Denmark’s image ‘damaged’ by bank scandal

Denmark, the EU’s cleanest country on paper, got confirmation on Wednesday (19 September) that its top bank perpetrated Europe’s biggest-ever money-laundering scandal.

Danske Bank, which holds a third of all Danish people’s savings, saw its share value plunge.

  • Despite the money laundering, the bank’s resigning CEO will still get his bonus (Photo: danskebank.com)

The affair could see the country’s sovereign debt rating downgraded due to loss of faith in its financial system, raising national borrowing costs.

The Danish government, which ignored warning signs, tried to contain political fall-out by proposing new laws.

But the bad news, which centres around dirty Russian money, is set to keep coming, amid ongoing criminal investigations and threats of US fines.

Denmark was last year ranked second only to New Zealand worldwide in anti-corruption terms by Transparency International, an NGO.

But its good name was dragged through the mud on Wednesday when Danske Bank’s top executives told press in Copenhagen that its Estonian branch had done business with at least 6,200 “suspicious” clients and had handled about €200bn in the period under suspicion.

To put things in perspective, that figure was larger than the GDP of Portugal or than last year’s entire EU budget.

It was also nine times larger than the GDP of Estonia and should in itself have rung alarm bells in Danske Bank’s HQ.

Alarm bells were rung by Estonian, US, and Russian authorities as well as by internal bank staff on several occasions in the past eight years.

But the bank’s CEO, 54-year old Norwegian Thomas Borgen, did nothing about it until years afterward, when he shut down the Estonian branch in 2015.

He did not “come across anything that could give rise to concern” he said at one board meeting in March 2010, according to bank minutes revealed on Wednesday.

Senior staff had told him they “were comfortable with the situation in Estonia with substantial Russian deposits” at another meeting in September 2010.

The information came out in an independent 87-page audit on Wednesday by Danish law firm Bruun & Hjejle.

“I deeply regret this,” Borgen, who resigned on Wednesday, said.

“Unfortunately, we can not change the past,” Ole Andersen, its chairman, said.

The findings were “unacceptable and unpleasant … this case in no way reflects the bank that we want to be”, Danske Bank said in a statement.

It pledged €200m to create a new anti-money laundering foundation in Denmark and Estonia, among other promises, such as making sure that “we will serve only subsidiaries of our Nordic customers and international customers with a solid Nordic footprint” in future.

But its mea culpas did little to reassure markets, which have slashed the value of the bank’s shares by more than 35 percent since the bad news first began trickling out last year and by five percent in initial trading on Wednesday alone.

They might do equally little for S&P, a US ratings agency, which has warned the case might end up affecting Denmark’s AAA credit score.

Both the bank and Danish authorities began taking the matter seriously only when whistleblowers and investigative reporters first shed light on it last year.

But Rasmus Jarlov, Denmark’s trade minister, told press on Wednesday he would hold a meeting the same day to start drafting “significantly sharper” penalties for money laundering.

“It is important to get one of the toughest levels of fines in Europe to signal we’re taking this very seriously, because this case has damaged Denmark’s image a lot,” Lisbeth Bech Poulsen, from the opposition Socialist People’s Party, told the Reuters news agency.

Details

Drilling into more detail, the Bruun & Hjejle audit said the vast majority of suspicious clients came from Russia and from former Soviet states such as Azerbaijan and Ukraine.

It said the Russian clients “were notably from the Moscow region … as well as the St Petersburg region”.

It added that a Danske Bank whistleblower had warned it that some of the shady transactions “included the Putin family and the FSB”, referring to Russian leader Vladimir Putin and Russia’s main intelligence service.

In another warning, by Estonian authorities, as far back as 2007, the Danish bank was told some of the money likely came from “tax and custom payments evasion” and “criminal activity in its pure form, including money laundering”.

At the same time, Danske Bank’s Estonian branch failed to do basic checks, such as asking clients where their money had originated or running their names through international criminal and counter-terrorism databases.

It did this despite the fact that 3,500 of the 6,200 “suspicious” clients showed “significant differences between revenue figures and payment activity” and 1,700 of them had been “associated with money laundering schemes in the public domain”.

