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Fed Announces Pullback Of Quantitative Easing; Russian Amnesty Bill Rings Hollow For Many; Suspicion Surrounds British Doctor's Death Inside Syrian Jail

Aired December 18, 2013 - 15:00   ET


BECKY ANDERSON, HOST: Tonight, the era of easy money begins to draw to a close. U.S. stock markets rally as Fed chairman Ben Bernancke pulls back on stimulus spending. It's his final act in office and signals the U.S. economic recovery is underway and is sustainable.

Also ahead, amnesty but not for all as Russia moves closer to releasing some prominent political prisoners. We talk to the son of the man who doesn't have his get out of jail card.

And the final (inaudible) of the great train robber. We ask how criminals like Ronnie Biggs capture the public imagination.

ANNOUNCER: Live from CNN London, this is Connect the World with Becky Anderson.

ANDERSON: A very good evening from London.

And we begin with the big news today in the past hour from the Fed. The Dow as we speak is up some 182 points, that's a decent rally, isn't it? That is after the announcement that tapering, as it's known, of the economic stimulus in the U.S. will begin in January. But crucially, it's only a slight pullback with a $10 billion monthly reduction in bond buying.

Believe me, we're going to talk about this, so if you don't understand the terms we'll explain.

The economic stimulus has helped markets soar to record highs this year. Just moments ago, Fed Reserve Chairman Ben Bernancke explained his decision to scale back.


BEN BERNANCKE, FEDERAL RESERVE CHAIRMAN: Today's policy actions reflect the committee's assessment that the economy is continuing to make progress, but that it also has much farther to travel before conditions can be judged normal.

Notably, despite significant fiscal headwinds, the economy has been expanding at a moderate pace and we expect that growth will pick up somewhat in coming quarters, helped by highly accommodative monetary policy and waning fiscal drag.

The job market has continued to improve with the unemployment rate having to climb further. At the same time, the recovery clearly is far from complete.


ANDERSON: Well, let's discuss the significance of what is a very big decision by the U.S. central bank today. We've got the CNN global economic analyst Rana Forhoorhar here. She is also an assistant managing editor of TIME. And Rana, thank you for joining us.

For those who are a little bewildered by what's going on in the States, what has happened over the past, just explain, if you will, in words of one syllable as it were?

RANA FOROOHAR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you can never use words in one syllable in speaking with the Federal Reserve.

Basically there has been for the last several years a massive money dump going on into the U.S. markets. After the financial crisis and the recession, the Federal Reserve became the sort of stimulator of last resort here in the U.S. You know, we did not have a functioning congress. We were not able to put together a stronger program to get bipartisan buy-in and move the economy forward. So the Federal Reserve had to put a lot of money into the markets in order to get things moving again.

And what we've seen over the last few years is that we've been in a bull market in part because of this money dump.

Now there's been a worry over the last few months in particular, and since last summer, when the Fed began talking about tapering back as it has announced today that there would be a market reaction to this, that we would start to see bubbles bursting. And indeed we saw that last summer, the emerging markets had a correction, the commodities markets had a correction. And so the big question has been if the fed pulls back on the money flow, what will happen to the stock markets?

Well, today we've seen a relatively benign result so far. The fed has announced a very gentle tapering of stimulus. So they're going to be spending about $5 billion less a month -- go ahead.

ANDERSON: Sorry, OK, while you're talking -- sorry to interrupt you. As you're talking markets there, let's just bring these markets up and give our viewers a sense of what happened.

There was a significant spike, it's got to be said, on the Dow Jones. The market sort of average to flat before the decision, up about 1.2 percent as we speak. The NASDAQ up about a half of one percent and the S&P up 1 percent.

You've got the NASDAQ here full of tech stocks, of course.

You're making a very good point here. And it was interesting. You know, I've been a business journalist for longer than I care to admit. It's clear the markets have priced in this move at some point. And it was interesting to see they went higher today, because my sense is that they took from this that the economic recovery is on and sustainable, but the fed is still helping out to a certain extent by not tapering too much, right?

FOROOHAR: Oh, absolutely. I mean, what you've seen is really a very mild -- the most mild kind of tapering. So you've gone from the Fed spending $40 billion a month, for example buying mortgage backed securities to spending $35. And you've seen them move from spending $45 billion on long-term Treasury bills to $35 -- to $40 billion.

So, these are mild changes. And I think that's as it should be, because if you look at the economy in the U.S., yes, unemployment is ticking down, yes, GDP growth is going up, but inflation is still relatively low. And as low as it is, that implies weak demand. And so I think the Fed is watching very carefully to make sure that they don't pull back too quickly and derail the recovery.

