Ministry responds to allegations that social worker stole from kids in government care

The Ministry of Children and Family Development (MCFD) says a Kelowna social worker accused of stealing money from teens in government care is no longer a public employee.

The ministry says it has also implemented new internal financial controls aimed at ensuring money is not misappropriated.

According to a civil lawsuit filed in the Okanagan city, Robert Riley Saunders is alleged to have opened a joint bank account with a First Nations teen in his care in early 2016, allegedly taking government funds meant for the youth to use for his own purposes.

The teen eventually ended up in a transient and sometimes homeless living situation.

The suit further claims that Saunders engaged in similar activities with respect to dozens of other minors in his care, many of them Indigenous.

The suit names the MCFD, the director of child welfare and the financial institution where the account was opened, and a proposed class-action lawsuit has also been launched in a Vancouver court.

On Wednesday, Katrine Conroy, the minister responsible, deferred questions on the matter, citing a publication ban in the case.

On Friday, the MCFD said the ban had been lifted and that it could now say that the “individual in question” no longer works for the public service.

The ministry laid out a timeline of its response, acknowledging it became aware of and referred financial irregularities to the Office of the Comptroller General (OCG) in December 2017, saying “steps were taken” the following January to ensure the well-being of youth who may have been affected.

It says the Office of the Provincial Director of Child Welfare launched a special review in the wake of the incident, that the Public Guardian and Trustee was notified in March and that reports for all affected children have been shared with the province’s Representative for Children and Youth (RCY).

The ministry further said the OCG launched an investigation in January to determine if there was evidence of fraud and hired a financial consulting firm to review internal financial controls.

A key recommendation of that probe was the implementation of a new system that would prevent a single staff member from initiating and printing cheques, the ministry said.

The ministry says a second review is being launched into how it handles contracting and payments, along with a strategy to cut down on the use of cheques entirely.

The ministry says that with the publication ban lifted, it is now also able to share more information on the issue with the RCY, the Ombudsperson, the Public Guardian and Trustee and the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner.

Global News has requested comment from the Representative for Children and Youth.

Saunders could not be reached for comment.

Saunders and the other parties named in the suit have three weeks to respond to the notice of civil claim.

None of the allegations have been proven in court.

—With files from Kimberly Davidson

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Netflix CEO Hastings says no plans for cheaper India offerings

SINGAPORE (Reuters) – Netflix (NFLX.O) chief executive Reed Hastings said that the streaming video company had no plans for cheaper prices in the hotly competitive India market and that an executive’s comments suggesting otherwise had been “misunderstood.”

In an interview with Reuters on Friday, Hastings noted that Netflix had three price tiers in India: 500 rupees ($6.90) for a basic plan, 650 ($9.00) for a standard plan and 800 rupees ($11) for premium. Those prices are only modestly lower than what the company charges in the United States.

But in India, Hastings said, “we see the typical mix across these three plans that we see in many other countries like the U.S., which would indicate that we don’t have a pricing issue. Because if it was, everyone would be on the lower price plan.”

When asked directly if that meant the company had no plans for lower prices in India, he said: “Correct.”

Hastings’ comments followed a Singapore event where the company introduced 17 new original productions for Asia, including nine for India. He said local production was a key driver of new subscribers in India and elsewhere, but he declined to provide specific figures on Asia subscriber numbers and growth.

Netflix launched in India two years ago and has won fans among a young, tech-savvy middle class in a country where video consumption of all kinds is soaring. It scored a big hit in July with the release of “Sacred Games”, a hard-boiled thriller built around Bollywood star Saif Ali Khan.

Local industry players, however, say Netflix’s prices will make it hard to compete against domestic competitors like 21st Century Fox-backed Hotstar (DIS.N), Amazon’s (AMZN.O) Prime Video and satellite TV provider Tata Sky.

But Hastings said Netflix could still thrive amid cheaper options.

“Now it is true that Youtube is free, and Amazon is basically free, and cable is extremely inexpensive because it’s ad-supported. To some degree that creates a consumer expectation,” he said. But he added that the cost of Netflix in India was “like going to the movie theater 2-3 tickets a month, but you get to watch a lot more.”


Following Netflix’s October earnings announcement, chief product officer Greg Peters said: “We’ll experiment with other pricing models, not only for India, but around the world that will allow us to broaden access by providing a pricing tier that sits below our current lowest tier.”

That was widely understood to signal that a low-price plan was coming to India. But Hastings said that was not the case.

“It got misunderstood as a decision that we are going to have lower prices in India, which is not something we are particularly contemplating,” he said.

