'They want the money': the real reason boxing is going to Saudi Arabia

'They want the money': the real reason boxing is going to Saudi Arabia

For boxing fans it is one of the most anticipated sporting events of the year. But Anthony Joshua’s heavyweight fight against Andy Ruiz Jr is also rapidly becoming the most controversial.

Joshua will earn a career-high fee of about £60m when he faces Ruiz in the ancient Saudi Arabian city of Diriyah, on the outskirts of Riyadh, on Saturday. He insisted this week that the country was “trying to do a good job politically”.

However, human rights groups have reacted with horror and warned the British boxer he is being duped by a regime trying to “sportswash” its international image.

However, human rights groups have reacted with horror and warned the British boxer he is being duped by a regime trying to “sportswash” its international image.

Felix Jakens, Amnesty International UK’s head of campaigns, said that while they never expected Joshua to be an overnight expert, “if you’re fighting for big money in a country with a human rights record as bad as Saudi Arabia, then you’d be well advised to counter criticism by speaking out about human rights issues”.

“The fight is pure sportswashing and that’s why it’s so important to challenge the Saudi propaganda machine and its increased use of sport to gloss over its abysmal human rights record.”

Jakens added: “Joshua has a record of supporting charities here in Britain and we’d hope he’d be prepared to voice concern for people like the jailed Saudi women’s rights activist Loujain al-Hathloul.”

Hathloul was among at least a dozen women arrested last year as Saudi Arabia ended a ban on women driving cars, for which many of the detainees had long campaigned.

The Saudi Arabian government says that hosting the “Clash on the Dunes” – the first heavyweight title fight to be staged in the Middle East – is part of an initiative to get more people active, boost living standards, and open up the kingdom to tourists.

Its sports minister, Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki al-Saud, said “no country is perfect” but Saudi Arabia had made drastic reforms in the past two years, such as allowing women to drive and attend sporting events unaccompanied, as part of its “Vision 2030” plans.

Those plans include bringing sport worth billions of pounds to the kingdom, including Formula E motor racing, European Tour golf and the Spanish Super Cup football.

“We want to host as many events as we can, to feed our strategy and promote diverse sports in the kingdom,” he said. “We’re showcasing that, hopefully, if we do bid for them one day, we can host an Olympics or a football World Cup.

“Around 70% of the population is between 15 and 40 years old. They see what is happening around the world through social media and they want to see it happening in the kingdom.”

But Jakens said the prince’s remarks completely ignored “the ongoing human rights crackdown, with the jailing of peaceful activists and the near-total crushing of Saudi civil society”.

“It’s all well and good the Saudi sports minister smiling for the cameras ahead of a glitzy, multimillion-pound boxing match, but he must know that people are being arrested on a regular basis in Saudi Arabia simply for daring to voice criticism of his government.”

Joshua’s promoter, Eddie Hearn, said the fight was just the start of things to come. “They want to make Saudi the home of boxing,” he said. “This really feels like a really big moment where everything could change.

“If they’re going to be investing this kind of money in the sport, we’ve got to be realists. Everyone’s coming and they’re all coming for one reason – they want the money.”




we have to celebrate in JUNE to split the cost

we have to celebrate in JUNE to split the cost

MOST people find Christmas an expensive time of year, so spare a thought for this poor mum - who has two kids born on December 25.

Michala McMillan's daughters Holly and Poppy Crowther are born on Christmas Day a year apart - with the mum being told she beat odds of 130,000 to one.

Holly, four, and Poppy Crowther, three, are both born on Christmas Day

And things got so expensive the girls' dad 'donated' his June birthday - so they can split costs and they don't miss out come Christmas Day.

Speaking exclusively to Fabulous Digital, Michala, from Bury, Greater Manchester, said: "It's absolutely crazy.

"We used to do all the presents on the one day so there was a trampoline for their birthday with banners on it and then separate Christmas presents.

"I worried that they would miss out but then their dad, Paul, officially donated his June birthday to them – so they could celebrate twice, in June and at Christmas." Their mum Michala McMillan spends £1,000 on their birthdays and Christmas - and celebrates in June to keep the cost down



Their mum Michala McMillan spends £1,000 on their birthdays and Christmas - and celebrates in June to keep the cost down

The girls' shared birthday means there's loads of gifts to be unwrapped

The 41-year-old customer service advisor added: "We have a big party on Paul’s birthday on June 4, when people bring presents for all three of them.

"The girls absolutely loved it, when they were little, they actually believed they had two birthdays – just like the Queen.

