Tag Archives: ‘bail

2 short sellers admit defeat, bail out at huge loss as GameStop share surge hits 1000%

In the David and Goliath saga surrounding the struggling retail chain GameStop, Goliath has fallen.

Two Goliaths, actually.

A pair of professional investment firms that placed big bets that money-losing video game retailer GameStop’s stock will crash have largely abandoned their positions. The victors: an army of smaller investors who have been rallying on Reddit and elsewhere online to support GameStop’s stock and beat back the professionals.

One of the two major investors that surrendered, Citron Research, acknowledged Wednesday in a YouTube video that it unwound the majority of its bet that GameStop stock would fall. Andrew Left, who runs Citron, said it took “a loss, 100 per cent” to do so, but that does not change his view that GameStop is a loser.

“We move on. Nothing has changed with GameStop except the stock price,” Left said. He did acknowledge that Citron is taking a fresh look at how it bets against companies, in light of the GameStop campaign.

Melvin Capital is also exiting GameStop, with manager Gabe Plotkin telling CNBC that the hedge fund was taking a significant loss. He denied rumours that the hedge fund will fail.

The size of the losses taken by Citron and Melvin are unknown.

GameStop’s stock surged as high as $ 380 Wednesday morning, after sitting below $ 18 just a few weeks ago.

GameStop’s stock has long been the target of investors betting that its stock will fall as it struggles in an industry increasingly going online. The retailer lost $ 1.6 billion over the last 12 quarters, and its stock fell for six straight years before rebounding in 2020.

That pushed investors to sell GameStop’s stock short.

WATCH | How short selling works:

An animated explanation of how people make money from stocks losing value 0:46

Essentially, these short sellers borrowed shares of GameStop and sold them in hopes of buying them back later at a lower price and pocketing the difference. GameStop is one of the most shorted stocks on Wall Street.

But its stock began rising sharply earlier this month after a co-founder of Chewy, the online retailer of pet supplies, joined the company’s board. The thought was that he could help in the company’s digital transformation.

Smaller investors pushing stock higher

At the same time, smaller investors gathering on social media have been exhorting each other to keep pushing the stock higher.

There is no overriding reason why GameStop has attracted those smaller investors, but there is a distinct component of revenge against Wall Street in communications online.

Over the past three months, shares of GameStop Corp., which has been buffeted by a shift in gaming technology, have spiked well over 1,000 per cent. Shares were up another 100 per cent at the opening bell Wednesday.

That has created titanic losses for major Wall Street players who have “shorted” the stock, which means they borrowed shares and sold them, hoping to buy them back at a cheaper price and pocket the difference.

As of Tuesday, the losses had already topped $ 5 billion in 2021, according to S3 Partners.

The phenomenon does not appear to be fading.

AMC Entertainment Holdings Inc., the theatre chain that has been ravaged by the pandemic, posted a quarterly loss this month exceeding $ 900 million.

It appears, however, that AMC has become the next battleground in the fight between smaller, retail investors and Wall Street.

Shares of AMC spiked 260 per cent when trading began Wednesday and #SaveAMC is trending on Twitter.

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Kyle Rittenhouse, accused of fatally shooting 2 people at Wisconsin protest, posts $2M bail

A 17-year-old from Illinois who is charged with killing two people during a protest in Wisconsin and whose case has become a rallying cry for some conservatives posted $ 2 million US bail Friday and was released from custody.

Kyle Rittenhouse is accused of fatally shooting Joseph Rosenbaum and Anthony Huber and wounding Gaige Grosskreutz during a demonstration on Aug. 25 that followed the police shooting of a Black man named Jacob Blake in Kenosha. He posted bond through his attorney at about 2 p.m., Kenosha County Sheriff’s Sgt. David Wright said.

Rittenhouse, of Antioch, Ill., told police he was attacked while he was guarding a business and that he fired in self-defence.

He faces multiple charges, including intentional homicide, reckless endangerment and being a minor in possession of a firearm. Wisconsin law doesn’t permit minors to carry or possess a gun unless they’re hunting. He is due back in court on Dec. 3 for a preliminary hearing.

