Friday, 21 July 2017
Business and Economy

Business and Economy (654)

More than 20% of the Democratic Republic of Congo's mining revenue is being lost due to corruption and mismanagement, a campaign group says.

According to a Global Witness report, the money is being distributed through corrupt networks linked to President Joseph Kabila.

At least $750m (£580m) has gone missing over the past three years, it says.

The government has not commented but has previously denied allegations of corruption in its mining sector. 

DR Congo is Africa's biggest producer of copper and the world's largest supplier of cobalt used in batteries for electric cars.

It is also rich in gold, diamonds and coltan, used in mobile phones, but its people remain among the poorest in the world following years of conflict and mismanagement.

"Congo's mining revenues should be helping to lift its people out of poverty," says Pete Jones, a Global Witness senior campaigner.

According to the report, much of DR Congo's mining revenue goes missing after being paid to the state-owned mining company, Gécamines.

The head of Gécamines, a close ally of President Kabila, has denied allegations of corruption and insisted the company is transparent.

Posted On Friday, 21 July 2017 13:06 Written by

Six teenagers from Burundi taking part in a robotics competition in the US have been reported missing, police say.

Four boys and two girls - aged from 16 to 18 - disappeared during the First Global Challenge tournament in Washington DC.

The DC Police Department says they were last seen on Tuesday - on the closing day of the competition.

Reports say two of the teenagers have since crossed into Canada but this has not been confirmed by the police.

On Thursday, the DC Police Department posted fliers of the missing group on its Twitter page, asking members of the public to get in touch if they had any information.

The teenagers were identified as Don Ingabire, 16, Kevin Sabumukiza, 17, Nice Munezero, 17, Audrey Mwamikazi, 17, Richard Irakoze, 18, and Aristide Irambona, 18.

Competition organisers say they alerted police after Burundi's team supervisor was unable to find the teenagers.

In a statement, First Global Challenge spokesman Jose Escotto said "the proper reports have been submitted to the police who are investigating the case", according to the Washington Post.

The three-day robotics competition saw teams from 150 nations compete against each other.

The event aims to inspire young people to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and maths.

However, it made the news earlier this month after a team of girls from Afghanistan were initially not allowed to attend the competition because of visa problems.

But US President Donald Trump stepped in at the last minute and the girls were able to travel to the US and participate.

The Afghan team later won a silver medal for courageous achievement, which was awarded to teams "that exhibit a can-do attitude throughout the challenge, even under difficult circumstances, or when things do not go as planned".

Posted On Friday, 21 July 2017 02:42 Written by

Last year an in-depth investigation by Bloomberg business news revealed that Congolese President Joseph Kabila’s family have a network of business interests in the country including stakes in Congo’s biggest mobile-phone company and one of its largest banks.

“The sprawling network may help explain why the president is ignoring pleas” to hand over power, the site said at the time.

Seven months on and Mr Kabila has still not relinquished power even though his constitutionally-limited time in office has come to an end.

This time Bloomberg has turned its attention to the president's brother, Zoe, who is a member of parliament.

It has found that over the past seven years, the Canadian company Ivanhoe Mines has sold five mining licenses to Zoe’s companies.

Bloomberg points out that none of the companies have been accused of wrongdoing and it is not illegal to do business with a sitting member of parliament.

Still, it says, the Kabilas’ commercial interests extend across the economy making it difficult for corporations to operate without coming into contact with a company that has ties to a member of the ruling family.

Posted On Wednesday, 19 July 2017 01:22 Written by

Over the past few weeks, crowd-control vehicles, guns and tear gas have been shipped into Kenya, reports Kenya's Standard newspaper.

This comes ahead of the general election on 8 August.

The newspaper reports at least a dozen new South Korean-made riot control vehicles arrived in Nairobi at the weekend.

It also says anti-riot gear including teargas canisters, batons, anti-riot wear and guns came through Mombasa port.

The newspaper adds that this "points to an assessment by the security forces that there could be violence after the announcement of the results".

Every week until the election the BBC's Dickens Olewe is taking an in-depth look at an aspect of the vote.

Posted On Wednesday, 19 July 2017 01:15 Written by

Seven lawmakers on trial for ‘money laundering’

Eighteen senators are under investigation by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for alleged N367.5billion fraud, it was learnt yesterday.

