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As US Fed Hit Barclays for FX Scam, ICP Challenged Cayman Islands Application, Here

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, February 17 – The day the Federal Reserve acted against a Barclays banker, it purported to close its comment period on an application by Barclays in the Cayman Islands. Before the comment period closed, Inner City Press / Fair Finance Watch filed with the Fed this comment: " This is a timely first comment opposing and requesting an extension of the FRB's public comment period on the Applications of Barclays PLC and Barclays US Holdings Ltd., organized under the laws of the Cayman Islands to acquire Barclays Bank. It is noteworthy that on the very final day of the comment period of this Barclays Bank Cayman Islands application, the Federal Reserve has announced “The Federal Reserve Board on Friday announced that it is seeking to permanently bar Peter Little, the former head of the foreign exchange (FX) spot desk at Barclays Bank PLC in New York, from employment in the banking industry and to impose a $487,500 fine on him. Little is alleged to have engaged in unsafe and unsound practices by using electronic chat rooms to coordinate with traders at competitor banks to influence FX pricing benchmarks and by engaging in manipulative trading. Little is also alleged to have failed to adequately supervise subordinate traders at Barclays who coordinated with and disclosed confidential information to competitors on Little's behalf.” Those problems are about the institution, which is here applying to interpose a Cayman Islands subsidiary. Is this to evade taxes? To evade disclosure?  Barclays is associated with using tax havens to avoid taxes: for example in Ireland paying a mere 2%, versus a statutory rate of 12%. The compliance - or “managerial resources” - problems at Barclays go right to the top: Barclays' Jes Staley had to apologize for trying to unmask a whistleblower, here. The “Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has received 703 credit card complaints against Barclays since June 1, 2012, including...
For the record, there's also this, attempt to collect debt not owed...  In fact, the whole operation is in question, militating for hearings: “The U.K. Serious Fraud Office’s charges against Barclays, “in theory at least, put the bank’s entire existence at risk: if it is found guilty its license could be revoked,” the Wall Street Journal says. That’s because the charges, stemming from the bank’s secret emergency fundraising from Qatari investors during the crisis of 2008, were made against the bank’s operating company, which holds its banking license, not its holding company. That’s an important distinction.” Inner City Press is requesting all records concerning the application, and an extension of the comment period. On the current record, Barclays' applications should be denied." Watch this site.
When the International Monetary Fund held its biweekly embargoed briefing on February 15, Inner City Press submitted questions about Zimbabwe, Iraq, Sierra Leone, Cameroon and Hungary. Spokesman Gerry Rice took Inner City Press' Zimbabwe question, including the word usurious, then provided assurances that Madame Lagarde met the new president in Davos and the IMF stands ready to help - when other arrears are paid off. The IMF did not (yet?) answer these Inner City Press questions: On Iraq, please comment and clarify: MP Abbas Bayati has rejected reports that the IMF has said loans to the central government will be issued on the condition Baghdad guarantees a minimum portion of the national budget for the Kurdistan Region. He said IMF does “not investigate the details of the loans [spent] by Iraq.” True? In Hungary, Norbert Maxin and Bela Bukta have been cleared of handing over damaging information to, or spying for, the IMF. What is the IMF's comment, and its interactions with the two, now that the case is over and the IMF can (and should) speak? Follow up on Sierra Leone, where it's said the IMF instead of using the word “stop” used a softer diplomatic word “delay” of payments... what the Minister of Finance and Baratay are doing is spin the fact. If they win the elections, they will now begin to implement the IMF conditions at the detriment of the ordinary people. In the first place, they agreed on the conditions at the detriment of the ordinary people of this country; their only motive was to receive the money for themselves and use the remainder to fund the elections so that they can stay in power." Back on February 1 on Sierra Leone, Inner City Press asked: "please specify the status of IMF's payments under the $224 million program to the government as relates to the upcoming elections and conditions such as cutting subsidies on rice and fuel." Deputy IMF Spokesman William Murray replied that a review that had been slated to be concluded in December has not been; he dodged on the relation to the election but it definitely calls into question the denials of Sierra Leone's finance minister and his demand that Africa Confidential get fact checkers. On Zimbabwe, Inner City Press asked, "On Zimbabwe, please specify the IMF's advice for clearing foreign debt. Is it, as reported, cuts to public sector wages, reducing farm subsidies, improving transparency in the mining sector & reaching an agreement on compensating farmers?" Murray talked up Managing Director Lagarde's meeting(s) in Davos but said the country still has a ways to go. Transcript and video soon. Back on January 18, Inner City Press asked the IMF about Yemen, Somalia, Tunisia and Cameroon. On Yemen, it asked "With continuing holes in the Yemeni Central Bank, what if anything is the IMF doing?" IMF Spokesperson Gerry Rice read out Inner City Press' question and then said that the IMF is helping to build the Central Bank's capacity amid the humanitarian crisis. Transcript to come. On Somalia, Inner City Press asked of reports that “Somalia owes around $4bn making it almost impossible for Mogadishu to access new funds from the IMF.” The IMF puts the figure at $5.1 billion. What explains the difference, and how could Somalia access new IMF funds?" Rice replied that records were lost in the war and are being reconstructed; for now $5.1 billion is the figure. Again, transcript to come,  - and more on Cameroon and the continued undermining of the Internet and the economy by this big IMF recipient, Paul Biya's government. Before Rice's long Tunisia answer, Inner City Press had asked: "On Tunisia, what is the IMF's comments on its role in imposing austerity on the country since the popular uprising of January 2011? Did the IMF exerted sustained pressure on the Tunisian Central Bank to stop intervening in the currency markets to defend the value of the Tunisian dinar, increasing