His case has taken on political overtones. Supporters of the Black Lives Matter movement have painted Rittenhouse as a trigger-happy white supremacist. Conservatives upset over property destruction during recent protests have portrayed him as a patriot exercising his right to bear arms during unrest.

WATCH | Rittenhouse becomes poster boy for armed self-defence:

Gun-rights and armed-self-defence advocates have turned Kyle Rittenhouse, charged with intentional homicide in the shooting deaths of two protesters in Kenosha, Wis., into their latest poster boy and are raising money for his defence. 2:38

A legal defence fund for him has attracted millions of dollars in donations, and his mother got a standing ovation from women at a Waukesha County GOP function in September.

Huber’s father, John Huber, asked Kenosha County Circuit Court Commissioner Loren Keating during a hearing Nov. 2 to set Rittenhouse’s bail between $ 4 million and $ 10 million US.

Huber said at the time that Rittenhouse thinks he’s above the law and noted the effort to raise money on his behalf. He also suggested militia groups would hide him from police if he were released.

Rittenhouse’s attorney, Mark Richards, asked for bail to be set at $ 750,000 US.

Keating ultimately set bail at $ 2 million US, saying Rittenhouse was a flight risk given the seriousness of the charges against him.

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Ghislaine Maxwell’s lawyers request bail, arguing she ‘is not Jeffrey Epstein’

Ghislaine Maxwell, ex-girlfriend and longtime associate of the late convicted sex offender, Jeffrey Epstein, on Friday forcefully denied charges she lured underage girls so he could sexually abuse them and said she deserves bail.

Maxwell filed her request in the U.S. District Court in Manhattan eight days after being arrested in New Hampshire, where authorities said she had been hiding at a sprawling property she bought while shielding her identity.

The 58-year-old Maxwell “vigorously denies the charges, intends to fight them and is entitled to the presumption of innocence,” the filing said.

A spokesperson for acting U.S. attorney Audrey Strauss in Manhattan declined to comment.

Maxwell has been housed since Monday at the Metropolitan Detention Center, a jail in Brooklyn, N.Y.

Her lawyers requested bond of $ 5 million US and said her detention there put her at “serious risk” of contracting the COVID-19 disease.

WATCH l Ghislaine Maxwell arrest ‘long overdue for victims,’ Gloria Allred tells CBC:

Representing 16 of Jeffrey Epstein’s victims, the celebrated women’s rights lawyer, Gloria Allred, speaks to the CBC’s Hannah Thibedeau about the arrest of Epstein’s former girlfriend, Ghislaine Maxwell, on charges that include recruiting and abusing underage girls.   9:04

She also said she is not a flight risk, citing her lack of a prior criminal record and her remaining in the United States after Epstein’s arrest last July.

Prosecutors have called Maxwell an “extreme risk of flight” who should remain detained until trial.

Her arraignment is on July 14, and she faces up to 35 years in prison if convicted.

Charges stem from 1990s allegations

The arrest of Maxwell, the daughter of late British publishing magnate Robert Maxwell, came nearly one year after Epstein pleaded not guilty to charges he sexually abused women and girls in Manhattan and Florida between 2002 and 2005.

Epstein, who had previously served a short sentence in a controversial plea deal reached with Floridian authorities, was found dead in a federal jail in New York City on Aug. 10, 2019. He was 66.

Through the years, he had socialized with many prominent people, including Britain’s Prince Andrew, U.S. President Donald Trump and former president Bill Clinton.

“Sometimes, the simplest point is the most critical one: Ghislaine Maxwell is not Jeffrey Epstein,” her legal team said in its filing. “She was not named in the government’s indictment of Epstein in 2019, despite the fact that the government has been investigating this case for years.”

Prosecutors have accused Maxwell of recruiting girls as young as 14 for Epstein from 1994 to 1997.

Maxwell faces six criminal charges, including four related to transporting minors for illegal sexual acts and two for perjury in depositions about her role in Epstein’s abuses.

