Bribery Allegation: Case Against 23 INEC Officials Transferred To Port Harcourt

Court Jails Two Men For Selling IDP Food In BornoA Federal High Court sitting in Abuja has transferred the case filed by the Nigerian Police Force against 23 officials of the Independent Electoral Commission to the Port Harcourt division of the court.

The INEC officials are being tried by the police for allegedly taking bribes during the national and state assembly rerun elections in Rivers State.

In transferring the case, Justice John Tsoho said the argument of the police that the insecurity in Rivers State will affect the trial was not tenable.

He added that there was no evidence placed before the court to how pervasive insecurity in Rivers State.

Justice Tsoho also said that the video clips and photographs tendered by the police were incidences that happened before the December 10th rerun elections.

The judge also said in his ruling that the responsibility of providing security in any part of the country rests on the security operatives and not the court.

He said, “I haven’t found out that Rivers State has become ungovernable based on the alleged security situation in the state.

“So, based on Section 22 of the Federal High Court Act, the case has been transferred to the Port Harcourt division of the Federal High Court.

“Also, in line with Section 93 Subsection 1 and 2 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act and Section 45 of the Federal High Court Act, which states that the trial of a case should take place where the offence was committed, I hereby transfer the case.”

Lawyers for the INEC officials had argued that their trial at the Federal High Court in Abuja was in breach of the Constitution and the Criminal Justice Act.

The police, however, argued that there was insecurity in Rivers State, which could interfere with the trial.

 

Bribery Allegation: INEC Official Withdraws Plea Bargain

Court Sentences Falae's Kidnappers To Life ImprisonmentAn official of the Independent National Electoral Commission, Mr. Christian Nwosu, who was convicted last week of taking bribe to influence the 2015 elections, has withdrawn his plea bargain.

Nwosu withdrew the plea bargain agreement he had with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission on Wednesday, six days after Justice Mohammed Idris of the Federal High Court in Lagos rejected the plea bargain.

Based on the plea bargain, Nwosu had pleaded guilty and was convicted for accepting N30m from a N264.8m bribe allegedly offered by a former Minister of Petroleum Resource, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke.

When he was brought before Justice Idris on April 27, the EFCC informed the judge of the plea bargain.

Under the agreement, Nwosu was to forfeit two landed properties in Delta State and the sum of N5m recovered from him.

Besides that, paragraph four of the bargain provides: “that a fine in the sum of N500,000 is proposed to the court, to be imposed on the first defendant upon his conviction.

“The agreement also provides that within seven days after payment of the fine, the convict shall enter into a bond with the EFCC, never to be involved in economic and financial crimes within and outside Nigeria.”

Justice Idris, however, rejected it, saying the penalty set out in paragraph four of the plea bargain ran contrary to the provisions of section 16 (2) (b) of the Money Laundering Prohibition Amendment Act of 2012.

The judge said according to the provisions of the Act, the appropriate sentence should be an imprisonment term of not less than two years or a fine in the sum of not less than N10m or both.

He therefore refused to adopt the plea and informed Nwosu that he was free to withdraw the plea.

He subsequently adjourned the case based on the request of the INEC official’s lawyer for him to be given time to weigh his options.
At the resumed hearing on Wednesday, Nwosu, however showed up with a new lawyer, who informed the court that his client was coerced into entering the plea bargain.

Based on Nwosu’s decision to withdraw his plea bargain, the prosecuting counsel for the EFCC, Rotimi Oyedepo, requested that the case file be sent to the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court for reassignment.

He explained that based on the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, a judge who rejects a plea bargain can no longer preside over the case.

Bribery Allegation: Court Rejects INEC Official’s Plea Bargain

Court Sentences Falae's Kidnappers To Life ImprisonmentA Federal High Court sitting in Lagos on Thursday faulted a plea bargain agreement between the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and an Independent National Electoral Commission Official, Christian Nwosu.

Justice Mohammed Idris said the plea bargain arrangement for Nwosu, who was convicted on charges of money laundering, runs contrary to section 16 (2) (b) of the Money Laundering Prohibition Amendment Act of 2012.

The judge held that by the provisions of the Act, the appropriate sentence should be an imprisonment term of not less than two years or a fine in the sum of not less than N10m or both.

The EFCC had charged a former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani Allison-Madueke, and three officials of INEC for allegedly taking bribes to compromise the 2015 general elections.

The INEC officials, Christian Nwosu, Yisa Adedoyin and Tijani Bashir, were said to have on March 27, 2015 taken bribes from a former minister of petroleum resources, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke who is said to “still be at large”.