Seven are on trial. Some of the cases date back to 10 years.

A senator is being investigated for alleged stamp duty infractions.

One or two Senators (outside the list) are under investigation for their alleged involvement in the N19billion and $86million London-Paris Club refund in which seven governors have been implicated.

The Nation stumbled on a fact-sheet which indicates that 11 of the senators under investigation are from the North. The others are from the South.

Those facing trial include two from Northcentral, three from Northwest, one from Northeast and one from Southeast.

Those being investigated cut across the six-geopolitical zones.

Most of the N367.5billion alleged fraud border on money laundering, misappropriation, unexecuted contracts, diversion of public funds to campaigns, and others.

In one of the cases, a senator is being probed for alleged diversion of about N108billion while he was a governor in one of the states in the South-South.

A senator allegedly embezzled about N47billion when he was a governor. Investigators believe he was aided by his wife and son.

A senator is standing trial for alleged mismanagement of N1.2billion ecological funds; another allegedly diverted to other uses N1billion meant for the repair of a collapsed dam.

The other strands of the fraud include laundering of N40billion by a senator from the North-East; diversion of N3billion to the campaign by a North-West Senator; 149-count charge of mismanagement of N15billion by a senator from the North-Central and the arraignment of a North-West senator for allegedly N52billion fraud.

There are N9billion case involving a senator from the South-East; N2.1billion contract fraud by a member of the Upper Chamber from the South-South; N10.2billion fraud traced to a senator from the North-West and N2billion diverted funds credited to a senator from the North-Central.

Two aides of a senator, who is being probed for alleged illegal deduction of N3.5billion from the London-Paris Club refund have been quizzed.

Three new senators from the North-Central, South-East and South-West have been under investigation for some infractions, including alleged Stamp Duty collection fraud.

An EFCC source, who spoke in confidence, said: “The case files of all these 18 senators are already with us. Seven of them are already on trial.

“But, certainly, 11 others will be prosecuted at the appropriate time. It may interest you that some agencies in a few international jurisdictions are interested in some of the cases against some of these senators.

“It might also interest you that some of these cases predated the appointment of the present Acting Chairman of EFCC, Mr. Ibrahim Magu. But since continuity is a cardinal principle of the EFCC, Magu has decided to ensure that the matters in court are pursued to logical conclusion. There is also no waiver for all cases undergoing investigation.”

In response to a question, the source added: “Magu has no personal problem with any senator. He inherited most of these cases.”

Meanwhile, it was learnt that some of the senators have also made a “strong case for the discontinuation of either their investigation or prosecution by the EFCC as part of the conditions for supporting  Magu.

“In one of the lobbying sessions, a senator from the North-East said he committed no crime to have been subjected to trial by the EFCC.

“Although a Senator from the North-Central was aggrieved, he was reported to have said: ‘I won’t block the nomination of Magu because he is probing me. I have forgiven him. But I know I did not commit any fraud and I will be vindicated in the end.”

Posted On Tuesday, 18 July 2017 22:47 Written by

Seven lawmakers on trial for ‘money laundering’

Eighteen senators are under investigation by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for alleged N367.5billion fraud, it was learnt yesterday.

Seven are on trial. Some of the cases date back to 10 years.

A senator is being investigated for alleged stamp duty infractions.

One or two senators (outside the list) are under investigation for their alleged involvement in the N19billion and $86million London-Paris Club refund in which seven governors have been implicated.

The Nation stumbled on a fact-sheet which indicates that 11 of the senators under investigation are from the North. The others are from the South.

Those facing trial include two from Northcentral, three from Northwest, one from Northeast and one from Southeast.

Those being investigated cut across the six-geopolitical zones.

Most of the N367.5billion alleged fraud border on money laundering, misappropriation, unexecuted contracts, diversion of public funds to campaigns, and others.

In one of the cases, a senator is being probed for alleged diversion of about N108billion while he was a governor in one of the states in the South-South.

A senator allegedly embezzled about N47billion when he was a governor. Investigators believe he was aided by his wife and son.

A senator is standing trial for alleged mismanagement of N1.2billion ecological funds; another allegedly diverted to other uses N1billion meant for the repair of a collapsed dam.