Hastings acknowledged the limitations of the current pricing strategy in a country where per-capita income is a tenth of that in the United States.

“It’s true that if you’re trying to get to a billion households, that probably wouldn’t work,” he said. “But if you’re focused on English-language, English-entertainment households, there is a much higher income.”

He called the high-end focus “a practical, realistic” place to start and that the company eventually hoped to target a broader audience.

Netflix currently has more than 130 million subscribers worldwide. Hastings has said the India market could deliver the next 100 million subscribers.

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US stops refuelling of Saudi-led coalition aircraft in Yemen war

Saudi Arabia and the United States have agreed to end U.S. refuelling of aircraft from the Saudi-led coalition battling Houthi insurgents in Yemen, ending a divisive aspect of U.S. support to a war that has pushed Yemen to the brink of famine.

The move, announced by the coalition on Saturday and confirmed by Washington, comes at a time when Riyadh, already under scrutiny for civilian deaths in Yemen air strikes, is facing global furore and potential sanctions over the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at its Istanbul consulate on Oct. 2.

The United States and Britain late last month called for a ceasefire in Yemen to support U.N.-led efforts to end the nearly four-year long war that has killed more than 10,000 people and triggered the world’s most urgent humanitarian crisis.

“Recently, the Kingdom and the Coalition increased its capability to independently conduct inflight refuelling in Yemen. As a result, in consultation with the United States, the Coalition has requested the cessation of inflight refuelling support for its operations in Yemen,” it said in a statement.

Saudi Arabia has a fleet of 23 planes for refuelling operations, including six Airbus 330 MRTT used for Yemen, while the United Arab Emirates has six of the Airbus planes, Saudi-owned Al Arabiya al-Hadath channel reported on Saturday.

Riyadh also has nine KC-130 Hercules aircraft that can be used, it added.

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said the U.S. government was consulted on the decision and that Washington supported the move while continuing to work with the alliance to minimise civilian casualties and expand humanitarian efforts.

Any co-ordinated decision by Washington and Riyadh could be an attempt to forestall action threatened in Congress next week by lawmakers over refuelling operations.

However, a halt to refuelling could have little practical effect on the conflict, seen as a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran. Only a fifth of coalition aircraft require in-air refuelling from the United States, U.S. officials said.

The Sunni Muslim alliance led by Saudi Arabia and the UAE has recently stepped up military operations against the Iranian-aligned Houthi movement, including in the main port city of Hodeidah, which is a lifeline for millions of Yemenis.

“The continued escalation of attacks … by the U.S.-Saudi-Emirati coalition confirms that the American calls for a cease-fire are nothing but empty talk,” Mohammed Ali al-Houthi, head of the group’s supreme revolutionary committee, wrote in a column published by the Washington Post on Friday.

He said the ceasefire call was an attempt “to save face after the humiliation” caused by the murder of Washington Post columnist Khashoggi, a critic of Saudi policy, that has strained Riyadh’s relationship with the West.

Hodeidah has become a key battleground in the war in which the coalition intervened in 2015 to restore the internationally recognised government ousted by the Houthis.

U.N. bodies warn that an all-out attack on the Red Sea port, an entry point for 80 percent of Yemen’s food imports and aid relief, could trigger a famine in the impoverished country.

The World Food Programme said on Thursday it planned to double food assistance for Yemen, aiming to reach up to 14 million people “to avert mass starvation”.

Air strikes by the coalition, which relies on Western arms and intelligence, have often hit schools, hospitals and markets, killing thousands of Yemeni civilians.

U.N. special envoy Martin Griffiths hopes to convene Yemen’s warring parties for peace talks by the end of the year.

The coalition expressed hope in its statement that his efforts would lead to a negotiated settlement, including an end to Houthi missile attacks that have targetted Saudi cities and vessels off the port of Hodeidah.

Mattis said all parties support Griffiths’ efforts.

“The U.S. and the Coalition are planning to collaborate on building up legitimate Yemeni forces to defend the Yemeni people, secure their country’s borders, and contribute to counter Al Qaeda and ISIS efforts in Yemen and the region,” he said in a statement.

The last round of peace talks in Geneva in September collapsed when the Houthis failed to show up, saying their delegation had been prevented from travelling. The Yemeni government blamed the group for trying to sabotage the talks.

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Government warns referendum will be held if judges fail to reduce whiplash payouts

The Government will hold a referendum to override judges’ discretion in the awarding of compensation claims if they do not drastically reduce whiplash and soft injuries damages in less than two years.

Days after it was revealed the average whiplash claim in this country is €20,000, the Junior Minister for financial services and insurance, Michael D’Arcy, said unless judges recalibrate compensation claims for whiplash injuries downwards, the Government will intervene.

