Home' Greymouth Star : February 12th 2015 Contents Greymouth Star
8 - Thursday, February 12, 2015
The president of the court Giovanni Puliatti, centre, reads the verdict at the
end of the trial against the captain of the Costa Concordia cruise liner Francesco
Schettino in Grosseto.
16 years for
An Italian court has sentenced the
former captain of the Costa Concordia
cruise liner to 16 years in prison for his
role in the 2012 shipwreck that killed 32
people off the Tuscan holiday island of
Francesco Schettino was commanding
the vessel, a floating hotel as long as
three football pitches, when it came
too close to shore and hit rocks off the
island, tearing a hole in its side.
Schettino was convicted of multiple
manslaughter, causing a shipwreck and
abandoning his passengers in one of
the highest-profile shipping disasters in
However, he will not actually go to jail
before the end of Italy’s long appeals
process, which can take years after the
court said he would not be imprisoned
or put under house arrest until the whole
appeals process is complete.
Schettino’s handling of the disaster,
accusing him of bringing the 290m
vessel too close to shore. The subsequent
shipwreck set off a chaotic night
evacuation of more than 4000 passengers
He was also accused of delaying
evacuation and abandoning ship before
all the 4229 passengers and crew had
been rescued. Media gave him the
nicknames “Captain Coward” and
Prosecutors had asked for a prison
sentence of 26 years for Schettino,
who has admitted some responsibility
but denied blame for the deaths that
occurred during the evacuation.
The court sentenced Schettino to 10
years for multiple manslaughter, five
years for causing the shipwreck and one
year for abandoning his passengers. In
addition he received a one month civil
penalty for failure to report the accident
He was left alone in the dock to answer
for the disaster after the ship’s owners
Costa Cruises, a unit of Carnival Corp,
paid a one million euro ($1.53 million)
fine and prosecutors accepted plea
bargains from five other officials.
He and Costa Cruises were jointly
ordered to pay a total of 30,000 euros
compensation to each of the ship’s
passengers as well as millions of euros
in compensation to Italian government
ministries, the region of Tuscany and
the island of Giglio for environmental
Earlier, Schettino had rejected
prosecution accusations that he had
shown no sense of responsibility or
compassion for the victims, saying “grief
should not be put on show to make a
The massive hulk of the Costa
Concordia was left abandoned on its
side for two and a half years before it
was towed away in the most expensive
maritime wreck recovery in history. The
last body was not recovered until last
Schettino’s defence team argued he
prevented an even worse disaster by
steering the ship close to the island as
it sank. They said the sentence that was
sought by prosecutors went beyond even
sentences sought for mafia killers.
Australia tightens rules over foreign farm ownership
Australia has tightened rules over
foreign ownership of its agricultural
land amid concerns it is losing control
of its own food security, slashing the
amount beyond which land purchases
would require regulatory approval.
From March 1, foreign purchases of
agricultural land over $A15 million
($15.67 million) will be subject to
regulatory approval from Australia’s
Foreign Investment Review Board,
Australian Prime Minister Tony
Abbott said late yesterday.
Previously, Australia had required
regulatory approval only on foreign
purchases of agricultural land of
more than $240m.
“This is not saying that we don’t
want foreign investment,” he said.
“ We do want foreign investment
but it ’s got to be the right investment,
the right investment that ser ves our
purposes. It needs to be transparent,”
The tighter rules will also prevent
multiple purchases below the threshold,
with regulatory approval being
required as soon as total transactions
by one purchaser pass $15m.
Australia’s Bureau of Statistics said
last June 90% of agricultural land is
fully owned by Australians, although
Abbott promised greater scrutiny
after the rural sector expressed
scepticism about those findings.
Abbott said the Australian Taxation
Office will conduct a review in June
of all land ownership to provide a
more detailed “stocktake”, with a
registry of foreign ownership to come
at an unspecified date.
Foreign ownership of land has been
a controversial issue. By announcing
the tighter rules, the embattled
Abbott will win favour from some.
He is looking to tighten his grip
on power after narrowly sur viving
an internal party challenge to his
leadership on Monday. — Reuters
Surge in west
Rio de Janeiro
At least three oil workers were
killed and 10 were injured in an
explosion overnight at an offshore
oil and natural gas platform in
Brazil operated by State-run
energy company Petroleo Brasileiro
A gas leak appeared to be cause
of the accident aboard the Cidade
de Sao Mateus, a floating oil
production, storage and off-
loading ship (FPSO), the finance
director of Sindepetro-ES, the
union representing workers on
the platform, Davidson Lomba,
said. The ensuing fire was quickly
contained and the platform has
been stabilised, Brazil’s oil regulator
ANP said in a statement.