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Hong Kong court denies bail to 1st person charged under new national security law

A Hong Kong court denied bail on Monday to the first person charged with inciting separatism and terrorism under the city’s new national security law after he carried a sign saying “Liberate Hong Kong” and drove his motorbike into police.

Tong Ying-kit, 23, was arrested after a video posted online showed him knocking over several officers at a demonstration on July 1, less than 24 hours after Beijing imposed sweeping national security legislation on its freest city.

The city’s government has said the protest slogan “Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our times,” connotes separatism or subversion under the new law, stoking concern over freedom of expression in the former British colony.

Tong, who was unable to appear in court on Friday as he was being treated in hospital for injuries sustained in the incident, appeared in court in a wheelchair.

In rejecting bail, Chief Magistrate So Wai-tak referred to Article 42 of the new law, which states that bail will not be granted if the judge has sufficient grounds to believe the defendant will continue to endanger national security.

WATCH l Protests erupt in 1st hours after new law goes into effect:

Hong Kong police made their first arrests under a new security law Wednesday. In a statement on Facebook, police said they arrested 300 people. 3:58

The case was adjourned until Oct. 6 and Tong was remanded in custody.

Critics say the law — which punishes crimes of secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces with up to life in prison — is aimed at crushing dissent and a long-running campaign for greater democracy.

Activist pleads not guilty in 2019 incident

Authorities in Beijing and Hong Kong have repeatedly said it is aimed at a few “troublemakers” and will not affect the rights and freedoms that underpin the city’s role as a financial hub.

Also on Monday, prominent democracy activist Joshua Wong pleaded not guilty to inciting others to participate in an unlawful assembly during anti-government protests last year.

Fellow activist Agnes Chow pleaded guilty to a similar charge. Their case has been adjourned to Aug. 5.

Hong Kong-based journalist Mary Hui says pro-democracy demonstrators are considering a plan to target China by inflicting economic pain. She says many younger protesters are no longer interested in working within the “one country, two systems” framework. 8:31

Wong and Chow, who were both granted bail last year, led a pro-democracy group called Demosisto that they dissolved hours after Beijing passed the national security law.

The United States, Britain and others have denounced the new legislation, which critics say is the biggest step China has taken to tighten its grip over the city, despite a “one country, two systems” formula meant to preserve its freedoms.

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Protesters in Hong Kong formally charged with rioting, released on bail

More than 20 protesters accused of rioting were formally charged and released on bail Wednesday related to the mass demonstrations that began in Hong Kong last month.

Standing in a heavy rain, supporters rallied outside the court and chanted “Reclaim Hong Kong, revolution of our times,” in what has become a familiar refrain. They are protesting China’s influence in the city, a semi-autonomous Chinese territory with its own laws and legal system.

Forty-four people had been charged with rioting and one other with possessing offensive weapons. The accused set up roadblocks, broke fences, damaged street signs, and attacked police officers with bricks and iron rods, law enforcement said in a statement.

Twenty-three of the 44 appeared in court Wednesday. All were released on bail. They have to hand over their travel documents and are not allowed to go out in the hours from midnight to 6 a.m. Their sentencing is scheduled for Sept. 25. It was not clear when the others charged will appear in court.

Rioting carries a maximum prison term of 10 years.

The protesters were detained after clashes with police at an unauthorized protest in the western part of Hong Kong island on Sunday, when police repeatedly fired tear gas and rubber bullets to drive back protesters blocking the streets with road signs and umbrellas. Police issued warnings prior to using the tear gas, but protesters stood their ground and threw eggs at the officers.

Protesters brace themselves against the strong wind and heavy rain from Tropical Storm Wipha as they gather outside the Eastern Court in Hong Kong on Wednesday. (Vincent Yu/Associated Press)

The large demonstrations started last month as a movement against now-suspended extradition legislation, and have since grown to encompass broader demands around greater democracy and government accountability.

The protests have been propelled by an underlying distrust for the ruling Communist Party on the mainland, where speech is tightly controlled and dissenters are routinely jailed.

