Syed Sumsam Ali Bukhari takes oath as Punjab info minister

“PTI Punjab government has removed Fayyaz Chohan from the post of Punjab Information Minister following derogatory remarks about the Hindu community. Responding to a question, he said that Prime Minister Pakistan Imran Khan has proved that minorities have a prominent place in Pakistan. He said that this will be harmful for the nation if the media and information department are not on the same page. He further stated that all the ministers are the part of Punjab chief minister’s team and there is no division of spokesman to CM or information minister. He said that measures will be taken for the betterment and development of information department after getting a detailed briefing about the same.

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Dry Bulk Shipowner Genco Shipping & Trading Remains Committed to Short-Term Chartering Strategy

Genco Shipping & Trading Limited, the largest U.S. headquartered drybulk shipowner focused on the transportation of major and minor bulk commodities globally, reported its financial results for the three months and twelve months ended December 31, 2018.

The following financial review discusses the results for the three and twelve months ended December 31, 2018 and December 31, 2017.

Fourth Quarter 2018 and Year-to-Date Highlights

Recorded net income of $18.3 million for the fourth quarter of 2018
Basic and diluted earnings per share of $0.44
Adjusted net income of $16.3 million or adjusted basic and diluted earnings per share of $0.39, excluding a $2.0 million gain on sale of vessels
Net revenue (voyage revenues minus voyage expenses and charter hire expenses) totaled $75.6 million during Q4 2018, 27% higher than the same period of 2017
TCE increased to $13,237 for Q4 2018, marking a year-over-year improvement of 23%
TCE for 2018 reached $11,364, the Company’s highest level since 2011
Our 2018 TCE outperformed the relevant Baltic Exchange benchmark sub-indices as adjusted for our owned fleet profile by approximately $500 per vessel per day, highlighting the importance of our expanded commercial platform
Maintained low daily vessel operating expenses (“DVOE”) of $4,336 per vessel per day during Q4 2018, as a result of our industry leading cost efficient structure
During 2018, DVOE was $4,379 per vessel per day, which is below our 2018 budget without sacrificing our high safety and maintenance standards
Our cash position as of December 31, 2018 was $202.8 million
Recorded EBITDA of $44.4 million during Q4 2018 and $65.3 million for the full year of 2018
Adjusted EBITDA of $42.4 million for Q4 2018, after excluding a $2.0 million of gain on sale of vessels2
Adjusted EBITDA of $122.9 million for 2018, after excluding $56.6 million for impairment of vessels assets, $4.5 million for a loss on debt extinguishment and $3.5 million for gain on sale of vessels2
Entered into an amendment to our $460 Million Credit Facility in February 2019 providing an additional tranche of up to $35 million to cover up to 90% of the expenses related to the acquisition and installation of exhaust gas cleaning systems (“scrubbers”) on our 17 Capesize vessels
Completed the sales of a total of eight vessels as part of our fleet renewal program during 2018, including:
The sales of five vessels during the fourth quarter of 2018 for a cumulative gain of $2.0 million
These sales were in addition to the two vessels sold in Q3 2018, the GencoSurprise and Genco Progress, for a cumulative gain of $1.5 million
In January 2019, we sold the Genco Vigour, which was our last remaining unencumbered vessel

Image: Genco Shipping & Trading Limited

John C. Wobensmith, Chief Executive Officer, commented, “During 2018, we continued to execute upon the Company’s strategic plan as we further developed our active commercial platform, took steps to optimize our fleet composition and enhanced our capital structure. Specifically, under the first full year of our revamped commercial operation, we outperformed our benchmarks meaningfully which, together with firm market conditions, led Genco to generate significant operating cash flows while reinforcing an already strong balance sheet. So far in 2019, seasonal factors coupled with events such as the Vale dam tragedy have led to volatility in freight rates in the short-term. We believe such short-term volatility highlights the importance of our solid liquidity position as well as our approach of deploying a fleet with direct exposure to the major and minor drybulk commodities both of which present strong long-term demand prospects underpinned by a backdrop of low net fleet growth.”

