaging, hurtful and false," portraying Samantha as "a stranger, a liar, and... a deceptive fame-seeking imposter with avaricious intentions."
"The cumulative inferences and remarks made by (Meghan) have resulted in a cumulative meaning, which the court did not consider," the court documents state.


"In March 2024, Meghan secured a legal victory when Judge Charlene Edwards Honeywell dismissed Samantha's defamation case against her, stating that the duchess “barely mentioned Samantha, only noting that at some point during Meghan's childhood, Samantha moved out of her father's house”.
Samantha had accused Meghan of defamation and defamation by implication, primarily based on statements Meghan made during her interview with Oprah Winfrey, where she suggested she grew up as an only child and began using the Markle surname "when I (Meghan) started dating Harry." Samantha was seeking a minimum of $75,000 in damages.


"I was with my mum during the week and with my dad on the weekends," the Suits star said in their Netflix documentary. "And my dad lived alone; he had two adult children who had moved out of his house."
She added, "I don't remember seeing her (Samantha) when I was a kid at my dad's house, if and when they would come around."
The judge found that Samantha "failed to identify any statements that could support a claim for defamation."
Judge Honeywell dismissed Samantha's case "with prejudice." She found the claim that Samantha only started using the Markle surname after Meghan's relationship with Prince Harry became public to be "substantially true," based on the evidence presented.
"That Plaintiff used one last name and then the name Markle soon after reports of Defendant's relationship with Prince Harry were published is substantially true, based on the exhibits in the record, of which the Court has taken judicial notice," Judge Honeywell wrote in her ruling.
Samantha also cited other statements in the royal biography Finding Freedom and the Netflix series Harry & Meghan as part of her case. However, the judge dismissed the case "with prejudice."


"Plaintiff's claims will be dismissed with prejudice, as she has failed to identify any statements that could support a claim for defamation or defamation-by-implication by this point, her third try at amending her complaint, in either the book Finding Freedom, the Netflix series Harry & Meghan, or Defendant and her husband's hour-long televised CBS Interview," the judge concluded.

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Lawyer-Turned-Politician Keir Starmer Set to Become Next British PM as Labour Wins Polls

 

Keir Starmer will become Britain's next Prime Minister as his Labour Party won a massive majority in the UK's parliamentary election. Rishi Sunak conceded defeat in the national election on Friday.
The result brought the curtain down on 14 years of increasingly tumultuous Conservative-led government.
UK Labour leader Keir Starmer is an ex-human rights lawyer and public prosecutor who will have to focus his relentless work ethic and methodical mind on fixing the country.
As Sunak conceded his defeat, 61-year-old Starmer will be the oldest person to become British Prime Minister in almost half a century -- and comes just nine years since he was first elected to parliament.
In 2003, he began moving towards the establishment, shocking colleagues and friends, first with a job ensuring police in Northern Ireland complied with human rights legislation.
Five years later, he was appointed director of public prosecutions (DPP) for England and Wales when Labour's Gordon Brown was Prime Minister.
Between 2008 and 2013, Starmer oversaw the prosecution of MPs for abusing their expenses, journalists for phone-hacking, and young rioters involved in unrest across England.
He was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II, but rarely uses the prefix "Sir", and in 2015 was elected as a member of Parliament, representing a seat in left-leaning north London.
Just weeks before he was elected, his mother died of a rare disease of the joints that had left her unable to walk for many years.
In 2020, Keir Starmer was elected to lead Britain's Labour Party, right after the party suffered its worst general election defeat in 85 years.
Starmer and Labour have also, indisputably, capitalised on years of economic pain and political chaos under the Conservative Party, who look set to have their parliamentary majority eviscerated.

Personal Life

Born on September 2, 1962, Keir Rodney Starmer was raised in a cramped, pebble-dashed semi-detached house on the outskirts of London by a seriously ill mother and an emotionally distant father.
He had three siblings, one of whom had learning difficulties. His parents were animal lovers who rescued donkeys.
A talented musician, Starmer had violin lessons at school with Norman Cook, the former Housemartins bassist who became DJ Fatboy Slim.
After legal studies at the universities of Leeds and Oxford, Starmer turned his attention to leftist causes, defending trade unions, anti-McDonald's activists and death row inmates abroad.

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Nvidia Faces French Antitrust Charges Amid Allegations of Anti-Competitive Practices

Nvidia, the American technology powerhouse renowned for its dominance in graphics processing units (GPUs) and artificial intelligence (AI) technologies, is reportedly on the brink of facing antitrust charges in France.


Sources close to the matter indicate that French regulators are preparing to accuse Nvidia of engaging in anti-competitive practices that have significantly affected the competitive landscape of the AI and high-performance computing markets.


The Autorité de la concurrence, France's antitrust watchdog has been conducting an in-depth investigation into Nvidia's business practices for over a year. The investigation focuses on claims that Nvidia has abused its dominant market position to the detriment of competitors and consumers. Specific allegations include restrictive agreements with hardware manufacturers and software developers, which may have hindered other companies' ability to compete in the AI and GPU markets.


Nvidia’s GPUs are widely regarded as the gold standard for AI development and high-performance computing, giving the company substantial influence over these sectors. Critics argue that Nvidia's practices have created significant barriers to entry for new players, stifling innovation and leading to higher prices for consumers.


Jean-Luc Dupont, an expert in European competition law, commented, "If the allegations are proven, it could have serious ramifications for Nvidia. The company’s market dominance has been a double-edged sword, facilitating rapid advancements in technology while potentially undermining competitive market dynamics."Nvidia has consistently denied any wrongdoing. In a recent statement, the company emphasised its commitment to fair competition and innovation. "Nvidia operates in a highly competitive market and adheres to all applicable laws and regulations. We look forward to addressing any concerns the French authorities may have," the statement read.


Should the charges be confirmed, Nvidia could face substantial fines and be compelled to alter its business practices in France and potentially across the European Union. The penalties could amount to a significant percentage of Nvidia’s annual revenue, alongside mandated changes to ensure a more competitive market landscape.


Market analysts are closely watching the developments, anticipating potential ripple effects across the tech industry. The charges could also influence regulatory approaches in other jurisdictions, possibly leading to a more stringent global regulatory environment for major tech firms.


The move by French regulators comes amidst a broader wave of antitrust scrutiny facing major tech companies worldwide. European authorities, in particular, have been proactive in addressing anti-competitive practices, with recent high-profile cases involving firms like Google, Apple, and Amazon.
Nicolas Martin, a technology policy analyst, noted, "The potential charges against Nvidia underscore the heightened vigilance of regulators in maintaining competitive markets, especially in high-tech industries where dominance can quickly translate into market power."


The Autorité de la concurrence is expected to formally announce the charges in the coming weeks, initiating a legal process that could span several months. Both Nvidia and the regulatory body will have the opportunity to present their cases, with potential outcomes ranging from dismissal of charges to significant penalties and mandated business practice reforms.


As Nvidia braces for this legal challenge, the outcome will be closely monitored by industry stakeholders, legal experts, and competitors alike, marking a critical moment in the ongoing efforts to regulate the influence of tech giants in the global market.

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Singapore to Make it Easier for Law Enforcement to Prosecute Money Laundering Cases

Singapore is seeking to make it easier for law enforcement to prosecute money laundering offences in the city-state, the home affairs ministry said, noting how currently some cases are not pursued unless it is possible to show the complete money trail of suspected funds from money laundering entering the Asian financial hub.

The new Anti-Money Laundering and Other Matters Bill introduced to parliament will remove the need for the prosecution to show a direct link between the criminal conduct and the laundered funds, the home affairs ministry said in a press release.

"It will be sufficient for the prosecution to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the money launderer knew or had reasonable grounds to believe that he was dealing with criminal proceeds," said the ministry, adding this would help in the prosecution of money mules when funds laundered had initially passed through bank accounts and intermediaries in foreign jurisdictions.

Last year, Singapore busted a $2.24 billion money laundering ring run by foreign citizens, with the last of 10 offenders sentenced on June 10.

The criminals held money gained from overseas scams and overseas online gambling in bank accounts in Singapore and converted some into real estate, cars, handbags and jewellery.

Prime Minister Lawrence Wong said last month Singapore faces greater money laundering and terrorism financing risks than other countries because it is an international finance and business hub.

Since the money laundering case emerged last year, the government has set up an inter-ministerial panel to review its anti-money laundering regime.

The new bill will also allow law enforcement to investigate money laundering offences linked to overseas environmental crimes.

Currently, Singapore cannot investigate money laundering linked to crimes such as illegal mining, illegal waste trafficking and illegal logging that occur overseas because such crimes are not covered as a serious offence under Singapore law since they typically do not apply in the landscarce city-state.

The bill also makes it easier for law enforcement to sell seized or restrained properties, and deal with seized properties linked to suspects who have fled the country.

The ministry said it will also tighten requirements for casino operators to conduct customer due diligence, bringing down the threshold of a single cash transaction involving S$10,000 ($7,362) or more or S$5,000 or more in a deposit to transactions and deposits involving at least S$4,000.

Last month, Singapore published a national asset recovery strategy report, saying it sought to "deprive criminals of their illicit gains, thereby removing the financial incentive for laundering their monies in Singapore".

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US Supreme Court Grants Trump Presidential Immunity from Prosecution

The US Supreme Court ruled that Donald Trump cannot be prosecuted for actions that were within his constitutional powers as president in a landmark decision recognising for the first time any form of presidential immunity from prosecution.
The justices, in a 6-3 ruling authored by Chief Justice John Roberts, threw out a lower court's decision that had rejected Trump's claim of immunity from federal criminal charges involving his efforts to undo his 2020 election loss to Joe Biden. The six conservative justices were in the majority, while its three liberal members dissented.
Trump is the Republican candidate challenging Biden, a Democrat, in the November 5 US election in a 2020 rematch. The Supreme Court's slow handling of the case and its decision to return key questions about the scope of Trump's immunity to the trial judge to resolve make it improbable he will be tried before the election on these charges brought by Special Counsel Jack Smith.
"We conclude that under our constitutional structure of separated powers, the nature of presidential power requires that a former president have some immunity from criminal prosecution for official acts during his tenure in office," Roberts wrote.
Immunity for former presidents is "absolute" with respect to their "core constitutional powers," Roberts wrote, and a former president has "at least a presumptive immunity" for "acts within the outer perimeter of his official responsibility," meaning prosecutors face a high legal bar to overcome that presumption.

A Dangerous Precedent: Biden

In remarks at the White House, Biden called the ruling "a dangerous precedent" because the power of the presidency will no longer be constrained by the law.
"This nation was founded on the principle that there are no kings in America ... no one is above the law, not even the president of the United States," added Biden, speaking hours after one of his campaign officials said the ruling makes it easier for Trump "to pursue a path to dictatorship."
The ruling could scuttle parts of the special counsel's case as US District Judge Tanya Chutkan mulls the breadth of Trump's immunity.
In recognising broad immunity for Trump, Roberts cited the need for a president to "execute the duties of his office fearlessly and fairly" without the threat of prosecution.
"As for a president's unofficial acts," Roberts added, "there is no immunity."
Trump hailed the ruling in a social media post, writing: "BIG WIN FOR OUR CONSTITUTION AND DEMOCRACY. PROUD TO BE AN AMERICAN!"
Trump, 78, is the first former US president to be criminally prosecuted and the first former president convicted of a crime. Smith's election subversion charges embody one of the four criminal cases Trump has faced.
The court analysed four categories of conduct contained in the indictment. They are: his discussions with US Justice Department officials following the election; his alleged pressure on then-Vice President Mike Pence to block congressional certification of Biden's win; his alleged role in assembling fake pro-Trump electors to be used in the certification process; and his conduct related to the January 6, 2021, attack on the US Capitol by his supporters.
The outcome gave Trump much of what he sought but stopped short of allowing absolute immunity for all official acts, as his lawyers had advocated. Instead the court specified that actions within the president's "exclusive sphere of constitutional authority" enjoy such a shield, while those taken outside his exclusive powers are only "presumptively immune."
The court found Trump was absolutely immune for conversations with Justice Department officials. Trump is also "presumptively immune" regarding his interactions with Pence, it decided, but returned that and the two other categories to lower courts to determine whether Trump has immunity.
The ruling marked the first time since the nation's 18th century founding that the Supreme Court has declared that former presidents may be shielded from criminal charges in any instance. The court's conservative majority includes three justices Trump appointed.
The court decided the case on the last day of its term.

'President is Now King'

Justice Sonia Sotomayor, joined by fellow liberal Justices Elena Kagan and Ketanji Brown Jackson, delivered a sharply worded dissent, saying the ruling effectively creates a "law-free zone around the president."
"When he uses his official powers in any way, under the majority's reasoning, he now will be insulated from criminal prosecution. Orders the Navy's Seal Team 6 to assassinate a political rival? Immune. Organises a military coup to hold onto power? Immune. Takes a bribe in exchange for a pardon? Immune. Immune, immune, immune," Sotomayor wrote.
"In every use of official power, the president is now a king above the law," Sotomayor added.
Trump's trial had been scheduled to start on March 4 before the delays over the immunity issue. Now, no trial date is set. Trump made his immunity claim to the trial judge in October, meaning the issue has been litigated for about nine months.

'Thumb on the Scale’

UCLA School of Law professor Rick Hasen, a critic of Trump's efforts to overturn his election defeat, said: "The Supreme Court has put out a fact-intensive test on the boundaries of the president's immunity -- with a huge thumb on the scale favouring the president's immunity -- in a way that will surely push this case past the election."
"Sorting out the court's opinion and how it applies is going to take a while," Georgetown University law professor Erica Hashimoto added. "No chance of a pre-election trial."

The Supreme Court made two other rulings this year beneficial to Trump. In March, it reinstated Trump to the presidential primary ballot in Colorado. And last week, it raised the legal bar for prosecutors pursuing obstruction charges in Smith's election subversion case against Trump and defendants involved in the Capitol attack.
In the special counsel's August 2023 indictment, Trump was charged with conspiring to defraud the United States, corruptly obstructing an official proceeding and conspiring to do so, and conspiring against the right of Americans to vote. He has pleaded not guilty.
Sotomayor wrote on Monday: "Relying on little more than its own misguided wisdom about the need for bold and unhesitating action by the president, the court gives former President Trump all the immunity he asked for and more."

Hush Money Case

In a separate case brought in New York state court, Trump was found guilty by a jury in Manhattan on May 30 on 34 counts of falsifying documents to cover up hush money paid to a porn star to avoid a sex scandal before the 2016 election. Trump also faces criminal charges in two other cases. He has pleaded not guilty in those and called all the cases against him politically motivated.
Not since its landmark Bush v. Gore decision, which handed the disputed 2000 US election to Republican George W. Bush over Democrat Al Gore, has the Supreme Court played such an integral role in a presidential race.
If Trump regains the presidency, he could try to force an end to the prosecution or potentially pardon himself for any federal crimes.

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China Strengthens Disaster Management Laws, Amid Increasing Weather Events

China has strengthened its laws governing disaster management, imposing stricter penalties for inadequate responses and intensifying government oversight of media coverage during emergencies.

The legal revisions aim to bolster emergency preparedness and streamline the dissemination of information concerning natural disasters, accidents, and public health crises.

They also expand the scope of government control over news reporting, potentially tightening restrictions in a nation vigilant against information that could undermine social stability and security, analysts noted.

Recent years have seen China grappling with more frequent and severe weather extremes, challenging local authorities' ability to respond effectively. The amendments to the Emergency Response Law, effective from November 1, escalate fines for insufficient disaster preparation or response fivefold, up to 1 million yuan (£110,000).

Under the new regulations, government agencies will exert greater influence over media coverage, mandating a more regulated "news interviewing and reporting system" without specifying detailed guidelines. Officials are instructed to guide and support news media while supervising public opinion.

The revised law emphasises the importance of timely, accurate, objective, and fair reporting during emergencies. It mandates swift dissemination of emergency warnings and designates personnel responsible for public communication in crises.

While ostensibly aiming to enhance the accuracy and fairness of information, critics argue the revisions further consolidate state control over information flows. They impose stricter requirements on journalists covering emergencies, fostering a more prescriptive environment for media professionals.

Passed by the Standing Committee of China's National People's Congress, the revisions introduce over 30 new provisions to the 2007 law. They prohibit government agencies from delaying, misreporting, concealing information, or obstructing others from reporting, responding to past public outcry over delayed disaster management.

Foreigners in China will now be required to comply with local laws and government directives under the updated legislation, reflecting China's increasing scrutiny of crisis preparedness and its political expectations during emergencies.

The regulatory changes signal a heightened focus on crisis management readiness, impacting not only foreign residents and media but also international businesses operating within China, observers cautioned.

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Sports Apparel Maker Under Armour to Pay $434M to Settle Lawsuit Over Sales Disclosures

Under Armour said it has agreed to pay $434 million to settle a 2017 class action lawsuit accusing the sports apparel maker of defrauding shareholders about its revenue growth in order to meet Wall Street forecasts.

The proposed settlement, subject to court approval, averts a scheduled July 15 trial in Baltimore federal court. The shareholder lawsuit accused the apparel maker and CEO Kevin Plank of intentionally misleading them about the company's financial health.

In 2021, the Baltimore-based company had agreed to pay $9 million to settle Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) charges that it misled investors about its revenue growth.

The SEC in its investigation found that Under Armour failed to disclose to investors that it employed a sales tactic to accelerate or "pull forward" a total of $408 million in existing orders in the second half of 2015.

Mark Solomon, lead counsel for the shareholders and a partner at litigation firm Robbins Geller Rudman & Dowd, called the proposed settlement an "important win" that underscored the key role of pension funds in holding companies accountable.

Under Armour said it intends to pay the settlement amount of $434 million through cash on hand as well as by drawing on its $1.1 billion revolving credit facility.

The company added in a regulatory filing it had agreed to also continue to separate the roles of the chair and the chief executive officer for a period of at least three years.

Under Armour said it has consistently denied the accusations and entered into this agreement in principle, which is not an admission or finding of fault or wrongdoing.

The company expects its total accrual in legal proceeding contingencies related to the lawsuit to reach $434 million during the first quarter of fiscal year 2025, from $100 million at the end of fiscal 2024. 

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US Supreme Court Upholds Federal Domestic-Violence Gun Ban: Victory to Biden

The US Supreme Court upheld a federal law that makes it a crime for people under domestic violence restraining orders to have guns, handing a victory to President Joe Biden's administration as the justices opted not to further widen firearms rights after a major expansion in 2022.

The 8-1 ruling, authored by conservative Chief Justice John Roberts, overturned a lower court's decision striking down the 1994 law as a violation of the US Constitution's Second Amendment right to "keep and bear arms."

The law was challenged by a Texas man who was subject to a restraining order for assaulting his girlfriend in a car park and later threatening to shoot her.

The New Orleans-based 5th US Circuit Court of Appeals had concluded that the measure failed the Supreme Court's stringent test set in 2022 that required gun laws to be "consistent with the nation's historical tradition of firearm regulation" to comply with the Second Amendment.

But Roberts wrote that since the nation's founding, firearm laws have targeted people who threaten physical harm to others.

"When a restraining order contains a finding that an individual poses a credible threat to the physical safety of an intimate partner, that individual may -- consistent with the Second Amendment -- be banned from possessing firearms while the order is in effect," Roberts wrote.

Biden's administration defended the law as critical to protect public safety and abuse victims, who often are women.

"No one who has been abused should have to worry about their abuser getting a gun," Biden said, touting his record on gun control. "As a result of (Friday's) ruling, survivors of domestic violence and their families will still be able to count on critical protections, just as they have for the past three decades."

Conservative Justice Clarence Thomas, who authored the 2022 ruling in a case called New York State Rifle and Pistol Association v. Bruen, was the lone dissenter.

"Not a single historical regulation justifies the statute at issue," Thomas wrote, adding that "in the interest of ensuring the government can regulate one subset of society, (Friday's) decision puts at risk the Second Amendment rights of many more."

The case involved Zackey Rahimi, who pleaded guilty in 2021 to illegally possessing guns in violation of this law while subject to a restraining order.

Police found a pistol and rifle while searching Rahimi's residence in connection with at least five shootings, including using an assault-type rifle to fire at the home of a man to whom he had sold drugs.

A federal judge had rejected Rahimi's Second Amendment challenge and sentenced him to more than six years in prison before the case went to the 5th Circuit.

Violating this law was punishable by up to 10 years in prison at the time of Rahimi's indictment but has since been raised to 15 years.

'A Sigh of Relief

Gun control advocates welcomed Friday's ruling. "As millions of domestic violence victims breathe a sigh of relief, it's worth remembering who put them in jeopardy: extreme Trump-appointed judges on the 5th Circuit who sided with an abuser who wanted to keep his guns," said John Feinblatt, president of Everytown for Gun Safety, referring to Republican former President Donald Trump.

Rahimi's lawyer declined to comment. In a nation bitterly divided over how to address firearms violence including frequent mass shootings, the Supreme Court often has taken an expansive view of the Second Amendment.

It broadened gun rights in landmark rulings in 2008 and 2010 before the 2022 Bruen decision, which recognised a constitutional right to carry a handgun in public for self-defence and struck down New York state's limits on carrying concealed handguns.

In Friday's ruling, Roberts made clear that the history and tradition test set in Bruen for gun regulations is not as inflexible as the 5th Circuit's ruling and Thomas's dissent suggested.

Roberts said that under the Bruen precedent, modern gun restrictions do not require a "historical twin" in order to be lawful.

Five justices who joined the majority in the ruling wrote concurring opinions, reflecting a vigorous debate over the workability of the Bruen test. Liberal Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson said the Rahimi case demonstrated that lower courts are struggling to apply the Bruen tenets.

"In my view, the blame may lie with us, not with them," Jackson wrote. In another firearms-related decision, the Supreme Court on June 14, declared unlawful a federal ban on "bump stock" devices that enable semi-automatic weapons to fire rapidly like machine guns, although that case did not involve the Second Amendment.

In a May Reuters/Ipsos poll, 75 per cent of registered voters, including 84 per cent of Democrats and 70 per cent of Republicans, said that a person subject to a domestic violence restraining order should not be allowed to possess firearms.

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NASA Faces $80,000 Claim After Space Debris Hit Roof of Florida Family Home

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Several French Hotels Launch $10 Million Lawsuit Against Airbnb for Unfair Trade Practices

 

A total of 26 hotels in France have launched a lawsuit against the San Francisco-based short-term rental company Airbnb for unfair trade practices.

The plaintiffs seek a total amount of 9.2 million euros ($9.9 million) in damages, with each hotel claiming an average of Eur355,019, said the hotels' lawyer Jonathan Bellaiche.

They are accusing the company of allowing and failing to control illegal ads on its platform, and of not paying its tourist tax in 2021 and 2022, Bellaiche added.

The case alleges loss of opportunity to attract clientele, adding that the platform attracts consumers illegally. It also claims commercial disruption, with undue advantage given by the illegal ads by avoiding the cost of commerciality.

"This claim is not the first attempt by a hotel lobby to restrict Airbnb's lawful business in France and, as such, hosts' right to let their homes," Airbnb said in a statement. By the end of 2023, the company had remitted more than Eur187 million in tourist tax to French communes on behalf of hosts, it added.

The company claims that French law gives families the right to share their space and welcome guests across the country, and Airbnb follows the rules applicable to its platform, including sharing data and paying taxes.

The hotels, of which some are independent and others are members of chains, are located in about a dozen cities in the country, including Nice, Strasbourg and Cannes.

The case was filed in commercial court in Lisieux, in France's Normandy region, and the hearing will take place within a year, Bellaiche said.

If the lawsuit is detrimental to the company's activities or the ability of families to share their homes, Airbnb will consider all legal options to protect these rights, it said.

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Families of Boeing 737 Max Crash Victims Urge US to seek $24 Billion Fine

Families of victims from the two fatal crashes involving Boeing 737 Max aircraft are urging the US Department of Justice (DOJ) to pursue a fine of $24.8 billion against the aerospace giant, labelling the incidents as the deadliest corporate crime in US history.

Paul Cassell, representing 15 families, emphasised in a letter to the DOJ that this amount is legally warranted and fitting. He proposed that between $14 billion and $22 billion of the total fine could be suspended if Boeing allocates these funds to an independent corporate monitor and enhances its safety programs.

Additionally, Cassell urged the DOJ to consider criminal prosecution of Boeing and insisted that the company's board of directors meet with the families affected.

The letter coincided with Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun facing intense questioning from US senators about Boeing's safety culture following recent incidents, including a January incident where a 737 Max fuselage panel detached during flight, triggering a criminal investigation.

Boeing and the DOJ did not respond immediately for comment due to a US holiday. The DOJ's scrutiny intensified after it was found that Boeing had violated a 2021 deferred-prosecution agreement, originally established after the 737 Max crashes in 2018 and 2019 that claimed 346 lives.

The DOJ's decision on potential penalties for Boeing, which may include criminal charges or renegotiating terms of the agreement, is expected by July 7.

The families' letter also urged the DOJ to prosecute former Boeing executives who were in leadership roles during the crashes. However, the families acknowledged that the five-year statute of limitations might complicate potential criminal charges against individuals.

The ongoing developments underscore the gravity of the situation for Boeing, as it navigates legal repercussions and public scrutiny stemming from the tragic aviation accidents.

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Sri Lanka Court Blocks Gender Equality Bill; President Calls Ruling ‘Judicial Cannibalism’

Sri Lanka's highest court has shot down a government bill seeking gender equality, arguing it could set a legal precedent for the decriminalisation of homosexuality and same-sex marriage.

The three-judge bench of the Supreme Court ruled the bill, which sought to tackle sexism and violence, undermined conservative values on the majority-Buddhist island.

"It is clear that when this bill becomes law it becomes possible for any interested party to claim legal status for same-sex marriages," presiding judge P. Padman Surasena wrote, backed by the two other judges.

"This is something which neither our constitution nor our culture has envisaged." "Surasena said the de-criminalisation of homosexuality and the recognition of same-sex marriages would have significant cultural and moral implications".

The court said recognising "persons with different gender identities" would also violate the constitution. The Gender Equality Bill seeks to enshrine in law equal opportunities to all "irrespective of differences in sex or gender identity".

President Ranil Wickremesinghe urged lawmakers to appoint a select committee to overrule the judiciary. "We are being asked to accept it (the ruling), which this house can't," Wickremesinghe told parliament.

He said there was a judicial precedent that allowed parliament to remove discriminatory laws. Wickremesinghe argued that the court ruling undermined previous progressive decisions, calling their decision "judicial cannibalism".

Homosexual sex is a criminal offence in Sri Lanka, whose penal code dates from British colonial rule.
Although prosecutions are rare, activists say the anti-homosexuality law has been used by police to discriminate against the LGBTQ community.

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US Supreme Court Agrees to Hear Nvidia Bid to Scuttle Shareholder Lawsuit in October

The US Supreme Court agreed to hear a bid by Nvidia to scuttle a securities fraud lawsuit accusing the artificial intelligence chipmaker of misleading investors about how much of its sales went to the volatile cryptocurrency industry.

The justices took up Nvidia's appeal made after a lower court revived a proposed class action brought by shareholders in California against the company and its CEO Jensen Huang.

The suit, led by the Stockholm, Sweden-based investment management firm E. Ohman J:or Fonder AB, seeks unspecified monetary damages.

Santa Clara, California-based Nvidia is a high-flying company that has become one of the biggest beneficiaries of the AI boom, and its market value has surged.

In 2018, Nvidia's chips became popular for cryptomining, a process that involves performing complex math equations in order to secure cryptocurrencies like bitcoin.

The plaintiffs in a 2018 lawsuit accused Nvidia and top company officials of violating a US law called the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 by making statements in 2017 and 2018 that falsely downplayed how much of Nvidia's revenue growth came from crypto-related purchases.

Those omissions misled investors and analysts who were interested in understanding the impact of cryptomining on Nvidia's business, the plaintiffs said.

US District Judge Haywood Gilliam Jr. dismissed the lawsuit in 2021 but the San Francisco-based 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals in a 2-1 ruling subsequently revived it.

The 9th Circuit found that the plaintiffs had adequately alleged that Huang made "false or misleading statements and did so knowingly or recklessly," allowing their case to proceed.Nvidia urged the justices to take up its appeal, arguing that the 9th Circuit's ruling would open the door to "abusive and speculative litigation."

Nvidia in 2022 agreed to pay $5.5 million to US authorities to settle charges that it did not properly disclose the impact of cryptomining on its gaming business.

The justices agreed on June 10 to hear a similar bid by Meta's Facebook to dismiss a private securities fraud lawsuit accusing the social media platform of misleading investors in 2017 and 2018 about the misuse of its user data by the company and third parties. Facebook appealed after a lower court allowed a shareholder lawsuit led by Amalgamated to proceed.

The Supreme Court will hear the Nvidia and Facebook cases in its next term, which begins in October.

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Former Spanish Football Federation Chief Rubiales to Face Trial in Feb 2025: Court

Disgraced former Spanish football federation chief Luis Rubiales will stand trial in February next year for his unsolicited kiss on the lips of Women's World Cup winner Jenni Hermoso, the court overseeing the process said.

Rubiales, 46, provoked worldwide outrage by kissing Hermoso during the medal ceremony after Spain beat England to win the World Cup in Australia last year.

In May a court had ruled Rubiales should be tried for sexual assault over the kiss, and for the alleged coercion subsequently exerted to make her say that it was consensual, without setting a date.

The trial will be held at the Audiencia Nacional, a Madrid court in charge of complex cases, from February 3 to 19, the court said in a statement.

Public prosecutors have requested a sentence of two-and-a-half years in prison for Luis Rubiales -- one year for sexual assault and 18 months for coercion.

The prosecution is also asking for two years' probation once the sentence has been served and for him to pay 50,000 euros ($54,000) in compensation to the player.

Rubiales is also under investigation in a separate alleged corruption case involving his reign at the federation, has denied any wrongdoing.

Three of his former associates are also being tried for putting pressure on Hermoso: former women's coach Jorge Vilda, men's team director Albert Luque and federation marketing boss Ruben Rivera.

The kiss took place live in front of the world's cameras, provoking widespread outrage and prompting his suspension by world football governing body FIFA.

At the time, Rubiales brushed it off as "a consensual" peck on the lips, but Hermoso, 34, said it was not. Under Spanish law, a non-consensual kiss can be classed as sexual assault -- a criminal category that groups all types of sexual violence.

Rubiales told private Spanish television station La Sexta in April that he could not understand how the kiss he gave Hermoso could be labelled as sexual assault, saying there was "no sexual context" to it.

He denied accusations that he and other federation officials coerced Hermoso by pressuring her to speak out in his defence after the scandal erupted. "I have a clear conscience, things have been blown out of proportion," Rubiales said.

Hermoso filed a lawsuit against Rubiales in September, telling the judge she had come under pressure to defend him both on the flight back from Australia and on a subsequent team holiday to Ibiza in the Balearic Islands.

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Visa, Mastercard $30 Billion Antitrust Settlement in Peril, Judge May Reject Accord

Visa's and Mastercard's proposed $30 billion antitrust settlement to limit credit and debit card fees for merchants is in peril, after a New York judge signalled she was preparing to reject the accord.

