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Motoring news

Audi’s new Q cars

April 12 2017

Another week, another new Audi. Two new Audis, in fact. The German car maker has announced a couple more additions to its Q line up of SUVs. The Q4 is a coupe-SUV hybrid that will go up against the BMW X4 and Mercedes GLC Coupe. As its name suggests, it’ll be positioned between the compact Q3 and bigger Q5. At the other end of the scale is the Q8, which will go head to head against the Range Rover. It’s lower and sleeker than the Q7 Audi is also producing. In concept form, it sat only four people, although it seems likely the production version will be a five seater. There’s a 630 litre boot as well. Eagle eyed Audi followers will notice the only SUV slots left to fill are the Q1 and Q6. Watch this space...

UK & World

Slovakia ‘was told about mafia expansion’ prior to journalist killing

March 2 2018

Italian prosecutors warned Slovakian authorities about “dangerous” infiltration by a powerful Italian organised crime syndicate even before a reporter was shot dead, according to a top anti-mafia fighter.Franco Roberti, who recently retired as Italy’s national anti-mafia prosecutor, said of the ‘ndrangheta syndicate’s expansion into Slovakia: “We warned authorities in Bratislava, but unfortunately they didn’t heed us.”On Thursday, Slovakian police raided houses linked to the alleged members of the syndicate in connection with the fatal shooting of investigative journalist Jan Kuciak and his girlfriend.Seven men were detained as suspects in the raids in the eastern towns of Michalovce and Trebisov, national police chief Tibor Gaspar said.The bodies of 27-year-old Mr Kuciak and his girlfriend, Martina Kusnirova, were found on Sunday in their house in Velka Maca, east of the capital, Bratislava. They had both been shot. Mr Kuciak’s last, unfinished story had been about the activities of the Italian ‘ndrangheta in Slovakia.Mr Roberti said the ‘ndrangheta might have killed Mr Kuciak because “there was no other way to silence him”.He added the “corruption” of local officials plays a big role in the ‘ndrangheta’s activities abroad.One of those detained on Thursday was Antonino Vadala, an Italian who conducted business with at least two officials close to Slovakian prime minister Robert Fico. Those two officials resigned on Wednesday.Scotland Yard, the FBI, Czech and Italian police and Europol are helping Slovakian authorities investigate the killings.Some 25 marches were planned on Friday in Slovakia to honour the murdered couple, including one in the capital, Bratislava, which President Andrej Kiska will attend.Other commemorative gatherings are planned in two dozen cities abroad, including London, Paris and Brussels.Also on Friday, the secretary general of Reporters Without Borders called on Mr Fico to apologise for insulting journalists. Christophe Deloire deplored what he called the “appalling climate for journalists” created by government leaders in Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia.Mr Fico is known for his numerous attacks on the media.Meeting Mr Fico in Bratislava, Mr Deloire said he took note of the government efforts to investigate the killings.“(But) we nonetheless think you should express regret and apologise for having insulted journalists on several occasions,” Mr Deloire said.


