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Czech Republic
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15 августа, 16:37

'A fantasy': EU leaders dismiss UK's post-Brexit customs plan

Proposals for new arrangement given short shrift, with Czechs unhappy at idea of UK signing trade deals in transition periodEU leaders have poured cold water on Britain’s hopes of being able to sign trade deals with non-EU countries during a Brexit transition period, with one describing the UK’s opening gambit for trade negotiations as a “fantasy”.The British government published proposals on Tuesday for “a new customs arrangement that facilitates the freest and most frictionless trade possible in goods between the UK and the EU”. Continue reading...

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11 августа, 14:40

EU Clears Czech Subsidy Scheme

Czech state subsidies to extend the supply network for low-emission motor fuels, including LNG and compressed natural gas (CNG), were approved by the EU August 11. Companies already active in the alternative fuels sector can apply for this support, which will be awarded in four separate calls for tender...

10 августа, 09:30

[NGW Magazine] Decarbonising European Power

Many businesses accept the need to limit global temperatures, and those in the energy sector need to be innovative and develop new solutions to these challenges, the GIE conference heard. The development manager of Germany’s second biggest grid Ontras, Ralph Bahke, told the industry group Gas...

28 июля, 17:49

How could a Russian launder $4 billion worth of bitcoins?

The Greek resort of Halkidiki. A five-star hotel. Russian citizen Alexander Vinnik, 38, on holiday with his family.  A cool sea breeze flowing in through the window. And a line of special agents bursting through the door. That was July 25 and the FBI confronted Vinnik with a long list of alleged crimes: Drug trafficking, involvement in a criminal gang, and the small matter of laundering $4 billion of bitcoins. Thought to be the owner of BTC-e, one of the largest cryptocurrency exchanges in Russia (an Internet exchange platform), the authorities accuse Vinnik of using it for “cleaning” stolen money. According to investigators, it all began in 2011 when he opened the exchange and money stolen from competitors was stashed in its accounts. What is known about Vinnik's shady cryptocurrency exchange At the beginning of 2016, cryptocurrencies in Russia were not welcomed by the government, however, in November last year the currency was “not illegal” in the country. Back then little was publicly known about the owners of BTC-e. People just spoke of two administrators cum programmers named Alexander and Alexei who worked in Skolkovo (Russia's equivalent of Silicon Valley). However, the BTC-e platform was one of the main cryptocurrencies for Russians and was in the world’s top ten in terms of trade volume. After being blocked by the authorities it quickly obtained "mirrors" (duplicate servers) and managed to hold on to the majority of its users. Millions of dollars a day circulated through BTC-2, says Alexei Bragin, a member of the Blockchain. Community board of directors and technical director at the Safello Exchange. In Russia, cryptocurrencies - bitcoins in particular - were associated with drugs, pornography, and arms trafficking, which is why those who created such platforms chose to remain anonymous. "With time the market was legalized, but the founders of BTC-e remained in the shadows, which is not a good sign," notes Bragin. In his words, the platform had a good reputation in the business world and large companies used it, "but this exchange always worked in the gray zone and it didn't have any permits to conduct financial activity." Representatives of the sector said that the exchange is registered in Cyprus, its servers in Bulgaria, and several banks are involved in operations, one of which is in the Czech Republic. Alexander Vinnik, suspected of running a money laundering operation, is escorted by a plain-clothes police officer to a court in Thessaloniki, July 26, 2017. / Reuters Why did the accused prefer Bitcoin? Shady markets have a demand for Bitcoin, the most popular virtual currency in the world, which is why it’s associated with criminality. But in several European countries, or in Japan for example, it’s absolutely legal (for now this does not concern Russia, because cryptocurrencies do not have a legislative basis). Cryptocurrencies appeal because mediators (banks and brokers) are cut out of transactions. The transfer from one wallet to another also remains anonymous. Today one bitcoin is worth about $2,800 [at the time of writing]. How did Vinnik do it? The U.S. Department of Justice believes that Vinnik's criminal career kicked off in 2011, when he established the exchange and the Mt. Gox rival exchange, based in Japan, began selling money. For several years, hackers regularly found a way into the electronic wallets of private individuals and organizations at Mt. Gox, until the largest exchange in the world (up to 70 percent of all operations in cryptocurrency) filed for bankruptcy. As a group of investigators