The other strands of the fraud include laundering of N40billion by a senator from the North-East; diversion of N3billion to campaign by a North-West senator; 149-count charge of mismanagement of N15billion by a senator from the North-Central and the arraignment of a North-West senator for allegedly N52billion fraud.

There are  N9billion case involving a senator from the South-East; N2.1billion contract fraud by a member of the Upper Chamber from the South-South; N10.2billion fraud traced to a senator from the North-West and N2billion diverted funds credited to a senator from the North-Central.

Two aides of a senator, who is being probed for alleged illegal deduction of N3.5billion from the London-Paris Club refund have been quizzed.

Three new senators from the North-Central, South-East and South-West have been under investigation for some infractions, including alleged Stamp Duty collection fraud.

An EFCC source, who spoke in confidence, said: “The case files of all these 18 senators are already with us. Seven of them are already on trial.

“But, certainly, 11 others will be prosecuted at the appropriate time. It may interest you that some agencies in a few international jurisdictions are interested in some of the cases against some of these senators.

“It might also interest you that some of these cases predated the appointment of the present Acting Chairman of EFCC, Mr. Ibrahim Magu. But since continuity is a cardinal principle of the EFCC, Magu has decided to ensure that the matters in court are pursued to logical conclusion. There is also no waiver for all cases undergoing investigation.”

In response to a question, the source added: “Magu has no personal problem with any senator. He inherited most of these cases.”

Meanwhile, it was learnt that some of the senators have also made a “strong case for the discontinuation of either their investigation or prosecution by the EFCC as part of the conditions for supporting  Magu.

“In one of the lobbying sessions, a senator from the North-East said he committed no crime to have been subjected to trial by the EFCC.

“Although a Senator from the North-Central was aggrieved, he was reported to have said: ‘I won’t block the nomination of Magu because he is probing me. I have forgiven him. But I know I did not commit any fraud and I will be vindicated in the end.”

Posted On Monday, 17 July 2017 23:38 Written by

The Gambian President Adama Barrow has set up a commission to look into the assets of the former leader Yahya Jammeh.

He is accused of stealing more than $50m (£38m) from the state before he fled into exile earlier this year.

The commission will investigate a number of public enterprises said to have links to Mr Jammeh.

The former president, who held power for 22 years, ran several businesses, including bakeries and farms.

Initially he refused to accept defeat in last year's election but stepped down when threatened with military intervention.

Posted On Monday, 17 July 2017 00:55 Written by

Court documents filed by the US Department of Justice in Houston have revealed that former oil minister, Diezani Alison-Madueke, warned  her alleged business partners – Kola Aluko and Jide Omokore –against lavish spending, including splashing millions of dollars on a yacht.

“If you want to hire a yacht, you lease it for two weeks or whatever. You don’t go and sink funds into it at this time when Nigerian oil and gas sector is under all kinds of watch,” she said to Aluko in a recorded conversation.

But her warning was not heeded as Aluko went on to buy Galactica Star, a luxury yacht, for $80million.

The yacht, a stupendous luxury on water, was once rented by Jay Z and his wife, Beyonce, for close to a million dollars during a holiday last year. It also once hosted Beyonce’s 32nd birthday in 2013.

Both Aluko and Omokore are alleged to have paid bribes between 2011 and 2015 to Diezani who ensured that shell companies owned by the businessmen received billion-dollar contracts to sell Nigeria’s crude oil.

The oil swap contracts were a controversial barter arrangement which saw Nigeria use middlemen to sell crude oil in exchange for refined products. With local refineries under-performing, oil swap deals were used to shore up local demand for petroleum products.

Between 2010 and 2014, under Diezani’s watch, Nigeria was estimated to have channelled over 352 million barrels of oil worth a total of $35 billion into oil swap deals.

But with the contracts mostly opaque, Nigeria reportedly lost more than $900 million in crude oil swap deals between 2009 and 2012.

The deals came under severe scrutiny with former Central Bank Governor, now Emir Muhammadu Sanusi, describing them “not properly structured, monitored and audited.”

President Buhari cancelled the oil swap arrangement in November 2015, seven months after taking office. 

The US Justice Department (DOJ) lawsuit has provided more insight into the scale of theft of Nigeria’s oil riches under Diezani Alison-Madueke’s watch.