"For me, it’s just a chance to celebrate and to be together as a family, which is always lovely.

"This year, we’re planning to mark their birthdays again on Christmas Day, Holly will be five years old, and Poppy will turn four.

"It will be hectic, but we’ll have a party a couple of days before so they don’t get lost in all the festivities and we will have separate piles of presents.

"I think I will spend almost £1,000 on the girls’ joint celebrations. And I imagine as they get older, it will get dearer and dearer each year."

I think I will spend almost £1,000 on the girls’ joint celebrations

Michala McMillan

Michala had two kids from a previous relationship - Ryan and Olivia - before meeting Paul six years ago, while he is also dad to sons Tyrone and Nathan.

She said: "We wanted a baby together so when I fell pregnant, midway through 2014, we were thrilled."

The customer services advisor's due date was January 26, 2015.

But the pregnancy was deemed high risk after Michala's first child, a little girl, tragically died from an embolism at just four weeks old in 1996.

She said: "I was always anxious throughout the pregnancy, and I had low blood platelets. So the doctors decided to induce the birth early, on December 22."

Michala says the girls used to think they had two birthdays - like The Queen

Holly and Poppy are best friends as well as siblings

Michala's labour lasted three days, meaning she ended up giving birth on Christmas Day - and called her daughter Holly because of the festive date.

She said: "It was so lovely. I was allowed home on Boxing Day and it was the best Christmas I could have wished for, obviously I had no idea at all it was going to be repeated."

To her surprise, Michala fell pregnant again just three months later - with a due date of January 17.

Once again, her platelets were low so she was induced three days before Christmas.

I felt a bit upset being in hospital as I was missing Holly's first birthday and Christmas

Michaela McMillan

Michala said: “This time, I was really desperate to get home for Christmas Day, but again, the labour dragged.

"I was going to call the baby Evie, so I wanted her to come on Christmas Eve.

“But the baby had other ideas, and she arrived at 2am on Christmas Day 2015, weighing 5lbs 5ozs. So we decided to call her Poppy instead.

"I felt a bit upset being in hospital as I was missing Holly's first birthday and Christmas. I couldn't believe it was happening again. I said to them 'I can't have another baby on Christmas Day'."


‘I lost my £193,000 inheritance – with one wrong digit on my sort code’

‘I lost my £193,000 inheritance – with one wrong digit on my sort code’

It is the stuff of financial nightmares. You get one digit wrong on the sort code, and send a huge amount of cash to the wrong person. They refuse to return it, and the bank washes its hands of the matter, blaming you for the mistake.

That’s what happened to Peter Teich in a case that reveals shocking lapses in Britain’s banking system. Just hours after a solicitor sent the Cambridge resident his £193,000 inheritance after the death of his 100-year-old father, it became apparent that a terrible mistake had been made.

Teich had given his correct name, address and Barclays account number in Cambridge to his solicitor – but the wrong sort code. The money went straight to another Barclays customer, also in the Cambridge area who, alarmingly, had an account with the same number as Teich, though a slightly different sort code. Worse, the person refused to return the money. Barclays knew where his £193,000 was sitting and, Teich says, knew when the recipient dishonestly began to withdraw the cash.


What is confirmation of payee?



From the end of March next year, name checks will be carried out when UK bank customers send money to other people.

The move is designed to tackle the rapidly-growing problem of bank transfer fraud. But there has been criticism of the fact that it has been delayed – it was originally set to start last summer, according to reports.

At the moment, anyone wanting to transfer money is asked for the recipient’s account name, account number and sort code. However, it’s typically the case that the bank does not check if the account name is correct.

The so-called “confirmation of payee” system that is being introduced from 31 March 2020 will mean customers can check they are paying the right person. When a customer sets up a new payment, their bank etc will be able to check the name of the person or organisation they intend to pay against the actual name held on the account.

There will be three possible outcomes. If they used the correct account name, they will receive confirmation that the details match, and can proceed with the payment.

If they used a similar name to the account holder, they will be provided with the actual name to check. They can then update the details and try again, or contact the intended recipient to check the details.

But if the customer enters the wrong name for the account holder, they will be told the details do not match and advised to contact the person they are trying to pay.

The mistaken transfer – called “misapplied funds” in banking parlance – could not have occurred if UK banks matched up sort codes and account numbers with the account holder’s name. But they do not. A recipient’s name could be given as Mickey Mouse and the bank would still process the payment, using the sort code and account number alone.