imports?" The IMF was prepared for this, emphasizing for example that cooking oil will not be subject to the VAT, but sweets and alcohol will. Video and transcript to come. Back on November 30, Inner City Press asked about critiques of the IMF from the Caribbean, about Yemen, Zambia and Kenya. The first three of these were answered. IMF Spokesperson Gerry Rice read out Inner City Press' question: "Saint Lucia’s Prime Minister Allen Chastanet has said of the IMF, 'If you care about the Caribbean, you must change the rules of engagement and allow us to help ourselves.' He's said the billions of dollars in Caribbean loans should be reclassified by the IMF. What is the IMF's response?" Rice said Managing Director Lagarde is aware of the criticism from the Caribbean forum a few weeks ago and that a study is underway including of catastrophe bonds but, he said, the IMF cannot currently do the requested reclassifications to make countries eligible for concessionary financing. On Zambia, Rice notes that Inner City Press at the UN had asked, "Treasury Secretary Fredson Yamba has said Zambia expects to host an IMF mission before the end of the year and hopes to have a $1.3 billion loan deal in place in early 2018. 'Come 2018, we must have a final (IMF) programme. It has taken a long time because the parameters have been changing.' What is the IMF's status with Zambia?" Rice said after the pause in August, progress has been made, the interest is there, but some information and clarifications are still awaited. "We are waiting for further data and details on the government's external borrowing plans," he said. On Inner City Press' Yemen question, Rice said the IMF "donor grants will be needed" for the payment of wages and social assistance and that the IMF is willing to help with macro-stability once the conflict is over. But when will that be? Here was and is Inner City Press' Kenya question: In Kenya, IMF rep Jan Mikkelsen is quoted that “discussions about the current programme and what will follow after the expiration in March are expected to begin soon, with the new government taking office. The authorities have indicated that they are interested to continue a programme relationship with the IMF."Has the IMF taken note of, and what is its comment on, the critique of the election by Raila Odinga and the NASA Coalition? Would the IMF also confer with the opposition?" We'll have more on this.  Back on September 28, Inner City Press asked among other things about the IMF negotiating with a reputed money launder in Congo-Brazzaville, and about corruption charges against Finance Minister Ishaq Dar of Pakistan, also in IMF talks. On the former, IMF Deputy Spokesman William Murray said the IMF is again in Brazzaville, for the third time, having a “series of contacts” on financial assessment. He declined to confirm or deny the IMF is talking with Orion Oil's Lucien Ebata, but this is widely known, as is his dealings in cash, via the Panama Papers. We'll have more on this. Inner City Press' Pakistan question was and is: “On Pakistan, it is reported that “the IMF said it had been told by Pakistani officials that the restrictions [on luxury imports] would be removed within a year but Mr Abbasi now says his government was planning to impose more.” Also, what is the IMF comment on the corruption charges against Finance Minister Ishaq Dar?” But when re-submitting through the IMF's online form, with allows only 300 characters, Inner City Press took out “[on luxury imports]” thinking the IMF would know what restrictions were being referred to, since they imposed them. They did not, and did not address the Ishaq Dar corruption allegations. Yet. Watch this site. When the International Monetary Fund re-started its biweekly embargoed press briefings on September 14, Inner City Press submitted questions about Hurricane Irma and moratoria, Mozambique, DR Congo and Ghana: "what is the IMF's response to civil society saying 'the Finance Minister, in particular, is facing conflict of interest investigation with USA SEC, Ghanaian SEC and the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) in Ghana... We are losing hope as the IMF seems not concerned about all these developments”? The first two got answered, during the briefing, then this on Ghana, from an IMF Spokesperson: "We are aware of the allegations raised in Parliament and the related debates that have been reported on by the media. The Minister of Finance testified before Parliament to clarify the issue. Since the approval of the ECF arrangement we have been working with the authorities on strengthening debt management and improving governance and transparency of government operations. The enactment and ongoing implementation of the Public Financial Management Act, along with the implementation of the debt management strategy, indicate progress in these areas."  Inner City Press asked: "On Antigua and Barbuda, and Hurricane Irma impacted countries more generally... will there be no moratoria? What is the IMF doing?" IMF spokesperson Gerry Rice said, "There's a question from Matthew Lee on moratorium... on that, I would refer to what Mme Lagarde said a few days ago, of course the IMF has tremendous sympathy. She also said we stand ready to help. There are a number of options we can look at in that context. At the moment we are still trying to make an assessment. As a factual member, none of our members including Antigua and Barbuda have formally requested assistance from the Fund." Oh. On Mozambique, he called again for the publication of the full audit. Inner City Press also asked, "On the DR Congo, what is the IMF's response to civil society requests it has received that the Fund end its dealings with the National Petroleum Company of the Congo (SNPC), specifically that “if the IMF obtained the dissolution of Cotrade, a subsidiary of the SNPC, it can also demand and obtain the dissolution of the SNPC and the major works”? Watch this site and see IMF's July 20, 2017 transcript: , with Inner City Press' question at that time: "Ghana President, Nana Akufo-Addo, on Tuesday said the country will not extend its three-year aid program with the IMF beyond April 2018. The IMF had urged it to do so to give it time to complete the program’s goals. Did the IMF so urge? A step back real quick for some context. Right now, we’re in the process of completing the fourth review of Ghana’s ECF program. We’ve made significant progress in program discussions, and we expect to reach understandings in all remaining issues in the coming days. The discussions are going to continue and as a result of these continuing discussions, a Board discussion to complete the fourth review probably won’t take place until late August. Again, Media Relations will get back to everyone on the exact timing. But it’s probably late August when Ghana’s fourth review will be taken up by the Executive Board.