Trafficking trio guilty of exploiting Slovakian girl

December 13 2012

THREE SLOVAKIANS were yesterday found guilty after trial of bringing a woman to Scotland “with intent to exploit her” and attempting to force her into a marriage from which they would obtain benefit. A jury at Dundee Sheriff Court found Renata Kulova (20), Helena Kulova (47), both prisoners at Cornton Vale and Ivan Balog (27), a prisoner at Perth, guilty of arranging and facilitating travel for the woman between Slovakia and within the UK with intent to exploit her in the UK or elsewhere. They were found guilty of attempting on various occasions to cause the woman to enter a marriage from which they or others intended to obtain benefits. The three facilitated her movements in Slovakia and between Glasgow and Perth’s railway and bus stations with a view to exploiting her between May 1 and July 25. Renata Kulova was also found guilty of stealing identification documents belonging to the woman and a man at two addresses in Glasgow between June 28 and July 18. The jury of 10 men and five women gave their guilty verdicts on Renata and Helena Kulova as unanimous and the verdict on Balog was by majority. The three were remanded in custody at the end of the trial before Sheriff Munro which had run for over the course of a month. Sentence was deferred to January 14 for reports. Tayside Police last night sent a stark warning to anyone involved in human trafficking that the force will continue to do all within its powers to curtail the “wicked enterprise.” Detective Superintendent Willie Semple said: “The victims in this case were a vulnerable young couple who only wanted to seek out work and the relative prosperity that comes with it, so they could help to provide for loved ones and make a life for themselves. “Instead, they were preyed upon, exploited and left in a bewildering and extremely upsetting situation through no real fault of their own. “Human trafficking seldom comprises of isolated incidents. “It is the lucrative domain of serious organised crime groups that seek to profit at the expense of innocent people. “They are criminals who have no regard whatsoever for the people they seek to exploit. “The consequences could have been far worse but for the woman’s appeal for help in a phone call back home and the family’s resourcefulness in contacting the Slovakian police.” The Slovakian police, in turn, contacted the British authorities and inter-agency work led by Tayside Police meant the couple’s nightmare was brought to an end. Mr Semple added: “Human trafficking is a crime that can be hidden from public sight, but this modern day slavery will not escape the attention of the authorities. “We will work tirelessly to set the innocent victims of such crimes free and hold those responsible to account. “At the same time, we fully recognise that more than just law enforcement is required to tackle this issue. “The police and its partners need all available information and intelligence on human trafficking. “And to achieve that, we must raise awareness within our communities about this kind of exploitation. “We must also ensure that the victims of such crimes are supported and have the confidence to speak out, safe in the knowledge their cries for help will be heard and acted upon.” ksmyth@thecourier.co.uk

UK & World

Seven men arrested in house raids amid Slovakian journalist murder probe

March 1 2018

Slovakian police have raided houses linked to alleged Italian mafia members in connection with the recent fatal shooting of journalist Jan Kuciak.National police chief Tibor Gaspar told reporters in the eastern city of Kosice that seven men aged between 26 and 62 have been detained.Mr Gaspar said they were being held as suspects with the approval of state prosecutors following the raids in the towns of Michalovce and Trebisov.Slovakian media reported that one of those detained was Antonino Vadala, an Italian who conducted business with at least two officials close to Prime Minister Robert Fico. Those officials – a senior adviser to Mr Fico and the secretary of the country’s security council – resigned from their posts on Wednesday.The bodies of 27-year-old Mr Kuciak and his girlfriend, Martina Kusnirova, were found on Sunday evening in their house in Velka Maca, east of the capital, Bratislava. They had both been shot.Mr Kuciak’s last, unfinished story was about the activities of the Italian ‘Ndrangheta syndicate in Slovakia.Slovakia’s interior minister said Scotland Yard, the FBI and other foreign agencies are helping authorities investigate the killings.Robert Kalinak previously said Czech and Italian police forces as well Europol have been co-operating with their Slovakian counterparts in the investigation.

UK & World

Slovakia’s top prosecutor urges joint probe with Italy in journalist murder case

March 19 2018

Slovakia’s prosecutor general has asked Italian authorities to create a joint investigative team with their Slovakian counterparts in the hunt for the killer of a journalist and his fiance. Jaromir Ciznar said he expects such an investigation into the fatal shooting of Jan Kuciak and Martina Kusnirova would be faster, more thorough and more effective.Mr Kuciak was reporting on alleged Italian mafia ties to associates of then-prime minister Robert Fico, and corruption scandals linked to his leftist Smer Social Democracy party, when he was shot dead in February. The death sparked political turmoil in Slovakia.Officials previously said the FBI, Scotland Yard, Europol and police forces from Italy and the Czech Republic are helping with the investigation.Tens of thousands of anti-government protesters rallied across Slovakia on Friday to demand an early election after Mr Fico’s government resigned last week.

UK & World

Houses linked to Italian mafia raided amid Slovakian journalist killing probe

March 1 2018

Police are conducting raids in eastern Slovakia on houses linked to members of Italian mafia, after it emerged a journalist was writing a story about them before he was shot dead last week.The country’s police chief, Tibor Gaspar, told reporters in the eastern town of Michalovce that about 10 people should be detained. Slovakian media reported that one of the detained was Antonino Vadala, an Italian who conducted business with at least two officials close to Prime Minister Robert Fico. The officials resigned from their posts in the government office on Wednesday.The bodies of 27-year-old Jan Kuciak and his girlfriend, Martina Kusnirova, were found on Sunday evening in their house in Velka Maca, east of the capital, Bratislava.Mr Kuciak’s last, unfinished story was about the activities of the Italian ‘Ndrangheta syndicate in Slovakia.