Our Commercial Strategy Continues to Actively Drive Revenue and Margin Growth

Overall, our fleet deployment strategy remains weighted towards short-term fixtures, which provides optionality for the Company. We believe that our active commercial strategy, together with our efficient cost structure, provides continuing potential for increased margins. Furthermore, our barbell approach to fleet composition provides direct exposure to both major and minor bulk commodities enabling our fleet’s cargo carrying capabilities to closely mirror those of global commodity trade flows.

Our fourth quarter of 2018 TCE results by class are listed below. During the fourth quarter, we took advantage of our prior strategic positioning of select vessels to key designated regions to drive TCE on our minor bulk fleet. Additionally, fixed rate coverage at near 2018 peak levels on our Capesize fleet ahead of a volatile quarter minimized exposure to a counter-seasonal decline in freight rates. During the quarter, Genco’s approach to fleet composition described above proved beneficial, as earnings on the smaller vessels remained resilient despite the volatility in the Capesize segment. Our TCE performance during the fourth quarter of 2018 improved by 23% as compared to the same period the year before.

Capesize: $17,052
Panamax: $10,134
Ultramax, Supramax and Handymax: $12,724
Handysize: $10,545
Fleet average: $13,237
We currently have the following net TCE fixed for the first quarter of 2019. We continue to take a portfolio approach to the deployment of our Capesize fleet as we have fixed several vessels on West Australian round voyages in the Pacific while booking fronthaul voyages during Q4 2018 with our Atlantic positions. For the minor bulk fleet, we continue benefiting from scale in designated key regions where we have established a critical mass.

Capesize: $13,739 for 84% of the available Q1 2019 days
Panamax: $7,140 for 70% of the available Q1 2019 days
Ultramax and Supramax: $9,421 for 84% of the available Q1 2019 days
Handysize: $7,056 for 89% of the available Q1 2019 days
Fleet average: $10,042 for 85% of the available Q1 2019 days
Scrubber Facility

On February 28, 2019, we entered into an amendment to our $460 Million Credit Facility to provide an additional tranche of up to $35 million to cover up to 90% of the expenses related to the acquisition and installation of scrubbers on our 17 Capesize vessels. Borrowings under the $35 million tranche will bear interest at LIBOR plus 250 basis points through September 30, 2019 and LIBOR plus a range of 225 to 275 basis points thereafter, dependent upon total net indebtedness to consolidated EBITDA for the preceding four calendar quarters. Nordea Bank ABP, New York Branch, Skandinaviska Enskilda Banken AB (publ), Crédit Agricole Corporate and Investment Bank, and Danish Ship Finance A/S are the lenders for the additional tranche.

Fleet Renewal Program

During the second half of the year, the Company agreed to sell eight vessels as part of our previously announced fleet renewal program, achieving total gross proceeds of $52.5 million. Seven of these vessels were delivered to their respective buyers in 2018, while the remaining vessel delivered in January 2019. Specifically, in Q3 2018, we delivered two vessels to their respective buyers, namely: the Genco Surprise, a 1998-built Panamax vessel, on August 7, 2018, and the Genco Progress, a 1999-built Handysize vessel, on September 13, 2018. In Q4 2018, we delivered five vessels to their respective buyers, namely: the Genco Cavalier, a 2007-built Supramax vessel, on October 16, 2018; the GencoExplorer, a 1999-built Handysize vessel, on November 13, 2018; the GencoMuse, a 2001-built Handymax vessel, on December 5, 2018; the Genco Beauty, a 1999-built Panamax vessel, on December 17, 2018; and the Genco Knight, a 1999-built Panamax vessel, on December 26, 2018. Furthermore, we completed the sale of the Genco Vigour, a 1999-built Panamax vessel, on January 28, 2019. As a result of the sales, Genco will save anticipated drydocking and ballast water treatment system installation costs of approximately $11.5 million previously scheduled for 2018 and 2019.

