Friday, 19 January 2018
News & Stories

News & Stories (1619)

Prosecutors in Spain say they are happy for Lionel Messi's 21-month prison sentence for tax fraud to be replaced with a fine, a spokeswoman confirmed on Friday.

They said they are not opposed to the Barcelona star being fined €400 per day -- a total fine of around €255,500 -- for the duration of the sentence, an option also put forward by the player's defence team.

Messi's father, whose sentence was reduced to 15 months upon appeal, could also see the original punishment exchanged for a fine of around €180,000.

In line with what prosecutors proposed, a judge will now make the final decision.

After learning of the possible changes to Messi's sentence, Barcelona vice president Carles Vilarrubi questioned the timing of the decision in relation to the accusations of tax fraud against Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo.

He insinuated that Messi's tax case was unfairly dragged out for years but then quickly resolved this week so that La Liga's two star players would not be under investigation at the same time.

"I find it difficult to imagine that this would have happened had there not been a similar problem with another player," he told RAC1, alluding to the Portugal international.

"All of the developments that are taking place right now and that will take place in the coming days are going in a very clear direction: so that Cristiano Ronaldo does not sit in the dock.

"They don't want there to be a photo of Ronaldo in the dock, but Messi did have to go through that."

Messi and his father were both found guilty of three counts of tax fraud totalling €4.7 million last year. In addition to their sentences, they were ordered to pay fines of €2m and €1.5m, respectively.

They were found to have used tax havens in Belize and Uruguay as well as shell companies in the U.K. and Switzerland to avoid paying taxes on earnings from Messi's image rights between 2007 and 2009.

Last week, Spanish prosecutors accused Madrid forward Ronaldo of defrauding Spain's tax office of €14.7m in unpaid taxes by hiding "income generated in Spain from image rights." 

Ronaldo has been called to give evidence in the case against him in court on July 31, but some reports in Spain have said he will strike a deal with prosecutors before then by paying the €14.7m.

However, sources close to the player told ESPN FC on Thursday that there are no plans to pay the money because they feel Ronaldo is innocent.


Posted On Saturday, 24 June 2017 02:17 Written by

Monaco midfielder Fabinho says he would be tempted by an offer from Manchester United this summer.

Sources said that United have other midfield targets -- including Tottenham's Eric Dier and Chelsea's Nemanja Matic -- but sources close to Fabinho are saying both United and Manchester City hold an interest in the former Rio Ave man.

Some reports have linked Fabinho with a move to Old Trafford, and the 23-year-old says he would be open to working with Jose Mourinho again after their short time together at Real Madrid.

He told Esporte Interativo: "If Mourinho invites me [to join United], it would be very tempting, but, first of all, I would have to talk with my agent and with Monaco to make the things right.

"But Manchester United is a great team, and I would think about it, for sure."

But despite his interest in United, Fabinho told ESPN Brasil's Antonio Strint that he's currently happy at Monaco.

"I speak every day with my agent, and he always says to me that when an official proposal comes, he will inform me," Fabinho said. "Today I have nothing, I'll be back to Monaco, start the preseason with Monaco. I have contract with Monaco until 2021"

Fabinho played a key role in Monaco's Ligue 1 triumph last season, and their run to the Champions League semifinals.

Monaco have already lost Bernardo Silva to City while midfielder Tiemoue Bakayoko and forward Kylian Mbappe have been linked with moves away.

United are close to admitting defeat in their pursuit of Dier with Tottenham adamant they will not sell a player who signed a new five-year contract in September.

There is hope, however, that if Chelsea can secure Bakayoko from Monaco, Antonio Conte could allow Matic to move to Old Trafford to be reunited with Mourinho.

Posted On Saturday, 24 June 2017 02:11 Written by

Manchester United are making progress in their pursuit of Alvaro Morata but have yet to agree a fee with Real Madrid, sources have told ESPN FC.

Manager Jose Mourinho has identified Morata as the striker he wants to replace Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

There is still hope a deal could be secured before United head to the United States for their preseason tour on July 9.

Sources have told ESPN FC that agreeing personal terms should be straightforward because of Morata's willingness to move to Old Trafford.