“If the judges don’t, then the matter will have to be reviewed by the Oireachtas,” said Mr D’Arcy, who admitted that there is a question regarding the constitutionality of the Oireachtas overriding judicial discretion by fixing awards in certain civil law matters.

Mr D’Arcy said that he valued judicial discretion and did not want to go down the road of criticising individual judges, adding that “some judges are more generous than others”.

“If a referendum is required, we will go with a referendum so that the Oireachtas does have the legal authority to set awards,” he warned.

Earlier this week, figures from the Personal Injuries Assessment Board (PIAB) revealed that the average award for a whiplash injury was just short of €20,000, around five times the average payout for whiplash in England and Wales.

The figures echoed similar data contained in the final report of the Personal Injuries Commission (PIC), chaired by former High Court president Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns.

Mr D’Arcy, who said the Government would review the jurisdiction of the civil courts amid fears that the raising of the limits by former justice minister Alan Shatter may be inflating awards, said he was adopting a carrot-and-stick approach with judges.

“It has been put to me by some people that there are some judges who operate with no regard for the guidelines. That has to stop. If it doesn’t happen in the manner we think and believe it should by the judiciary in the next 15 months or so, the Oireachtas is willing to intervene,” he said.

“I don’t want to end up in a row with the judiciary, the insurance industry or the legal world. But between all three, we have the most expensive awards in the world.”

One of the next major issues that will have to be tackled by the judiciary is the recalibration of awards.

Earlier this year, the PIC recommended that judges compile new guidelines to greatly increase levels of consistency, increase the early resolution of claims, reduce costs and provide a “much better-informed PIAB process”.

However, this process cannot begin until legislation allowing for the setting-up of a new Judicial Council is introduced.

The PIC has recommended the Law Reform Commission examine the possibility of developing constitutionally sound legislation to delimit or cap the amount of damages which a court may award – at least in respect of some or all categories of personal injuries.

The cost of motor insurance has dropped by about 8pc over the past 12 months.

However, motor premiums increased by 11pc and 30pc in 2014 and 2015 respectively, followed by 12pc in 2016.

  • Read More: Shane Phelan: ‘Government should get house in order before issuing threats’

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Tim Leissner, in unsealed 1MDB plea, cites Goldman Sachs 'culture' of secrecy

NEW YORK (BLOOMBERG) – Goldman Sachs’s former top banker in Asia says the culture of secrecy at the investment bank led him to conceal wrongdoing from the company’s compliance staff.

Now, Tim Leissner is in a position to help prosecutors peel back the curtain.

In his guilty plea, which was unsealed on Friday (Nov 10), Leissner said others at the bank helped him conceal bribes used to retain business in Malaysia, suggesting he has more to offer prosecutors.

The heavily redacted transcript doesn’t indicate whether he is cooperating with authorities. But the judge warned him that under federal sentencing guidelines he faces decades in prison. Providing useful information to prosecutors might help Leissner get a more lenient sentence.

Leissner’s Aug 28 statement to the judge may give prosecutors more leverage to go after the bank, and other executives, for their roles in raising US$6.5 billion (S$9 billion) for the Malaysian fund, 1MDB. Prosecutors say more than US$4 billion was siphoned off by friends and family of the nation’s prime minister, among others.

“I conspired with other employees and agents of Goldman Sachs very much in line of its culture of Goldman Sachs to conceal facts from certain compliance and legal employees of Goldman Sachs,” Leissner said.

Mr Michael DuVally, a spokesman for Goldman, didn’t have an immediate comment. The bank has said it believed proceeds of debt sales it underwrote were for development projects and that Leissner withheld information from the firm.

In his plea, Leissner acknowledged lying to compliance officials at Goldman about the role in the fund played by Low Taek Jho, better known as Jho Low, the alleged mastermind of the fraud.

“I knew that concealing Jho Low’s involvement as an intermediary was contrary to Goldman Sachs’s stated internal policies and procedures,” he said. “I and several other employees of Goldman Sachs at the time also concealed that we knew that Jho Low was promising and paying bribes and kickbacks to foreign officials to obtain and retain 1MDB business for Goldman Sachs, for the benefit of Goldman Sachs and myself.”

Goldman has been under scrutiny for years over its role in raising money for 1MDB and for the fees it earned – about US$600 million.

1MDB is at the centre of a global scandal involving claims of embezzlement and money laundering, which have triggered investigations in the US, Singapore, Switzerland and beyond and helped drive Malaysia’s former leader from power.