Our fleet now consists of 58 vessels with a carrying capacity of 5,075,000 dwt. On a per sector basis, the fleet currently consists of 17 Capesize, two Panamax, six Ultramax, 20 Supramax, and 13 Handysize vessels with an average age of 9.0 years, representing reduction in average age of almost two years from our prior fleet composition of 60 vessels before any of the 2018 and 2019 vessel sale and purchase activity.

Financial Review: 2018 Fourth Quarter

The Company recorded net income for the fourth quarter of 2018 of $18.3 million, or $0.44 basic and diluted net earnings per share. Comparatively, for the three months ended December 31, 2017, the Company recorded net income of $2.6 million, or $0.07 basic and diluted net earnings per share.

The Company’s revenues increased to $112.2 million for the three months ended December 31, 2018, 50% higher than the $74.9 million recorded for the three months ended December 31, 2017. The increase in revenues was primarily due to the employment of vessels on spot market voyage charters as well as higher spot market rates achieved by the majority of our vessels.

The average daily time charter equivalent, or TCE, rates obtained by the Company’s fleet was $13,237 per day for the three months ended December 31, 2018 as compared to $10,761 for the three months ended December 31, 2017. The increase in TCE was primarily due to higher rates achieved by the majority of the vessels in our fleet during the fourth quarter of 2018 versus the fourth quarter of 2017. During the fourth quarter of 2018, the drybulk freight market remained at healthy levels despite pockets of volatility in the middle of the quarter for Capesize vessel earnings. For the full year of 2018, the Baltic Dry Index averaged 1,353, its highest level since 2011 led by strong global steel production and firm growth in imports of raw materials from developing economies met with the backdrop of low net fleet growth on the supply side. Subsequently, in the first quarter of 2019, seasonal factors such as frontloaded newbuilding deliveries, the Lunar New Year celebration and weather-related disruptions hampering cargo availability have been exacerbated by the tragic Vale dam breach, further coal restrictions in China as well as the overhang of the U.S.-China trade dispute. All of these factors have affected the market since the beginning of the year. Nonetheless, the Company has fixed approximately 85% of its Q1 2019 days at a fleet-wide average TCE of $10,042.

Total operating expenses were $86.2 million for the three months ended December 31, 2018 compared to $64.9 million for the three months ended December 31, 2017. Included in the three months ended December 31, 2018 was a gain on sale of vessels totaling $2.0 million. Voyage expenses rose to $36.3 million for the three months ended December 31, 2018 versus $15.6 million during the prior year period primarily due to the increased employment of vessels on spot market voyage charters as part of our commercial strategy, in which we incur significantly higher voyage expenses as compared to time charters, spot market-related time charters and pool arrangements. Vessel operating expenses marginally increased to $24.8 million for the three months ended December 31, 2018, from $24.2 million for the three months ended December 31, 2017. General and administrative expenses were $6.4 million for the fourth quarter of 2018 compared to $5.6 million for the fourth quarter of 2017. Depreciation and amortization expenses increased to $18.4 million for the three months ended December 31, 2018 from $17.6 million for the three months ended December 31, 2017.

Daily vessel operating expenses, or DVOE, amounted to $4,336 per vessel per day for the fourth quarter of 2018, and $4,379 for the twelve months ended December 31, 2018, below our budget of $4,440 per vessel per day and compared to $4,387 per vessel per day for the fourth quarter of 2017. The decrease in DVOE was predominantly due to lower maintenance related expenses, and partially offset by higher crew related expenses. We believe daily vessel operating expenses are best measured for comparative purposes over a 12‑month period in order to take into account all of the expenses that each vessel in our fleet will incur over a full year of operation. Based on estimates provided by our technical managers and management’s views, our DVOE budget for 2019 is $4,525 per vessel per day on a weighted average basis for the entire year for our fleet.

Apostolos Zafolias, Chief Financial Officer, commented, “We ended 2018 with a sizeable cash balance, as we benefited from a stronger rate environment, a strengthened commercial strategy and low direct vessel operating expenses. During the year, we also continued to access capital under favorable terms, serving to strengthen our balance sheet and support our ability to grow and invest in the fleet. In addition to our $108 million acquisition credit facility, we closed on an oversubscribed $460 million credit facility and subsequently upsized it to provide an additional tranche of up to $35 million to support our comprehensive IMO 2020 strategy.”