The defendant, Mr Christian Nwosu upon arraignment pleaded guilty to a charge of directly receiving and using the sum of N30m from a larger amount of N264.88m, which were said to be proceeds of crime.

Two of his colleagues, Yisa Adedoyin and Tijani Bashir however pleaded not guilty to the charges.

While the court convicted Nwosu, Adedoyin and Bashir were granted bail pending the commencement of their trial.

After Nwosu’s conviction, the EFCC informed the court of the plea agreement it had with him.

In his judgement today, Justice Idris held that the penalty set out in paragraph four of the plea bargain ran contrary to the provisions of section 16 (2) (b) of the Money Laundering Prohibition Amendment Act of 2012.

Besides a forfeiture of two landed properties in Delta State, as well as a forfeiture of the sum of N5m recovered from the convict, paragraph 4 of the plea bargain also provides: “that a fine in the sum of N500,000 is proposed to the court, to be imposed on the first defendant upon his conviction. The agreement also provides that within seven days after payment of the fine, the convict shall enter into a bond with the EFCC, never to be involved in economic and financial crimes within and outside Nigeria.”

But the judge said since it contradicted the appropriate sentence prescribed by the Act, he found the plea bargain inadequate.

In the light of this new development, counsel to the first defendant (Nwosu) asked for a short adjournment to enable him discuss with his client on whether to proceed or change his plea.

The judge then adjourned the case to May 3 for continuation.

Alleged Money Laundering: Justice Ngwuta’s Trial Stalled

Alleged Money Laundering: Justice Ngwuta's Trial StalledA Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, has adjourned the trial of Justice Sylvester Ngwuta, to January 18 and 23, 2017.

The Supreme Court Justice, is standing trial for corruption, alleged money laundering, breach of professional ethics and passport forgery related offenses.

The adjournment followed an application by the counsel to Justice Ngwuta, Chief Kanu Agabi, who told the court that he needed more time to prepare for trials as some documents given to him by the prosecution still needed to be studied.

This did not go down well with the prosecutor who urged the court to turn down the application.

However, trial judge, Justice John Tsoho delivered his ruling in favour of the defendant, Ngwuta, on the ground that section 36 of the constitution allows a defendant time to prepare for his defense.

He also added that the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, also allows parties in a suit to at least five request for adjournment, afterwhich he adjourned the case.

Justice Ngwuta is one of the justices arrested and detained by the department of state services on October 8, 2016 for corruption and breach of professional ethics.

In November, Justice Sylvester Ngwuta had entered a not guilty plea to the 15-count charges leveled against him by the federal government.

He was also been granted bail in the sum of 100 million Naira on self-recognition.

Alleged Money Laundering: Justice Ngwuta Pleads Not Guilty, Granted Bail

Alleged Money Laundering: Justice Ngwuta Pleads Not GuiltyJustice Sylvester Ngwuta has entered a not guilty plea to the 15-count charges of money laundering, breach of professional ethics and forgery leveled against him by the federal government.

He has also been granted bail in the sum of 100 million naira on self-recognition.

When the charges were read to him, the Supreme Court judge told the court that he was not guilty of the 15 counts.

Attempt by his lawyer to ask for bail was opposed by the prosecutor, Mr Adeogun Philips who said he had just been served and would need a short adjournment to respond.

With no objection by the defence lawyers, the trial judge, Justice James Tsoho, stood down the case by two hours.

On resumption of hearing on the bail application, counsel to Justice Ngwuta, Kanu Agabi asked the court to release the defendant on self-recognizance, taking judicial notice of the fact that he is a justice of the Supreme Court and the fact that he has been on administrative bail since on October 8, 2016.

Opposing the application, the prosecuting counsel, Mr Charles Philips, said that the defendant cannot be granted bail with respect to his position.

Mr Philips, who referred to charges number three and charges numbers 10-16 against Justice Ngwuta, informed the tribunal that barely 20 minutes after he was released on administrative bail, Justice Ngwuta gave instructions to a witness in the case to remove two or three bags containing 27 million naira from his bathroom at his residence in Abakaliki, Ebonyi state.

The prosecuting counsel also told the court that Justice Nwguta also instructed the said witness to remove three exotic cars from his residence on the same day and that they are nowhere to be found. That is what forms the subject of charge number three.

Speaking further he informed the court that in the course of investigation, the Department of State Services (DSS) discovered that Justice Ngwuta maintained multiple identities.

According to him Justice Ngwuta had four passports which he used concurrently.