ANDRESON: Rana, let's have a listen to some of what Ben Bernancke said in the past hour or so. Our viewers heard a little at the beginning of the show.

He also said this, have a listen.


BERNANCKE: Our modest reduction in the pace of asset purchases reflects the committee's belief that progress towards this economic objectives will be sustained. If the incoming data broadly support the committee's outlook for employment and inflation we will likely reduce the pace of securities purchases in further measured steps at future meetings. Of course, continued progress is by no means certain. Consequently, future adjustments to the pace of asset purchases will be deliberate and dependent on incoming information.


ANDERSON: Thank goodness for Rana and Richard Quest, who I am also going to bring in at this stage, because what you listen to the Fed chair and I've been listening for 17 years now, they very rarely make sense to anybody who isn't a regular viewer of these markets.

Rana and Richard with us. Richard, firstly you're response to what we've seen in the past hour or so?

RICHARD QUEST, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It was a case of when -- of if -- I personally didn't think they were going to do it in December, but we knew it was going to be some time in Q1. That was then, this is now.

As Rana just said, a very small but an incredibly symbolic move has been taken.

And I think what's crucial is remembering what you've just heard Ben Bernancke saying. They're doing this because the economy is getting better. It doesn't need quite as much support. And they will continue to taper right the way through 2014 as long as the data supports that action.

The moment there is a feeling that things are getting grim once again, and there's no reason why there should be, then they will stop the tapering.

ANDERSON: To both of you, I just want to get some context -- or set some context here for what's been going on. Let's just have a look at the amount of money the Fed has pumped into the American economy over the past few years, because quite frankly this number is staggering, viewers.

The first round of quantitative easing began in 2008. You're remember why. Markets -- well, they sort of self-combusted, didn't they, with the banking industry and the rest of the economy. With the Fed buying about $1.5 trillion worth of bonds. That was important. It was an experiment they needed to shore things up.

And then in 2010, QE2 totaled just over a half a billion.

The current round of stimulus stand to be the biggest ever. It could have reached $1.6 trillion by early next year. That is a total of $3.8 trillion.

And to give you some context for that, we are looking at a Fed balance sheet, Richard, of a quarter of U.S. GDP, something like the equivalent of the German economy. And while the appetite for debt is now tapering, this was an effort to prop up the U.S. economy. Was it an experiment that was successful or not do you think?

QUEST: I think QE1 was very successful, QE2 has arguably -- the jury is well and truly out. And QE3, there's a lot of people who would say it didn't do that much other than swell the Fed's balance sheet. It was eight, six -- $700 billion to start with. It's $4 trillion now. It'll never really go back to those low point days. And the core question is, even once they've stopped tapering, how you get rid of that $4 trillion? Do you just run it down? Do you start to sell it back into the market. You've got to be very careful, because the U.S. government still has a financing requirement. And you can't just suddenly dump all that stuff back in the market.

Was QE successful? The core question. The Fed looked into this. They did a study on it. Ben Bernancke has said that you can pretty much say in those early days of the QE era, it added about 1 to 1.5 percent of GDP growth. Without that, the U.S. economy would have been in a much pallor state.

ANDERSON: Rana, the argument is, though, that there have been a lot of, for example, companies and stocks that have been propped up that might otherwise simply not have been still with us for all the right or wrong reasons, because of this injection into the markets, this injection of liquidity.

Is the likely final acts of Ben Bernancke as he gets set to hand over the reigns at the Fed is what we've just seen. Little doubt it wasn't an easy job. But a successful tenure, Rana, do you think?

FOROOHAR: Yes, I think so.

And just to follow on from what Richard said, in the early days I think that there was no doubt that QE had a profound effect both on the markets and also on the recovery. But I think that as you've seen more and more rounds of it the question has begun to emerge who is this really helping? So in the U.S., for example, most stocks are owned by the wealthiest quarter of the population. So if you're fairly wealthy already, you were feeling a bump up certainly in the last year from the amazing marker run we've had. Everyone else, not so much. And I think that there was that concern of we're risking these markup bubbles and at the same time we're making the rich, richer. Is this really helping the underlying economy at this point?

ANDERSON: To both of you for making a very complicated story digestible for our viewers around the world -- I put myself in their shoes as well -- we thank you very much indeed for joining us.

It doesn't matter how many years you study these markets, it is at times a very confusing story. So I hope it's a little clearer for you this evening.

Still to come, the mystery of the British doctor who Syrian authorities say committed suicide in a Syrian jail just days before he was due to be released.

Also this hour, an arrest in New York triggers anger in India. We're going to have the latest on the growing diplomatic spat.

And it was one of the most famous heists of the 20th Century. We're going to hear the story of the man at the center of the great train robbery.

That and much more after this.