Financial Review: Twelve Months 2018

The Company recorded a net loss of $32.9 million or $0.86 basic and diluted net loss per share for the twelve months ended December 31, 2018. This compares to a net loss of $58.7 million or $1.71 basic and diluted net loss per share for the twelve months ended December 31, 2017. Net loss for the twelve months ended December 31, 2018 and 2017, includes non-cash vessel impairment charges of $56.6 million and $22.0 million, respectively. Net loss for the twelve months ended December 31, 2018 also includes a loss on debt extinguishment in the amount of $4.5 million as well as a gain from sale of vessels totaling $3.5 million. Net loss for the twelve months ended December 31, 2017 includes a gain on sale of vessels in the amount of $7.7 million. Revenues increased to $367.5 million for the twelve months ended December 31, 2018 compared to $209.7 million for the twelve months ended December 31, 2017. The increase in revenues was primarily due to the employment of vessels on spot market voyage charters as well as higher spot market rates achieved by the majority of our vessels. Voyage expenses increased to $114.9 million for the twelve months ended December 31, 2018 from $25.3 million for the same period in 2017. This increase was primarily due to the employment of vessels on spot market voyage charters during the 2018 as part of our commercial strategy, in which we incur significantly higher voyage expenses as compared to time charters, spot market-related time charters and pool arrangements. TCE rates obtained by the Company increased to $11,364 per day for the twelve months ended December 31, 2018 from $8,474 per day for the twelve months ended December 31, 2017, due to higher rates achieved by the majority of the vessels in our fleet. Total operating expenses for the twelve months ended December 31, 2018 and 2017 were $367.0 million and $239.3 million, respectively. Total operating expenses include non-cash vessel impairment charges of $56.6 million relating to the revaluation of certain vessels that comprise our fleet renewal plan to their respective fair values for the twelve months ended December 31, 2018, as well as a $3.5 million gain from sale of vessels. For the twelve months ended December 31, 2017, total operating expenses include non-cash vessel impairment charges totaling $22.0 million and a gain on sale of vessels of $7.7 million. General and administrative expenses for the twelve months ended December 31, 2018 increased to $23.1 million as compared to the $22.2 million in the same period of 2017. Daily vessel operating expenses per vessel were $4,379 versus $4,417 in the comparative periods. The decrease in DVOE was predominantly due to lower drydocking related expenses, partially offset by higher expenses crew related expenses. EBITDA for the twelve months ended December 31, 2018 amounted to $65.3 million compared to $42.0 million during the prior period. During the twelve months of 2018 and 2017, EBITDA included non-cash impairment charges, loss on debt extinguishment and gains on sale of vessels as mentioned above. Excluding these non-cash charges, our adjusted EBTIDA would have amounted to $122.9 million and $56.3 million, for the respective periods.

Liquidity and Capital Resources

Cash Flow

Net cash provided by operating activities for the year ended December 31, 2018 was $65.9 million as compared to $24.1 million for the year ended December 31, 2017. Included in the net loss during the year ended December 31, 2018 were $56.6 million of non-cash impairment charges, as well as a $4.5 million loss on the extinguishment of debt, a $5.3 million payment on the $400 Million Credit Facility and gains totaling $3.5 million arising from the sale of seven vessels. Included in the net loss during the year ended December 31, 2017 were $22.0 million of non-cash impairment charges, paid in kind interest incurred of $4.5 million related to the $400 Million Credit Facility, as well as a gain on sale of vessels in the amount of $7.7 million due to the sale of five vessels. Depreciation and amortization expense for the year ended December 31, 2018 decreased by $2.8 million primarily due to the revaluation of nine of our vessels that were written down to their estimated fair market value during the first quarter of 2018, as well as the revaluation of six of our vessels that were written down to their estimated fair market value during the second and third quarters of 2017. These decreases in depreciation were partially offset by an increase in depreciation expense for the six vessels delivered during the third quarter of 2018. Additionally, the fluctuation in inventories increased by $7.7 million due to additional fuel inventory for our vessels as the result of the employment of our vessels on spot market voyage charters. There was also a $7.6 million increase in the fluctuation in due from charterers due to the timing of payments received from charterers. These changes were offset by a $5.5 million decrease in deferred drydocking costs incurred because there were less vessels that completed drydocking during 2018 as compared to 2017.