In 2015, after the scandal spilled into public view, Goldman began investigating Leissner and eventually suspended him. He left the following year. Goldman’s lawyers scoured Leissner’s records and provided evidence to prosecutors that he deceived them, not only in lying about his management of the Malaysian fund raising, but in other unrelated matters, people familiar with the matter have said.

Charges against Leissner, Low and Goldman banker Roger Ng were unsealed in the US this month.

Leissner had secretly pleaded guilty to conspiring to launder money and violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act at the August hearing. He’s free on US$20 million bail.

Leissner told the judge he took part in the money laundering, bribery and kickbacks from 2009 to 2014 in an effort to acquire and execute the “strategic” 1MDB transaction to benefit himself and Goldman. He said the goal was to influence Malaysian officials so that Goldman would get 1MDB’s business.

Goldman has told prosecutors its comprehensive review of Leissner’s conduct determined that the German-born investment banker violated its internal policies by failing to disclose business investments, including a US$1 million stake in an African energy company, Signet Petroleum, and a 2 million euro (S$3 million) stake in a German insurance start-up, Friendsurance, according to two people familiar with the matter.

In early 2016, shortly after the first public reports of wrongdoing at 1MDB, the bank said it discovered that Leissner had written a letter of recommendation for Jho Low – falsely claiming, the bank says, that Goldman had done due diligence on Low’s family wealth and approved him as a client with no regulatory concerns.

In fact, Goldman had rejected Low as a private wealth management client on several occasions.

Ng was arrested in Malaysia last week at the request of US authorities. He’s filing an application to review the US detention and extradition order, said people familiar with the case, who asked not to be identified as the deliberations are private.

Separately, Ng and his family have agreed to surrender about S$40 million to authorities in neighbouring Singapore, which would then repatriate the funds to Malaysia, the people said.

According to federal filings, Low was closely involved in helping Goldman Sachs win the Malaysian business even as Leissner and others were already working to shield his role from its compliance group.

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Singapore Tourism Board event in Jakarta attracts hundreds of millennials

JAKARTA – The Singapore Tourism Board (STB) is out to interest millennials in Indonesia in visiting Singapore.

Sneakers, streetwear, music and dance shows were on offer on Friday (Nov 9) at the start of a three-day event in Jakarta organised by STB. The event also featured trailers of YouTube short films about trips to Singapore by young Indonesian visitors with different passions.

At least 300 visitors, mostly alerted to the event by invites on social media, started queuing outside a function room at a Jakarta shopping mall, two to three hours before it opened its doors on Friday.

“I arrived outside 8.30am and we were allowed in at about 11.30am. I am here first of all because of the sneaker event. The Singapore tourism part is a bonus worth checking out as well,” college student, Mr Belva Fulvian, told The Straits Times.

The weekend event is part of STB’s campaign to introduce the Passion Made Possible brand that was launched last year.

Passion Made Possible is the brand used by STB to market Singapore internationally for tourism purposes. The brand targets tourists based on their lifestyle and travel interests, categorising them into “tribes” such as foodies and explorers.

STB’s three episodes of short films about Indonesian visitors to Singapore, which will be released from Nov 28, will offer touching stories, noted Mr Raymond Lim, area director of STB Indonesia.

“Our brand is about story-telling, about telling people the passions that they have, they can fulfil them in Singapore,” said Mr Lim, adding that one of the films is about a young woman who must choose between her boyfriend and pursuing her passions. She then takes a trip to Singapore, where she gets in touch with her true self and learns about following her dreams.

Every year, about three million Indonesians visit Singapore, the second largest foreign visitor group after those from China. The third largest group is from India.

Mr Lim said the majority of foreign visitors to Singapore are families with children.

“But we are also seeing that the people coming to Singapore are getting younger. We need to start talking to younger people,” he said, referring to those who have just started to work.

On whether the weakening rupiah against the Singapore dollar has had any impact on Indonesian tourist arrivals, Mr Lim said arrival numbers for January to September this year are growing by about 3.6 per cent compared with the same period last year.

“That itself shows resilience. There would definitely be impact but we are happy we are still seeing growth,” he added.

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Police seeking phone records to find out if slain teacher had been in contact with his murderer

Detectives are trying to remotely access information on the missing phone of Irishman John Curran to see if he was contacted by his killer.

A murder investigation into the charity worker’s death in South Africa is ongoing, with a number of lines of inquiry being pursued.

The 60-year-old retired principal was found with multiple stab wounds at his apartment in Buitengracht Street, Cape Town, at 10.30am on Wednesday.