US District Judge Margo Brodie in Brooklyn told lawyers for the card networks and objectors at a hearing that she will "likely not approve the settlement," according to court records.

She plans to write an opinion explaining her decision and reasoning. Both card networks said they were disappointed. Mastercard called the settlement a "fair resolution" that gave businesses more flexibility in managing card transactions, and Visa called it an "appropriate resolution" to the nearly 19-year-old case.

The settlement announced on March 26 was intended to resolve most claims in the nationwide litigation, with small businesses comprising more than 90 per cent of the settling merchants.

Businesses have long complained that Visa and Mastercard charge excessive swipe fees, or interchange fees, for processing credit and debit card payments, and illegally bar them from steering customers toward cheaper forms of payment.

Swipe fees totalled $172 billion in 2023, and have more than doubled in the last decade, according to the Merchants Payments Coalition, which represents retailers, grocers, convenience stores and gas stations.

Under the settlement, the average 1.5 per cent to 3.5 per cent swipe fee would fall by at least 0.04 percentage points for three years. Visa and Mastercard also agreed to cap rates for five years and remove anti-steering provisions.

Objectors included the National Retail Federation, the world's largest retailer trade group. It called the settlement "manifestly insufficient" and its benefits "meager and temporary," saying it would still let Visa and Mastercard dictate swipe fees, and impose a "virtually limitless" ban on future claims by merchants.

The case is In re Payment Card Interchange Fee and Merchant Discount Antitrust Litigation, US District Court, Eastern District of New York, No 05-md-01720.

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Nigerian Authorities Drop Tax Evasion Charges Against Detained Binance Compliance Executive

 

Nigerian authorities have dropped some of the charges against two Binance executives, including a compliance executive of the cryptocurrency exchange who has been detained in the country since February.

Nigeria’s Federal Inland Revenue Service filed amended charges on Friday, dropping tax evasion charges against Tigran Gambaryan, the firm’s head of financial crime compliance, and Nadeem Anjarwalla, its regional manager for Africa, a spokesman for Binance said on Friday.

Binance itself is now the only defendant in the tax evasion case, a spokesman for Gambaryan’s family said. Binance and the two executives still face charges of money laundering and of providing financial services without a licence from Nigeria’s Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.

The next hearing for the case is scheduled for 19th June, the family spokesman for Gambaryan said. Gambaryan, an American and a former special agent at the Internal Revenue Service for a decade, has been detained in Nigeria since late February and will remain detained at Kuje prison.

Anjarwalla, who was detained together with Gambaryan, escaped and fled abroad in March. "Dropping charges further illustrates that Tigran is not a decision maker at Binance and does not need to be held in order for Binance to resolve issues with the Nigerian government.

We await the court’s ruling on this, discharging Tigran from this matter completely," the Binance spokesman said, adding that Binance is committed to continuing to work with the Nigerian government to resolve the issue.

Gambaryan’s family said his health has also deteriorated during the detention. He collapsed in court on May 23 with malaria and now has pneumonia, the spokesman said.

"This clearly shows that any issues between the Nigerian authorities and Binance can be resolved without holding my husband in prison. I sincerely hope the Nigerian authorities will now see how unnecessary it is to keep Tigran at Kuje," his wife Yuki Gambaryan said in a statement. "My biggest concern at the moment is Tigran’s deteriorating health and the awful conditions he is being kept in."

Representatives for Nigeria’s Federal Inland Revenue Service and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Binance and Nigeria have been at odds since February, when authorities there blamed the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchange for helping to crash its currency and for an alleged lack of money-laundering controls.

Earlier this month, several members of Congress called on President Biden to step up efforts to release Gambaryan from detention in Nigeria. More than 100 former federal agents also wrote to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken to ask him to help with his release.

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Bangladesh Court indicts Nobel laureate Muhammad Yunus in Telecom Graft case

Bangladeshi Nobel peace laureate Muhammad Yunus was indicted in a corruption case, the latest charges to proceed against the respected economist that supporters say are politically motivated.

Yunus, 83, is credited with lifting millions out of poverty with his pioneering microfinance bank but has earned the enmity of longtime Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, who has accused him of "sucking blood" from the poor.

Hasina has made several scathing verbal attacks against the internationally esteemed 2006 Nobel Peace Prize winner, who was once seen as a prospective rival. The indictment, brought by the national anti-corruption agency, accuses Yunus and 13 others of embezzling $2.1 million (252 million Bangladeshi taka) from Grameen Telecom, one of several firms he founded.

Yunus's lawyer Abdullah Al Mamun told AFP that the indictment was the most serious Yunus had faced so far. "If found guilty, Yunus could face up to a life term in prison," Mamun told AFP.

Yunus told reporters after the hearing that he was innocent and had devoted his life "to serve the people, not to embezzle money". He said that being forced to spend the hearing sitting inside one of the cages recently introduced into Bangladeshi courtrooms to hold defendants had been "humiliating".

"We don't know why we have to go through this harassment," he said. Grameen Telecom, created to offer cheap mobile phone services in rural areas, is one of Bangladesh's richest companies.

It owns a 34 per cent stake in the country's largest mobile phone network, worth billions of dollars. Yunus and three colleagues from Grameen Telecom were sentenced to six months in jail in January after they were found guilty of violating labour laws.

All four denied the charges, which supporters and rights groups denounced as politically motivated, and have been bailed pending appeal. Yunus was ousted from the telco's board a month later and employers locked out of its office after the government-installed chairman of its parent company appointed new directors.

Yunus is facing more than 100 other charges over labour law violations and alleged graft. "Those cases are made on flimsy grounds," he told AFP in an interview in the capital Dhaka in February.

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Pharma Giant Johnson & Johnson Reaches $700 Million Talcum Powder Case Settlement

US pharmaceutical and cosmetics giant Johnson & Johnson has agreed to pay $700 million to settle allegations it misled customers about the safety of its talcum-based powder products, New York’s Attorney General announced.

In its settlement with 42 states and the District of Columbia, Johnson & Johnson did not admit wrongdoing, even though it withdrew the product from the North American market in 2020.

The New Jersey-based company announced a settlement in principle in January after facing thousands of lawsuits over talcum powder containing traces of asbestos blamed for causing ovarian cancer.

“No amount of money can undo the pain caused by Johnson & Johnson’s talc-laced products, but today families can rest assured that the company is being held accountable for the harm it caused,” New York Attorney General Letitia James said in a statement.

The state of New York will receive $44 million of the settlement amount, which must be paid in four installments over three years. Johnson & Johnson Worldwide Vice President of Litigation Erik Haas said the company “continues to pursue several paths to achieve a comprehensive and final resolution of the talc litigation.

The process “includes the finalisation of a previously announced agreement that the company reached with a consortium of 43 State Attorneys Generals to resolve their talc claims.”

In April 2023, the group proposed an $8.9 billion agreement that would “equitably and efficiently resolve all claims arising from cosmetic talc litigation.” J&J said the money would be paid to the tens of thousands of claimants over 25 years through a subsidiary, LTL Management LLC, which was set up to address the claims and has filed for bankruptcy protection.

However, a bankruptcy judge rejected the arrangement. “We will continue to address the claims of those who do not want to participate in our contemplated consensual bankruptcy resolution through litigation or settlement,” Haas added in his statement.

A summary of studies published in January 2020 covering 250,000 women in the United States did not find a statistical link between the use of talc on the genitals and the risk of ovarian cancer. 

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Hunter Biden Trial: Jury Commences Deliberations in Historic Federal Gun Case

The jury has begun deliberations in the case of Hunter Biden, the son of United States President Joe Biden, accused of lying about his use of illegal drugs when he bought a handgun in 2018.

The 12 jurors deliberated for about an hour after hearing closing arguments on Monday. “We ask, you find the law applies equally to this defendant as it would to anyone else,” government prosecutor Derek Hines told the jury as the first criminal trial of a child of a sitting president reached its final phase.

“When he chose to lie and buy a gun, he violated the law. We ask, you return the only verdict supported by the evidence – guilty,” Hines said.
Hunter Biden, 54, has pleaded not guilty to charges that include lying about his addiction when he filled out a government screening document for a Colt Cobra revolver and illegally possessing the weapon for 11 days.

Defence lawyer Abbe Lowell compared the government’s case with the work of a magician who focuses attention on drug use from months or years before the gun purchase to create the illusion Hunter Biden was a user of crack cocaine when he bought the weapon.

“They blurred all those years before he walked into StarQuest Shooters and all those years after,” Lowell told jurors, referring to the gun shop where he made the purchase.

US District Judge Maryellen Noreika instructed jurors to be impartial. “You have to decide the case based on the evidence,” she told them. Over four days of testimony last week, prosecutors offered an intimate view of the younger Biden’s years of struggle with alcohol and crack cocaine abuse, which prosecutors say legally precluded him from buying a gun.

In the prosecution’s closing arguments, a government lawyer said common sense understanding of the grim testimony of Hunter Biden’s constant drug use filled in any gaps in evidence about his behaviour around the time of the gun purchase.

“It was personal and it was ugly and it was overwhelming,” federal prosecutor Leo Wise told the jury, referring to the testimony of Hunter Biden’s drug use. “But it was also necessary.”

The trial in US District Court in Wilmington, Delaware, follows another historic first – the May 30 criminal conviction of Donald Trump, the first US president to be found guilty of a serious crime. Trump is the Republican challenger to Joe Biden, a Democrat, in the November 5 presidential election.

Congressional Democrats cite the Hunter Biden prosecution as evidence that Joe Biden is not using the justice system for political or personal ends.
Wise said it did not matter if well-known people appeared in court or how they reacted to the evidence, a possible reference to First Lady Jill Biden’s attendance.

“None of that matters. What matters came from the witness stand,” he said. If convicted, Hunter Biden could face up to 25 years in prison, although first-time offenders do not get anywhere near the maximum, and it is unclear whether the judge would give him time behind bars. 

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Law Firm Defends Work in $5.6Bn Card Fee Case After Disclosing Fake Claims

A law firm that earlier said it unknowingly submitted fake claims as part of a $5.6 billion settlement with Visa and MasterCard told a US judge that other parties had also submitted fraudulent material in the case.

Responding to a request for more information from the Brooklyn judge overseeing the antitrust case, New York-founded Milberg Coleman Bryson Phillips Grossman said it had terminated its relationship with nearly 2,000 merchant plaintiffs since disclosing the false claims last month.

The firm said it was being singled out unfairly and that other companies “and/or” law firms had also submitted fraudulent claims in the case. “It is a very unfortunate part of the settlement process, particularly in a settlement as large as this one,” Milberg's filing said, without naming any company or firm.

Visa and Mastercard agreed to the $5.6 billion settlement in 2018 to resolve claims from millions of merchants who said they had overpaid credit and debit card fees. Milberg did not help craft the settlement but had sought part of the fund for its clients.

Representatives from Milberg and attorneys for the retailer class did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Visa and Mastercard denied any wrongdoing in agreeing to settle.

Last month, attorneys for the class of 12 million retailers said they learned about fraudulent claims submitted by Milberg and raised their concerns to the court.

“If Milberg knows of fraud, it should alert class counsel or the court,” the class attorneys wrote in their filing, jointly submitted with Milberg.
Milberg in its May response said it had withdrawn dozens of "proofs of authorisation" that are part of the claims process for clients.

The firm blamed a third-party “referral” source, and the firm said it was no longer pursuing any new clients in the Visa and Mastercard case. The class attorneys at plaintiffs’ firms Robbins Geller Rudman & Dowd and Robins Kaplan said the court should consider punishing Milberg, or referring it to the US Justice Department.

Milberg said it was making an effort to be “fully transparent” with the class attorneys. It said the idea of punishing the firm or referring it to law enforcement was “absurd.” 

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US Regulators to Open Antitrust Investigations into Microsoft, OpenAI and Nvidia

The US Justice Department and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) have reached an agreement that paves the way for potential antitrust investigations into Microsoft, OpenAI and Nvidia, according to a source familiar with the matter.

The move reflects growing regulatory scrutiny over the concentration of power in the artificial intelligence (AI) industry. Microsoft and Nvidia, both dominant players in their respective fields, are among the world's largest companies by market capitalisation, with Nvidia's market value recently surpassing $3 trillion.

Antitrust enforcers in the US have raised several concerns about AI, including the advantage Big Tech companies have due to their extensive access to data for training AI models, the impact of generative AI on the market for creative work and the potential for companies to use partnerships to bypass merger review processes.

This new division of responsibilities between the DOJ and FTC mirrors a 2019 agreement to split enforcement efforts against Big Tech, which led to the FTC pursuing cases against Meta and Amazon, and the DOJ suing Apple and Google. These cases are ongoing, and the companies have denied any wrongdoing.

Although OpenAI's parent organisation is a non-profit, Microsoft's $13 billion investment in a for-profit subsidiary gives it a significant stake. Under the new agreement, the Justice Department will investigate Nvidia for potential antitrust violations, while the FTC will examine the conduct of OpenAI and Microsoft. This agreement, reached over the past week, is expected to be finalised in the coming days.

Nvidia holds approximately 80 per cent of the AI chip market, including custom AI processors made for cloud computing companies like Google, Microsoft, and Amazon. This market dominance allows Nvidia to report gross margins between 70 per cent and 80 per cent. Spokespersons for Nvidia and OpenAI declined to comment on the regulatory agreement, while Microsoft stated it takes its legal obligations seriously and is confident it has complied with them.

In January, the FTC ordered OpenAI, Microsoft, Alphabet, Amazon and Anthropic to provide information on recent investments and partnerships involving generative AI companies and cloud service providers. Additionally, the FTC launched an investigation into OpenAI in July last year over claims it had violated consumer protection laws by putting personal data and reputations at risk.

Last week, DOJ antitrust chief Jonathan Kanter expressed concerns at a Stanford University AI conference about the structures and trends in AI, highlighting that the technology's reliance on massive amounts of data and computing power can give dominant firms a substantial advantage. The DOJ and FTC, led by Chair Lina Khan, share jurisdiction over federal competition law and aim to avoid duplicative investigations.

Bill Baer, a former antitrust leader at both agencies, noted that each agency typically leads in areas where it has the most expertise, though occasionally, the heads of both agencies will decide on the division of responsibilities.

Additionally, the FTC is investigating Microsoft's $650 million deal with AI startup Inflection AI, scrutinising whether the deal was an attempt to circumvent merger disclosure requirements. The agreement, made in March, allowed Microsoft to use Inflection's models and hire most of the startup's staff, including its co-founders. Microsoft stated that this deal helped accelerate its work on Microsoft Co-pilot while allowing Inflection to continue pursuing its independent business goals as an AI studio.

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US Supreme Court Justices Disclose Bali Trip, Beyonce Tickets and Book Royalties

US Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas belatedly confirmed luxury trips with GOP donor Harlan Crow, while new financial disclosures revealed his colleagues last year collected $1.5 million in book income and the singer Beyonce gave Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson a set of concert tickets.

Jackson topped the book list with a $893,750 advance for her yet-to-be published memoir, followed by Justice Brett Kavanaugh, who reported receiving $340,000 after the court said this week he is working on a “legal memoir.” Justices Neil Gorsuch and Sonia Sotomayor also reported receiving book income.

Jackson said that singer Beyonce Knowles-Carter gave her four concert tickets valued at $3,712. The newest justice also reported two gifts of artwork for her chambers valued at $12,500.

The disclosures come amid increased scrutiny of the nine justices and their financial dealings, fuelled in large part by reports that Thomas took lavish vacations and private plane flights funded by Crow.

Thomas’ new filing included an amendment to his 2019 disclosure alluding to a cruise in Indonesia aboard Crow’s yacht and a trip with Crow to an exclusive California retreat for men. Thomas said that Crow had covered the cost of food and lodging for one night in Bali, Indonesia, and at least three nights in Monte Rio, California, home of the Bohemian Grove retreat.

Thomas’ disclosure didn’t mention the cruise itself. Propublica (a nonprofit organisation based in New York City dedicated to investigative journalism) revealed the vacation last year, estimating that the cost of the island-hopping trip could have exceeded $500,000.

Thomas said the listed items had been “inadvertently omitted” from his original 2019 report. An analysis released this week by the watchdog group Fix the Court concluded that Thomas has received more than $4 million in gifts since his 1991 confirmation. The group’s calculations include rough estimates of the value of flights aboard private planes.

Thomas disclosed receiving photo albums worth $2,000 from Terence and Barbara Giroux. Terence Giroux was executive director of the Horatio Alger Association, a nonprofit that promotes libertarian ideals and gives college scholarships to low-income students. Thomas is an honorary member of the society’s board of directors.
Justice Samuel Alito, as has become his usual practice, received a 90-day extension to file his report.

Sotomayor earned $1,879 from Fred Rogers Productions for a voiceover performance on an episode of the animated TV show Alma’s Way, which is about a Puerto Rican girl from the Bronx and her family.

Three of the justices reported earning extra income from teaching stints at various universities. Gorsuch topped the list with $29,798 in extra income from George Mason University, followed by Kavanaugh, who earned $25,000 from the University of Notre Dame Law School.

Justice Amy Coney Barrett also earned $14,947 from Notre Dame Law School. Barrett is writing a book, but didn’t report any income in 2023 after reporting a year ago that she collected $425,000 in 2022.

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Google Emerges Victorious as US Court Dismisses Class Action Over AI Training Data

 

In a significant legal victory for Google, the US District Court in Northern California has dismissed a class action lawsuit alleging that the tech giant improperly used personal data to train its artificial intelligence (AI) systems.

The ruling is seen as a reprieve for Google amid increasing scrutiny over its data practices and the potential implications for the broader tech industry. The class action lawsuit was initiated by a group of plaintiffs who claimed that Google violated privacy laws and infringed upon their personal rights by using their private information to enhance the capabilities of its AI algorithms.

The plaintiffs argued that Google's data usage practices were opaque and lacked consent, seeking compensation and stricter regulations to prevent such occurrences in the future. Google, however, maintained that its data practices were transparent and complied with existing legal frameworks. The company asserted that data anonymisation and aggregation techniques were employed to protect individual privacy.

Judge James Donato, presiding over the case, ruled in favour of Google, dismissing the class action on the grounds that the plaintiffs failed to demonstrate concrete harm or a direct violation of privacy laws. The court found that the plaintiffs lacked standing as they did not provide sufficient evidence to prove that Google's actions caused specific injuries to individuals.

Furthermore, the ruling emphasised that Google's data practices were consistent with its user agreements and privacy policies. The court also noted that the plaintiffs' claims were too broad and did not specify how individual plaintiffs were uniquely affected.

While the dismissal of the case is a significant win for Google, the plaintiffs have the option to amend their complaint and present a more detailed case. Additionally, the ruling does not preclude future lawsuits on similar grounds, particularly as public and regulatory scrutiny on data privacy continues to intensify.

For Google, the decision alleviates legal pressures but also underscores the need for clearer communication and stricter adherence to data privacy standards. The tech industry at large is watching closely, as this case sets a precedent for how AI training data cases might be handled in the future.

As AI technologies continue to advance, the balance between innovation and privacy remains a contentious issue. Governments and regulatory bodies worldwide are increasingly focused on updating and enforcing data protection laws. Companies like Google will need to navigate these regulations carefully to maintain public trust and avoid legal pitfalls.

For now, Google can celebrate a temporary victory, as a court dismisses a lawsuit alleging illegal data collection by its AI chatbot Bard. However, this is unlikely to be the last legal challenge the tech industry faces in the realm of artificial intelligence and data privacy.

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$17Billion UK Lawsuit Against Google's Ad Tech Practices Can Go Ahead, Tribunal Rules

 

Google parent Alphabet must face a lawsuit worth up to 13.6 billion pounds ($17.4 billion) for allegedly abusing its dominance in the online advertising market, London’s Competition Appeal Tribunal (CAT) has ruled.
The lawsuit, which seeks damages on behalf of publishers of websites and apps based in the United Kingdom, is the latest case to focus on the search giant’s business practices.

Ad Tech Collective Action is bringing the claim on behalf of publishers who say they have suffered losses due to Google’s allegedly anti-competitive behaviour. Google last month urged the CAT to block the case, which it argued was incoherent. The company “strongly rejects the underlying allegations”, its lawyers said in court documents.

The CAT said in a written ruling that it would certify the case to proceed towards a trial, which is unlikely to take place before the end of 2025. The tribunal also emphasised the test for certifying a case under the UK’s collective proceedings regime – which is roughly equivalent to the United States’ class action regime – is relatively low.

Ad Tech Collective Action’s case comes amid ongoing probes by regulators into Google’s adtech business, including by Britain’s Competition and Markets Authority and the European Commission. Google is also fighting two lawsuits in the United States, one brought by the Department of Justice and another by Texas and other states, accusing the company of anti-competitive conduct.

Google’s lawyers said in documents for the CAT case that the company’s “impact in the ad tech industry has been hugely pro-competitive”. CAT’s decision is the latest against a tech giant to be given the green light by the CAT, which already this year has certified a $3.8 billion case against Facebook parent Meta and a nearly $1 billion case against Apple.

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ECJ Ruling: McDonald's Loses European Union Trademark for Chicken Big Macs

 

McDonald's no longer has the exclusive right to use the label "Big Mac" in reference to chicken burgers sold in the European Union after a ruling by the EU's highest court. The American fast-food chain popularised the nickname for large burger sandwiches, registering it as a trademark in the EU in 1996.

But following a legal challenge from Supermac's, a rival chain in Ireland, other companies will now be free to use the name "Mac" to sell poultry products or in their chains' names. The European Court of Justice found that McDonald's could not show it had made genuine use of the trademark for a continuous period of five years.

"McDonald's loses the EU trade mark 'Big Mac' in respect of poultry products," the judges ruled. McDonald's noted in a statement that the court's decision did not affect its right to use the "Big Mac" trademark. But it does open the door for other chains to use the name, including Supermac, the firm that brought the challenge.

Supermac, founded in 1978 in Galway, sells beef and chicken burgers and chicken nuggets at 120 red and white branded outlets across Ireland. It has been embroiled in a seven-year legal battle with the US chain over the right to use brand terms including "Mac".

Supermac's managing director, Pat McDonagh, said the ruling displayed a "common-sense approach to the use of trademarks by large multinationals". Supermac's accuses McDonald's of "bullying" smaller firms through the defence of its trademarks, aiming to stifle competition.

The dispute goes back to 2017 when McDonald's blocked Mr McDonagh from registering Supermac's as a trademark, to pave the way for expansion outside Ireland. McDonagh countered that McDonald’s was not using its trademark for restaurants, so other firms should not be blocked from using the term "Mac" in their names.

"We knew when we took on this battle that it was a David versus Goliath scenario," McDonagh said. "We wholeheartedly welcome this judgement as a vindication of small businesses everywhere that stand up to powerful global entities."

McDonald's said: "Our iconic Big Mac is loved by customers all across Europe, and we’re excited to continue to proudly serve local communities, as we have done for decades." The chain did not say whether it planned to appeal against the decision.

The ECJ’s ruling revokes McDonald’s trademark for restaurants and for poultry products, retaining it only in reference to the red-meat burgers it originally referred to.
Supermac’s remains in dispute with McDonald’s over the trademark in the UK, since post-Brexit EU trademark law no longer applies in the UK.

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US House of Representatives Passes Bill to Sanction ICC Over Gaza Warrants Bid

The US House of Representatives has voted to pass legislation that would sanction the International Criminal Court (ICC) after its prosecutor applied for arrest warrants against Israeli officials. The move comes after The Hague-based court's prosecutor said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Gallant should be arrested on charges relating to the war in Gaza.

The prosecutor is also seeking warrants for three leaders of Hamas. The bill, proposed by pro-Israel Republicans, targets ICC officials involved in the case by blocking their entry to the US. On Tuesday, it passed with a majority of Republican support by a vote of 247-155. Two Republicans voted "present" and 42 pro-Israel Democrats crossed the aisle to back the legislation.

Though the bill passed in the House, it is not expected to become law. The legislation will likely be ignored by Democrats who control the US Senate, where it would have to pass before it could be signed into law by the president.

Biden’s Opposition

But President Joe Biden has also indicated that he "strongly opposes" the bill and the administration has said it does not support the sanctions. If it did become law, however, the legislation would also revoke any US visas held by ICC officials and restrict them from making property transactions in the US.

Some Senate Democrats, like John Fetterman of Pennsylvania, an outspoken supporter of Israel, have indicated they would support legislation sanctioning the court. “I really would like to sanction the ICC for that. That was trash,” Fetterman said of the arrest warrants.

Congressman Chip Roy, a Texas Republican who introduced the legislation in the House, titled the Illegitimate Court Counteraction Act, has called the ICC “a massive threat to US sovereignty”. The Democrats who opposed the measure largely support Israel, but have criticised Netanyahu's conservative government. Some Democratic opponents said it risked forcing the US to sanction ally nations that support the ICC.

When the measure cleared the House Rules Committee on Monday, Jim McGovern, a Massachusetts Democrat, said: “This bill makes a mockery of the rules-based international order that America helped build.” The bill's passage comes shortly after Netanyahu was invited by US lawmakers to deliver a speech to Congress this summer, although the date of his speech has not been finalised.

Last month, ICC chief prosecutor Karim Khan said he had "reasonable grounds" to believe that Netanyahu and Gallant, as well as Hamas’s Gaza leader Yahya Sinwar, military chief Mohammed Deif and political leader Ismail Haniyeh, bore "criminal responsibility" for alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity during the war in Gaza.

It marked the first time the ICC has targeted the top leader of a close US ally. "The ICC has to be punished for this action," Republican Speaker of the House Mike Johnson said on Tuesday. "We cannot allow this to stand." "If the ICC was allowed to do this and go after the leaders of countries whose actions they disagree with, why would they not come after America?"

Israel’s government and Hamas reacted with outrage to Khan's announcement last month. Netanyahu denounced the warrant applications against him and Gallant as a “moral outrage of historic proportions”.
Gallant accused the prosecutor of drawing a “despicable” parallel between Israel and Hamas and attempting to deny his country’s right to self-defence.

Hamas - which is proscribed as a terrorist organisation by Israel, the US and other countries - demanded the cancellation of the warrant applications for its leaders and denounced what it called Khan's attempts “to equate the victim with the executioner".

If the ICC’s judges decide to issue the arrest warrants, it will be up to its 124 member states - including the UK and many other US allies - to decide whether or not to enforce them.

White House Statement

The White House said in a statement on Monday that while the ICC prosecutor’s warrant applications for Israeli leaders were "outrageous", it did not support sanctioning the ICC.

"There are more effective ways to defend Israel, preserve US positions on the ICC, and promote international justice and accountability, and the administration stands ready to work with the Congress on those options,” it said.

Created by a UN treaty in 2002, the ICC investigates and brings to justice those responsible for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes, intervening when national authorities cannot or will not prosecute.
The US - like Israel - is not a member of the ICC and does not recognise its jurisdiction, but has backed its previous prosecutions and arrest warrants not related to Israel and the Palestinians.

In 2020 under the Trump administration, the US imposed sanctions on top ICC officials, including Khan’s predecessor, after the court began investigating alleged war crimes committed by the US and others in the Afghan conflict.

The ongoing conflict in Gaza began when Hamas gunmen attacked southern Israel on 7 October, killing about 1,200 people and taking 251 others hostage, according to Israeli authorities. At least 36,470 people have since been killed in Gaza during Israel’s military campaign to destroy Hamas, according to the Hamas-run health ministry.

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Former Pakistan PM Imran Khan Acquitted in State Secrets Case, But to Stay in Jail

 

A court in Islamabad acquitted Imran Khan of leaking state secrets but the former Pakistan prime minister will remain in prison because of his conviction in another case.

The court annulled the sentence of Khan and his close aide, former foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi in what is known as the “cipher case” on Monday. The two had been sentenced to 10 years in prison in January by a special court set up in prison in Rawalpindi for publicly revealing a diplomatic cable in 2022.

Khan, ousted as prime minister in 2022, has received three prison sentences, which he claims are politically motivated. Despite the acquittal, Khan will stay in prison, serving sentences with his wife Bushra Bibi, over charges related to their 2018 marriage and corruption allegations during his tenure as prime minister. On February 3, Khan and his wife were sentenced to seven years when a court in Rawalpindi declared that their marriage in 2018 violated Islamic law.

“Thank God, the sentence is overturned,” Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) spokesperson Naeem Panjutha wrote on X on Monday.
Khan’s PTI hailed Monday’s verdict. Party leader Syed Zulfikar Bukhari said in a post on X that the state’s “malafide attempt to establish IK (Imran Khan) and SMQ (Shah Mahmood Qureshi) as traitors goes into the dustbin”.

In April 2022, Khan was ousted from power through a parliamentary vote of no-confidence. He claimed a secret diplomatic cable proved that there was a US-led conspiracy with Pakistan’s military and opposition to remove him.

State authorities accused Khan of using the document for political purposes and not returning it, leading to a special court sentencing him and his ally Qureshi to ten years in prison.
Washington and the Pakistani army reject these accusations.

Meanwhile, the government’s spokesperson for legal affairs, Aqeel Malik, told the media that the prosecution might appeal the decision in the country’s top court. “If the prosecution feels that there was an error (in the judgment) or it should be challenged, it will decide whether to appeal (the verdict) in the Supreme Court.”

Khan has been in jail since August last year, facing trial in multiple cases.

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Trump Vows to Appeal Conviction; Biden Calls Criticism of Trump Jury Verdict ‘Dangerous’

Donald Trump indicated his intention to challenge the guilty verdict that marked him as the first US president convicted of a crime. However, he said he would wait until after his sentencing on July 11 to pursue this appeal.

Speaking at Trump Tower in Manhattan, where he launched his initial presidential campaign in 2015, Trump reiterated his allegations that the trial was a “rigged" attempt to hobble his comeback White House bid and warned that it showed no American was safe from politically motivated prosecution.

“If they can do this to me, they can do this to anyone," Trump, 77, said in an unscripted 33-minute speech. Applauded by supporters, Trump, the Republican candidate in the 2024 election, took no questions from reporters. “We're going to be appealing this scam," he said. Trump will have 30 days from the date of his July 11 sentencing to file a notice of appeal.

Democratic President Joe Biden, who will face Trump in the November 5 election, said Trump had been given an opportunity to defend himself in the same justice system that applies to all Americans.

“But Trump's public criticism of jurors and witnesses during the trial, which prompted Justice Juan Merchan to impose a $10,000 fine, could push the judge to impose a tougher penalty," said Rebecca Roiphe, a former New York prosecutor, Reuters reported.

Incarceration would not prevent Trump from campaigning or taking office if he were to win. Trump's sentencing on July 11 coincides closely with the Republican Party's plan to formally nominate him as its presidential candidate at its convention in Milwaukee. He was convicted on 34 criminal counts related to falsifying documents to conceal a hush money payment to adult film actress Stormy Daniels, allegedly aimed at swaying the 2016 election, in which he defeated Democrat Hillary Clinton.

Despite this conviction, Trump confronts three other criminal prosecutions, including two concerning his efforts to challenge his defeat to Biden in the 2020 election. However, the New York verdict may be the sole one delivered before Americans head to the polls, as legal complications have delayed the other cases. Throughout, Trump maintains his innocence, denouncing all four cases as “politically driven".

