Posts tagged border
“Trusted Traveler” Caught Smuggling Woman in Car Trunk
During a July 31 inspection, Chavez was unable to open the trunk of his car. That led to a secondary inspection during which it was discovered that the Trusted Traveler had attempted to smuggle a woman across the border inside his trunk. Chavez was arrested, and the woman was held as a witness.
By John Nicol and Dave Seglins, CBC News
Back and forth shipments prompt accusation of fraud, EPA and CBSA probes
The mystery of the trainload of biodiesel that crossed back and forth across the Sarnia-Port Huron border without ever unloading its cargo, as reported by CBC News, has been solved.
CBC News received several tips after a recent story about a company shipping the same load of biodiesel back and forth by CN Rail at a cost of $2.6 million in the summer of 2010. It turns out the shipments were part of a deal by a Toronto-based company, which made several million dollars importing and exporting the fuel to exploit a loophole in a U.S. green energy program.
The entire U.S. biodiesel market has been the centre of controversy and even legislative hearings this summer over problems with the regulatory program administered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The fallout and distrust of a market-based biodiesel credit system has had several repercussions for the industry, particularly for fledgling biodiesel companies trying to produce environmentally friendly fuel. The recent CBC reports on that train to nowhere have prompted an investigation by the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA), as well as a further investigation by the EPA.
The company that organized the train shipment was Bioversel Trading Inc. of Toronto. Its principal, Arie Mazur, gave CBC a detailed explanation this week explaining that the trip was all about RINs — renewable identification numbers — the credits set up by the EPA to promote and track production and importation of renewable fuels such as ethanol and biodiesel.
The complicated deal unfolded in the final two weeks of June 2010.
Train records used to generate millions in RIN credits
Bioversel Trading hired CN Rail to import tanker loads of biodiesel to the U.S. to generate RINs, which are valuable in the U.S. because of a “greening” policy regulating the petroleum industry. The EPA’s “Renewable Fuel Standard” mandate that oil companies bring a certain amount of renewable fuel to market, quotas they can achieve through blending biofuel with fossil fuel or by purchasing RINs as offsets.
Because RINs can be generated through import, the 12 trainloads that crossed into Michigan would have contained enough biodiesel to create close to 12 million RINs. In the summer of 2010, biodiesel RINs were selling for 50 cents each, but the price soon fluctuated to more than $1 per credit.
Once “imported” to a company capable of generating RINs, ownership of the biodiesel was transferred to Bioversel’s American partner company, Verdeo, and then exported back to Canada. RINs must be “retired” once the fuel is exported from the U.S., but Bioversel says Verdeo retired ethanol RINs, worth pennies, instead of the more valuable biodiesel RINs. Bioversel claims this was all perfectly legal.
However, one of the companies Bioversel approached to be the ‘importer of record’—Northern Biodiesel Inc. of Ontario, N.Y. — discovered that the same fuel was going back and forth across the border and the same gallons were being used to repeatedly generate new RINs under their company’s name. The company called the EPA and also sent a letter that would become an open letter to the biodiesel industry, accusing Bioversel of “trying to perpetrate a fraud against NBI and the Renewable Fuel Standard program.”
The EPA, which has a buyer beware policy for oil companies that buy RINs, did not act immediately, and the industry has been begging for it to play the role of sheriff on this case and others. The EPA won’t comment on continuing investigations, but insiders said the case is still under investigation.
Trust in US biodiesel credits shaken
Many observers of the Bioversel deal of 2010 doubt the RINs repeatedly generated on the same gallons of fuel are legal.
“If the facts in your story bear out, there needs to be some people go to prison,” said Joe Jobe, CEO of the U.S. National Biodiesel Board. “It’s not a victimless crime. [RIN fraud] has impacted the livelihoods and jobs of absolutely everybody in this industry, and it has cost the folks in the petroleum industry who have to comply with this, millions and millions of dollars and it has put small- and medium-sized biodiesel producers completely out of business.
“We’ve taken this very seriously. I testified before the House energy oversight committee this summer. Congress has been whopping mad about [RIN fraud] as well.”
CBC has contacted the EPA repeatedly is recent days asking for an opinion on whether the Bioversel imports were legal. The agency has refused to comment.
Northern Biodiesel owner Bob Bechtold says his company’s role in the deal made it a victim. His firm agreed to act as importer to generate the RINs, but when the paperwork wasn’t forthcoming from Bioversel, one of his employees called CN Rail to find out what was happening at the border.
“All we got from [CN Rail] was that there was a curious thing happening, that there were a number of cars that just kept going back and forth across the Canadian border,” he told CBC News. “When we started smelling something that was weird, we called the EPA, and notified them that this was happening, and then we called the company that we were doing this transaction with and said we’re not doing any more business with you.”
