Cleveland family suing on claims CBP seized life-savings at airport

There is a new lawsuit in Ohio – spearheaded by Institute for Justice – claiming Customs and Border Protection seized the life-savings of an immigrant family at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport without charging anyone with a crime. The suit says Rustem Kazazi was headed to Albania to do work on a home when he was accosted by CBP for the $58K in his carry-on. Via IJ:

While going through security, Rustem was detained by a group of CBP agents, who took him to a small room. The agents questioned Rustem in English—a language he only partially understands—and refused his requests for a translator. They stripped him naked and searched him from head to toe, but found nothing illegal. As if these indignities were not enough, the agents then took every penny of the Kazazis’ savings and gave Rustem a receipt for “U.S. Currency” that did not state the amount seized. Rustem was not arrested—he had not broken any law. The CBP agents simply took his money and sent him on his way.

There are plenty of pejoratives to describe this situation: baseless, authoritarian, police state, and un-American. The fact Rustem, who is an American citizen, had his money stolen by the government for the simple reason he had it in his carry-one is asinine. It’s a clear violation of the 4th Amendment because CBP seized the cash without bothering to make a reasonable effort to find an interpreter to establish whether probable cause existed. It’s a major failure on the government’s part, which shouldn’t be surprising because it’s government.

A little background on Rustem Kazazi. He’s a former Albanian police officer who immigrated to the U.S. with his family in 2005. IJ notes he became a citizen in 2010. Why was he carrying $58K on his person? The suit says Kazazi and his family didn’t want to deal with banking fees and figured it was easier to just have cash on hand. You or I might find it a little weird to carry that much money in a carry-on (or anywhere else) but it was his choice.

The suit itself has more details on the bureaucratic idiocy Kazazi and his family are going through. It doesn’t paint the government in a good light. Remember…Kazazi was never charged with a crime or arrested. Via the suit:

While Rustem was still away in Albania, CBP sent him a Notice of Seizure on December 1, 2017 claiming that the amount taken from him had been $57, 330 ($770 less than the amount the agents had seized in October). This document also announced, for the first time, that the agents had seized the money for being “involved in a smuggling/drug trafficking/money laundering operation.” The notice informed Rustem that CBP intended to seek civil forfeiture of his money using an internal administrative process. And it appraised Rustem of his right to submit a claim to the money and request, instead, that civil forfeiture proceedings be referred to federal court. However, this initial seizure noticed included conflicting deadlines for responding. With [his son]’s help, the family contacted CPB about the conflicting dates, which the agency eventually corrected by sending an amended seizure notice, which set Saturday, January 13, 2018 as the deadline for receiving claims and any demand for federal court action.

So far, the Kazazis are following the process by which people can dispute any civil asset forfeiture seizures. Here’s where things get more fun – if by more fun you mean completely stupid. Court documents say the family didn’t want to go through the administrative process because they wanted a judge to decide on the cash. CBP didn’t want to play ball (which makes sense because better to trust bureaucrats than judges) and the suit claims things went further downhill (emphasis mine).

[O]n March 30, a CBP attorney in Chicago called [Rustem’s son] and left a voicemail, saying she wanted to discuss, “whether you want [the case] to go to court or if we could handle this administratively.” The attorney urged [Rustem’s son] to call back quickly because the agency’s deadline to begin the court process would expire “within the next week”- that is, no later than April 6, 2018. Three weeks later, when still no forfeiture complaint had been filed, [Rustem’s son] wrote to his contact at CBP to ask why the family’s money had not been returned. The response was distressingly bureaucratic: CBP had no idea. For the first, CBP told the Kazazis that it had no control over the case; instead, the U.S. Attorney’s Office was in control. When [the son] asked whom he could contract at the U.S. Attorneys’ Office, the agency claimed that it had no contact there and would not know who was handling the case until “a decision is made.”

Today, more than seven months since CBP agents unconstitutionally seized the Kazazis’ money and upended their lives, the government still has not begun civil forfeiture proceedings. It cannot do so now, as the deadline to seek forfeiture of the money expired no later than April 17. For the reasons explained below, the Court should order CBP to return the money.