There had been a fear that uncertainty surrounding the future of Cristiano Ronaldo could force Madrid to stall on any deal for the Spain international.

But reports in Spain suggest Ronaldo will now stay at the Bernabeu while Marca, which has close ties to president Florentino Perez, reported that the Spanish champions are set to push on with a bid for Monaco striker Kylian Mbappe.

French newspaper L'Equipe reported on Friday that Zinedine Zidane, once Mbappe's idol, called the striker to convince him to join Madrid said they were ready to sell one of their "BBC" stars to make room for him.

Mbappe's arrival would further limit opportunities for Morata, who made only 14 La Liga starts last season.

The striker, who returned to Real Madrid last summer after two seasons at Juventus, scored 20 goals in 43 appearances last term.

There has been no offer for him from Chelsea, who are also in the market for a striker with Diego Costa set to depart and have been linked with Everton's Romelu Lukaku.

Posted On Saturday, 24 June 2017 02:08 Written by

The U.S. State Department has withdrawn its reward offer for Mukhtar Robow, a former leader of the Somali militant group al-Shabab. 

In June 2012, the State Department offered up to $5 million for information on Robow that brought him "to justice." At the time, Robow was still considered a top leader of al-Shabab, having served periods as its spokesman, spiritual leader and military commander.

But soon afterward, Robow exiled himself from the group because of long-running disputes with its emir, Ahmed Abdi Godane. He spent recent years living in his hometown of Abal, south of Huddur, in Somalia's Bakool region.

Robow has his own militias from his own clan in the area.

Godane was killed by a U.S. missile strike in 2014.

Posted On Saturday, 24 June 2017 02:03 Written by

A new peace deal between the Bangui government and 13 major rebel groups in the Central African Republic is being met with criticism and skepticism domestically.

The agreement signed Monday in Rome promised an immediate cease-fire in exchange for political representation for the rebels.

The new accord followed a series of peace deals signed by armed groups in the CAR during 2014 and 2015. All fell apart.

"As one of the armed group representatives said, 'We have signed a good paper,' " said Igor Acko, the U.S. Institute of Peace's national program specialist in Bangui. "But the only worry is that it can remain just a 'good paper.' "

Acko received word of the new deal while in Bambari in central CAR, and said he went directly to members of the Union for Peace in the Central African Republic, one of the country's major armed groups. The militia members told him they were not aware of the deal or its contents.

"So they are waiting for their representative to come back, and they will ask about the content, and they will think [decide] if they fully follow or they don't," Acko said.

In this photo taken May 26, 2017, U.N. peacekeepers patrol outside Bria, Central African Republic. The United Nations said at the time that about 300 people had been killed and 200 wounded in the previous two weeks in Bria and a handful of other towns.
In this photo taken May 26, 2017, U.N. peacekeepers patrol outside Bria, Central African Republic. The United Nations said at the time that about 300 people had been killed and 200 wounded in the previous two weeks in Bria and a handful of other towns.

Battle in Bria

Just hours after the accord was signed, fighting broke out in Bria, the country's center of diamond mining, nearly 600 kilometers from the capital. The town's mayor said more than 100 people were killed, and the medical charity Doctors Without Borders said 43 wounded people required hospital treatment.

With dozens of houses burned to the ground in Bria, more than 40,000 people are displaced and are relying on humanitarian assistance. Across the country, more than 100,000 people have been displaced since last month, when violence increased.

Since cycles of inter-religious and intercommunal violence began in 2013, hundreds of thousands of people have been uprooted from their homes in CAR, a former French colony that is one of the world's poorest nations.

Central African Republic
Central African Republic

Lewis Mudge, who does research on the Central African Repulic for Human Rights Watch, said the fighting in Bria does not bode well for the accord signed in Rome. He noted that the previous deals all collapsed very quickly.

Members of civil society in CAR are most concerned about the new deal's failure to discuss issues of justice and accountability arising from the conflict. Some are concerned this could be a first step toward granting amnesty to the rebels, which would be seen as an affront to the victims of months of escalating violence.

Need for justice is 'clear'

Mathias Barthelemy Marouba, who runs the Central African Human Rights Observatory, said his group does not oppose a peace deal, but does not see the Rome accord as a substitute for justice.

