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Jet Airways air hostess held for smuggling Rs 3.2 crore in US dollars part of hawala ring

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New Delhi:Jet Airways air hostess, who was caught smuggling $480,200 (valued at ?3.25 crore) wrapped in aluminium foil, had reportedly smuggled foreign currency on at least seven previous occasions before she was caught late night on board a Delhi-Hong Kong flight.

The Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI), who have arrested Deveshi Kulshreshtha (25) along with her agent Amit Malhotra (39), said the duo are part of a bigger international hawala syndicate.

A city court sent Kulshreshtha and Malhotra to two-day judicial custody and directed the DRI to produce them before the concerned metropolitan magistrate on January 11.

 

Sources said that Malhotra met Kulshreshtha in August last year when he was returning from Hong Kong by a Jet Airways flights. “Malhotra had a chat with her while she was serving the meal to him. They exchanged contact details and later met to discuss the plan. She made four-five domestic trips before going to Hong Kong. Before going there, she used to meet the supplier and collect the currency from him,” said a DRI official on condition of anonymity.
Investigators said she used to get 1% of the total money she laundered as commission.

“In August last year, she travelled for the first time with $50,000. Thereafter, she travelled with $1,00,000 and this was her eighth trip with the Hawala money. Another person used to come to the hotel in Hong Kong to collect the money. Malhotra, who runs a tour and travel business in east Delhi’s Vivek Vihar, has also been arrested,” said the DRI official.

Official said that Amit too had travelled to Hong Kong on multiple occasions on the same money laundering business. The DRI has raided Malhotra’s house in east Delhi and recovered ?3.3 lakh in Indian currency and $2,500 along with other evidence.

The DRI said that some businessmen and colleagues of the airline crew were also on their radar and will be interrogated soon.

“Malhotra knew several businessmen and promised to convert their black money into white. Now, we have to work on the leads given by them and more arrests are likely to happen soon,” the officer added.

Investigators also said that crew member was well trained in hiding money and used to wrap the currency bundles in aluminum foil, which the scanner at the airport was not able to detect easily.

A Jet Airways spokesperson had confirmed the incident. “Based on the investigations and inputs from law enforcement agencies, the airline will take further action,” the spokesperson said in a statement. There was no fresh statement from the airlines.


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International

Trump to meet Kim Jong-un again in late February: White House

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WASHINGTON: The White House announced that US President Donald Trump will hold a second summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in late February.

During the meeting, the two leaders will hold talks over the steps taken by Pyongyang to dismantle its nuclear and missile programmes. It may be recalled that the first meeting between the two leaders was held on June 12, 2018 in Singapore. The White House, however, did not reveal where the two leaders will meet in February.

The White House made the announcement shortly after Trump held a meeting with North Korean envoy, Kim Yong Chol, on Friday for a discussion that included talk about Kim Jong-un’s unfulfilled pledge to dismantle nuclear weapons programmes of North Korea.

 

“President Donald J Trump met with Kim Yong Chol for an hour and half, to discuss denuclearization and a second summit, which will take place near the end of February. The president looks forward to meeting with Chairman Kim at a place to be announced at a later date,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement.

The press secretary told reporters: “We continue to make progress, we continue to have conversations. The US is going to continue to keep “pressure and sanctions” on North Korea until “we see fully and verifiable denuclearization”. We had very good steps and very good faith from the North Koreans with the release of hostages and other moves and so we’ll continue this conversation.And the President looks forward to it next February.”

Kim yong Chol arrived at the White House after meeting with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and US special envoy for North Korea Stephen Biegun at a hotel in Washington.

“The Secretary, Special Representative Biegun, and Vice Chairman Kim discussed efforts to make progress on the commitments President Trump and Chairman Kim Jong Un made at their summit in Singapore. At the conclusion of the Secretary’s meeting with Vice Chairman Kim, the two sides held a productive first meeting at the working level,” State Department Deputy Spokesperson Robert Palladino said.

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Blast targets Al Qaeda ally in Syria, kills 11

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BEIRUT: An explosion outside an office belonging to an Al Qaeda-linked group in Syria’s northwest killed at least 11 people and wounded several others, opposition activists said.

The blast comes a week after members of the Al Qaeda-linked Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, Arabic for Levant Liberation Committee, or HTS, took over control of wide parts of Idlib province and the surrounding countryside after forcing rival insurgents to accept a deal for a civil administration run by HTS in their areas.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and Smart news agency, an activist collective, said the blast occurred on the southern edge of the rebel-held city of Idlib.

 

The observatory said 11 people were killed in the blast, including seven HTS members. Smart said 12 people were killed, many of them militants.

In the country’s east, an air strike in the last area held by the militant Islamic State group killed at least 20 people.

State news agency SANA said 20 people were killed in the air strike on the IS-held village of Baghouz, while the observatory said 23 people were killed including 10 IS members.

They both blamed the US-led coalition that has been providing air cover to the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces in their monthslong offensive to capture the area from extremists near the Iraqi border.

The SDF has intensified its offensive over the past weeks on the IS-held area.

Meanwhile in Turkey, President Tayyip Erdogan met with US Republican Senator Lindsey Graham to discuss the situation in Syria as the United States prepares to withdraw troops.

Graham, a prominent voice on foreign affairs in the US, met with Erdogan and other Turkish officials on Friday for talks that were also expected to include a proposal for the creation of a “safe zone” in northeast Syria.

The visit comes days after a suicide bombing, claimed by IS, killed two US service members and two American civilians in the northeastern town of Manbij.

Graham has said he is concerned that US President Donald Trump’s troop withdrawal announcement had emboldened IS militants and created dangerous uncertainty for American allies.

The Pentagon identified three of the four Americans killed in the suicide bomb attack in Manbij Army Chief Warrant Officer 2 Jonathan R. Farmer, 37, of Boynton Beach, Florida, who was based at Fort Campbell, Kentucky; Navy Chief Cryptologic Technician (Interpretive) Shannon M. Kent, 35, from upstate New York and based at Fort Meade, Maryland; and a civilian, Scott A. Wirtz, from St. Louis.

The Pentagon hasn’t identified the fourth casualty, a civilian contractor.

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Pakistan rules out India’s role in Afghan peace process

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Islamabad: Pakistan has ruled out any role for India in the Afghan peace process, the media reported on Friday.

“India has no role in Afghanistan,” Foreign Office spokesman Mohammad Faisal said at the weekly media briefing on Thursday while responding to a query about Islamabad’s position on New Delhi’s part in the reconciliation process.

Faisal acknowledged that Pakistan has a difficult relationship with India, saying that despite Pakistan’s efforts for normalisation, no concrete progress could be achieved in ties with India, Dawn news reported.

 

“You all know that India is not willing to engage with Pakistan,” he reminded.

Faisal’s remarks were in sharp contrast to what Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi had told the National Assembly last month.

“Since India is present in Afghanistan, its cooperation in this regard (facilitating a negotiated settlement of the Afghan conflict) will also be required,” he had told legislators.

Meanwhile, US President Donald Trump’s Special Envoy on Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad arrived in Pakistan on Thursday to discuss with the senior civil and military leadership the latest efforts to bring peace to the war-torn country.

Khalilzad, who met Taliban representatives last month in Abu Dhabi, is leading an inter-agency delegation to India, China, Afghanistan and Pakistan from January 8-21 to “facilitate a negotiated settlement to the conflict in Afghanistan”.

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