Bechtold said Bioversel had a “fit.”
“First they threatened us that we were breaking the contract,” he said. “One person came here and tried to insist that I would be in a lot of trouble because of breaking the contract, and I assured him that I thought he would be in a lot more trouble if this continued. Then they offered to buy our company, which we thought was pretty absurd, and I basically sent him on his way.”
In its letter to the EPA, Northern Biodiesel cautioned its RIN company codes had been compromised, alleging that Bioversel’s partner company, Verdeo, took its numbers and made up new RINs “as if the biodiesel has been blended into the U.S. transportation fuel stream and separated from the renewable fuel. Then they were illegally sold by Verdeo to parties obligated to acquire RINs by the Renewable Fuel Standard.”
Northern Biodiesel insisted the RINs issued were not valid because it had never received any bills of lading or chemical analysis reports from Verdeo, and thus Northern Biodiesel never reported/certified them with the EPA. However, millions of these RINs were sold in its name.
As a result, Northern Biodiesel RINs became tainted within the industry and Bechtold said that put him out of business.
“That was about the dumbest thing we ever did,” said Bechtold about the letter and coming forward to the EPA. “We thought we were saving the industry, doing good to protect the industry, but it ended up being the kiss of death for us, because we are no longer able to participate in the field.”
Beyond this case, the entire U.S. biodiesel RIN system has been plagued by problems, loopholes and even outright frauds. It has all undermined efforts to get U.S. industry to use more renewable fuels and has left big oil companies and other major fuel purchasers wary of smaller producers.
Biodiesel plant set for Welland, Ont.
Bioversel Trading told CBC News this week that everything it did was legal and insisted they never directly generated or sold RINS. The company also distanced itself from its partner Verdeo, even though one of Verdeo’s former names was Bioversel Trading (US), and Arie Mazur of Bioversel Trading (Canada) was a former director and executive of the US company.
Bioversel Trading of Toronto is at the centre of a probe by the European Union and the CBSA, which claims in search warrant documents (executed on their Toronto office last spring) that the firm is suspected of exporting American biodiesel to Romania and Italy while saying it was Canadian, to avoid huge duties. That would amount to violations of the Customs Act – but have never been proven. Bioversel Trading flatly rejects the CBSA allegations.
The Bioversel family of companies has changed its names in Canada and the U.S., and has also been embroiled in several lawsuits in the U.S. over its trading in biodiesel fuel.
One of the companies that shares the same Toronto office space, once known as Bioversel Sarnia Inc., is now known as Great Lakes Biodiesel (GLB), which is planning to open a biodiesel plant in Welland, Ont. Mazur’s lawyer said Mazur is no longer a director of Great Lakes, but confirms a Mazur’s involved in, Einer Canada, is a shareholder of GLB.
If it opens in early 2013 and meets its production targets, Great Lakes Biodiesel is eligible for $65 million in Canadian government subsidies over the next five years under the federal eco energy biofuels incentive program.
Republished with permission.
By John Nicol and Dave Seglins, CBC News
CN Rail nets $2.6M to move shipments nowhere
A CBC news investigation has uncovered a mystery involving unexplained shipments of biodiesel tanker cars moved between Canada and the United States, and back again, that were never unloaded.
According to leaked internal CN documents, the rail company stood to make $2.6 million for the effort.
“CN received shipping directions from the customer, which, under law, it has an obligation to meet,” CN Rail spokesperson Mark Hallman said last week. “CN discharged its obligations with respect to those movements in strict compliance with its obligations as a common carrier, and was compensated accordingly.”
When asked whether CN wasn’t helping to do something strange, Hallman responded: “CN met its obligations as a common carrier and we have no further comment.”
CN employees, although guarded, were more candid.
Turkey has scrambled six F-16 fighter jets near its border with Syria after Syrian helicopters came close to the border, the country’s army says.
Six jets were sent to the area in response to three such incidents on Saturday, the statement said, adding that there was no violation of Turkish airspace.
Last month, Syrian forces shot down a Turkish jet in the border area.
The incident further strained already tense relations between former allies.
Turkey’s government has been outspoken in its condemnation of Syria’s response to the 16-month anti-government uprising, which has seen more than 30,000 Syrian refugees enter Turkey.
On Friday, Turkey said it had begun deploying rocket launchers and anti-aircraft guns along the border in response to the downing of its F-4 Phantom jet on 22 June.
The move came after Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned that Turkey had changed its rules of military engagement and would now treat any Syrian military approaching the border as a threat.
By Kurt Nimmo
House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa has confirmed that wiretap applications reveal in-depth detail on the Fast and Furious operation, including evidence showing that “agents were well aware that large sums of money were being used to purchase a large number of firearms, many of which were flowing across the border.”