"Those who committed these reprehensible acts must be brought to justice," Marouba said. "That's clear."

The new deal calls for establishment of a truth-and-reconciliation commission, but that assurance failed to sway Mudge of Human Rights Watch.

"Truth telling is all nice and good, but it can never come in the place of free and fair trials that hold perpetrators accountable," he said. "If we can stop the fighting, that's a very good thing, but I'm not convinced that this deal is putting accountability first."

FILE - United Nations peacekeeping force vehicles drive by houses destroyed by violence in September, in the abandoned village of Yade, Central African Republic, April 27, 2017.
FILE - United Nations peacekeeping force vehicles drive by houses destroyed by violence in September, in the abandoned village of Yade, Central African Republic, April 27, 2017.

The only way to break CAR's cycles of violence, Mudge said, is to "finally hold some of these individuals to account."

Marouba criticized U.N. peacekeeping forces in the country for not taking more aggressive action against rebel groups.

"Why aren't they protecting the civilian population?" he asked. "They have all the means to neutralize these bandits. Why haven't they done that?"

On the streets of Bangui, maintenance worker Kevin Vreka, 35, agreed, and said the U.N. force, known as MINUSCA, should be doing much more to stop the rebels' violent tactics.

U.N. peacekeepers "are there to secure the country," Vreka said. "They are in the countryside, but they do nothing. The United Nations, what did it come to Bangui to do? They do nothing ... except harass our women!"

'Nothing is going to change'

Carlos Bunju, a translator for a Chinese company in the capital, does not expect the peace deal to accomplish anything.

"Whatever they do, nothing is going to change," Bunju said. "Because some people, some armed groups, they want some part in the government, but other people, they're not going to allow them. They're going to fight over and over."

The armed groups are battling over CAR's natural resources, Bunju said: "That's all they want. They don't see the people. And even though they come and we allow them to be a part of the government, I don't think there's going to be any change. If they love this country, they're not going to fight anymore."

Iloua Banoua, 58, a tailor, had not heard about the new accord either, but for him, it's simple: "We want peace. We don't want violence. Peace is the purity of each country; without it, we can't live."

Posted On Saturday, 24 June 2017 01:59 Written by

Spain’s royal family joined politicians and the bullfighting world Sunday in mourning matador Ivan Fandino, gored to death in a fight in France.

The death of Fandino, a 36-year-old from the northern Basque region, was front page news in several newspapers in Spain, where interest in the controversial centuries-old tradition remains high.

The royals paid homage on their official Twitter feed to “a great bullfighting figure” while Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy lamented the “sad news,” as did his culture minister.

Valencia torero Enrique Ponce also paid tribute to a fighter well-known for his daring.

“Dear Ivan, “Torerazo” (super torero), I shall always remember you … those glorious afternoons. May God receive you in his glory.”

French fighter Sebastien Castella wrote in Spanish that “death has taken a friend and in a sense a part of our souls.”

Fandino died in hospital on Saturday after being gored in the ribs by a bull, whose horn punctured his lung, at the Aire-sur-l’Adour bullfighting festival in the south of France.

Fandino, who had won an earlier fight and cut off the bull’s ear, was photographed being carried away from the scene by colleagues with blood seeping through his embroidered traditional costume.

Bullfighting retains its popular aura in Spain, which hosts hundreds of shows annually in a country of some six million “aficionados” who see it as a sport that is an art integral to their culture.

But recent years have seen opponents vociferously decrying it on animal rights grounds.

Only last month thousands attended a Madrid rally calling for the practice to be banned.

In 2010, the regional Catalan government voted for a ban — but last year Spain’s top court overturned that decision, judging that it was part of Spain’s common cultural heritage

Posted On Sunday, 18 June 2017 14:18 Written by

U.S. singer, Beyonce, has given birth to twins in Los Angeles, several celebrity news websites reported on Saturday, citing unidentified sources.

Beyonce, 35, and rapper and music producer Jay Z, already have a five-year-old daughter, Blue Ivy.

E! News, citing multiple unidentified sources, reported the birth and that Jay Z and Blue Ivy were seen at a Los Angeles area hospital on Thursday.