ANDERSON: This is CNN. You're watching Connect the World. It is just about a quarter past 8:00 in London.

Now the United Nations is expressing great concern over recent violence in South Sudan as the U.S. embassy there begins the evacuations of nonessential staff. About 500 people have died in three days of unrest.

Jonathan Mann with the latest for you.


JONATHAN MANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: South Sudan's capital city still reeling from days of violence. Hundreds of people have been killed in what the United Nations fears is fighting between rival factions. 15,000 to 20,000 more people have taken shelter at UN compounds in Juba to escape the violence.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The soldiers go into houses, hey take out people from their home and kill them.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Before this, I had hope in my country and naturally now I have lost hope. And also because my people are killing themselves.

MANN: Deadly clashes broke out Sunday. The country's president Salva Kiir later accused his rival of staging a coup. That man, former vice president Riek Machar, seen here in file video, denies those claims in recent interviews. He's now wanted and on the run.

On Tuesday, a government minister urged the crowd at one of the compounds to return home, telling them the fighting was over. But a UN official says that's not the case.

JOSEPH CONTRERAS, UN ACTING SPOKESPERSON ON SOUTH SUDAN: I am not in a position to really characterize the political situation here, but the crisis is not over. It's a very, very fluid situation. So I don't think the country is out of the woods yet.

MANN: UN officials are expressing concern saying the fighting appears to be along ethnic lines. While traveling in the Philippines, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry called for calm.

JOHN KERRY, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: Political differences need to be resolved by peaceful and democratic means. And those have been hard fought for. The government should respect the rule of law. And the people of South Sudan should be able to realize their full potential in peace.

MANN: But there are growing fears that Africa's newest nation could be sliding back into its violent past.

Jonathan Mann, CNN.


ANDERSON: Well, Egypt's interim government is intensifying its case against the deposed President Mohammed Morsy. State run media say that he and other Muslim Brotherhood leaders face new charges with collaborating with Hamas and other foreign groups to commit terrorist acts. They are also accused of revealing defense secrets. Now if convicted, they could face the death penalty.

Morsy already on trial for allegedly inciting deadly violence against protesters last year. He has refused to recognize the court.

Relatives of a British doctor found dead in a Syrian prison are outraged that his case has been officially termed a suicide. They say Syrian authorities have now agreed to allow them to send their own team of doctors to investigate.

Atika Shubert with more.


ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Dr. Abbas Khan was just days away from seeing his children after more than 13 months imprisoned in Damascus. But when his mother went to see him on Monday, she was told he was dead: suicide. Officials said that he hanged himself with his pajamas. His family says it was murder. His brother spoke to us from Beirut.

DR. AFROZE KHAN, BROTHER OF BRITISH DOCTOR: He was looking forward to meeting his children and his wife and his family. He was planning to -- you know, planning on doing things with his family. It -- it beggars belief that a man in that situation would suddenly, three days before release, want to take his own life.

SHUBERT: The Syrian government insists an autopsy shows he hung himself and has offered the family to send its own doctors to verify the cause of death. But his family rejects the idea.

KHAN: They know full well that no British team of doctors will ever travel to Damascus to conduct an autopsy in a foreign land in a foreign hospital. That would never, ever happen. We have no intention of doing any such autopsy with a foreign team.

SHUBERT: The family showed CNN copies of these handwritten letters from Dr. Khan. Dated December 4, he wrote to his six-year-old daughter, "I will soon come home and give you a big hug and kiss." He also wrote, "I think the decision to release me has been taken, just some formalities remaining, shallah (ph)."

Last year, Dr. Khan, an orthopedic surgeon went to Syria to volunteer at a hospital in Aleppo. He stepped out for a walk. And hospital staff say he disappeared, captured by regime forces.

He was accused of providing medical aid in a rebel held area, classified as an act of terrorism.

His mother traveled to Damascus and found him in prison. He weighed 32 kilos, or just 70 pounds and was barely able to walk.

He gave her this letter pleading the British government to help broker his release saying he had been tortured in prison, forced to witness as men were beaten and women were raped. He also wrote that he was forced to beat other prisoners.

The appeal seemed to work. The Syrian government ordered him to be released this week.

KHAN: We were promised after 13 months that my brother would come home, that he would meet us again, and to be then told that he was -- he has died in such suspicious circumstances -- we are a destroyed family. We have no words to describe the anguish that we are going through at the moment.

SHUBERT: These happy scenes are now only a memory. And his shattered family wants to know exactly what happened and why their hopes to see him again were so brutally crushed.

Atika Shubert, CNN, London.