The banking industry promised that from mid-2019 name checks would be carried out when customers sent money to other people, largely to halt a rising tide of bank transfer fraud. But the timetable was delayed, and it will now not come into force until the end of March next year.

An oddity in Teich’s case is that Barclays also appeared to have identical account numbers for two different customers, both in the Cambridge area.

Teich realised the error almost immediately. His father’s estate was divided with his sister, who emailed him at noon on the day of the transfer, 26 April, to say she had received her £193,000. Teich checked his account, found nothing there, and contacted his solicitor. Only then did he discover he had given the solicitor the wrong sort code. The solicitor immediately contacted Barclays, which said the money would be restored within a week, according to Teich. But in late May, Teich received a bombshell letter from Barclays: “Due to an error on your part, the funds were applied to another customer … clearly you were mis-advised about the funds being restored to your account, and in recognition of this, I have credited your account with a small token gesture of £25.”

Barclays said it asked the person who received the cash for permission to return the money, but he refused. In a letter a few days later to Teich’s solicitor, it said: “Regrettably we have not been able to gain permission from the recipient of these funds for them to be returned to you. As there has been no error here on the part of the bank, we cannot just simply return the funds.” Barclays would not provide the name of the person who received the cash. Photograph: Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP

No one is legally entitled to keep money that has been wrongfully credited to their account. But compelling them to return the money, particularly if it is spent, is another matter. Barclays, in common with other banks, will not even provide the name of the person who has received the cash, unless it is instructed by a court.

Some Guardian readers may recognise Teich’s surname, as his father, Mikuláš – from whom he inherited the £193,000 – was the subject of an obituary in the paper in April. Mikuláš escaped from Nazi-held Czechoslovakia in 1939, although his parents perished in the Holocaust. He later became a renowned historian of science at Cambridge.

Despite being 74 and disabled, Peter Teich was left on his own to recover his father’s £193,000. “Barclays insisted that I bear the full and sole responsibility of pursuing their own dishonest customer,” he says. He hired lawyers and went through an expensive and laborious two-stage legal process. In June, after £12,000 in legal and court fees, he got the other Barclays customer’s name. Armed with this, he then went to the high court to obtain a freezing injunction – at a cost of £34,000. Finally, after an “unnecessary, expensive and stressful process”, the court order forced the other Barclays customer to repay the cash.

It would’ve taken Barclays a few days to recover the misdirected funds, but they did nothing Peter Teich

“I freely acknowledge my mistake in this unhappy saga: I provided the sort code of the wrong Barclays branch. But my error fades into near insignificance when considered in the context of Barclays’ conduct,” says Teich.

The saga did not stop there. Teich asked Barclays to refund the £46,000 in legal costs he racked up simply to recover his own money. Barclays refused. Angered by the bank’s reply, Teich contacted the Guardian for help. We asked it to reconsider his case, and in an almost immediate U-turn, it has now agreed to pay all his legal fees, and has offered him £750 in compensation.

In a statement the bank said: “It is evident that on this occasion we have failed to meet the high standards that Mr Teich can expect to receive from Barclays, and for this we have offered our sincere apologies. After taking a closer look at this situation, we can confirm that Mr Teich can expect the fees he has incurred to be refunded in full with interest, together with a payment for the distress and inconvenience this matter has caused.”

Teich is jubilant he will now no longer be out of pocket. But he regrets Barclays’ behaviour. “It could have taken Barclays a few days to recover the misdirected funds, but instead they did nothing. They could have saved me and everyone else all this stress and anxiety. Had the confirmation of payee measures been in place at the time of the transfer, I would not have gone through the costly process of recovering my funds. All the same, Barclays could have done the right thing and intervened when there was still time to do so.”


15 killed after gunmen open fire on protesters in Baghdad

15 killed after gunmen open fire on protesters in Baghdad

At least 15 people have been killed and around 60 others wounded after gunmen opened fire on protesters in Baghdad, Iraqi security and medical officials have said.

Protesters fearing for their lives ran from Khilani Square to nearby Tahrir Square and mosques to take cover.

Security sources said they could not identify the gunmen and no group has claimed responsibility.

The attack came as anti-government demonstrators occupied parts of Jumhuriya, Sinak and Ahar bridges in a stand-off with security forces.

All the bridges lead to or near the heavily fortified Green Zone, the seat of Iraq's government.

"We are under live fire now with electric power cut, the wounded and martyrs are here and the bullets were fired in Sinak Bridge," one protester told Reuters.