Net cash used in investing activities was $195.4 million during the year ended December 31, 2018 as compared to net cash provided by investing activities of $17.4 million during the year ended December 31, 2017. Net cash used in investing activities during 2018 consisted primarily of $241.9 million purchase of vessels related primarily to the six vessels that delivered to us during the third quarter of 2018. This cash outflow during 2018 was partially offset by $44.3 million of proceeds from the sale of seven vessels during the second half of 2018 and $3.6 million of proceeds received for hull and machinery claims related primarily to the receipt of the remaining insurance settlement for the main engine repair claim for the Genco Tiger. Net cash provided by investing activities during 2017 consisted primarily of $15.5 million of proceeds from the sale of five vessels during 2017 and $2.4 million of proceeds received for hull and machinery claims related primarily to the receipt of the remaining insurance settlement for the main engine repair claims for the Baltic Lion and the Genco Tiger.

Net cash provided by financing activities during the year ended December 31, 2018 was $127.3 million as compared to net cash used in financing activities of $5.6 million during the year ended December 31, 2017. Net cash provided by financing activities of $127.3 million during 2018 consisted primarily of the $460.0 million drawdown on the $460 Million Credit Facility, the $108.0 million drawdown on the $108 Million Credit Facility and the net proceeds from the issuance of common stock on June 19, 2018 of $109.8 million partially offset by the following: $399.6 million repayment of debt under the $400 Million Credit Facility; $93.9 million repayment of debt under the $98 Million Credit Facility; $25.5 million repayment of debt under the 2014 Term Loan Facilities; $15.0 million repayment of debt under the $460 Million Credit Facility; $11.8 million payment of deferred financing costs; $3.0 million payment of debt extinguishment costs and $1.6 million repayment of debt under the $108 Million Credit Facility. On August 14, 2018, we entered into the $108 Million Credit Facility to finance a portion of the purchase price for the six vessels acquired during the three months ended September 30, 2018. On June 5, 2018, the $460 Million Credit Facility refinanced the following three existing credit facilities; the $400 Million Credit Facility, the $98 Million Credit Facility and the 2014 Term Loan Facilities. Net cash used in financing activities of $5.6 million for the year ended December 31, 2017 consisted of the following: $2.8 million repayment of debt under the 2014 Term Loan Facilities; $1.3 million repayment of debt under the $98 Million Credit Facility; $1.1 million payment of Series A Preferred Stock issuance costs; and $0.4 million repayment of debt under the $400 Million Credit Facility.

Capital Expenditures

We make capital expenditures from time to time in connection with vessel acquisitions. We completed installment payment obligations relating to vessels we agreed to acquire in 2018 during the third quarter of 2018 using a combination of cash on hand and commercial bank financing as previously reported.

In addition to acquisitions that we may undertake in future periods, we will incur additional capital expenditures due to special surveys and drydockings for our fleet. We did not drydock any of our vessels during the fourth quarter of 2018. We currently expect two vessels to drydock during the first quarter of 2019, and an additional 33 vessels to drydock during the remainder of the year.

We also anticipate incurring capital expenditures with respect to the installation of ballast water treatment systems, which we intend to fund with cash on hand. In addition, we expect to incur capital expenditures for the installation of scrubbers on our 17 Capesize vessels and are considering options to install scrubbers on an additional 15 minor bulk vessels. We expect the cost for our Capesize vessels, including installation, to be approximately $2.25 million per vessel, which may vary according to the specifications of our vessels and technical aspects of the installation, among other variables. We anticipate funding the acquisition and installation of scrubbers on our 17 Capesize vessels through a combination of commercial bank debt from an additional tranche of up to $35 million under our $460 Million Credit Facility and cash on hand.