The Irish Independent has learned that homicide detectives are trying to remotely access information on Mr Curran’s phone, which has been missing since his murder.

The phone – which was bought just hours beforehand – was the only item taken from his home.

This led officers to believe he was murdered over a robbery for the phone.

Capt Ezra October said that examinations of the device may determine if Mr Curran was contacted by his killer before he was brutally murdered, which could help identify the perpetrator.

It has also emerged that a bloodstained knife used in the murder of the retired school principal was found at the scene.

Fingerprints from the weapon have been recovered, which will help Cape Town detectives identify the murder suspect.

CCTV footage of a man fleeing the apartment complex is already a main factor of the investigation, but Capt October did not confirm if a chief suspect has been formally identified.

A post-mortem examination of Mr Curran’s remains was due to take place yesterday, but has been postponed until Monday due to capacity issues at the city morgue.

While local police believe he died from multiple stab wounds, they want to determine if he suffered other injuries during the attack.

His body was formally identified by a colleague on Thursday.

It is believed he was staying in the Cape Town apartment while on a holiday in recent weeks, having completed his contract with a South-African based non-profit organisation.


The Mellon Educate charity, with whom Mr Curran worked for two years, has paid tribute to the “much-loved” Dublin man.

“With great sadness we learned yesterday that our dear colleague and friend John Curran was killed during a robbery in his apartment in Cape Town South Africa,” a statement from the charity read.

“John only recently completed a two-year contract as director of education for Mellon Educate in South Africa and was staying on vacation in Cape Town for a number of weeks.”

Chief executive Niall Mellon also expressed his sadness at the murder and said they were helping Mr Curran’s family.

“I know our many volunteers and supporters will be very sad to hear this tragic news. John was much loved by everyone who met him and especially by the thousands of children he helped during his time with Mellon Educate,” he said.

“We are assisting his family in every way we can and your warm wishes of empathy are sincerely appreciated.”

He confirmed the charity’s ‘building blitz’ will still take place from November 17-24.

In a statement, the Department of Foreign Affairs said it was aware of the situation and providing consular assistance.

Mr Curran was predeceased by his son Eoin, who died in a sailing accident in New York in 2010. He is survived by his wife Liz, their children Darragh, Triona and Donal, six grand-children and his two sisters.

Before moving to South Africa, he was heavily involved with the Irish Primary Principals Network who described him as a highly esteemed colleague and friend.

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IPL looks to boost its margins

IPL Plastics will start a new process designed to boost its margins.

The company’s large format packing and environmental solutions division will be targeted in particular, but all divisions will be examined.

Job losses are not expected, in the initial phase of the programme at least.

Chief executive Alan Walsh said the company was “very confident” the programme would boost profitability.

IPL’s adjusted Ebitda (earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation) was down 20pc year-on-year in the third quarter.

That’s despite a 7.5pc revenue boost. It has been hit by rising input costs.

Mr Walsh said the company would look to implement price increases for its products in order to claw back the increased input prices.

He said the transformation programme does not preclude the company from making further acquisitions.

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Matthew Whitaker: An Attack Dog With Ambition Beyond Protecting Trump

WASHINGTON — President Trump first noticed Matthew G. Whitaker on CNN in the summer of 2017 and liked what he saw — a partisan defender who insisted there was no collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign. So that July, the White House counsel, Donald F. McGahn II, interviewed Mr. Whitaker about joining the president’s team as a legal attack dog against the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III.

At that point, the White House passed, leaving Mr. Whitaker, 49, to continue his media tour, writing on CNN’s website that Mr. Mueller’s investigation — which he had once called “crazy” — had gone too far.

Fifteen months later, the attack dog is in charge. With little ceremony on Wednesday, Mr. Trump ousted Attorney General Jeff Sessions and put Mr. Whitaker, Mr. Sessions’s chief of staff, in charge of the Justice Department — and Mr. Mueller’s Russia investigation.

People close to Mr. Trump believe that he sent Mr. Whitaker to the department in part to limit the fallout from the Mueller investigation, one presidential adviser said.

White House aides and other people close to Mr. Trump anticipate that Mr. Whitaker will rein in any report summarizing Mr. Mueller’s investigation and will not allow the president to be subpoenaed.

Friends said that Mr. Whitaker, a former tight end for the University of Iowa Hawkeyes, has greater attributes beyond his loyalty to Mr. Trump.

“He’s been underestimated before,” said Brenna Bird, a Republican county prosecutor in Iowa. “Some people look at his football background and they think, ‘Oh, he’s just a football player.’ He was an Iowa Hawkeye — he’ll tell you that. But he built a solid legal career completely independent of that.”