Meanwhile, Reuters reported, citing a source familiar with his campaign's inner workings, that the verdict was expected to prompt him to intensify deliberations on picking a woman as his vice presidential running mate.

Following a trial that included explicit testimony from Stormy Daniels regarding an alleged 2006 sexual encounter with Trump while he was married to Melania, the jury found Trump guilty of falsifying business documents. Trump adamantly denies any sexual involvement with Daniels.

Michael Cohen, Trump's former fixer, testified that Trump authorised a $130,000 hush money payment to Daniels. Cohen, who facilitated the payment, stated that Trump sanctioned a plan to reimburse him through disguised monthly payments labelled as legal fees.

In his first public remarks since a New York jury convicted Donald Trump on 34 counts related to a payment to silence a porn star before the 2016 election, President Joe Biden emphasized the dangers of questioning the integrity of the guilty verdict. Biden, a Democrat, strongly criticised Trump and other Republicans who have voiced objections to the verdict.

“Donald Trump was given every opportunity to defend himself," Biden said in remarks at the White House. He noted that the case against Trump in New York was brought by the state, that it was not a federal case, and that the verdict was delivered by “a jury of 12 citizens, 12 Americans, 12 people like you."

“The US justice system has endured for nearly 250 years," Biden said, and he criticized Trump and his supporters for attempting to tear it down with false allegations. “It's reckless, it's dangerous, it's irresponsible for anyone to say this was rigged just because they don't like the verdict," Biden said.

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Billionaire in Custody: Former Binance CEO Zhao Begins Prison Term in California

Binance's billionaire founder, Changpeng Zhao, has reported into a low-security federal prison located in Lompoc, California. CNBC contacted Zhao's defense team at Latham & Watkins to verify the news that the former cryptocurrency executive is now in custody.

Zhao received a four-month prison sentence in April after admitting guilt to charges related to facilitating money laundering through his cryptocurrency exchange.

The former Binance chief received a sentence notably shorter than the three years initially sought by federal prosecutors. The defense had requested five months of probation instead. Despite sentencing guidelines recommending a prison term of 12 to 18 months, Zhao was apologetic before US District Judge Richard Jones as he awaited his sentence, as reported by Reuters.

In November, Zhao, commonly known as “CZ,” struck a deal with the US government to resolve a multiyear investigation into Binance, the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchange. As part of the settlement, Zhao stepped down as the company’s CEO.
The scope of his alleged crimes included willfully failing to implement an effective anti-money laundering programme as required by the Bank Secrecy Act, and allowing Binance to process transactions involving proceeds of unlawful activity, including between Americans and individuals in sanctions jurisdictions.

The US ordered Binance to pay $4.3 billion in fines and forfeiture. Zhao agreed to pay a $50 million fine.

Sam Bankman-Fried, the founder and former CEO of FTX, is currently serving a federal prison sentence in the US. He was convicted on all seven criminal counts in November and received a 25-year prison term in March for his involvement in a securities fraud conspiracy related to his cryptocurrency exchange and associated hedge fund, Alameda Research. Additionally, Bankman-Fried was ordered to forfeit $11 billion during the sentencing in Manhattan federal court.

Unlike Changpeng Zhao, Bankman-Fried did not enter into a plea deal with the government. Instead, other members of his executive team cooperated with prosecutors. Caroline Ellison, the former CEO of Alameda and Bankman-Fried's former girlfriend, served as a key witness for the government during his trial.

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Elon Musk to Testify in US SEC Investigation Over 2022 Acquisition of Twitter Stock

 

Elon Musk has settled his latest legal fight with the US Securities and Exchange Commission by agreeing to testify for the regulator's probe into his 2022 acquisition of social media site Twitter, according to a Thursday court filing.

Musk and the SEC have agreed on an undisclosed date when the Tesla chief executive will undergo questioning, they said in court papers. Musk also agreed not to appeal the court decision that ordered him to comply with the agency's subpoena.

The SEC sued Musk in October to compel him to testify after he refused to attend a September interview for the investigation. The billionaire said the SEC was trying to "harass" him through unwarranted investigations.

The probe concerns whether Musk broke federal securities laws in 2022 when he bought stock in Twitter, which he later renamed X. It is also reviewing statements and SEC filings he made in relation to the deal, the agency has previously said.

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Trump Found Guilty in Hush Money Trial, First American President Convicted of Crime

Donald Trump became the first US president to be convicted of a crime when a New York jury found him guilty of falsifying documents to cover up a payment to silence a porn star ahead of the 2016 election.

After two days of deliberation, the 12-member jury pronounced Trump guilty on all 34 felony counts he faced. Trump watched the jurors dispassionately as they were polled to confirm the unanimous verdict.

Justice Juan Merchan set sentencing for July 11, just days before the Republican Party is scheduled to formally nominate Trump for president ahead of the November 5 election.

The crime of falsifying business documents carries a maximum sentence of four years in prison, though those convicted often receive shorter sentences, fines or probation. Incarceration would not legally prevent him from campaigning, or taking office if he were to win.

He will not be jailed ahead of sentencing. The verdict plunges the United States into unexplored territory ahead of the November vote, when Trump will try to win back the White House from Democratic President Joe Biden.

Trump, 77, has denied wrongdoing and an attorney representing him said they would appeal as quickly as possible. "This was a disgrace," Trump told reporters afterwards as he proclaimed his innocence and repeated his complaints that the trial had been rigged against him.

"The real verdict is going to be November 5 by the people," he said. Trump gave a thumbs-up sign through the tinted window of his SUV as his motorcade left the courthouse. Trump supporters stood in a park opposite the courthouse along with journalists, police and onlookers.

Opinion polls show Trump and Biden, 81, locked in a tight race, and Reuters/Ipsos polling has found that a guilty verdict could cost Trump some support among independent and Republican voters.
The case had been widely regarded as the least consequential of the four criminal prosecutions Trump faces. But the verdict looms large now as it is likely to be the only one before the election with the others delayed by procedural challenges.

Porn Star Testimony

The jury found Trump guilty of falsifying business documents after sitting through a five-week courtroom presentation that featured explicit testimony from porn star Stormy Daniels about a sexual encounter she says she had with Trump in 2006 while he was married to his current wife Melania. Trump denies ever having sex with Daniels.

Trump's former fixer Michael Cohen testified that Trump approved a $130,000 hush money payment to Daniels in the final weeks of the 2016 election, when Trump faced multiple accusations of sexual misbehavior.

Cohen testified that he handled the payment, and that Trump approved a plan to reimburse him through monthly payments disguised as legal work. Trump's lawyers hammered Cohen's credibility, highlighting his criminal record and imprisonment and his history of lying. Merchan also cautioned jurors to examine his testimony carefully.

The relatively short amount of time jurors needed to reach a verdict was a sign that they thought there was enough evidence to back up Cohen's testimony, said George Grasso, a retired New York judge who attended the trial.

A source familiar with the Trump campaign's inner workings said the verdict was expected to prompt him to intensify deliberations on picking a woman as his vice presidential running mate. His campaign website labeled him a "political prisoner" and urged supporters to donate.

No One Above the Law: Biden Campaign

Biden's campaign said the verdict showed that no one was above the law and urged voters to reject Trump in the election. "There is still only one way to keep Donald Trump out of the Oval Office: at the ballot box," the campaign said in a statement.

Trump's fellow Republicans quickly condemned the verdict. "Today is a shameful day in American history," House of Representatives Speaker Mike Johnson said in a prepared statement. The jury notified the court they had reached a verdict at 4:20 pm (2020 GMT) and the foreperson read out all 34 guilty counts shortly after 5 pm,

Trump lawyer Todd Blanche asked Merchan to throw out the guilty verdict, arguing that it was based on the unreliable testimony of Cohen. Merchan denied his request. A Trump appeal is likely to focus on porn star Daniels' salacious testimony about their alleged sexual encounter as well as the novel legal theory prosecutors used in the case, but he faces long odds, legal experts said.

"We are going to appeal as quickly as we can. We will seek expedited review of this case," Trump attorney Will Scharf told Fox News. As a standalone crime, falsifying business documents is normally a misdemeanor in New York, but prosecutors in Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg's office elevated it to a felony on grounds that Trump was concealing an illegal campaign contribution.

They had the burden of proving Trump guilty "beyond a reasonable doubt," the standard under US law. "We did our job. (There are) many voices out there. The only voice that matters is the voice of the jury, and the jury has spoken," Bragg said.

Jurors heard testimony of sex and lies that have been public since 2018, although the charges themselves rested on ledger accounts and other records of Cohen's reimbursement. It was known as the "zombie case" because Bragg brought it back to life after his predecessor opted not to bring charges.

If elected, Trump could shut down the two federal cases that accuse him of illegally trying to overturn his 2020 election loss and mishandling classified documents after leaving office in 2021. He would not have the power to stop a separate election-subversion case taking place in Georgia.

Trump has pleaded not guilty in all the cases, and has portrayed his various legal troubles as an effort by Biden's Democratic allies to hurt him politically. 

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New York Jury Hears Closing Arguments as Trump Hush-Money Trial Nears End

The jury listened to closing arguments in the criminal trial of former US president Donald Trump on Tuesday. Defense attorneys sought to portray their client as a victim of blackmail, while prosecutors emphasised their case's focal point: election interference.

After over four weeks of testimony, jurors endured hours of closing arguments before potentially commencing deliberations as early as Wednesday.

Defense lawyer Todd Blanche targeted the prosecution's witnesses, notably Michael Cohen, Trump's former legal representative and fixer. Blanche labeled Cohen as "literally the MVP of liars" and urged jurors to scrutinise his testimony due to his history of falsehoods, including a 2018 guilty plea for lying to Congress.

Blanche also challenged the credibility of another key witness, adult film star Stormy Daniels, alleging she attempted to extort Trump by threatening to disclose their alleged affair during the 2016 election campaign.

Prosecutors, led by District Attorney Alvin Bragg's office, emphasised their allegation of a scheme to unlawfully influence the 2016 election by suppressing Daniels's story. Prosecutor Joshua Steinglass refuted the defense's argument that Trump sought to shield his reputation and family, pointing out the timing of the payment to Daniels.

Regarding Cohen's reliability, Steinglass acknowledged his shortcomings but stressed that Trump had selected him as his fixer for a reason, alleging Cohen's willingness to deceive on Trump's behalf.

In his closing remarks, Steinglass urged jurors to focus on evidence rather than distractions, emphasizing logical inferences drawn from the evidence presented.

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Mayo Clinic Must Face Religious Bias Claims Over Vaccine Policy, Court Rules

A US appeals court revived a lawsuit accusing the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota of illegally firing five employees who refused on religious grounds to receive the COVID-19 vaccine or be regularly tested for the virus.

A unanimous three-judge panel of the St. Louis-based 8th US Circuit Court of Appeals said, opens new tab the judge who tossed out the consolidated lawsuits last year wrongly ruled that the workers had not connected their objections to Mayo's COVID-19 policies with sincere Christian religious beliefs.

Three of the workers were fired for refusing the vaccine and two others who received religious exemptions were terminated for declining weekly COVID-19 testing.

They claimed that their refusal stemmed from the belief that their bodies are temples and from their objections to the use of fetal cells in the production of vaccines.

"The district court erred by emphasising that many Christians elect to receive the vaccine," US Circuit Judge Duane Benton wrote. "Beliefs do not have to be uniform across all members of a religion or acceptable, logical, consistent, or comprehensible to others."

The opinion by Benton, an appointee of Republican former President George W. Bush, was joined by US Circuit Judges Ralph Erickson and Jonathan Kobes, appointees of Republican former President Donald Trump.

Like many employers, particularly in the healthcare industry, Mayo in 2021 adopted a policy requiring all employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19. Workers who received exemptions were required to take weekly COVID-19 tests.

The plaintiffs - two nurses, a paramedic, a CT technician and the supervisor of a bacteriology lab -- all sought religious exemptions. Three were denied and two were approved, but those workers declined to undergo testing, saying they believed it was unnecessary and violated the sanctity of their bodies.

The workers were fired and in 2022 filed separate lawsuits in Minneapolis federal court accusing Mayo of religious discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and a Minnesota anti-discrimination law.

US District Judge John Tunheim, an appointee of Democratic former President Bill Clinton,dismissed the claims, opens new tabin August 2023.
He said the plaintiffs had only broadly stated their religious beliefs and had not shown that vaccines and testing violated them. The plaintiffs appealed.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which enforces Title VII, filed a friend-of-the-court brief urging the 8th Circuit to revive claims by two of the workers, Kenneth Ringhofer and Shelly Kiel.

The commission said, opens new tab Tunheim applied too high of a bar in finding that the plaintiffs' refusal of the vaccine was more personal or political than religious.

"There may sometimes be overlap between a religious and political view, but that does not necessarily place the belief outside the scope of Title VII’s religion protections," the commission said.

The 8th Circuit on Friday agreed with respect to all five plaintiffs. "The district court did not consider the complaints as a whole, instead focusing on specific parts of the complaints to rule the anti-vaccine beliefs 'personal' or 'medical," Benton wrote.

The case is Ringhofer v. Mayo Clinic Ambulance, 8th US Circuit Court of Appeals, No. 23-2994.

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US Consumer-Privacy Lawsuit Against OpenAI and Microsoft Dismissed for Now

A federal judge in California dismissed a proposed class-action lawsuit against OpenAI and Microsoft. The lawsuit alleged that the companies used stolen personal data to train OpenAI's widely-used chatbot, ChatGPT, and other generative artificial intelligence systems.

U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria said in the two-page ruling that the 204-page complaint was "not only excessive in length" but "contains swaths of unnecessary and distracting allegations making it nearly impossible to determine the adequacy of the plaintiffs' legal claims." The judge said the plaintiffs could file an amended complaint.

"Our clients are on the right side of this, and we will amend with the requested precision and brevity," the plaintiffs' attorney Ryan Clarkson of Clarkson Law Firm said in a statement. OpenAI and Microsoft did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the decision.

The lawsuit was filed last year by Clarkson Law Firm, which focuses on public-interest cases, along with personal injury law firm Morgan & Morgan.

They alleged that OpenAI and its major financial supporter, Microsoft, improperly utilised personal data from social media platforms and other websites to train AI models to respond to human inputs.

Both companies have denied these allegations. Additionally, numerous well-known copyright owners, such as authors and newspapers, have launched separate lawsuits against tech companies like OpenAI and Microsoft, claiming misuse of their content for AI training purposes.

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Families of Uvalde School Shooting Victims File Lawsuits Against Meta, Microsoft, and Gunmaker

The families of the victims of the 2022 elementary school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, filed two lawsuits on Friday against Instagram's parent company Meta, Activision Blizzard and its parent company Microsoft, and the gunmaker Daniel Defense. The lawsuits allege that these companies collaborated to market dangerous weapons to impressionable teens, including the Uvalde shooter.

 The complaints argue that Daniel Defense – a Georgia-based gun manufacturer – used Instagram and Activision's video game Call of Duty to market its assault-style rifles to teenage boys. At the same time, Meta and Microsoft facilitated the strategy with lax oversight and no regard for the consequences.

A spokesperson for the Entertainment Software Association, a lobbying group representing the video game industry, said many other countries have similar levels of video game playing but less gun violence than the United States.

"We are saddened and outraged by senseless acts of violence," the group said in a statement. "At the same time, we discourage baseless accusations linking these tragedies to video gameplay, which detract from efforts to focus on the root issues in question and safeguard against future tragedies."


One of the most tragic school shootings in history occurred on May 24, 2022, an 18-year-old gunman armed with a Daniel Defense rifle entered Robb Elementary School and barricaded himself in connected classrooms filled with students. The attack resulted in the deaths of 19 children and two teachers.

The complaints were filed on the second anniversary of the massacre by Koskoff Koskoff & Bieder. 

The first lawsuit, filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, accuses Meta's Instagram of giving gun manufacturers "an unsupervised channel to speak directly to minors, in their homes, at school, even in the middle of the night," with only token oversight.

The complaint also alleges that Activision's popular warfare game Call of Duty "creates a vividly realistic and addicting theater of violence in which teenage boys learn to kill with frightening skill and ease," using real-life weapons as models for the game's firearms.

The Uvalde shooter played Call of Duty – which features, among other weapons, an assault-style rifle manufactured by Daniel Defense, according to the lawsuit – and visited Instagram obsessively, where Daniel Defense often advertised.

As a result, the complaint alleges, he became fixated on acquiring the same weapon and using it to commit the killings, even though he had never fired a gun in real life before.

The second lawsuit, submitted to Uvalde County District Court, claims that Daniel Defense intentionally targeted its advertisements at young boys to cultivate lifelong customers. Daniel Defense is already contending with other lawsuits from the families of some victims. In a 2022 statement, CEO Marty Daniel dismissed these lawsuits as "frivolous" and "politically motivated."

Additionally, earlier this week, the victims' families announced a separate lawsuit against nearly 100 state police officers involved in what the U.S. Justice Department has deemed a failed emergency response. The families have also secured a $2 million settlement with the city of Uvalde.

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End of Process: Child Serial Killer Lucy Letby Loses Bid to Appeal Her Murder Convictions

Child serial killer Lucy Letby has lost her bid to appeal her murder and attempted murder convictions. At a hearing last month, Letby’s lawyers asked senior judges for permission to bring an appeal against all her convictions.

In August 2023, Letby, of Hereford, was convicted of the murders of seven babies and the attempted murders of six others at the Countess of Chester Hospital.

At a short hearing on Friday, Dame Victoria Sharp, sitting with Lord Justice Holroyde, said they had refused Letby’s request. As the judges have declined to allow the challenge, this ruling marks the end of the appeal process for Letby.

The full details of Letby’s appeal bid, which was argued on four points, cannot currently be reported for legal reasons. The full reasons for the judges’ decision for refusing her bid to appeal have not been made public.

The jury in Letby’s trial at Manchester Crown Court was unable to reach verdicts on six counts of attempted murder in relation to five children.
She will face a retrial at the same court in June on a single count that she attempted to murder a baby girl, known as Child K, in February 2016.

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FTX Founder Sam Bankman-Fried Will be Transferred to a New Prison, Likely in California

Sam Bankman-Fried is being transferred to a new prison, likely in California, as he prepares to appeal his charges. The transfer process is expected to be slow, and the exact location of the new facility remains undisclosed.

Federal officials have begun the process of his transfer to a new prison, overriding his wish to stay in New York, the Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday, citing a spokesman for the jailed FTX founder.

Bankman-Fried was sentenced to 25 years in prison by a judge for stealing $8 billion from customers of the now-bankrupt FTX cryptocurrency exchange he founded.

The jury found him guilty in November on seven fraud and conspiracy counts stemming from FTX's 2022 collapse in what prosecutors have called one of the biggest financial frauds in US history.

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US to File Law Suit Against Live Nation for Mishandling Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour in 2022

The US filed a lawsuit on Thursday to break up Live Nation and Ticketmaster following the company's mishandling of Taylor Swift's Eras Tour in 2022, which resulted in skyrocketing ticket prices and hours-long online queues.

“We are not here today because Live Nation-Ticketmaster's conduct is inconvenient or frustrating. We are here because, as we allege, that conduct is anticompetitive and illegal,” US Attorney General Merrick Garland said.

“We allege that Live Nation has illegally monopolised markets across the live concert industry in the United States for far too long. It is time to break it up.”

The lawsuit is the latest aggressive action taken by the Justice Department against companies accused of engaging in monopolistic behaviour, including Apple earlier this year.

Twenty-nine states and the District of Columbia joined the Justice Department in the lawsuit.

The lawsuit states that Live Nation manages over 400 music artists and owns or controls more than 265 music venues across North America. Live Nation controls approximately 60 per cent of concert promotions at major venues, while Ticketmaster dominates at least 80 per cent of the primary ticketing market for concerts at large venues.

“We allege that to sustain this dominance Live Nation relies on unlawful anticompetitive conduct to exercise its monopolistic control over the live events industry in the United States,” Garland said.

He said this results in higher ticket prices for fans, fewer venue options for artists, that smaller promoters get squeezed out, and that venues have few choices for ticketing services.

Live Nation said the lawsuit will not reduce ticket prices or service fees, and that the company is not a monopoly. The Justice Department approved TicketMaster's merger with Live Nation in 2010.

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Experts Including Amal Clooney Back ICC's Khan on Arrest Warrant Requests Over Gaza War

A panel of independent experts including human rights lawyer Amal Clooney backed the ICC prosecutor's decision to request arrest warrants for Israeli and Hamas leaders over the Gaza war as "a historic step for victims" of the conflict.

International Criminal Court prosecutor Karim Khan said on Monday he had requested warrants for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defence Minister Yoav Gallant and three Hamas leaders -- Yahya Sinwar, Mohammed Deif and Ismail Haniyeh.

The Israeli and Palestinian leaders have dismissed allegations of war crimes, and representatives for both sides have criticised Khan's decision.

Clooney and five other experts, including two former judges at criminal tribunals in The Hague, said they had been convened at Khan's request in January to assess the material he provided them with and to offer legal advice.

In a report dated May 20, they said they had carried out "an extensive process of review and analysis", including witness statements and authenticated videos and photographs obtained by ICC investigators.

Details of the application and the evidence have not been made public. The panel said it was "satisfied that the process was fair, rigorous and independent and that the Prosecutor's applications for arrest warrants are grounded in the law and the facts."

"Today, the prosecutor has taken a historic step to ensure justice for the victims in Israel and Palestine by issuing applications for five arrest warrants alleging war crimes and crimes against humanity by senior Hamas and Israeli leaders," the panel wrote in the Financial Times.

A panel of pre-trial judges will determine whether the evidence supports the arrest warrants. The court has no means to enforce such warrants, and its investigation into the Gaza war has been opposed by the United States and Israel.

More than 35,000 Palestinians have been killed in the war in Gaza, according to the enclave's health ministry, and aid agencies have warned of widespread hunger and shortages.

Israel began its military offensive in Hamas-governed Gaza after a raid led by the Palestinian Islamist militant group in which 1,200 people were killed in Israel and more than 250 taken hostage on October 7 last year, according to Israeli tallies.

Clooney is an adjunct professor at Columbia Law School and the panel also included Israeli-American Theodor Meron, who is the former president of the UN tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and lived through the Holocaust as a boy in Poland.

Also on the panel were former ICC judge Adrian Fulford, international law and human rights expert Danny Friedman, British House of Lords member Helena Kennedy, and Elizabeth Wilmshurst, a former deputy legal adviser at the United Kingdom Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

They were supported by international law professors Marko Milanovic and Sandesh Sivakumaran, who acted as academic advisers.

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Defense Witness Who Angered Judge in Trump Hush Money Trial Will Return to the Stand

A defense witness in Donald Trump’s hush money case whom the judge threatened to remove from the trial over his behavior will return to the stand Tuesday as the trial nears its end.

Trump’s lawyers are hoping Robert Costello’s testimony will help undermine the credibility of a key prosecution witness, Trump fixer-turned-foe Michael Cohen.

But Costello angered Judge Juan Merchan on Monday by making comments under his breath, rolling his eyes and calling the whole exercise “ridiculous,” prompting the judge to briefly kick reporters out of the courtroom to admonish him.

The judge told Costello, a former federal prosecutor, he was being “contemptuous,” adding, “If you try to stare me down one more time, I will remove you from the stand,” according to a court transcript.

The chaotic scene unfolded after prosecutors rested their case accusing Trump of falsifying business records as part of a scheme to bury stories that he feared could hurt his 2016 campaign. The case is in the final stretch, with closing arguments expected the Tuesday after Memorial Day.

The charges stem from internal Trump Organisation records where payments to Cohen were marked as legal expenses.

Prosecutors say they were really reimbursements for a $130,000 hush money payment to porn actor Stormy Daniels to keep her from going public before the 2016 election with claims of a sexual encounter with Trump. Trump says nothing sexual happened between them.

Trump has said he did nothing illegal and has slammed the case as an effort to hinder his 2024 bid to reclaim the White House. Trump called the judge a “tyrant” in remarks to reporters while leaving the courthouse Monday and called the trial a “disaster” for the country.

After jurors left for the day Monday, defense attorneys pressed the judge to throw out the charges before jurors even begin deliberating, arguing prosecutors have failed to prove their case.

The defense has suggested that Trump was trying to protect his family, not his campaign, by squelching what he says were false, scurrilous claims.

Defense attorney Todd Blanche argued that there was nothing illegal about soliciting a tabloid’s help to run positive stories about Trump, run negative stories about his opponents and identify potentially damaging stories before they were published.

No one involved “had any criminal intent,” Blanche said. “How is keeping a false story from the voters criminal?” Blanche asked.

Prosecutor Matthew Colangelo shot back that “the trial evidence overwhelmingly supports each element” of the alleged offenses, and the case should proceed to the jury.

The judge didn’t immediately rule on the defense’s request. Such long-shot requests are often made in criminal cases but are rarely granted.

The defense called Costello because of his role as an antagonist to Cohen since their professional relationship splintered in spectacular fashion.

Costello had offered to represent Cohen soon after the lawyer’s hotel room, office and home were raided and as Cohen faced a decision about whether to remain defiant in the face of a criminal investigation or to cooperate with authorities in hopes of securing more lenient treatment.

Costello in the years since has repeatedly maligned Cohen’s credibility and was even a witness before last year’s grand jury that indicted Trump, offering testimony designed to undermine Cohen’s account.

In a Fox News Channel interview last week, Costello accused Cohen of lying to the jury and using the case to “monetize” himself.
Costello contradicted Cohen’s testimony describing Trump as intimately involved in all aspects of the hush money scheme. Costello told jurors Monday that Cohen told him Trump “knew nothing” about the hush money payment to Daniels.

“Michael Cohen said numerous times that President Trump knew nothing about those payments, that he did this on his own, and he repeated that numerous times,” Costello testified.

Cohen, however, testified earlier Monday that he has “no doubt” that Trump gave him a final sign-off to make the payments to Daniels. In total, he said he spoke with Trump more than 20 times about the matter in October 2016.

Trump lawyer Emil Bove told the judge that the defense does not plan to call any other witnesses after Costello, though they may still call campaign-finance expert Bradley A.

Smith for limited testimony. They have not said definitively that Trump won’t testify, but that’s the clearest indication yet that he will waive his right to take the stand in his own defense. 

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Biden Slams ICC Bid; Israel, Hamas Reject Move to Arrest Leaders for War Crimes

Israel and Hamas, engaged in heavy fighting in the Gaza Strip, both angrily rejected moves to arrest their leaders for war crimes made before an international court.

The International Criminal Court’s prosecutor Karim Khan said he had applied for arrest warrants for top Israeli and Hamas leaders over the conflict.

Israel slammed as a “historical disgrace” the demand targeting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, while the Palestinian militant group Hamas said it “strongly condemns” the move.

Israel’s top ally the United States joined the condemnation, while France said it supported the court’s independence and its “fight against impunity.”

Netanyahu said he rejected “with disgust The Hague prosecutor’s comparison between democratic Israel and the mass murderers of Hamas.”

Khan said in a statement that he was seeking warrants against the Israeli leaders for crimes including “wilful killing,” “extermination and/or murder,” and “starvation.”

He said Israel had committed “crimes against humanity” during the war, started by Hamas’s unprecedented October 7 attack, as part “of a widespread and systematic attack against the Palestinian civilian population.”

Khan also said the leaders of Hamas, including Qatar-based Ismail Haniyeh and Gaza chief Yahya Sinwar, “bear criminal responsibility” for actions committed during the October 7 attack.

These included “taking hostages,” “rape and other acts of sexual violence,” and “torture,” he said. “International law and the laws of armed conflict apply to all,” Khan said. “No foot soldier, no commander, no civilian leader — no one — can act with impunity.”

The warrants, if granted by the ICC judges, would mean that any of the 124 ICC member states would technically be obliged to arrest Netanyahu and the others if they traveled there, a point noted by EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell.

However, the court has no mechanism to enforce its warrants.
US President Joe Biden denounced the ICC bid as “outrageous” and said “there is no equivalence -- none -- between Israel and Hamas.”

Germany agreed, with a foreign ministry spokesman saying the warrants gave “a false impression of equivalence.”

Biden also rejected accusations in a separate tribunal, the UN International Court of Justice, where South Africa has alleged that Israel’s war in Gaza is genocidal.

“What’s happening is not genocide,” Biden told a Jewish American Heritage Month event at the White House on Monday.
South Africa welcomed the move at the ICC.

The war ground on unabated, with Israeli forces battling Hamas in Gaza’s far-southern city of Rafah, as well as in other flashpoints in central and northern areas.

Israel defied international opposition almost two weeks ago when it sent troops into Rafah, which is crowded with civilians and which the military has described as the last Hamas stronghold.

Netanyahu has vowed to keep fighting Hamas in Gaza until the Iran-backed Islamist group is defeated and all remaining hostages are released.

The United Nations said more than 812,000 Palestinians had fled Rafah, near the Egyptian border. “The question that haunts us is: where will we go?” said Sarhan Abu Al-Saeed, 46, a desperate Palestinian resident. “Certain death is chasing us from all directions.”
Witnesses said that Israeli naval forces had also struck Rafah, and medics reported an air strike on a residential building in the city’s west.
The military said Israeli troops were “conducting targeted raids on terrorist infrastructure” in eastern Rafah, where they had found “dozens of tunnel shafts” and “eliminated over 130 terrorists.”

The war broke out after Hamas’s October 7 attack on Israel, which resulted in the deaths of more than 1,170 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on Israeli official figures.

Hamas also took about 250 hostages during the attack, of whom 124 remain in Gaza including 37 the army says are dead. Israel’s retaliatory offensive against Hamas has killed at least 35,562 people in Gaza, also mostly civilians, according to the Hamas-run territory’s health ministry.

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'War Crimes': ICC Prosecutor Seeks Arrest Warrant for Netanyahu, Top Hamas Leaders

The prosecutor of the International Criminal Court Monday applied for arrest warrants against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and top Hamas leaders on suspicion of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Karim Khan said he was seeking warrants against Netanyahu and Defence Minister Yoav Gallant for crimes including "starvation", "wilful killing", and "extermination and/or murder."

Israel's military retaliation has killed at least 35,456 people, mostly civilians, according to Gaza's health ministry on Sunday, and an Israeli siege has brought dire food shortages and the threat of famine.

The Gaza war broke out after a Hamas attack on southern Israel which resulted in the deaths of more than 1,170 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally of Israeli official figures.

Hamas also seized about 250 hostages, 125 of whom Israel estimates remain in Gaza, including 37 the military says are dead.

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Music Streaming Giant Spotify Sued Over Millions in Allegedly Unpaid Music Royalties

Spotify has been hit with a lawsuit in New York federal court that accuses the streaming giant of underpaying songwriting royalties for tens of millions of songs.

The lawsuit against Spotify USA was filed in New York on Thursday by the Mechanical Licensing Collective (MLC), a non-profit that collects and distributes royalties owed from music streaming services.

The suit alleges that Spotify on March 1, without advance notice, reclassified its paid subscription services, resulting in a nearly 50 per cent reduction in royalty payments to MLC.