Now, the question that was just posed was regarding a comment about extension of the ECF next year when it’s scheduled to expire. The President made it clear that he would like to move Ghana beyond aid. And successful completion of the IMF-supported program could be instrumental in achieving this goal by restoring macroeconomic stability in Ghana. A request for program extension is essential for our ability to complete the review of this program overall. And given the significant fiscal slippages from last year, it will also take longer to bring debt onto a clearly declining path, which explains the need for the program to cover performance into later next year. This was something that was outlined in a press release issued by the finance minister on July 18th. Mozambique: the IMF’s Mr. Lazare, our mission chief, has said that, quote, “critical information gaps remain unaddressed regarding the use of loans, proceeds”, close quote. Please be more specific about what the IMF sees as the information gaps, and how they can be filled, with what information and in what detail? First of all, we welcomed and continue to welcome the fact that the delivery of an international forensic audit on three companies to the office of the public prosecutor of Mozambique has taken place. We commend Mozambique public prosecutor for undertaking this important audit and for releasing the summary of the report. Transparency and good governance are key conditions for sustainable, inclusive growth, and that applies to all countries. Now we look forward to the publication of the entire audit report in due course. At that point, we will be able to provide an informed view on the audit and its implication
s. Still U
Nanswered: "
On Zambia, Fitch has “said the key risk stemming from the current political tension if it escalated could jeopardize an IMF aid package as well as other lender's willingness to provide the southern African nation with external financing” and that “progress towards an IMF program has remained slow and may be delayed further by domestic political events, adding that expectation of an IMF program was key to Zambia's B/negative sovereign rating.” Please comment on if progress is slow and on these risks. In Sri Lanka, Joint Opposition’s Parliamentarian Bandula Gunawardana on July said that the country's Inland Revenue Act, in accord with the agreement arrived at with the IMF, is “an attempt to sabotage all forms of tax relief provided by former President Mahinda Rajapaksa during his tenure as the Finance Minister, and clarified that state-sponsored relief was also included under the new Act.” Is that the IMF's understanding of the Inland Revenue Act? Please comment. If there is an updated view about the Internet cut off (lifted only after 94 days) and other restrictions in the Anglophone regions of Cameroon injuring “Silicon Mountain." Back on June 22 Inner City Press submitted questions about Zambia, Cameroon and Haiti, where it was. During the embargoed briefing, IMF Spokesperson Gerry Rice read out Inner City Press' Zambia question and said, "implementation of the remaining actions in the next few weeks will enable us to present the authority's request for an Extended Credit Facility arrangement to the Board, and we expect that to be in August of this year." But this Haiti question has yet to be answered: "Chris Walker said reconstruction from the effects of Hurricane Matthew, and investments in health, education, and social services... will be achieved in part through the elimination of excessive subsidies, including subsidies for retail fuel sales. Please specify the IMF's thinking on time timing and range of subsidy elimination and ideas for EDH utility." On this and Cameroon (see below), we'll have more.  On Cameroon, Inner City Press has repeatedly asked for the IMF's "updated view about the Internet cut off (lifted only after 94 days) and other restrictions in the Anglophone regions of Cameroon injuring 'Silicon Mountain.'" Watch this site: we'll stay on this. The next IMF briefing is July 13. From the IMF's May 11 transcript, of its Deputy Spokesperson Willam Murray: "I’ve got a question from Inner City Press on Sri Lanka. Do recent government moves on the Inland Revenue Act make it more likely the IMF Board will act on the request for completion of the second loan review in June and make a third disbursement? Again, it’s a question about Sri Lanka and the Inland Revenue Act and the likelihood of completing the second review. We had a staff level agreement in Sri Lanka on May 3rd, last week. We noted in announcing that agreement that it’s subject to completion of a prior action by the authorities, which is submission of the Inland Revenue Act to Parliament. And that was a prior action that was agreed earlier this year. Our legal experts are still analyzing the content of the new draft bill, and are in discussions with the Sri Lankan authorities. That’s where we stand at the moment on Sri Lanka." The answer's appreciated.  Back on April 12 when at its Spring Meetings the IMF held its Middle East and Central Asia press conference, Inner City Press submitted this question: "Please describe the IMF's view and possible plans on Yemen, given the crisis there, including on President Hadi's proposed moving of the Central Bank out of the capital to Aden. What is the IMF's view of and any assistance to the Central Bank's performance?" After the briefing, the IMF provided this answer: "The humanitarian and economic impact of the conflict has been devastating; it has caused many deaths, depressed economic activity, and destroyed much of Yemen’s infrastructure. There is now even a tangible risk that the conflict could lead to famine in some parts of Yemen. Yemenis food supply relies largely on imported staples, like wheat and rice. Yemen needs urgently foreign exchange grants from donors to pay for imported food. But Yemenis also need to be able to buy the food that is imported. Resuming paying public salaries and social assistance grants in all of Yemen is therefore also urgently needed. Given these needs, the Central Bank of Yemen (CBY) could be the pivotal player for facilitating food imports and for resuming paying public salaries and social assistance grants in all of Yemen. But to play this humanitarian role, the central banks in Aden and Sana’a need urgently to find a way to cooperate in the interest of providing sufficient food to all Yemenis.  Fund engagement is currently limited. We support the Yemeni authorities and the international community to the best of our abilities.The Fund stands ready to re-engage more fully as soon as the conflict is resolved to help rebuild economic institutions, jumpstart growth, and stabilize the economy."