The attack on Friday came a day after a series of suspicious stabbing incidents targeting protesters left at least 13 wounded in Baghdad's Tahrir Square, the epicentre of Iraq's protest movement.

Those attacks, carried out by unknown perpetrators, occurred as demonstrators supporting political parties and Iran-backed militias withdrew from the square.

At least 400 protesters and a dozen members of the security forces have died since the uprising started on 1 October, with thousands of Iraqis taking to the streets in Baghdad and the predominantly Shia southern Iraq.

The protesters are calling for an end to corruption, poor services, lack of jobs and the political system that was imposed after the 2003 US invasion.

Meanwhile, Iraq's top Shia Muslim cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al Sistani has said a new prime minister must be chosen without foreign interference in an apparent nod to Iranian influence.

It comes a week after Iraq's prime minister, Adel Abdul-Mahdi, said he would resign over the protests.

In his Friday sermon in the city of Kerbala, Mr al Sistani said "we hope a new head of government and its members will be chosen within the constitutional deadline" of 15 days since Mr Mahdi's resignation was formalised in parliament on Sunday.

"It must also take place without any foreign interference," he added.



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London Bridge attacker Usman Khan’s body to be buried in Pakistan

The body of London Bridge terrorist Usman Khan has been flown to Pakistan to be buried, it has been reported.

The 28-year-old’s body was released by the City of London coroner and flown to relatives in the country, local officials told Sky News.

A cousin of Khan, who was shot dead by police after killing two Cambridge graduates in a knife rampage on November 29, told the news site his parents and other close family members would bury him in their home village of Kashmir.

The convicted terrorist's parents wanted to keep the burial "low key" and didn’t want to bury him in the UK “because they were scared,” the cousin told Sky News.

It is understood a pre-burial ritual known as a Janaza was carried out in a Birmingham mosque before Khan’s body was flown to Islamabad International Airport.

It comes after the terrorist’s UK-based family, who live in Stoke, said they were “saddened and shocked” by his actions which they “totally condemned”.

In a short statement released on Tuesday, via the Metropolitan Police, they said: "We totally condemn his actions and we wish to express our condolences to the families of the victims that have died and wish a speedy recovery to all of the injured.

"We would like to request privacy for our family at this difficult time."

Jack Merritt, 25, and Saskia Jones, 23, were both stabbed to death by the 28-year-old during a prisoner rehabilitation event at Fishmongers' Hall.

Khan, who was living in Stafford, was given permission to travel into the heart of London by police and the Probation Service.

Armed with two knives and wearing a fake suicide vest, he was tackled by members of the public, including ex-offenders from the conference, before he was shot dead by police.

The three injured survivors of the attack have been discharged from hospital and are “recovering well”, medics said today.

The City of London coroner declined the Standard's request for comment on the alleged repatriation of Khan's body.


Real Madrid target Arsenal striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in swap deal

Real Madrid target Arsenal striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in swap deal

REAL MADRID are lining up a January bid for Arsenal striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang - and plan to offer Luka Jovic in a swap deal.

The Gunners could be persuaded to sell the Gabon frontman in January as he will be worth much less next summer when he only has a year left on his contract.

Real Madrid could offer Luka Jovic in exchange for Arsenal's Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (left)

And Real president Florentino Perez has come up with a plan to offer 21-year-old Serbia striker Jovic and cash to land Aubameyang.

Aubameyang has already scored 12 goals for the Gunners in all competition.

But he has grown frustrated at the direction of the club, managerless since Unai Emery was sacked.

Fans were also unhappy with him when he decided to leave the pitch during the Brighton defeat to have a toilet break, accusing him of a lack of professionalism.

Duncan Castles Transfer Window Podcast claim Madrid will try and tempt Arsenal with their player-plus-cash deal when the January window opens.

But Perez will have to convince boss Zinedin Zidane, who would prefer to sign £342m Paris Saint-Germain striker Kylian Mbappe and Manchester United's £150m midfielder Paul Pogba.

The Podcast claims Real have spoken to Aubameyang's representatives as they search for striker replacements with Karim Benzema set to move to Lyon in a player-coach role and Gareth Bale likely to return to the Premier League next year.

Former Eintracht Frankfurt forward Jovic only joined in the summer for £58m but only has one goal this term and has struggled to settle in the Spanish capital.

Jovic scored 17 goals in the Bundesliga last season - and 30 altogether.

Aubameyang is waiting to see who Arsenal appoint as manager before making his decision whether to leave or sign a new contract.

Arsenal hold interviews with first candidates to replace Emery with focus on bosses out of work including Allegri





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