The civil lawsuit, brought by DOJ’s Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative, is seeking to recover $144 million in assets, including a $50 million luxury condo apartment in New York and the $80 million yacht.

Prosecutors say both assets were proceeds from bribes paid by the two Nigerian businessmen for lucrative oil contracts. The lawsuit seeks the forfeiture of both assets.

Prosecutors claim that the businessmen, Aluko and Omokore, laundered money through the US by purchasing lavish assets.

The $50 million New York condo is at One57, located opposite Carnegie Hall in midtown Manhattan. The building currently holds the record for the most-expensive residential sale in New York following a $100.5 million apartment purchase in 2014.

Aluko’s $50 million condo is the 8th most expensive in the building, but following a loan default, his mortgage lenders are set to auction the apartment on July 19.

The yacht and penthouse are not the only items under scrutiny by the DOJ.

The government also alleges that Aluko, Omokore and others funded a lavish lifestyle for Alison-Madueke.

According to the allegations, they conspired to purchase millions of dollars in real estate in and around London for Alison-Madueke and her family members, then renovated and furnished these homes with millions of dollars in furniture, artwork and other luxury items purchased at two Houston-area furniture stores at Alison-Madueke’s direction.

According to Financial Times, the two are accused of buying a total of four residential properties in and around London worth 11.45 million, and furnishing them with furniture, artwork and other luxury items.

“In one day in May 2012, Mr. Aluko was said to have wired $461,500 and $262,091 to two furniture stores in Houston from a Swiss bank account, on behalf of Mrs. Alison-Madueke, the civic complaint filed in the court claimed.

In return, the government alleges Alison-Madueke used her influence to direct a subsidiary of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation to award Strategic Alliance Agreements (SAAs) to two shell companies created by Aluko and Omokore: Atlantic Energy Drilling Concepts Nigeria Ltd. and Atlantic Energy Brass Development Ltd. (the Atlantic Companies).

Under the SAAs, the Atlantic Companies were required to finance the exploration and production operations of eight on-shore oil and gas blocks. In return for financing these operations, the companies expected to receive a portion of the oil and gas produced.

However, according to the complaint, the Atlantic Companies provided only a fraction of the agreed upon financing or, in some instances, failed entirely to provide it.

The companies also failed to meet other obligations under the SAAs, including the payment of $120 million entry fee.

Nevertheless, according to the allegations, the companies were permitted to lift and sell more than $1.5 billion worth of Nigerian crude oil.

The government contends the Atlantic Companies then used a series of shell companies and intermediaries to launder a portion of the total proceeds of these arrangements into and through the U.S.

Posted On Saturday, 15 July 2017 23:33 Written by

•Fishim granted bail on self-recognisance

THE Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) yesterday arraigned judge of the National Industrial Court (NIC), Justice Agbadu Fishim, for allegedly collecting N4.65 million from seven Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SANs).

The judge, who was arraigned before Justice Raliat Adebiyi of an Ikeja High Court, was however granted bail on self-recognisance.

Justice Fishim was arraigned on a 19-count charge of unlawful enrichment. 

EFCC’s prosecutor Rotimi Oyedepo alleged that Justice Fishim received an aggregate of N4.65 million from seven Senior Advocates of Nigeria, one other Lagos-based lawyer and a law firm between 2013 and 2015.

Oyedepo claimed the money was paid into the judge’s First Bank account, numbered 3008199491.

He said the judge could not give a reasonable explanation of how the money came into his First Bank account.

Justice Fishim, however, pleaded not guilty to the charges.

His counsel, Prof. Amuda Kehinde, pleaded that his client be granted bail in self-recognisance.

Kehinde argued that his client is a sitting judge and would not jump bail.

He said he was served with the court papers yesterday about 5p.m and he responded immediately.

“He is a sitting judge and he has a lot to lose, if he decides to jump bail,” Kehinde said.

Oyedepo did not oppose the bail application.

He, however, asked the court to attach conditions to the bail such that the defendant would be mandated to attend trial.

Justice Adebiyi granted bail to Justice Fishim and directed him to deposit his international passport with the court registrar.

“It is the discretion of the court to grant bail to the defendant. It should be noted that the main function of bail is so that the defendant attends trial.