This is why civil asset forfeiture has to be reformed on a federal level. I’ve written on the awfulness of civil asset forfeiture before and believe the Justice Department’s 2017 guidelines on the issue are obscene. I think it should be made illegal and the only asset forfeiture allowed is criminal asset forfeiture i.e. after a conviction.

Policing for profit needs to stop. Hopefully this case will force Congress to act on reform legislation.

The post Cleveland family suing on claims CBP seized life-savings at airport appeared first on Hot Air.

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ED charges INR 121 crores on BCCI and others for FEMA violation during IPL 2009

The Enforcement Directorate on Thursday levied penalties on the Board for Control of Cricket in India and its former chief N. Srinivasan among others over alleged violations in Foreign Exchange Management Act regulations in the 2009 edition of the Indian Premier League . Apart from INR 82.66 crores fine on BCCI, and INR 11.53 crores fine on Srinivasan, penalties have also been imposed upon the former chairman of the IPL Lalit Modi , former BCCI treasurer MP Pandove and the State Bank of Travancore .

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Why Does Maryland Hate Airbnb?

When Marriott International Inc. was considering relocating its global headquarters from Baltimore to Northern Virginia in 1999, Maryland handed over $44 million in grants to keep the hotel chain in the state.

In 2016, after Marriott again made noises about moving out of Maryland, Gov. Larry Hogan, state lawmakers, and local officials coughed up another $62 million in taxpayer subsidies to support the construction of new headquarters in the affluent D.C. suburb of Bethesda.

But even that wasn’t good enough. After padding the bottom line of the world’s largest hotel chain, Maryland lawmakers are now trying to protect it from competition from home-sharing options like Airbnb and HomeAway.

A bill given serious consideration in Annapolis this spring would require platforms like Airbnb to collect detailed information about hosts and guests, retain it for up to four years, and turn it over to the state government if requested. Failure to comply with any of the rules would result in $500 fines for individual hosts, with each further violation adding another $500 to the tab. Critics say the privacy concerns and escalating fines are clearly meant to deter would-be hosts from renting out their spaces.

The bill’s sponsor, Del. William Frick (D–Montgomery County), hails from the district that not-so-coincidentally contains Marriott’s new, state-subsidized corporate headquarters.

The legislation empowers local governments to pass restrictive rules, such as the one already on the books in Frick’s home county prohibiting more than six people from occupying a rented home overnight for virtually any reason, says Romina Boccia, a research fellow at the Heritage Foundation who testified against the bill this year. Better, she says, to follow the model pioneered by Arizona and some other states, which allow local restrictions on short-term rentals only for health and safety reasons.

Home sharing competes with hotels, of course, but it’s not a zero-sum game. Hosts on platforms like Airbnb are responsive to market conditions. According to economists at Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, they “expand supply as hotels fill up, and keep hotel prices down as a result.” That allows more people to travel, generating $276 million in surplus bookings in America’s 10 largest cities during 2014 alone, the researchers found.

This is particularly true during times of extremely high demand—in a city hosting a Super Bowl, for example, or on New Year’s Eve. Hotels used to be able to charge significantly higher prices on those occasions, but the advent of home sharing has increased the elasticity in a region’s supply of sleeping accommodations, allowing additional tourists to visit.

Restrictive rules designed to block home sharing would be “a loss in terms of income for the hosts, but also restaurants, the Uber drivers that take them to places they want to visit, any shopping they do,” says Boccia. “The local communities suffer so that Marriott can charge a little bit of a higher price by killing their competition.”

And no doubt they’ll keep taking tax dollars from Maryland residents while they do it.

