Category Archives: General

Congolese war chokes cobalt supply for Asian electric vehicles

Production from country that accounts for nearly half of global supply plummets amid ongoing conflict.


Swiss banker helped US taxpayers hide assets

A former Credit Suisse banker has pleaded guilty to helping Americans avoid paying millions of dollars in income taxes for nearly a decade.

In her plea agreement, Susanne Rüegg Meier admitted helping taxpayers conceal assets and income in secret Swiss bank accounts, according to the Justice Department.

Rüegg Meier, a Swiss citizen, ran the Zurich Team of Credit Suisse’s North American desk.

In one case, the Justice Department said, Rüegg Meier helped a customer hide his assets even after Credit Suisse (CS) closed his account. She helped him withdraw about $1 million in cash and told him to walk along the street in Zurich to look for a new bank.

The customer put the money in a paper bag and left the bank, the Justice Department said.

An attorney listed for Rüegg Meier did not respond to a request for comment.

All told, Rüegg Meier supervised as many as 1,500 accounts and was personally responsible for about 150 clients worth a total of $400 million. The clients almost all lived in New York, Chicago or Florida.

Rüegg Meier admitted in the plea agreement that her actions were responsible for between $3.5 million and $9.5 million in tax losses.

Rüegg Meier was indicted in 2011. Her case was part of a series of sweeping fraud and conspiracy charges brought against other Swiss bankers who were accused of defrauding the United States.

She could be sentenced to as much as five years in prison, and will appear in court again in September.

Credit Suisse, meanwhile, pleaded guilty in 2014 to federal charges that it illegally allowed some U.S. clients to evade taxes. As part of its settlement, the Swiss bank agreed to pay $2.6 billion to the federal government and New York financial regulators.

Credit Suisse said in a statement to CNNMoney on Thursday that it “resolved this matter back in 2014.” The bank offered no further comment.

The Alpine nation was long reluctant to change banking privacy laws that make it possible for banks to refuse to hand over their customers’ data to authorities. Some Swiss bank accounts didn’t even have names attached to them, using number identification instead.

But as the global pressure to tackle tax evasion mounted, Switzerland entered agreements with the European Union and countries including the U.K., Australia and the U.S. that are designed to increase tax compliance.


NEWS: Sonoro´s Budong Budong project drilling rig, associated equipment ready for transportation

Sonoro Energy Ltd. (“Sonoro” or “the Company”) (TSX-V: SNV) is pleased to report that the drilling rig and all associated services and equipment for its Budong Budong LG-1 Up-dip well in Indonesia have been scheduled to be transported by sea during the week of July 24, 2017.

The drilling rig contracted from PT Pontil, a subsidiary of Major Drilling Group International, has passed the latest stage of certifications, including completion of function and load tests, with final structural certification to be carried out in the next few days. Logistics of moving the drilling rig, along with associated equipment and services, have been finalized with an Indonesian transportation company. Transportation of the rig and equipment from Balikpapan to the province of West Sulawesi, across the Makassar Strait, is expected to take about two days.

“We are extremely pleased with the responsiveness and the performance of our local Indonesian service providers. They continue to meet our schedule, and have remained prepared for mobilization,” says Sonoro Chief Executive Officer and Director Richard Wadsworth.

Sonoro has also organized the port-to-port transportation of all other services and equipment from Java to West Sualwesi, which will also begin the week of July 24.

All other project deliverables remain on schedule, and Sonoro expects spudding of the LG-1 Up-dip well to begin in early August 2017.

“With the final elements of the services being organized, and rig certification almost complete, we’re excited to be entering into the next phase of mobilizing to West Sulawesi, in order to start drilling in early August,” says Mr. Wadsworth.

Full Release

China is crushing the U.S. in renewable energy

China may be the planet’s biggest polluter but it’s also powering ahead of other countries on renewable energy.

As the Trump administration yanks the U.S. out of the Paris climate change agreement, claiming it will hurt the American economy, Beijing is investing hundreds of billions of dollars and creating millions of jobs in clean power.

China has built vast solar and wind farms, helping fuel the growth of major industries that sell their products around the world.

“Even in China where coal is — or was — king, the government still recognizes that the economic opportunities of the future are going to be in clean energy,” said Alvin Lin, Beijing-based climate and energy policy director with the Natural Resources Defense Council.

More than 2.5 million people work in the solar power sector alone in China, compared with 260,000 people in the U.S., according to the most recent annual report from the International Renewable Energy Agency.

While President Trump promises to put American coal miners back to work, China is moving in the opposite direction.

Coal still makes up the largest part of China’s energy consumption, but Beijing has been shutting coal mines and set out plans last year to cut roughly 1.3 million jobs in the industry. The Chinese government has also moved to restrict the construction of new coal power plants.