 Back on April 6 when the IMF held its biweekly embargoed press briefing, Inner City Press asked Spokesperson Gerry Rice about South Africa, Zambia, Bosnia, Nigeria and the UN, Cameroon and other issues. On Zambia, Inner City Press asked, "On Zambia, please state if a sale / privatization of Zambia Telecommunications Company (Zamtel) is no longer a condition for an IMF program with the country, as inferred from the recent list of conditions issued by the IMF's Tsidi Tsikata."  After the briefing, an IMF Spokesperson replied to Inner City Press that "We have made progress towards reaching understandings on an economic program that could be supported by an IMF arrangement. There is broad agreement on key objectives, targets, and policies. We have agreed to continue discussions at the forthcoming April 2017 Spring Meetings of the IMF and World Bank here in Washington D.C. At this stage, it is premature for us to get into specifics on policy actions such as sales of parastatals."

  On South Africa, Inner City Press asked "does the IMF have any comment on the recent firing of the finance minister? Separately, have there been any discussions of a possible program with South Africa?" Rice said that no request for a program has been received -- "the South African authorities have not requested a program from the IMF" -- and that the IMF normally does not comment on "domestic politics." He went ont to say, "it's important that institutions remain strong and the government can be united on policies for inclusive growth for all South Africans." We'll have more on this.

