Cardinal lands in Australia to face sexual abuse charges

SYDNEY, Australia — The most senior Vatican cleric to ever be charged in the Roman Catholic Church sex abuse scandal returned to Australia on Monday to stand trial in his home state on charges alleging he sexually assaulted multiple people years ago.

Cardinal George Pell, Pope Francis’ top financial adviser, avoided waiting media when he arrived at Sydney Airport on a flight from Singapore. He had declined to comment in Singapore over the weekend as he made his way home from Rome.

The 76-year-old cleric is due to appear in a court in the Victoria state capital Melbourne on July 26 on what Victoria Police described as multiple counts of “historical sexual assault offenses” — meaning crimes that generally occurred years ago. There is no statute of limitations on such crimes in Australia. Police said there were multiple complainants, but have released no other details.

Pell is free ahead of his court hearing, during which he can formally apply for bail.

When police announced the charges last month, Pell vowed to fight the allegations, saying: “The whole idea of sexual abuse is abhorrent to me.”

On Monday, the Sydney archdiocese said the cardinal had made multiple stops on his journey to Australia to avoid long-haul flights, based on the advice of his doctors. Last year, Pell said he was too ill to make the long flight back to his home country to testify before a government inquiry into how the Catholic Church and other institutions have responded to child sex abuse allegations.

“When he was told of the charges by Victoria Police, Cardinal Pell said in Rome he totally rejected the allegations, was completely innocent of the charges and would return to Australia to vigorously defend himself and clear his name,” the archdiocese said in a statement. “Cardinal Pell will not be making further comment other than to say he is grateful for the numerous messages of support he continues to receive.”

Pell has taken a leave of absence to fight the charges in Australia and has said he intends to return to the Vatican to continue his work as a prefect of the church’s economy ministry.

The pope thanked Pell for his “honest” work and collaboration, and said he would wait for Australian justice to run its course before making a judgment himself.

For years, Pell has faced allegations that he mishandled cases of clergy abuse as archbishop of Melbourne and, later, Sydney. But more recently, Pell himself became the focus of a clergy sex abuse investigation, with Victoria detectives flying to the Vatican to interview him last year.

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Use of Brunei dollar in Singapore well accepted based on notes and coins deposited with MAS, Economy News & Top Stories - The Straits Times

SINGAPORE - It has been 50 years since Singapore and Brunei agreed to allow the currencies from both countries to be used for shopping in either place.

Under the Currency Interchangeability Agreement signed with Brunei in June 1967, Brunei dollar notes can be used in Singapore and vice versa, at an at-par exchange rate. This means one Singapore dollar gets one Brunei dollar and vice versa.

Statistics showed the Monetary Authority of Singapore's (MAS) that the Brunei dollar has had a strong presence in Singapore, going by the value of Brunei notes and coins deposited by banks with the MAS.

An average of about B$1.3 billion of Brunei currency was repatriated annually for the past three years to its financial regulator Autoriti Monetari Brunei Darussalam, said the MAS last Friday .

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It added: "Over the last 50 years, the agreement has been mutually beneficial for both Singapore and Brunei, and it has remained intact despite significant economic challenges faced by both countries over the years."

It noted the domestic and international purchasing power of the Singdollar "is anchored by the credibility of the MAS' exchange rate-centred monetary policy in keeping inflation low and stable".

The MAS added this has been extended to Brunei via the agreement and the Brunei dollar's peg to the Singdollar, and all this has led to stronger trade and investment flows as well between the two countries.

For instance, trade between Singapore and Brunei has grown from under US$20 million in 1968 to US$822 million in 2016.

"Despite the rapid growth in each country's total trade with the rest of the world, Singapore has remained one of Brunei's top 10 trading partners," added the MAS.

Also, Singapore's trade in services with Brunei has risen from US$76 million in 2000, to US$400 million in 2015, and has expanded more rapidly than Singapore's trade in services with the world.

Before 1967, Brunei, Singapore and Malaysia had a common currency, as part of a monetary union. When that fell apart, each country issued its own currency.

Malaysia originally had interchangeability agreements with Singapore and Brunei, but those ceased in May 1973 after major currencies of the world decided to float against the United States dollar.

The Singdollar-Brunei dollar agreement is believed to the only such arrangement in Asia.

The MAS said: "The agreement is supported by Singapore and Brunei's underlying economic fundamentals such as their strong external balance positions, including their foreign reserve holdings... and has been compatible with macroeconomic stability in both Singapore and Brunei."

For instance, it noted through a de facto peg of the Brunei dollar to the Singapore dollar, both countries have been able to share "the benefits of the strong nominal anchorage provided by an exchange rate-centred monetary policy framework".

The MAS said it works with bodies such as the Singapore Tourism Board and National Environment Agency, as well as trade and business associations to remind stakeholders like retails of the agreement.

Should a retailer here reject the Bruneian dollar, it should be referred to the MAS with details such as details of the purchase. The MAS said: "We will contact the retailer to educate them on the acceptance of Brunei Darussalam currency in Singapore."