ANDERSON: Well, the lead singer of the British rock group Lostprophets has been given a 35 year sentence for child abuse. Ian Watkins will spent 29 years in prison followed by six under police supervision. He pleaded guilty to 13 counts, including the attempted rape of a baby. Well, police are now investigating if Watkins also has victims in the United States and in Germany.

Live from London, this is Connect the World. Coming up, Russia announces a prisoner amnesty, but some say it's too late and doesn't go far enough.

Also ahead, why this diplomat's arrest in New York has triggered an international outcry. The details after this.


ANDERSON: Dozens of prisoners set to be released as part of an amnesty in Russia. The move marking the 10 year anniversary of the adoption of Russia's post-Communist constitution. The legislation is due to take effect on Thursday.

Now the state run news agency RIA Novosti says some of those freed could include members of the subversive punk band Pussy Riot. But a husband of one of the women held since last year says the law makes little difference to them.


PETER VERZILOV, HUSBAND OF JAILED PUSSY RIOT MEMBER (through translator): The girls basically have two months left in jail out of two years. So getting this sort of a little discount at the end of your term doesn't make much difference. So this amnesty didn't really help them. And besides, they are also not very happy about the fact that the final version of the bill is not as wide as it was proposed by human rights activists. It has been cut. Many categories of people who everyone hoped would be included, didn't make it there.


ANDERSON: I'm going to discuss that shortly.

Firstly, who is likely to benefit from the amnesty. Well, as I said the remaining members of the punk band Pussy Riot could be freed. They were found guilty of hooliganism and imprisoned over an anti-Putin protest, you'll remember, in a Moscow cathedral last year.

The Arctic 30 could also be home for Christmas. They were arrested in a Greenpeace protest against Arctic oil drilling in September. Most are currently on bail in Russia.

Amongst those not likely to be helped by the law are Alexei Navalny. Earlier this year, the Putin critic received a five year suspended sentence for embezzlement and is currently barred from running for office. And the oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky is likely also to stay inside. He's serving sentences for embezzlement and fraud.

Both those characters, Navalny and Khodorkovsky, say their trials and sentences are politically motivated.

Well, Mr. Khodorkovsky has been held since he was arrested in 2003. His son Pavel hasn't returned to Russia since his father's arrest for fear that he, too, may be targeted. He joins me now live from New York.

Was there ever a point at which you thought if this amnesty were to be affected that it would be extended to your father?

PAVEL KHODORKOVSKY, MIKHAIL KHODORKOVSKY'S SON: No, I don't think this was ever in the cards. I think this is frankly a face-saving technique for the Russia government ahead of the Olympics. And my father is not to be shown any leniency.

ANDERSON: Amnesty International certainly says that this law is no substitute for, and I quote, effective justice in Russia. Your thoughts?

KHODORKOVSKY: I think it's a very easy way out for the Russian government, because as you've mentioned Greenpeace activists and the Pussy Riot band members will get an early release or will never face court sentences.

ANDERSON: It's clear that if he were veering on the side of the Russian authorities you could possibly produce a sort of, you know, evidence that the Pussy Riot and the Greenpeace members who have been detained were detained for political reasons. Your father and Navalny detained on charges of, for example, embezzlement. It would have taken quite an extension of this amnesty, wouldn't it, to have gone that far?

KHODORKOVSKY: Well, for one, my father and I were very happy for at least those people that will be affected and will be released. Of course it's not as wide -- not nearly as wide as originally intended. There are only about a couple of thousand people that will actually get released as a result of this amnesty. And that does not include many people that were not convicted for crimes.

ANDERSON: Yeah. And it's clear that there's not an awful lot of sympathy nor support from many quarters for this legislation. There will be support, I'm sure, for those who are supporters of the Russian authorities at present.

Where does your father stand at this point? Remind us?

KHODORKOVSKY: My father is due to be released in August of 2014. So we remain hopeful that the Russian government will honor its commitment to release him then.

ANDERSON: And have you been advised in any way that they wouldn't honor that agreement?

KHODORKOVSKY: There is always in the absence of the rule of law as such in Russia, there is always a possibility that something else would come up. But as this amnesty shows, the Russian government is actually sensitive to international pressure. This -- I see it as clear reaction to the fact that there has been international pressure after the Greenpeace activists have been in court.

ANDERSON: Which it has to be said, given the Russian government's reluctance to be pressured on anything so far as international relations are concerned, is this -- it's sort of (inaudible) isn't it, on their part?

KHODORKOVSKY: Well, I think that the stakes are very high. In February of next year, the Sochi Olympic Games will draw a lot of international attention. And it's in the Russian government's best interest not to have anything jeopardize this positive momentum for them.

ANDERSON: Pavel, it's always a pleasure to speak to you. We will continue to talk until a point at which your father is released. Thank you.

Pavel Khodorkovsky.