News of the charges prompted quickly organized protests outside two police stations late Tuesday.

Several hundred people gathered in the streets outside the Kwai Chung police station. Some threw eggs at the building, while police used pepper spray to try to disperse them. Some had cordoned off an area at a subway station covered in shattered glass where they said an officer had used a firearm.

Fireworks set off

Fireworks were set off just before 3 a.m. at another police station, injuring six men. Video footage on social media appeared to show a car driving by the Tin Shui Wai police station as fireworks flared where protesters were gathered.

A police officer points a gun toward anti-extradition bill protesters who surrounded a police station in Hong Kong on Tuesday. (Tyrone Siu/Reuters)

Five people were taken to a hospital and the sixth man declined medical treatment at the scene, police said. It wasn’t clear who was responsible.

As the demonstration seeped into the early hours of Wednesday, protesters and supporters remained highly wary of being identified by the authorities and suffering potential retribution at their places of work and study. Volunteers handed out face masks and single-trip subway fare cards that would prevent riders being identified and their trips logged in a central data base, while drivers who had taped paper over their license plates offered rides home.

Hong Kong lawmaker Kwok Ka-ki told reporters that the prosecution of protesters and use of police force will only make the situation worse. He blamed Beijing-appointed Chief Executive Carrie Lam.

“The origin of all the violence is Carrie Lam and the very controversial extradition bill,” he said, adding “she should come out today to answer to all the requests of most of the people in Hong Kong.”

Kwok also criticized China’s repeated statements supporting police efforts to quell the protests, saying Chinese backing would not heal the city.

Police have been deploying an increasing range of crowd control measures, including tear gas, pepper spray, rubber bullets, shotgun beanbag rounds and sponge grenades fired from barrel-mounted grenade launchers.

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Carlos Ghosn, ex-chairman of Nissan, released on bail

The former chairman of Nissan Motor Co., Carlos Ghosn, appears to have left the Tokyo Detention Center after posting bail of almost $ 12 million Cdn.

Ghosn left the facility in disguise, wearing a surgical mask, glasses, a hat and a construction worker's outfit. Ringed by security guards, he was driven away in a silver van and did not speak to the gaggle of reporters standing watch.

His man's identity could not immediately be confirmed with authorities, but the resemblance was clear.

Ghosn, the former head of the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Motors alliance was arrested on Nov. 19. He is charged with falsifying financial reports and with breach of trust.

The Tokyo District Court confirmed the 1 billion yen ($ 11.9 million Cdn) bail was posted earlier in the day, after a judge rejected an appeal from prosecutors requesting his continued detention. That cleared the way for Ghosn to leave the facility after spending nearly four months since his arrest on Nov. 19.

Ghosn's wife Carole Ghosn and one of his daughters were seen leaving the detention center earlier in the day.

Before his release, Ghosn, who turns 65 on Saturday, issued a statement reasserting his innocence.

"I am innocent and totally committed to vigorously defending myself in a fair trial against these meritless and unsubstantiated accusations," he said.

A date for his trial has not yet been set.

One of Ghosn's lawyers, Junichiro Hironaka, said his legal team had offered new conditions for his release, such as a surveillance camera at his doorway and a promise not to use the internet. He is allowed to make voice calls, but he cannot travel abroad.

Ghosn is maintaining his innocence and vowing to fight the charges against him. (Kim Cheung/Associated Press)

Suspects in Japan often are detained for months, especially those who insist on their innocence, like Ghosn. Some legal experts, including Hironaka, have criticized the system as "hostage justice," saying the long detentions tend to encourage false confessions.

Prosecutors contend that suspects may tamper with evidence and shouldn't be released. Two of Ghosn's earlier requests to be released on bail were rejected.

Some critics of Japan's legal system hope that Ghosn's release, so many weeks before preparations for his trial are ready, may set a precedent, helping bring about change.

Ghosn says he did not falsify financial reports because the compensation he is alleged to have under-reported was never paid or decided upon. The breach of trust allegations centre on a temporary transfer of Ghosn's investment losses to Nissan's books that he says caused no losses to the automaker. The charge also points to payments to a Saudi businessman that he says were for legitimate services.

