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Hong Kong Billionaire Breaks Silence, Urges Protesters to Ease Off

Hong Kong Billionaire Breaks Silence, Urges Protesters to Ease Off(Bloomberg) — Ten weeks into the protests that have rattled the Asian financial hub to its core, Hong Kong’s billionaires are beginning to break their silence as the costs of escalating violence mount.Peter Woo, the largest shareholder and former chairman of developer Wheelock & Co., on Monday called on protesters to ease off after they notched a victory by blocking the government’s extradition bill. Sun Hung Kai Properties Ltd., controlled by the city’s wealthiest clan — the Kwoks — issued a statement Tuesday condemning violent protests.The billionaires’ comments come as two months of unrest weighs on the territory’s stock market. Woo has had more than $ 1 billion wiped from his personal wealth.Protests have moved to the city’s airport for the last two days, leading to a swath of canceled flights, following clashes that saw riot cops fire tear gas in a subway station and protesters lash out at undercover officers.“It’s time to think deeply,” Woo wrote in Monday’s edition of the Hong Kong Economic Journal. “Going against the extradition bill was the ‘big tree’ of this movement. This one and only big appeal has already been accepted by the government, so this tree has fallen.” Some people are using the issue to “purposely stir up trouble,” he added.Hong Kong’s unrest has spiraled since the initial anger was sparked by the proposed bill that would have allowed extraditions from the territory to mainland China. As graphic scenes of violence between police and protesters went viral on social media, a turning point came on July 21, when a mob of men attacked protesters with poles at the Yuen Long subway station.The perceived passivity of the police response to that incident spurred outrage and shifted the protesters’ focus from the extradition bill to law enforcement and the territory’s government more broadly. Weakened by the turmoil, Chief Executive Carrie Lam has refused to resign. She has followed Beijing’s stance not to give in to protesters’ demands, which include an independent inquiry into the use of force by police and the release of detainees, following hundreds of arrests.In his column, Woo focused on violence wrought by protesters, but not the actions of the police, who he described as “outnumbered.” Wheelock gets about 38% of its revenue from mainland China, making him one of the most exposed to China among Hong Kong’s property billionaires.Signs of economic fallout from the constant turmoil are starting to show. Flanked by business leaders on Aug. 9, Lam said the aftershocks could hit Hong Kong’s economy like a “tsunami.” Last week, Wheelock’s Wharf Holdings reported falling underlying profit and said demand in Hong Kong weakened due to “travel advisories, economic slowdown, contracting exports/re-exports, falling retail sales, stock market jitters and the threat to employment.”The Real Estate Developers Association of Hong Kong issued a statement Aug. 8 condemning violence and calling for peace. Seventeen members co-signed, including Woo’s Wheelock, as well as Sun Hung Kai and Li Ka-Shing’s Hutchison Properties. Another appeal published in Chinese-language papers was issued on Aug. 10, with co-signers including Kwok family members as well as billionaire Henry Cheng of New World Development.Woo, Li and Cheng also were among billionaires who opposed plans for a mass sit-in targeting the city’s financial district in 2014. Cheng said at the time that the protests — led by an activist group known as Occupy Central With Love and Peace — could offend Communist Party leaders in Beijing and hurt the company’s jewelry sales in Hong Kong.Sun Hung Kai, Hong Kong’s biggest developer, faced criticism after clashes last month at one of its malls in Sha Tin. The company denied protesters’ allegations that the firm invited the police into New Town Plaza. At the Harbour City center in Tsim Sha Tsui, owned by a unit of Woo’s Wheelock, protesters canceled a plan to swarm the mall in the wake of the New Town Plaza incident after management put up signs asking police not to enter unless a crime was taking place.Sun Hung Kai issued a statement on Tuesday that criticized the protests.“The recent series of violent acts to challenge the rule of law have damaged Hong Kong’s economy and seriously affect citizens’ daily life,” Sun Hung Kai said. The company would support efforts by the government and police to restore order, it said.Aftershocks have spilled over into other industries. Protesters have been circulating a spreadsheet aimed at boycotting brands perceived to be supportive of the establishment, while China has also been exerting economic pressure. Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd. staff who join the protests face a ban on flights to the mainland, and the Gianni Versace luxury brand apologized for a shirt that allegedly implied Hong Kong wasn’t part of China.Cathay’s biggest shareholder, the billionaire Swire family’s Swire Pacific Ltd., called for “restoration of law in order” in a statement Tuesday. “We must act now to stop the violence and preserve the stability, peace and prosperity of Hong Kong,” it said, adding that the company fully supports Cathay Pacific’s “strict implementation” of Chinese regulators’ “directives to ensure safety, and its zero-tolerance approach to illegal activities.”Housing CrisisSome development tycoons say Hong Kong’s population has reason for discontent. Lan Kwai Fong Group head Allan Zeman said on Bloomberg TV Monday that urgent solutions are needed to address the territory’s housing crisis.“A lot of these people, I don’t blame them for marching because they don’t have hope,” said Zeman, whose holdings spanning Hong Kong, mainland China and Thailand include the city’s California tower. “They live with their parents, they don’t see a future for themselves.”(Updates with Swire statement in 14th paragraph.)\–With assistance from Venus Feng.To contact the reporters on this story: Blake Schmidt in Hong Kong at bschmidt16@bloomberg.net;Sheryl Tian Tong Lee in Hong Kong at slee1905@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Pierre Paulden at ppaulden@bloomberg.net, Keith Campbell, Marion DakersFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.