Meanwhile, a Danske Bank internal audit, dated 2014, said the Estonian “branch [had] entered into highly profitable agreements with a range of Russian intermediaries where underlying clients are unknown”, but it added “the reason underlying beneficial owners are not identified is that it could cause problems for clients if Russian authorities” got to know who they were.

Danske Bank said on Wednesday that 70 experts from Bruun & Hjejle had trawled through 12,000 documents and 8m emails to get its information.

It said “the total flow of payments [through the Estonian branch] amounted to around €200bn”.

It said the audit could not identify what proportion of the money was “suspicious” despite its wide-ranging scope, but it added: “Overall, we expect a significant part of the payments to be suspicious.”

‘Damning’

“Damning conclusions for management, regulators and police in Denmark, Estonia and the EU who all did nothing for eight years while hundreds of billions flowed through,” Bill Browder, a British human rights campaigner said on Twitter.

Browder, in earlier remarks to EUobserver, called the Russian funds “blood money”, because some of the proceeds laundered via Danske Bank were linked to the killing of a Russian whistleblower called Sergei Magnitsky.

But in summing up, the Danish bank’s CEO, Borgen, said on Wednesday: “I have lived up to my legal obligations towards Danske Bank”.

Andersen, its chairman, said the same.

Danish and Estonian authorities will now decide whether they or other bank executives broke national laws in ongoing criminal investigations, which include detailed evidence given by Browder.

But no matter what they say, Borgen, for one, aims to walk away with a bonus for his work.

Danish news agency finans.dk estimated that this would be between €2.8m and €3.6m.

“He will get the bonus, but we cannot confirm the numbers,” a Danske Bank spokeswomen told EUobserver on Wednesday.

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The Economic ‘Recovery’ Is Leaving More Than 50 Million Americans Behind

For more than half of American communities, the economic “recovery” that has created millions of jobs and pushed GDP growth above 4% during Q2 never happened. Indeed, while urban centers like New York City have created millions of jobs, a study recently highlighted by Axios showed that economic conditions in half of the zip codes in the US have actually worsened since the recovery began.

Among other findings, the Distressed Communities Index highlighted the fact that more than 50 million Americans live in distressed communities, while more than 80 million live in prosperous communities.

The 2017 DCI finds that 52.3 million Americans live in economically distressed communities—the one-fifth of zip codes that score worst on the DCI. That represents one in six Americans, or 17 percent of the U.S. population.

By comparison, 84.8 million Americans live in prosperous communities—the one-fifth of zip codes that score best on the DCI. These top-performing zip codes contain 27 percent of the country’s population, a far greater share than any other tier.

Underlying indicators of well-being vary drastically across the different tiers of U.S. communities.

As a map of the distribution of these communities shows, they’re disbursed across all regions of the US, with the greatest concentration of distressed communities in the southeastern US. Meanwhile, the northeastern US had the lowest concentration. Indeed, more than half of the US’s distressed population residents in the southern US.

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One of the starkest differences between prosperous and distressed communities is the uneven level of economic growth.

According to Labor Department data, 10 million jobs were created in the US between 2011 and 2015, with roughly 85% of these created in prosperous zip codes. Meanwhile, roughly half of American communities have seen zero jobs growth since the crisis. Only two out of every five distressed zip codes recorded growth in employment: the rest saw the number of jobs decline as companies migrated toward more populous areas.

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Because of this phenomenon, more than half of distressed zip codes (54%) had fewer jobs and business in 2015 than they did in 2000.

The growth gap between prosperous and distressed zip codes may be the starkest feature of the index because of what it implies about their radically different trajectories.

Over the five-year period from 2011 to 2015, the country added 10.7 million jobs and 310,000 business establishments. Yet that growth was concentrated in the top echelon of U.S. places. An impressive 85 percent of prosperous zip codes saw rising numbers of business establishments and 88 percent registered job growth.

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Outside of the upper echelon, however, growth rapidly becomes less pervasive. Only about two out of every five distressed zip codes registered job growth from 2011 to 2015 and only one in five added business establishments.