  On Bosnia, Inner City Press asked the IMF, among other things: "what the IMF's comment on opposition, from farmers and the Republika Srpska to the excise tax on fuel which it is reported is a condition for the IMF's program?" Early on April 6, prior to the embargoed briefing but there reiterated at it, the IMF's mission chief for Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), Mr. Nadeem Ilahi, said: "The IMF took note that the BiH parliament did not adopt the amendments to the law on excise tax and the new law on deposit insurance during a session held on April 5, 2017. This will have implications for mobilizing external financing for much needed infrastructure projects and for the authorities’ efforts to modernize banking sector legislation. Both are key requirements of the authorities’ program, supported by the IMF under the Extended Fund Facility (EFF). We now expect a significant delay in completion of the first review of the program.   In recent months, the authorities have made good progress in implementing economic reforms supported by the EFF, particularly by strengthening fiscal discipline, safeguarding financial stability, and improving business environment. We stand ready to assist the authorities in continuing the implementation of structural reforms to unlock growth potential and maintain macroeconomic stability, including through IMF advice and technical assistance.The authorities need more time to make further progress in a number of key areas of their program, such as securing financing for key infrastructure project, modernizing banking sector legislations, and improving corporate governance of state owned enterprises. In the period ahead, we will maintain close dialogue with the authorities and remain committed to assist them in their efforts.” We'll have more on this.

  Back on March 23 when the International Monetary Fund held its previous biweekly embargoed press briefing, Inner City Press asked Spokesperson Gerry Rice about Dominica, Belarus, Cameroon and other issues. On Dominica, Inner City Press asked: "the IMF's Mr. Guerson has referred to 'high Citizenship-By-Investment (CBI) revenues.' What is the IMF's view of fraud and / or AML dangers in that CBI program? Mr Guerson also called for the 'operationalization of the Eastern Caribbean Asset Management Company.” Can you say more: by when, and on what assets?" Shortly after the briefing, an IMF spokesperson responded to Inner City Press that "seaking more generally and not on Dominica specifically, the IMF has conducted extensive research on citizenship programs in the Caribbean including on the regulatory and governance challenges related to these programs. As a general principle, the Fund has stressed the importance of transparency in the design and implementation of these programs. When properly run, these programs can be an important source of additional revenue. Generally speaking we have called for receipts to be held for future generations, debt repayments and not to be used for regular operating expenses." Some in Domenica have asked if the Skerrit government's program is meeting this standard, for example with regard to Macau-based businessman Ng Lap Seng now facing a UN-related bribery trial in the US District Court for the Southern District of New York. But to emphasize: the IMF's answer is general.

  On Cameroon, Inner City Press asked: "the IMF's Mr. Selassie said: 'there will be significant fiscal reforms that need to be effected as well as reforms to promote growth and we are working on developing those with a number of the CEMAC countries.' Please provide further specifics, particularly regarding Cameroon and the continuing financial impact of the now 65-day Internet shut down to the Anglophone areas including “Silicon Mountain” in Buea." We hope to have more on this.