Roll Call reports today that Issa released details concerning the wiretaps in the House. His disclosure is protected by the Speech or Debate Clause in the Constitution, which offers immunity for Congressional speech on the floor.
According to Darrell Issa’s letter sent to Maryland Democrat Rep. Elijah Cummings on May 24, not only did ATF officials know about the purchases, they oversaw activity by straw purchasers and ended their surveillance without interdicting the guns.
“Although ATF was aware of these facts, no one was arrested, and ATF failed to even approach the straw purchasers,” Issa’s letter states. “Upon learning these details through its review of this wiretap affidavit, senior Justice Department officials had a duty to stop this operation. Further, failure to do so was a violation of Justice Department policy.”
As we noted on June 22, Obama lied to the American people on March 23, 2011, when he said that neither he nor Attorney General Holder authorized the effort to arm the drug cartels in Mexico. Several weeks later, on May 3, Holder lied to Congress. He said he did not know who approved Fast and Furious. He also lied when he said he “probably heard about Fast and Furious for the first time over the last few weeks.”
Issa talks about contempt and criminal case against Holder.
On Thursday, House Republicans held Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress. The House made the historic move after Holder refused to divulge additional documents on the gun-running operation and Obama invoked executive privilege in an attempt to block the request for more information.
So what was Obama’s level of involvement in the incident and the cover-up?
By Joe Wright
The War on Drugs has been threatening the fundamental rights of ordinary Americans, and greatly impinging upon states rights, as agencies like the DEA continue to claim that their federal authority supersedes local decisions.
Despite protections afforded under the U.S. Constitution, the federal DEA has been trying to initiate a blanket sweep of all license plates traveling along Interstates 15 and 70 in Utah, with the intent to store the information in a centralized database.
Furthermore, as noted by the ACLU which attended a recent hearing about the rollout, this federal agency is employing a scanning technology called ALPR to collect data from “unspecified other sources and sharing it with over ten thousand law enforcement agencies around the nation.”
The deployment of any personal data collection technology by a federal agency carries with it additional responsibilities under the Privacy Act of 1974. For now, it appears that the DEA will be adhering to those guidelines after local resistance to the new initiative. Or, are they merely planning an end-run once they think people have forgotten about the issue?
The Privacy Act of 1974 requires any federal agency engaged in the collection of personal data to disclose to the American people exactly what will be collected, how it will be stored, and whether that information will be shared. It makes this quite clear under “conditions of disclosure”:
No agency shall disclose any record which is contained in a system of records by any means of communication to any person, or to another agency, except pursuant to a written request by, or with the prior written consent of, the individual to whom the record pertains.
This is followed by 12 conditions which enable an expansion of scope and function, but detail very specific controls and scenarios for establishing just cause and the accounting of any disclosure.
Ottawa Airport Wired with Microphones as Border Services Prepares to Record Travellers’ Conversations0
‘Sections of the Ottawa airport are now wired with microphones that can eavesdrop on travellers’ conversations.
The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) is nearing completion of a $500,000 upgrade of old video cameras used to monitor its new “customs controlled areas,” including the primary inspection area for arriving international passengers. As part of the work, the agency is introducing audio-monitoring equipment as well.’
Read more: Ottawa Airport Wired with Microphones as Border Services Prepares to Record Travellers’ Conversations
Thousands of civilians in Ivory Coast have fled their homes after seven UN peacekeepers and eight civilians were killed in raids near the Liberian border, a UN official and residents said Saturday.
The wave of unrest prompted Liberia to announce it was shutting its border with its neighbour, although it said the move would not affect humanitarian work in the area.
The peacekeepers were killed Friday while they were patrolling an area between two villages after hearing rumours of an imminent attack on communities there. At least one Ivorian soldier was also killed in the ambush.
A series of simultaneous raids on several villages near the southwestern town of Tai sparked an “immediate” exodus, UN spokeswoman Anouk Desgroseilliers told AFP.
The raids came just days after a Human Rights Watch report blamed recent attacks in southwest Ivory Coast on fighters loyal to former president Laurent Gbagbo, who is currently awaiting trial on war crimes charges.
The authorities in Abidjan have said those behind Friday’s attacks came from Liberia.
Posted by Corbett
As US troops deploy to the Mexican border to deal with the fallout of Fast and Furious, details continue to emerge about this flagrantly illegal operation to arm Mexican drug lords in a supposed sting operation. But as veteran investigative journalist Bill Conroy points out, operations like this were going on years prior to Fast and Furious and this latest scandal is just another example of a drug war that is not what it is believed to be. This is the GRTV Feature interview with your host James Corbett and our special guest, Bill Conroy.
If you want honest reporting I would highly recommend The Corbett Report!