All the news you need to know today curated by 95bFM and VICE NZ.
Money Laundering Issues in Auckland
An Auckland company has found itself caught up in money laundering controversies. Azerbaijan bank Pilatus was accused of money laundering last month. Some of the companies within that network have been linked back to a Parnell address, said to be the former offices of wealth management company, Denton Morrell. The owner of Denton Morrell, Matthew Butterfield, has previously worked in Switzerland and the Channel Islands for similar firms. Both countries are known tax havens. The links were established as part of an investigation called the Daphne Project, which was named after a journalist who was murdered while investigating Maltese government corruption.
Ministry and Police Want More Drug Testing for Drivers
The Transport Ministry and the police are pushing to catch more drivers for drugs. According to documents, they want approximately 45,000 drivers a year to be tested for cannabis, meth and ecstasy - an initiative which would cost $9 million. The Transport Ministry has argued in the report that under the scheme, it estimates there will be six fewer fatalities a year. Minister Julie Anne Genter said she'd like to see alcohol testing increased before more costly drug-testing schemes are considered. Alcohol breath testing has decreased by more than 40 percent in the last five years, and the death toll has risen around 50 percent.
Air NZ Will Not be Departing
Thousands of Air Zealand passengers will be unable to fly until mid next week after urgent engine maintenance caused major flight disruptions. A global issue was detected with plane engine compressors, requiring a check on nine of Air New Zealand's plane engines. 6500 passengers, flying both international and domestic, have been contacted about the cancellations and rescheduled flights. Planes from outside companies may also be brought in to meet the flight demand in this busy time of the year for travel. Similar problems have come up in the past for Rolls Royce, who's reputation will take a significant hit after these findings.
New Contract for Wellington Bus Drivers
Wellington bus drivers are now fighting for existing terms of their current contracts under their new employer, Tranzit. The new contract will mean $200 off a week for drivers. Tranzit was offering a higher hourly rate of $22.20, but cut benefits that would have amounted to $29 an hour for workers. Tranzit's Managing Director, Paul Snelgrove, claims the old contract is outdated and the new conditions will take better care of their employees. A tentative hearing is set for the end of the month and strike action may be in sight for the union.
Turkey is Having Early Elections
Turkey is moving their elections forwards to the 24th of June, a year and half ahead of schedule. The early elections were proposed by the head of the nationalist bloc, Devlet Bahceli. The elections are likely to take place under a state of emergency, since a coup attempt in July 2016. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had previously pledged to hold the elections in 2019, but due to fears of an economic downturn Erdogan has changed his mind. In just two months, the political scene of Turkey will change from a parliamentary democracy to executive presidency. Last year Turkey held a referendum on presidential powers, with the office of the Prime Minister being abolished.
Democracy is on Trial in Abu Dhabi
Pro democracy activist, Ahmed Mansoor is currently standing trial in Abu Dhabi. Mansoor was part of the UAE Five—a group of activists arrested in 2011 after spurring various online campaigns and petitions against their government. Mansoor was again arrested and imprisoned last year after signing a letter, asking the Arab League to liberate political prisoners. Before his arrest, his phone was targeted using spyware, only sold to governments to track contacts and activities. Since then, he has been in solitary confinement without access to legal counsel. Human Rights Groups have been calling for his immediate and unconditional release.
US and North Korea Have Secret Meetings
CIA Director Mike Pompeo is said to have held a secret meeting with Kim Jong-un earlier this month on a planned summit between the US and North Korea. The meeting is said to be the highest-level meeting between the two countries in nearly two decades. The last meeting between North Korea and the US was with then-Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, who met with Kim Jong Il. President Donald Trump intends to initiate a summit between the two countries in hopes that some diplomatic arrangement can be made, after Kim Jong Un extended an invitation to visit in March.
Castro's Reign in Cuba is Over
Raul Castro is expected to step down from his role as Cuba's President and hand over power. This will be the first time someone outside the Castro dynasty will in control the communist Caribbean nation since the Cuban revolution. Castro's hand picked successor is Miguel Diaz-Canel Bermudez, a communist party loyalist. The nomination was backed unanimously by the country's national assembly. Castro is expected to remain as the head of the communist party. Despite being in government for over a decade, Diaz-Canel's politics is unknown to most cubans. Diaz-Canel will also be the first non-soldier elected to be in charge of Cuba since 1959.
Kauai is Declared a State of Disaster
Hawaii has declared a state of disaster for the County of Kauai after severe weekend flooding. The flooding has caused mass evacuations and triggered emergency relief efforts. The National Weather Service in Honolulu recorded more than 700 mm of rain over a 24 hour period from Saturday to Sunday. Authorities have since signed emergency proclamations to allow government departments to respond quicker in providing aid. Hawaii News Now estimates that dozens of homes and businesses were destroyed in the flooding.
Manus Island Refugees to Head to America
Fifty refugees are expected to leave the Australian offshore detention on Manus Island and resettle in the United States. The refugees only recently got their final approvals and would join 230 other refugees now settled in America. Around 2,000 refugees remain in offshore detention. Australia has asked New Zealand to keep its offer to resettle 150 refugees. This offer has not been taken up since it was first extended in 2013 when most of the refugees arrived at the detention centre. Sky News has also revealed New Zealand's foreign office prefers to take families from Nauru than single men from Manus.
Activists and writers are being arrested in Somaliland
Somaliland writer, Naima Abwaan Qorane has been sentenced to three years in prison. This comes after a series of arrests and detentions against activists and writers. Qorane was jailed for anti-national activity and for opinions expressed on social media which undermined the semi-autonomous state's claim to independence. Qorane's poetry is of the lost unity of Somalia. Qorane has been denied visits from her family and has been threatened many times during her interrogation. Another author, Mohamed Kayse Mohamoud was also sentenced to 18 months in prison on charges of offending the honour of the president.
No Military Base in Vanuatu
Prime Minister of Vanuatu Charlot Salwai has reiterated that his government will not let China build a military base in the country. Salwai told reporters that he hasn't had any meetings about it and if there's been any speculation, he's ruling it out. Australian media reported earlier this month that China was looking to establish a base in Vanuatu.
Additional reporting: Darashpreet Johal, Luci Ma’asi, Leah Garcia-Purves