Al-Jazeera & Associated Press – 2011-11-01 21:11:27
US Soldier Jailed for Rape in South Korea
SEOUL (November 1, 2011) — A South Korean court has jailed a US soldier to 10 years in prison for the “sadistic and perverted” rape of a teenager in a case that has prompted an apology from a top US diplomat. The private was sentenced on Tuesday for raping the 18-year-old multiple times in an attack in the city of Dongducheon, which hosts the US Second Infantry Division base and is near the border with North Korea.
“As the accused satisfied his sexual desire in a sadistic and perverted manner for three hours, the victim suffered fear and humiliation,” the court said in its judgement quoted by Yonhap news agency. “The accused should be given stern punishment.”
It said the 21-year-old soldier entered a low-budget dorm-style room early on September 24 and sexually assaulted and tormented the victim, threatening her with a pair of scissors. He then robbed her of 5,000 won ($4.50) before running away, said the court in the city of Uijeongbu, north of Seoul.
The case, along with a separate rape allegation by a teenage girl against another US soldier, prompted top US military and government officials to offer public apologies.
Kurt Campbell, a visiting US assistant secretary of state, last month offered an apology to the Korean people for “the tragic and inexcusable rape”. The US military also apologized and imposed a month-long late-night curfew on its troops in the country.
The court ordered the soldier to undergo 80 hours of counseling and his personal information to be made public on a South Korean government website for 10 years, a court spokesman said. The court didn’t immediately release the soldier’s name.
Prosecutors had demanded a 15-year prison term. The court, however, decided on only a 10-year sentence because the soldier had repented, was still young and the rape was his first crime, the spokesman said. Both prosecutors and the soldier have one week to appeal.
About 28,500 US troops are stationed in South Korea, and crimes involving them have caused anti-American sentiments among many South Koreans. In 2002, the acquittals of two American soldiers whose armored vehicle ran over and killed two South Korean schoolgirls during training prompted massive nationwide protests against the US military presence in the country.
Tuesday’s sentencing is the longest prison term for an American soldier stationed in South Korea since 1993, when a US soldier was sentenced to life in prison for murdering a South Korean bar employee, according to the foreign ministry. His life sentence was later reduced to 15 years, and the soldier was eventually released in 2006.
Reports: Prosecutions Going Up for War Zone Crime
WASHINGTON (October 30, 2011) — A Marine in Iraq sent home $43,000 in stolen cash by hiding it in a footlocker among American flags. A soldier shipped thousands more concealed in a toy stuffed animal, and an embassy employee tricked the State Department into wiring $240,000 into his foreign bank account.
As the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan wind down, the number of people indicted and convicted by the US for bribery, theft and other reconstruction-related crimes in both countries is rapidly rising, according to two government reports released Sunday.
“This is a boom industry for us,” Stuart Bowen, Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, or SIGIR, said in an interview. “Investigators and auditors had a productive quarter,” said a report on the theft of Afghanistan aid by Steven Trent, Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, or SIGAR. The report covered August through October.
In the last 13 months US investigators in Iraq secured the indictments of 22 people for alleged aid-related offenses, bringing to 69 the total since the SIGIR office was created in 2004. Convictions stand at 57. Several hundred more suspects are under scrutiny in 102 open investigations and those numbers are expected to climb.
The rise in caseloads derives partly from spinoff investigations, where suspects facing prosecution lead investigators to other suspects, said Jon Novak, SIGIR’s assistant inspector general for investigations. “More and more people are ratting out their associates,” he said, turning in conspirators who helped launder money after it was stolen, others who were aware of it and others implicated in the crimes.
As investigators gain experience, they’re received better information from a growing network of sources in Iraq, said Dan Willkens, Novak’s deputy. Development of an automated data-mining system for investigations has helped, he said, as did a decision two years ago to speed prosecutions by hiring three former assistant US attorneys and detailing them to the Department of Justice.
At the inspector general’s office for Afghan reconstruction, created in 2008, officials report only nine indictments and seven convictions so far. They say they’re trying to ramp up after years of upheaval and charges the office was mismanaged. Trent was named acting inspector general after his predecessor left in August and is the third person to hold the job.
Still, Trent reported that during the last quarter a SIGAR-initiated investigation netted the largest bribery case in Afghanistan’s 10-year war. Former army reserve captain Sidharth “Tony” Handa of Charlotte, N.C., was convicted, sentenced to prison and fined for soliciting $1.3 million in bribes from contractors working on reconstruction projects.
Most crimes uncovered by US investigators in the two war zones include bribery, kickbacks and theft, inspired in part by the deep and pervasive cultures of corruption indigenous to the countries themselves.
Among some of the cases listed in the reports were those of:
Gunnery Sgt. Eric Hamilton, who pleaded guilty to conspiracy in what prosecutors say was a scheme to help Iraqi contractors steal 70 generators that were meant to supply electricity for fellow Marines. He sent some of their payments home in a footlocker and had other money wired, the report said.
Several US government employees, who received kickbacks for steering contracts to local conspirators and providing inside information to people competing for contracts. A former army sergeant, who was not identified, is charged with pocketing more than $12,000 in cash that a contractor never picked up after the money was allegedly stolen by another army sergeant and mailed to California inside a stuffed animal.
Jordanian national and US embassy employee Osama Esam Saleem Ayesh, who was convicted in April for stealing nearly $240,000 intended to cover shipping and customs charges the State Department incurs when it moves household goods of its employees. The money wound up in Ayesh’s bank in Jordan.
Money stolen from reconstruction projects also has been shipped off of US battlefields tucked into letters home and stuffed in a military vest. Tens of thousands of dollars were once sewn into a Santa Claus suit.
Prosecutors have retrieved some of the money. More than $83 million will be returned to the US from Iraq cases completed in the budget year that ended Sept. 30, bringing the total recovered over the last seven years to nearly $155 million, Bowen’s office said.
As well as stolen cash, the total includes court-ordered restitution, fines and proceeds from the sale of merchandise seized from those convicted, including Rolex watches, luxury cars, plasma TVs and houses.
SIGAR prosecutions recovered $51 million over the past year, Trent’s report said.
But the amount recovered is believed to be a tiny fraction of what’s been stolen in the two war zones, a figure that will probably never be known for certain. Far more money is believed to have been lost through waste and abuse that resulted from poor management and the often-questioned US strategy of trying to rebuild nations that are still at war.
The US has committed $62 billion to rebuilding Iraq and $72 billion for the reconstruction of Afghanistan.
The independent Commission on Wartime Contracting estimated in August that at least $31 billion has been lost to waste and fraud in Iraq and Afghanistan, adding that the total could be as high as $60 billion. It studied not just reconstruction spending, but $206 billion for the logistical support of coalition forces and the performance of security functions.
The commission found that from 10 to 20 percent of the $206 billion in spending was wasted, while fraud accounted for the loss of another 5 to 9 percent.
Bowen called the cost of fraud “egregious.”
“This is open crime occurring in a war zone,” he said. “And the purpose of a lot of these expenditures is to win hearts and minds. Obviously we lose hearts and minds” when local populations see foreigners steal money meant to help rebuild their country.
SIGIR and SIGAR are only two of the US government offices looking into fraud, waste and abuse. Others include State Department inspectors and Army criminal investigators.
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