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Five banks have been fined a total of €1.07bn (£936m) for taking part in foreign exchange trading cartels dubbed “Three Way Banana Split” and “Essex Express”.

Barclays and Royal Bank of Scotland were among the lenders handed penalties by the European Commission relating to collusion over trading in 11 currencies dating back more than a decade.

Citigroup, JP Morgan and MUFG were also fined, while a sixth bank, UBS, was named in the investigation but avoided punishment after it blew the whistle on the cartels.

The commission said the traders involved exchanged sensitive information and trading plans and occasionally coordinated trading activities through chatrooms.

Most of the traders knew each other personally.

“Some of the traders created the chatrooms and then invited one another to join, based on their trading activities and personal affinities, creating closed circles of trust,” the commission said.

The “Essex Express ‘n the Jimmy” chatroom was so called because all but one participant, James, lived in Essex, and met on a train to London.

Other chatrooms were called “Semi grumpy old men”, “Two and a half men” and “Only Marge”.

Information exchanged on these platforms enabled traders “to make informed market decisions on whether to sell or buy the currencies they had in their portfolios and when”.

Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said: “Companies and people depend on banks to exchange money to carry out transactions in foreign countries.

“Foreign exchange spot trading activities are one of the largest markets in the world, worth billions of euros every day.

“The commission will not tolerate collusive behaviour in any sector of the financial markets.

“The behaviour of these banks undermined the integrity of the sector at the expense of the European economy and consumers.”

Barclays was fined a total of €210m (£184m) and taxpayer-backed RBS €249m (£218m).

US banks Citigroup and JP Morgan were given penalties of €311m (£272m) and €229m (£200m) while Japan’s MUFG was fined €70m (£61m).

RBS said the fine was covered by money already set aside by its NatWest Markets subsidiary.

Lawyers at City firm RPC said the European Commission findings could prompt those impacted by the cartels, who may include institutional investors, pension funds and large companies, to sue the banks.

Chris Ross, partner at RPC, said: “Given that billions of pounds in forex trade each day, with a huge volume of that going through London, these lawsuits are likely to add up to very substantial amounts.”

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Five Britons arrested and 100kg of drugs confiscated in Malaga | UK News

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A British criminal network has been foiled in Spain, with more than 100kg of drugs confiscated. 

Five Britons – three men and two women aged between 38 and 62 – have been arrested in connection with the network by the National Police in Malaga.

Five people were arrested. Pic: Policia Nacional
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Three men and two women have been arrested. Pic: Policia Nacional

Officers said they intercepted 52kg of a mix of marijuana and hash, and 51kg of vacuum-packed marijuana buds.

The police operation also saw the seizure of 23,000 euros (£21,000) in cash.

Drugs were being sent across Europe through couriers based in Malaga, and it is thought they were destined for countries including the UK, Sweden, Poland and Denmark.

The suspects allegedly took steps to avoid police, including frequently changing which vehicles they used and the homes they rented, officers said.

Some of the drugs were destined for the UK. Pic: Policia Nacional
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Some of the drugs were destined for the UK. Pic: Policia Nacional

A long-running police operation saw two parcel shipments intercepted at courier agencies in May, containing 58kg of drugs in seven boxes intended for Sweden, Poland and Denmark.

In subsequent shipments, the last one intercepted earlier in August, three packages containing 17kg of the drugs were prevented from reaching Sweden and the UK, the force said.

Police then carried out home searches once the suspects were identified, with a further 28kg uncovered in the raids.

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Hong Kong: Police use water cannon for first time against protesters | World News

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Hong Kong police have used water cannon against anti-government protesters for the first time during a second straight day of demonstrations.

There have been skirmishes between activists and officers following a pro-democracy march in an area known as the New Territories where tens of thousands took to the streets.

A large crowd then attended a rally in a park but another group of protesters took over a main street, putting up barricades with traffic barriers and cones.

Police tried to disperse them by firing tear gas but protesters reacted by throwing bricks and other objects towards the officers.

The violence came a day after similar clashes in the Kowloon Bay district where authorities arrested 29 people for offences including unlawful assembly, possession of offensive weapons and assaulting police officers.

According to the South China Morning Post, the custom-built French trucks have 15 high-pressure cannons.

Two cannons on the roof can fire more than 1,200 litres of water a minute over a distance of 50 metres. The water can be mixed with tear gas or liquid dye as well.

According to guidelines, the cannons should only be aimed at the lower limbs of the protesters.

An assistant commissioner of police overseeing operations is allowed to authorise deployment of the water cannon after assessing threats.

The trucks arrived in the city in May last year.

More follows…

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Australia to block websites hosting terror content during attacks | World News

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Websites and social media companies that host terrorist material during attacks will be blocked, Australian officials have said.

The government plans to crack down on extremists exploiting digital platforms to post very violent content.

And it is considering bringing in legislation to force the platforms to improve safety.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said: “We are doing everything we can to deny terrorists the opportunity to glorify their crimes.”

The clampdown comes after suspected gunman Brenton Tarrant allegedly live-streamed on Facebook an attack on two mosques in March which claimed 51 lives in the New Zealand city of Christchurch.

This led to increased scrutiny of websites and social media companies.

Brenton Tarrant, charged for murder in relation to the mosque attacks, is seen in the dock during his appearance in the Christchurch District Court, New Zealand March 16, 2019
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Suspected gunman Brenton Tarrant pictured in court in New Zealand

Internet domains hosting any abhorrent violent material – content showing murder, attempted murder, rape, torture, or kidnapping – recorded by those involved would also be blocked, the government said.

A crisis coordination centre would also be set up to monitor the online world for extreme violence or terrorist material.

Mr Morrison is outlining his plans at the G7 summit in the French town of Biarritz, where the leaders of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK and US gathered.

He is trying to push countries to take more action against terrorist and violent extremist material during a series of meetings on the sidelines of the summit.

The Australian government has not elaborated on what legislative options would be used if digital platforms failed to improve safety.

Tech giants including Facebook, YouTube, Amazon, Microsoft and Twitter, and telecoms firms Telstra, Vodafone, TPG and Optus are set to tell the government next month how they plan to carry out the recommendations.

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