Category Archives: Outlets

Fugitive banknote forger ran errands for his elderly neighbours

When the Madrid district of San Blas-Canillejas went into lockdown in 2020, a man who called himself El Lolo, (short for Manuel), offered to shop and do other errands for old ladies confined to their homes.

His neighbourliness made him popular but when his face appeared last week in a list of Spain’s most wanted fugitives, it was a neighbour who gave the police his address. The tip-off led to the arrest of Manuel Bellido Moreno, 46, who was wanted for distributing fake banknotes and had been on the run for more than seven years.

Bellido was arrested in 2014 in the Galician town of Cambados. He was accused, with his wife, of handing out fake currency made by Rafael Velasco, a prolific forger known as “the pharaoh of counterfeit bills”. Velasco faked $3.5 million dollars in $50 and $100 notes, as well as uncut sheets worth another $20 million.

When Bellido was released on remand, however, he vanished. “He was the mastermind, the one who got away,” a police investigator told El País. The investigator said Bellido learnt the dark arts of counterfeiting from Velasco.

A court found Bellido guilty in his absence and sentenced him to nine years. A police investigator suspects him of having produced tens of thousands of fake €50 banknotes.

In San Blas-Canillejas, meanwhile, a new upholsterer moved into a flat on Calle Tapiceria, named after the Spanish for upholstery. Bellido “fixed up furniture, upholstered chairs, put things together and earned some money that way,” according to a former neighbour.

During the pandemic Bellido, who had separated from his wife but lived with his two daughters, offered to run local errands or cook meals for those who could not leave their homes. Regulars at a bar near by told reporters that they saw him as a longstanding member of their community.

Bellido’s popularity was such that neighbours began throwing things at the police when they came to arrest him. Officers had to shelter in an entrance while they waited for back-up, according to local reports. Soon afterwards the man who called himself El Lolo began his jail sentence.

First published by The Times: [html] [pdf].

Translated story: The suicide rate among people in pretrial detention is double that of convicted prisoners

“There is much sorrow in prison, disguised as hostility. The sorrow is plainly visible even in the most angry faces.” This message was posted on John McAfee’s personal Twitter account last June. Thirteen days later, the creator of the McAfee antivirus software died in his cell in the Barcelona prison Brians 2, where he had spent eight months in pretrial detention, pending rulings on extradition to the United States on charges of tax evasion and non-payment. McAfee left a note: “Instead of fully living it. I want to control my future, which doesn’t exist.” The autopsy declared his cause of death to be suicide.

In 2020, according to the Council of Europe’s SPACE study (see methodology), 480 people committed suicide in EU member state prisons, of which 172 were in pretrial detentionThese people were either awaiting trial or pending the outcome of their appeal; they had not been convicted of any crime. Entering prison, especially before trial, correlates with a higher risk of suicide: in 2020, there were 17.5 suicides per 10,000 people in pretrial detention, double the 8.54 suicides per 10,000 people in the rest of the prison population.

Continue reading Translated story: The suicide rate among people in pretrial detention is double that of convicted prisoners

Translated story: One in five people in EU prisons are in pretrial detention

EVA BELMONTE CARMEN TORRECILLAS MARÍA ÁLVAREZ DEL VAYO DAVID CABO MIGUEL ÁNGEL GAVILANES
El Confidencial, Spain: MARÍA ZUIL DW, Germany: KIRA SCHACHT Eurologus, Hungary: LÁSZLÓ ARATÓ Divergente, Portugal: BEATRIZ WALVIESSE VoxEurop, Belgium: ADRIÁN BURTIN 
English editing: LUCAS LAURSEN

May 10, 2022

Almost 100,000 people across the European Union (EU) have one thing in common: their justice systems have locked them up but no court has issued them a final sentence. “If you don’t have the death penalty, pretrial detention is the most severe punishment that a state can use against a person in a democracy,” says German lawyer Thomas Röth. Despite the profound economic, social and personal consequences of going to prison, European courts often use this provisional measure against people whom they must still consider innocent.

More than one in five people in European prisons were, at the beginning of 2021, in pretrial detention, meaning they are waiting for their trial or the result of an appeal. Some 22 of every 100,000 inhabitants in the European Union (EU) were deprived of their liberty before final conviction.

Continue reading Translated story: One in five people in EU prisons are in pretrial detention

Europe Expands Virtual Borders To Thwart Migrants

IT WAS AFTER MIDNIGHT in the Maltese search-and-rescue zone of the Mediterranean when a rubber boat originating from Libya carrying dozens of migrants encountered a hulking cargo ship from Madeira and a European military aircraft. The ship’s captain stopped the engines, and the aircraft flashed its lights at the rubber boat. But neither the ship nor the aircraft came to the rescue. Instead, Maltese authorities told the ship’s captain to wait for vessels from Malta to pick up the migrants. By the time those boats arrived, three migrants had drowned trying to swim to the idle ship.

Read the rest of this feature at IEEE Spectrum: [html] [pdf].