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Epstein death: Prison officer 'removed from suicide watch night before billionaire paedophile died'

Epstein death: Prison officer 'removed from suicide watch night before billionaire paedophile died'Corrections officers had not checked in on financier and registered sex offender Jeffrey Epstein for "several" hours before he was found hanging in his cell Saturday, a person familiar with the matter said, just one in a series of missteps in the hours leading up to his death.Officers should have been checking on Epstein, who was being held in a special housing unit of the Metropolitan Correctional Center in New York City, every 30 minutes, and, under normal circumstances, he also should have had a cellmate, according to the person familiar with the matter and union officials representing facility employees.But a person who had been assigned to share a cell with Epstein was transferred on Friday, and – for reasons that investigators are still exploring – he did not receive a new one, the person familiar with the matter said Sunday night.That left Epstein, who had previously been placed on suicide watch, alone and unmonitored \- at least in the hours before his death – by even those officers assigned to guard him.The person familiar with the matter spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the investigation.The revelations are sure to increase scrutiny of the Federal Bureau of Prisons and the Metropolitan Correctional Center, a high-rise facility in Manhattan where Epstein, 66, was found unresponsive in his cell Saturday while he was awaiting trial.He was facing federal charges alleging that he sexually abused dozens of girls in the early 2000s. After being found, he was taken to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead.The hanging, which authorities had classified initially as an "apparent suicide," triggered investigations of how such a high-profile inmate, who was supposed to have been carefully monitored, could have died in federal custody.It also caused outrage among his victims and their representatives, who had hoped that Epstein's trial next year would produce the justice they thought he had long evaded.The Federal Bureau of Prisons did not return repeated messages seeking a comment.Barbara Sampson, New York City's chief medical examiner, said her office conducted an autopsy of Epstein's body Sunday but had not yet reached a determination on cause of death, "pending further information."The medical examiner also allowed Michael Baden, a private pathologist, to observe the autopsy at the request of Epstein's representatives, Ms Sampson said.The two corrections officers assigned to watch the special unit in the detention centre where Epstein was being housed were working overtime – one forced to do so by management, the other for his fourth or fifth consecutive day, the president of the local union for staffers said.Serene Gregg, president of the American Federation of Government Employees Local 3148, said the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan is functioning with less than 70 percent of the needed correctional officers, forcing many to work mandatory overtime and 60- or 70-hour workweeks.She said one of the individuals assigned to watch Epstein's unit did not normally work as a correctional officer but, like others in roles such as counsellors and teachers, was able to do so. She declined to say which one or specify the person's regular role."If it wasn't Mr. Epstein, it would have been somebody else, because of the conditions at that institution," Ms Gregg said. "It wasn't a matter of how it happened or it happening, but it was only a matter of time for it to happen. It was inevitable. Our staff is severely overworked."Ms Gregg said she did not know details of the investigation into Epstein's death and declined to detail her discussions with those working that night.But she said she has long complained about understaffing at the facility, telling superiors, "It's only a matter of time before we have a loss of life." And in Epstein's case, she said, it was possible overwork of officers played a role."It's daunting, mentally, physically. I would feel confident in saying that some of that contributed to the unfortunate death of inmate Epstein," she said, clarifying later that she did not know with certainty whether workload played a role in the incident because she was not privy to details of the investigation.On Sunday, amid inquiries by the FBI, Justice Department's inspector