“The defendant is a sitting Judge of the National Industrial Court, who is facing a 19-count charge of unlawful enrichment, which is a bailable offence.

“I hereby grant the defendant bail on self-recognisance and he is also expected to deposit his international passport with the court Chief Registrar,” Justice Adebiyi ruled.

In the charge sheet, the EFCC alleged that the judge received N1.4 million from Chief Felix Fagbohungbe (SAN) between December 5, 2013 and February 26, 2015.

He was alleged to have received N1.1 million in multiples tranches from  Paul Usoro (SAN) between August 5, 2014 and March 26, 2015.

Other SANs, from whom the judge allegedly received money, were Chief Gani Adetola-Kazeem, who allegedly gave him N100,000 on February 10, 2015; and Mr. Uche Obi, who gave him N250,000 between October 17 and 20, 2013.

Dr. Muiz Banire (SAN) allegedly gave the judge N500,000 on June 20, 2013; and Chief Adeniyi Akintola (SAN), who gave him a total of N500,000 in two tranches  on June 3, 2013 and February 26, 2015.

The EFCC claimed that Justice Fishim received N250,000 from Dr. Joseph Nwobike (SAN), in two tranches on December 12, 2014 and September 10, 2015.

A Lagos-based lawyer, Enobong Etteh, was said to have transferred N300,000 to the judge on October 27, 2014.

A law firm, Alliance Law Firm, according to the EFCC, also paid N250,000 into the judge’s account on August 21, 2015.

Justice Fishim’s trial has been adjourned till October 11, 2017.

Posted On Wednesday, 12 July 2017 00:55 Written by

•Management pact terminated

Telecoms giant Etisalat International has withdrawn from Nigeria, its Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Hatem Dowidar said yesterday.

The withdrawal may not be unconnected with Etisalat Nigeria’s indebtedness to a consortium of banks.

The firm has terminated its management agreement with its Nigerian subsidiary, Dowidar said.

Etisalat Nigeria has three weeks to stop using the brand name.

Last week, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) intervened to save Etisalat Nigeria from collapse after talks with its bankers to renegotiate a $1.2 billion loan failed.

Etisalat, with a 45 percent stake in the Nigerian business, said last month that it had been ordered to transfer its shares to a loan trustee after the failed talks.

Dowidar said all United Arab Emirates (UAE) shareholders of Etisalat Nigeria, including state-owned investment fund Mubadala, had left the company.

He said in an interview with Reuters that talks were ongoing with Etisalat Nigeria on technical support, adding that it could continue to use the brand for another three weeks before phasing it out.

“There’s a new board and we are not part of that company. We have sent our termination letter for the management agreement,” he told Reuters

Etisalat Nigeria is the biggest foreign-owned victim of the foreign exchange (forex) caused by lower oil prices and recession.

The telco took a $1.2 billion loan with 13 local lenders in 2013 to refinance an existing loan and fund expansion, but struggling to repay four years later.

Dowidar said Etisalat International had written down the value of the telco on its books, adding that transferring its 45 per cent stake to the lenders after loan renegotiation talks failed had no impact on the group.

Asked whether Etisalat would consider entering Nigeria again, Dowidar said: “The train has left the station on that one. Being in that market as an investor … are we willing to risk more money compared to the reward for the long-term?”

The CEO said Etisalat had been unsuccessful at converting some of its dollar debt to the  Nigerian currency. He also said the group might exit or merge with a local rival in markets where it was not one of the top two players. He did not specify which markets.

Etisalat is among the top two in markets such as the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Egypt and Afghanistan, he said.

“(Nigerian) lenders may try to continue to operate the company until they find a buyer (or) they may merge the company with the existing players in Nigeria, he said, adding that it was tough to say what lenders would do.

“The brand agreement in either of these two scenarios won’t be a long-term thing, so we take out the brand; in the long term Etisalat won’t be in Nigeria.”

But Emerging Markets Telecommunication Services Ltd. (EMTS), trading as Etisalat Nigeria, yesterday said it is aware of reports regarding Etisalat Group’s withdrawal of the right to the continued use of the Etisalat brand in Nigeria by EMTS.

Posted On Tuesday, 11 July 2017 01:45 Written by
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