U.S. Weekly, also citing multiple unidentified sources, reported that the couple welcomed twins earlier this week.

“Bey and Jay are thrilled and have started sharing the news with their family and closest friends,” one unidentified source told PEOPLE.

Reuters could not verify the reports. A representative for Beyonce did not respond immediately to a request for comment.

The celebrity news websites did not provide additional details, such as the date and time the twins were born or the sex of the infants.

The “Lemonade” singer, one of the most powerful women in the music business, announced the pregnancy on her Instagram account in February along with an image of her posed in lingerie and caressing a noticeable baby bump.

The announcement got more than 8 million “likes” in the first 24 hours to become the “most-liked” Instagram ever.

The R&B singer performed live at the Grammy awards in Los Angeles two weeks later, proudly displaying her swelling belly in a motherhood-themed show.

She has since posted numerous pictures of her bare baby bump on her social media accounts.

The birth of Blue Ivy caused a paparazzi storm in 2012, with New York’s Lenox Hill hospital shutting down part of its maternity wing to accommodate music’s royal couple.

News of the pregnancy came less than a year after the release of Beyonce’s 2016 album “Lemonade,” in which she appeared to address long-standing rumors of trouble in her eight-year marriage.

The lyrics of several songs spoke about being cheated on, and regretting being married.

But Beyonce made clear in the final tracks of the album and in music videos featuring Jay-Z that she had decided to stay in the relationship.

The couple have never addressed the rumors publicly. (Reuters/NAN)

Posted On Sunday, 18 June 2017 13:21 Written by

• Kingpin begs government to seize all he owns but spare his life
• Says native doctor collected 10% of loot
• Had premonition about his arrest
• Fingers aide to the transporter

Suspected kidnap kingpin, Chukwudumeje George Onwuamadike alias Evans has told his interrogators how he once bullied a Lagos transport magnate, to pay him a large sum of foreign exchange to avoid kidnap.

Evans’ initial demand was $1millon but the transport magnate, ended up parting with less than that amount.

The suspect, who is gradually adapting to life in police custody and has started eating, claimed that a close aide of the transporter provided all the information he required about the victim.

The plot to kidnap the transporter who hails from the South East, according to him, was hatched in 2013.

He said that he stopped threatening the businessman and his family once the money was paid.

The Nation gathered yesterday that although Evans still agonises about his condition in police cell, he finds time to smile and joke with his cell mates and interrogators.

The police plan to inspect all the detention camps operated by Evans and his gang.

A source said: “He collected a huge sum of dollars but not up to the $1million he demanded in order to stop threatening the man with kidnap. He also said that the native doctor who prepared charms for him is a traditional ruler and that he usually collected 10percent of the money generated.

“Evans pleaded that Eze (native doctor/monarch) should not be arrested. He said whenever they went for an operation without telling the juju man, he always knew and would confront him. He said that the native doctor most times knew he was planning something and would tell him to stay away if he foresaw danger.

“He also said he heard of the kidnap of Ikenga Nnewi but that he was not responsible for it. He said that he knew something bad would happen the week he was arrested but he didn’t know the exact thing.

“He said he was planning to travel abroad because he knew police were looking for him. Evans said he was able to evade arrest over the years because the charms his native doctor prepared made him invincible to those who wanted to hurt him.”

He claimed that he never cheated members of his gang and that he usually performed sacrifices before and after each operation.

He begged government to spare his life but is free to confiscate all his wealth and properties.

He craves a fresh lease of life to enable him turn a new leaf.

“Evans claims that he never assaulted any of his kidnap victims. That he didn’t rape the women and never slapped any of the men. He said he only chained them and ensured their families paid the demanded amount.

“He has started laughing and feeling relaxed now, unlike before. He eats rice sold by one of the caterers at the station and drinks only bottled water. He insists that his wife knew what he was doing for a living and even used to collect ransom for him.”

Posted On Sunday, 18 June 2017 13:00 Written by

Folasade Olashore is the Human Resources Director Sub-Sahara Africa Region for Procter & Gamble. She talks about the challenges women face in making career choice, how she was able to balance everything and receive support to rise to the top.

