Five Tory MPs breached code of conduct by trying to influence Elphicke sex assault trial, committee rules
Five Tory MPs breached the code of conduct by trying to influence the trial of former MP Charlie Elphicke, the Commons Standards Committee has ruled.
The MPs include Elphicke’s former wife Natalie Elphicke, Sir Roger Gale, Theresa Villiers, Adam Holloway and Bob Stewart.
Three of them – Ms Elphicke, Sir Roger and Ms Villiers – have been recommended for a one-day suspension.
Ms Elphicke replaced her former husband as the MP for Dover.
The standards committee said: “The letters signed and sent by the members in this case were an attempt improperly to influence judicial proceedings.
“Such egregious behaviour is corrosive to the rule of law and, if allowed to continue unchecked, could undermine public trust in the independence of judges.”
The group of MPs wrote to senior members of the judiciary raising concerns that a more junior judge was considering publishing character references provided for Mr Elphicke.
Elphicke was suspended from the Conservatives in 2017 after he was accused of sexual offences against two members of staff.
The disgraced politician was MP for Dover from 2010 until last year’s general election, at which he was succeeded in the Kent constituency by his wife Natalie.
In July 2020, he was found guilty of three counts of sexual assault against the two women and sentenced to two years in prison.
Sentencing him last year, the judge, Mrs Justice Whipple, described the 50-year-old as a “sexual predator” who used his “success and respectability as a cover”.
Elphicke showed no emotion as he was sentenced – and later sought to appeal against the sentence, which was denied in March.
The trial heard how he declared himself a “naughty Tory” as he chased his first victim around his central London family home in summer 2007, moments after groping her while they shared a bottle of wine.
He also groped a second woman, a parliamentary worker in her early 20s with whom he was “besotted”, twice in a month in 2016.
During his trial, the court heard Elphicke, a father of two and a qualified lawyer, lied to police, senior colleagues and his wife about what happened.
Following his conviction, Mrs Elphicke announced the end of her 25-year marriage on Twitter as she sat in a taxi leaving the court, saying the decision had brought “profound sorrow”.
The standard committe said on Wednesday that the five MPs’ behaviour was found to have “caused significant damage to the reputation and integrity” of the House of Commons.
It added that of the three recommended for suspension, two had “substantial legal experience” while the third, Sir Roger, is both the longest standing of the group and “still does not accept his mistake”.
The group were told to apologise to the Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales, as well as to the House.
Northern HS2 line set to be scrapped with costs ‘out of control’, Sky News understands
The northern section of the HS2 high speed rail line looks set to be scrapped by Rishi Sunak, Sky News understands.
It comes as a number of Sunday newspapers reported that any decision would be announced before next weekend’s Conservative Party conference.
Sky News political correspondent Tamara Cohen said: “The widespread view in Westminster is that the prime minister is set to scrap the northern leg of the High Speed 2 rail line – the bit that was due to go between Birmingham and Manchester – because of concern about the cost.
“We’ve had several reports that the crunch meeting between the prime minister and chancellor to make the final decision could happen as soon as next week and be announced to Conservative MPs.
“This would be a big U-turn if it goes ahead.”
On Saturday two former premiers warned Mr Sunak about “delivering a mutilated HS2”.
Boris Johnson said suggestions the Birmingham to Manchester route could be chopped over cost concerns were “desperate” and “Treasury-driven nonsense”.
And David Cameron has also privately raised significant concerns about the prospect that the high-speed rail line could be heavily altered, according to The Times.
An ally quoted by the newspaper said it was “unusual” for the former prime minister, who resigned after the Brexit referendum result in 2016, to intervene in politics but felt HS2 was “different”.
Ministers have looked to sidestep questions about the future of the Manchester destination this week and Chancellor Jeremy Hunt said on Thursday that HS2’s budget was “getting totally out of control”.
Mr Sunak has refused to guarantee it will reach Manchester despite £2.3bn having already been ploughed into stage two of the national line.
Cohen said recent comments from Jeremy Hunt in a radio interview showed the chancellor was concerned with costs spiralling.