No oil was leaked into ocean,
The FPSO, owned by Nor way-
listed ship leaser BW Offshore
Ltd, also processes natural gas
that is sent to shore by undersea
pipeline. The platform produces
about 2.25 million cubic metres a
day of natural gas and 350 cubic
metres (2200 barrels) a day of oil,
according to ANP.
Security concerns had already
been mounting before the accident
at Petrobras, as Brazil’s national
oil company is known. Huge
investments, money-losing fuel
subsidies on imports and the
largest debt of any oil company in
the world have crimped cash and
forced Petrobras to operate many
facilities at full capacity for long
periods without maintenance.
The company has also been
dogged by a massive corruption
scandal that has led to the arrest
of three former Petrobras officials
as well as the resignation of its
chief executive and five other top
executives. Dozens of executives
from major Petrobras contractors
have also been arrested, leading to
the cancellation of construction and
Such strains on operations have
come as the company suffers
from a series of serious accidents
and forced maintenance orders
at refineries and offshore oil
platforms. Union officials also
allege that the company ’s increasing
reliance on non-union contract
workers has put installations and
people at risk.
“ It ’s our position that Petrobras
is using too many contract workers
who are not always qualified to
operate equipment safely,” Lomba
Petrobras said in a statement that
74 workers were on board at the
time of the accident. Six of them
remain missing, the company said.
Officials at BW Offshore were not
available for comment.
The platform operates in the
Camarupim field 75km north-east
of Vitoria, the capital of Espirito
Lomba said it was still unclear
if the dead and injured workers
were members of his union, third-
party Brazilian workers or foreign
employees of BW Offshore.
The Cidade de Sao Mateus began
operating in the field in 2009 and is
under contract until 2018 with an
option of an extension until 2024.
Oil platform blast kills three, six missing
The floating oil production, storage and off-loading ship Cidade de Sao Mateus.
The number of new Ebola cases rose for
the second week in a row in west Africa,
nearly doubling in Guinea, suggesting
declines in the disease seen earlier this
year had stalled, the World Health
Organisation said overnight.
Efforts to wipe out the deadly virus
were being hampered by people’s
mistrust of health workers, and the
number of people continuing to hide sick
friends and relatives from authorities,
particularly in Guinea’s capital Conakry,
West Africa recorded 144 new
confirmed cases of Ebola in the week
to February 8 compared with 124 the
previous week, the WHO said in a
“ Despite improvements in case finding
and management, burial practices, and
community engagement, the decline in
case incidence has stalled,” the United
Nations agency said.
In Guinea, where the outbreak began,
there were 64 new cases compared with
39 the previous week.
“The main threat to achieving our goal
of zero cases in 60 days is this resistance
in Conakry,” the national co-ordinator
for the fight against the epidemic in
Guinea, Dr Sakoba Keita, said.
Guinea’s President Alpha Conde has
announced a plan to have no Ebola cases
by early March.
But in an illustration of the remaining
challenges, youths from the Conakry
suburb of Yimbaya spilled on to the
streets on Monday, burning tyres after an
imam suspected of conducting a secret
Ebola burial was detained by authorities.
The worst outbreak on record has now
killed at least 9177 people out of 22,894
recorded cases, mainly in the three worst-
affected west African nations, Guinea,
Sierra Leone and Liberia.
Sierra Leone remains the country with
the highest transmission, although case
numbers dropped week-on -week to 76
from 80. Liberia, once the epicentre of
the outbreak, reported just three cases in
the same period.
overnight he was bringing back nearly all
United States troops fighting the Ebola
epidemic in west Africa. — Reuters
With power outages now a daily
reality in South Africa and expected
to last for the next three years,
business and individuals are taking
matters into their own hands.
Africa’s most advanced economy
is experiencing its worst electricity
crisis since 2008 with State power
company Eskom implementing
rolling blackouts as its old creaking
grid struggles to meet growing
Cellphone giant MTN and
Standard Bank are among the
companies that have decided to go
it alone in trying to keep the lights
burning at their businesses.