Tell us a bit about yourself and your background at Procter&Gamble
I was born and bred in Ibadan, I graduated from the University of Ibadan with a Bachelor of Pharmacy degree. I joined P&G about 20 years ago. I started as an intern and later became a full-time hire. My first role was as the Quality Control Manager in the plant. I later moved to the Lagos office as Assistant Brand Manager for Pampers and Vicks after which I progressed to become the Brand Manager for the baby care category.

In the meantime, when I got married and became pregnant with my first child, I started to consider how I was going to handle this phase of life and was unsure of how I was going to balance work with a growing family. My role at that moment required frequent travels while I wanted less mobility to enable me balance my work and family life. I considered being a stay-at-home mom and decided to take an extended leave of absence to test the waters on what life would be like staying at home before resigning.

My Vice-President in the company back then heard that I was considering leaving the company and offered me a role in Human Resources Division with less travel. I was excited to return back to work and I accepted the offer to move into HR. Moving into HR with no prior experience was a challenge on its own coupled with the fact that I had just returned from maternity leave and had a newborn baby to take care of. Between the sleepless nights at home and trying to understand the challenges of my new role, it was not an easy task. But I was able to manage it all with the support of the company and that of my manager who provided me with regular coaching despite her being remotely located in South Africa.

Over the years I progressed in the company and was transferred to South Africa in 2010. I currently lead the HR Function for the Sub-Sahara African region, which comes with its challenges of multiple markets and balancing family life. Procter&Gamble is a top employer for recruiting and promoting women and I am a great example of such practice. Diversity and Inclusion is in the company’s DNA and we aim to promote equality with a good representation of our consumers working in the company which makes it highly diverse. At the different stages of my life since I joined the company, I have received support on coaching, mentorship, development and flexibility which is why I look forward to coming to work everyday, but also go home daily with high energy to spend time with my family and enjoy the things that I am passionate about.

Why do you feel that Nigerian women cannot make the call to move cross-country?
A lot of it has to do with the society, even when I made the decision to move to South Africa, there was a bit of pressure. Some people told me that I shouldn’t go as I will be jeopardizing my family with the move, but the fact that I had the support of my immediate family gave me the confidence to accept the opportunity. Still, I felt judged, people even questioned both my husband and myself but one cannot make life-changing decisions based on how others feel.

The historical culture in Nigeria is that the woman should stay at home while the husband works. I want to believe that we are gradually phasing out that belief and things are changing. However, the idea of a woman relocating to another country for work is still frowned upon and is a hard sell culturally whilst for men it is a no brainer, that is, the woman follows irrespective of her career situation.

What would have happened if your husband had said no?
That’s an easy one. I probably would not have gone. My husband gave me the confidence to accept the offer, I was more worried about the implication of the move and he kept on assuring me that we would make it work. I am blessed to be in a relationship in which there is mutual respect. The relationship that I have with my husband is one where if he was asked to go somewhere and I said no, he would not go either. If it meant jeopardizing the family, then I would not have accepted the offer. My husband and I have a partnership that works for us; we both prioritize our family unit and make it work otherwise what is the point?

Was it challenging rising through the ranks as a woman?
P&G is definitely an enabling environment, was it challenging for me as a woman? Yes, there were times for example, when I was a member of the plant leadership team, I felt the need to act like a man. Interestingly, I was the only woman on that team and I consequently made more effort to act like others on the team so that I would not be different. I have to say though, I’m incredibly grateful for P&G because I’ve heard stories from other establishments on how matters of gender diversity are poorly managed. P&G is a great enabler when it comes to gender diversity and there is a lot of respect for women within the company. I also believe that a big part of it is having confidence in yourself, you need to up-skill yourself and bring your A-game to the table to be able to be competitive among the top performers irrespective of gender, race or any other factor. I would hate to hear that I got a job because of my gender or race. I want to be given the job because I am the most capable and competent amongst the pool considered for the position.

Do you think women are well represented generally in the FMCG industry in Africa?
I don’t think so, mainly because the FMCG industry predominantly attracts engineers in terms of disciplines, just by virtue of the fact that there is a lot of manufacturing involved in the business. Even till date, if you go to various higher institutions of learning, you’ll find out that in the engineering discipline there is still a wide gap in terms of gender diversity. The sales force is another discipline that is typically male-dominated and important for the FMCG industry because we make and we sell. I believe there is progress but we are not there yet.