The complaint cites a Billboard report that estimates Spotify's move could cost songwriters nearly $150 million over the next year.
"Spotify paid a record amount to publishers and societies in 2023 and is on track to pay out an even larger amount in 2024," a Spotify spokesperson said in a statement. "We look forward to a swift resolution of this matter."

MLC chief executive Kris Ahrend said in a statement that the collective "takes seriously its legal responsibility to take action on behalf of our members when we believe usage reporting and royalty payments are materially incorrect."

US law allows streaming services like Spotify to obtain a blanket "compulsory license" to copyrighted music at a specific royalty rate. The US Copyright Office appointed MLC to collect royalties for songwriters and music publishers.

The group's lawsuit said that after adding audiobook access, Spotify incorrectly recharacterised its service in a way that would significantly reduce the amount of royalties it owed under the license, "even though there has been no change to (Spotify's) Premium plan and no corresponding reduction to the revenues that Spotify generates."

"Spotify's attempt to reduce its mechanical royalties has resulted in a clear breach of its obligations," the complaint said. The MLC asked the court for an unspecified amount of monetary damages for Spotify's alleged unpaid royalties and late fees.

The case is Mechanical Licensing Collective v. Spotify USA Inc, US District Court for the Southern District of New York, No. 1:24-cv-03809.

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Nigeria Court Rules Binance Executive Can Face Trial on Behalf of Crypto Exchange

 

A Nigerian court ruled that Binance executive Tigran Gambaryan can stand trial on behalf of the cryptocurrency exchange in an ongoing tax evasion case.

Binance and executives Gambaryan, a US citizen and head of financial crimes compliance, and British-Kenyan national Nadeem Anjarwalla, a regional manager for Africa, face four counts of tax evasion.

In a separate case, they have also been charged with laundering more than $35 million and engaging in specialised financial activities without a licence. They have all pleaded not guilty to the money laundering charges.

Binance's lawyer declined to comment after Friday's court hearing. Gambaryan's lawyer also had no comment.
"We are deeply disappointed that Tigran Gambaryan, who has no decision-making power in the company, continues to be detained," a Binance spokesperson said in a statement on Friday after the court hearing.

"These charges against him are completely meritless. He should be freed while discussions continue between Binance and Nigerian government officials."

Gambaryan remains in custody while Anjarwalla fled the country in March. Nigeria's security adviser's office has said it is working with Interpol to seek Anjarwalla's arrest.

The CEO of Binance has accused Nigeria of setting a dangerous precedent after its executives were invited to the African country in February for talks with authorities and then detained as part of a crackdown on crypto.

Binance itself has not been charged in the tax evasion case by Nigeria's Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), which has said Gambaryan could face the charges on the exchange's behalf.

Gambaryan's lawyer has previously said Gambaryan was "neither a director, partner nor company secretary" and had no written instructions from Binance to face the charges on its behalf.

Judge Emeka Nwite ruled on Friday that Gambaryan should be served with the charges against Binance because he is the chief financial compliance officer of Binance and he was duly appointed to represent it in a meeting in Nigeria. 

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Former Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan Gets Bail in Graft Case, Lawyer Says

 

Former Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan was granted bail in Islamabad on Wednesday on land corruption charges but will have to stay in jail to serve time in two other cases, his lawyer said.

The former cricket superstar was indicted last week on charges that he and his wife were gifted land by a real estate developer when Khan was prime minister from 2018-22 in exchange for illegal favours.

Khan, who denies wrongdoing, had filed a bail application before Islamabad High Court.

His party lawyer, Naeem Haider Panjutha, confirmed the granting of bail on social media platform X but said Khan remained in custody after two convictions -- one involving the leaking of state secrets and the other his marriage violating Islamic law.

Khan, 71, has been in jail since August last year. In total, he has been convicted in four cases, but sentences in two cases have been suspended.

Khan is named in dozens of cases, including charges of inciting violence against the state in the aftermath of his removal from office in 2022 in a parliamentary vote of no-confidence.

His wife, Bushra Bibi, is also in jail serving time in a case related to unlawfully marrying Khan in 2018.

The case in which Khan was granted bail on Wednesday involves the Al-Qadir Trust, a non-governmental welfare organisation set up by Khan and wife when he was still in office.

Prosecutors say the trust was a front for the former premier to receive land as a bribe from a real estate developer. The land includes 60 acres (24 hectares) near Islamabad and another large plot close to Khan's hilltop mansion in the capital.

In a statement following the bail, Khan's media team said the land was not for personal gain and Khan had set up a "religious and scientific" educational institution.

It added that the cases were filed to keep Khan in prison and prevent him from participating in the February 8 national elections.

Khan faced a string of convictions in the lead-up to the elections but his party-backed candidates still won the most seats.

They did not have the numbers to form a government, which was led by an alliance of his rivals led by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif.

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Cohen Says He and Donald Trump Discussed Porn Star Payment Plot at White House

 

Donald Trump’s former fixer Michael Cohen told jurors about a 2017 Oval Office meeting where the then-newly elected US president confirmed a plan to reimburse Cohen secretly for a hush money payment to a porn star.

Cohen, the prosecution’s star witness at Trump’s criminal trial in New York, also acknowledged lying on multiple occasions -- including under oath -- but emphasised that he did so out of loyalty to Trump, as prosecutors sought to pre-empt an expected defense attack on Cohen’s credibility.

In his first day as a witness on Monday, Cohen laid out in painstaking detail how Trump ordered him just before the November 2016 election to pay the adult film actress Stormy Daniels -- “Just do it,” Cohen remembered Trump saying -- to keep her story about an alleged 2006 sexual encounter under wraps.

Cohen’s $130,000 payment in October 2016 is at the heart of Trump’s historic trial, now in its fifth week.
Trump, 77, the 2024 Republican presidential candidate, has pleaded not guilty and denies any sexual encounter with Daniels.

He has characterised the case as a partisan attempt to interfere with his campaign to take back the White House he lost in 2020 to Democratic President Joe Biden.

Prosecutors say Trump paid Cohen back after the election by creating false records indicating they were for legal fees. Those disguised reimbursements provide the basis for the 34 counts of falsifying business records that Trump faces.

In testimony today, Cohen recounted an Oval Office meeting in February 2017 where Trump told him that Cohen would soon receive the first monthly installments of a bonus package, which Cohen said included reimbursements for the Daniels payment.

Prosecutor Susan Hoffinger walked Cohen through a series of invoices and checks -- some signed by Trump himself -- that Cohen said were falsely marked as paying to retain him for legal services.

“There was no retainer agreement, was there?” Hoffinger asked. “No, ma’am,” Cohen replied.
Cohen, 57, said he lied multiple times to Congress during an investigation into Trump’s Russia ties, eventually pleading guilty to perjury.

He also told jurors he lied repeatedly about the payment to Daniels, telling journalists Trump had no involvement.

In 2018, after the Justice Department began investigating the Daniels payment, FBI agents raided Cohen’s home. He said he called Trump in a panic.

“He said to me, ‘Don’t worry, I’m the president of the United States, there’s nothing here, everything is going to be OK, stay tough, you’re going to be OK,’” Cohen said. That was the last time they spoke directly, Cohen added.

Instead, Cohen testified, a lawyer named Robert Costello who was close to Trump adviser Rudy Giuliani offered a “back channel” to Trump. In emails shown to jurors, Costello passed along Giuliani’s assurances that he was loved and had “friends in high places.”

Meanwhile, Trump was defending Cohen on social media and decrying the idea that he might “flip” and cooperate with prosecutors.

It all added up to a “pressure campaign” to keep Cohen in line, he said.But he eventually decided to cooperate after speaking with his family. “It was about time to listen to them, to be loyal to my daughter, my wife, my son and the country,” Cohen said.

Cohen pleaded guilty to federal crimes in 2018, including offenses related to the Daniels payment, and said Trump -- who was not charged -- directed him to make the payment.

His checkered history is sure to draw a bruising cross-examination from Trump’s lawyers, who have already cast him as a liar and convict who cannot be trusted.

A Total Disaster

A day after several Republican lawmakers attended the trial in support of Trump, US House Speaker Mike Johnson joined him and later criticised the case outside the court.

While Cohen testified, a mid-level appeals court denied Trump’s latest effort to throw out a gag order that Trump asserted violated his right to free speech.

The order, imposed by Justice Juan Merchan, who is overseeing the trial, prohibits Trump from making public comments about jurors, witnesses and families of the judge and prosecutors if meant to interfere with the case.

On Monday, Cohen said Trump approved multiple payments to keep damaging sex scandal stories out of the public eye, lest they torpedo his presidential campaign.

“Everything required Mr. Trump’s sign-off,” Cohen said.
Cohen said that he, Trump and tabloid publisher David Pecker had secretly agreed in 2015 to help Trump’s campaign.

That arrangement included a $150,000 payment from Pecker’s company to former Playboy model Karen McDougal to buy her story about a year-long affair she said she had with Trump, Cohen said. Trump has also denied that relationship.

As with Daniels, the intent was to acquire the rights to the story only to bury it, a practice Pecker called “catch and kill.”

In October 2016, Cohen said, he learned Daniels was shopping her story to tabloids. At the time, the Trump campaign was in crisis mode after the release of an audio recording in which Trump bragged about grabbing women’s genitals.

“He said to me, ‘This is a disaster, a total disaster. Women are going to hate me,’ Cohen told jurors Trump had said.

Cohen testified that Trump was solely concerned about the impact Daniels’ story could have on his White House bid -- and not, as Trump’s lawyers have suggested, about the effect on his wife and family. That distinction is crucial to the prosecution’s case.

Under New York law, falsifying business records can be elevated from a misdemeanor to a felony if the crime helped conceal another offense. In Trump’s case, prosecutors have argued that the payment was effectively a secret contribution to his campaign, violating federal and state laws.

The Manhattan trial is considered less consequential than three other criminal prosecutions Trump faces, all of which are mired in delays.

The other cases charge Trump with trying to overturn his 2020 presidential defeat and mishandling classified documents after leaving office. Trump pleaded not guilty to all three.

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Travel Giant Booking.com to Face Tough New European Union Competition Rules

The European Union added Dutch online travel giant Booking.com to its list of digital companies that are big enough to fall under tougher competition rules.

Brussels also said it would investigate whether social media platform X, owned by tech billionaire Elon Musk, can be exempted from the rules.

The former Twitter has filed a rebuttal arguing that "despite meeting the thresholds, X does not qualify as an important gateway between businesses and consumers," said the European Commission, whose probe should wrap up within five months.

Booking.com, whose parent company Booking Holdings is headquartered in the United States, now has six months to prepare for compliance with the landmark Digital Markets Act (DMA).

The EU has already named six market "gatekeepers" that have to comply with the DMA: Google parent Alphabet, Amazon, Apple, Meta, Microsoft and TikTok owner ByteDance.

The rules aim to level the playing field in the digital market, ensuring EU users have more options when choosing products such as web browsers and search engines.

The DMA also demands that companies inform Brussels before acquisitions of other firms, regardless of size, in a bid to curb monopolies. Booking.com is a dominant player with a market share in Europe of more than 60 per cent.

"Today's good news is: holidaymakers will start benefiting from more choice and hotels will have more business opportunities," said the EU's competition commissioner, Margrethe Vestager.

Internal market commissioner Thierry Breton vowed the EU would work to make sure Booking "will fully comply with the DMA obligations within six months".

Booking.com said it had been in talks with the commission before the EU's decision.
"(We) will continue to work constructively with them as we develop solutions to comply," the company added in a statement.

With the DMA, the EU can impose fines of up to 10 per cent of a company's total global turnover. This can rise to 20 per cent for repeat offenders and in the most severe circumstances, the EU can order the break-up of companies.

The EU has not shied away from taking on the biggest digital platforms, like Booking, through its new laws or using older, more established rules.

Brussels last year blocked Booking's bid for eTraveli, a smaller online travel agent, citing fears it could lead to higher prices for consumers.

The EU has already launched probes under the DMA into Apple, Google and Meta. For Brussels to name a company as a gatekeeper, they must fulfil certain conditions.

The criteria include having more than 45 million monthly active users in the EU and more than 10,000 yearly active business users established in the bloc.

Digital companies with an annual turnover in the EU of at least 7.5 billion euros ($8.1 billion) or a market value of above 75 billion euros also face the new curbs.

In the same statement on Monday, the commission also said it opted not to include advertising services provided by X and TikTok on its list.

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Israel’s Growing Isolation: UN General Assembly Backs Palestinian bid for Membership

 

The UN General Assembly overwhelmingly supported the Palestinian bid for full UN membership, indicating Israel’s increasing isolation on the global stage amidst concerns over the conflict in Gaza and the humanitarian crisis there.

The assembly voted 143 to nine, with 25 abstentions, in favour of a resolution urging the UN Security Council to grant full membership to Palestine. This would augment its current status with additional rights and privileges beyond its observer status.

Israel vehemently opposed the resolution, with its UN envoy, Gilad Erdan, delivering a passionate denunciation before the vote. Erdan's dramatic gesture included shredding a small copy of the UN charter, accusing the assembly of undermining its principles.

Palestinian envoy Riyad Mansour highlighted the urgency of the situation in Rafah, a town under attack by Israeli forces, emphasising the dire circumstances faced by its residents. The resolution, carefully worded to avoid triggering a cut-off of US funding, does not grant Palestine full membership or voting rights in the assembly.

Nevertheless, it represents a significant global endorsement of Palestinian statehood, fueled by ongoing violence and suffering in Gaza. Even before the assembly vote, Israel and some leading Republicans called for US funding cuts due to the enhanced privileges granted to the Palestinian mission.

The US, which voted against the resolution, reiterated that the Palestinian Authority does not meet the criteria for UN membership and that the resolution does not change its observer status. Other nations voting against the resolution included Argentina, Czechia, Hungary, Micronesia, Nauru, Palau, Papua New Guinea, while the UK abstained.

The resolution grants the Palestinian mission various new privileges, such as the right to sit among other states in the general assembly, propose amendments, hold official posts, and speak on Middle Eastern matters, but it explicitly states that Palestine, as an observer state, cannot vote or stand for membership in UN organs.

Richard Gowan from the International Crisis Group noted that while the resolution elevates the Palestinians' status, it falls short of granting them essential attributes of full membership, such as voting power.

Crafted to avoid violating a 1990 US law, which prohibits funding entities that grant the Palestine Liberation Organisation equal standing with member states, the resolution maintains a distinction between observer status and full membership.

Fatah, the main faction in the PLO, currently controls the Palestinian Authority, which the Biden administration supports to govern Gaza post-war. Despite assurances in the resolution, Israel urged the US to cut UN funding, and Republican senators proposed legislation to that effect, citing concerns about promoting terrorism.

Amid stalled ceasefire talks in Cairo, Israel's security cabinet approved an expansion of its operation in Rafah, despite US opposition. The situation in Rafah remains tense, with escalating violence and growing humanitarian concerns, prompting international calls for restraint and aid access.

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TikTok Initiates Legal Action to Block US Legislation Seeking Sale or Ban of App

TikTok has taken legal action against the federal government on Tuesday, aiming to thwart a newly enacted law that mandates its China-based parent company to divest the popular video-sharing app within the next year or face a complete ban in the US.

The lawsuit, filed in a federal appeals court in Washington DC, seeks a court order to halt the enforcement of the bipartisan legislation, dubbed the Protecting Americans From Foreign Adversary Controlled Applications Act.

This law, signed by President Biden last month after swift approval by Congress, has been challenged by TikTok as "unconstitutional." The company argues that divesting within the mandated 12-month timeline is "simply not possible: not commercially, not technologically, not legally."

According to the lawsuit, TikTok asserts that the Act will inevitably lead to the shutdown of the platform by January 19, 2025, affecting the 170 million Americans who use it for communication purposes. The company is urging the court to declare the law as violating the US Constitution and to provide any necessary relief.

A spokesperson for the White House referred inquiries to the Justice Department, which declined to comment on the lawsuit. Meanwhile, representatives for the House Select Committee on China, which backed the bill, have not responded to requests for comment.

The law mandates ByteDance, TikTok's parent company, to divest its stake in the app by January 19, 2025, or one day before President Biden’s term concludes. The President has the option to extend this window by three months if satisfactory progress is being made towards a deal.

Tuesday’s legal action is expected to halt this timeline and potentially delay a ban for several years, as reported by NBC News.
TikTok alleges that the Chinese government has indicated it would not allow divestment of the recommendation engine crucial for TikTok's success in the US.

Additionally, the company claims that relocating its source code to the US would be a lengthy process, requiring years and a new team of engineers to manage.

The outcome of the lawsuit may hinge on the level of national security concerns that prompted Congress to pass the law. Gautam Hans, associate clinical professor of law at Cornell University, suggests that TikTok stands a strong chance, citing potential First Amendment issues with the law.

Critics have accused TikTok of serving as a tool for the Chinese Communist Party, facilitating activities ranging from election interference to promoting terrorist propaganda and exacerbating teenage mental health issues.

Despite TikTok's efforts to address these concerns and ensure platform security, critics remain adamant about the app's threat to national security.
Jacob Helberg, a member of the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission, dismisses TikTok's lawsuit as lacking seriousness, emphasising the documented ties between ByteDance and the CCP.

Last year's resurgence in calls for a US ban on TikTok was fueled by concerns about its content moderation policies. These concerns escalated following instances where pro-Palestinian content gained substantial traction, as well as a trend where users shared videos endorsing terrorist rhetoric.

In March, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence concluded that TikTok had been used by the Chinese Communist Party to influence US elections, engaging in malign influence operations.

Despite TikTok's significant economic contributions to the US economy, including a reported $24.2 billion in 2023, the divestiture law moved forward despite the company's extensive lobbying efforts.

The prospect of a forced sale has attracted interest from various parties, including former Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and former Activision-Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick. Mnuchin has reportedly been presenting potential investors with plans to acquire TikTok and rebuild its recommendation algorithm within the US, potentially circumventing China's strict technology export regulations.

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In Tesla Autopilot Investigation, US Prosecutors Focus on Securities, Wire Fraud

US prosecutors are investigating whether Tesla committed securities or wire fraud by potentially misleading investors and consumers regarding the capabilities of its electric vehicles' self-driving features.

While Tesla's Autopilot and Full Self-Driving systems offer assistance with steering, braking, and lane changes, they are not fully autonomous. Despite Tesla's warnings for drivers to remain prepared to take over control, the Justice Department is scrutinising other statements made by Tesla and CEO Elon Musk implying that their cars are capable of autonomous driving.

In a separate investigation, US regulators have examined numerous crashes, including fatal accidents, involving Teslas with Autopilot engaged, leading to a widespread recall by the automaker.

Reuters first reported the US criminal investigation into Tesla in October 2022 and is now the first to disclose the specific criminal liabilities that federal prosecutors are exploring.

Investigators are examining whether Tesla engaged in wire fraud, which involves deceptive practices in interstate communications, by potentially misleading consumers regarding its driver-assistance systems, according to the sources. Additionally, they are investigating whether Tesla committed securities fraud by possibly deceiving investors, two of the sources mentioned.

One of the individuals stated that the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is also looking into Tesla's representations about driver-assistance systems to investors. The SEC declined to comment on the matter.

Autopilot and Full Self-Driving

Tesla did not respond to requests for comment. In October, it revealed in a filing that the Justice Department had requested information from the company regarding Autopilot and Full Self-Driving.

It's important to note that the investigation, while ongoing, does not imply any wrongdoing on Tesla's part and could lead to criminal charges, civil penalties, or no action at all. According to one of the sources, prosecutors are still far from making a decision on how to proceed, partly due to the extensive documentation provided by Tesla in response to subpoenas.

Reuters was unable to ascertain the specific statements that prosecutors are reviewing as potentially illegal. Elon Musk has vigorously promoted the capabilities of Tesla's driver-assistance technology for nearly a decade.

Tesla's archived videos demonstrating the technology on its website state, "The person in the driver’s seat is only there for legal reasons. He is not doing anything. The car is driving itself."

In a lawsuit over a fatal crash involving Autopilot, a Tesla engineer testified in 2022 that one of the videos, posted in October 2016, aimed to showcase the technology's potential but did not accurately represent its capabilities at the time. Nonetheless, Musk shared the video on social media, stating,

“Tesla drives itself (no human input at all) thru urban streets to highway streets, then finds a parking spot.”

During a conference call with reporters in 2016, Musk described Autopilot as "probably better" than a human driver. In an October 2022 call, Musk discussed an upcoming Full Self-Driving (FSD) upgrade, claiming it would enable customers to travel "to your work, your friend’s house, to the grocery store without you touching the wheel."

As Tesla's car sales and profits decline, Musk is increasingly focusing on self-driving technology. Tesla recently reduced costs through mass layoffs and scrapped plans for a highly anticipated $25,000 model expected to drive sales growth.

In mid-April, the billionaire executive posted on his social media platform X, "Going balls to the wall for autonomy is a blindingly obvious move." Tesla shares, down more than 29 per cent so far this year, surged in late April when Musk visited China and made progress toward approvals to sell FSD there.

Musk has repeatedly promised self-driving Teslas for about a decade. Tesla lawyers stated in a 2022 court filing that "Mere failure to realize a long-term, aspirational goal is not fraud."

Legal Challenges

Prosecutors examining Tesla's claims regarding autonomous cars are proceeding cautiously, recognising the legal obstacles they face, according to sources familiar with the inquiry.

They will need to demonstrate that Tesla's claims crossed the line from legitimate salesmanship to material and knowingly false statements that unlawfully harmed consumers or investors, according to three legal experts not involved in the investigation.

US courts have previously ruled that optimistic corporate statements regarding product claims do not necessarily constitute fraud. In 2008, a federal appeals court ruled that expressions of corporate optimism alone do not prove that a company official intentionally misled investors.

Justice Department officials are likely to seek internal Tesla communications as evidence that Musk or others knew they were making false statements, said Daniel Richman, a professor at Columbia Law School and former federal prosecutor.

Richman noted that while this presents a challenge, the safety risk associated with overselling self-driving systems also underscores the seriousness with which prosecutors, a judge, and jury would regard the statements.

Fatal Crashes

Tesla's claims about Autopilot and FSD have also come under scrutiny in regulatory investigations and lawsuits.

Regulators and courts have expressed concerns in recent months that corporate messaging about the technology, including the brand names Autopilot and Full Self-Driving, have given customers a false sense of security.

In April, the Washington State Patrol arrested a man on suspicion of vehicular homicide after his Tesla, with Autopilot engaged, struck and killed a motorcyclist while the driver was looking at his phone, according to police records. A trooper, in a probable-cause statement, cited the driver's "admitted inattention to driving, while on autopilot mode ... putting trust in the machine to drive for him."

In Washington state, drivers are "responsible for the safe and legal operation of that vehicle" regardless of its technological capabilities, a state patrol spokesperson informed Reuters.

During the same month, the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) initiated an investigation to determine if Tesla's recall of over Two million vehicles in December adequately addressed safety concerns with Autopilot.

Following the publication of this story, US Senator Edward Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat and long-standing critic of the company's driver-assistance systems, stated in a message posted on X that he was "glad to see" NHTSA and Justice Department officials taking action against Tesla over these safety concerns.

The recall followed a lengthy investigation by regulators after incidents where cars with Autopilot engaged collided with vehicles at emergency scenes. Regulators subsequently examined hundreds of crashes involving Autopilot and identified 14 deaths and 54 injuries.

Tesla disputed NHTSA's findings but agreed to the recall, which involved over-the-air software updates designed to alert inattentive drivers.

According to agency records, the NHTSA investigation found "a critical safety gap between drivers’ expectations" of Tesla’s technology "and the system’s true capabilities." This gap led to foreseeable misuse and avoidable crashes.

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Porn Star Stormy Daniels Testifies She Had Sex with Trump, Defense Attacks Her Credibility

Porn star Stormy Daniels described her 2006 encounter with Donald Trump in unflattering terms at his criminal trial on Tuesday, testifying she tried not to think about the sex while it took place and feared it would become public.

For several hours Daniels, 45, offered riveting details on the witness stand about her encounter with Trump, 77, and the hush money deal she reached to stay quiet about it ahead of the 2016 election when he won the White House.

She told jurors that her life descended into "chaos" after the arrangement was made public in 2018, saying she was ostracised and harassed at her home.

"Who do you understand Mr Trump to be referring to as horseface and sleazebag in this post?" prosecutor Susan Hoffinger asked her as she displayed a social media post by Trump. "Me," Daniels replied.

Daniels' testimony provided fodder for Trump's lawyers to seek a mistrial, arguing that details, such as her statement that Trump did not wear a condom, served no purpose other than to inflame the jury. Justice Juan Merchan denied that request but agreed that some of her testimony ran too far afield.

Trump's lawyers attacked her credibility and grilled her about inconsistent statements she has made over the years about her time with Trump.

Daniels also conceded that she "hates" Trump and wanted to make money off her story. Her explanation for why she went public after seven years of silence and denials also was unclear.

Trump, the Republican candidate for president again this year, did not react as he watched from the defense table. He has pleaded not guilty to charges of falsifying business records to cover up a $130,000 hush money payment to Daniels and denies having sex with Daniels.

His legal team has suggested that Daniels was angling for a spot on "The Apprentice," a popular reality TV show then hosted by Trump, a New York real estate mogul.

Daniels confirmed that she hoped he would cast her on the show following their encounter. "This was a very big day, a very revealing day. As you see their case is totally falling apart," Trump told reporters outside the courtroom at the end of the day. The trial resumes on Thursday when Daniels will again take the stand.

Trump Made Sexual Advances

Daniels said Trump made sexual advances after inviting her to his hotel suite at a celebrity golf tournament in Lake Tahoe, Nevada. Daniels testified she grew up as the daughter of a low-income single mother.

She said Trump told her: "This is the only way you're getting out of the trailer park." Daniels said she "blacked out" despite consuming no drugs or alcohol after Trump prevented her from leaving the room by blocking the door. She said she woke up on the bed with her clothes off.

"I was trying to think about anything other than what was happening there," Daniels testified. Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, said she did not tell Trump to stop. "I didn't say anything at all," she said. She said she left the hotel room quickly afterward.

The Republican politician, who served as president from 2017 to 2021, says the trial is an attempt to hobble his attempt to win back the White House from Democratic President Joe Biden in a Nov. 5 election.

Wearing a black outfit and black glasses, Daniels testified that she worked in strip clubs and pornography after a childhood in which her mother was often gone for days at a time.

Satin Pajamas and a Spanking

She said Trump greeted her at his hotel suite wearing satin pajamas. She said she grew annoyed by Trump's frequent interruptions and asked him: "Are you always this arrogant and pompous?"

Trump then dared Daniels to spank him with a magazine and she obliged. “He was much more polite after that,” she said.
"That's bullshit," Trump appeared to say on Tuesday as he watched from the defendant's table.

The alleged encounter took place while Trump was married to his current wife Melania. Daniels said she confided in only a few people about the sex. She said she saw Trump at public events on several occasions in the years that followed, but then fell out of touch with him after he did not put her on "The Apprentice."

Daniels said she was determined to keep the incident private after being threatened in a parking lot in 2011 but changed her mind during Trump's 2016 presidential bid, when he faced multiple accusations of sexual misbehavior.

"My motivation wasn't money, it was to get the story out," she said. Daniels ultimately negotiated a $130,000 payment with Trump's lawyer Michael Cohen, and prosecutors say Trump falsified business records to obscure the fact that he reimbursed Cohen for the payment.

She testified she was eager to collect before the 2016 election because she was worried he would not pay her if he won. The case is widely seen as less consequential than three other criminal prosecutions Trump faces, but it is the only one certain to go to trial before the election.

The other cases charge Trump with trying to overturn his 2020 presidential defeat and mishandling classified documents after leaving office. Trump has pleaded not guilty to all three.

In Florida, where Trump is accused of illegally keeping classified documents, a judge decided to indefinitely postpone the trial on Tuesday, greatly reducing the odds he will face a jury in the two federal case before the election.

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AstraZeneca Withdraws Covid-19 Vaccine Worldwide, Citing Decline in Demand

AstraZeneca has begun the worldwide withdrawal of its Covid-19 vaccine due to a “surplus of available updated vaccines” that target new variants of the virus.

The announcement follows the pharmaceutical company in March voluntarily withdrawing its European Union marketing authorisation, which is the approval to market a medicine in member states.

On May 7, the European Medicines Agency issued a notice that the vaccine is no longer authorised for use.

In a statement, AstraZeneca said the decision was made because there is now a variety of newer vaccines available that have been adapted to target Covid-19 variants.

This had led to a decline in demand for the AstraZeneca vaccine, which is no longer being manufactured or supplied.

“According to independent estimates, over 6.5 million lives were saved in the first year of use alone and over 3bn doses were supplied globally,” the statement said.

“Our efforts have been recognised by governments around the world and are widely regarded as being a critical component of ending the global pandemic. We will now work with regulators and our partners to align on a clear path forward to conclude this chapter and significant contribution to the Covid-19 pandemic.”

Other countries have already stopped supplying the vaccine. It has not been available for use in Australia since March 2023, though its use was already being phased out from June 2021 due to the widespread availability of newer vaccines.

AstraZeneca changed the name of its Covid vaccine to Vaxzevria in 2021. The vaccine was authorised for use in those aged 18 and older, delivered as two injections, usually into the muscle of the upper arm, about three month apart. It was also used by some countries as a booster shot.

Vaxzevria is made up of another virus of the adenovirus family modified to contain the gene for making a protein from SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19. The vaccine does not contain the virus itself and cannot cause the virus.

Although the vaccine was found to be safe and effective overall, it carried the risk of a rare but serious side-effect, known as thrombosis with thrombocytopenia, or TTS. The rare syndrome occurred in about two to three people per 100,000 who were vaccinated with the Vaxzevria vaccine.

The chair of epidemiology at Deakin University in Australia, Prof Catherine Bennett, said the vaccine had played a pivotal part in the worldwide fight against the virus, particularly in the early days of the pandemic when limited vaccines were available.

“It has saved millions of lives and that should not be forgotten,” she said.

“It was a really important part of the initial global response. However, it targeted the initial ancestral variants. We’ve now moved into a vaccine chain where we have products available that are chasing the variants that are emerging.

“There’s also a shift in the risk calculus as well, given populations are much more protected and, even though of course Covid still causes deaths, we are overall less vulnerable to the disease.”

The latest Covid-19 vaccine advice issued by the World Health Organisation in April advised that formulations of Covid-19 vaccines should target the JN.1 lineage of the virus, which is displacing existing XBB lineage variants.

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US Investigates Boeing 787 over Skipped Inspections, Possible Falsified Records

US air safety authorities are investigating whether embattled aviation giant Boeing completed required inspections on its 787 aircraft and whether employees falsified records, officials said.

The issue centres on whether Boeing undertook required inspections to "confirm adequate bonding and grounding where the wings join the fuselage on certain 787 Dreamliner airplanes," the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said.

The FAA said it opened the investigation after Boeing notified it that the company may not have completed the required inspections, which are needed to ensure a safe and functional electrical flow between aircraft components.

"The FAA is investigating whether Boeing completed the inspections and whether company employees may have falsified aircraft records," the agency said.