ANDERSON: Well, the latest news out of Russia today.

The latest world news headlines are just ahead. Plus, anger in India after a diplomat arrest in New York. We take a closer look at the legal implications of diplomatic immunity.

It's the end of the line for legendary train robber Ronnie Biggs. But what is it about criminal characters like him that fascinates us so much? We're going to discuss that a little later in the show.

And dancing their way to box office domination. You're going to hear how Bollywood beats Hollywood in global popularity.


ANDERSON: This is CONNECT THE WORLD, the top stories on CNN this hour. US stocks on the up. Had a bit of a push earlier across the board. In the end, after the Fed announced it will begin a slight pullback in its economic stimulus program. Beginning in January, it will by $75 billion in bonds each month, down from $85 billion. The Fed also promised to keep interest rates exceptionally low.

Around 500 people have been killed and hundreds more have been wounded in violence in South Sudan. The UN fears the fighting is being fueled by ethnic tension. The government there says it is politically motivated. Well, so far, between 15,000 and 20,000 people have fled the fighting, taking refuge at the United Nations bases in Juba.

Demonstrations continue in Ukraine, despite Russia's offer of a massive loan and discount gas prices. Pro-EU protesters remain in the streets of Kiev, saying they're suspicious of President Vladimir Putin's true intentions in offering the bailout.

And the NSA's bulk collection of data is likely to continue, but under tighter constraints, according to senior administration officials. Reform recommendations also include greater transparency. US president Barack Obama due to lay out the reforms in January.

Well, US Secretary of State John Kerry is expressing regret over a diplomatic spat that is raising tensions from New York to New Delhi. It all began when US officials arrested an Indian deputy consul general for visa fraud.

Now, Devyani Khobragade was detained and then strip-searched. She's accused of falsifying documents to obtain a work visa for her female housekeeper. Well, it's also alleged that Khobragade paid the woman far below the minimum wage.

While her lawyer says she's entitled to diplomatic immunity, the State Department says that immunity doesn't cover this type of crime. Meanwhile, Indian officials are reacting with concern.


SALMAN KHURSHID, INDIAN FOREIGN MINISTER: The manner in which the facts have been described to me would give me a choice between choosing it to be a conspiracy or choosing it to be an irrational behavior. So, whichever label you want to choose, but it is something that in normal course one would not expect with a country that is wedded to rule of law and wedded to democracy.


ANDERSON: There's been widespread anger in India over her treatment while in custody, while there's protest in the streets. Mallika Kapur with the latest on the diplomatic retaliations.


MALLIKA KAPUR, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: India is still seething at the treatment giving to Devyani Khobragade, one of its diplomats in New York. The Indian prime minister called it "deplorable." India says its priority is to bring her back to India and will do whatever possible to make that happen.

As a first step, it's moved her to the permanent mission of India at the United Nations, where they hope she'll be given full diplomatic immunity. At the consulate where she worked, she only had limited immunity. By getting greater immunity, Indian officials hope she will not be arrested again, preventing any further humiliation or embarrassment.

Meanwhile, authorities here in India have retaliated by asking staff members at US consulates to give up their identity passes, essentially stripping them of certain diplomatic privileges, like access to airports.

They've also removed concrete barriers that were placed right here outside the gates of the US embassy, with local officials saying that they had been placed here more as a gesture of courtesy to the US embassy and that it was never a diplomatic requirement.

India, however, insists it is not scaling back security when it comes to any US diplomats and India and that they remain as safe as ever.

Mallika Kapur, CNN, New Delhi.


ANDERSON: For more on the -- US response, or the entire story, I'm joined by CNN's World Affairs reporter, Elise Labott. An interesting response from the Indian government there, Mallika reporting on. Just get us the details so far as the State Department is concerned about what happened and what happens next.

ELISE LABOTT, CNN WORD AFFAIRS REPORTER: Well, basically, she was arrested, Becky, because she broke the law. She said on her visa form that she was paying this nanny minimum wage. It turned out she was paying her about $3 an hour. So, diplomatic security arrested her.

What happened next is they handed it over to US marshals and they treated her like they would treat any common criminal on the street. They strip-searched her, they threw her in a cell with drug addicts and other dangerous criminals.

And I think this is where the Indian government had so much outrage. You could see the cultural sensitivity. In India, women are screened privately in a private room in airports and other places, and so they say a diplomat should not have been treated this way.

And I think now the State Department agrees that while she -- she did break the law and should be arrested, maybe she should have been afforded some more courtesies. Take a listen to Deputy Spokesman Marie Harf referring to this at a State Department briefing just earlier.


MARIE HARF, SPOKESWOMAN, US STATE DEPARTMENT: As a father of two daughters about the same age, the secretary emphasizes with the sensitivities we are hearing from India about the events that unfolded after the arrest.