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The ‘Real Butcher of the Balkans’ was NATO

More than 20 years after the Srebrenica massacre, Bosnian Serb General Ratko Mladić was found guilty of war crimes by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia this past November. Along with Mladić, the ICTY convicted the other so-called “Butcher of Bosnia”, the Bosnian Serb and former Republika Sprska leader Radovan Karadžić in 2016. Meanwhile, it fully exonerated the Bosnian Muslim army commander Naser Orić of similar charges which outraged the people of Serbia. Yet, it was the same court that posthumously exonerated former Serbian President Slobodan Milošević in 2016. If you weren’t aware of the latter, it’s because it was not widely reported in Western media. Milošević is still generally viewed to be the central villain of the entire conflict even though the charges against him didn’t hold up, but not until a decade after he died of heart failure while on trial in the Hague. The ICTY in its ruling stated “there was no sufficient evidence presented in this case to find that Slobodan Milošević agreed with the common plan to create territories ethnically cleansed of non-Serbs.” The ICTY, established in violation of the UN charter, is itself viewed to be an arm of NATO and biased against the Serbs but even it seems to have determined that any alleged war crimes and ethnic cleansing by the Bosnian Serbs was strictly a Karadžić-Mladić affair and not part of a chain of command leading to Milošević.

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Russia faces UN criticism over role in downing of Malaysian jet

Russia faced harsh criticism at the United Nations Security Council on Tuesday for its role in the 2014 downing of a Malaysia Airlines passenger jet and for its continuing involvement in the conflict in eastern Ukraine and Crimea.

Days after an investigation by Australia and the Netherlands found that a Russian missile struck the plane carrying 298 people, many of them Dutch citizens, Stef Blok, the Netherlands’ minister of foreign affairs, said that Russia was continuing to “spread impossible alternative theories” about the crash and should acknowledge its role.

“No state has the right to remain silent,” Blok said. “Quite the contrary, it has a duty to cooperate constructively, to shed light on the truth, not to obscure it with continuous mist. I call on the Russian Federation to take its responsibility.”

Echoing comments made by President Vladimir Putin in St. Petersburg last week, Russia’s U.N. envoy, Vasily Nebenzya, said his country could only trust investigations in which it is a “fully fledged participant.”

Putin rejected accusations that the Russian military bears responsibility for the crash, despite findings that the plane was brought down by a Buk missile belonging to an anti-aircraft missile brigade of the Russian army based in the western city of Kursk. Russia backs separatists in eastern Ukraine and annexed Crimea in 2014.

“There are different versions of this tragedy, but no one takes them into account,” Putin told the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum on Friday.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said his country and Australia, which also lost many of its citizens on the flight, would pursue Russia over its violation of international law, adding that he expects Moscow to “fully cooperate” with the investigation.

Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was flying over eastern Ukraine en route to Kuala Lumpur on July 17, 2014, when it was shot down. The episode sparked Western sanctions on Russia for its support of the separatists. The results of the investigation are fueling tensions with Europe in the wake of a nerve-agent poisoning of a former Russian spy in England.

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said the U.S. supports Australia and the Netherlands in their findings and called on Russia to withdraw from Crimea.

“Until Russia ends its outrageous actions in Ukraine, the position of the United States will not waver,” she said. “U.S. sanctions related to the invasion of Crimea will continue.”


(With assistance from Henry Meyer and Joost Akkermans.)


© 2018 Bloomberg News

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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He Was Eating With His Family, But When He Noticed This Man Walking By He Ran For The Door

Craig Wells wanted to treat his family to dinner out at a restaurant one night. They made the trek to a noodle house called Wagamamas where the food was tasty and affordable. While Craig and his family were slurping down noodles, he looked up and saw something bizarre. Always vigilant because he is a protective dad, Craig’s antennae went on high alert.

A man was walking down the street outside. He was in poor shape and looked hopeless and lost. His clothing was ruined and disheveled. He looked like he didn’t have long to live if his life continued down whatever path he was taking.

But one detail stood out to Craig. And when he processed it, he started running for the noodle house’s door leaving his family behind.

The man, who appeared to be homeless, had no shoes for his feet. He wore socks, but the toes were worn through and hung out in the dirt. Although Craig was in the middle of a meal with his family, he abandoned them to help this stranger who was in a desperate situation.

“Immediately, I ran outside to catch him,” Craig said.

Instead of confronting the man, Craig approached him gently. He tried to make friends with him. But first, he had to start with something simple, so he learned his name, which was Mark.