"At the same time, Boeing is reinspecting all 787 airplanes still within the production system and must also create a plan to address the in-service fleet."

The issue surfaced after a Boeing employee observed an "irregularity" and raised the issue with a supervisor who elevated it further.
"We quickly reviewed the matter and learned that several people had been violating company policies by not performing a required test, but recording the work as having been completed," Scott Stocker, head of the Boeing 787 programme, said in an email to staff.

"We promptly informed our regulator about what we learned and are taking swift and serious corrective action with multiple teammates," said Stocker, adding that engineering staff determined that the issues does not pose an immediate safety of flight risk.

The probe adds to the litany of issues facing Boeing in the aftermath of a near-catastrophic Alaska Airlines flight in January in which a panel on the fuselage blew out.

The FAA has given the company three months to present a plan to address "systemic quality-control issues."

Boeing's management of the 787 came under question at an April 17 Senate hearing at which a company whistleblower testified that he was retaliated against after raising questions about manufacturing processes on the 787 that he believed threatened aircraft safety.

An audit by an FAA advisory panel released in February pointed to significant shortcomings in Boeing's safety culture, describing a "disconnect" between senior company management and other Boeing employees and scepticism that safety complaints by workers would not result in retaliation.

In his message to employees, Stocker praised the employee for coming up, saying the company "will use this moment to celebrate him, and to remind us all about the kind of behaviour we will and will not accept as a team."

Safety experts have said the problems at Boeing suggest significant safety culture defects that will not be turned around quickly.
Industry watchers are waiting for more clues about the future leadership of Boeing after Chief Executive Dave Calhoun said he will step down at the end of the year.

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Trump Hush-money Trial Continues After Judge Threatens Jail Over Gag-order Breaches

Donald Trump’s criminal hush-money trials entered its 13th day Tuesday, following the judge’s warning that the ex-president could face jail if he kept violating a gag order.

Monday's proceedings, highlighted by testimony from Deborah Tarasoff, a supervisor in the Trump Organisation's accounts payable department, and Jeffrey McConney, the company's former comptroller, were eclipsed by Judge Juan Merchan's ruling of criminal contempt against Trump. This marked the 10th such finding before the witnesses even testified.

Merchan’s decision comes just days after he found Trump in criminal contempt, and hit with a $9,000 fine, over other comments that flouted the order that bars him from discussing trial witnesses or jurors.

“Mr Trump, as you know the prosecution has filed three separate motions to find you in criminal contempt,” Merchan told Trump before testimony resumed. “It appears that the $1,000 fines are not a deterrent.

“The last thing I want to do is put you in jail. You are the former president of the United States and possibly the next president as well,”

Merchan said. “But, at the end of the day, I have a job to do, and part of that job is to protect the dignity of the judicial system.”
Trump’s actions, Merchan said, “constitute a direct attack on the rule of law”. He said: “I cannot allow that to continue.

“So as much as I do not want to impose a jail sanction, I want you to understand that I will, if necessary and appropriate.”

The testimony from McConney and Tarasoff sought to place Trump at the centre of his company and personal finances – to undermine any defense argument that he was not at the helm of bill-paying.

“Who has the authority to approve invoices?” prosecutor Matthew Colangelo asked McConney. “President Trump, before he became president,” McConney said. After Trump became president, those who could sign off on invoices included the former chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg, as well as some of Trump’s adult children.

McConney was also asked about a discussion he had with Weisselberg on repaying Cohen. Weisselberg, an unwavering Trump loyalist, was imprisoned after being convicted of perjury for lying in Trump’s civil fraud case.

“We have to reimburse Michael,” McConney remembered Weisselberg saying during an early 2017 meeting. During that meeting, they determined that Cohen was owed $420,000 for legal expenses and taxes; the sum included a bonus. “He tossed the pad towards me, I started taking notes on what Allen said.”

Colangelo teased out that Trump – whom prosecutors have cast as incredibly cheap – heaped more money on Cohen than was normal for him to do. “Do these notes show that Mr Cohen was receiving $360,000 back on a $180,000 expense?” Colangelo said. “Yes,” McConney replied.

“Are you aware of another incident where an expense was doubled because of taxes?” Colangelo continued. McConney said no.

During Tarasoff’s time on the stand, the prosecution asked her about business documents detailing payments to Cohen, including copies of voided checks. The checks were from the Donald J Trump Revocable Trust and, starting in spring 2017, Trump’s personal account.

Tarasoff confirmed that Cohen was paid numerous monthly installments of $35,000 from Trump’s personal account.
“Whose signature is that?” Tarasoff was asked. “Mr Trump’s,” she said.

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‘Personification of Evil’: Nurse Sentenced to Over 700 Years for Murdering 17 Patients

A nurse in the US, who deliberately administered fatal doses of insulin to multiple patients over a three-year period, was handed a 380-760 year prison sentence.

The court heard that she caused the deaths of at least 17 patients across five healthcare facilities between 2020 and 2023.

Heather Pressdee, aged 41 and working as a nurse in Pennsylvania, confessed to three murder charges and 19 attempted murder charges. She was sentenced to life imprisonment.

Pressdee was accused of administering excessive insulin to 22 patients, including non-diabetic individuals, during overnight shifts with few staff present. Many of these patients died shortly after the injections or later. The victims ranged in age from 43 to 104 years old.

An overdose of insulin can induce hypoglycemia, elevate heart rate and potentially cause heart attacks. Initially arrested in May of the previous year for the deaths of two patients, subsequent police investigations led to additional charges against her.

Families of the victims testified that the nurse "played God" with their vulnerable and elderly loved ones who were not prepared to die. Former colleagues had previously raised concerns about her behavior, citing her disdain for patients and frequent derogatory remarks about them.

In text exchanges with her mother, Pressdee expressed dissatisfaction with patients, coworkers, and even individuals she encountered at restaurants. She frequently voiced desires to cause harm to them.

During the court proceedings, she pleaded guilty. When asked by her lawyer why she was pleading guilty, Pressdee responded, “Because I am guilty.”

“She is not mentally ill. She is not insane. She represents pure evil. I saw the face of Satan himself the morning she took my father's life,” remarked a family member of one of the victims in court.

Despite facing disciplinary action for her conduct, she held various nursing positions in care homes from 2018 until her licence was suspended in 2023 following initial charges.

Pressdee is among several healthcare workers convicted of murdering patients. Charles Cullen, for instance, was responsible for the deaths of at least 29 nursing home patients in New Jersey and Pennsylvania by administering lethal doses of insulin.

Another example is William Davis, a Texas nurse who injected air into the arteries of four post-heart surgery patients.

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Adidas loses US Appeals Court Bid to Revive Thom Browne 3-Stripes Trademark Lawsuit

Athletic wear giant Adidas failed to persuade a US appeals court to reinstate its lawsuit claiming fashion house Thom Browne ripped off the company's iconic three-stripe trademark.

Adidas had argued in its appeal that a Manhattan judge issued flawed instructions to the federal jury that rejected the lawsuit last year. A 2nd US Circuit Court of Appeals panel disagreed that the jury instructions "appropriately reflected the law and evidence presented at trial."

Adidas said in a statement that it is disappointed with the ruling and that it "continues to own a wide range of trademark registrations for the 3-Stripes mark which remain unaffected by this decision."A spokesperson for Thom Browne said the fashion house was pleased with the ruling.

Adidas sued New York designer Thom Browne's brand in 2021, claiming Thom Browne's four-bar and "Grosgrain" stripe patterns on its shoes and high-end activewear violated its three-stripe trademark rights.

A jury determined in January 2023 that the fashion house's designs were not likely to cause customer confusion with Adidas' products and did not violate the company's trademark rights.

Adidas has filed more than 90 lawsuits and reached more than 200 settlements related to the trademark since 2008, according to court documents in the case. Adidas in its appeal had said US District Judge Jed Rakoff gave the jury incorrect instructions on how to determine whether Thom Browne's clothing would confuse consumers.

The appeals court said the differences in Adidas' proposed instruction and the instruction that Rakoff gave were "immaterial." Rakoff separately denied Adidas' motion for a new trial on other grounds. The case is Adidas America Inc v. Thom Browne Inc, 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, No. 23-166.

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Families 'Drop Legal Action' against AstraZeneca after Covid Vaccine Deaths

Several families who attempted to sue AstraZeneca after loved ones died following its COVID-19 vaccine have reportedly abandoned their legal action. According to reports, twelve families have withdrawn their cases against the pharmaceutical company, as reported by The Telegraph, after being advised of the likelihood of losing.

Among them is Gareth Eve, whose wife Lisa Shaw, a BBC presenter, died due to complications from taking the vaccine in 2021.

The father-of-one told the BBC in April last year that legal action was the only option for moving forward, adding: “We're not crackpots or conspiracy theorists, we're husbands and wives and family members who have lost somebody - that's all it is.

“Whatever the money is, it's not going to bring my son's mam back.” They have reportedly discontinued their action after learning from the leaflet distributed at vaccine centres, which warned: “Extremely rare cases of blood clots with low levels of platelets have been observed following vaccination with Covid-19 vaccine AstraZeneca.”

Around one in 50,000 vaccine recipients under the age of 50 were said to be at risk of developing the blood clot with low platelets. This compares to around one in 12,500 dying in childbirth and one in 100,000 dying after receiving general anesthesia.

The Telegraph reported that there are still more than 50 active cases against AstraZeneca from those who were not warned about the potential for blood clots. At least 80 blood clot-related deaths have been reported in people who received the jab.

The government’s vaccine damage payment scheme entitles people who suffer adverse reactions that lead to death or a 60 per cent disability to a one-off payment of £120,000.
Eve said this was not enough, as many had died or been forced out of work.

He added: “It’s like the government and AstraZeneca have wriggled off the hook on a technicality when you just think, ‘come on, what is the right thing to do here?’ “In my opinion, there is a battle here that needs to be had, but I’m not even able to do that anymore.”

Sarah Moore, a partner at the law firm Leigh Day, added: “We feel desperately sorry for Gareth and the other families affected. “These cases should not have to be fought through the courts. If there was a functioning support scheme, then litigation wouldn’t be necessary.”

A statement issued by AstraZeneca in The Telegraph said: “Our sympathy goes out to anyone who has lost loved ones or reported health problems. Patient safety is our highest priority, and regulatory authorities have clear and stringent standards to ensure the safe use of all medicines, including vaccines.”

It added: “From the body of evidence in clinical trials and real-world data, the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine has continuously been shown to have an acceptable safety profile, and regulators around the world consistently state that the benefits of vaccination outweigh the risks of extremely rare potential side effects.”

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Google Trial Concludes as Judge Considers Significant Antitrust Allegations in the US

Google and the US Justice Department wrapped up closing arguments on Friday over claims that the Alphabet unit has unlawfully dominated web search and related advertising, in a case the government contends could shape the “future of the internet.”

US District Judge Amit Mehta in Washington for hours grilled both sides with questions, probing whether competitive platforms such as ByteDance’s TikTok and Meta’s Facebook and Instagram are competitive substitutes for search advertising dollars.

Mehta said a central issue was platform “substitute-ability” for advertisers, which the court must resolve. He will now begin preparing to render a major decision on whether Google's conduct broke civil antitrust law. He did not indicate when he would rule, but experts say he could potentially order changes to Google's business practices.

Mehta also questioned whether Google assesses competitors’ pricing before making its own adjustments. Google's advertising business is responsible for about three quarters of its revenue.
US government lawyer David Dahlquist argued that “advertising revenue is what drives Google’s monopoly power today.”

Google has boasted it feels no real market pressures, Dahlquist said, arguing that the company does not fear increasing its pricing or not improving its products.
“Only a monopolist can make a product worse and still make more money,” Dahlquist argued.

Google’s lawyer John Schmidtlein countered that Google’s share of US digital advertising revenue has steadily decreased. He touted the advertising power of rival platforms ByteDance's TikTok, Meta’s Facebook and Instagram and Amazon.

Schmidtlein argued that Google is “constrained” by rival platforms "where the eyeballs are," because advertisers know there are overlapping audiences and can spend their dollars elsewhere.
He also asserted that Google was continually moving to innovate its search advertising products. “If Google is a monopolist, why improve anything? Why not just jack the price up?” he told the court. He later argued that "Google has won with a superior product."

The Justice Department has hammered away at Google in a trial that started on September 12, contending the search engine giant is a monopolist that illegally abused its power to boost profits.
Witnesses from Verizon, Android maker Samsung Electronics and Google itself testified about the company's annual payments - $26.3 billion in 2021 - to ensure that its search is the default on smartphones and browsers, and to keep its dominant market share.

Mehta also took up the government’s claim that Google intentionally destroyed internal documents that were relevant to the issues in the lawsuit. The government asked Mehta to presume that Google deleted chats that were unfavourable to the company.
Mehta repeatedly questioned Google's prior policies, which he said left document retention decisions to its employees.

"They should have been preserved. Should there be some consequence for what at a minimum was far from best practices?" the judge asked. A lawyer for Google, Colette Connor, defended its data preservation practices, calling them reasonable, and urged the court not to sanction the company.

The case, filed by former President Donald Trump's administration, was the first of several aimed at reining in the market power of tech leaders. Another case, against Facebook parent Meta, was also filed during the Trump administration. President Joe Biden's antitrust enforcers have followed with a second case against Google and cases against Amazon.com, and Apple Inc.

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Jury Selection Begins, First Trial over Zantac Cancer Claims Set to Commence in Chicago

The first trial over claims that blockbuster heartburn drug Zantac, once sold by GSK (GSK.L) and other companies, causes cancer is set to begin this week in Chicago.

Jury selection began on Tuesday before Judge Daniel Trevino of the Circuit Court of Cook County and was expected to continue Wednesday morning. Lawyers will deliver their opening statements once a jury is chosen.

GSK and Boehringer Ingelheim are the only defendants in the trial after other companies settled.

The plaintiff, 89-year-old Illinois resident Angela Valadez, alleges in her lawsuit that she developed colorectal cancer as a result of taking over-the-counter Zantac and generic versions of it from 1995 to 2014. Like other plaintiffs suing over the drug, she says its active ingredient, ranitidine, as it ages turns into a cancer-causing substance called NDMA.

"We're happy that she's getting her day in court," said Ashley Keller, a lawyer for Valadez.

Her case is one of tens of thousands against GSK, Boehringer Ingelheim and other companies including Pfizer (PFE.N) and Sanofi (SASY.PA), which have worried investors in recent years. It will offer the first test of whether the cancer claims will persuade a jury, since all cases previously set for trial settled or were dropped.

The drugmakers have maintained that Zantac does not cause cancer or contain significant amounts of NDMA under normal conditions. "We are confident in our position based on the facts and science and look forward to presenting our case at trial," GSK said in a statement.

"The totality of the scientific evidence, which includes numerous recently conducted epidemiological studies, points to only one conclusion: Zantac does not cause any type of cancer," Boehringer Ingelheim said in a statement.

First approved in 1983, Zantac became the world's best selling medicine in 1988 and one of the first-ever drugs to top $1 billion in annual sales. It was originally marketed by a forerunner of GSK, which faces the largest potential liability, and later sold successively to the other companies.

In 2020, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration asked drugmakers to pull Zantac and its generic versions off the market after NDMA was found in samples of the drug. Thousands of lawsuits began piling up in federal and state courts.

The defendants notched a significant win in 2022, when a judge dismissed about 50,000 claims centralized in federal court in Florida. That judge concluded that the opinions of the plaintiffs' expert witnesses that Zantac can cause cancer were not supported by sound science.

Some, but not all, of the claimants in those cases are appealing the ruling to the Atlanta, Georgia-based 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Another judge is weighing the fate of about 72,000 cases in Delaware state court, where the drugmakers similarly argue that plaintiffs' expert testimony should be kept out.

Some other cases were previously settled, including several individual cases just before trial, and about 4,000 state court lawsuits outside of Delaware against Sanofi. Pfizer and Boehringer Ingelheim have not announced any large-scale settlements.

A new version of Zantac now on the market has a different active ingredient and does not contain ranitidine."The totality of the scientific evidence, which includes numerous recently conducted 

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Judge Declares Mistrial After Jury Deadlocks in Lawsuit Filed by Former Abu Ghraib Prisoners

A mistrial was declared by a judge when a jury announced it was deadlocked and unable to reach a verdict in the trial of a military contractor accused of contributing to the mistreatment of detainees at the Abu Ghraib Prison in Iraq two decades ago.

The mistrial occurred on the eighth day of deliberations, which extended well beyond the trial's duration. The eight-member civil jury in Alexandria could not reach a consensus on the allegations that civilian interrogators provided to the US Army at Abu Ghraib in 2003 and 2004 conspired with soldiers there to mistreat detainees in order to facilitate interrogation.

The trial was the first time a US jury heard claims brought by Abu Ghraib survivors in the 20 years since photos of detainee mistreatment --accompanied by smiling US soldiers inflicting the abuse -- shocked the world during the US occupation of Iraq.

Reston, Virginia-based CACI had argued that it wasn’t complicit in the detainees’ abuse. It said that its employees had minimal interaction with the three plaintiffs in the case and that any liability for their mistreatment belonged to the government, not CACI.

Multiple jurors told The Associated Press that a majority of the jury sided with the plaintiffs, but they declined to give an exact numerical breakdown among the eight-member panel. The jury sent out a note Wednesday afternoon saying it was deadlocked, and indicating in particular that it was hung up on a legal principle known as the “borrowed servants” doctrine.

CACI, as one of its defenses, has argued it shouldn’t be liable for any misdeeds by its employees if they were under the control and direction of the Army. The plaintiffs’ lawyers tried to bar CACI from making that argument at trial, but Brinkema allowed the jury to consider it.

Both sides argued about the scope of the doctrine. Fundamentally, though, if CACI could prove its interrogators were under the command and control of the Army at the time any misconduct occurred, then the jury was instructed to find in favor of CACI.

The issue of who controlled CACI interrogators occupied a significant portion of the trial. CACI officials testified that they basically turned over supervision of the interrogators to the Army. Lawyers for the plaintiffs argued otherwise, and introduced evidence including CACI’s contract with the Army, which required CACI to supervise its own employees. Jurors also saw a section of the Army Field

Manual that pertains to contractors and states that “only contractors may supervise and give direction to their employees.” In their note explaining their deadlock, the jury said the Field Manual was one of the pieces of evidence over which they disagreed.

The jurors who spoke to AP said there was conflicting evidence in the case about whether CACI retained control of its employees while they were in Abu Ghraib. The plaintiffs can seek a retrial.

Asked if they would do so, one of their lawyers, Baher Azmy with the Centre for Constitutional Rights, said that “the current expectation is that we’ll continue to fight.” “The work we put in to this case is a fraction of what they endured as survivors of the horrors of Abu Ghraib, and we want to honor their courage,” Azmy said.

Delayed by 15 years

The lawsuit was first filed in 2008 and was delayed by 15 years of legal wrangling and multiple attempts by CACI to have the case dismissed.

During the trial that began April 15, lawyers for the three plaintiffs argued that CACI was liable for their mistreatment even if they couldn’t prove that CACI’s interrogators were the ones who directly inflicted the abuse.

They argued that the interrogators had entered into a conspiracy with the military police who inflicted the abuse by instructing soldiers to “soften up” detainees for questioning. The evidence included reports from two retired Army generals, who documented the abuse and concluded that multiple CACI interrogators were complicit in the abuse.

Those reports concluded that one of the interrogators, Steven Stefanowicz, lied to investigators about his conduct, and that he likely instructed soldiers to mistreat detainees and used dogs to intimidate detainees during interrogations.

Stefanowicz testified for CACI at trial through a recorded video deposition and denied mistreating detainees. CACI officials initially had serious doubts about his ability to work as an interrogator, according to evidence introduced at trial. An email sent by CACI official Tom Howard before the company sent interrogators to Iraq described Stefanowicz as a “NO-GO for filling an interrogator position.”

CACI initially sent Stefanowicz over to Iraq not as an interrogator but as a screener, but he testified that the Army -- desperately short of interrogators at a prison with a rapidly expanding population -- promoted him to interrogator within a day of his arrival.

Trial evidence showed that CACI defended the work of another of its interrogators, Dan Johnson, even after the Army sought his dismissal when photos of the Abu Ghraib abuse became public, and one of the photos showed Johnson questioning a detainee in a crouched position that Army investigators determined to be an unauthorised stress position.

Possibility of Retrial

While it took a monumental effort on the plaintiffs’ part to get the case to trial, it’s possible that a retrial might be easier to conduct than normal. Many of the witnesses testified through recorded depositions that could simply be replayed.

The three plaintiffs, though, provided live testimony --one in person and the other two through video hookups from Iraq. After the jury was dismissed, Brinkema questioned whether a retrial would be a good idea in remarks to the lawyers, though she did not elaborate. She said that “what happened in this case is absolutely appalling.

It should never happen again.” She also said contractors working side by side with the military should take notice that if they witness misconduct by service members, they should perhaps be prepared to speak up about it.

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Dad Who Suffered Brain Injury Days After Getting COVID Vaccine Sues AstraZeneca

A father who suffered a brain injury just days after receiving a British-developed COVID vaccine is taking legal action against AstraZeneca, alleging that the pharmaceutical giant downplayed the vaccine's risks and exaggerated its effectiveness.

Jamie Scott, now unable to work and facing profound life changes, asserts that had he been fully informed of the risks, he would not have opted for the jab.

In his first televised interview with Sky News, Scott shared: "I took it to protect the elderly people around me. AstraZeneca and the government need to explain the risk whenever you take medicine. If there's a risk - I've got a young family - I would never have taken it."

Ten days after his first vaccine dose in April 2021, Scott experienced severe symptoms including a debilitating headache, vomiting, and speech difficulties. Hospitalised, he was diagnosed with a brain clot and hemorrhage, leading to surgery and a month-long coma. His current condition includes memory loss, impaired vision and difficulties with basic functions like reading, writing, and speaking.

Scott's case is among 51 lodged with the High Court, including claims from bereaved relatives, alleging vaccine-related damage. Despite receiving £120,000 from the government's Vaccine Damage Payment (VDP) scheme, Scott contends that it's insufficient to cover the loss of his IT career income and meet ongoing expenses.

His wife, Kate, emphasised the need for reform in the VDP scheme, stating, "If Jamie was in a car crash there would have been insurance to cover the injuries and loss of income." She added, "If VDP was reformed, we would not have to litigate."

The AstraZeneca vaccine, developed by scientists at the University of Oxford, underwent accelerated testing due to the pandemic's urgency and was authorised for emergency supply in December 2020. Despite assurances from the government and medical professionals regarding its safety, reports of rare but serious blood clotting emerged in spring 2021, prompting concerns.

Sarah Moore, a lawyer representing  Scott and other claimants, highlighted the absence of warnings about such risks at the time of vaccination, arguing for greater transparency in product literature.
AstraZeneca contends that regulatory authorities have stringent safety standards for vaccines, emphasizing the vaccine's overall safety profile and the benefits outweighing extremely rare potential side effects.

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Iraqi Father Takes Legal Action Against BP Over Son's Death Linked to Flaring

An Iraqi father is initiating legal proceedings against the UK-based oil giant BP concerning the passing of his 21-year-old son. Hussein Julood alleges that the practice of burning off gas, known as flaring, at a BP-managed oil field in Iraq contributed to his son Ali's leukemia.

A 2022 investigation by BBC World Service revealed that Ali's village, situated within the field, had elevated levels of cancer-causing pollutants associated with flaring.

BP acknowledges the concerns raised and expresses its commitment to facilitating change. The case marks a significant instance of an individual taking legal action against a major oil corporation regarding its flaring practices.

The claim, outlined in a letter seen by BBC News, asserts that Ali's leukemia and subsequent demise were caused by "toxic emissions from the Rumaila oilfield," for which BP, as the lead contractor, shares responsibility.

Julood seeks compensation covering his son's medical expenses, loss of earnings, funeral costs and the emotional toll of losing his son. Speaking to BBC News, Julood emphasised the broader implications of his case, representing not only himself but also the local community suffering from pollution.

Wessen Jazrawi, a partner at Hausfeld & Co representing, underscored the significance of this environmental litigation, aiming to hold major carbon-emitting companies accountable for their harmful practices.

Flaring, the burning of gas released during oil extraction, poses significant health risks due to its emission of cancer-causing chemicals like benzene. The Rumaila oil field, according to BBC analysis of World Bank data, records the highest documented levels of flaring globally.

Julood's primary objective with his claim is to halt regular flaring in Rumaila to prevent further harm to families in the region. Ali's battle with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia began at the age of 15, undergoing extensive treatment before his passing at 21. His father describes him as a vibrant individual, whose untimely death deeply affected the family.

Ali's documentation of life within the Rumaila oil field, along with pollution monitoring conducted by the BBC, revealed heightened exposure to carcinogens among local residents, raising concerns about increased leukemia risk.

While the Iraqi government owns the Rumaila oil field, BP leads its management through the Rumaila Operating Organisation (ROO) consortium. BP's flaring emissions from Rumaila in 2021 surpassed 3.7 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent, a figure exceeding the annual emissions of two million UK cars.

Although the incident occurred in Iraq, Julood can pursue the claim in UK courts due to BP's UK headquarters. BP's response emphasises its support for ROO's efforts to reduce flaring and emissions at Rumaila.

Despite assurances from BP, Julood observes continued flaring and pollution, highlighting the disparity between promises and action. Julood alleges additional cancer-related deaths in the community since Ali's passing, underscoring the urgency of addressing environmental concerns.

BP faces the choice of entering compensation negotiations or contesting the claim, with the latter potentially leading to a court hearing in the UK.

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60-year-old Lawyer Creates History After Winning Miss Universe Buenos Aires

A 60-year-old lawyer has made history by being crowned Miss Universe Buenos Aires. Lawyer and journalist Alejandra Rodríguez challenged stereotypes and warmed hearts everywhere when she was crowned the winner of the Miss Buenos Aires pageant, the Independent reported.

She is the first 60-year-old woman in beauty pageant history to win the title, marking a departure from the ageist norms that typically put youth on a pedestal.

“I am thrilled to be representing this new paradigm in beauty pageants because we are inaugurating a new stage in which women are not only physical beauty but another set of values,” she gushed to the media. “I am the first of this generation to start with this.”

“I think the judges saw my confidence and my passion to represent the women of my generation,” she continued. “I am determined to fight for the crown of Miss Universe Argentina 2024.”

Since she won the coveted Miss Buenos Aires crown, Rodríguez is reportedly a fan favourite for the Miss Argentina crown, which would allow her to compete in the international Miss Universe competition. In the past, the Miss Universe pageant strictly allowed only those between the ages of 18 and 28 to compete.

In September 2023, the Miss Universe Organisation announced that starting in 2024, there will no longer be age limits for pageant contestants. Starting in 2024, every woman over the age of 18 will be able to participate.

Rodríguez isn’t the only one to buck ageist beauty standards in the pageant world, with 47-year-old Haidy Cruz competing to represent the Dominican Republic in the 2024 Miss Universe pageant.

“Participating in a beauty pageant always fascinated me. However, due to becoming a mother at a young age, I was never able to make that dream a reality,” she explained to Hola! USA.

“Miss Universe, which promotes inclusion, offered me the chance to pursue my dream. My inner voice urged me to go for it, to experience the journey instead of just hearing about it.”

Although Cruz was met with skepticism, she has pushed forward, determined to show that her age can be an asset rather than a weakness.

“I must admit that I often ignore what others say. I remain focused on my goals and am determined to achieve them,” she shared.

“I understand that people often speak from their own limitations, and no one can live your dreams for you. Some may not be aware that the terms of the (Miss Universe) have changed. I thank God that I am not affected by what others say. I have been in the public eye for a long time and have learned how to handle criticism. I allow others to express themselves as they please, but in the end, I am the one who decides what affects me or not.”

The Miss Universe pageant will be held in Mexico on 24 September, with countries worldwide competing for the title. Contestants like Rodríguez and Cruz potentially taking the stage will prove to the general public that age is nothing but a number.

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Pressure Mounts on Spanish Prime Minister as Wife Faces Corruption Investigation

Spain's Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez found himself in a tight spot as questions mounted following a court's decision to launch an inquiry into his wife, Begoña Gómez, over suspected corruption.

This development added to Sánchez's woes, with his administration already grappling with the fallout from a separate graft scandal involving the procurement of face masks during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The court's announcement came shortly after reports emerged alleging Gómez's involvement with various private companies that either received government funds or secured public contracts. The revelation triggered a furious response from the opposition Popular Party (PP), which has persistently criticised Sánchez over his wife's purported business connections.

In a terse statement, the Madrid court disclosed that it had initiated an investigation into Begoña Gómez for alleged influence peddling and corruption, emphasising that the probe was subject to a confidentiality order. The case was prompted by a complaint filed by Manos Limpias (Clean Hands), an anti-corruption advocacy group associated with the far-right.

One aspect under scrutiny is Gómez's alleged ties to Globalia, a Spanish tourism conglomerate that owns Air Europa. Reports suggest she met with Javier Hidalgo, then-CEO of Globalia, during discussions between the company and the government regarding a substantial bailout amid the COVID-19-induced aviation crisis. Notably, Gómez previously served as the head of the IE Africa Center, affiliated with Madrid's IE Business School.

Allegations include claims that the IE Africa Center entered into a sponsorship agreement with Globalia in 2020, and Gómez held private meetings with Hidalgo at the company's headquarters. These encounters reportedly coincided with negotiations for Air Europa's bailout, culminating in significant government financial assistance.

Furthermore, investigators are examining letters of support allegedly provided by Gómez for a joint venture competing for a public contract. The venture, led by consultant Carlos Barrabes, secured the contract and received substantial funding.

Manos Limpias, the organisation behind the complaint, is led by lawyer Miguel Bernad, whose legal history includes a previous conviction overturned due to insufficient evidence. In response to queries during a parliamentary session, Sánchez expressed confidence in Spain's judicial system. However, PP officials insisted on clarification from the Prime Minister, highlighting the significance of the matter for the Spanish public.

The escalating political standoff saw exchanges between government and opposition representatives, with accusations of defamation and attempts to undermine democracy. Despite these tensions, Sánchez's administration vowed to resist what they termed "Trumpesque practices" to tarnish Spain's democratic institutions.

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Historic Trump Criminal Trial in his Hush-money Case to Hear Opening Statements

Donald Trump's Manhattan criminal trial in his hush-money case began in earnest on Monday morning with opening statements, marking a significant day in US history.

Trump is the first American president, former or sitting, to face a criminal trial. These proceedings unfold amidst the backdrop of the 2024 presidential race, where Trump is likely to be the Republican nominee facing Joe Biden.

A jury of seven men and five women will deliberate whether Trump's alleged efforts to conceal damaging information about extramarital affairs to aid his 2016 election campaign were unlawful. Trump faces 34 felony counts of falsifying business records, charged in spring 2023 by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg.

The case centers on a $130,000 payment made by Trump's former lawyer and fixer, Michael Cohen, to adult film star Stormy Daniels to keep her story under wraps. Bragg argues that Trump misrepresented the nature of the payment in business records, describing it as legitimate legal expenses.