Unsurprisingly given these patterns, prosperous zip codes dominated the recovery. They contained 29 percent of the nation’s jobs in 2011 but welcomed 52 percent of the new jobs created over the following five years.

Reflecting the disparity in high paying jobs, nearly three out of every five adults in distressed zip codes have no education beyond high school, and only one in seven residents in these struggling communities has completed a four-year degree.

Distressed

Meanwhile, more prosperous communities harbor the lions share of advanced-degree holders. They also are healthier, with distressed counties registering roughly 40% more deaths.

Prosperous communities, on the other hand, are home to a whopping 45 percent of the country’s advanced degree holders and 41 percent of all Americans with a bachelor’s degree. Tellingly, advanced degree holders are more prevalent in prosperous zip codes than college graduates are in distressed ones.

Massive disparities in health outcomes parallel the nation’s economic imbalances. The inhabitants of more prosperous places tend to be healthier than their neighbors in less advantaged communities, where struggles to find work or pay the bills exact heavy physical and psychological tolls.

Americans in prosperous counties live five years longer than their peers in distressed counties on average.

[…]

In a corollary, in 2014 the average distressed county registered over 1,000 deaths for every 100,000 residents—38 percent more than the average prosperous county. Among specific causes, mortality from mental and substance abuse disorders is 64 percent higher in distressed counties than in prosperous ones. Neonatal mortality rates—those for infants before birth—are 86 percent higher in the average distressed county.

Americans in prosperous areas survive, on average, roughly five years longer than their peers in distressed areas. Meanwhile, mortality from mental and substance abuse disorders is 64 percent higher in distressed counties than in prosperous ones. So next time you hear Americans grumbling about the Obama-era economy, remember: For a significant portion of the American public, economic conditions have gotten worse, not better.

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Warrant issued for Pope?

Information (maybe you need to know) from beforeitsnews

“Indictments issued: Stephen Spielberg, Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, Robert De Niro, Jack Nicholson, Hue Hefner, Tom Hanks, Steph Colbert, Seth Green, Will Ferrel, Morgan Freeman, Jim Carey, Marylin Manson, Johnny Depp, Charlie Shean, Jimmy Kimmel. Stephen King, James Gunn, Dan Schneider, Barrack Obama, John Legend, Chrissy Teigen, Kathy Griffin, Jay Z, Beyoncé Knowles, Cathy Griffin, Anthony Kieds, Oprah Winfrey, Ben Afflec, Steven Tyler, Madona, Prince, James Comey, Adam Schiff, Robert Muller, Katy Perry, Gwen Stefani, Brooke Shields, Ashton Kutcher, Lady Gaga, Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, Chealse Clinton, GHW Bush senior & Jr. Bernie Sanders, Marc Collins Rector, Leonardo DiCaprio, Paul Ryan, Antonoin Scalia, Jerry Brown

Email drops: the CIA is the main reason this is happening, pope Francis is implicated and currently has an international warrant recognized by Russia and China and Interpol has been tasked with serving the warrant. I can get you the info on where they plan to serve him if you want. Date and location I’ll get it to you. Pope Francis had 3 13yo girls testify that he raped them during a Ninth Circle Satanic Ritual and that they personally witnessed him murder children in the Vatican itself.

GHW Bush is one of the main people involved in this This is the breakdown.

The USA has military bases in every country and they use the military base to hide the children they traffic. They use military planes to transport them and everything is classified as top secret or home land security to conceal their activities.

The CIA is involved in everything. Child services, adoption agencies, the Red Cross, save the children foundation, FEMA, police officers, church members, teachers. Are you familiar with the “yearbook catalog system”? The second part of the child trafficking network is also about organ sales on the black market and that’s why planned parenthood is so important to them. I have the whole entire CIA drug trafficking network, system, internally organized from politicians to mafia members, all cartel information related to CIA witnesses, informants, airplanes with and without identification numbers.