from WizSec (Bitcoin Security Specialists) was able to find out, the key figure behind these thefts was Russian Alexander Vinnik. The group analyzed the transactions and noticed that the stolen money (including money from other exchanges) had wound up in his so-called e-wallet. “After the coins entered Vinnik's wallet, most were moved to BTC-e and presumably sold off or laundered,” said the investigators. What now? “To be clear, this investigation has found evidence to identify Vinnik as a money launderer, not a thief,” WizSec believes. It has given all the information to the U.S. special services. Now Vinnik risks being extradited to America, sentenced to 20 years in prison, and hit with a $500,000 fine. The Russian denies all accusations while BTC-e is temporarily not working. The exchange's twitter says that restoration work will be conducted for five to 10 days. Cryptocurrency fraud is still a unique story: "Recently there have been cases involving the illegal removal of money from companies with good reputations that collect money from investors for developing their projects…. But I'll go as far to say that many of the operations are not related to money laundering. For now we shouldn't say that this type of fraud is very common," says general director of Zecurion Alexander Kovalev. We talked to WizsSec’s Kim Nilsson, who helped trace the suspect: Kim Nilsson. / RBTH From your company’s report we have learned that Vinnik and his group stole from the MtGox exchange more than once (in 2011, 2012, and 2013). Each time money settled in his own wallet and was later moved to the BTC-e and other exchanges. What was the weak point of Vinnik's scheme? Depending on how you look at it, it was actually a single theft. MtGox's private keys were compromised once, back in 2011. And they were later given to Vinnik who passed them through his wallets. The weakness was that after he received these bitcoins and laundered them he had to move them out to exchanges for selling and turning them into cash. Not only to BTC-e, but to other exchanges, like MtGox itself. And that left traces that led a trail back to him. Why did he kept the funds in his own internal storage, and not spread them to other addresses? To some degree, whenever you use bitcoin, you scatter your funds between different addresses. But unless you're careful, once you start spending them they become connected again. Because you see all the money flowing back to the same place. He definitely was not as cautious as he should have been. Once we learned where the coins coming out of MtGox were going, it was easy to start grouping his addresses together and detecting his entire holdings over time. As for why he wasn't more careful, I can only speculate. He probably didn't think it was necessary. When did you find him and begin to track his activity? I've been looking into the case since 2014. But it wasn't until 2015 or early 2016 that my investigation focused more on identifying those coins going out of MtGox. For the last year or so I've been aware of this evidence that implicates Vinnik and the scheme. It felt important not to go public too soon, it was better to keep investigating and making sure. And also to avoid tipping anyone off. How did you connect his nickname to his real name? He actually used his real name online, which is a gap in security. I saw his name quite a while back but I assumed it was actually an alias since I didn't consider the possibility he would use his real name. Only after his arrest did I realize it was actually his real name. What was his role in this scheme? Is he a thief, a hacker, a man whose function is only to "launder" stolen goods, or a mastermind? Most evidence points to him being a money launderer. But thinking a little bit beyond that, if you are a money launderer receiving these large amounts of money from thieves you have to have some sort of established relationship with them. So I think that's going to be next couple of steps to sort out directly - how closely he worked with various hackers and was he directly involved with the thefts himself. Is this type of fraud - laundering through bitcoins - now widespread? I actually think it's been widespread for a few years now. Even going back to when this theft started in 2011 - it was a significant chunk of cryptocurrency activity - moving funds in a way that does not involve moving them through traditional banking systems. In the years that have followed, the exchange rate of Bitcoin has increased dramatically and now it's worth a lot of money, which has attracted even more attention from current criminal elements. Could these events influence the course of the cryptocurrency? Not as much as you might think. I think Bitcoin would have been on the same path regardless of whether this happened. It might have had an effect on price to some degree, because all of the funds that moved through this money laundering network were being sold back into the market. Maybe it was pushing the price down. Maybe after removing criminal elements from this market we will see prices increase.  Read more: From art theft to serial killings: 5 major Russian crimes that were solved