Auto-driver sent to jail under P.D. Act

City Police Commissioner Anjani Kumar looking at the seized fake Agencies, Certificates, Laptops, Desktops, printers, Stamps at in Basheerbagh office in CP office in Hyderabad on Tuesday. The PD order was executed on him on February 27 and lodged in Chanchalguda Central Prison. Busted fake consultant Agencies & Fake Educational Certificates Racket:Five Held- Recovered Fake Educational Certificates, Fake Rubber Stamps, Indian passports, Computers, PrintersHyderabad: City Police Commissioner Anjani Kumar, IPS, has ordered detention of Kurity Bhaskar, an auto-driver offender of Kachiguda Police Station, under Preventive Detention Act on February 26. The Kachiguda police arrested him on October 15, 2018 and remanded him to judicial custody. Five persons arrested in the above case.

Nearly 40 militants killed in Afghan Special Forces operations and airstrikes

The military sources are saying that nearly 40 anti-government armed militants have been killed during the operations of the Afghan Special Forces and airstrikes which were conducted in Nangarahr, Wardak, Ghazni, Uruzgan, Logar, Takhar, Paktia, and Helmand provinces in the past 24 hours.

The sources further added that 3 Taliban militants were killed during the operations of the Afghan Special Forces which were conducted in Achin district of Nangarhar and Chak district of Wardak province. Afghan security forces have killed more than 60 Taliban fighters in the region since last week, including 8 within the last 36 hours.

The Afghan Special Forces conducted similar operations in Tarinkot city of Uruzgan and Dasht-e-Qala district of Takhar province leaving 14 Taliban militants dead, the sources said.

Afghan Special Forces conducted a raid in Charkh district and destroyed over 4,600 pounds of homemade explosives,” the sources said adding that “Air strikes in Zurmat district of Paktia province killed 3 Taliban fighters.”

At least 19 Taliban militants were killed during the Afghan Special Forces operations and airstrikes which were conducted in Sangin district of Helmand, Qarabagh and Andar districts of Ghazni, and Shindand district of Herat province, the sources said.

4-hour clash end between Afghan forces and Taliban in Sancharak district

A 4-hour clash ended between the Afghan forces and the Taliban militants in Sancharak district in northern Sar-e-Pul province of Afghanistan.

The 209th Shaheen Corps of the Afghan Military in the North in a statement said Friday that the clash took place in the vicinity of Do Aaba area of the district today which ended after almost four hours of clash.

The statement further added that 7 Taliban militants were killed in the clash and 5 other were wounded during the clash which ended at a3:40pm local time.

According to 209th Shaheen Corps, the clash started at around noon time after Taliban militants attacked a military convoy in Do Aab area but was repulsed after the armed forces received artillery and air support.

The 209th Shaheen Corps also added that four armed members of the armed forces also sustained injuries during the clash and two vehicles were partially damaged.

The military convoy has now reached to the operations site in the outskirts of Refugees Camp and Township, the statement by 209th Shaheen Corps added.

Taliban commanders Mawlavi Jalal and Mullah Jindullah among 6 killed in Faryab clash

At least six Taliban group members including two of their commanders were killed during a clash with the security forces in northern Faryab province of Afghanistan.

The 209th Shaheen Corps of the Afghan Military in the North in a statement said the clash between the security forces and Taliban militants took place on Saturday night in the vicinity of Dawlatabad district.

The statement further added that six Taliban group members including their two commanders Mawlavi Jalal and Mullah Jindullah were killed during the clash and four others were wounded.

According to 209th Shaheen Corps, the local residents and security forces have not suffered casualties during the clash.

The anti-government armed militants including Taliban have not commented regarding the clash so far.

Up to 50 militants killed in Afghan Special Forces operations, airstrikes

Up to fifty militants were killed during the operations of the Afghan Special Forces and airstrikes in five provinces of the country.

Informed military sources announced Tuesday that the operations were conducted in Jowzjan, Uruzgan, Kapisa, Khost, and Helmand provinces.