Road tests

Audi Q2 puts quality over size

March 21 2018

Audi’s Q2 was one of the first premium compact SUVs on the market. It sits below the Q3, Q5 and the gigantic, seven seat Q7 in Audi’s ever growing range. Although it’s about the same size as the Nissan Juke or Volkswagen T-Roc, its price is comparable with the much larger Nissan X-Trail or Volkswagen Tiguan. Even a basic Q2 will set you back more than £21,000 and top whack is £38,000. Then there’s the options list which is extensive to say the least. My 2.0 automatic diesel Quattro S Line model had a base price of £30,745 but tipped the scales at just over £40,000 once a plethora of additions were totted up. Size isn’t everything, however. In recent years there’s been a trend of buyers wanting a car that’s of premium quality but compact enough to zip around town. It may be a step down in size but the Q2 doesn’t feel any less classy than the rest of Audi’s SUV range. The interior looks great and is user friendly in a way that more mainstream manufacturers have never been able to match. The simple rotary dial and shortcut buttons easily trounce touchscreen systems, making it a cinch to skim through the screen’s menus. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4eQ5p5Z7-Ek&list=PLUEXizskBf1nbeiD_LqfXXsKooLOsItB0 There’s a surprising amount of internal space too. I took three large adults from Dundee to Stirling and no one complained about feeling cramped. As long as you don’t have a tall passenger behind a tall driver you can easily fit four adults. At 405 litres the boot’s big too – that’s 50 litres more than a Nissan Juke can muster. Buyers can pick from 1.0 and 1.4 litre petrol engines or 1.6 and 2.0 litre TDIs. Most Q2s are front wheel drive but Audi’s Quattro system is standard on the 2.0 diesel, as is a seven-speed S Tronic gear box. On the road there’s a clear difference between this and SUVs by manufacturers like Nissan, Seat and Ford. Ride quality, while firm, is tremendously smooth. Refinement is excellent too, with road and tyre noise kept out of the cabin. It sits lower than the Q3 or Q5 and this improves handling, lending the Q2 an almost go-kart feel. On a trip out to Auchterhouse, with plenty of snow still on the ground, I was appreciative of the four-wheel drive as well. The Q2 is expensive – though there are some good finance deals out there – but you get what you pay for. Few cars this small feel as good as the Q2 does. Price: £30,745 0-62mph: 8.1 seconds Top speed: 131mph Economy: 58.9mpg CO2 emissions: 125g/km

UK & World

Journalist shot dead in Slovakia working on story about mafia

February 28 2018

A journalist shot dead in Slovakia was working on a story about the activities of Italian mafia in his country and their links to people close to Prime Minister Robert Fico.Jan Kuciak’s Aktuality.sk news website published his last, unfinished story on Wednesday. It describes the activities of members of the Italian ‘Ndrangheta criminal group in eastern Slovakia, and the business ties between one of them, a senior assistant to Mr Fico and another official close to him.The bodies of 27-year-old Mr Kuciak and his girlfriend, Martina Kusnirova, were found on Sunday evening in their house in Velka Maca, east of the capital, Bratislava. Mr Kuciak is the first journalist to be killed in Slovakia.In his story he described, among other details, the activities in agriculture, real estate and other sectors of a Slovakia-based Italian man believed to belong to the criminal group.He also detailed the man’s business ties to Maria Troskova, a former model who is now the chief state adviser at the government office, and Viliam Jasan, who currently serves as the secretary of Slovakia’s security council, a body that deals with key security issues.After the first details of the story appeared in Aktuality.sk and a newspaper, Sme, on Tuesday, Mr Fico dismissed the reports.“You link innocent people to a double murder without any evidence,” the prime minister said. “Don’t do it.”The opposition was not impressed and called on national police force president Tibor Gaspar and interior minister Robert Kalinak to resign. It is planning a protest rally in Bratislava for later on Wednesday.Students plan to march in honour of Mr Kuciak in a number of Slovakian cities on Friday.Aktuality.sk said Mr Kuciak co-operated on the story with the Czech Centre for Investigative Journalism, the Investigative Reporting Project Italy and the international Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project.The Czech centre said it had been working with Mr Kuciak for more than 18 months.