Nissan declined comment on the criminal case against Ghosn but said an internal investigation had found unethical conduct. Nissan has dismissed Ghosn as chairman, although he remains on the board pending a decision at a shareholders' meeting.

Ghosn's family has said that he has lost weight while in detention, and he looked thinner in his court appearance. Hironaka has said he is in good spirits. Ghosn thanked his family and friends, who, he said, "stood by me throughout this terrible ordeal."

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Japan court OK's Nissan ex-chairman Ghosn's release on bail

The Tokyo District Court approved the release of former Nissan chairman Carlos Ghosn on 1 billion yen (nearly $ 12 million Cdn) bail on Tuesday, although the end of his four months of detention in Japan was delayed when prosecutors appealed that decision.

Prosecutors filed their objection to Ghosn's release within hours of the announcement that he was going to be granted bail, but the court later rejected the appeal, paving the way for Ghosn to leave the Tokyo Detention Center as early as Wednesday.

The acceptance of Ghosn's request for bail, his third, came a day after one of his lawyers said he was confident the auto executive would gain his release.

The newly hired attorney, Junichiro Hironaka, is famous for winning acquittals in Japan, a nation where the conviction rate is 99 per cent.

Hironaka said Monday that he had offered new ways to monitor Ghosn after his release, such as camera surveillance. Hironaka also questioned the grounds for Ghosn's arrest, calling the case "very peculiar," and suggesting the case could have been dealt with as an internal company matter.

He welcomed the decision, telling reporters: "It was good we proposed concrete ways showing how he would not tamper with evidence or try to flee."

The bail set by the court is relatively high but not the highest ever in Japan.

The former head of the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Motors alliance has been detained since he was arrested on Nov. 19. He says he is innocent of charges of falsifying financial information and of breach of trust.

In Japan, suspects are routinely detained for months, often until their trials start. That's especially true of those who insist on their innocence.

Prosecutors say suspects may tamper with evidence and shouldn't be released.

Two previous requests submitted by Ghosn's legal team were denied. His previous defence lawyer, Motonari Ohtsuru, had said Ghosn's release might not come for months.

Hironaka is among many critics of the Japanese justice system who say such lengthy detentions of suspects are unfair. He referred to the situation as "hostage justice."

Accused of fraud, breach of trust 

Ghosn is charged with falsifying financial reports by under-reporting compensation that he contends was never paid or decided upon. The breach of trust allegations centre on a temporary transfer of Ghosn's investment losses to Nissan's books that he says caused no losses to the automaker. They also name payments to a Saudi businessman that he says were for legitimate services.

Ghosn's family had appealed for his release, calling his detention a human rights violation.

Junichiro Hironaka, lawyer for former Nissan chief Carlos Ghosn, called the case against his client 'very peculiar.' (Behrouz Mehri/AFP/Getty Images)

Nissan Motor Co. declined comment on the criminal case but said it was working on strengthening corporate governance. Nissan has dismissed Ghosn as chairman, although he remains on the board pending a decision at a shareholders' meeting.

"Nissan's internal investigation has uncovered substantial evidence of blatantly unethical conduct," company spokesperson Nick Maxfield said.

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U.S. mail bomb suspect ordered held without bail

The man accused of mailing 14 pipe bombs to prominent critics of U.S. President Donald Trump was ordered held without bail as the FBI confirmed a package similar to the ones discovered last week had been intercepted Monday. It was addressed to CNN in Atlanta.

​Cesar Sayoc, 56, his salt-and-pepper hair pulled back into a ponytail, remained largely silent in a Florida courtroom, only acknowledging Judge Edwin Torres's reading of the charges against him.

Shackled and wearing a beige jumpsuit, Sayoc began to tear up, and the three attorneys with him stood shoulder to shoulder to obscure reporters and photographers from seeing him.

Sayoc was scheduled to appear in court in Miami again on Friday morning.

Just hours before his appearance, bomb squads were called to a post office in Atlanta about a suspicious parcel.