Earlier in March, Inner City Press asked both the International Monetary Fund and the UN Security Council's president about the crisis in Cameroon's Anglophone areas on March 9 and heard that while the IMF acknowledges the financial risk, the Security Council does not see it as a threat to international peace and security. But the UN's Resident Coordinator Najat Rochdi has said nothing about the crisis, and blocks on Twitter the Press which asks about it. Is the UN system failing, in its new Secretary General's promise of increased preventative diplomacy?

 When the IMF's spokesperson Gerry Rice took questions on March 9, Inner City Press asked about Cameroon, specifically the crackdown in the northwest and southwest of the country. Inner City Press asked, "On Cameroon, after the mission led by Corinne Delechat, what is the status of talks for a program, and since the IMF cited “civil unrest in the neighboring Central African Republic,” please state the IMF's awareness of civil unrest and arrests in Northwest and Southwest Cameroon, also known as the Anglophone areas, and their impact." Rice read out the question and then said, among other things, that the risk factors for 2017 include a continuation of the "social and political events" in the "so-called Anglophone" areas of Cameroon. Interim video here.  On IMF site, here, from 34:56. IMF transcript below.

  But a few hours later when Inner City Press asked the month's UN Security Council president Matthew Rycroft of the UK, who had just been in Cameroon, about the crisis, he said it is not a threat to international peace and security. From the UK transcript:

Inner City Press: In Cameroon there’s an issue that has been existing since November in Anglophone areas which have no internet for 52 days, there’s been teachers arrested, no schools. So I’m wondering as one Council member said, it did somehow come up in meetings, but was the issue raised at all, and what response was given by the government to this ongoing cut off of internet and abuse in this area?
Amb Rycroft: It came up informally in our contacts with members of the Government of Cameron but as far as I recall it did not come up in any formal meeting, and I think that makes sense because we were going there to look at the threat to international peace and security, and Boko Haram, and related issues, but in private, informal discussions with ministers in the Government of Cameroon it came up and they gave us the benefit of their perspective on the issue.
Inner City Press: Is there any Security Council role that can be played in trying to preventively deal with this issue?
Amb Rycroft: I don’t think it’s an issue on our agenda per se, we keep our eye on our radar across the world, but we have to make a judgement about whether something is a threat to international peace and security, and at the moment, I think our judgement would be that issue is an issue that is confined within Cameroon without international aspects.

  This is a project for the Free UN Coalition for Access, @FUNCA_info. Watch these sites and feeds.

From the IMF's March 9 transcript:

"There is a question of Cameroon, from Matthew Lee, "After the Mission what is the status of talks for a program; and since the IMF cited civil unrest in the neighboring Central African Republic, please state the IMF's awareness of civil unrest and arrests in Northwest and Southwest Cameroon? And also known as the Anglophone areas, and their impact?"

So, the background here is, I think important the context. So, the Fund's engagement here in the CEMAC Region, CEMAC is the six Central African Economic nations that comprise the Central African Economic and monetary community. They met in Yaoundé on December 23rd. The Managing Director was there. And in that meeting, heads of state discussed the economic situation, the severe shocks that have hit that CEMAC region in recent years, including the sharp decline in oil prices, and decided to act collectively and in a concerted manner. And the heads of state requested the assistance of the IMF to design economic reforms needed to reestablish macroeconomic stability in each country and in the region as a whole.

So, again, context: I can tell you that the funders already sent missions to Gabon, Republic of Congo. And a reminder to you, that we already have programs with Central African Republic and Chad. Okay?

Now, we also have sent a mission to Cameroon, which is the question. And we did issue a press statement, which the question referred to, just on Tuesday. That was the Corrine Delechat reference.

So, the specific question, to turn to that. We are indeed aware of the events in the so-called Anglophone regions of Cameroon. The macroeconomic impact of any event that could affect production and/or consumption, is typically felt with a certain lag. So, these events started in November last year, and thus are likely to have not had a significant impact on production in 2016.

For 2017, the risks to our growth outlook include a combination of external and domestic factors, including continuation of the sociopolitical events in the northwest and southwest regions of Cameroon. And as our press release the other day indicated, our view is that the medium-term outlook for the Cameroonian economy remains positive, subject to the implementation of appropriate policies."

We'll have more on this. Watch this site.


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