Locations of CIA drug airport locations, government pay offs. Everything from 1945 to present with audio, pics, top secret, classified, everything, the clintons drug trafficking network, the bushes, George Bush senior and putin recordings, kill orders, and all the financial banking information with records, passports of those involved, everything. It’s insane that this is all in one place honestly. CIA assets, bank info, shell corporations, 5 Star Trust info, account numbers, 5 us army generals documents and proof of all involvement.

Blood and crips organized drug network with who sold it to them, who knew, everything that has ever been written down and recovered from shredding documents, foreign government documents, bribes, kick backs, anything illegal the CIA has done since 1945. Bill Clinton’s involment and how he would send police officers in another direction so the CIA could transport drugs into the USA, human trafficking routes, drug trafficking routes worldwide by country. Basically anything that has been happening that the government from multiple countries has done or tried to hide was all publicly dropped worldwide yesterday at 8pm central. ”

 

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Editorial staff of Blogfactory are not responsible for any inaccurate, incorrect or offensive statements in this article.

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Putin: Israeli Missile Attack a Breach of Syria’s Sovereignty

On Monday, Israeli warplanes attacked the Syrian coastal city of Latakia, firing a slew of missiles at the city, and ending up getting a Russian plane shot down. On Tuesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin reacted, terming the attack a breach of Syrian sovereignty.

While the downing of a Russian plane and the death of 15 Russian military personnel sparked a lot of anger, Putin seemed willing to absolve Israel, at least for now. He said that a lot of chance circumstances were at play in the incident.

That said, Putin was very clear that the violation of Syrian airspace was a problem, and warnedIsrael not to let the incident recur. That Israel carried out such an attack at all was clearly provocative.

Russia, after all, has negotiated with Israel repeatedly on the attacks of Syria, and while all the specifics aren’t public, one of the recurring messages from Russia was to stay away from the Tartus naval base. Monday’s attack was against a city very close to the base.

By Jason Ditz

 

Turkey Deploying More Troops to Syria After Striking Deal With Russia

Turkey will send more troops into Syria’s Idlib province after striking a deal with Russia that has averted a government offensive and delighted rebels who said it kept the area out of President Bashar al-Assad’s hands, Reuters reports.

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The deal unveiled on Monday by Russian President Vladimir Putin, Assad’s most powerful ally, and Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan will create a demilitarised zone from which “radical” rebels must withdraw by the middle of next month.

Damascus also welcomed the agreement but vowed to continue its efforts to recover “every inch” of Syria. Iran, Assad’s other main ally, said that “responsible diplomacy” had averted a war in Idlib “with a firm commitment to fight extremist terror”.

The agreement halted a threatened Syrian government offensive. The United Nations had warned such an attack would create a humanitarian catastrophe in the Idlib region, home to about 3 million people.

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Turkish soldiers stand guar near the Turkey-Syrian border post in Sanliurfa, on September 4, 2015, as they wait for the arrival of the hearse carrying the body of three-year old Aylan Kurdi , whose lifeless body washed ashore on a Turkish beach. Images of the toddler Aylan whose lifeless body washed ashore on a Turkish beach spread like wildfire through social media and his plight has dominated international headlines, in a heart-rending symbol of the mortal risks faced by tens of thousands of refugees desperate to reach Europe by sea. AFP PHOTO / OZAN KOSE / AFP PHOTO / OZAN KOSE

The Idlib region and adjoining territory north of Aleppo represent the opposition’s last big foothold in Syria. Assad has recovered most of the areas once held by the rebels, with decisive military support from Iran and Russia.

But his plans to recover the northwest have been complicated by Turkey’s role on the ground. It has soldiers at 12 locations in Idlib and supplies weapons to some of the rebels.

Erdogan had feared another exodus of refugees to join the 3.5 million already in Turkey and warned against any attack.

In striking the deal, Russia appears – at least for now – to have put its ties with Turkey ahead of advancing the goal of bringing all Syria back under Assad’s rule.

That goal is also obstructed by the presence of US forces in the quarter of Syria east of the Euphrates that is held by an alliance of Kurdish and Arab militias, and at a base near the borders with Jordan and Iraq.