Upon further questioning, Craig learned the hard truth about Mark’s situation and how he no longer owned a pair of shoes. When Craig asked Mark what size shoe he wore, he was stunned. It was the very same size that Craig had on his feet.

“Coincidence? I think not?” Craig later wrote.

Craig stripped his feet bare of his shoes. Then he gave Mark the pair, which happened to be Craig’s favorite pair he owned. But this man clearly needed it more than Craig did. The family man had more shoes at home. Mark had none to his name.

When Mark realized that Craig was giving him his shoes off his feet, he began to weep for gratitude.

“(He) gave me the biggest hug saying how nobody has ever been so kind.”

With his new pair of shoes protecting his feet, Mark continued to weep. And when Craig returned to the restaurant, he saw Mark from the window still weeping. The restaurant decided to continue to serve him despite being in violation of the “no shirt, no shoes, no service” rule.

After finishing their noodles and paying the bill, Craig and his family left the restaurant. He saw Mark lingering outside it. He hugged Mark again and then made sure he had shelter for the night. Craig also assured the stranger that God loved him and that he would be in his family’s prayers for the night.

“We got emotional and parted ways. I then proceeded to walk around Nottingham with just my socks on.”

Craig shared his story on Facebook in the hopes that his kindness would inspire other people to open their hearts to strangers.

“What I do want is people to recognize that love is the greatest gift we have been given. It was given to us freely and freely we should give it away.”

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Milwaukee Police Disciplined For Using Stun Gun On, Arresting NBA Player

Milwaukee police have released bodycam footage showing officers using a stun gun on Milwaukee Bucks rookie Sterling Brown in a Walgreens parking lot in January. The officers arrested Brown, who is black, after challenging him over a parking violation.

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Lebanon and Iraq: After the elections – AEI – American Enterprise Institute: Freedom, Opportunity, Enterprise

Madam Chairman, Mr. Deutch, Members of the Committee, thank you for asking me join you here today.

A few months ago, I wrote an oped in the Wall Street Journal asking whether the United States  intended to lose Iraq as we have lost Lebanon. The question feels all the more apropos today, in the wake of troubling elections in both those countries. And let’s skip to the punch line: In both cases, the United States has, or once had a chance to challenge Iran at relatively low cost. But as we have already in Lebanon, and Iraq too, I fear, we will miss that chance because we are focused elsewhere, myopic about our potential influence, too willing to lie to ourselves about the status quo, and apparently indifferent to the march of the Islamic Republic of Iran across the greater Middle East.

Beginning with Lebanon, the results of recent elections are as depressing as they were predictable. Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s party and allies lost 15 seats, a rout rooted in both Lebanon’s own dysfunction, Hariri’s lackluster performance and the bizarre interlude during which he was kidnapped to Saudi Arabia. The winners were two: one a protest vote for the Lebanese Forces (not to be confused with the Lebanese Armed Forces), which picked up seven seats, and the other Hezbollah, with its own party and allies picking up 14 seats.

This is the same Hezbollah that has amassed an arsenal that would be the envy of many countries. Israel estimates Hezbollah has more than 150,000 rockets in the south of Lebanon, built up in violation of UNSC Resolution 1701. Worse still, I understand that Hezbollah is changing its arms transfer modus operandi. Because it recognizes the difficulty of physical weapons transfers to its allies, it is transferring know-how – rocket and missile building, guidance systems and the like. If Hezbollah, or the Houthis, or Hamas, or any of Iran’s many other proxies have the know-how to build more and more advanced weaponry, and the operational latitude to do so – as they do on Lebanese soil right now – what does the future hold?

Read the full testimony here.


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Roman Polanski threatens Academy with legal action over recent expulsion

Just a week after The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences gave Bill Cosby and Roman Polanski the boot per its news standards of conduct, the 84-year-old director is threatening to take legal action to reverse the decision. In a letter to the Academy President John Bailey, Polanski’s attorney, Harland Braun, explained that the decision was made in violation of the organization’s standards of conduct as well as California state law.

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