Winding Down the Russia Investigation

The decision to fire Mr. Sessions and replace him with Mr. Whitaker had been in the works since September, when the president began asking friends and associates if they thought it would be a good idea, according to people familiar with the discussions.

The goal was not unlike the first time the White House considered hiring Mr. Whitaker. As attorney general, he could wind down Mr. Mueller’s inquiry like the president wanted.

Mr. McGahn, for one, was a big proponent of the idea. So was Leonard A. Leo, the executive vice president of the Federalist Society who regularly advises Mr. Trump on judges and other legal matters. Mr. Whitaker had also developed a strong rapport with John F. Kelly, the White House chief of staff. Nick Ayers, Vice President Mike Pence’s chief of staff, was a fan, too.

Judging by Mr. Trump’s public comments, the closed-door charm offensive was working. In an October interview on “Fox & Friends,” Mr. Trump said: “I can tell you Matt Whitaker’s a great guy. I mean, I know Matt Whitaker.”

(On Friday, after reports surfaced that Mr. Whitaker had called courts “the inferior branch” of government and had been on the advisory board of a company that a federal judge shut down and fined nearly $26 million for cheating customers, Mr. Trump made a bizarre comment to reporters that he was not familiar with Mr. Whitaker. “I don’t know Matt Whitaker,” Mr. Trump said as he left for first leg of a weekend trip to Paris.)

By early October, Mr. Whitaker was close to becoming acting attorney general, people familiar with the situation said, because Mr. Sessions had put out feelers to the White House that he wanted to resign. His relationship with the president had so degraded by that point that he could not make the offer to Mr. Trump in person.

But White House officials wanted to wait until after the midterm elections, when any criticism would not affect voting.

The concern was well founded. At 2:44 p.m. Wednesday, hours after the election was over, Mr. Trump posted his decision on Twitter that Mr. Whitaker would “become our new Acting Attorney General of the United States.”

“He will serve our Country well,” the president wrote.

Within minutes, Democrats criticized Mr. Whitaker’s previous comments about the Russia inquiry and demanded that he recuse himself from overseeing it. He also came under fire for serving on the advisory board of World Patent Marketing in Miami, the company that has been accused by the government of bilking millions of dollars from customers.

Mr. Whitaker’s time as executive director of the conservative Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust, which accused many Democrats, including Hillary Clinton, of legal and ethical violations also came under scrutiny. So did his legal views, including his stated belief that Marbury v. Madison, which established judicial review, was a bad ruling.

For now, Mr. Trump is standing by Mr. Whitaker — at least as a temporary solution.

“You know, it’s a shame that no matter who I put in, they go after them,” Mr. Trump said before leaving for Paris. “It’s very sad, I have to say. But he’s ‘acting.’ I think he’ll do a very good job. And we’ll see what happens.”

From Football Field to the Courtroom

Mr. Whitaker’s roots run deep in Iowa, where he was born and attended high school not far from Des Moines. He accepted a scholarship and played tight end for the Iowa Hawkeyes, with whom he appeared in the 1991 Rose Bowl. Mr. Whitaker scored a couple of touchdowns during his football career, including a clever one on a field goal fake.

Mr. Whitaker did not break any records playing for the Hawkeyes, but in Iowa, college football is king. Playing for the Hawkeyes could open doors.

“By Big Ten standards, he was not an exceptional athlete,” said Don Patterson, an assistant coach during Mr. Whitaker’s time on the football team. “The things we liked about him were all those intangibles that have so much to do with winning. He’s a very disciplined person. Very hard-working. Very committed. Very bright, obviously.”

Mr. Whitaker, listed as 6 feet 4 inches tall and 240 pounds on the Hawkeyes’s 1992 roster, embraced his status as a former football player. He graduated from law school in 1995, and as a lawyer, he became involved in Republican politics.

When he considered whether to run for state treasurer in 2002, Mr. Whitaker called an old friend from law school, Charles Larson Jr., who had become the chairman of the Iowa Republican Party.

“I knew immediately he’d be a great candidate,” said Mr. Larson, who went on to serve as the United States ambassador to Latvia. “He’d be exactly the type of candidate we’d love to have run. He had a great profile as an attorney and former Hawkeye. There’s always appeal there.”

The son of an elementary schoolteacher and a sports scoreboard salesman, Mr. Whitaker became the Republican nominee for treasurer in 2002. He toured Iowa’s 99 counties, campaigned with Senator Charles E. Grassley and marched in a parade in Sioux City. But he finished a distant second to a longtime Democratic incumbent.