What have you done to encourage more women, being in the position you are in?
First and foremost, when we recruit we try as much as possible to attract female talents by showcasing our work and gender diversity strategy. We also highlight during recruiting events the fact that we are very diverse; we make sure that we are equally represented so that people can see and relate to the fact that someone like them is in such a position within the company. I think it’s very important because when people are looking for a job, they aspire to grow and become a leader one day. So it is very important that they see someone they can relate to. When new recruits come in, we do a lot of training and development. I personally mentor and sponsor many, mostly within P&G, but outside as well and I think it’s important to share your personal story and knowledge.

When I first moved to HR, I had this female manager who I saw as a mentor as she was always willing to offer a helping hand. And because she was female, it was easy for me to share a lot of my challenges with her. I also didn’t feel like I was going to be judged as she understood where I was coming from and was incredibly supportive. I think that it is very important for women to have that support. During the early years of my career, we had a support group in P&G called Women Supporting Women, and it helped me to open myself up for mentorship – that is part of the reasons why I mentor people and I am passionate about it. Even outside of the workplace I have female role models that I look up to and reach out to for advice on different aspects of my life.

In terms of career planning, I think we need to be sensitive and understand that it’s not a one- size fits all approach. You may want to get to the CEO position but there are different paths to it depending on who you are and we need to be flexible. As an HR professional, I’ve also played my part in making sure that policies are adjusted as well as to drive and promote gender diversity in the different markets that we operate in.

Do you think women have hit the glass ceiling?
Yes, I believe so and this is just the beginning. We have seen the exploits of Angela Merkel, Margaret Thatcher, Theresa May, Hilary Clinton, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Folorunsho Alakija, and more female leaders are emerging daily in both the developed and developing society. It has become a movement and it will keep growing.

Posted On Saturday, 17 June 2017 15:32 Written by

A watershed in transforming the workings of government was reached on Thursday, May 18, 2017, when the Acting President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, signed three executive orders with the combined aim of promoting the ease of doing business. The executive orders, among others, direct the ports to be operational round the clock, promote transparency in the conduct of government business, require the government to prioritise locally- made goods and services in government procurements, and also, insist on the timely submission of annual budget estimates by Ministries, Departments, and Agencies of government. One of the executive orders also binds the MDAs to grant applications for permits, registrations or licences within stipulated times and where not feasible, give reasons for rejection within the stipulated time.

For so long, MDAs with the duty of granting such applications have held the citizenry  and even foreign investors to ransom, refusing to act until bribes were paid. Indeed, for too long, government business has been seen as no man’s business and as such promoted a lazy, idle and unproductive culture in the affairs of government. That culture has promoted corruption at the expense of the general good. We salute the administration for articulating these orders which are expected to revive efficiency, and in due course, put the government on track in promoting the welfare of the citizenry.

However, we are aware that the orders are bound to face resistance from entrenched interests  and individuals who benefit from the opaque system that the executive orders want to obliterate. Implementation is key. Otherwise, the Executive Orders will be another wasted government effort. While the published orders do not spell out detailed measures to observe compliance, we are, however, gladdened by the fact that the Presidency made an effort during an interactive session to sensitise government operatives to the importance it attaches to them. For too long government failed to support doing business and indeed acted as if it were hostile to business. We are especially delighted by the order to prioritise locally-made goods and services in government procurements.

It is even remarkable that the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, within three weeks of the issuance of the orders visited a local motor manufacturing company with the promise that government would patronise locally-made vehicle manufacturers. Nigerians will be  extremely delighted to see the heads of the various arms of the Federal Government drive in locally-made vehicles, wear locally made fabrics and eat locally-grown food. This will spin off to the populace and put our economy on the highway to total diversification. We can, and should do the same with Information and Communication Technology which we aver, is a great enabler for economic diversification. We urge the National Assembly to support the intentions of the orders through the moral and legislative frameworks available to it.

Posted On Tuesday, 13 June 2017 04:23 Written by
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