general and New York City medical examiner, questions remained."It's our practice not to comment on ongoing investigations," said John Lavinsky, a spokesman for the Justice Department's inspector general.Epstein was not on suicide watch Saturday before he was found, but because he was held in the facility's special housing unit, he should have been checked on every 30 minutes, according to union officials and a person familiar with the investigation.A person familiar with the matter said that procedure was not being followed, at least according to preliminary information corrections officials gave investigators. Ms Gregg declined to comment on internal security procedures.It was also not clear how much, if any, of the incident or authorities' check-ins was captured on camera. E.O. Young, the national president of the Council of Prison Locals C-33, said that while cameras are prevalent in the facility, he did not believe they generally captured inmates' cells.The Federal Bureau of Prisons said Saturday that lifesaving measures were "initiated immediately" after Epstein was found, and then emergency responders were summoned.Epstein had been placed on suicide watch after a July 23 incident in which he was found in his cell with marks on his neck \- which subjected him to near constant monitoring and daily psychological evaluations, according to people familiar with the case.But he was taken off that about a week later and brought to the special housing unit, where there was a higher level of security, but not constant monitoring.Before the incident, Epstein had a cellmate: Nicholas Tartaglione, a former police officer in custody on murder and narcotics charges. But Mr Young, the national union president, said Epstein was in a cell alone immediately before his death.Mr Young said he was not certain why Epstein was in the cell alone, as the Bureau of Prisons has moved recently to make sure fewer inmates are housed on their own.He said there was some speculation after the July 23 incident that Epstein was trying to get away from Tartaglione, whom he feared, and he believed that – at least for a time – Epstein had another cellmate after coming off suicide watch.Mr Young asserted that in the facility's general population, Epstein also probably would have been a target, and that there was only so much officers could do to prevent him from harming himself.But Mr Young said, even in Epstein's case, correctional officers face a grim reality."We can't ever stop anyone who is persistent on killing themselves," Young said. "The only thing the bureau can do is delay that."Young said he and other officials had long been raising concerns as the Trump administration had imposed a hiring freeze and budget cuts on the Bureau of Prisons."All this was caused by the administration," Mr Young said.Spokesmen for the White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment. In congressional testimony earlier this year, Attorney General William Barr conceded that the bureau was "short" about 4,000 or 5,000 employees and said he had lifted the hiring freeze and was trying to ensure a steady pipeline of new officers to replace those who leave."I think this is an area where we have stumbled," Mr Barr said.Though Epstein's death will short-circuit his trial, the U.S. Attorney in Manhattan said Saturday that authorities were continuing to explore those who might have conspired with Epstein.The financier had a star-studded list of acquaintances and friends \- including former president Bill Clinton and President Donald Trump \- although investigators' focus in the past has been on the less-famous people who worked with Epstein and have been accused of helping procure girls for him.Epstein had pleaded guilty in 2008 to two state charges of soliciting prostitution to resolve similar sexual abuse allegations as part of an agreement that has been widely criticised as overly lenient.The deal allowed Epstein to spend just 13 months in jail and be released regularly for work, and it spared those who worked with him from prosecution.It was approved by Alex Acosta, who was then the US Attorney in Miami. Mr Acosta would go on to serve as labour secretary in the Trump administration but resigned from his post last month after federal prosecutors in New York charged Epstein, renewing questions about the earlier deal.The Washington Post



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Jeffrey Epstein death: Why was billionaire paedophile taken off suicide watch six days after being found unconscious in his cell?