And in his conversation with National Security Advisor Menon, he expressed his regret as well as his concern that we not allow this unfortunate public incident to hurt our close and vital relationship with India.


LABOTT: So, regret that it happened the way it did, Becky, and also regret about this diplomatic tit for tat. The State Department is very upset about some of these reciprocal measures that the Indians are taking, particularly about these security barriers that they removed at the embassy.

ANDERSON: Sure. There is a difference between diplomatic and consular immunity. I was going to delineate that for our viewers, but actually, I think at this stage, let's not do that.

Because I'm fascinated, finally, to get your take on whether you think or expect the US government in any way to respond to the root of this case, which was the maid had gone to the police and brought a case against her employer for paying her less -- much less than the minimum wage and having her work sort of slave-like hours, alleged slave-like hours.

Now, whilst the secretary of state has voiced his regret about the treatment of this consular employee, should we expect any regret or further investigation into what actually happened to the poor alleged worker at this point?

LABOTT: Well, that's why the whole thing about immunity is important, because what she did was not in the course of her official duties, it was outside that, and she broke the law. And this is like the dirty secret -- dirty little secret in Washington, Becky, about how these diplomats, a lot of them, treat their domestic workers.

I'm not going to say it's all diplomats, because I know a lot of diplomats in Washington that treat their help like family. But for just as many that do, there are just as many others that treat them terribly, they take their passports, they sometimes don't let them leave the house, they pay them slave wages sometimes.

And in Washington, there's kind of delineation sometimes. They say, oh, well, she just treated the maid badly. But this is a subject, I think, that is growing -- getting more attention. This is the second case related to an Indian diplomat in this year in New York, and there have been other cases this year about Saudi diplomats, how they're treating their maids and such.

And so I think that this -- because of what happened, I think that this is an issue -- I don't think she's going to get off scott-free. I think there might be a little bit of leniency here. But I do think the case will go forward.

ANDERSON: Yes, interesting. All right, Elise, always a pleasure, thank you.

We want to know what you think about what is this growing spat -- diplomatic spat, of course -- between the US and India. is how you can have your say. You can also tweet me @BeckyCNN, you know that, @BeckyCNN. Instagram is also available to you. How modern we are. Becky and CNN is how you can search for us on that.

Now, live from London, you're watching CONNECT THE WORLD. He was a menace, he was a legend, and his crime was notorious. A look back on the dramatic life of the Great Train Robber.

And a very different kind of fame for these two Bollywood actors, but they too have a huge global following. My interview with them after this.





ANDERSON: Well, he was known as the Great Train Robber. Ronnie Biggs, famous for his part in one of the most audacious crimes of the last century, has died at the age of 84. He was a hero to some, a villain to many others. Nic Robertson takes a look back on what was certainly a colorful life.


NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A small-time criminal, Ronnie Biggs, hit the big time in 1963, robbing a British mail train of more than $4 million. That's about $65 million in today's money. Dubbed the Great Train Robbery, it shocked the nation, the biggest heist in British history.

NEIL SILVER, AUTHOR, "BIGGS TIME": They sort of became, in a way, loveable rogues. Of course, they weren't loveable because they were criminals. But the whole nature of the crime, embarrassing a government, was taken upon by the public. And I think therefore the perception was not that it was a horrendous crime.

ROBERTSON: But by the standards of the day, it was.

JACK MILLS, TRAIN DRIVER: The next thing I remember, I was on my knees on the floor.

ROBERTSON: Train driver Jack Mills was beaten with an iron bar and never fully recovered. Biggs was just one of 15 thieves. Only nine were caught, Biggs among them. He was sentenced to 30 years in jail.

A little more than a year later, he broke out of prison in a removal van. Infamy had arrived. His name would forever be the first associated with the robbery, Ronnie Biggs, the Great Train Robber.

For the next three and a half decades, he would be on the run, to France for plastic surgery, Australia to Brazil. Rio de Janeiro was to become his home for 30 years.

Notoriety brought with it some odd alliances, even recording a song with members of the famous punk band the Sex Pistols. In Rio, he lived a champagne lifestyle, marrying a local barmaid, with whom he had a son, a relationship he successfully used to fight extradition.

RONNIE BIGGS,THE "GREAT TRAIN ROBBER": Fundamentally, I'm a good guy.

UNIDENTIFIED CORRESPONDENT: You're a good guy, even though you admit to being a train robber?

BIGGS: Yes, but that was a long time ago when I was not such a good guy.

ROBERTSON: Eventually, following several strokes, his health began to fail. He agreed in 2001 to fly back to Britain, ending half a lifetime on the run.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was quite emotional, very emotional flight. And he -- I've got to say, he's an irrepressible humor.

