Ireland seeks to block Israel access to data on EU citizens
Ireland is seeking to stop a European Union initiative that would enable Israel to receive sensitive information about European citizens, due to concerns about the use that Israel would make of this information, the Irish minister for justice said over the weekend.
In what may be another blow to Israel's international status, Dermott Ahern said that since Israel allegedly used forged Irish passports to carry out the hit on Hamas official Mohammed al-Mabhouh in Dubai, Israel should not be allowed access to this data. Israel has not admitted to a role in the assassination.
Under a plan put forward at the beginning of the year, the European organizations for protecting individuals' privacy agreed that Israeli companies and European companies should be able to exchange information about customers.
For example, this would mean that an Israeli customer of a local cell phone company, say, Pelephone, would be able to use his phone to connect to the Internet, say, in Italy, and the Italian telecom would be able to receive his personal data from Pelephone and charge his account accordingly. The same would be true for people with European cell phones in Israel who wanted to use Israeli networks.
In addition, multinational corporations would be able to entrust Israeli companies to secure their databases, and the data could be stored on servers in Israel. Plus, information about employees could be passed freely between European and Israeli branches of the same company.
In agreeing to grant this access, the EU authorities decided that Israel had proper information protection systems in place.
However, the plan still needs to be ratified by the government of each individual EU member country before it can take force.
Beyond easing companies' operations, the plan is also intended to make it easier for the authorities to catch cases of money laundering.
Currently, passing data between Israel and Europe is dependent on explicit contracts, which fund many a lawyer's income. The initiative would do away with one of the last remaining trade barriers with Europe.---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Estonia refutes “Arctic Sea” allegations
Jun 17, 2010
TALLINN — The Estonian government is denying that a former intelligence agency director was involved in the Arctic Sea hijacking as a Latvian man convicted in the incident told a Russian court.
Dmitrijs Savins, a Latvian national and the leader of seven other hijackers that included four Estonians, two Russians and another Latvian, was convicted and sentenced to seven years in prison on Friday. Russian state television reported that during the trial Savins said the motive for the case was financial and the operation was organized by Eerik-Niiles Kross, who served as the director of Security Coordination Office in the Estonian State Chancellery, which is connected to the Ministry of Defense Information Service (Riigi Teabeamet), from 1995 to 2000.
The Russian government, which has been very secretive about the case leading to speculation that smuggled weapons may have been aboard the ship, has not said whether it was investigation Kross or planning on taking legal action against him.
Kross denied Savins’ allegation in interviews with Estonian and Finnish media last week.
“The claim that I ordered the Arctic Sea hijacking is ridiculous,” Kross told Helsingin Sanomat on Friday. “The story was started in the Russian press, and the information did not get there by accident.”
Chief State Prosecutor Lavly Lepp told Postimees that no connection between hijacking the ship and Eerik-Niiles Kross was found during Estonia’s criminal investigation of the hijacking incident.
“The prosecutor’s office and Estonian security police have checked all connections between Dmitri Savins and the people he communicated in Estonia that were relevant to the investigation,” Lepp said.
The president’s office and defense ministry told Baltic Reports that they are not commenting on the case, as the prosecutor’s office already has stated their position.
However, other Estonian politicians are waving their finger at Russia, saying that the reason this information has been released in this secretive case is to hurt Estonia’s international reputation. In his blog, Estonian parliament member Marko Mihkelson wrote last week that “the dissemination of of this false information seems like a discrediting operation.”
“Why doesn’t the Russian prosecutor’s office work with their Estonian colleagues on such inquiries, instead of going to the media with it?” Mihkelson wrote.
The government refutes that Estonia is a country pervaded with such large-scale crime. Erkki Koort, deputy chancellor of internal security at the Ministry of Interior said that Estonia is a state based on the rule of law and fulfills the obligations of all international conventions.
“If somebody tries to create considerable connections with Estonia within the hijacking case, it is just ridiculous,” Koort told Baltic Reports on Wednesday. “In the case of the hijacking it is just an individual case, on which one cannot make any conclusions on how law-abiding Estonian citizens are or on the internal security in general.”
— Baltic Reports editor Nathan Greenhalgh contributed to this article.
Mystery vessel hijacker names mastermind
11 June, 2010
An Estonian businessman contracted the hijacking of the merchant vessel “Arctic Sea”, his accomplice has told a Moscow court. The pirate attack, which drew worldwide media attention in June 2009, was done for ransom.
The alleged organizer of the crime is Erik-Neiliss Kross – an Estonian businessman involved in oil trade and development – according to one of the arrested hijackers, Dmitry Savins.
Savins told a Moscow court that he helped Kross, his business partner and friend, to hire people for the attack and was the one in charge of the operation. Kross planned the hijacking for purely financial reasons. He needed money to cover debts he had accumulated as a result of the economic crisis, which had hurt his business greatly.
According to the convict, two other people had been involved in arranging the crime – Sergey Demchenko from Germany and Aleksey Kertsbur from Israel. The man didn’t provide any proof of his accusations.
Kross, the alleged organizer of the hijacking, was a prominent official in Estonia in the mid-1990s, reports Interfax. For several years he headed an agency, which coordinated the country’s intelligence. After resignation he worked as a security consultant for several Estonian media outlets. In 2007, he consulted the Georgian National Security Council on how the country should achieve its goal of joining NATO.
Savins said he was to be paid 100,000 euros for the grand theft, while the seven men under his command were promised 10,000 each. Later the fee was doubled.
The group successfully boarded the Arctic Sea as it transported cargo of lumber from Finland to Algeria. Then they demanded 1.5 million euros ransom from the owner and the insurer, but they refused to pay up.
After Kross failed to evacuate the pirates, they decided to release the ship’s crew near Guinea, sink it and flee. However, a Russian Navy battleship intercepted them before they could put their plan into action.
Kross' accomplice Dmitry Savins was proved guilty and sentenced to 7 years of prison. Savins' case was reviewed separately from the other pirates because he chose to strike a bargain with the court.
Earlier in May, another Arctic Sea hijacker had been sentenced to five years for piracy. He also bargained with the court.
The disappearance of the Arctic Sea made headlines after some media speculated that the vessel could have been used for secret transportation of some illegal cargo – drugs, radioactive materials or weapons.
At the time of the incident, President Dmitry Medvedev had demanded swift action from the military to find and rescue the missing ship, which fed the suspicions of conspiracy theorists.