Cohen, who pleaded guilty in 2018, is expected to be a key prosecution witness. Trump denies any sexual encounter with Daniels and claims payments to Cohen were lawful.
The Manhattan case is one of several criminal proceedings Trump faces, including federal charges related to the January 6 insurrection and mishandling of classified documents at Mar-a-Lago. In Georgia, he faces state-level charges for allegedly trying to subvert the 2020 election results.

Despite these legal challenges, Trump is poised to secure the Republican presidential nomination this summer after easily defeating his party rivals. In head-to-head polls against Biden, Trump often holds a narrow lead and performs strongly in key swing states.

The trial's first week was marked by unusual incidents, including a man setting himself on fire across from the courthouse right after the selection of six alternate jurors.

The man, who later succumbed to his injuries, left behind pamphlets and an online manifesto outlining various conspiracy theories, though these seemed unrelated to Trump specifically, focusing more broadly on anti-government and anti-tech industry sentiments.

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Scotland Yard Arrest Gang of Fraudsters Behind Britain’s Biggest Phishing Website

Police have arrested a gang of fraudsters including university students behind Britain’s biggest phishing website, which scammed 70,000 victims in the UK out of tens of millions of pounds.

Scotland Yard this week raided the homes of the gang leader and his four key lieutenants, who provided a one-stop shop for 2,000 fellow criminals to buy and set up fraudulent websites for as little as £200 to £300 a month.

The bespoke phishing websites used the profiles of 170 well-known brands, banks and public services. They enabled the criminals to scam victims into handing over their personal data such as email addresses, passwords and financial details.

In a two-year operation with 17 other law enforcement agencies worldwide, the Metropolitan Police infiltrated the website, known as Lab Host, to identify the gang bosses and the 2,000 criminal “customers” who bought the fraudulent websites.

Police estimate Lab Host was used to create 40,000 fraudulent phishing sites and harvested over one million data logs worldwide. This included 70,000 victims in the UK alone. Worldwide, police believe the criminals obtained 480,000 card numbers, 64,000 PIN numbers and one million passwords for online services.

Police arrested 37 suspects in the UK and searched 70 properties worldwide as they shut down the site. A significant number of the 2,000 UK criminal users were said by police to be university students or young people who were “likely to go on to perfectly legitimate careers”.

One investigator said: “They see this as easy to do and anonymous. They don’t have that physical interaction with (a victim). They are entering into this not fully understanding the risks and the potential outcomes for them.”

For the £200 to £300 monthly membership fee, the gang offered a bespoke service to help users set up their fraudulent sites within minutes with little technical know-how. They even offered a customer support messaging service via the encrypted app Telegram.

The fraudsters could choose to be “active” users who tracked victims in real time as they entered their fake sites and then stole their personal data. Or they could simply leave them as “sleeper” sites which would automatically harvest victims’ details. They could then sell these on to the dark web or other fraudsters.

Many of the victims were in the 25 to 44-year-old age group because of their frequent use of the internet for services from banking to food deliveries and online subscriptions.

In a reverse sting, police created a bespoke message to send to 800 of the users identified by detectives. It detailed to each of them their illegal actions over the past year. Police likened it to a Spotify-style wrap of the fraudster’s year’s usage which it joked was “made in partnership with international law enforcement”.

“We valued you as a customer ever since the day you joined. We’ve been collecting your data that whole time. And now we’ve served it to police on a platter,” said the message.

“You’ve targeted victims all around the world. The police there may not be too happy so think carefully about where you go on holiday next. That was your 2023 Lab Host wrap. Lab Host is dead now.”

Lynne Owens, the Met Police’s deputy commissioner, said there would now be a major operation to contact all the 70,000 victims of the phishing scams to provide them with support and advice. Some 25,000 have already been contacted this week.

She said the “wrap”, which police hope will go viral, and the raids were designed to strike fear into fraudsters. “Fraud gets to the heart of individual and community confidence. It undermines confidence in day to day activity that we all do online and elsewhere,” she said.

“This operation is about creating that same level of fear and uncertainty for the criminals because they can no longer be confident that the enabling services they are buying are protecting them.”

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Former US President Donald Trump’s Hush-money Trial Swears in Full 12-member Jury

A panel of 12 jurors was sworn in on Thursday to sit in judgement of Donald Trump at the unprecedented criminal trial of a former US president.

"We have our jury," said Judge Juan Merchan after a day of intensive questioning of dozens of potential jurors by prosecutors and Trump's defence team.
Merchan said he hoped to complete the selection of six alternate jurors soon and hold opening arguments in the case on Monday.

Trump, who is seeking to recapture the White House in November, is accused of falsifying business records on the eve of his 2016 election victory to cover up an affair with an adult film star.

He has pleaded not guilty. Seven jurors had been selected as of Tuesday but that number fell to five on Thursday after the release of the two who had already been sworn in.

One was excused because she had concerns that her identity had been revealed, and the other after doubts about the accuracy of his answers during questioning.

To protect the anonymity of the New Yorkers randomly selected for jury service, Merchan asked reporters on Thursday to stop providing physical descriptions and not identify where they work.

A unanimous verdict will be required to convict Trump. Potential jurors were grilled by prosecutors and defence lawyers about their media use, political donations, education and whether they have ever attended a pro or anti-Trump rally.

About half of the first batch of 96 jurors ushered into the courtroom on Thursday were immediately excused after saying they could not be fair and impartial in a case involving one of the most famous and controversial men in the country.

The trial, expected to last six to eight weeks, comes as Trump is taking on Democratic President Joe Biden in a bid to make a return to the White House.
Trump has been ordered by the judge to attend every day, forcing the real estate tycoon to exchange the campaign trail for the confines of a rundown court.

If convicted of falsifying business records, the twice-impeached Trump could face prison, but legal observers say fines would be more likely.

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Pakistan Says it Blocked Social Media Platform X over ‘National Security’ Concerns

Pakistan blocked access to social media platform X around the time of elections in February, the interior ministry said, citing national security concerns.

Users had reported problems using the platform, formerly known as Twitter, since mid-February, when jailed former Prime Minister Imran Khan’s party called for protests against a government official’s admission of vote manipulation.

At the time, both the government and the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA), the state regulatory body, refused to comment on the outages that were also widely reported by internet watchdog groups.

On Wednesday, the Ministry of Interior mentioned the shutdown in a written court submission.

“It is very pertinent to mention here that the failure of Twitter/X to adhere to the lawful directives of the government of Pakistan and address concerns regarding the misuse of its platform necessitated the imposition of a ban,” said the report, seen by the Reuters news agency, which confirmed the long-suspected shutdown.

“The decision to impose a ban on Twitter/X in Pakistan was made in the interest of upholding national security, maintaining public order and preserving the integrity of our nation,” the ministry said, according to the report submitted to the Islamabad High Court in a challenge to the shutdown.

It additionally said the platform had been reluctant to resolve the issue. Activists challenging the ban said it was designed to quash dissent after the February 8 general elections that were marred by widespread opposition claims of vote rigging and protests.

The authorities had shut down mobile services on the day of the elections, citing security concerns. NetBlocks, an internet monitor, also reported that users could not access X on February 10 while the country was awaiting the results.

The decision to temporarily block X was taken after considering confidential reports from Pakistan’s intelligence and security agencies, the report said. It claimed that “hostile elements operating on Twitter/X have nefarious intentions to create an environment of chaos and instability, with the ultimate goal of destabilising the country and plunging it into some form of anarchy”.

The Sindh High Court on Wednesday ordered the government to restore the platform within one week, the AFP news agency reported, citing lawyer Moiz Jaaferi, who launched a separate challenge against the ban.

Access to X has been sporadic, occasionally available for short cycles based on the internet service provider, forcing users to use virtual private networks, said Alp Toker of NetBlocks.

Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) party is the most prolific user of social media platforms, particularly after the country’s traditional media began censoring news about the former cricket star and his party in the run-up to the polls. Khan has 20.6 million followers on X.

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Donald Trump Trial: Dozens of Jurors Rejected as They Say They Cannot be Impartial

Dozens of potential jurors have been ruled out of Donald Trump's unprecedented criminal trial in New York on impartiality grounds. Trump denies falsifying business records to conceal a hush-money payment to porn star Stormy Daniels just ahead of the 2016 election, which he won.

Sixty of 96 potential jurors were quick to say they could not be impartial after proceedings began on Monday. Jury selection continued on Tuesday, and could take up to two weeks.

The dismissals on day one were an indication of how challenging it could be to find a group of 12 impartial jurors for such a unique case. It concerns a high-profile sex scandal that involves a former president who is running once again for the White House.

"I just couldn't do it," one prospective juror was heard saying as she left court. The Manhattan District Attorney's Office alleges that Trump directed his former attorney, Michael Cohen, to pay Ms Daniels $130,000 (£104,000) in exchange for her silence about an alleged sexual encounter that the former president denies took place.

Prosecutors say he did so to "unlawfully influence" the 2016 election. Trump has pleaded not guilty. Jury selection began in the afternoon. The judge started by dismissing jurors who raised their hand to say they could not be impartial, leaving about 34 people.

Those left were then grilled on 42 questions in the jury questionnaire, including on their news-reading habits, whether they had attended any Trump rallies or read any of the former president's books.

Eighteen were placed at random in the jury box, and they answered the questionnaire one by one. One man from Midtown Manhattan said that he read the Wall Street Journal. Another from the Upper West Side said his radio habits included listening to whatever was on when he was in the shower. He later clarified he meant NPR. Neither was dismissed immediately.

A woman was asked: "Do you have any strong opinions or firmly held beliefs about former president Donald Trump, or the fact that he is a current candidate for president, that would interfere with your ability to be a fair and impartial juror?"

She simply replied "yes" and was dismissed, although Trump's team initially objected to excusing her for reasons they did not explain. All jurors will remain anonymous due to the high-profile nature of the case, although Trump's legal team and prosecutors will know their identities.

Quiet in the Court

The accused stayed quiet during the day, speaking to his lawyers in a hushed tone while maintaining a stern expression. His team later denied suggestions the former president had been struggling to keep his eyes open or had even fallen asleep during the proceedings, telling the Independent: "This is 100 per cent fake news coming from 'journalists' who weren't even in the court room."

Trump said three words in the entirety of Monday morning to the judge, New York Justice Juan Merchan - all "yes", when asked about what conduct was required in court.
But outside the court, Trump said the trial was "nonsense" and an "assault on America".

Trump's public remarks about the case were the subject of several minutes of debate during the morning in court. Prosecutors argued some of Trump's posts on his social media site, Truth Social, violated a gag order Justice Merchan imposed on him. The order bars Trump from making public comments about people related to the case, including potential witnesses.

The order was expanded to relatives of those involved after Trump attacked Justice Merchan's daughter on social media. The Manhattan District Attorney's Office asked Justice Merchan to fine Trump $3,000 (£2,400) in total for three posts. That includes a post on Saturday when he called his former attorney - and future trial witness - Michael Cohen a "disgraced attorney and felon".

The judge set a hearing date of 24 April to make a decision. The judge used the morning to resolve what evidence would be permissible in court.

Leaked Audio

The defence and prosecution sparred over leaked audio of Trump that came out just before the 2016 election. In the clip, taken from a recording of NBC show Access Hollywood, Trump talks about grabbing women by their genitals.

Prosecutors asked to include an email chain between Trump campaign officials and the Washington Post reporter who broke the Access Hollywood story, which included a transcript of the tape.

The judge refused to allow the audio to be played for jurors, but said prosecutors could refer to what Trump said on the tape. Throughout the day, Trump was cheered on by dozens of people who rallied peacefully but loudly outside court.

They included a man playing The Star-Spangled Banner on the flute for hours and a Trump impersonator wearing a blond wig and red tie. There were others decidedly less enthusiastic about the former president. One held a banner that stated: "Convict Trump already."

The hush-money trial is just one of four criminal cases the former president is facing. But it could be the only one to go to trial before the 2024 presidential election, a rematch between Trump, a Republican, and the incumbent, Joe Biden, a Democrat.

If convicted, Trump would be the first major-party nominee to run for president as a convicted felon. No law prevents him from doing so.

Justice Merchan also rejected a defence request that Trump be excused from the trial next Thursday so that he can attend Supreme Court arguments on the immunity claims he raised in another of his criminal cases.

Arguing before the Supreme Court is a big deal," Justice Merchan said, before adding: "A trial in New York Supreme Court… is also a big deal. I will see him here next week."

(The writer is a legal associate at NYK Law Firm, one of the top legal consultants in Dubai)

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Movie Weapons Supervisor Sentenced to Prison in Fatal Shooting on Set of "Rust"

The Rust movie weapons supervisor has been sentenced to 18 months in prison for her involvement in the tragic shooting incident that claimed the life of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins.

The incident, which took place during a rehearsal, has sparked widespread discussions and concerns regarding safety protocols on film sets.

During the sentencing hearing on Monday, Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, the movie armourer who was convicted of involuntary manslaughter in March, faced tearful testimonials from her family members and friends.

The prosecution argued that Gutierrez-Reed had violated safety regulations by bringing live ammunition onto the set and failing to adhere to proper gun safety protocols.

Despite Gutierrez-Reed's plea for a more lenient sentence, claiming that she had done her best under challenging circumstances, Judge Margaret Montoya handed down an 18-month prison term.

In response, Gutierrez-Reed's defence attorney, Jason Bowles, announced her intention to appeal both the judgment and the sentence.

The tragic incident occurred in October 2021 on a movie set located outside Santa Fe, where actor and co-producer Alec Baldwin was rehearsing a scene.

Baldwin, who was pointing a gun at Hutchins, unintentionally discharged the revolver, resulting in Hutchins' untimely death and the injury of director Joel Souza.

This case has raised significant questions about accountability and safety measures within the film industry. As investigations continue and legal proceedings unfold, the "Rust" shooting serves as a sombre reminder of the critical importance of implementing stringent safety protocols on movie sets to prevent such devastating tragedies from occurring in the future.

(The writer is a legal associate at NYK Law Firm, one of the top legal consultants in Dubai)

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FTX Founder Sam Bankman-Fried Appeals Fraud Conviction, 25-year Prison Sentence

A lawyer representing FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried filed a notice of appeal challenging his federal fraud and conspiracy conviction along with his 25-year prison sentence. Bankman-Fried's appeal comes two weeks after receiving the sentence in US District Court in Manhattan, which also included a forfeiture order of $11 billion for his involvement in a massive fraud scheme at the cryptocurrency exchange FTX and the related hedge fund, Alameda Research.

Prosecutors described this as one of the largest financial frauds in history. The appeal, anticipated by legal experts, will be reviewed by a three-judge panel at the 2nd Circuit US Court of Appeals in Manhattan.
Federal criminal defendants face substantial challenges in overturning convictions, with fewer than 10 per cent of appeals resulting in reversals. Should Bankman-Fried's appeal fail at the 2nd Circuit, his next recourse would be petitioning the US Supreme Court, though success at this stage is typically rare.

Bankman-Fried, aged 32, was convicted after a trial in November on seven counts of fraud and conspiracy related to the misappropriation of approximately $10 billion in customer funds.
According to the Manhattan US Attorney's Office, Bankman-Fried orchestrated a scheme to embezzle customer funds for investments, political donations across party lines, personal expenses and repayment of loans taken out by Alameda Research.

During sentencing, Judge Lewis Kaplan expressed concerns about Bankman-Fried's future conduct, remarking, "There is a risk that this man will be in a position to do something very bad in the future," emphasising the gravity of the situation and the absence of any expression of remorse from the defendant.

Bankman-Fried, who comes from a family of Stanford Law professors, has suggested that FTX's financial troubles stemmed from a "liquidity crisis" or "mismanagement," rather than intentional wrongdoing.

Four other senior executives from FTX and Alameda have previously pleaded guilty. One of them, Ryan Salame, is scheduled for sentencing on May 28 before Judge Kaplan. Sentencing dates have yet to be determined for Caroline Ellison, former CEO of Alameda; FTX technology chief Gary Wang and Nishad Singh, the former engineering head at FTX.

(The writer is a legal associate at NYK Law Firm, one of the top legal consultants in Dubai)

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iPhone Users in 92 Countries Receive Spyware Attack Alert from Apple

iPhone users in 92 countries have received warnings from Apple about potential spyware attacks targeting their devices, according to a report by TechCrunch.

The message informs users that they may be targeted by a mercenary spyware attack attempting to compromise their iPhones remotely. The notification reads, "Apple detected that you are being targeted by a mercenary spyware attack that is trying to remotely compromise the iPhone associated with your Apple ID -xxx-."

Apple's alert provides further details about the incident, stating, "This attack is likely targeting you specifically because of who you are or what you do. Although it's never possible to achieve absolute certainty when detecting such attacks, Apple has high confidence in this warning — please take it seriously."

Apple clarified that it could not disclose specific details that triggered the warning due to concerns that sharing more information could aid attackers in evading detection. The company relies on internal information and investigations to identify such attacks. 

(The writer is a legal associate at NYK Law Firm, one of the top legal consultants in Dubai)

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Legal Scrutiny Surrounds Prince Harry's US Visa Application Amid Drug Use Lawsuit

The Duke of Sussex, Prince Harry, is facing legal scrutiny over his US visa application following a lawsuit initiated by The Heritage Foundation.

The lawsuit seeks to determine whether Prince Harry misrepresented information regarding his drug use on his visa application, which could potentially impact his immigration status in the United States.

Joe Biden’s legal team has complied with a court order to submit Prince Harry’s visa documents, marking a significant development in the ongoing legal battle. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) initially declined to release the documents, citing privacy concerns.

However, The Heritage Foundation argues that there is a public interest in revealing whether Prince Harry provided accurate information, given his admissions of drug use in his memoir titled 'Spare.'

In a recent court filing, The Heritage Foundation pointed out Prince Harry’s voluntary admissions of drug use in his memoir, suggesting that such disclosures could have adverse immigration consequences for non-citizens.

Judge Carl Nichols, overseeing the legal proceedings, ruled in March for an in-camera review of Prince Harry's documents to assess whether they should be made public. The court order stated: "Having reviewed the parties' written submissions and heard oral argument on the motions, the court concludes that in camera review is necessary to determine whether the records in dispute come within the scope of the claimed exemptions.”

Prince Harry's memoir provides insight into his experiences with drug use, including magic mushrooms, cocaine, and marijuana. He described using psychedelics as a way to uncover truth and challenge the illusion of daily life, stating, "There was only truth. After the psychedelics wore off my memory of that world would remain: This is not all there is.”

(The writer is a legal associate at NYK Law Firm, one of the top legal consultants in Dubai)

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Trump Media Director Accused of File Hacking in Corporate Coup Attempt: Lawsuit

Investment firms led by the former CEO of the SPAC that merged with Donald Trump’s media company allege that their files were hacked and stolen by a current member of the media company’s board of directors.

In a federal civil lawsuit filed in South Florida last month, the firms accuse board member Eric Swider of plotting a coup in early 2023 to replace Patrick Orlando as CEO of the special purpose acquisition company, Digital World Acquisition Corp.

As part of that attempted ouster, Swider and others allegedly “stole access” to the firms’ computer systems and then “used the stolen information to attack” Orlando, according to the lawsuit.

It was “an audacious scheme to seize control of and enlarge their holdings,” claims the suit, which was filed by Benessere Investment Group and ARC Global Investments II.
The suit seeks damages and an injunction “prohibiting the use of the stolen information and to stop the defendants hacking” the firms’ files.

Orlando was fired from Digital World in March 2023 and replaced by Swider. That blank check company last month completed a merger to take Trump Media & Technology Group Corp. public, allowing it to trade on the Nasdaq Stock Market. The company, which owns the Trump-centric social media app Truth Social and trades under the ticker DJT, soared in its stock market debut but those gains have since erased.

The Florida lawsuit is just one in a series of messy and dramatic legal disputes that have come to define Trump Media’s rocky road to an IPO, and its equally turbulent first weeks as a public company.

DWAC in July settled fraud charges with the Securities and Exchange Commission, though the agency found the SPAC had submitted “materially false and misleading” filings.

Trump Media in late March sued its co-founders over alleged mismanagement of the merger, and is seeking to bar them from owning the company’s stock.
Those co-founders have sued Trump Media in Delaware Chancery Court over their stake in the company.

Critics, meanwhile, have labelled the company a meme stock and a “scam.” They point to the company’s reported net loss of $58.2 million on revenue of just $4.1 million in 2023.

In an interview with media earlier Wednesday, Swider denied all of the allegations against him. “I just think he’s never let go [of] the fact that I replaced him,” Swider told the outlet. “I don’t know why it offends him so bad.”

The Lawsuit

The Florida lawsuit, which was filed shortly before the late March merger, presents Orlando as successful in his efforts to bring DWAC into a merger agreement with Trump Media.

It alleges that Swider misled DWAC’s directors and business partners by publishing “false and misleading representations of what was occurring” at the company. He also allegedly “offered outsized compensation to the other directors he enlisted to collude with him in exchange for supporting his coup d’état.”

Swider stood to massively increase his compensation through his accession to CEO of DWAC — but he also wanted to take control of ARC II, which owned about 19 per cent of DWAC prior to the merger, according to the lawsuit.

Trump Media in an April 1 regulatory filing reported that ARC II owns 6.9 per cent, or about 9.5 million shares, of the post-merger company. Information about ARC II was held in an account on an electronic file storage website owned by Benessere, the suit says.

To access the account, which “stores the lifeblood” of both investment firms, Swider allegedly enlisted Cano, Orlando’s former assistant. The firms accuse Swider of promising to make Cano the president of DWAC in exchange for access to the account.

Cano agreed, and Swider “made good on his promise,” while also providing Cano with a convertible note worth 165,000 shares of DWAC’s stock — an award valued at more than $6 million at the time, the suit alleges.

Swider said in the interview with Wired that Orlando voted for Cano’s award, adding that he never hired Cano as his assistant, as the suit alleges. The lawsuit says that Cano since February 2023 repeatedly accessed the storage account and “immediately” provided the information within it to Swider.

Swider then used it to email “false and defamatory claims” about Orlando to ARC II’s members, according to the suit. In a March 5 email — included in the lawsuit as “Exhibit A” -- Swider accused Orlando of “failure to maintain a fiduciary responsibility” to ARC II, among a litany of other claims.

“Patrick has threatened me with pending litigation for speaking out to fellow membership holders so I want to be clear about this. I am not disparaging Patrick,” Swider wrote in the email.

“I am sure he is an amazing Human being, Honest. Hardworking. Looking out for your best interest. He is good looking. He is cool. I like him. Nothing in this email is meant to be defamatory. He has been great as a leader. Patrick- you are Awesome!!”

Orlando later discovered the email because Swider “failed to remove Orlando’s wife from the mailing list,” according to the lawsuit.

(The writer is a legal associate at NYK Law Firm, one of the top legal consultants in Dubai)

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FAA Investigates Boeing Whistleblower's Claims Regarding Safety of 787 DreamlinerJets

The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is currently investigating serious allegations brought forth by Boeing whistleblower Sam Salehpour regarding the safety of Boeing's highly regarded 787 Dreamliner jets.

Salehpour, a seasoned engineer, has raised alarming concerns, suggesting that Boeing may have disregarded fundamental safety and quality standards during the production process of these aircraft, which are extensively utilised by airlines for their long-haul international flights.

In a statement issued by Salehpour's legal representatives, it was revealed that Salehpour had identified issues that could potentially compromise the structural integrity and overall longevity of the Dreamliner jets.

Shockingly, Salehpour claims that instead of addressing these concerns promptly, Boeing chose to sideline him from the 787 programme and even went as far as threatening him with termination.

Salehpour's legal advocates, have vehemently criticised Boeing's alleged prioritisation of profit over safety, suggesting that this approach has led to the negligent oversight of crucial safety issues Salehpour had flagged.

The FAA, having previously suspended deliveries of 787 jets for over a year due to quality concerns and production discrepancies until August 2022, has now launched a renewed investigation into the matter.

In response, Boeing has staunchly refuted Salehpour's allegations, maintaining unwavering confidence in the safety and reliability of the 787 Dreamliner. Nevertheless, the aerospace giant's stock experienced a noticeable decline, reflecting investor apprehensions and uncertainties surrounding the situation.

Boeing finds itself under intensified scrutiny from regulatory bodies due to persistent safety and quality concerns, resulting in notable production slowdowns and delayed deliveries.

Notable incidents involving Boeing aircraft, including the recent in-flight blowout of a door plug on an Alaska Airlines plane, have further exacerbated concerns within the aviation industry.

The company's deliveries during the March quarter registered a significant decline compared to the prior year period, prompting discussions of a management restructuring. CEO Dave Calhoun's announcement of his intended departure by the end of 2024 underscores Boeing's commitment to addressing these challenges while prioritising safety and quality as paramount concerns

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Trump's Classified Documents Case Faces Delays Amid Dispute Over Legal Basis

The legal battle surrounding Donald Trump's retention of classified information after his presidency is experiencing delays as prosecutors and defense lawyers clash over the interpretation of the law.

At the heart of the issue is whether Trump can claim immunity under the Presidential Records Act (PRA) regarding the possession of classified documents. Special Counsel Jack Smith contends that Judge Aileen Cannon is operating under a flawed legal premise, suggesting that her rulings could compromise the integrity of the trial.

Legal Analysis

The crux of the legal debate revolves around the applicability of the PRA in Trump's defense against charges related to the possession of classified information. Smith argues that the judge's reliance on the PRA's distinction between personal and presidential records is misplaced, as it does not determine the legality of possessing classified information under the Espionage Act.

On the other hand, Trump's legal team asserts that the PRA authorises his possession of the documents, challenging the prosecution's position.

Implications

The ongoing dispute raises concerns about the potential impact on the trial timeline, with the possibility of further delays pushing proceedings beyond the upcoming November election. Trump faces a myriad of charges, including those related to hush-money payments, election subversion and federal election violations.

Smith's filing suggests that if Cannon's rulings are deemed erroneous, he could seek her removal from the case through a writ of mandamus, an extraordinary legal remedy reserved for exceptional circumstances.

The contentious legal standoff underscores the complexities surrounding Trump's alleged misconduct and highlights the pivotal role of judicial interpretation in shaping the outcome of the case.

As the legal saga unfolds, it remains to be seen how the courts will navigate the intricate legal arguments and whether Trump's defense will withstand scrutiny in the courtroom.

The outcome of this dispute could have far-reaching implications for the broader legal landscape and the accountability of public officials in handling sensitive information.

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Facebook Parent Meta Planning to label all AI-generated Content Starting Next Month

Meta Platforms, the parent company of Facebook, Instagram and Threads, announced plans to introduce labels for artificial intelligence-generated audio, image, and video content starting next month. The labelling initiative aims to address concerns about misleading content on its platforms.

The company clarified that it will specifically label content generated using AI technology and will refrain from removing it unless it violates platform policies or presents significant risks.

Meta acknowledged that its current policy, established in 2020, is too narrow as it only addresses videos altered or created through AI. Monika Bickert, Meta's vice-president of content policy, highlighted the rapid evolution of AI technology, noting the emergence of realistic AI-generated audio and photos over recent years.

In response to feedback from its oversight board, which engaged with over 120 stakeholders across 34 countries, Meta conducted a public opinion poll involving more than 23,000 respondents from 13 countries. The poll revealed strong support (82 per cent of respondents) for adding warning labels to AI-generated content.

The global AI industry is projected to attract investments of up to $200 billion by 2025, potentially significantly impacting GDP, according to a report by Goldman Sachs Economic Research in August.

Despite the industry's growth, regulatory bodies are struggling to keep pace with technological advancements. In December, the EU introduced the landmark Artificial Intelligence Act, imposing fines exceeding €35 million ($38.4 million) for non-compliance.

Meta emphasised a commitment to freedom of expression and revealed that its oversight board recommended a "less restrictive" approach to addressing manipulated media through contextual labelling.

Meta will employ its own detection methods to identify AI-generated content and will label media based on user disclosures of AI use during uploads.
In cases where digitally-created or altered content poses a significant risk of public deception, Meta may apply more prominent labels to provide additional context.

Meta clarified that content removal, whether AI-generated or human-created, will be reserved for select cases violating platform rules, such as those pertaining to voter interference, bullying, violence, or incitement as outlined in its community standards.

Additionally, Meta employs nearly 100 independent fact-checkers who can demote false or altered content in users' feeds and attach overlay labels to provide further context.

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Two Anti-graft Groups File Complaint Against Lebanon's Billionaire Prime Minister in France

Two anti-corruption groups have filed a complaint in France against Lebanon's billionaire caretaker premier Najib Mikati and his relatives, seeking an investigation into alleged financial crimes including money laundering.

In a statement issued by his office, Mikati said he had not been formally notified of the complaint and that his family's wealth was acquired transparently and legally. It said the accusations were part of a "media campaign" aimed at "insulting him and his family members".

Forbes lists Mikati and his brother Taha as Lebanon's two richest men, tied for the top with $2.8 billion net worth each. The complaint, dated April 2, was lodged at the National Financial Prosecutor's office in France by anti-corruption groups Sherpa and the Collective of Victims of Fraudulent and Criminal Practices in Lebanon.

The National Financial Prosecutor's office in France said it could not immediately confirm receipt of the complaint, and declined further comment.

The complaint lays out an array of companies and real estate owned by Mikati and relatives in France, or registered in other countries, saying they warrant further inquiry to establish alleged acts of money laundering and receiving stolen goods.

"That's the kind of mechanical consequences of being a billionaire politician - you consider your position to be a kind of shelter against prosecution," William Bourdon, a lawyer for Sherpa, told news agencies.

Bourdon said he expected an investigation to be opened, and that it would also establish links between Mikati and Lebanon's former central bank governor Riad Salameh, whose 30-year legacy at the Banque du Liban (BdL) ended last year in tatters.

France and Germany have issued arrest warrants for Salameh as part of their investigations into him and his brother Raja for allegedly taking hundreds of millions of dollars from Lebanon's central bank, to the detriment of the Lebanese state, and laundering the funds abroad.

The Salameh brothers have denied any kind of wrongdoing. "The complaint particularly draws the attention of the authorities to the financial transfers between the former prime minister, his relatives and the (Central) Bank of Lebanon," a press release issued by Sherpa on Thursday said.

The statement by Mikati's office said he "confirms that what the family owns as a result of the business of its commercial companies that go back many years is characterised by complete transparency and adherence to applicable laws and the highest ethical principles".

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Detained Binance Executive in Nigerian Court over Money Laundering Charges

In an Abuja court on Thursday, one of the two executives from Binance, the world's largest cryptocurrency exchange, who was detained in Nigeria, appeared to face charges of tax evasion and money laundering.

Binance, along with its executives Tigran Gambaryan, a US citizen and Binance's head of financial crime compliance, and Nadeem Anjarwalla, a British-Kenyan regional manager for Africa, are accused of four counts of tax evasion and laundering over $35 million.

The executives were detained on February 26 during a criminal investigation into Binance's Nigerian activities upon their arrival in the country. Anjarwalla fled the country while Gambaryan remained in detention.

During his court appearance, Gambaryan was served with the charges for the first time since his detention and refrained from entering a plea. He is scheduled to be formally arraigned for the money laundering and tax charges on April 8 and 19, respectively.

