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Vilnius’s Lukiškės Prison to be turned into venue

Lukiškės Prison, an early 20th-century former prison in central Vilnius, will be turned into a versatile entertainment and arts venue under new plans drawn up by the Lithuanian government.

Turto Bankas, a state-owned property company, is inviting private businesses to register their interest in a project to convert the prison complex, which is located next to the Seimas Palace, home to the Lithuanian parliament, into a “multifunctional centre of art, culture, and education”.

Lukiškės Prison, which closed in 2019, is currently leased to an events business and recently served as a shooting location for series four of Netflix’s Stranger Things. Before its closure, it housed around 1,000 inmates (as of 2007) and employed 250 prison guards.

Its six buildings – which also include a hospital, administration buildings and the St Nicholas Orthodox Church – now offer a total area of 2ha (5ac) for events and other public activities; for example, 2019’s ‘alternative Christmas’ event at the prison, which featured art and light installations throughout its courtyards.

Its six buildings offer a total area of two hectares for public events

The regeneration project will involve upgrading a part of the complex for cultural and commercial purposes, according to the city, with the other half focusing on its heritage as a prison, as well as modern “multicultural Lithuanian society”.

According to Turto Bankas, the regeneration project, in addition to entertainment leisure facilities, could include “non-conventional accommodation facilities, a food quarter, co-working spaces, a museum [and] workshops, leisure and entertainment spots” – though it notes that as a protected building, the amount of transformation possible would be limited.

Interested parties, it adds, should be committed to “maintaining the commercial-educational balance” in the revamped venue.

 


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Barcelona: Sixth night of protests over jailed rapper

Barcelona has endured a sixth consecutive night of street protests, following the jailing of Catalan rapper, Pablo Hasél.

Hasél was arrested last Tuesday night (16 February) following a 24-hour stand-off in a university with dozens of supporters to avoid a prison sentence.

The artist, who is known for his radical leftist views, was sentenced to nine months in prison in 2018 under a security law known in Spain as the “gag law” for insulting the Spanish monarchy and praising terrorist violence in his music and on his Twitter account.

The rapper’s imprisonment has set off a major debate about free speech in Spain and sparked ongoing protests in Barcelona.

Last night, protestors in dark clothes marched through the city centre to the National Police headquarters and threw objects including rocks, bottles, rubbish and firecrackers at officers.

According to the police, around a thousand protesters took part in last night’s protest and seven arrests were made.

More than 200 artists have signed a petition against his jail term and calling for the ‘gag law’ to be changed.

Government spokeswoman Maria Jesus Montero said that in response to the Hasel case, the government had “expressed its willingness to provide a much more secure framework for freedom of expression” and that the reform was in its early stages.

 


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Security co. director jailed for supplying fake guards to UK fests

The director of Welsh event security firm, LS Armour, has received a prison sentence of two years and three months following an investigation by the Security Industry Authority (SIA) into unlicensed security staff at UK music events.

Lee Szuchnik supplied unlicensed guards to music festivals in June and July 2017. Unlicensed staff were supplied to events including Download, Glastonbury Festival and two Adele concerts in Wembley Stadium.

Szuchnik retained copies of genuine licences and identity details from SIA licence holders he had invited for interview at the LS Armour offices in Barry, south Wales. He later created fraudulent badges for use by unlicensed staff. The badges displayed the name and licence number of official operatives alongside a photograph of the unlicensed bearer.

“People going to events and festivals must be able to have confidence in the fact that the security personnel put there to protect them are legitimately licensed”

Fellow director Erica Lloyd received a 12-month prison sentence and 18-month suspension for her role in the fraud. Four other members of LS Armour staff received community orders of between 12 and 18 months for illegally working at events.

The SIA investigation began in July 2017 after a regional investigator stopped two guards with false licences at 2000trees festival in Cheltenham. The investigator apprehended two more unlicensed operators attempting to flee. All guards used assumed identities.

“This fraud put untrained and unvetted security staff in a position of responsibility at numerous festivals. This put event organisers, suppliers and members of the public at an increased security risk,” comments Nathan Salmon, SIA criminal investigations manager.

“People going to events and festivals must be able to have confidence in the fact that the security personnel put there to protect them are legitimately licensed. We will act robustly in driving dishonest operators out of the industry.”

 


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Fyre Festival organiser Billy McFarland jailed for six years

The 26-year-old founder of Fyre Festival has been sentenced to six years in prison for his role in organising and promoting the ill-fated April 2017 event.