ROBERTSON: The celebrations were short-lived. Biggs was taken directly to the high-security Belmarsh Prison. He had 28 years left to serve. His health got worse, and in 2009, he was released. But despite more strokes, Biggs published his memoirs in 2011.

Two years later, at the funeral of another Great Train Robber, he appeared frail, but as irrepressible and irreverent as ever, waving two fingers at photographers. His name, forever linked with the Great Train Robbery, Ronnie Biggs, a criminal and a loved rouge to some, is dead.


ANDERSON: Well, Biggs isn't the only criminal that has left a long- lasting impression on many people. Nearly 80 years after their deaths, Bonnie and Clyde continue to fascinate, don't they? The pair killed 13 people during their crime spree across the United States. Their life was like the plot of a movie, and in 1967, that is, of course, exactly what it became.

That's Ronnie Kray on the right of this picture, one half of London gangsters the Kray Brothers. The high-profile pair reigned over London's underworld in the 1960s before being jailed for murder in 1969.

And fedora-wearing Scarface Al Capone still holds cult appeal. The mobster achieved movie star status in the 1920s Chicago with hundreds turning up to catch a glimpse of him in court as he was put away for tax evasion.

Finally, the ultimate impostor, Frank Abagnale, I think that's how you pronounce his name. From forging checks to posing as a Pan Am pilot, his antics were the subject of the 2002 film "Catch Me if You Can," not a film I saw myself. You can see him here with director Steven Spielberg and leading man Leonardo DiCaprio.

My next guest, then, has written a book about -- going back to the original story here -- the Great Train Robbery, which he calls the crime of the century. He met most of the members of the infamous gang in the process, although he actually didn't meet Biggs himself. Author Nick Russell-Paviar is with me here in the studio.

There is something -- it's odd, isn't it? Why is it that men who commit such crimes become sort of -- in this kind of very sentimental way, these heroes for many people?

NICK RUSSELL-PAVIAR, AUTHOR, "THE GREAT TRAIN ROBBERY": Yes, well we have a very sort of schizophrenic relationship with wrongdoing generally and crime in particular. Obviously, without some sort of moral code, society disintegrates.

And if somebody broke into our house and nicked our computer or whatever, we'd be distraught. And if somebody hit one of our relations over the head with an iron bar, we really would be extremely upset about that.

But when it comes to people who bend the rules or don't play by the rules, we have this sort of sneaking admiration for them.

ANDERSON: You have described this as one of the nastiest crimes ever. How did -- when you interviewed the other members of the gang who were put away, how did they describe Biggs's persona?

RUSSELL-PAVIAR: Well, I think amongst the sort of criminal fraternity, he was a fairly sort of amiable, easy-going kind of character, fitted in, did what was required of him, didn't rock the boat and everything. When he was recruited for this, it was simply because he was painting the house of the train driver at the time and just so happened that they were after a train driver.

The train driver he brought along couldn't actually drive the train, so he -- the train driver and Biggs sat in the Landrover while the raid took place. So his role in the Great Train Robbery, the raid, was a disaster. But of course, his role in promoting and keeping this thing alive over 50 years, without him, we probably wouldn't be talking about it.

ANDERSON: Committing a criminal act, yet becoming a bit of a legend, taunting the authorities in his decade on the run. As much as there are members of the general public who sort of bought into this kind of -- slightly romanticized tale, you got the impression that the authorities did to a certain extent, too.

You heard one of the guys who brought him back on the plane talking about it being quite an emotional and sort of jolly trip back. I find that quite remarkable, don't you?

RUSSELL-PAVIAR: I really do, yes. I mean, it's --


ANDERSON: I'd forgotten -- I mean, I remember it at the time, but I'd forgotten.

RUSSELL-PAVIAR: No, I think everybody sort of got rather hypnotized by the folklore. And in fact, talking to Bruce Reynolds, who died earlier this year, but talking to him quite a lot when I was researching the book, he was saying he himself has become hypnotized by the mythology.

And he finds it sometimes -- or he found it sometimes difficult to remember what actually happened and what he'd sort of read about or what had kind of evolved over the years and became what he called the product. And it has become this sort of mythological product.

And I think people like Biggs and all these people who sort of took part in it, Jack Slipper, who was one of the guys who went to arrest Ronnie Biggs, they became mesmerized by the folklore more than they did by the reality of the thing. And it's a really strange thing the way it kind of took on this mythological status.

ANDERSON: Fascinating stuff, we thank you very much, indeed, for joining us. Amazing, isn't it? You can check out what is a great picture gallery on the web,, some pictures there of the infamous Ronnie Biggs.