Although he had reported two of those passports missing, he argued that in any jurisdiction in the world, if a person possesses several identities he cannot be released on self-recognizance.

He therefore asked the court not to grant bail but if it is inclined to, it should grant bail in the most stringent terms.

Reacting to the counter application, counsel to Justice Ngwuta, Mr Kanu Agabi, told the court that he was not willing to join issues with the prosecutor because he had gone into the substantive suit which is not allowed by law and that the constitution is clear as to when bail should be granted or not.

He added that should the court reach its conclusion based on the prosecutor’s submissions, verdict would have been decided before the case is started.

Having listen to both parties, the trial judge, Justice John Tsoho stood down the matter for ruling at 2:30PM.

Granted Bail

On resumption, Justice John Tsoho granted bail to Justice Sylvester Ngwuta in the sum of 100 million naira on self-recognizance.

According to Justice Tsoho though the prosecution sought to impress the court on the defendants’ unworthiness for bail, it failed to show that in spite of the concerns raised, the defendant had his administrative bail revoked.

He also added that it is no secret that the security agencies are watching every move made by the judge with kin interest, which is how they found that he had multiple passports.

As such the prosecution should rely on the same security apparatus to prevent any attempt not to be available for trial.

He added that it would be great injustice to prevent any citizen from enjoying bail in available offence.

According to Justice Tsoho, it is on record that the prosecution had filed an affidavit of completion of investigation and on the other hand it is raising objections that witnesses and evidence will be tampered with.

The prosecution, he said, should be able to maintain consistency rather than the inconsistencies.

Justice Tsoho then went on to say that there is no evidence before the court that Justice Ngwuta would not be available for his trial and because the offence for which he is standing trial is bailable, he is inclined to grant bail.

Trial has been fixed for December 7 and 8.

Justice Ngwuta was one of the seven judges arrested after a DSS raid on the homes of High Court and Supreme Court judges across the country on October 8, 2016.

Two Federal High Court Judges Report To EFCC

Judges in EFCC custodyTwo Federal High Court judges in Nigeria, Mohammed Yunusa and Hyeladzira Nganjiwa have reported to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

Following an invitation letter the EFCC extended to them, the judges arrived at the anti-graft agency’s office at about 10:05am on Monday, October 17 in Lagos, southwest Nigeria.

Their invitation was sequel to the alleged bribery and money laundering the commission discovered while investigating an ongoing case for which two senior lawyers had already been arraigned in court.

The lawyers, Rickey Tarfa and Joseph Nwobike, were arraigned by the EFCC before a Lagos High Court on March 9, 2016, on allegations of bribery and offering gratification to a public official.

Tarfa and Nwobike are facing criminal prosecution for allegedly offering gratification to Federal High Court judges, to refrain them from exercising the duties of their office.

Subsequent investigation revealed that the two judges allegedly received money from the two senior lawyers severally.

The judges were questioned by operatives of the anti-graft agency.

Anti-corruption War Extended To Judiciary

The anti-corruption war of the present administration has been extended to legal practitioners, with top judges being investigated.

On October 8, operatives of some security agencies raided homes of some judges and arrested some of them.

The Department of State Services (DSS), which carried out the operation with some police officials, said that the judges were being investigated for alleged corruption and misconduct.

Their arrest had whipped up diverse comments, with the Nigerian Bar Association saying it was unconstitutional.

The association further declared a state of emergency in the judiciary over the midnight arrest of the judges and demanded that they should be released unconditionally.

After days in detention and several other demands for their release, the DSS granted them bail on self-recognisance, with a mandate that they must report to the security agency’s office when needed.

Sepp Blatter Gets Fifth Term As President Of FIFA

FifaFIFA President Sepp Blatter came out fighting on Saturday as he began his fifth term in charge of soccer’s governing body, implying that the United States timed the announcement of a major corruption probe to try to scupper his re-election bid.

The 79-year-old Swiss comfortably won Friday’s vote at a FIFA congress in Zurich, having secured the support of blocks of votes from Asia and Africa which outweighed dissenters including Europe’s powerful soccer body UEFA.

He now faces the daunting task of restoring public faith in an organization tainted by allegations of graft and deeply divided over his leadership.

In an interview late on Friday, he showed few signs of wanting to unite one of the world’s most powerful sports bodies that takes in billions of dollars in revenue from television marketing rights and sponsorships.

“No one is going to take it off me that it was a simple coincidence (that) this American attack (happened) two days before the elections of FIFA,” Blatter told the RTS Swiss television channel in an interview.

“Why didn’t they (the police) do this in March when we had the same meeting? At that time, we had less journalists.”