Two years later, Mr. Whitaker was appointed by President George W. Bush to serve as the United States attorney for the Southern District of Iowa. He had no experience in law enforcement, but he had the support of Mr. Grassley, who recommended him. The most important cases Mr. Whitaker cited in his questionnaire to the Senate Judiciary Committee dealt with a personal injury claim and breaches of contracts.

“Iowans knew him as a star football player, of course,” Mr. Grassley said in an interview.

‘Relentless,’ ‘Abrasive,’ but also ‘Iowa Nice’

In interviews this week with several Iowa lawyers and politicians who know Mr. Whitaker, an image emerged of a respected, competent and sharply conservative lawyer with two distinct personas: a relentless and occasionally abrasive lawyer who fought for his clients and a genial politician who personified “Iowa nice” and could make an instant connection with a stranger.

“He practices law the way he played football,” said Robert Rigg, a defense lawyer and Drake University law professor who once was involved in a case with Mr. Whitaker. “He’s very aggressive. He’s very passionate about what he believes in.”

Either way, Mr. Whitaker’s profile was suddenly much higher as a top federal prosecutor in Des Moines. He came under criticism for a case his office brought in 2007 against the first openly gay member of the Iowa Legislature, Matt McCoy, a Democrat.

Mr. Whitaker’s office indicted Mr. McCoy on an attempted extortion charge, accusing him of using his authority as a state senator to force a former partner in a home security business to pay him $2,000. The former partner was paid by the F.B.I. to act as an informant and for several months recorded his conversations with Mr. McCoy.

But the evidence was not convincing. After a five-day trial in United States District Court in Des Moines, a jury deliberated for less than two hours before returning a verdict of not guilty.

“It was a horrible case — it was made up — and it was designed to take a high-profile Democrat who was popular, openly gay and listed as one of the top 100 rising stars in the Democratic Party and smear me,” Mr. McCoy said in an interview.

Kerri Kupec, a Justice Department spokeswoman, rebutted Mr. McCoy. “The allegations of improper prosecution are ridiculous,” she said. “The Justice Department signed off on the case. The F.B.I. investigated it, and career prosecutors handled the case every step of the way.”

As a federal prosecutor, Mr. Whitaker continued to show political ambition. Matt Strawn, a former chairman of the Iowa Republican Party, said Mr. Whitaker was someone “known inside Republican circles as someone you want on your side in a fight.”

Mr. Whitaker was one of 61 candidates who applied for three spots on the Iowa Supreme Court in 2011. He arrived at his interview with his family and his minister, according to a person who was part of the vetting process, but he was eliminated early and was not one of the nine names advanced to Gov. Terry Branstad for consideration.

In 2012, Mr. Whitaker supported the presidential campaigns of Tim Pawlenty and then Rick Perry. And in 2014, he was one of several Republicans who sought his party’s nomination for a United States Senate seat. Mr. Whitaker finished fourth in the primary against Joni Ernst, who went on to win the general election.

Mr. Whitaker’s Senate campaign website outlined a platform that was conservative but well within the Republican mainstream. He described his opposition to abortion and the Affordable Care Act, and his support for gun rights, term limits and a limited role for government.

“Over the last few years, we have seen too many politicians disregard the Constitution as they voted to increase the size and scope of government,” Mr. Whitaker said on his campaign website. “I will use my legal experience gained as a federal attorney to hold them accountable.”

But on at least one issue, Mr. Whitaker bucked the party line, taking a surprising stand against the Renewable Fuel Standard, which led to an increase in ethanol production and a boon for Iowa corn farmers. In a 2014 column in The Cedar Rapids Gazette, he acknowledged that his position was considered “heresy in electoral politics in Iowa.”

“I want to do what’s right for my children and your children,” Mr. Whitaker said in that column. “Too many politicians are so worried about getting re-elected that they fear taking an unpopular position. I don’t.”

In recent days, Mr. Whitaker has also drawn criticism for his close ties to Sam Clovis, a fellow Iowan whose campaign for state treasurer he headed in 2014. Mr. Clovis, who later became an adviser to Mr. Trump’s campaign, is a witness in Mr. Mueller’s inquiry.

Mr. Trump nominated Mr. Clovis last year to a position in the Department of Agriculture, but Mr. Clovis withdrew from consideration after scrutiny of his qualifications and his connections to the Russia investigation.

Getting Noticed by Trump

By October of last year, Mr. Whitaker was telling people that he was working as a political commentator on CNN in order to get the attention of Mr. Trump, said John Q. Barrett, a professor at St. John’s University School of Law who met Mr. Whitaker during a television appearance last June.

