A bargaining chip, Cyprus style

In December 2009, just one year after his death, the corpse of former Cypriot president, Tassos Papadopoulos, was dug up from under a slab of marble and stolen from its grave. For three months now, authorities have been searching in vain and coming up with politically-charged theories of "whodunit" -- to no avail.

Then, earlier this week, an anonymous informer tipped-off the police as to the location of the body and laid the blame squarely on the shoulders of none other than Antonis Kitas, a.k.a. "Al Capone" -- an imprisoned criminal mastermind currently serving two life sentences for multiple murders. His motive? Authorities believe he wanted to use the corpse as collateral to ensure his release from prison.

If all this turns out to be true, I'm curious as to why "Al Capone" thought this was a good idea and, moreover, how he thought he could get away with it. Then again, he does seem pretty used to getting his way:

According to former inmates, Kitas enjoys a lifestyle of comparative luxury behind bars, financed by his criminal empire, which he continues to control.

Kitas escaped from custody, briefly, two years ago, giving his guards the slip while being treated for a minor illness at a private Nicosia clinic.

During his six-month stay in the clinic, despite the presence of prison guards, Kitas was frequently joined for the night by his Chinese wife, and had access to a laptop computer and several mobile phones.

A prison guard said Kitas was never handcuffed during his stay in the clinic, and warders were told not to complain about the lax security. "As ever," a retired prison official said: "Al Capone was a law unto himself."



Singhing Putin's Praises

Today Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and his Indian counterpart Manmohan Singh met in New Delhi to sign a number of bi-lateral commercial agreements. While the agreements cover a wide variety of topics, including space exploration, fertilizer importation, and commodities trade, nuclear energy and defense are what have received the most attention.

Edging out competition from France and the United States, Russia won contracts to build up to 16 new civilian nuclear power plants in India, six of which are expected to be completed by 2017, according to Russian Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov. This is sure to leave a sour taste in the mouths of many American firms, especially after the success of the 2005 Indo-U.S. civilian nuclear agreement.

Additionally, the two countries signed a multi-billion dollar deal which will see Russia refit Indian aircraft carriers, help India develop transport aircraft, and supply India with 29 new MiG fighter jets.This should leave Russia well positioned to remain India's largest military hardware supplier. Currently, Russia accounts for approximately 60-70% of India's total defense spending. 

While New Delhi's goal of diversifying its energy supplies and moving away from coal may be admirable -- in 2003, coal was estimated to account for almost 70% of India's energy consumption -- you've got to question the wisdom of sinking billions of dollars into improving commercial ties with Russia when your country's per capita GDP puts you in the bottom quartile of the world.