Households are also seeking to
become self-reliant on power supply
in a country that has barely raised
installed capacity since apartheid
ended two decades ago, despite
millions of households joining the
State-run utility Eskom has
admitted to ignoring proper
maintenance on its grid over the
years, and the network cannot reliably
supply the 42,000 megawatts (MW )
required to keep the economy ticking.
The central bank has already shaved
off at least three points on its 2015
growth forecast to 2.2%.
MTN has installed a 2MW
power plant at its Johannesburg
headquarters to reduce its reliance
on Eskom. As a bonus, by generating
electricity, the firm has slashed power
bills at those offices by nearly one-
“If you have the recipe for
producing cheaper power, why would
you not do it because it ’s going to
save you,” MTN’s energy plan’s
implementation manager, Willem
The initiative has been so successful
that MTN plans to increase output
to 24MW within three years, he said.
To generate electricity using its
gas plant, MTN spends 0.87 South
African cents per kilowatt hour
against the 1.5-1 .40 rand/kWh it
Standard Bank has also installed a
gas plant generating 1MW at a cost
of 40 million rand ($4.57 million) to
provide 17% of the 6 MW required
at one of the lender’s offices in a
Johannesburg suburb, or enough to
power about 2500 homes.
Both firms are burning natural gas
to produce electricity.
South Africa’s mining industry, its
leading foreign exchange earner, is
also hurting as Eskom asks firms to
reduce consumption by 10% to 20%
during controlled outages.
Harmony Gold chief executive
Graham Briggs said while Eskom
does not cut power to the fir m’s
shafts, Harmony has, like its peers,
had to reschedule energy-consuming
activities such as hoisting ore to the
surface until after 10pm when rolling
blackouts are lifted.
Households are also seeking
alternatives to Eskom’s erratic supply,
the managing director at engineering
consultancy Netshield SA, which
advices on wind and solar solutions,
Inus Dreckmeyr, said. Last week
alone, the firm had 90 applications
from households looking for
alternative means of electricity
Household usage varies, making it
difficult to estimate installation costs
for a solar or wind power unit to
take a typical home off the grid, but
Dreckmeyr estimates it would cost
150,000 to 250,000 rand to install
such a system.
“There is a lot of aggression in
people’s attitude towards electricity at
the moment. A lot of people start off
with the simple complaint that they
are tired of Eskom,” Dreckmeyr said.
Blackouts force South Africans to seek alternatives
In a case that reads like a movie script,
a Catholic priest overnight pleaded
guilty to trying to help a convicted mob
hitman recover a purported Stradivarius
violin hidden in the wall of a house.
Eugene Klein, who had been a federal
prison chaplain, admitted to conspiring
in 2011 to defraud the United States by
passing messages from mobster Frank
Calabrese to an unnamed associate on
how to get the violin out of Calabrese’s
If found and authenticated as made by
18th-century instrument maker Antonio
Stradivari, such a violin would have been
worth millions of dollars. Calabrese had
also claimed the violin had once been
owned by pianist Liberace, according to
local media accounts.
Calabrese, also known as “Frankie
Breeze,” was ser ving a life sentence at the
federal prison in Springfield, Missouri,
in connection with more than a dozen
Federal authorities were selling his
property to compensate the families
of victims, and he wanted the violin
recovered before the house was sold,
court documents said.
Klein, 66, had been permitted to
meet with Calabrese regularly to
provide religious ministries, like giving
communion. He knew that he was not
supposed to pass messages to and from
Calabrese, prosecutors said.
But Klein agreed to be a messenger, the
plea agreement said.The communications
included a letter concealed in religious
reading materials and passed to Klein
through a slot in the door of Calabrese’s
prison cell, the plea agreement said.
The letter had instructions on how to
find the violin, and how to get into the
Klein did not turn over the letter but
admitted to telling the unnamed person
what it said.
authorities had found
paper work about a 1764 violin in
another of Calabrese’s homes. A
certificate describing the violin bore an
emblem with the word “Stradivari,” but
it said the violin was made by Giuseppe
Antonio Artalli, court documents said.
No violin was found.
Klein’s lawyer, Thomas D urkin,
questioned whether the violin ever even
existed, and he compared the hunt for it
to “ looking for a unicorn,” according to
the Chicago Sun-Times.