Jeffrey Epstein death: Why was billionaire paedophile taken off suicide watch six days after being found unconscious in his cell?Like all federal prisons, the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Lower Manhattan has a suicide prevention program designed for inmates who are at risk of taking their own lives.After an apparent attempt three weeks ago, Jeffrey Epstein — the financier who was at the facility awaiting trial on charges he sexually abused dozens of girls — was placed on suicide watch and received daily psychiatric evaluations, a person familiar with his detention said.But just six days later, on July 29, Epstein, 66, was taken off the watch for reasons that remained unclear on Saturday, the person said.Twelve days after that, he hanged himself. Guards making their morning rounds discovered his body at 6.30am on Saturday, the Bureau of Prisons said.Epstein’s suicide, coming shortly after prison officials in Manhattan deemed he was no longer at risk of taking his own life, raises questions about the steps prison officials took to keep him alive and ensure he would face his accusers in court.The Justice Department immediately faced a backlash from elected officials and the public. Ben Sasse, who is on the Senate’s Judiciary committee, said in a letter to the Justice Department that it was inexcusable that Epstein had not been under a 24-hour watch. “These victims deserved to face their serial abuser in court,” he wrote.Attorney General William Barr said in a statement that he had asked the inspector general for the Justice Department to open an investigation “into the circumstances of Mr Epstein’s death.” The FBI is also investigating, he said.The federal Bureau of Prisons did not immediately respond to requests for information about its decision that Epstein was no longer a suicide risk.The Metropolitan Correctional Center houses about 800 people awaiting either trial or sentencing in New York City, and over the years its inmates have included high-profile terrorists, white-collar criminals and organised crime figures.Epstein had been held there since his arrest on July 6 on federal charges that he sexually abused and trafficked girls in the early 2000s.Judge Richard Berman of US District Court had denied him bail, rejecting his request to be detained at his Upper East Side mansion as he awaited trial.One federal prison official with knowledge of the incident confirmed Epstein had been taken off suicide watch recently and was being held alone in a cell in a special housing unit.The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of being fired, said guards found Epstein in an otherwise empty cell during morning rounds. He had hanged himself and he appeared to be dead.It would have been extremely difficult for Epstein to harm himself had he still been on suicide watch, a second prison official said, also speaking on the condition of anonymity for fear of dismissal.Inmates on suicide watch are generally placed in a special observation cell, surrounded with windows, with a bolted down bed and no bedclothes, the official said.A correction officer — or sometimes a fellow inmate trained to be a “suicide companion” — is typically assigned to sit in an adjacent office and monitor the inmate constantly.Robert Gangi, an expert on prisons and the former executive director of the Correctional Association of New York, said guards also generally take shoelaces and belts away from people on suicide watch. “It’s virtually impossible to kill yourself,” Gangi said.Inmates can only be removed from the watch when the program coordinator, who is generally the chief psychologist at the facility, deems they are no longer at imminent risk for suicide, according a 2007 Bureau of Prison document outlining suicide prevention policies.The inmates cannot be removed from the watch without a face-to-face psychological evaluation.To take an inmate off suicide watch, a “post-watch report” needs to be completed, which includes an analysis of how the inmate’s circumstances have changed and why that merits removal from the watch, the document said.Under Bureau of Prison regulations, the government’s jails and prisons must have at least one room designed for housing an inmate on suicide watch, and that room must allow staff members to control the inmate without compromising their ability to observe and protect them.Every prison facility is required to have a suicide prevention program.Suicide prevention cells must provide an “unobstructed view of the inmate” and “may not have fixtures or architectural features that would easily allow self-injury,” according to a Bureau of Prisons policy.The prison or jail staff members are supposed to operate in shifts to keep the inmate under constant observation and to keep a log of the person’s behaviour, according to federal regulations.The inmate is only supposed to be removed from the watch when he or she “is no longer at imminent risk for suicide,” the regulations say.On July 23, Epstein was lying unconscious in a cell he shared with another inmate, with bruises on his neck.Law enforcement officials at the time said his injuries were not serious, but the incident was investigated as a possible suicide.Before that incident, the former financier had been housed in a cell with Nicholas Tartaglione, a former police officer facing murder charges.Their cell was in a special unit with strict security measures that is used to separate some inmates from the general population.New York Times



