The grip tightens around a senator suspected of insider trading in full pandemic

L’étau se resserre autour d’un sénateur soupçonné de délit d’initié en pleine pandémie

Washington | An influential u.s. senator, Richard Burr, was obliged to retreat on Thursday after an acceleration of the investigation for insider trading opened against him, because he sold shares just before the new coronavirus does not cause the collapse of the markets.

The elected republican “has taken the decision to relinquish the chairmanship of the Intelligence committee in the time of the investigation”, said the head of the republican majority in the Senate, Mitch McConnell.

“This will be effective from tomorrow (Friday) night,” he added.

On Wednesday evening, the senator has had to surrender his mobile phone to FBI agents who arrived at his home in Washington with a mandate, had previously reported on several media.

The investigators, who are interested in exchanges with his or her broker, have also had access to the personal data of its cloud (remote storage), specified the Los Angeles Times.

These developments imply that the vise tightens around Richard Burr: to obtain a warrant, investigators must prove to the judges they have enough evidence to feed their suspicions.

“This is really not the kind of decisions that the FBI or the department of Justice takes lightly: it requires a number of checks, the white hand of a judge and take into account the cost to the reputation of a senator in a year,” pointed out on Twitter Preet Bharara, a former federal prosecutor.

The elected North Carolina is in turmoil because of it has sold, on the 13th of February, shares for a value ranging between 628 000 us dollars and 1.7 million dollars, including hotel groups or the tourism industry severely affected by the containment measures being taken to stem the pandemic.

The same day, his brother-in-law had him sold for $ 280,000 of the shares, was reported last week the site ProPublica.


However, at this date, the republican chairman Donald Trump minimized the risks of the COVID-19 for the United States. “This is like a seasonal flu”, “this is going to go away”, “stay calm”, he hammered home throughout the month of February.

On the 17th of February, four days after the sale of its shares, Richard Burr himself wrote on the website of Fox News that the u.s. government was “better prepared than ever” to deal with the crisis.

Senator, thanks to his position within the Intelligence committee, had access for several weeks to the warnings of the health authorities, which feeds the suspicions against him, but also accusations of double-talk.

On the 27th February, had during a private meeting with wealthy donors, showed that he understood the gravity of the situation: “it probably looks like the pandemic of 1918 “, he said, in reference to the Spanish flu which killed tens of millions of people in the world.

At the end of march, when the deal had been made public, he had denied any wrongdoing. “My decision to sell shares was based solely on public information,” he said in a press release, stating, having himself asked the ethics commission of the Senate to investigate.

In addition to Mr. Burr, three other elected officials have sold shares just before the crisis broke out: the republicans Kelly Loeffler and James Inhofe, as well as the democrat Dianne Feinstein.

But, according to the New York Times, Richard Burr, is the only one to have admitted to having initiated him-even sales and their link with the crisis of COVID-19.

To this day, the new coronavirus has infected nearly 1.4 million Americans, killing more than 84 000 of them and left markets in the red.

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