His plan worked. Mr. Whitaker returned to the Justice Department in October 2017, having once again earned the support of Mr. Trump’s closest advisers inside the West Wing.

Colleagues described him as affable and said he quickly ingratiated himself with the staff in Mr. Sessions’s office and those elsewhere in the building. But that reputation shifted over time as some people began to view him as the eyes and ears of the White House, current and former Justice Department officials said.

During a briefing this spring on a sensitive criminal case that took place with members of Mr. Sessions’s staff, Mr. Whitaker sighed and rolled his eyes during the presentation, according to a person briefed on the episode. His behavior during the meeting quickly spread through the building and was considered by career prosecutors to be disrespectful. Some colleagues also began to regard him with caution.

“He is smart and politically astute,” said Gregory A. Brower, the former head of the F.B.I.’s congressional affairs office. “He’s certainly become well connected to the administration in a short time.”

Mr. Grassley spoke to Mr. Whitaker this week, after the president’s announcement, and Mr. Whitaker conceded that he does not know how long he will remain in charge of the Justice Department.

In truth, he told Mr. Grassley, he hasn’t “the slightest idea.”

Adam Goldman and Michael D. Shear reported from Washington, and Mitch Smith from Iowa City and Des Moines. Reporting was contributed by Nicholas Fandos, Katie Benner, Charlie Savage, Mark Landler and Michael S. Schmidt from Washington, and William K. Rashbaum and Maggie Haberman from New York.

Follow Adam Goldman and Michael Shear on Twitter: @adamgoldmanNYT and @shearm.

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Ten years on: rugby player murder a tipping point for Limerick gangs

The shooting of innocent rugby player Shane Geoghegan, 10 years ago yesterday, proved to be the tipping point in Limerick’s vicious gangland history which had threatened all-out anarchy between the late 1990s and late 2000s.

According to some, it was skilled police work, and not tougher anti-gangland legislation, that put Mr Geoghegan’s killers behind bars and restored peace to the city.

Mr Geoghegan, a charismatic leader and rugby player with Garryowen RFC, was walking home from his girlfriend’s house when he was chased and shot dead by hired hitman Barry Doyle, on November 9, 2008.

Recruited by the notorious Dundon gang to shoot an associate of rival Philip Collopy, Doyle mistook Mr Geoghegan for his intended target. It soon emerged that John Dundon, one head of the Dundon crime gang, had ordered the hit.

Exactly five months later, on April 9, 2009, another innocent man, Roy Collins, was shot dead by Dundon triggerman Nathan Killeen under orders from gang leader Wayne Dundon.

The murders of the two innocent men were a catalyst for introducing important amendments to the Criminal Justice Bill, introduced in 2006 to tackle gangland crime.

These legislative updates beefed up the Bill, and provided for the use in criminal trials of material obtained during covert Garda surveillance operations; further definitions of membership of a criminal organisation; making it an offence to direct gang activities; and creating a raft of new “scheduled offences” which brought gangland trials into the non-jury Special Criminal Court on a declaration that the ordinary courts were inadequate for the purpose of the effective administration of justice.

Gardaí worked tirelessly with vital sources from inside the Dundon gang. They also worked with rivals of the gang, and the wider community, to get vital evidence which resulted in murder convictions and life sentences for Barry Doyle and John Dundon for the murder of Shane Geoghegan; and for Wayne Dundon and Nathan Killeen for Roy Collins’s murder.

Ten years on, the city is riding the crest of a wave of high employment and investment.

Limerick Fianna Fáil TD Willie O’Dea said the gardaí that smashed the Dundon gang were behind Limerick’s dramatic image transformation.

“The gardaí are the unsung heroes of the whole saga of Limerick’s gangland past. The detective branch who led the investigations have probably the best detection record of any police force in the world,” said Mr O’Dea. “They are absolutely priceless.”

Retired Detective Garda Sean Lynch, who worked on the Geoghegan and Collins murders, praised the then justice minister Dermot Ahern for providing extra resources and an overtime budget for gardaí to concentrate their efforts on bringing the Dundon gang to justice.

Mr Lynch, now a Fianna Fáil councillor, also praised his Garda colleagues, saying: “They never took the foot off the pedal.”

Shane Geoghegan’s family attended a special match at Garryowen RFC last night, held in memory of the player.

“No one has worn Shane’s number three jersey since his death. It’s been permanently retired,” said club vice-chairperson Eoin Prendergast.

Shane’s brother Anthony presented a portrait he painted of his slain sibling, which will be displayed in the clubhouse alongside an All-Blacks jersey signed by Kiwi players which was presented to the club in memory of the Garryowen warrior.

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