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U.S. Indicts Chinese Billionaire on Charges of Evading $1.8 Billion in Tariffs

U.S. Indicts Chinese Billionaire on Charges of Evading $  1.8 Billion in TariffsHe is accused of disguising aluminium as pallets to avoid paying duties



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Billionaire Tom Steyer's entrance into the 2020 Democratic race is the perfect example of the rot at the core of the US political system

Billionaire Tom Steyer's entrance into the 2020 Democratic race is the perfect example of the rot at the core of the US political systemTom Steyer's entered the 2020 presidential race with a promise to spend $ 100 million on his campaign, but he should use that money elsewhere.



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Colorful self-made billionaire H. Ross Perot dies at 89

Colorful self-made billionaire H. Ross Perot dies at 89H. Ross Perot, the colorful, self-made Texas billionaire who rose from a childhood of Depression-era poverty and twice mounted outsider campaigns for president, has died. Perot, whose 19% of the vote in 1992 stands among the best showings by an independent candidate in the past century, died early Tuesday at his home in Dallas surrounded by his family, said the spokesman, James Fuller. As a boy in Texarkana, Texas, Perot delivered newspapers from the back of a pony.



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Billionaire anti-Trump activist Tom Steyer launches presidential bid

Billionaire anti-Trump activist Tom Steyer launches presidential bidCalifornia billionaire Tom Steyer on Tuesday morning announced his bid to join the two dozen Democrats running for president.



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US hedge fund billionaire charged with sex trafficking minors

US hedge fund billionaire charged with sex trafficking minorsJeffrey Epstein, a hedge fund billionaire with ties to top politicians and celebrities, was charged on Monday with sexually exploiting dozens of young girls. Epstein, 66, was arrested at an airport in New Jersey on Saturday after returning to the United States from Paris on a private jet. In an indictment unsealed in US District Court for the Southern District of New York, he was charged with one count of sex trafficking of minors and one count of conspiracy to commit sex trafficking of minors.



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Billionaire Jeffrey Epstein pleads not guilty to sex-trafficking claims that 'shock the conscience'

Billionaire Jeffrey Epstein pleads not guilty to sex-trafficking claims that 'shock the conscience'Jeffrey Epstein, a billionaire financier, was charged with sex-trafficking and related offenses in a federal indictment unsealed Monday.



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Jeffrey Epstein – live updates: Billionaire and former Trump associate in court over sex trafficking ring involving girls as young as 14

Jeffrey Epstein - live updates: Billionaire and former Trump associate in court over sex trafficking ring involving girls as young as 14Jeffrey Epstein is facing sex trafficking and conspiracy charges over accusations he exploited numerous underage women and maintained a network of enablers who allowed the abuse to carry on for years. Mr Epstein, a politically-connected billionaire financier and onetime associate to the likes of Donald Trump and Bill Clinton, was arrested over the weekend after returning to the US on his private jet from a trip to Paris. Prosecutors suspect him of a list of sex crimes, including the recruitment of underage girls for sexual activity, paying minors for massages and later molesting them, as well as other crimes that allegedly took place in his New York and Florida homes. He was scheduled to appear in a Manhattan federal court on Monday over the allegations dating back to the early 2000s. Mr Epstein previously avoided a major prison sentence after pleading guilty to state prostitution charges nearly 11 years ago. He skirted most of his 13-month sentence with the help of a work-release program that allowed Mr Epstein to leave the jail facilities almost every day.Please allow the liveblog to load



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