Police in Dominican Republic Raid Newspaper Offices
Attorney-General Sends in SWAT Team over Hacking Scandal Linked to Corruption Allegations
(freemedia.at) - Police in the Dominican Republic last Friday used a SWAT team to raid the home and offices of a prominent journalist as part of an investigation into an alleged spying scandal targeting high-ranking public officials.
The journalist in question, Guillermo Gómez, producer of the television program Aeromundo and owner of the digital newspaper El Siglo 21, called the raids "a crude attack on freedom of expression in the Dominican Republic," according to national media reports.
Ordered by the Attorney General's Office, the raids are believed to be in connection with an investigation led by state security services into an alleged hacking campaign that targeted the e-mail accounts of several government officials, including first lady and vice-presidential candidate Margarita Cedeño de Fernández.
Aurelio Henríquez, president of the Dominican Journalists Association, told the International Press Institute (IPI) that the government believes that El Siglo 21 accessed the accounts in order to gather information for a series on official corruption that was to be published in February and March of this year.
Police during the raid seized the paper's servers, ostensibly in an attempt to determine whether the hacking could be traced back to them, Henríquez said.
Gómez has denied obtaining the information illegally, maintaining that his sources are members of the government of President Leonel Fernández, including military and police officials, the newspaper Listín reported on Monday.
According to media reports, the government's investigation was prompted by the Internet circulation of a private e-mail exchange between Cedeño de Fernández and Rosa Hernández de Grullón, the country's ambassador to UNESCO and wife of the president of Banco Popular.
First published by the blogger Margarita Cordero, the e-mails appeared to reveal that Hernández succeeded in supplying the first lady with 1.6 million pesos (approx. 34,000 EUR) in depositor money - in addition to a half-million euro apartment in Paris - to further the first lady's vice-presidential campaign. According to the e-mails, Hernández received permission from her husband for the transaction, which was approved by the bank's vice president, Nicolas Vargas, in an e-mail on 7 April 2011.
El Siglo 21 had already published 3 articles in its planned series before announcing unexpectedly on 9 February - the day before the raid - that the series would be discontinued. National media reported that Dominican Republic authorities removed the published pieces from the web. The paper's website remains down following the loss of its server.
Radhamés Gómez Sánchez, director of El Siglo 21, said the raids reflected the actions of a government "desperate to hold on to power" but vowed that the authorities would not succeed in "silencing those dedicated to democracy and freedom of expression."
IPI Press Freedom Manager Anthony Mills said: "While we understand the desire of the Dominican Republic prosecutor's office to ascertain how these e-mails and other documents were obtained, we would like to remind the authorities that journalists have a right to investigate matters of public interest, including any links to alleged corruption."
First Lady’s alleged European bank account spurs media frenzy
Domingo. - An allegation by a Santiago TV program that the vice presidential candidate of the ruling PLD party and First Lady Margarita Cedeño has more than 43 million Euros in an European account has sparked a media frenzy Friday.
The flap over an allegation by Marcos Martinez, host of the program Diario 55 that Cedeño has that account the Denmark Bank Danske is today’s headline in very major newspaper and the buzz in social networks.
The First Lady yesterday, who announced that she’ll take Martinez to court, called the allegation a “great infamy” that will not continue and “is willing to clarify with all consequences.”
She said she expects Martinez to prove “in good faith” and in court, what he said “on television, radio and in the social networks.”
The journalist Marcos Martinez on Friday harshened his allegation that first lady Margarita Cedeño has €43 million account in a Danish bank by stating that if fact, the amount is 76 million Euros, and acknowledged her right to file slander charges against him.
“She’s the First Lady and is obliged to strongly clarify to the Dominican electorate my denunciation’s veracity or lack thereof, because she’s the vice presidential candidate and she’s placed under the scrutiny of public opinion and of the voters whom she seeks the support from,” Martinez said after ending his program in a local channel in Santiago.
He challenged Cedeño to present documents to debunk his assertion because in his view, she’s not exempt from questioning. “I am not going to feel fear, we’re in a State of Law and I don’t campaign for money either.”
Martinez advised the First Lady to send an emissary to the Danish bank and obtain a certification that she has nothing to do with that account “and, if so, we wouldn’t have to go to any trial because I’ll immediately condemn myself.
First Lady bank account row; despite denial, accuser insists
Luis Miguel Pereyra, the First Lady Margarita Cedeño’s lawyer in her case against Santiago TV personality Marcos Martinez yesterday showed a statement from the Danske Bank denying she has any relation with that organization based in Denmark.
Martinez meanwhile, resurfaced yesterday after, according to Santiago media having “vanished,” and called “clownish” the document allegedly from the Danish authorities presented Thursday by Banks superintendent Haivanjoe Ng, denying Cedeño has an account in the Danske.
Pereyra said the bank issued the document from its branch in Sweden at the request of the Dominican embassy in that nation, which also handles the relations with Denmark and Finland.