Coming up on CONNECT THE WORLD, Bollywood royalty and huge stars of Indian cinema talking me through these dance moves.

Another day, another public spectacle. Toronto mayor Rob Ford back in the spotlight. You're going to get this full performance after this. Let me tell you, it's well worth it.


ANDERSON: Well, they are two of Bollywood's biggest stars with a global following of tens of millions, let me tell you. Kareena Kapoor and Imran Khan star in a new film, "Gori Tere Pyaar Mein." I sat down with them to discuss that movie, and I began by asking Kareena why dancing -- which we always see in these Bollywood movies, don't we? -- is so important to the industry. This is what she said.



ANDERSON: There were some great songs in this movie.

KAREENA KAPOOR, ACTRESS, "GORI TERE PAYAAR MEIN": Yes. This song is Imran's favorite, I think.

IMRAN KAHN, ACTOR, "GORE TERE PAYAAR MEIN": This is my favorite, yes.

KAPOOR: Because he just danced really well in the song.


ANDERSON: Listen, Imran, you play a really despicable character in this movie. I've got to say, nobody's going to like you in this until, possibly, the end.

KHAN: I do --


ANDERSON: Spoiler alert.

KHAN: Yes.


ANDERSON: Tell me about your character.

KAHN: He's kind of an aimless, directionless guy. He's the kind of guy that most people will be able to relate to. He's very shallow, doesn't really care about anything, anyone other than himself. He's a bit of a party boy, wants to hook up with girls. And story's about how he grows up a little bit, becomes a better person.

ANDERSON: Because he meets your character.


ANDERSON: Who is who?

KAPOOR: I play a social activist in the film, someone who's very determined, who has a goal. She kind of thinks cleaning up the entire nation is her responsibility which -- I mean, that's mad. You can't have that. You can't do possibly do that in India. But she has that. She has that destiny, all that energy.

ANDERSON: There will be much talk about the influence that Indian film has on society and culture. Do you think there is a responsibility by the film industry, given the sort of scenes -- gang rapes and various other sort of news stories that have been prevalent this year?

KAPOOR: I think -- I firmly believe that we're an entertainment industry. We come up with different kinds of stories. Personally, we're socially responsible as people, as citizens of our country. But as an actor on screen, we're doing our job of playing differing parts.

And the Bollywood industry has always been a soft target, a super star is always a soft target to kind of say that, OK, so and so did an item song, or there was too much showing, so it's because of that. We don't want to do any target the real issue, which is the fact that we need to educate the people of our country.

ANDERSON: But if you can help, then you surely should.

KAPOOR: In a personal way as a citizen, if we can. The laws need to be reevaluated.

KHAN: The problem is one of education. It is one of teaching people that a woman is not inferior, which is generally the accepted view.

ANDERSON: You can't just kind of take Bollywood out of the picture when you know it has an influence.

KHAN: You do reach a point where you -- where people will disconnect if you are preaching to them. People come in, they want movies to be escapism. In India, particularly.


ANDERSON: Still, this sense of Hollywood runs the film industry and Bollywood comes next. Just explain to me where you think Bollywood is these days.

KHAN: Hollywood, of course, is much more prominent, and that largely comes down to ticket prices. The fact is that Bollywood is a bigger industry. Interesting statistic we actually found out yesterday, 2.7 billion people watch Bollywood films every year.

ANDERSON: 2.7 billion?

KHAN: That's right.

ANDERSON: That's amazing.

KHAN: So, it is a much larger number of people watching our films than there are watching Hollywood films, but our ticket prices are ridiculously low. Something -- less than a pound per ticket.


ANDERSON: Just walk me through some of those moves. How fit do you need to be --


ANDERSON: -- to hold it together. Oh, come on, you've got to be exhausted.

KAPOOR: I think dancing is fun. You have to really enjoy it. And the kind of dancing we've shown in this film is not really the choreographed kind of dancing. It's just kind of like you're dancing at a wedding. In every Indian wedding, everyone is kind of freaking out, and that's what we've shown in this movie.



ANDERSON: Oh, that is a tremendous movie. I wager that there's a lot more tickets being sold to that movie since we did the interview a week or so ago.

Now, Toronto's unfortunate mayor seems to be trying to dance his troubles way. Despite publicly admitting to having smoked crack, he seems to be keeping a spring in his step. Rob Ford and other city officials break the boogie on the council floor. Tuesday, a local jazz trio played Christmas carol blues and one love.

"The Toronto Sun" says the dance-off happened moments after Ford had an angry spat with the same city councilor he almost knocked over last month.




ANDERSON: You couldn't make it out, could you? I'm Becky Anderson, that was CONNECT THE WORLD. Thank you for watching.