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Contributing Editor

Julie DiMauro
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Thomas Fox
Contributing Editor

Marc Alain Bohn
Contributing Editor

Bill Waite
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Shruti J. Shah
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Russell A. Stamets
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Richard Bistrong
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Eric Carlson
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A Russian Crusader Dies

One of Russia’s leading anti-corruption journalists died last week from head wounds received two months ago in an attack outside his home. Vyacheslav Yaroshenko, 63, ran the paper Korruptsia i Prestupnost (Corruption and Crime) in Rostov-on-Don. The local media had reported that he either was in a brawl or fell down the stairs. He’s pictured left.

A colleague from Yaroshenko’s newspaper said it “has eight pages, seven of them were dedicated to corruption in the law enforcement agencies.” He didn’t “have the slightest doubt” Yaroshenko was attacked for his work. Korruptsiya i Prestupnost had been publishing articles on corruption in the Rostov regional government, police, and the prosecutor’s office.

The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) said in a June 29, 2009 statement that Yaroshenko was found unconscious with a head wound in the entrance of his apartment building early on the morning of April 30. Police did not investigate what happened to Yaroshenko in April, but said they had immediately ruled out criminality.

The CPJ said, “We call on Russian federal authorities to open an independent, thorough, and transparent investigation into the circumstances of the editor’s death. The possibility that Yaroshenko may have been targeted because of his newspaper’s coverage of alleged corruption in Rostov law enforcement agencies calls for the assignment of outside, independent investigators to this case.”

Russia is the third deadliest country in the world for journalists and the ninth worst in solving reporters’ killings, according to the CPJ. It wrote to President Obama two weeks ago to urge him to raise the issue of “impunity in violent crimes against the press” in his meetings this week with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in Moscow.

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From William Jefferson’s Trial. We asked two days ago if the government will introduce evidence that the former congressman violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act as alleged in the indictment. The answer is yes.

The Times Picayune reports here that prosecutors played tapes Monday in which “Jefferson said that Vice President Atiku Abubakar of Nigeria had agreed to grease the skids for a telecommunications venture the congressman was promoting in Nigeria in exchange for a piece of the action.” The report from Bruce Alpert said written transcripts of the tapes were provided to jurors but not to the news media and others.

The taped conversation about Abubakar took place during a car ride Jefferson went on with Lori Mody, the government’s confidential witness. An undercover FBI agent drove. Mody wore a wire then and to several other meetings with Jefferson. His lawyers said before the trial that he wasn’t really planning to pay any bribes but he made the statements about Abubakar to keep Mody happy.

Read all our posts about William Jefferson here.

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From Frederic Bourke’s Trial. The arguments are finished. David Glovin has a nice account here of the prosecution’s close delivered Monday. “Connecticut entrepreneur Frederic Bourke stuck ‘his head in the sand’ to avoid learning whether his partner [Viktor Kozeny] paid bribes to government leaders in Azerbaijan in a 1998 deal to buy the state oil company, a prosecutor charged.”

The Litigation Daily’s report from Andrew Longstreth is here. He says,

The task [of delivering the closing for the government] fell to assistant U.S. attorney Iris Lan. Lan explained to the jury–which consists of eight women and six men–that in the 1990s Bourke had become close with his Aspen, Colo., neighbor Viktor Kozeny, a Czech national whom Fortune magazine dubbed one of the “Pirates of Prague” in 1996 for his investment activities in his native country as it was transitioning from communism to capitalism. Lan told the jury that Bourke was eager to participate in a plan with Kozeny to invest in Azerbaijan because of his previous success in Czechoslovakia. “This is a story about a few rich men who wanted to become even richer,” said Lan.

And Adam Klasfeld at the Courthouse News Service said,

Lan’s daylong summation involved extensive use of PowerPoint. Lan projected large portions of court records onto a screen, generously excerpting transcripts of government witness testimony. She flashed images of charts, letters, emails and photographs that prosecutors submitted as evidence.

Bourke’s lawyer John Cline closed for the defense. David Glovin says jurors will be instructed that they can convict Bourke on two theories. Either that he learned about the bribes after asking two of the government’s witnesses about the payments. Or that he “consciously avoided” learning about the bribes by not asking questions about them. Cline said in his close, “It just doesn’t make sense.” The government is simply “throwing something up against the wall and hoping some of it will stick.”

The prosecution has already rebutted. After instructions, the case goes to the jury. A verdict by Friday? Maybe.

Read David Glovin’s reports on the trial here.

Read all our posts about U.S. v. Kozeny and the prosecution of Frederic Bourke here.
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