27 июля, 19:01

2 ministers lose job in Sweden’s data leak

TWO Swedish ministers lost their jobs yesterday over a huge leak of sensitive data that has rocked the fragile center-left government. But Prime Minister Stefan Lofven vowed he would be staying on despite

26 июля, 17:11

Swedish parties plan no-confidence vote over security leak

Sweden's left-leaning minority government faced a crisis Wednesday after a populist party said it would support four opposition parties in a no-confidence vote against it over one of the largest security

26 июля, 16:12

Czech Republic CPI Housing & Utilities

CPI Housing Utilities in Czech Republic increased to 147.90 Index Points in July from 147.70 Index Points in June of 2017. CPI Housing Utilities in Czech Republic averaged 104.24 Index Points from 1995 until 2017, reaching an all time high of 147.90 Index Points in July of 2017 and a record low of 35.80 Index Points in January of 1995. This page provides - Czech Republic Cpi Housing & Utilities- actual values, historical data, forecast, chart, statistics, economic calendar and news.

26 июля, 13:52

EU steps up legal cases against east European states over migration

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Commission said on Wednesday it had stepped up its legal case against the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland over their reluctance to take in migrants from other EU countries.

25 июля, 23:15

What Energy Sources Power the World?

These satellite maps visualize where different energy sources, like fossil fuels, nuclear, or renewables, are used to generate electricity. The post What Energy Sources Power the World? appeared first on Visual Capitalist.

25 июля, 00:43

Why It’s Hard to Take Democrats Seriously on Russia

They’re right about Putin’s threat to American democracy. But wrong on just about everything else.

24 июля, 17:50

5 Great Value Picks for the World's Priciest Market

The United States is officially the world's least affordable equity market, while two-third of U.S. investors think stocks are overvalued

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22 июля, 00:33

Did Kyrgyzstan Get Sold A Hydropower Pup?

Barely a week passed after Kyrgyzstan triumphantly declared it had struck a deal with an international company willing to take up one of its ambitious hydropower projects for the agreement to begin looking highly suspect. The first alarms were rung in the Czech Republic, where Liglass Trading, the obscure company that has committed to building and operating Akbulun HPP and Naryn HPP-1 in the Upper Naryn cascade, is based. Journalists there were apparently startled by news that a company they had never heard of had managed to land a contract for…

21 июля, 16:35

The EU Can't Afford to Ignore Europe's Migrant Crisis

Naman Jain Security, Europe Brussels should help central Europe forge an effective funding and financing plan to help stop the conflict in Syria. A lot has been happening in the midst of the European migrant crisis. Most notably, the political debate between EU member states is widening on how to best handle this significantly deteriorating crisis. Specifically, the Visegrad Group, consisting of Poland, Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic, have opposed Brussels’ quota system on accepting refugees from war-torn areas. Criticism of the Visegrad countries, known as the V4, specifically on this ground, is unjustified, and rather than focusing on efforts to distribute thousands of migrants, Brussels must focus on helping resolve the crisis so that people are not forced to undertake this journey to Europe. First, there is no guarantee that all migrants seeking refuge in Europe are indeed coming from war-torn regions in Syria and Iraq, and this is highlighted by the lack of documentation on hand during the current crisis. Countries might have significantly effective vetting systems but these fail to work if documentation is unavailable or can be forged. With the risk of stating the obvious, no country desires an influx of unidentified individuals. Read full article

21 июля, 13:00

German RWE Mulls Building Giant UK Gas Plant

German utility RWE is to begin the planning process to develop future energy options at its former Tilbury B coal-fired power station, it said July 20, adding that this could include possibly 2.8 GW of new gas-fired capacity.  The site is one of the best in the country for power generation given...

21 июля, 12:24

‘America First’: Who Really Wins?

Top 10 winners from Trump’s foreign policy.

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