The FBI did not identify to whom the most recent package was addressed, but CNN President Jeff Zucker announced that a suspicious package addressed to the cable television network was intercepted Monday at an Atlanta post office.

Zucker said there was no imminent danger to the CNN Center. Another package was delivered to the cable network's New York offices last week, causing an evacuation.

Sayoc is accused of sending bubble-wrapped manila envelopes to Democrats including Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden, as well as George Soros, the philanthropist of a number of leftish causes who figures in several conspiracy theories propagated by hard right web sites. 

The packages were intercepted from Delaware to California. At least some listed a return address of U.S. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, former chair of the Democratic National Committee.

She represents the Florida district where the former male stripper, pizza driver and strip club DJ lived in an older van covered with bumper stickers praising Trump, disparaging Democrats and CNN and showing rifle crosshairs over liberals like Clinton and filmmaker Michael Moore.

Authorities did not immediately say who might be responsible for sending the most recent package to CNN, but law enforcement officials have said they believe the packages were staggered and more could be discovered.

A bomb squad arrives with other authorities at a mail facility in Atlanta after reports that a suspicious package was found on Monday. (John Spink/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)

Sayoc was arrested Friday outside a South Florida auto parts store after investigators said they identified him through fingerprint and DNA evidence. Sayoc's case is expected to be moved to New York, where he will be prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney's Office, officials said.

Authorities say Sayoc faces more than 50 years in prison if convicted on all charges. None of the bombs exploded, and no one was injured.

The very first thing that the president did was condemn the attacks both in Pittsburgh and in the pipe bombs. The very first thing the media did was blame the president. – Sarah Sanders, White House spokesperson 

Trump tweets

The mass mailings have heightened political tensions ahead of midterm elections on Nov. 6 that will determine the composition of Congress as well as state houses.

Trump, in a series of tweets on Monday morning, continued to focus his attention on media coverage.

"The Fake News is doing everything in their power to blame Republicans, Conservatives and me for the division and hatred that has been going on for so long in our country," he said.

Instead, Trump said, it is the "inaccurate, and even fraudulent, reporting of the news" that is driving much of the heated rhetoric in the country.

White House spokesperson Sarah Sanders defended the president's comments during a briefing today, saying, "The very first thing that the president did was condemn the attacks both in Pittsburgh and in the pipe bombs. The very first thing the media did was blame the president and make him responsible for these ridiculous acts." 

She added, "The only person responsible for carrying it out, either of these heinous acts, were the individuals that carried them out." 

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Spanish judge orders Catalan parliament speaker jailed until bail paid

A Spanish judge jailed the Catalan parliament’s speaker Thursday in a rebellion probe stemming from an independence declaration, but set Carme Forcadell’s bail at €150,000 ($ 220,000 Cdn) and ordered her passport to be confiscated as the investigation continues.

Supreme Court magistrate Pablo Llarena questioned Forcadell and five other members of the Catalan parliament’s governing body on Thursday for more than 10 hours before deciding whether to jail them. They face charges of sedition, rebellion and misuse of public funds.

The judge set bail at €25,000 ($ 37,000) to be paid in one week for four of the lawmakers, and released from custody another who had made the Oct. 27 independence vote possible by allowing a debate on secession but opposed the declaration of a separate republic.

While appearing in court for questioning, Forcadell sought to avoid detention by describing the independence declaration as “symbolic,” according to lawyers familiar with her testimony.

The lawyers asked not to be named because they weren’t authorized to speak publicly about the court proceedings.

Eight former members of the Catalan government and the leaders of the two main pro-independence grassroots groups are in custody awaiting trial for their leading roles in the independence drive.

On Thursday, High Court Judge Carmen Lamela rejected an appeal presented by their lawyers for their release, a court spokesperson said.

Forcadell had earlier told the Supreme Court that the Oct. 27 independence declaration was not legally binding, according to court sources, in a comment that could undermine the region’s secessionist push.