Durkin was not immediately available
Klein, of Springfield, Missouri, faces
up to five years in prison and a $250,000
fine when he is sentenced on June 23.
Calabrese died in prison in 2012.
The mobster, the priest
and the Stradivarius
Former International Monetary
Fund chief Dominique Strauss-
Kahn has lashed out at the focus
on his sexual behaviour in a French
court where he is charged with
pimping, saying he was not on trial
for “deviant ” acts.
The 65-year-old, once seen as
a frontrunner for the French
presidency, said the idea that his
preference for certain practices
highlighted in court, such as
sodomy, would spur him to seek out
prostitutes was “absurd”.
For a second day, the court in
the northern city of Lille picked
apart sex parties attended by
Strauss-Kahn in Paris, Brussels and
Washington in a bid to uncover
whether he arranged for prostitutes
While prostitution in itself is
legal, encouraging and organising
its practice is considered to be
procuring and is punishable by up
to 10 years in prison.
Strauss-Kahn denies knowing
that the women with whom he
engaged in “free and friendly” sex
parties were prostitutes, saying
paying for sex would be too great
IMF, which was busy “saving the
world from an unprecedented”
The overnight proceedings began
with an emotional account from
Jade, an ex-prostitute, about a
night in a Brussels hotel where she
said Strauss-Kahn sodomised her
without permission, in what she
said was a clear sign he knew she
was paid to be there.
“If I was a libertine, I would at
least have been asked if I wanted to
do that,” she said, adding she had
not had time to protest.
Strauss-Kahn said he did not
realise she objected and was “sorry”
she experienced it that way.
The silver-haired economist lost
his patience when a lawyer for the
prostitutes interrogated him on the
“I am starting to get fed up,” he
said, adding people were free to
disagree with his proclivities, but
that he was not on trial for “deviant
Known in France as DSK,
Strauss-Kahn finds himself back
in the dock four years after his
high-flying career and presidential
prospects were torpedoed when he
was accused of sexual assault by a
New York hotel maid, a case later
settled in a civil suit. — AFP
out over focus on
his sexual ‘deviancy’
A magnitude 6.7 earthquake hit north-
western Argentina overnight, near the
border with Chile, striking at a fairly
deep 190km below the earth, the United
States Geological Sur vey said.
There were no preliminary reports
of injuries to people, damage to
infrastructure, or interruption of
services, Chile’s Onemi emergency
“The quake was really deep, so it
really didn’t feel that strong,” Mauricio
Soriano, the regional head of Onemi
in the mining-intensive Antofagasta
Chile’s navy also ruled out any danger
of a tsunami.
The USGS twice revised downward
the quake’s magnitude, first saying it
measured as a major 7.0, then a 6.9
magnitude. It also initially placed its
epicentre in north-eastern Chile.
A local journalist in the north-west
Argentinian city of Jujuy said the quake
“ was barely felt ”. — Reuters
Strong quake hits
The wife of a Frenchman on death
row in Indonesia for drug offences says
she will continue to fight for his release
despite fears he might be executed soon.
Serge Atlaoui, has a “sword of
Damocles hanging over his head”, his
wife Sabine Atlaoui told an anti-death
penalty press conference overnight.
The Frenchman, 51, had his appeal
for clemency rejected in January by the
Indonesian President Joko Widodo, a
vocal supporter of capital punishment
for drug offenders.
“He is scared that he will never see his
children again,” Atlaoui’s wife, who is
still “holding on to hope”, said.
Atlaoui, a father of four, was arrested
near Jakarta in 2005 in a secret laboratory
producing ecstasy. He was sentenced to
death in 2007 on drug trafficking charges.
Imprisoned in Indonesia for 10 years,
he has always denied the charges saying
he was installing industrial machinery in
what he thought was an acrylics factory.
Atlaoui, one of seven foreigners on
Indonesia’s death row, could soon
face execution, along with Australians
Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran,
who have also been convicted of drug
Atlaoui’s lawyer in Indonesia filed a
request last Tuesday for a trial review, a
last-ditch attempt to save his client ’s life.
Sabine Atlaoui says she has placed all
her hopes in the review and will continue
to fight for her “innocent ” husband.
Around 12 Indonesians and foreigners
are on death row following drug offence
convictions in a country with the some
of the toughest drug laws in the world.
The country executed six drug offenders
last month, five of them foreigners.
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