The sources further added at least 31 of the militants were killed in Faizabaddistrict of Jowzjan province during the operations of the Afghan Special Forces which were launched few days earlier.

A strike in Tarin Kot district of Uruzgan resulted in two Taliban fighters killed, the sources said, adding that a total of 18 Taliban have been killed in the same area in the past week.

A similar strike in Tagab district of Kapisa province left two Taliban fighters dead while Afghan Special Forces killed 8 militants during an operation in Shah Wali Kot district of Kandahar.

In Helmand, a strike which was conducted in the vicinity of Nahr-e-Saraj district resulted into the killing of three Taliban militants, the sources added.

Turkey cannot become an EU member, says EPP’s Weber

PASSAU, Germany (Reuters) – Turkey cannot become a member of the European Union, said Manfred Weber, the European Peoples Party’s (EPP) lead candidate for the upcoming European elections, adding that he would end accession talks if he becomes European Commission president. The Turkishgovernment says EU membership remains one of its top strategic goals even though accession talks, formally launched in 2004, have been stalled for years.Weber, the center-right EPP candidate to be EU Commission President after European Parliament elections in May, told German conservatives in Bavaria“everyone wants good relations with Turkey, everyone wants to work closely together”. “But if I become Commission president, then I will instruct the offices in Brussels to end the talks with Turkey on accession to the European Union,” he said to rapturous applause. “Turkey cannot become a member of the European Union, let’s make that clear,” Weber added.

EU vetoes plan to add Saudi Arabia to money-laundering list

Category: Top Stories, World Posted by Sameer Published: Mar 06, 2019, 9:16 pm IST Updated: Mar 06, 2019, 9:16 pm IST

Brussels: Envoys from the 28 EU member states on Wednesday unanimously rejected a proposal by the European Commission to add Saudi Arabia and other nations to the bloc’s money-laundering blacklist, European sources said.

The ill-fated plan, drawn up by the EU’s executive arm, infuriated Saudi Arabia as well as the United States and exasperated European capitals.

The EU’s 28 interior ministers will formalise the rejection at talks in Brussels on Thursday, a European source told AFP.

The EU governments “cannot support the current proposal,” said a strongly worded draft statement that will be approved by the ministers.

EU diplomats have complained that the way the commission had drawn up the list was unclear and potentially vulnerable to legal challenges.

The list “was not established in a transparent and resilient process that actively incentivises affected countries to take decisive action while also respecting their right to be heard,” the draft said.

The controversial list faced a diplomatic onslaught with Saudi Arabia’s King Salman intervening personally to fight it, writing to European leaders to protest.

The letter, seen by AFP, called the move to list the Gulf monarchy “surprising and unexpected” and warned it would damage “trade and investment flows between the kingdom and the European Union”.

The US ambassador to the European Union, Gordon Sondland, on Friday called the list “dogmatic posturing”, furious that the US territories of GuamPuerto RicoAmerican Samoa and the US Virgin Islands were included.

Under the commission proposal, the new countries — which also included Panama — would have joined 16 others seen as doing too little to stop the financing of terrorism and organised crime.

Those blacklisted already include the likes of IranIraq, Pakistan, Ethiopia and North Korea.

Inclusion on the EU list does not trigger sanctions, but it does oblige European banks to apply tighter controls on transactions with customers and institutions in those countries.

Three ‘explosive devices’ found in London | The Guardian Nigeria News – Nigeria and World News

The suspicious packages containing padded envelopes were found at an office block next to Heathrow Airport, the post room at Waterloo station and at offices near London City Airport in the east of the capital, according to Scotland Yard. “The packages — all A4-sized white postal bags containing yellow Jiffy bags — have been assessed by specialist officers to be small improvised explosive devices,” London’s Metropolitan Police said in a statement. Officers were called to Compass Centre at 9:55 local time (0955GMT), and two hours later the alarm was raised at Waterloo Station in central London. At 12.10, another suspicious package was reported at the offices of City Aviation House, at the Royal Docks in the east of the capital close to London City Airport. “The Met Police has issued advice to transport hubs across London to be vigilant for and report suspicious packages to police,” the force added.