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Singapore Regulator Offers Grants to Spur Local Bond Ratings - Bloomberg Quint

Qualifying issuers who obtain credit ratings from an international rating firm will be able to claim as much as 100 percent of their credit rating expenses, subject to a funding cap of S$400,000 per issuer. The grant is open to both foreign and domestic issuers and ratings will allow issuers to attract a more diverse investor base, including international institutional investors, the regulator said.

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Singapore's MAS Says Not Yet Time to Ease Property Curbs - Bloomberg Quint

While the property market has stabilized, “it is, however, not time yet to ease the cooling measures. They remain necessary,” Ravi Menon, managing director of the Monetary Authority of Singapore, told reporters on Thursday at the release of the bank’s annual report. Mortgage rates are very low and “the risk of a renewed unsustainable surge in property prices is not trivial,” he said.

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Bank lending in May up 6.8% year on year, Economy News & Top Stories

Bank lending in May rose for the eighth straight month on the back of a more positive economic outlook, with both business and consumer loans increasing.

Total loans rose to $633.2 billion, up 6.8 per cent compared with $592.8 billion in May last year, according to preliminary data from the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) out yesterday.

Bank lending growth has been picking up in recent months, rising 6.3 per cent year on year in March and 7 per cent in April - the fastest pace in more than two years. Bank loans have been rising year on year since October 2016.

This comes as Singapore's economic growth outlook seems to be taking a turn for the better. The Ministry of Trade and Industry has said that this year's growth is likely to be more than 2 per cent, which sits at the higher end of its 1 per cent to 3 per cent forecast and surpasses last year's modest 2 per cent.

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Lending to businesses expanded for the sixth straight month in May to $381 billion, a 9.3 per cent rise from a year earlier.

Manufacturing sector loans slid 12.8 per cent, but this was offset by strong increases elsewhere.

Loans to the general commerce sector surged 21.7 per cent year on year, while lending to financial institutions rose 29.6 per cent. Lending to business services firms also went up, rising 25.7 per cent, even as transport, storage and communication companies received 16.1 per cent more in loans.

  • $633.2b
     Total loans in May this year.

  • $592.8b
    Total loans in May last year.

OCBC economist Selena Ling said: "While business loans growth may start to plateau... and stabilise in the second half of the year, it should remain in positive growth territory as global and regional economic and trade prospects have brightened."

 

Meanwhile, consumer borrowing rose 3.3 per cent year on year in May to $252.2 billion, supported mainly by an increase in mortgages and car loans.

Housing and bridging lending rose 3.9 per cent year on year to reach $193.7 billion, while car loans went up 2.2 per cent to $8 billion.

Said Ms Ling: "Given the resilience in the domestic labour market and assuming that the domestic interest rate environment sustains at low levels, consumer loans should remain fairly steady."

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Ukraine Banks Among The Targets Of Attacks | PYMNTS.com

Ukrainian banks and companies, including the state power company,  were the target of a cyberattack on Tuesday (June 27) that affected operations. According to a report in Reuters, the Ukrainian central bank said an unknown virus was the culprit behind the attack but didn’t provide more details of the banks that were affected. “As a result of these cyber attacks these banks are having difficulties with client services and carrying out banking operations,” the central bank said in a statement reported by Reuters.  “The central bank is confident that the banking infrastructure’s defense against cyber fraud is properly set up and attempted cyber attacks on banks’ IT systems will be neutralized.” Oschadbank, one of Ukraine’s biggest state-owned lenders, told Reuters that some of its services had been impacted in the “hacking attack” but said the data of customers were protected. Meanwhile, Ukrainian state power distributor Ukrenergo confirmed a cyber attack, but said the disruption had no effect on power supplies or its operations, Reuters reported. Tuesday’s attack comes on the heels of a handful of hacking attempts on the country’s websites at the end of last year and multiple attacks on the country’s power grid that had prompted calls for Ukraine to improve its defenses from cyber attacks Separately the Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday (June 27) that businesses in Europe and the U.S. such as A.P. Moeller-Maersk, a shipping company, WPP Group, an advertising firm, and Russian oil company PAO Rosneft, said they were the victim of “significant cyberattacks.” It’s not clear if and how the attacks are related, but they do come on the heels of the WannaCry ransomware attack that started in the U.K. but spread around the globe. Russia’s state-controlled oil company, PAO Rosneft, told the Wall Street Journal that it is under a “massive hacker attack” that may result in serious consequences. It did note its oil production has not been affected. Meanwhile Maersk said its computer systems were brought down by a hacker and that it’s affcting multiple computer systems across several business units. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey also sent out alerts Tuesday that some of its terminals are “experiencing system issues” noted the WSJ.
A.P. Moeller-Maersk, News, Oschadbank, PAO Rosneft, Russia, security & fraud, Ukraine banks, Ukrenergo, Wannacry, What's Hot, WPP, WPP Group

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