Billy McFarland pled guilty in March to defrauding investors out of more than US$26m by misrepresenting the financial health of his company, Fyre Media, by “grossly inflat[ing] the company’s revenue and income”. In June he also pleaded guilty to running a fraudulent ticket scam, through his company NYC VIP Access, that involved selling non-existent tickets to events including Burning Man, Coachella and the 2018 Grammys using Fyre Festival customer data.

McFarland was also charged with one count of bank fraud, for writing a cheque in an employee’s name without authorisation, and making false statements to law enforcement.

Fyre Festival – billed as “the adventure of a lifetime” amid the “beautiful turquoise waters and idyllic beaches” of the island of Grand Exuma, in the Bahamas – spectacularly collapsed on its first day, with festivalgoers arriving on the island to find a half-built festival site and no sign of the luxury accommodation and dining included with their $1,500–$50,000 tickets.

“McFarland found out the hard way that empty promises don’t lead to jet-setting, champagne, and extravagant parties – they lead to federal prison”

McFarland (pictured) co-founded the event with Jeffrey Atkins (Ja Rule)’s Fyre Media company, but “ran the show”, says Atkins, who has denied liability for the disaster and has not been charged.

Sentencing, US district Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald yesterday ordered McFarland to be jailed for six years, followed by three years of supervised release. Buchwald also ordered him to forfeit $26,191,306.28.

Manhattan US attorney Geoffrey Berman comments: “Billy McFarland has shown a disturbing pattern of deception, which resulted in investors and customers losing over $26 million in two separate fraud schemes. As he had previously admitted, Billy McFarland did not deliver on his promises to his investors and customers.

“Today, McFarland found out the hard way that empty promises don’t lead to jet-setting, champagne, and extravagant parties – they lead to federal prison.”

 


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Ponzi promoter Jack Utsick sentenced to 18+ years

Jack Utsick, the 73-year-old former concert promoter who in June pled guilty to defrauding around 3,000 investors in his Worldwide Entertainment company, was yesterday sentenced to over 18 years in prison.

Judge Cecilia M. Altonaga, in the US District Court for southern Florida, handed Utsick – who prosecutors alleged ran unprofitable Worldwide as a ponzi scheme, paying older investors with money from new ones – close to the maximum possible sentence, reports AP.

Utstick and his lawyers pleaded for leniency, highlighting his bipolar disorder as explanation for poor business judgment and claiming he planned to pay the money back. “I am not that person. I’m a good guy,” said Utstick in what AP’s Curt Anderson, who was in court for the verdict, described as a “rambling, tear-filled statement”. “I always felt we could pay these people. To all the people: I’m so sorry.”

However, Altonago said: “It matters not, at the end of the day, whether on day one his intentions were good. There are far too many victims who suffered far too many losses, too many lives ruined.”

“There are far too many victims who suffered far too many losses, too many lives ruined”

Worldwide promoted tours by arena-filling artists such as The Rolling Stones, Fleetwood Mac, Elton John, The Pretenders, Aerosmith and Fleetwood Mac before being placed into administration amid mounting debts in 2006.

Utsick was extradited to the US from Brazil, where he fled in 2007, in 2014 after a protracted court battle, and had since been held at the Federal Detention Center in Miami.

One of Utsick’s victims, like him a retired airline pilot, said he had lost his entire life savings. “I have never recovered,” he wrote in a letter to Altonago. “I will be 71 in October, still working, with no hope of ever retiring again.”

 


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Prison sentence for UK ticket fraudster

An experienced ticket tout who sold over £400,000 worth of bogus concert and sports tickets in a 13-month period between May 2009 and June 2010 has been jailed for three-and-a-half years.

Fifty-three-year-old John Lupton, of Upper Norwood, appeared at Blackfriars Crown Court earlier today, where he was found guilty by a jury of two counts of fraudulent trading and one count of money laundering. He has also been banned from acting as a company director until 2026.

Unwitting customers paid £636,000 to two of Lupton’s dummy companies, Lines Direct Ltd and Williams & Hill Ltd, but at least £435,000 worth of tickets were not supplied, reports the London Evening Standard’s courts reporter, Tristan Kirk. When buyers tried to request a refund, they found that the companies had been dissolved and their bank accounts cleared.

Companies House also lists three other companies of which Irishman Lupton is or was a director: Festival Ticket Store Ltd, Dracrow Ltd and Commercial Logistics and Trading Ltd.

The court heard that Lupton was “not the brains of the operation”, reports Kirk, but was the director of the companies involved.

Allison Clare, prosecuting, said there is no prospect of recovering the money as Lupton was sleeping on his mother’s settee and living off benefits when he was arrested in March 2011.