“It’s being reported the costs may be overrunning by at least £8bn on the section from London to Birmingham alone since last year – although the government has not commented on those figures.”
The planned railway – announced by the last Labour government but backed by successive Tory administrations – is intended to link London, the Midlands and the North of England but has been plagued by delays and rising costs.
A budget of £55.7bn for the whole of HS2 was set in 2015 but some reports suggest the bill has surpassed £100bn, having been driven up by recent inflation.
Ministers have already moved to pause parts of the project and even axed sections in the north.
The eastern leg between Birmingham and Leeds was reduced to a spur line which is due to end in the East Midlands.
It was confirmed in March that construction between Birmingham and Crewe would be delayed by two years and that services may not enter central London until the 2040s.
Transport Secretary Mark Harper announced that work at Euston would be paused for two years as costs were forecast to almost double to £4.8bn.
A government spokesman said: “The HS2 project is already well underway with spades in the ground, and our focus remains on delivering it.”
Binance.US scores against SEC, Mt. Gox delay repayments, and other news: Hodler’s Digest, Sept. 17-23
Top Stories This Week
SEC sees temporary setback in request to access Binance.US software
The United States Securities and Exchange Commission has failed to win immediate access to Binance.US’s software, with the judge saying he isn’t “inclined to allow the inspection at this time.” The hearing was held on Sept. 18 to discuss the SEC’s motion to compel Binance to hand over detailed information and make its executives more available for depositions. In a hearing, Judge Faruqui said that he wasn’t “inclined to allow the inspection at this time.” Alternatively, he proposed that the SEC should come up with more specific requests for discovery and speak with a broader range of witnesses. In another headline, Binance global and its CEO Changpeng “CZ” Zhao requested dismissal of the SEC’s lawsuit filed against them in June, claiming the regulator overstepped its authority in the case.
Mt. Gox trustee changes repayment deadline to October 2024
Mt. Gox trustee Nobuaki Kobayashi has officially changed the deadline for paying back the exchange’s creditors from Oct. 31, 2023, to Oct. 31, 2024. Presently, the Mt. Gox estate holds some 142,000 Bitcoin (BTC), 143,000 Bitcoin Cash (BCH), and 69 billion Japanese yen. Mt. Gox was one of the earliest cryptocurrency exchanges, once facilitating more than 70% of all trades made within the blockchain ecosystem. Following a major hack in 2011, the site subsequently collapsed in 2014 due to alleged insolvency; the fallout affected about 24,000 creditors and resulted in the loss of 850,000 BTC.
Tether authorizes $1B USDT to ‘replenish’ Tron network
Tether’s Treasury is set to provide a $1 billion near-term liquidity for the Tron network. The billionaire authorization was flagged by blockchain tracker WhaleAlert, which drew a quick-fire response from Tether chief technology officer Paolo Ardoino, who said that the USDT tokens would be used as inventory to “replenish” the Tron network. Authorizing USDT in the Tether Treasury allows the company to issue USDT instantaneously once customer funds are received to ensure that the issuer maintains 100% of its reserves. Ardoino added that the event was an authorization and not an actual issuance, with the allocated amount set to serve as inventory for upcoming issuance requests and chain swaps from the Tron network.
FTX founder’s parents sued, accused of stealing millions from crypto exchange
Debtors of FTX have launched legal action against the parents Sam “SBF” Bankman-Fried, alleging that they misappropriated millions of dollars through their involvement in the crypto exchange. The plaintiffs argued that Joseph Bankman and Barbara Fried exploited their access and influence within the FTX empire to enrich themselves at the expense of the debtors in the FTX bankruptcy estate. The debtors alleged that SBF’s parents were “very much involved” in the FTX business from inception to collapse, contrary to what SBF has claimed. According to the complaint, Bankman and Fried extracted significant unearned rewards from their involvement in FTX Group, including a $10-million cash gift and a $16.4-million luxury property in the Bahamas.
Grayscale files for new Ether futures ETF — Official
Digital currency investment company Grayscale is the latest firm to file with the Securities and Exchange Commission for a new Ether (ETH) futures exchange-traded fund (ETF).