While Nigeria's Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) did not charge Binance directly, it suggested that Gambaryan could represent the exchange in court.

However, Gambaryan's lawyer, Chukwuka Ikuazom, objected, citing Gambaryan's lack of authority within Binance and the absence of written instructions to represent the company.

Ikuazom argued that Gambaryan could not plead until Binance, the primary defendant, had been served, as per Nigerian law. Despite Binance's absence in court and lack of immediate comment, the company stated on Wednesday its request for Gambaryan not to be held responsible, emphasising his non-decision-making role while ongoing discussions with the Nigerian government continue.

Meanwhile, Gambaryan has petitioned a Nigerian court for his release. Nigeria attributed its currency challenges to Binance after cryptocurrency platforms became popular for trading the Nigerian naira amid chronic dollar shortage.

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Taylor Swift Strikes a Billion Chord: Forbes' List Unveils the World's Wealthiest

Billionaires are amassing wealth at an unprecedented rate, as indicated by Forbes' yearly assessment of the world's richest individuals, revealing a combined net worth of $14.2 trillion (£11.3bn) among this elite group.

Forbes' latest report unveils a record-breaking count of 2,781 individuals possessing fortunes surpassing $1 billion, marking a significant surge from previous years. This annual compilation, initiated in 1987, highlights the staggering wealth accumulation within this exclusive cohort.

In the 2024 listing, 265 newcomers made their debut, including notable figures such as pop icon Taylor Swift, renowned fashion designer Christian Louboutin and Sam Altman, the visionary behind ChatGPT's developer, OpenAI.

The collective wealth of the world's billionaires surged by $2 trillion in the span of 2023 alone. However, this exponential growth has ushered in a new hierarchy within the top one per cent.

A staggering 14 individuals now boast fortunes exceeding $100 billion, with the twenty wealthiest individuals witnessing a combined wealth escalation of $700 billion in the past year alone. Notably, the top 0.5 per cent of billionaires now command 14 per cent of the entire group's wealth.

Leading the pack for the second consecutive year is Bernard Arnault, the esteemed French magnate at the helm of LVMH, with an estimated fortune of $233 billion. Elon Musk follows closely behind with a net worth of $195 billion, trailed by Jeff Bezos at $194 billion and Mark Zuckerberg at $177 billion.

The United States continues to dominate in billionaire residency, followed closely by China. Despite experiencing a decline of 125 Chinese billionaires, largely attributed to sluggish consumer spending and a collapse in the property market, China maintains its position as the world's second-largest economy.

Conversely, the US has widened its lead over China, with a notable increase in ultra-rich individuals. Presently, the US harbours 813 billionaires boasting a collective wealth of $5.7 trillion, while China claims 406 billionaires with a combined net worth of $1.3 trillion.

In Britain, 55 billionaires call it home. Among them, Gymshark founder Ben Francis, aged 31, stands as the youngest, with a current estimated net worth of $1.3 billion. However, no new British entrants joined the Forbes ranking in 2024.

Chase Peterson-Withorn, a senior editor at Forbes, remarked, "It's been an extraordinary year for the world's wealthiest, with an unprecedented surge in billionaires worldwide. Even amid economic uncertainty for many, the super-rich continue to prosper."

Contrarily, Luke Hildyard, executive director for the High Pay Centre, voiced concern, stating, "The billionaire list underscores the disproportionate accumulation of wealth by a select few, rather than its equitable distribution for the betterment of humanity. Rectifying this wealth disparity should be a paramount objective in the years to come."

India Adds 25 New Billionaires

India added 25 new billionaires this year, increasing the total number of billionaires in the country to 200 as compared to 169 last year, according to the Forbeslist.

The combined wealth of these Indians stands at $954 billion, which is 41 per cent higher as compared with $675 billion last year.

Among Indians, Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL) CMD Mukesh Ambani topped the billionaires’ list with a total networth of $116 billion, followed by Gautam Adani ($84 billion), Shiv Nadar ($36.9 billion), Savitri Jindal & Family ($33.5 billion), and Dilip Shanghvi ($26.7 billion).

Mukesh Ambani is the only Indian in the top-10 list, at 9th rank globally.

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Former US President Donald Trump Posts $175million Bond in New York Civil Fraud Case

Former US president Donald Trump has posted a $175 million bond in his New York civil fraud case, as revealed in a court document on Monday, thereby avoiding potential asset seizures while awaiting the appeals process.

Previously, a New York appeals court had reduced the bond requirement from the original $454 million to $175 million, granting Trump a 10-day period to meet this revised sum. Originally facing the risk of asset seizure if unable to fulfill the half-billion-dollar bond, Trump secured a significant reduction and swiftly found a company, Knight Specialty Insurance Company from California, to provide the required bond, as confirmed in a court document released on Monday.

In response to the appellate division's decision, Trump stated, "I greatly respect the decision... I will post $175 million in cash and bonds or security or whatever is necessary very quickly, within the 10 days."

This development marks a temporary reprieve for the 77-year-old real estate tycoon, who, despite securing the Republican nomination once again, faces legal challenges stemming from allegations of fraud.

The case revolves around accusations that Trump and his two adult sons misrepresented the value of assets, including Trump Tower and a building at 40 Wall Street, to obtain favourable bank loans and insurance terms.

Trump, along with his family company, was found guilty in a non-jury trial by Judge Arthur Engoron, resulting in a $454 million judgment against him. While Trump is appealing this order, he remains under scrutiny for various alleged crimes, including attempting to overturn the 2020 election and falsifying business records.

In a separate case, Trump is accused of making pre-election hush money payments to a porn star, Stormy Daniels. The presiding judge has expanded a gag order to include family members of those involved, following Trump's attacks on the judge and his family members on social media platform Truth Social.

Facing a criminal trial scheduled to begin on April 15, Trump has expressed willingness to testify. This trial marks a historic event as the first-ever criminal trial of a former US president. Trump's legal battles continue to mount, with four criminal indictments and 88 felony counts against him, reflecting the extensive legal challenges he currently faces.

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Microsoft to Separate Teams and Office Globally Amid Antitrust Scrutiny: Report

Microsoft has announced plans to globally separate its chat and video app, Teams, from its Office product, following antitrust scrutiny.

The decision comes six months after the company unbundled the two products in Europe to avoid potential fines from the European Commission, which has been investigating Microsoft's tying of Office and Teams since a complaint filed in 2020 by Slack, a competing workspace messaging app owned by Salesforce.

Teams, originally added to Office 365 for free in 2017, replaced Skype for Business and saw increased popularity during the pandemic, particularly for its video conferencing capabilities. However, rivals argued that bundling the products gave Microsoft an unfair advantage.

To address concerns and provide clarity to customers, Microsoft has decided to extend the separation of Teams from Office globally, a move initially implemented in the European Economic Area and Switzerland on October 1 last year. The decision aims to offer multinational companies more flexibility in their purchasing decisions across different regions.

Analysts suggest that while Microsoft's previous concessions in response to antitrust scrutiny, notably regarding Internet browsers in 1998, led to significant changes in the market, the impact of separating Teams from Office might not be as dramatic given the entrenched nature of enterprise products like Teams.

Despite the separation, Microsoft's user base for Teams has remained relatively stable, according to data from Sensor Tower. The company has also introduced new commercial Microsoft 365 and Office 365 suites without Teams for regions outside the European Economic Area and Switzerland, along with standalone Teams offerings for enterprise customers in those regions.

Customers have the option to continue with their current licensing agreements or switch to the new offerings, with prices for Office without Teams ranging from $7.75 to $54.75 for existing customers and $5.25 for standalone Teams. However, exact pricing may vary by country and currency.

While Microsoft's efforts to unbundle Teams from Office may not fully alleviate antitrust concerns, proactive measures could potentially influence regulators' stance. The company faces the risk of significant fines, up to 10 per cent of its global annual turnover, if found guilty of antitrust breaches, having accumulated 2.2 billion euros ($2.4 billion) in EU antitrust fines over the past decade.

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Archegos Capital Lawsuit Against Goldman Sachs & Morgan Stanley Dismissed

Several lawsuits filed by investors against Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Morgan Stanley have been dismissed by a US judge.

The investors accused the banks of misconduct that contributed to the swift collapse of Bill Hwang's $36 billion firm, Archegos Capital Management, in March 2021.

The US District Judge Jed Rakoff in Manhattan dismissed the investors' claims of market manipulation and insider trading with prejudice, stating that they cannot be refiled. The lawsuits were previously dismissed by a different judge but were allowed to be brought again against Goldman and Morgan Stanley.

Hwang's utilisation of financial instruments triggered Archegos' downfall called total return swaps to amass significant stakes in companies such as ViacomCBS, Discovery, and Baidu. This approach led to an estimated $160 billion exposure in stocks.

The investors alleged that Goldman and Morgan Stanley were aware of Hwang's need to sell stocks to meet margin calls, yet still sold them, resulting in substantial losses for the investors while the banks avoided significant losses.

Judge Rakoff did not provide an explanation for his decision in a brief order, stating that an opinion would follow later. Representatives for the investors, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley did not immediately comment on the dismissal.

The collapse of Archegos caused substantial losses for various banks, including Credit Suisse and Nomura Holdings. Hwang and former Archegos CFO Patrick Halligan are scheduled to face trial on May 8 in Manhattan on charges related to the collapse, including securities fraud and weaving conspiracy. Both have pleaded not guilty to the charges.

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Bankman-FRIED!: FTX Fraud Lands Crypto Mogul 25-Year Prison Sentence

Sam Bankman-Fried was sentenced to 25 years in prison by a judge for embezzling £8 billion from customers of the now-bankrupt FTX cryptocurrency exchange he founded, marking the final chapter in the former billionaire wunderkind's dramatic downfall.

US District Judge Lewis Kaplan delivered the sentence at a Manhattan court hearing after dismissing Bankman-Fried's assertion that FTX customers hadn't genuinely lost money and accusing him of dishonesty during his trial testimony.

A jury found Bankman-Fried, 32, guilty on Nov. 2 on seven counts of fraud and conspiracy related to FTX's 2022 collapse, described by prosecutors as one of the most significant financial frauds in US history.

"He was aware it was wrongful," Kaplan remarked of Bankman-Fried before pronouncing the sentence. "He knew it was criminal. He regrets having made a very misguided bet on the likelihood of being caught. However, he refuses to admit any wrongdoing, as is his entitlement."

Bankman-Fried stood with clasped hands as Kaplan read out the sentence. Dressed in a beige short-sleeved jail t-shirt, Bankman-Fried acknowledged during a 20-minute address to the judge that FTX customers had suffered and extended an apology to his former FTX colleagues.

The sentence marked the climax of Bankman-Fried's descent from an ultra-wealthy entrepreneur and significant political donor to the most prominent target yet in a U.S. crackdown on wrongdoing in cryptocurrency markets. Bankman-Fried has pledged to appeal his conviction and sentence.

Kaplan stated he had determined that FTX customers lost £8 billion, FTX's equity investors lost £1.7 billion, and lenders to the Alameda Research hedge fund, which Bankman-Fried founded, lost £1.3 billion.

"The defendant's claim that FTX customers and creditors will be fully reimbursed is misleading, logically flawed, and speculative," Kaplan declared. "A thief who takes his spoils to Las Vegas and successfully gambles the stolen money is not entitled to a sentence reduction by utilising his Las Vegas winnings to repay what he stole."

The judge also accused Bankman-Fried of lying during his trial testimony when he denied knowledge that his hedge fund had utilised customer deposits obtained from FTX.

Federal prosecutors had sought a prison term of 40 to 50 years. Bankman-Fried's defence lawyer, Marc Mukasey, argued that a sentence of fewer than 5-1/4 years would be appropriate.

Addressing the judge, Bankman-Fried said, "Customers have been enduring... I did not mean to downplay that at all. I also believe that's something I have failed to adequately express throughout this process, and for that, I am sorry."

Speaking of his FTX colleagues, Bankman-Fried told the judge, "They invested a lot of themselves in it, and I squandered it all. It haunts me every day."
Three of his former close associates testified as prosecution witnesses at trial, asserting that he had instructed them to use FTX customer funds to cover losses at Alameda Research.

Nicolas Roos, a prosecutor with the U.S. Attorney's office in Manhattan, informed the judge, "The scale of criminality here is immense. It permeated all aspects of the business."

During the hearing, Mukasey attempted to distance his client from notorious fraudsters like Bernie Madoff. "Sam was not a heartless financial serial killer who set out every morning to harm people," Mukasey contended, portraying his client as an "awkward maths enthusiast" who diligently worked to refund customers after FTX's collapse.

"Sam Bankman-Fried doesn't make decisions out of malice," Mukasey added. "He makes decisions based on calculations." Bankman-Fried testified in his own defence, admitting to errors such as failing to implement a risk management team but denying any intent to defraud or steal customers' funds.

He was escorted into the courtroom for the hearing by members of the U.S. Marshals Service. His parents, Stanford University law professors Joseph Bankman and Barbara Fried, were in attendance.

Crypto Boom

A graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Bankman-Fried rode the surge in the values of bitcoin and other digital assets to amass a net worth of £26 billion, according to Forbes magazine, before his 30th birthday.

Bankman-Fried became known for his wild mop of curly hair and dedication to a movement known as effective altruism, which encourages talented young individuals to focus on earning money and donating it to deserving causes. He was also one of the most significant contributors to Democratic candidates and political causes in the run-up to the 2022 US midterm elections.

However, prosecutors allege that the responsible persona he projected concealed his embezzlement of customer funds over several years. Several FTX customers have written to Kaplan expressing disappointment that they will be compensated based on the value of their cryptocurrency at the time of FTX's bankruptcy rather than the higher levels at which those assets currently trade.

Bankman-Fried has been held at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn since August 2023, when Kaplan revoked his bail after finding evidence of witness tampering on at least two occasions.

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Woman Who Joined IS as a Teen Loses Bid to Challenge Citizenship Removal

Shamima Begum, the London-born woman who lost her British citizenship after joining the Islamic State group, or IS, failed in a second attempt to challenge the decision at the Supreme Court.

Begum, 24, left the UK for Syria with two friends at the age of 15 in 2015. The British government revoked her citizenship in 2019, rendering her stateless.

Married to a Dutch IS member, Begum had three children, all of whom have since died while with the group. Since 2019, she has been held in Al-Roj prison camp in northern Syria for former IS members and their relatives.

Her legal team argued earlier this year that the deprivation of her citizenship had been unlawful and that she was a victim of human trafficking. They also highlighted the dire conditions in Al-Roj, stating that detainees are effectively trapped and subjected to torture and inhuman treatment.

However, the Court of Appeal rejected Begum’s appeal to have her case heard by the Supreme Court. Lady Chief Justice Baroness Carr stated in an earlier ruling in February: “It could be argued that the decision in Begum’s case was harsh. It could also be argued that Begum is the author of her own misfortune.

But it is not for this court to agree or disagree with either point of view. Our only task is to assess whether the deprivation decision was unlawful. We have concluded it was not, and the appeal is dismissed.”

Begum still has the option to directly appeal to the Supreme Court to have her case heard. However, she also failed in an appeal to the Special Immigration Appeals Commission in February, which upheld the Home Secretary's authority to strip her of citizenship regardless of the circumstances surrounding her journey to Syria.

Sir James Eadie KC, representing the Home Office, acknowledged that the former Home Secretary Sajid Javid “was well aware of the possibility” that Begum had been groomed or trafficked. However, he emphasised that the decision to revoke her citizenship was within the secretary of state's discretion.

Begum’s legal team maintains that she “has yet to receive justice in a British court” and vows to continue fighting for her rights and a safe return home.

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South Africa's Arbitration Framework Garners Esteemed International Recognition

South Africa is swiftly emerging as a prominent jurisdiction in the arbitration sector. A recent affirmation of the caliber of South Africa’s arbitration framework is the announcement that the Arbitration Foundation of South Africa will serve as the model for the long-awaited BRICS Dispute Resolution Framework, confirmed at the Eighth BRICS Legal Forum held in Johannesburg, South Africa, in early December 2023.

Representatives from the Federal Council of the Brazilian Bar Association, the Association of Lawyers of Russia, the Bar Association of India, the China Law Society, and the Law Society of South Africa resolved to incorporate the Framework, which will be modeled on the AFSA modified Rules, ready for adoption and ratification at the next BRICS Legal Forum in 2024.

International arbitration in South Africa is governed by the International Arbitration Act (2017), which incorporates the UNCITRAL Model Law. Domestic arbitrations in South Africa are governed by the Arbitration Act (1965).

The AFSA and the Association of Arbitrators Southern Africa remain the primary domestic arbitration organisations used to resolve commercial disputes in South Africa.

Joining IFCAI

In a development that further solidifies South Africa’s reputation as a hub of international arbitration, the AFSA joined the London Court of International Arbitration and the ICC International Court of Arbitration to become a full member of the International Federation of Commercial Arbitration Institutions (IFCAI) in 2023.

With 52 members worldwide, IFCAI aims to foster relationships among commercial arbitration centers through the exchange of information and the sharing of best practices in arbitration.

Additionally, the recent AFSA-Southern African Development Community (SADC) alliance, which aims to encourage member states to align their arbitration laws with international conventions and standards, celebrated a recent milestone with the adoption of the International Arbitration Bill, 2023 (Bill) by the Malawian Parliament.

The Bill is the culmination of proposals put forward by the collaboration between AFSA and the Malawi Law Society and its adoption opens the way for Malawi to become a part of the esteemed AFSA alliance.

Young AFSA

AFSA also recently launched Young AFSA, a new arbitration association with a focus on promoting knowledge-sharing, skills-building and networking among legal professionals and students between the ages of 18 and 40. Membership is free, making it a highly accessible forum for young professionals interested in arbitration.

Young AFSA aims to organise skills-focused programmes, seminars and social events for knowledge exchange, as well as to encourage and foster relationships between young professionals across Southern Africa. Young AFSA hosted its inaugural event in November 2023.

These significant developments underscore South Africa’s reputation and commitment to advancing arbitration across Southern Africa.

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European Union Investigates Apple, Google and Meta under Digital Markets Act

Apple, Google and Meta Platforms are under scrutiny for potential violations of the EU's new Digital Markets Act (DMA), European antitrust regulators announced on Monday.

This could lead to substantial fines for these tech giants. The law, in effect since March 7, seeks to challenge the dominance of these companies by facilitating easier transitions between competing online services, such as social media platforms, internet browsers and app stores, ultimately fostering an environment for smaller companies to compete.

Breaches could result in fines of up to 10 per cent of the companies' global annual turnover. Concurrently, US antitrust regulators are also investigating Big Tech for alleged anti-competitive practices, potentially leading to divestitures.

Tech companies claim to have allocated significant resources to meet the Digital Markets Act's requirements, particularly concerning the designation of six "gatekeepers." However, the European Commission expressed doubts about the adequacy of their efforts, as reported by Reuters.

In response to queries about the rapidity of the investigations post the act's implementation, EU industry chief Thierry Breton emphasised the importance of upholding the law promptly, stating, "The law is the law. We can't just sit around and wait."

The investigation centres on whether Apple complies with obligations regarding the uninstallation of software applications, changing default settings and providing choice screens for rival services on its iOS operating system.

Additionally, regulators are concerned about "steering," assessing whether Apple limits app developers from informing users about offers outside its App Store.

Apple expressed confidence in its compliance with the DMA, highlighting its responsiveness to the Commission and developers' feedback.

The Commission highlighted Apple and Alphabet's fee structures, stating they contradict the DMA's "free of charge" requirement, particularly as both companies recently introduced new fees for some services.

Breton urged Meta to offer free alternative options, following criticism of its no-ads subscription service introduced in Europe.

Google and Meta stated their commitment to comply with the act's guidance, with Google asserting significant changes to its services and readiness to defend its approach.

The Commission is also investigating Apple's new fee structure for alternative app stores and Amazon's ranking practices on its marketplace.

Amazon, designated as a DMA "gatekeeper," affirmed its compliance with the act and ongoing collaboration with the European Commission.

The EU executive aims to conclude investigations within a year, as outlined under the DMA, directing companies to retain relevant documents for current and future probes.

These investigations follow mounting criticism from app developers and business users regarding perceived shortcomings in the companies' compliance efforts.

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American Express Faces Lawsuit in Rhode Island Federal Court Over Swipe Fees

American Express is facing a proposed class action lawsuit in Rhode Island federal court, which alleges that the company has overcharged several US merchants for credit and debit card fees on consumer transactions.

Filed by 10 retail plaintiffs, including a delicatessen, fine clothier, florist and furniture store, the lawsuit seeks a court order to halt American Express policies that allegedly violate US antitrust laws.

According to the lawsuit, American Express employs "non-discrimination provisions" to prevent merchants from encouraging customers to use payment cards with lower transaction fees, thereby limiting competition. American

Express and the plaintiffs' attorneys have not yet commented on the lawsuit. The merchants' allegations echo similar claims made against Visa and Mastercard regarding swipe fees in a coordinated legal proceeding in Brooklyn federal court.

While Visa and Mastercard abandoned their rules prohibiting merchants from steering customers towards lower-cost payment methods by the end of 2013, American Express's policies allegedly persist.

The lawsuit asserts that American Express's rules exclusively prohibit US merchants from utilising discounts, surcharges, verbal prompting, signage and other techniques to incentivise customers to use cheaper payment cards.

Furthermore, the presence of binding arbitration clauses between American Express and merchants has reportedly impeded efforts to address the plaintiffs' claims.

Initially, the 5,155 merchants involved in the lawsuit pursued individual claims through arbitration. However, American Express declined to cover a $16 million arbitration invoice, resulting in the cases being administratively closed.

The merchants argue that American Express's default in the arbitration proceedings precludes it from preventing them from pursuing their claims in US court.

According to the lawsuit, credit card swipe fees significantly diminish the earnings of many small business owners, consuming approximately half of their monthly profits.

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Prince Harry's Landline Calls were Bugged by Murdoch’s Tabloids, Say Lawyers

Rupert Murdoch’s British tabloid papers allegedly intercepted Prince Harry’s landline phones and accessed the messages on the pager of his late mother Princess Diana, as disclosed by the British royal’s legal team to the London High Court.

Harry, the younger son of King Charles and the late Princess Diana, along with more than 40 others, are suing News Group Newspapers (NGN) over allegations of unlawful activities by journalists and private investigators associated with its tabloids, the Sun and the now-defunct News of the World, spanning from the mid-1990s until 2016.

In a ruling last July, Judge Timothy Fancourt allowed Harry to proceed to trial with claims of unlawful information gathering, while dismissing allegations of mobile phone hacking due to being filed too late.

During a hearing at the High Court on Thursday, Harry’s legal team sought to amend his lawsuit in response to the ruling, and to introduce additional allegations.

These new claims include assertions that the Sun commissioned private investigators to target his then-girlfriend and now-wife Meghan in 2016, as well as accusations of widespread phone bugging.

According to court documents, Harry's lawyers stated: “The claimant also brings a claim and seeks relief in relation to the interception of landline calls, the interception of calls from cordless phones and analogue mobile calls and the interception of landline voicemails, as distinct from phone hacking.”

The claim also involves allegations regarding Diana, who "was under close surveillance and her calls were being unlawfully intercepted by NGN, which was known about by its editors and senior executives."

NGN is contesting the addition of what they referred to as a “significant number of new allegations” for various reasons, including their late submission, lack of evidence, and their overlap with previously dismissed phone-hacking claims.

NGN’s lawyers argued in court filings: “They cover time periods falling outside the scope of the current pleading and the generic statements of case, and in many cases relate to allegations which have been well-publicised for as long as 30 years.”

NGN’s lawyers also expressed doubts about the feasibility of Harry's case being heard at a trial expected to commence in January next year if his new allegations were to be included.

In 2011, NGN issued an apology for widespread phone hacking by journalists at the News of the World, a publication that Murdoch subsequently shut down due to public outcry. Despite settling over 1,300 claims since then, NGN has consistently denied any wrongdoing by Sunstaff.

During proceedings on Wednesday, lawyers representing Harry and other claimants asserted that Murdoch and other senior executives were complicit in covering up widespread misconduct, providing false evidence to courts, parliament and a public inquiry.

NGN contends that some claimants are utilising these lawsuits as a means to attack the tabloid press and dismisses allegations against its current and former staff as “a baseless and cynical assault on their integrity.”

Since stepping back from royal duties in 2020 to relocate to California, Harry has focused on confronting the British press, alleging intrusion into his private life since childhood and dissemination of false information about him and his loved ones.

In December, Harry won a lawsuit against Mirror Group Newspapers over allegations of phone hacking and unlawful activities, with the judge acknowledging that senior figures were aware of the wrongdoing.

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Italy PM Giorgia Meloni Seeks $100k in Damages for Deepfake Pornographic Videos

Italy's Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni is taking legal action and seeking €100,000 ($109,345) in damages after explicit deepfake videos depicting her were created and circulated online without her consent.

Deepfake technology involves digitally superimposing one person's face onto another's body. The videos in question emerged in 2022, predating Meloni's appointment as Italy's Prime Minister.

Authorities have identified and charged a 40-year-old man and his 73-year-old father with defamation for allegedly creating and uploading the manipulated videos, which superimposed Meloni's face onto pornographic material.

According to a report by the BBC, the police were able to locate the accused individuals by tracking the smartphone used to upload the videos. Under Italian law, certain forms of defamation can constitute criminal offenses, potentially resulting in imprisonment. Meloni is slated to testify before a court on July 2.

The indictment asserts that the altered videos were uploaded to a pornographic website based in the United States, amassing "millions of views" over several months.

Meloni's legal team has characterised the €100,000 damages claim as "symbolic," affirming that the Prime Minister plans to donate the entire sum to organisations aiding women who have suffered gender-based violence.

Maria Giulia Marongiu, Meloni's attorney, said: "The demand for compensation will send a message to women who are victims of this kind of abuse of power not to be afraid to press charges."

Deepfakes represent a type of synthetic media generated using artificial intelligence (AI) to manipulate visual and audio content, often with malicious intent, to appear genuine.

The term "deepfake" originated in late 2017 on Reddit when a user by the same name established a platform for sharing pornographic videos created with open-source face-swapping technology.

As AI capabilities advance, deepfakes have become increasingly realistic and widespread, posing a significant threat to public trust and information integrity.

These highly convincing fake audio and video recordings can be exploited to spread misinformation, sway public opinion, and damage reputations by depicting individuals engaging in actions or making statements they never actually did.

The proliferation of deepfakes has prompted global leaders to express concerns about their potential for misuse and the propagation of disinformation.

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US Files Landmark Case Against Apple For Monopolising Smartphone Market

The US Department of Justice filed a landmark lawsuit against Apple, alleging the tech giant's monopolistic practices in the smartphone market.

The lawsuit, supported by several US states, contends that Apple has unlawfully maintained its dominance in the iPhone realm, stifling competition and burdening consumers with excessive costs.

This highly anticipated legal action marks a significant clash between Apple, founded by Steve Jobs in 1976, and the US government, following decades of limited scrutiny from Washington.

Apple now joins other tech giants like Amazon, Google, and Meta (formerly Facebook) facing antitrust scrutiny in the United States. Upon news of the lawsuit, Apple's shares plummeted by as much as 3.75 per cent on Wall Street.

Central to the case are allegations of Apple's exclusionary tactics, which impose stringent and often opaque conditions on firms and developers seeking access to the iPhone's vast user base of 136 million in the US.

The lawsuit claims that these practices compel consumers to remain within the Apple ecosystem and invest in the company's pricier hardware, notably the iPhone.

Apple swiftly refuted the lawsuit's validity, asserting that it is "wrong on the facts and the law," and vowed to vigorously defend against it. The company contends that a favourable ruling for the government would establish a concerning precedent, granting excessive regulatory control over technological innovation.

The lawsuit specifically targets Apple's alleged suppression of "Super Apps," comprehensive web portals that could offer various services on iPhones beyond the confines of the App Store.

Additionally, it accuses Apple of monopolising tap payment technology through its proprietary wallet app and impeding interoperability between messaging apps on iPhones and Android devices.

The broad scope of the case extends to other products and services, including smartwatches and web browsers, where Apple's practices allegedly hinder competition and innovation.

Despite Apple's efforts to diversify revenue streams beyond the iPhone, the company faces mounting pressure amid slowing sales growth. The Department of Justice highlighted Apple's unprecedented profits, surpassing those of any other company in the Fortune 500 and exceeding the GDP of over 100 countries.

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US Secretary of State Blinken Unveils Draft US Resolution for Immediate Gaza Ceasefire

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has announced the introduction of a draft resolution at the United Nations Security Council, urging for an "immediate ceasefire linked to the release of hostages" in the Gaza Strip.

"We have presented a resolution to the United Nations Security Council, advocating for an immediate ceasefire tied to the release of hostages. We hope for broad support from member states," stated Blinken during discussions with Saudi media outlet Al Hadath while visiting Saudi Arabia to address the conflict between Israel and Hamas.

Blinken held meetings with Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan and later engaged in talks with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman upon his arrival in the kingdom. This visit marks the beginning of a regional tour, with scheduled stops in Egypt on Thursday and Israel thereafter.

This trip marks Blinken's sixth visit to the Middle East since the conflict commenced on October 7. Blinken emphasised the necessity of prioritising the safety and well-being of civilians caught in the crossfire. "We stand with Israel in its defence, but it's imperative to prioritise the safety of civilians and provide them with necessary humanitarian assistance," he stressed.

Following the rejection of an Algerian proposal for an "immediate humanitarian ceasefire" in Gaza in late February, US officials have been engaged in negotiations for an alternative resolution, focusing on diplomatic efforts for a six-week truce in exchange for the release of hostages.

The revised draft, circulated among Security Council members, emphasises "the urgent need for an immediate and sustainable ceasefire to protect civilians on all sides, facilitate the delivery of essential humanitarian aid, and mitigate suffering... in conjunction with the release of hostages still held." However, no vote has been scheduled for this text.

Simultaneously, discussions are ongoing in Qatar, where mediators convened for a third consecutive day on Wednesday in a renewed attempt to broker a ceasefire, although signs of an imminent agreement remain elusive.

Blinken expressed cautious optimism regarding the mediation efforts in Doha, stating, "Progress is being made. There's narrowing of differences and reaching an agreement seems feasible." He further noted ongoing negotiations with Hamas, highlighting their recent counterproposals.

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Donald Trump Says Prince Harry Could be Deported from US Over Drug Use

Former US President Donald Trump stated that if Prince Harry had lied on his visa application regarding drug-taking, he would pursue "appropriate action" if he were to win November's presidential election, refusing to rule out the possibility of Harry leaving the United States.

Trump made these remarks in an interview with British right-leaning media outlet GB News, conducted by presenter and frequent Harry critic Nigel Farage.
US visa applicants are obligated to disclose any history of drug use, as it can impact their application status. Providing false information on an application can lead to penalties, including deportation.

Harry, who has resided in California since 2020, openly admitted to past illegal drug use in his memoir "Spare." Subsequently, the conservative think tank, the Heritage Foundation, filed a lawsuit against the US Homeland Security Department to obtain access to Harry's immigration records. Earlier this month, a judge ruled in favour of disclosing the details related to Harry's visa application in that case.