Carme Forcadell, Speaker of the Catalan parliament, arrives at Spain’s Supreme Court to testify. (Juan Carlos Rojas/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Forcadell remains the parliament’s president, heading a commission of two dozen lawmakers during the transitional period to next month’s polls.

Around 100 supporters chanted “You are not alone” as the lawmakers entered the Supreme Court building in central Madrid on Thursday, while police kept at bay a handful of anti-independence protesters carrying Spanish flags and shouting “You don’t fool us, Catalonia is Spain.”

All in one court?

The Supreme Court, which handles cases against defendants with parliamentary immunity, will decide whether to place Forcadell and the other five legislators in custody pending the investigation, or release them under certain conditions.

The same court decided on Thursday to take over two other cases against Forcadell and the lawmakers currently overseen by the Catalan High Court, suggesting judges were looking to centralize all legal proceedings involving the independence vote in one court.

Spain Catalonia

Protesters struggle with Catalan police at the gates of Barcelona’s main train station during a general strike Wednesday. (Santi Palacios/Associated Press)

The Supreme Court has legal powers to also take over the Spanish High Court case involving the government members, but so far has made no statement on its intentions.

The Spanish High Court has issued an arrest warrant on sedition and rebellion charges for deposed Catalan President Carles Puigdemont, who went into  exile in Belgium last week, and against four former members of his cabinet who are with him in Brussels.

In a letter posted on social media Thursday, the five made a call for support for pro-secession parties in Catalonia’s upcoming regional election.

“It’s time to drive away from the [Catalan] institutions those who want to own them with a coup d’état,” Puigdemont tweeted, referring to Spain’s decision to take control of Catalonia’s powers.

Spain Catalonia

Catalan President Carles Puigdemont takes part at a march in Barcelona on Oct. 21. Puidgemont has since fled to Brussels. (Manu Fernandez/Associated Press)

Spain’s Interior Minister Juan Ignacio Zoido told Spanish television on Thursday, “Puigdemont has fled, but Puigdemont will come back and answer to Spanish justice, I have no doubt.”

The deposed leader appealed without success for EU intervention over the crisis.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, speaking from the Spanish city of Salamanca on Thursday at an event also attended by Rajoy, called on Europe to reject all forms of separatism.

“Nationalisms are a poison that prevent Europe from working together,” he said.

Rajoy said that he hopes voters “meet their obligations as Spaniards and Europeans” in next month’s election in Catalonia. He said “a lot will be decided” by the ballot and urged a big turnout.


Spain’s Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, right, talks to Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Saenz de Santamaria before the weekly cabinet control session in Madrid Wednesday. (Sergio Perez/Reuters)

“The objective of the government is, and I think it would be for the majority of people, is that after the 21st December we enter a stage of tranquility, a moment of normality, a stage when social cohesion is recovered,” he said.

Economic impact?

Meanwhile, the European Union has conceded that developments in Catalonia could have a negative impact on Spain’s economy.

In its half-yearly forecasts, the European Commission said the risk exists that “future developments could have an impact on economic growth” but that the size of any impact “cannot be anticipated at this stage.”

It also noted that the market reactions to the push for independence in Catalonia have been “contained.”


Protesters play cards on top of a Catalan separatist flag while blocking the tracks inside the station of the high speed train AVE during a partial regional strike in Girona, Spain, on Wednesday. (Albert Gea/Reuters)

In Brussels, Pierre Moscovici, the European Commission’s top economy official, said: “We cannot speculate on any political development anywhere.”

The commission is predicting that the Spanish economy will grow by 3.1 per cent this year, falling back to 2.5 per cent and 2.1 per cent over the coming two years, even without any impact from Catalonia.

Spain divided, Catalonia divided

The Catalan independence push has deeply divided Spain, dragging it into its worst political crisis since the return of democracy four decades ago and fuelling anti-Spanish sentiment in Catalonia and nationalist tendencies elsewhere.

But the struggle has also divided Catalonia itself, and cracks have begun appearing within the pro-independence movement.