Grayscale Ethereum Futures Trust will hold Ether futures contracts with a “roughly constant expiration profile,” according to the filing. The trust will “never carry futures positions to cash settlement.” The nature of the Ether futures contracts in the ETF will not require the trust to use an Ether custodian. Grayscale’s application comes a few weeks after Valkyrie also filed for an Ether futures ETF with the SEC in mid-August, following several other firms filing for ETH futures ETFs.
Winners and Losers
Among the biggest 100 cryptocurrencies, the top three altcoin gainers of the week are Immutable (IMX) at 27.07%, Curve DAO Token (CRV) at 16.16%, and Aave (AAVE) at 15.92%.
The top three altcoin losers of the week are Gala (GALA) at -8.57%, Axie Infinity (AXS) at -7.42%, and Optimism (OP) at -7.52%.
For more info on crypto prices, make sure to read Cointelegraph’s market analysis.
Most Memorable Quotations
“There remains a real risk that the use of AI develops in a way that undermines consumer trust or is dominated by a few players […].”
Sarah Cardell, CEO of the U.K. Competition and Markets Authority
“Don’t give up on the United States. This too shall pass, the confusion shall pass. The United States is a good place to build things, and I want it to stay that way.
Hester Peirce, Commissioner of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission
“If the average end-user, who isn’t a computer scientist, who doesn’t understand blockchain, has to know about their private keys — we’ve got it wrong. They have to be abstracted away,”
James Tromans, head of Web3 at Google Cloud
“Bitcoin as a global monetary network is scaling while its carbon impact declines. Few industries can claim this achievement.”
Jamie Coutts, crypto market analyst at Bloomberg
“It is an inevitable future where there will no longer be any intermediaries between fans and creators — this is an obvious but unrealized potential of blockchain technology.”
Leon Lee, founder and CEO of Only1
“[The U.S. government] can do a central bank digital currency if it’s open, permissionless and private. It has to emulate cash.”
Tom Emmer, U.S. Representative
Prediction of the Week
Bitcoin fails to recoup post-Fed losses as $20K BTC price returns to radar
Bitcoin circled lower after the United States Federal Reserve decision on interest rates, with $20,000 BTC price predictions resurfacing.
The aftermath of the Fed interest rates pause on Sept. 20 offered little for Bitcoin bulls, BTC/USD having dipped almost $700 the day prior. Data from Cointelegraph Markets Pro and TradingView covered a lackluster 24 hours for BTC price action, with $27,000 fading from view.
Now, market participants returned to a more conservative outlook in the absence of tangible volatility. “Something like this over the course of October would be perfect i would say,” popular trader Crypto Tony told X (formerly Twitter) subscribers.
“Slow grind up to $28,500, followed by hype and FOMO, to then dump it once more.”
FUD of the Week
Balancer blames ‘social engineering attack’ on DNS provider for website hijack
Ethereum-based automated market maker Balancer believes a social engineering attack on its DNS service provider was what led to its website’s front end being compromised on Sept. 19, leading to an estimated $238,000 in crypto stolen. Blockchain security firms SlowMist and CertiK reported that the attacker employed Angel Drainer phishing contracts. SlowMist said the exploiters attacked Balancer’s website via Border Gateway Protocol hijacking — a process where hackers take control of IP addresses by corrupting internet routing tables. The hacker has already bridged some of the stolen Ether (ETH) to Bitcoin (BTC) addresses.
Crypto influencer arrested in Hong Kong for JPEX association
A Hong Kong-based social media influencer has reportedly been arrested after investigations around the liquidity crisis of the crypto exchange JPEX traced back their involvement. According to a local report, the Securities and Futures Commission of Hong Kong recently issued a statement blaming JPEX for actively promoting the platform’s services and products to the public through online celebrities and over-the-counter money changers. Another unconfirmed report suggests that Lin Zuo presented “schemes” to a chat group created for cryptocurrency investment. Also related to this story, Hong Kong regulators are looking to tighten regulations around the crypto market following the failure of JPEX, which led to the arrest of over six individuals.