US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis played down any notion the Turkey-Russia agreement had resolved the situation in Idlib.

“Idlib is one of the most complex problems in a complex theatre (of conflict) right now. So I’m quite sure it’s not all sorted,” Mattis told reporters at the Pentagon.

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Analysts cautioned that implementation of the deal faced big challenges, notably how to separate jihadists from other rebels – a goal Ankara has been struggling to achieve.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said the “moderate opposition” would keep its weapons and the “region will be cleared of radicals”. Turkey would “make additional troop deployments” and its 12 observation posts would remain.

The deal was “very important for the political resolution in Syria”. “If this (Idlib) had been lost too, there would be no opposition anymore,” he said.

Mustafa Sejari, a Free Syria Army (FSA) official, said the deal “buries Assad’s dreams of imposing his full control over Syria”.

Yahya al-Aridi, a spokesman for the opposition Syrian Negotiations Commission, expressed hope a government offensive was now off the table for good.

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The Syrian government, in a statement published by state media, said it welcomed any agreement that spared blood. It also said the deal had a specific time frame, which it did not detail.

“I see it as a test of the extent of Turkey’s ability to implement this decision,” Ali Abdul Karim, Syria’s ambassador to Lebanon, said in an interview with Lebanon’s al-Jadeed TV. “We do not trust Turkey … but it’s useful for Turkey to be able to carry out this fight to rid these groups from their weapons.”

Moscow said the deal “confirmed the ability of both Moscow and Ankara to compromise … in the interests of the ultimate goal of a Syrian settlement by political and diplomatic means”.

“Is this merely a stay of execution? Or is it the beginning of a reprieve?” UN aid chief Mark Lowcock asked during a monthly meeting of the UN Security Council on Syria.

The demilitarised zone will be monitored by Russian and Turkish forces, the countries’ leaders said.

Neither Russia nor Turkey has explained how it plans to differentiate “radically minded” rebels from other anti-Assad groups. It was also not immediately clear how much of the city of Idlib fell within the zone.

Putin said the decision was to establish by Oct. 15 a demilitarised area 15 to 20 km (10-12 miles) deep along the contact line between rebel and government fighters.

Naji Abu Hufaiza, a spokesman for the National Front for Liberation, said he did not have details of the agreement, but added that while he saw it as a success for Turkish diplomacy, his group did not trust Russia to uphold it.

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Idlib is held by an array of rebels. The most powerful is Tahrir al-Sham, an amalgamation of Islamist groups dominated by the former Nusra Front – an al Qaeda affiliate until 2016.

Other Islamists and groups fighting as the Free Syrian Army banner are now gathered with Turkish backing under the banner of the “National Front for Liberation”.

The area is also the last major haven for foreign jihadists who came to Syria to fight the Alawite-led Assad government.

Putin said that, at Erdogan’s suggestion, by Oct. 10, all opposition heavy weapons, mortars, tanks, rocket systems would also be removed from the demilitarised zone.

Earlier this month, Putin publicly rebuffed a proposal from Erdogan for a truce when the two met along with Iran’s president at a summit in Tehran.

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READ NEXT: Turkey is Helping Al-Qaeda in Syria and Nobody is Talking About It

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This article was chosen for republication based on the interest of our readers. Anti-Media republishes stories from a number of other independent news sources

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At CIA’s ‘Russia House,’ growing alarm about 2016 election interference

 

The warren of cubicles was secured behind a metal door. The name on the hallway placard had changed often over the years, most recently designating the space as part of the Mission Center for Europe and Eurasia. But internally, the office was known by its unofficial title: “Russia House.”

The unit had for decades been the center of gravity at the CIA, an agency within the agency, locked in battle with the KGB for the duration of the Cold War. The department’s prestige had waned after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, and it was forced at one point to surrender space to counterterrorism officers.

But Russia House later reclaimed that real estate and began rebuilding, vaulting back to relevance as Moscow reasserted itself. Here, among a maze of desks, dozens of reports officers fielded encrypted cables from abroad, and “targeters” meticulously scoured data on Russian officials, agencies, businesses and communications networks the CIA might exploit for intelligence.