This student took his Tinder profile to the next level by turning it into a PowerPoint presentation

February 21 2018

Standing out from the crowd on Tinder can be tough, but with the help of Microsoft PowerPoint a British student has managed just that – and gone viral in the process.Sam Dixey, a 21-year-old studying at Leeds University, made a six-part slideshow entitled “Why you should swipe right” – using pictures and bullet points to shrewdly persuade potential dates to match with him on the dating app. The slideshow includes discussion of his social life and likes, such as “petting doggos” and “laser tag”, and “other notable qualities and skills” – such as being “not the worst at sex” and “generous when drunk”.It even has reviews mocked up from sources such as “Donald Trump”, “Leonardo Di Capri Sun” and “The Times Guide to Pancakes 2011”.Sam told the Press Association the six-slide presentation only took about 20 minutes to make and “started off as a joke”.However, since being posted to Twitter by fellow Tinder user Gracie Barrow, Sam’s slideshow has been shared tens of thousands of times across social media.So, it’s got the seal of approval form Gracie, but how has the slideshow fared on Tinder? “I’d have to say it has been pretty successful,” Sam said. “Definitely a clear correlation of matches and dates beforehand to afterwards.“Most of the responses tend to revolve around people saying ‘I couldn’t help swipe right 10/10’ but I’ve had some people go the extra mile and message me on Facebook.“Plus some people have recognised me outside, in the library and on dates.”A resounding success.


Scotland seeking to move seven points clear of Slovakia

October 10 2016

Despite the frustration of only drawing with Lithuania, Scotland still have a golden opportunity to make their October World Cup double header a successful one, according to stand-in skipper Russell Martin. The Norwich City man, who wore the captain’s armband when Darren Fletcher was taken off injured half-way through Saturday night’s match, believes salvaging a point in the 89th minute at Hampden Park could prove to be more significant in the Group F long run than dropping two. And that is chiefly down to the section’s second seeds, Slovakia, sitting on zero points after losing to Slovenia. The Scots are now determined to hand tomorrow night’s opponents a knock-out blow in Trnava, even this early in the qualifying campaign, by pulling seven points ahead of them. “It feels like it could be a big point,” said Martin. “It was an important goal. “It was a frustrated dressing room but we’re still second in the group and we can go to Slovakia and turn this into a good point. This group has got plenty of legs in it. We move on, Tuesday is another big one. “It’s up to us. We need a big win in the group at some stage. “If we get a draw we’re still unbeaten but if we can win it would leave them without a point from their first three games. “That’s the plan. We’ll go there and try to do that. They’re second seeds in the group and it would be a big result to get. “We’ll try to win it but the most important thing is staying unbeaten.” James McArthur’s leveller came very late in the match but Martin believes it was the least they deserved. He said: “We dominated the game and created some good chances but that’s what can happen in football at this level. “Their goal came out of nothing really. We had dominated the play. The lads showed character to dig in. When we got the goal we thought we might have nicked another one.” The hat-trick hero of the opening night win in Malta, Robert Snodgrass, admitted hearing news of Slovakia’s slip-up made him feel worse rather than better in the Hampden dressing room. But when he had time to reflect on Saturday evening’s events, as was the case with Martin, he was far from downbeat. “It’s not gone to plan but when you’re chasing the game a point is a good point,” the Hull City playmaker said. “It was important we didn’t lose. “We went into the game believing we would win. We didn’t think they’d be the team scoring first to be honest. “They scored first and it was an uphill task after that. They were rolling about, which stopped the flow of the game. “We got the goal and then there was a goal-line clearance at the end. We had chances but didn’t take enough of them. We were ruthless against Malta but weren’t in this one. “We need to focus on ourselves but we know they (Slovakia) will be determined to get a win on Tuesday. “It’s going to be the sort of group where everybody thinks they can beat everybody. “If you look at our point it’s maybe a good one, with Slovakia getting beaten. We believe we can win on Tuesday. “To get the mental edge over them would be a big one. To go seven points ahead so early on would make it even sweeter if we do beat them.”