CoinEx hack: Compromised private keys led to $70M theft
Hong Kong-based cryptocurrency exchange CoinEx has revealed that compromised private keys allowed hackers to steal over $70 million worth of tokens. According to CoinEx representatives, the amount represents a small percentage of its total assets under management. CoinEx stated that affected users will be compensated entirely for any lost funds. The exchange explained that a preliminary investigation pinned the root cause to a compromised private key for its hot wallets. These were used to store exchange assets for carrying out deposits and withdrawals.
If you’re not transforming your business to take advantage of AI now, you’ll be left behind, says Easy Translate boss Frederik Pedersen.
NFT Collector: William Mapan explains generative art using a crayon and dice
What even is generative art? William Mapan, whose 250-piece Distance collection just sold out at 2ETH each, explains using a crayon and die.
Hong Kong crypto exchange JPEX busted in $166M scam, Mt. Gox delays repayments yet again, oldest credit card company in Singapore moves into blockchain.
The most engaging reads in blockchain. Delivered once a
Rishi Sunak scraps government taskforce aimed at saving energy and lowering bills
A government taskforce intended to help people save energy and lower their bills has been disbanded after just six months.
The Energy Efficiency Taskforce was set up by the chancellor, Jeremy Hunt, in March to boost uptake of insulation and boiler upgrades in homes and commercial buildings.
It included Sir John Armitt, chair of the National Infrastructure Commission, along with bosses of banks, housing developers and behavioural experts – aiming to drive a 15 per cent reduction in energy usage by 2030.
The group had four meetings but were yet to make any formal recommendations. Energy efficiency minister Lord Callanan wrote to them yesterday to say their work would be incorporated into the work of the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero.
Jess Ralston, an energy analyst at non-profit group the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit, told Sky News: “This appears to be yet another u-turn that could lead to higher bills just like the prime minister’s decision last week to roll back landlord insulation standards that could leave renters paying an additional £8bn on energy bills.”
One figure familiar with the taskforce discussions blamed the Treasury for not being willing to consider radical measures to incentivise families and businesses to take up the measures. One idea suggested was stamp duty reform.
The person said: “The Treasury spent £40bn last winter on energy support payments but wouldn’t spend £1-2bn on energy efficiency incentives which would save people money on their bills. It’s short-sighted”.
A Treasury source rejected this, and said: “Our commitment to energy efficiency has not changed one iota”
They added the decision to close the taskforce had been taken by the Department for Energy and Net Zero, created in February this year.
The taskforce was chaired by Lord Callanan and the former NatWest Group chief executive Alison Rose who resigned from the bank in July in a row over the closure of Nigel Farage’s account. It was intended to stimulate private sector investment and identify barriers in the market.
PM overhauls climate policies
A spokesperson for the department confirmed the taskforce was being disbanded and said: “We would like to thank the Energy Efficiency Taskforce for its work in supporting our ambition to reduce total UK energy demand by 15% from 2021 levels by 2030.
“We have invested £6.6bn in energy efficiency upgrades this Parliament and will continue to support families in making their homes more efficient, helping them to cut bills while also achieving net zero in a pragmatic, proportionate and realistic way.”
It comes after the prime minister made a speech this week rowing back on parts of the green agenda pursued by his predecessors – with targets relaxed for phasing out petrol and diesel cars, upgrading boilers and for landlords to make their properties energy efficient.
The oldest housing stock in Europe
Insulating homes is key to meeting the UK’s net zero target in 2050 – which remains in place. The UK has the oldest housing stock in Europe with millions of draughty, poorly insulated homes.
It had been estimated six million homes would need to be insulated by 2030 to reach the government’s target of reducing energy usage by 15%.
Ed Miliband, Labour’s Shadow Energy Security and Net Zero Secretary, criticised the move.
“Every family is paying the price in higher energy bills due to 13 years of Tory failure on insulating homes.” he said.
“After Rishi Sunak’s track record as chancellor with the disastrous Green Homes Grant, this is another short-sighted decision that will cost families money.”
Energy efficiency in England’s homes has increased since 2010, when just 14% were in the highest efficiency bands A to C. By 2020, it was 46%, according to the English Housing Survey. For homes that were improved to a Band C level, the annual energy saving was £282 per year.
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