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In the months leading up to the 2016 election, senior Russia House officials held a series of meetings in a conference room adorned with Stalin-era posters, seeking to make sense of disconcerting reports that Moscow had mounted a covert operation to upend the U.S. presidential race.

By early August, the sense of alarm had become so acute that CIA Director John Brennan called White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough. “I need to get in to see the president,” Brennan said, with unusual urgency in his voice.

Brennan had just spent two days sequestered in his office reviewing a small mountain of material on Russia. The conference table at the center of the dark-paneled room was stacked with dozens of binders bearing stamps of TS/SCI — for “top secret, sensitive compartmented information” — and code words corresponding to collection platforms aimed at the Kremlin.

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There were piles of finished assessments, but Brennan had also ordered up what agency veterans call the “raw stuff” — unprocessed material from informants, listening devices, computer implants and other sources. Clearing his schedule, Brennan pored over all of it, his door closed, staying so late that the glow through his office windows remained visible deep into the night from the darkened driveway that winds past the headquarters building’s main entrance.

The description of Brennan and this article is adapted from “The Apprentice: Trump, Russia and the Subversion of American Democracy,” a Washington Post book, which will be published Oct. 2 by Custom House.

A narrative history of Russia’s interference in the 2016 election and its fallout, the book is based on hundreds of interviews with people from Trump’s inner circle, current and former government officials, individuals with close ties to the White House, members of the law enforcement and the intelligence communities, foreign officials and confidential documents. Most people interviewed spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss classified or sensitive U.S. and foreign government deliberations.

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In Donald we trust

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Italians flock to free screenings of film about police violence

Thousands of Italians are flocking to free public screenings of a film about police violence, which tells the tragic story of a young man who died in custody and left Italy in shock almost a decade ago.

The story of Stefano Cucchi, 31, who was arrested in Rome in October 2009 for possessing illegal drugs, has become a film entitled, “Sulla mia pelle,” or “On My Skin.”

The film premiered at the Venice Film Festival last month and was available to Netflix subscribers since September 12 around the world.

Community groups and student organizations, however, are now screening pirated versions of the movie across Italy. Some 2,000 people only attended Rome’s La Sapienza University to watch the movie on Friday.

One of the organizers of the public screenings, only identified as Giovanni, told Italian daily La Repubblica that the events were a way to inform people of how abuse of power was taking place.

“This is how we can make people aware of the abuse of power by those in uniform and, more generally, on conditions in Italian prisons,” he said.

In the film, Cucchi, who suffered from epilepsy, is shown spending a week going through the law enforcement system, at police stations, then a prison, and finally in the prison infirmary, where he dies.

“What happened to Stefano Cucchi could have happened to any one of us,” said Teo, a 27-year-old cameraman. “It doesn’t show the police as animals but it points the finger at a timorous bureaucracy that is incapable of facing its responsibilities.”

Soon after his detention in October 2009, Cucchi was sent to a court, where he looked unstable and showed signs of having been beaten. After the hearing, a judge decided that a further hearing was necessary, and Cucchi was transferred to prison awaiting the second trial. His health condition worsened there, however, and he was taken to the infirmary.

He had bruising and other injuries on his legs and face, according to a medical report, which also said that his jaw had been fractured and a ruptured bladder had caused internal bleeding.

His family was denied permission to see him during his time in custody.

According to an autopsy result, he was severely dehydrated and also had two broken vertebrae and ruptured internal organs.

Ilaria Cucchi, Stefano Cucchi’s sister, is seen holding a picture of his brother’s face after his death in police custody. (File photo)

 

 

The prison’s medical service claimed at the time that the victim had accidentally fallen down some stairs.

Prosecutors investigated a total of 13 people in connection with his death. Three prison guards were charged with manslaughter at a trial in November 2009.

The trial, which ended in June 2013, found four doctors guilty of manslaughter and another guilty of making a false statement.

In January 2017, prosecutors eventually said that Cucchi had been unlawfully killed.

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