Martinez also vowed to disclose more documents in the coming days, bud didn’t specify their content.
Dominican leader “sacking” the country, journalist in hacking probe says
DominicanToday.com - The journalist and TV producer Guillermo Gomez affirmed Sunday that president Leonel Fernandez and the Dominican Government has been “sacking” the country and seeks to destroy him and his family with a “moral firing squad.”
“Why are you doing it Mr. President, why are you sacking the country and trying to destroy me and my family with a “moral firing squad? Is it because you fear what this humble journalist is going to divulge about your corrupt government,?” Gomez said in his program, Aeromundo, on Colorvision.
He said the Government-ordered searches and confiscations of equipment at his news Website elsiglo21.com, his offices and his residence aren’t going to halt the alleged acts of corruption by the current Administration that he’ll publish between March and April.
Gomez, who rose from anonymity to wealth and fame during the Administration of Jorge Salvador Blanco (1982-1986) of the opposition PRD party, also cited Frank Cabral Calacagno (Calcaño), one of the country’s most shadow figures, allegedly involved in illegal tapping of phone conversations for decades.
“If someone “meets with hackers, it’s the Justice Ministry, such as Mr. Frank Cabral,” he said, adding that “they’ll not be able to shut me up.”
“What the government has done is a major persecution against the freedom of expression and diffusion of thought,” Gomez said, referring to Friday’s search and seizures in his house, and Website and lawyers’ offices, and a villa in the resort Casa de Campo.
On Saturday the Santo Domingo Office of the Prosecutor, in a terse statement, said the searches stem from complaints of hacking and of illegal wiretaps by people it didn’t identify.
Reporters Without Borders question “cracking” probe searches and seizures
Reporters Without Borders today questioned the reasons behind the searches and confiscations of the offices and residence of Dominican journalist Guillermo Gomez, owner of the news Website "siglo21.com" and producer and host of the opinion program "Aeromundo" on Channel 9, Colorvision.
The statement issued in Paris Monday by the global organization questions the searches conducted as part of an investigation into the “cracking” of emails of the first lady Margarita Cedeño and those of government and military officials, on which the authorities suspect one of Gomez’s son, Jose Angel.
The journalist denounced that the authorities confiscated his computer equipment and the recordings of his programs on Friday, and that search was in reprisal to his assertion of alleged financial irregularities of the foundation Funglode, founded and headed by president Leonel Fernandez.
“Admitting that this action has been carried out in a formal and legal manner, we have the right to question the magnitude of these searches, as well as their nature with respect to the official reason," Reporters said, and urged the return of all confiscated material “as soon as possible.”
First Lady spend over USD 2 million on transportation
The Office of the First Lady has a budget for 2012 of six hundred and sixty million two hundred eighty thousand five hundred and ten pesos (RD $ 660,280,510.00). With such amazing items as for fuels and lubricants which Margarita Cedeño has available the astronomical sum of forty million eight hundred twenty-eight thousand five hundred fifty-one a penny pesos (RD $ 40,828,551.01)
This chapter of the Budget Office of the First Lady of the Dominican Republic is supplemented by another assigned to per diem and transportation the sum of forty-one millones one hundred eighty-four thousand one hundred eighty-five seventy-two cents (RD $ 41,184,185.72) This means that Margarita Cedeño is assigned to transport fuel and the sum of eighty-two million dollars for a period of twelve months.
Free news. com will continue to publish other information on the budget of the Office of the First Lady as for communications that have a sum of RD $ 20,465,074.14 and a similar amount for advertising.
Dominican bishops say dirty money stalks electoral campaign
The Catholic Church yesterday warned against the threat of dirty funds from international drug and people trafficking and money laundering, which in its view are attractive temptations that could poison the candidates’ will in the electoral campaign and of future officials.
The Dominican Episcopal Conference’s statement to the Dominican people to mark National Independence Day the 27th of this month, read by cardinal Nicolas de Jesus Lopez Rodriguez, the Catholic bishops this is a time of temptations to commit the candidates’ future will to “become schemers.”
It said certain companies provide large sums money to political leaders and the parties, to exert control over them once they reach power “or seeking the evasion of taxes or the approval of laws that unilaterally favor their investments.”
The bishops also warned law enforcement agencies need an urgent renewal which in their view means that the Government must significantly improve the salaries in the National Police and the military, to efficiently exert their authority. “Faced with a spiraling wave of crimes and violence and delinquency, we often have la sensation that we’re orphaned of authorit"
Dominican Watchdog Note: There is no doubt that everytime corruption charges are coming close to the top of Dominican government either the journalists are killed or silenced!! Read more from American Press Watchdog
There is more to this story, its not an incident that a specific Danish bank on the other side of the world was named in a Dominican corruption..... It's not unusual for rich Dominican families to have(hide) bank accounts outside the DR.