For the first time ever, China’s National Energy Administration in January established a mandatory target to reduce coal energy consumption. It also set a goal for clean energy to meet 20% of China’s energy needs by 2030.

Analysts expect China to easily meet that target. Greenpeace noted in a report earlier this year that the country’s clean energy consumption rose to 12% at the end of 2015. Renewable energy sources account for about 10% of total U.S. energy consumption, according to official statistics.

To help reach the 2030 goal, China is betting big on renewable energy. It pledged in January to invest 2.5 trillion yuan ($367 billion) in renewable power generation — solar, wind, hydro and nuclear — by 2020.

The investment will create about 10 million jobs in the sector, the National Energy Administration projects. China currently boasts 3.5 million jobs in clean energy, by far the most in the world, according to the International Renewable Energy Agency.

The country has already become a major manufacturer and exporter of renewable energy technology, supplying some two-thirds of the world’s solar panels.

China also has a strong grip on wind power. It produces nearly half of the world’s wind turbines — at a rate of about two every hour.

China’s hottest new project is a giant floating solar energy farm located in the eastern province of Anhui.

Covering about 100 square miles, it is the largest floating panel facility in the world. It has the capacity to produce enough energy to power 15,000 homes, according to Sungrow Power Supply, the company behind the farm.

Fittingly, the solar farm floats atop a flooded area once home to a coal mining factory.

The idea to float solar panels is fast catching on in an industry that faces one persistent problem — space.

“The government won’t allow us to just install panels wherever we want,” says Yao Shaohua, the deputy director of the project. “This lake wouldn’t be used otherwise, so it makes sense.”

Initially it is more expensive to build solar farms on water than on the land. But experts say floating solar panels can run more efficiently in the long run, because they are cooled by the water underneath.

“The whole world, including China, is recognizing that we need to fight climate change,” said Yao. “I’m pretty sure this is going to be a trend.”

China’s growing dominance in the sector has had a huge effect on the global market.

Manufacturers dramatically ramped up production of solar panels, driven by an estimated $42 billion in government subsidized loans between 2010 and 2012, according to the GW Solar Institute at George Washington University. The flood of Chinese panels was one of the main reasons why world prices crashed by 80% between 2008 and 2013.

The U.S. accused China of flooding the market and the Commerce Department started imposing steep tariffs on Chinese-made solar panels in 2012 in a bid to protect American producers.

Just last month, the U.S. informed the World Trade Organization that it may impose tariffs on imports of solar panels from other countries as well, alleging that Chinese companies have opened production facilities in third countries to get around import restrictions.


Germany made over €1bn out of Greek debt crisis

Since the beginning of Greece’s crisis in 2009 Germany’s Finance Ministry has cashed in to the tune of €1.3 billion as a result of its loans to Athens and its debt buying programs reports Euractiv.

Eurozone members initially agreed to hand any interest back to the Greek central bank as a point of EU solidarity. However, when the second bailout program started in 2015, the pay-back operation was halted. The interest was not mentioned in the German federal budget that year, and therefore the interest was never paid back to Athens.

Since then Berlin has refused to restart the pay-back program despite Athens’ efforts to satisfy the demands of its creditors.

According to German daily Suddeutsche Zeitung, Germany’s development bank KfW has received €393 million in interest payments on a loan of €15.2 billion it made to Athens in 2010.

A state debt buying scheme by the eurozone’s central banks brought the Bundesbank a profit of €952 million between 2010 and 2012. The European Central Bank collected more than €1.1 billion in 2016 in interest payments on the nearly €20 billion-worth of Greek bonds it holds, showed the report.

“It may be legal how Germany deals with the crisis in Greece. It is not legitimate in the moral sense of solidarity”, explains the speaker for budgetary affairs in the Bundestag for the Green Party, Sven Christian Kindler.

“The interest gained must finally be paid to Greece. It can not be that (German Finance Minister) Wolfgang Schäuble wants to rehabilitate the German budget with Greek interest,” says the Green’s EU expert in the Bundestag, Manuel Sarrazin.

Last year Schaeuble told Greece to carry out unpopular reforms if it wants to stay in the eurozone, ruling out debt relief for Athens.

Eurozone ministers agreed in June to unlock the latest €8.5 billion tranche of Greece’s bailout to help the country avoid a default on its debt repayments of nearly €7.3 billion.

“Greece has to become competitive to get access to debt markets so it can stand on its own two feet,” Schaeuble said after the agreement, adding “for that Greece has to carry out reforms.”

To get a new installment of bailout funds, Athens has promised to cut pensions in 2019 and reduce the tax-free threshold in 2020 to produce savings worth two percent of GDP.

The authorities also agreed to sell coal-fired power plants and coal mines equal to about 40 percent of the capacity of state-run power utility Public Power Corporation.