In this still image from video, protesters block the tracks of the high speed train in Sants train station in Barcelona Wednesday. (Reuters)

On Tuesday, Puigdemont’s PDeCAT party failed to agree on a united ticket to contest the election with their largercoalition partner, the Republican Left, making it difficult for the pro-independence camp to govern the region after the vote and press ahead with its bid to split from Spain.

Rajoy called the election following the independence declaration, after he dissolved the Catalan parliament and dismissed Puigdemont and his cabinet.

Forcadell at the time described Rajoy’s actions as a “coup” and an “attack against democracy”.

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Special counsel probe: Trump appointee withdraws, bail hearing Monday for Manafort, Gates

A former Trump campaign official who has been linked to the Russia investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller has withdrawn his nomination for a post with the U.S. Department of Agriculture just before confirmation hearings were to begin.

Sam Clovis said in a letter to President Donald Trump dated Thursday that the political climate in Washington “has made it impossible for me to receive balanced and fair consideration for this position.”

“The relentless assaults on you and your team seem to be a blood sport that only increases in intensity each day,” Clovis wrote. adding he did not want to be a distraction or negative influence.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said: “We respect Mr. Clovis’s decision to withdraw his nomination.”

This week, it was revealed that Clovis had communications with George Papadopoulos, who has admitted to lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russian intermediaries.

Questions have also been raised about Clovis’s qualifications to serve as the Agriculture Department’s chief scientist. He is a self-described skeptic of climate change.

Clovis was a professor of economics at Morningside College in Sioux City, Iowa, and a talk show host before he joined the Trump campaign.

Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow said the Russia reports raised even more questions about his nomination and that the withdrawal was a “victory for science and our farmers who rely on agricultural research.” 

Bail hearing Monday

Meanwhile, a jdudge in Washington scheduled a bail hearing for Monday for Paul Manafort and Rick Gates, stemming from the special counsel investigation.

Manafort, who served for a few months in 2016 as Trump’s election campaign manager, and business associate Gates, face several charges that could lead to several years in prison, including fraud and conspiracy against the U.S.


Paul Manafort appeared calm as he left Federal District Court in Washington on Monday, but the charges he faces carry with them maximum sentences that amount to 80 years in prison. (Alex Brandon/Associated Press)

Prosecutors allege Gates and Manafort worked for several years as unregistered agents of the government of Ukraine and the Party of Regions, a pro-Russian political party led by Victor Yanukovych, and then laundered money through overseas accounts they controlled from the millions they amassed.

In a court filing Thursday, attorneys for Manafort defended him as a “successful, international political consultant” who, by nature of his work on behalf of foreign political parties, was necessarily involved in international financial transactions. They said Manafort has done nothing wrong and doesn’t pose a risk of fleeing the country.

Kevin Downing, his attorney, denied that Manafort was involved in any criminal activity related to his Ukrainian work, saying that all funds that went through offshore bank accounts were from “legal sources.”

Foreign agent charges rarely sought in past

Downing said that Manafort was not trying to conceal his assets, noting that prosecutors say funds that originated in the Ukraine and went through Cyprus ultimately arrived in the United States.

“Obviously, international funds entering the U.S. banking system, or going to U.S. vendors, are traceable and subject to U.S. process,” they said. “It goes without saying that in an international scheme to conceal assets, individuals generally move them offshore, not to the United States.”


Kevin Downing, attorney for former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort, is seen on Monday. Downing made a brief public statement on that day rejecting the allegations his client faced, and has said in a subsequent filing tax (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

The defence lawyers also challenged the inclusion in the indictment of allegations that Manafort failed to register as a foreign agent with the Justice Department. The Justice Department, they said, has brought only six criminal prosecutions under that statute since 1966 and secured only one conviction during that period.

Gates was also a Trump campaign adviser and stayed on through its duration even after Manafort stepped down in August 2016.

Both men were put under house arrest after posting bail on Monday.

While Mueller’s probe is looking hard at questions over Russian meddling into the 2016 U.S. election and whether Americans colluded with Russia, he is free to pursue criminal charges with respect to any criminal activity uncovered during the course of the investigation.

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