Farage, a long-time ally of Trump, asked the former president if Prince Harry should be granted any "special privileges" if it was discovered that he had lied on his application.
Trump responded: "No. We'll have to determine if they have information regarding the drugs, and if he indeed lied, appropriate action will be taken."

When pressed on whether this might entail Harry "not staying in America," Trump replied, "Oh, I don't know. You'll have to inform me. It's surprising they didn't know this earlier."

Since Prince Harry and his wife Meghan Markle stepped back from their royal duties and relocated to California, they have frequently criticised the treatment they received from the British royal family.

From their revealing interview with Oprah Winfrey in 2021 to a Netflix documentary series and Harry's forthcoming book, the couple has asserted that the royals and their aides failed to shield them from a hostile press and leaked negative stories.

Since departing for the United States after their marriage in 2018, the couple has seldom returned to Britai.

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UK Police Urged to Investigate Attempted Breach of Kate Middleton Medical Records

The UK Police have been asked to look at claims that at least one worker attempted to access the confidential medical records of Catherine, Princess of Wales during her hospitalisation for abdominal surgery, a minister said on Wednesday.

The request follows a report in the Daily Mirror newspaper which said at least one attempt was made to access the private information at The London Clinic, a private hospital in central London.

Catherine, who is widely known as Kate and whose husband is heir to the throne Prince William, spent two weeks there in January. Details of her condition have not been released but her Kensington Palace office previously said it was not cancer-related and that the princess wished her personal medical information to remain private.

Health minister Maria Caulfield said the rules on accessing patient information were "very, very clear". "Unless you're looking after that patient, or unless they've given you their consent, you should not be looking at patients' notes," she told LBC radio.

"My understanding is that police have been asked to look at it," she said. A statement from London's Metropolitan Police said it was "not aware of any referral... at this time".
Meanwhile, the UK's data protection watchdog meanwhile said it would examine the matter.

"We can confirm that we have received a breach report and are assessing the information provided," a spokesperson for the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) said.
In a statement to the Mirror, The London Clinic said: "We firmly believe that all our patients, no matter their status, deserve total privacy and confidentiality regarding their medical information."

Kate was at the centre of controversy last week after she admitted editing an official portrait of her and her three children that was released by Buckingham Palace on Mothering Sunday.

It further stoked online speculation about her health and whereabouts after she had not been seen at a public event since a Christmas Day church service. The palace had said in January she would require a lengthy recuperation and would not return to royal duties until at least April.

But instead of calming fears over her health, the edited picture sent the rumour mill into overdrive as media scrambled to pull the picture. Kate apologised but faced criticism even from usually supportive media.

British media have said that Kate is still not due to return to public duties until mid-April.

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UN Announces World's Happiest Countries List: Finland Retains First Position

The innate desire for happiness is inherent in every individual, travelling through various cultures and heritages. This process acts as a crucial instrument for governments, policymakers and institutions, enabling a comprehensive grasp of the elements that influence citizen satisfaction.

In celebration of World Happiness Day, the UN has unveiled its list of the world's happiest countries.

Finland proudly retains its title as the world's happiest country for the seventh consecutive year. This recognition comes as part of the UN-sponsored index, an annual ranking of global happiness levels.

For the first time since the report was published more than a decade ago, the United States and Germany were not among the 20 happiest nations.

The report examines six factors affecting life satisfaction: wealth (GDP per capita), social connections, health, freedom, generosity, and minimal corruption.

Additionally, Nordic countries kept their places among the 10 most cheerful, with Denmark, Iceland and Sweden trailing Finland.

Notably, Kuwait is the happiest country in the Gulf region, securing an impressive 13th position worldwide. This marks Kuwait's debut in the global top 20, showcasing a remarkable leap from its previous rank of 50th.

Meanwhile, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) maintains its status of relative contentment, climbing to the 21st position from last year's 26th. This positive shift underscores the ongoing happiness trends within the Emirates.

India currently holds the 126th position among 146 countries in the World Happiness Report, with a happiness score of 4.054.

This places India among the nations with lower levels of happiness globally. Notably, India's ranking in the happiness index falls behind that of neighbouring countries such as Nepal, Bangladesh, and China.

As nations worldwide celebrate the pursuit of happiness, these rankings offer insights into the factors contributing to overall well-being on both a global and regional scale.

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US Government Capturing Mythical Monsters! How AI conspiracies are flooding TikTok?

From vampires and wendigos to killer asteroids, TikTok users are pumping out outlandish end-of-the-world conspiracy theories, researchers say, in yet another misinformation trend on a platform whose fate in the United States hangs in the balance.

In the trend reported by the nonprofit Media Matters, TikTok users seek to monetize viral videos that make unfounded claims about the US government secretly capturing or preserving mythical monsters that include - wait for it - King Kong.

It is the latest illustration of misinformation swirling on the platform - a stubborn issue that has been largely absent in recent policy debates as US lawmakers mull banning the Chinese-owned app on grounds of national security.

Often accompanied by spooky background music, the videos - many of which garner millions of views - feature imperious AI-generated voices, sometimes mimicking celebrities.

“We are all probably going to die in the next few years. Did you hear about this?” said a voice impersonating podcaster Joe Rogan in one viral video.

“There’s this asteroid that is on a collision course with Earth,” the voice claims, citing information leaked by a government official who stumbled upon a folder titled “keep secret from the public.”

At least one account peddling that video appeared to be deactivated after AFP reached TikTok for comment.

Highly Engaging

Conspiracy theory videos, often posted by anonymous accounts, typically had the tell-tale signs of AI-generated images such as extra fingers and distortions, said TikTok misinformation researcher Abbie Richards.

Peddling such theories can be financially rewarding, Richards said, with TikTok’s “Creativity Program” designed to pay creators for content generated on the platform.

It has spawned what she called a cottage industry of conspiracy theory videos powered by artificial intelligence tools including text-to-speech applications that are widely - and freely - available online.

A TikTok spokeswoman insisted that “conspiracy theories are not eligible to earn money or be recommended” in user feeds.

“Harmful misinformation is prohibited, with our safety teams removing 95 percent of it proactively before it’s reported,” she told AFP.

Still, tutorials on platforms such as YouTube show users how to create “viral conspiracy theory videos” and profit off TikTok’s Creativity Program.

One such tutorial openly instructed users to start by making up “something outrageous” such as “scientists just got caught hiding a saber-toothed tiger.”

“Financially incentivizing content that is both highly engaging and cheap to manufacture creates an environment for conspiracy theories to thrive,” Richards wrote in the Media Matters report.

Threat of AI

Such concerns, driven by rapid advancements in AI, are particularly high in a year of major elections around the world.

Last week, the European Union wielded its powerful Digital Services Act (DSA) to press several platforms including TikTok on the risks of AI - including from deepfakes - for upcoming elections in the 27-nation bloc.

In the United States, where the app has some 170 million users - roughly half the country’s population - lawmakers last week overwhelmingly backed a bill to ban TikTok unless Chinese parent company ByteDance divested itself within six months.

The bill, which still needs to pass the more cautious upper house of the US Congress, risks riling young voters in a key election year.

US policymakers have repeatedly expressed concerns about TikTok’s user data safety and its apparent impact on national security.

According to a report from the US Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the Chinese government is using TikTok to expand its global influence operations to promote pro-Beijing narratives and undermine American democracy, including through disinformation.

“Disinformation should be part of the debate about TikTok,” Aynne Kokas, a media studies professor at the University of Virginia, told AFP.

Many experts, however, as well as young users who rely on the app as their primary source of news, oppose banning TikTok, saying it’s unfair to single out the platform.

“There’s lots of misinformation on TikTok, just as there is on other social media platforms. Some of that misinformation is dangerous,” Jameel Jaffer, director of the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University, told AFP.

“(But) investing the government with the authority to suppress misinformation - or to ban Americans from accessing platforms that host misinformation - is not a sensible response to this problem. Nor would it be a constitutional one,” he added.

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Man Who Claimed he Invented Bitcoin is not ‘Satoshi Nakamoto,’ UK Judge Rules

A judge at London’s High Court ruled on Thursday that Craig Wright, an Australian computer scientist who asserts he created bitcoin, is not “Satoshi Nakamoto,” the pseudonymous inventor of the cryptocurrency.

Wright has long maintained authorship of a 2008 white paper, the foundational text of bitcoin, published under a pseudonym.
The Crypto Open Patent Alliance (COPA) brought Wright to court to prevent him from suing
bitcoin developers, asking for a ruling that Wright was not Satoshi.

Judge James Mellor concluded that the evidence disproving Wright’s claim to being Satoshi was substantial. “Dr Wright is not the author of the Bitcoin white paper... Dr Wright did not operate under the pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto during the period of 2008 to 2011,” he stated.

COPA, whose members include Twitter founder Jack Dorsey’s payments firm Block, hailed the ruling as a victory for developers, the open-source community, and truth.

A COPA spokesperson emphasised that Wright and his supporters had propagated falsehoods about his identity for over eight years to intimidate bitcoin developers, and this ruling exposed the truth.

Wright’s spokesperson declined to comment at this time. Allegations of perjury were levelled against Wright by COPA, who claimed he repeatedly forged documents, including during the trial itself, an accusation Wright denied during his testimony.

COPA’s lawyer accused Wright of fabricating evidence on a large scale, even employing ChatGPT forgeries.

Wright’s legal team argued that he provided substantial evidence proving his authorship of the white paper and creation of bitcoin.

COPA’s lawyers requested Judge Mellor to refer the case to Britain’s Crown Prosecution Service for potential prosecution on charges of perjury and obstructing justice, though Mellor did not indicate whether he would do so.

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Dutch Footballer Arrested in Dubai for Involvement in Cocaine Smuggling Case

Dutch football star Quincy Promes, who was convicted in absentia last month by an Amsterdam court of involvement in cocaine smuggling and sentenced to six years in prison, has reportedly been arrested by authorities in Dubai at the request of Dutch prosecutors who will seek his extradition.

Prosecutors did not confirm Promes' name but said in a statement that a 32-year-old man who lives in Moscow was arrested in Dubai, Associated Press reported.
Promes, 32, lives in the Russian capital, where he plays for Spartak Moscow. Dutch prosecutors rarely release the names of suspects in criminal cases.

"The arrest was made based on a Red Notice issued by the Netherlands. The Netherlands will request the extradition of the man," the Amsterdam Public Prosecution office said.

A Red Notice is a global request, based on an arrest warrant or court order, for law enforcement authorities to locate and provisionally arrest a person pending extradition, surrender, or similar legal action, prosecutors said.

"The arrested man was reportedly staying in luxury in Dubai according to various media reports. However, he has been taken into custody thanks to the efforts of the authorities in both countries," they added.

"At this time, it is not possible to provide additional information to avoid disruption of the ongoing investigation." Spartak recently played friendly matches in the United Arab Emirates. Promes hasn't appeared in recent games.

Promes, who scored seven goals in 50 international matches for the Netherlands before legal issues derailed his international career, was convicted last month of complicity in cocaine smuggling and sentenced in his absence to six years in prison.

Amsterdam District Court ruled that Promes was involved in the import and export of hundreds of kilogrammes of cocaine in 2020. It was not his first conviction. Last year, Promes was found guilty of stabbing his cousin in the leg and was sentenced to 18 months in prison.

Promes, a former player for Ajax and Sevilla, lives in Moscow and did not appear at his trial in the Dutch capital. His lawyers told judges he denied the allegations.

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Ex-PM Bhutto, Hanged in 1979, was Denied Fair Trial, Says Pakistan Supreme Court

Pakistan's highest court has declared that former Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, who was executed in 1979, did not receive a fair trial.
Bhutto, the founder of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), was hanged in a Rawalpindi prison on April 4, 1979, after being found guilty of orchestrating the murder of a political opponent.

The Supreme Court's Chief Justice, Qazi Faez Isa, made the announcement in response to a presidential reference filed 12 years ago. He stated, "We didn’t find that the fair trial and due process requirements were met."

Bhutto's hanging occurred under the rule of military dictator General Muhammad Zia-ul Haq, who had ousted him from power two years earlier and continued to rule until his death in a plane crash in 1988.

The court's ruling concludes a lengthy hearing initiated by Asif Ali Zardari, Bhutto's son-in-law and the husband of Benazir Bhutto, who served as prime minister twice before being assassinated in 2007. Zardari sought the court's opinion on whether Bhutto's murder trial adhered to due process and fair trial standards.

Bhutto's execution was widely condemned by legal experts in Pakistan as a "judicial murder" carried out under military influence. Chief Justice Isa acknowledged past instances where the judiciary's actions had been influenced by fear or favor, emphasising the need for accountability and commitment to justice.

Bhutto's grandson, Bhutto Zardari, expressed relief at the court's decision, stating, "Our family waited 3 generations to hear these words." However, he also highlighted the challenges faced by the Pakistani people in trusting the court to deliver justice, especially in high-profile cases.

The court's verdict has been hailed by politicians and human rights advocates as a significant step towards rectifying past injustices. Taj Haider, a PPP leader, described it as "massive in its impact," expressing hope for positive changes in the judicial system's approach to delivering justice.

Saroop Ijaz, a senior counsel for Human Rights Watch, emphasized the importance of the court's acknowledgment of past injustices, particularly under Zia-ul Haq's regime. He urged for meaningful reforms and the rebuilding of public trust in the justice system.

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Super Tuesday: Trump and Biden Near Rematch After Dominating State Primaries

US President Joe Biden from the Democratic Party and his Republican predecessor Donald Trump have swept in their parties’ presidential nomination primaries held in 15 states across the country, paving the way for a rematch between them in November and putting pressure on Indian-American candidate Nikki Haley to quit.

After Super Tuesday’s election results, Trump, 77, is hoping to establish a commanding lead in the delegate count and vanquish his only Republican opponent, Haley.

Seeking his re-election, Biden, 81, swept almost all the Democratic primary states. He lost to Jason Palmer in American Samoa.
“Joe Biden isn’t facing any major competition in the primary cycle, and has won all the Democratic contests so far tonight, CNN projects, as he gears up for a likely rematch with  Trump in November,” CNN said.
Haley, 52, the former US envoy to the UN failed to make a mark Tuesday even as she showed strong support in the states of Vermont, where she won.

That victory, however, will do little to dent Trump’s primary dominance. Trump prevailed in most of the Super Tuesday states: California, Texas, North Carolina, Tennessee, Alabama, Virginia, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Massachusetts, Utah, Minnesota, Colorado, Arkansas and Maine.

Super Tuesday is an important phase of presidential primaries when the early contests are over, and voters from multiple states cast ballots in primaries timed to occur on the same date. Almost all the results were one-sided in favour of Trump except for Vermont, where the winning difference was about one per cent.

More than a third of all the Republican delegates were at stake on Super Tuesday, the biggest haul of any date on the primary calendar.

To win the presidential nomination of the Republican party, either of the two candidates needs 1,215 delegates, who are elected during the primaries. Before Super Tuesday, Trump had 244 delegates in his kitty, while Haley had 43.

Speaking from Palm Beach, Florida, Trump claimed that “we have a very divided country,” and vowed to unify it soon.
“This was an amazing night and an amazing day, it’s been an incredible period of time in our country’s history,” Trump said at his election night watch party at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach.

“We have a very divided country. We have a country [where] a political person uses weaponisation against his political opponents,” he said. He compared the state of the US political system to “third-world countries”.

“Never happened here. It happens in other countries, but they’re third-world countries. And in some ways, we’re a third-world country.” Talking up some of his achievements from his time in office, notably the half-built border wall between the US and Mexico,  Trump claimed he delivered “the safest borders in the history of our country” and went on to rail against what he described as “migrant crime”, without citing any evidence. “And so the world is laughing at us, the world is taking advantage of us,” he said.

Biden Slams Trump

Earlier, Biden touted the work his administration has accomplished in its first term in office while issuing a stark warning that a second Trump term would mean a return to “chaos, division, and darkness.” “Four years ago, I ran because of the existential threat Donald Trump posed to the America we all believe in,” Biden wrote in a statement, highlighting progress under his administration on jobs, inflation, prescription drug prices and gun control.

He then warned that if Trump returns to the White House, the progress his administration has made will be at risk.

 Haley Bid in Trouble

Haley, the former South Carolina governor, said she has not made a final decision as to whether or not she would endorse her ex-boss Trump if she ends her presidential bid, but her campaign is receiving a lot of feedback on the subject, sources familiar with recent discussions tell CNN.

People who are close to Haley have different opinions. Some believe that it would be good for her to back Trump because she would be viewed as a team player. Others ardently oppose her endorsing him because that would give Ms. Haley the freedom to be critical of Mr. Trump and build her own movement. They have shared those opinions with Ms. Haley and her campaign in recent days and weeks, sources said, CNN said.

Haley herself has recently said she is not focused on endorsing anyone because she is focused on winning herself.
Trump, however, in an interview on Tuesday bashed Haley, saying she was angry because her campaign is “just getting nowhere.” 

Trump’s campaign is also hoping that a definitive win in Super Tuesday will effectively force Ms. Haley to drop out of the race.
“President Biden and former President Donald J. Trump romped through the opening contests of Super Tuesday, piling up wins in states including Texas, the second-largest delegate prize of the night, as they moved inexorably toward their parties’ nominations and a rematch for the White House in November,” The New York Times reported.

“Former president Donald Trump and President Biden are dominating Super Tuesday contests with roughly one-third of the delegates at stake that will determine the Republican and Democratic party nominations. Voters in 15 states are participating in primaries or caucuses,” The Washington Post said.

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Celebrity 'Monk' Jay Shetty Under Scanner for Fabricating His Life Story

Renowned life coach and influencer, Jay Shetty, who presided over the wedding of Hollywood stars Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck in 2022, faces scrutiny following allegations by The Guardian that he fabricated elements of his life story and plagiarised multiple social media posts.

The 36-year-old, also well-known in Bollywood circles, currently leads a meditation startup valued at approximately $2 billion. Additionally, he is the author of two bestselling books: Think Like a Monk, a memoir and self-help manual based on his exploration of Hinduism, and 8 Rules of Love, offering guidance on romantic relationships.

According to Shetty's official website, he spent school vacations living with monks in India, absorbing their teachings and wisdom. However, The Guardian alleges that Shetty falsely claimed to have spent three years in an Indian temple.

Shetty has shared his life journey on talk shows and in his books, recounting a pivotal spiritual awakening during his time at a business school in London, inspired by a talk given by Gauranga Das, a monk from Iskon.

However, discrepancies emerged as Shetty's age varies in his narrative, with conflicting accounts of his interactions with Das. The Guardian found various inconsistencies in his story. For example, Shetty often changes his age in the tale. At times he says he was 18, and on other occasions, he said he was 21 and 22 when he attended Das's talk. While Shetty's legal team and Gauranga Das confirm the 2007 talk, indicating Shetty was 19 at the time, other sources suggest he was involved with Iskcon before then.

Moreover, Shetty's associates, including a former girlfriend, said that he was in Iskcon before meeting Das in 2007. “It doesn’t make sense,” The Guardian quoted Chaitanya Lila, a member of Iskcon who was in a romantic relationship with Shetty from June 2008 to December 2009, as saying. “He was in Iskcon before 2007.”

Former associates assert that while Shetty did travel to India, his time there was shorter than he claims. Some suggest he primarily stayed at Bhaktivedanta Manor outside London, rather than in Mumbai as he asserts. Shetty's travel blog from the time indicates he spent several months in India, followed by activities in London.

The controversy surrounding Shetty raises questions about the authenticity of his personal narrative and underscores the importance of transparency and honesty in public figures.

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Donald Trump Wins Supreme Court Battle over Colorado Primary Vote

Former President Donald Trump emerged victorious in a pivotal Supreme Court battle concerning his eligibility for the Colorado Republican primary ballot.

The Supreme Court unanimously overturned a prior decision by Colorado's top court, which had barred Trump from the state's ballot due to his alleged role in inciting and supporting the Capitol attack on January 6, 2021.

The justices' ruling paved the way for Trump's inclusion in Colorado's Republican primary, slated for the same day as the ruling. With Trump positioned as the frontrunner for the Republican nomination, his only remaining competitor, former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, now faces an uphill battle.

Notably, Trump had also faced disqualification from primary ballots in Maine and Illinois based on the same constitutional provision, pending the outcome of the Colorado case. However, those decisions were temporarily stayed pending the Supreme Court's judgment.

While the Supreme Court justices unanimously concurred, liberal and conservative justices alike emphasised that the opinion exceeded the immediate case's scope by indicating that Section 3 of the 14th Amendment, which bars individuals who engaged in insurrection from holding office, could only be enforced through federal legislation.

The landmark case marked the Supreme Court's first encounter with a provision of the 14th Amendment, adopted post-Civil War to prevent former insurrectionists from holding public office.

Observers warn that the requirement for congressional action to enforce Section 3 could lead to renewed battles, potentially even sparking a constitutional crisis if Democrats were to challenge Trump's election under the clause in a Democrat-controlled Congress.

The legal skirmish is just one among several legal entanglements Trump has faced since leaving office. He currently faces criminal charges related to election interference and mishandling of confidential documents, as well as civil cases involving fraud and sexual abuse, with significant financial penalties looming.

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Elon Musk Sues OpenAI and CEO Sam Altman for Breach of Contract

Elon Musk has filed a lawsuit against OpenAI and its CEO, Sam Altman, as well as others, alleging a breach of contractual agreements when Musk helped establish the ChatGPT-maker in 2015.

The lawsuit, filed in San Francisco, claims that Altman and OpenAI's co-founder, Greg Brockman, initially approached Musk to create an open-source, non-profit organisation focused on developing artificial intelligence technology for the betterment of humanity.
According to Musk's lawyers, OpenAI's shift towards profit-seeking activities violates the original agreement. Although Musk co-founded OpenAI in 2015, he resigned from the company's board in 2018.

OpenAI responded to Elon Musk's lawsuit by rejecting its validity. The company asserted that Musk, a former investor, expressed regret for no longer being part of the organisation leading the artificial intelligence revolution.

ChatGPT, OpenAI's chatbot, experienced rapid growth within six months of its launch in November 2022, making it the fastest-growing software application globally. Its success prompted competing chatbots from major tech companies like Microsoft and Alphabet and numerous startups to capitalise on the trend and secure significant funding.

Since its introduction, ChatGPT has found utility across various industries, from summarising documents to coding, sparking a race among tech giants to develop their generative AI-based offerings.

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Prince Harry Loses High Court Challenge over UK Security Downgrade

Prince Harry has lost a High Court challenge against the government over his security when in the UK. The Duke of Sussex was contesting a decision to downgrade his security status when he stopped being a working royal.

He argued that the downgrade was unjust given the ongoing security risks he faced. Despite his legal team asserting that he was not seeking special treatment, they maintained that the decision-making process concerning his publicly-funded police protection lacked fairness.

Following his transition away from being a working royal and relocating to the US, Prince Harry found himself subjected to a case-by-case evaluation for security arrangements, similar to other high-profile visitors to the UK.

Despite his efforts to contest this approach, the court upheld the actions of the security oversight committee, known as "Ravec," which includes representatives from the Home Office, Metropolitan Police, and the Royal Household.

The court ruled that there was no unlawful conduct in the decision-making process or any irrationality in the changes to Prince Harry's security arrangements in February 2020. Despite some portions of the hearing being held privately for security reasons and parts of the ruling being redacted, the court deemed the tailored security arrangement for Prince Harry as legally sound.

In a separate ruling, Prince Harry's attempt to make private financial payments for police protection during his UK visits was also rejected. These legal battles underscore Prince Harry's concerns for his safety and that of his family, especially highlighted by incidents such as encountering paparazzi at public events.

Despite the court's decision, Prince Harry's legal team plans to appeal, arguing that the Ravec committee didn't adhere to its own regulations and dismissing the bespoke security approach. Meanwhile, Prince Harry, although refraining from commenting directly on the ruling, released a video supporting awards for children with complex health needs, tying back to the WellChild awards event where security concerns arose.

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Donald Trump Ranked as the Worst US President in History, with Biden 14th Greatest

Former US President Donald Trump, embroiled in a multitude of critical legal challenges, ranked at the bottom as 45th on a list assessing US presidents by their greatness, trailing behind even "historically calamitous chief executives" who either failed to prevent the Civil War or mishandled its aftermath.

Worse for the likely Republican nominee this year, his probable opponent, Joe Biden, debuted at No 14.

“Biden’s most important achievements may be that he rescued the presidency from Trump, resumed a more traditional style of presidential leadership and is gearing up to keep the office out of his predecessor’s hands this fall,” Justin Vaughn and Brandon Rottinghaus, the political scientists behind the survey, wrote in the Los Angeles Times.

Rottinghaus, of the University of Houston, and Vaughn, from Coastal Carolina University, considered responses from 154 scholars, most connected to the American Political Science Association.

The aim, the authors said, “was to create a ranking of presidential greatness that covered all presidents from George Washington to Joe Biden”, in succession to such lists compiled in 2015 and 2018.

“To do this, we asked respondents to rate each president on a scale of 0-100 for their overall greatness, with 0=failure, 50=average, and 100=great. We then averaged the ratings for each president and ranked them from highest average to lowest.”

At the top of the chart, there was little change from previous surveys – the latter of which also saw Trump, then in office, placed last.

Abraham Lincoln, who won the civil war and ended slavery, was ranked first, ahead of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who saw the US through the Great Depression and the second world war. Next came George Washington, the first president, who won independence from Britain, Teddy Roosevelt, Thomas Jefferson and Harry Truman.

Barack Obama, the first Black president, to whom Biden was vice-president between 2009 and 2017, was seventh, up nine places.

Considering drops for Andrew Jackson (ninth in 2015 to 21st now) and Woodrow Wilson (10th to 15th), Rottinghaus and Vaughn noted the impact of campaigns for racial justice.

“Their reputations have consistently suffered in recent years as modern politics lead scholars to assess their early 19th and 20th century presidencies ever more harshly, especially their unacceptable treatment of marginalised people,” the authors wrote.

Jackson owned enslaved people and presided over the genocidal displacement of Native Americans. Wilson oversaw victory in the first world war and helped set up the League of Nations, but was an avowed racist who segregated the federal workforce.

Other major movers included Ulysses S Grant (17th, up from 26th in 2015), whose administration generated significant corruption but whose attempts to enforce post-civil war Reconstruction in southern states, including fighting the Ku Klux Klan, have helped fuel reconsideration.

Grant succeeded Andrew Johnson, Lincoln’s successor and the first president to be impeached. Like Johnson, Lincoln’s predecessor, James Buchanan, who failed to stop the slide to civil war, also sits higher than Trump on Rottinghaus and Vaughn’s list.

Trump is a uniquely divisive figure, his legislative record slim, his refusal to accept defeat by Biden leading to a deadly attack on Congress, and his post-presidential career dogged by 91 criminal charges arising from actions in office or on the campaign trail.

In the presidential survey, Trump is also ranked behind “such lowlights as Franklin Pierce, Warren Harding and William Henry Harrison, who died a mere 31 days after taking office,” Rottinghaus and Vaughn wrote.

“Trump’s impact goes well beyond his own ranking and Biden’s. Every contemporary Democratic president has moved up in the ranks – Barack Obama  (No 7), Bill Clinton (No 12) and even Jimmy Carter (No 22).

“Yes, these presidents had great accomplishments such as expanding healthcare access and working to end conflict in the Middle East, and they have two Nobel prizes among them. But given their shortcomings and failures, their rise seems to be less about reassessments of their administrations than it is a bonus for being neither Trump nor a member of his party.

“Indeed, every modern Republican president has dropped … including the transformational Ronald Reagan (No 16) and George HW Bush (No 19), who led the nation’s last decisive military victory”, the Gulf war of 1991.

Accounting for Democratic climbs and Republican drops, the authors acknowledged that academics tend to lean left but also said, with a nod to Trump: “What these results suggest is not just an added emphasis on a president’s political affiliation, but also the emergence of a president’s fealty to political and institutional norms as a criterion for what makes a president ‘great’.

“… As for the Americans casting a ballot for the next president [in November], they are in the historically rare position of knowing how both candidates have performed in the job.”

Trump has not yet secured the Republican nomination but Biden trails in most polls, prey to public concern that at 81 he is too old for a second term, even though Trump is 77 and equally vulnerable to public gaffes – never mind his insurrectionist past.

Rottinghaus and Vaughn said: “Whether (voters) will consider each president’s commitment to the norms of presidential leadership, and come to rate them as differently as our experts, remains to be seen.”

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EU’s Landmark DSA Aims to Safeguard Public From Illegal Content

In an attempt to ensure a safe digital environment, the European Union (EU) has passed a landmark Digital Services Act (DSA) that upholds user’s safety and fundamental rights. The act requires digital companies to take action against illegal and problematic content.

The regulations outlined in the DSA have been enforced across all platforms from February 17, 2024. However, since the end of August 2023, these regulations have been in effect for designated platforms with over 45 million users within the EU, referred to as Very Large Online Platforms (VLOPs) or Very Large Online Search Engines (VLOSEs), which account for approximately 10 per cent of the EU's population. Failure to comply may result in substantial fines for the world's largest tech firms.

The DSA oversees various online intermediaries and platforms, including marketplaces, social networks, content-sharing platforms, app stores and online travel and accommodation platforms. Its primary objective is to mitigate illegal and harmful activities on the Internet as well as combat the dissemination of disinformation.

According to Sunil Ambalavelil, Chairman of Dubai-based NYK Law Firm, “the DSA established by the EU represents a significant stride in consumer protection, ensuring fair treatment and access to quality digital services, but its broad scope and intricate provisions may pose challenges for businesses in compliance and adaptation to the evolving digital landscape”.

 What is in it for the public?

The new regulations have been introduced to provide better protection of fundamental rights, grant users more control and choice and offer stronger safeguards for children on the Internet.
It aims to empower users by providing them with greater control over their online experience and choices. This includes measures to enhance user privacy and data protection as well as mechanisms for managing content preferences and personal information.

Talking about the UAE laws to regulate the digital space, Sunil said: “The principles delineated in the EU's groundbreaking digital content law are remarkably relatable to the UAE legal framework, reflecting a shared commitment to enhancing consumer rights and fostering trust in the digital marketplace.”

How does DSA affect big companies?

All platforms must promptly remove illegal content or make it inaccessible upon becoming aware of its presence. Additionally, they must swiftly alert authorities if they suspect criminal activities posing threats to individuals' lives or safety.

Annually, companies should publish reports detailing their content moderation actions, including response times to notifications of illegal content. They are also obliged to disclose decisions made in user disputes.

Furthermore, platforms must suspend users who frequently share illegal content like hate speech or fraudulent advertisements. Online shopping platforms must verify user identities and block repeat offenders of fraud.

The major tech companies operating in the EU, like Google, Meta and TikTok have already confirmed that they are developing strategies to comply with DSA.

The law introduces stricter regulations on targeted advertising, prohibiting such ads for children aged 17 and under. Users must also be informed about how their data is utilised, with targeted advertising based on sensitive data such as ethnicity, religion, or sexual orientation being banned.
These stringent obligations do not apply to small companies, which are defined as having fewer than 50 employees and an annual turnover of less than 10 million euros.

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