In a dawn swoop on a Zurich hotel on Wednesday, Swiss police arrested seven leading soccer officials, including FIFA vice-president Jeffrey Webb.

The arrests were connected to a bribery scandal being investigated by U.S., Swiss and other law enforcement agencies that plunged FIFA into the worst crisis in its 111-year history.

Blatter also singled out UEFA, whose president Michel Platini had called for his resignation.

“It is a hate not only by one person of UEFA but by the organization of UEFA that has not understood that I have been president since 1998,” Blatter said. “I forgive everyone but I don’t forget.”

US Fines Bilfinger $32m For Bribing Nigerian Officials

Bilfinger SE, the German parent company of Julius Berger, has reached a Deferred Prosecution Agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) to pay $32 million as fine for involvement in a foreign bribery scheme benefiting Nigerian government officials to obtain and retain contracts for the $387 million Eastern Gas Gathering System (EGGS) project.

An official statement by the US Justice Department says that from late 2003 through June 2005, Bilfinger conspired with Willbros Group Inc. and others to make corrupt payments totalling more than $6 million to Nigerian government officials to assist in obtaining and retaining contracts related to the EGGS project.

Bilfinger and Willbros are accused of having formed a joint venture to bid on the EGGS project and inflated the price of the joint venture’s bid by 3% to cover the cost of paying the bribes.

The statement further explained: “At another point in the conspiracy, when Willbros employees encountered difficulty obtaining enough money to make their share of the bribe payments, Bilfinger loaned them $1 million.”

Bilfinger has therefore pledged to implement rigorous internal controls, continue cooperating fully with the Justice Department, and retain an independent corporate compliance monitor for at least 18 months under the 3-year deferred agreement.

The Chief Executive Officer of Bilfinger SE, Roland Koch, said: “We are pleased that we have now been able to put these events from the distant past behind us. In recent years, Bilfinger has consistently expanded its compliance instruments and today has a modern and efficient system.”

The Department of Justice in its statement “acknowledged Bilfinger’s cooperation and its remediation efforts.”

In a separate release, Bilfinger SE said it had significantly reduced its investments in Julius Berger Nigeria PLC (JBN) in 2012, in tandem with the scope of its strategic alignment toward engineering and services. Already the company has reduced its stake in the Nigerian business from 49% to approximately 33%.

China’s Bo Appears In Public, Denies A Bribery Charge

Fallen Chinese politician Bo Xilai denied one of the bribery charges against him on Thursday as he appeared in public for the first time in more than a year to face China’s most political trial in over three decades.

Bo, the 64-year-old former Communist Party chief of the southwestern city of Chongqing, has been charged with bribery, corruption and abuse of power and will almost certainly be found guilty. But his denial of one of the charges could mean that he will not go quietly.

President Xi Jinping, who wants to rebalance the world’s second-biggest economy, will be keen to put the trial behind him with a minimum of fuss to ensure stability and party unity. Bo’s downfall has pitted supporters of his Maoist-themed egalitarian social programs against the capitalist-leaning economic road taken by the leadership, exposing divisions within the ruling party as well as Chinese society.

His trial in the eastern city of Jinan marks the culmination of China’s biggest political scandal since the 1976 downfall of the Gang of Four at the end of the Cultural Revolution.

Appearing somber, a clean-shaven Bo, whose hair looked like it was still dyed black, stood in the dock without handcuffs, according to a picture issued by the court. He was dressed in a long-sleeved white shirt and stood with his hands crossed in front of him, flanked by two policemen.

“Regarding the matter of Tang Xiaolin giving me money three times, I once admitted it against my will during the Central Discipline Inspection Commission’s investigation against me,” Bo said, referring to the party’s top anti-graft body.

“(I’m) willing to bear the legal responsibilities, but at that time I did not know the circumstances of these matters, my mind was a blank.”

State television said Bo did not contest the evidence shown in court.

Bo was charged with receiving about 21.8 million yuan ($3.56 million) in bribes from Xu Ming, a plastics-to-property entrepreneur who is a close friend, and Tang Xiaolin, the general manager of Hong Kong-based export company Dalian International Development Ltd, the court said.

He received the bribes through his wife, Gu Kailai, and his son, Bo Guagua, it said, citing the indictment.

It was the first time that authorities had named the younger Bo in the case against his father. Guagua is now in the United States, pursuing a law degree at Columbia University.

Bo’s language suggests that he could fight the charges against him, and the court account did not say whether he had or would plead guilty to any of the charges.

A guilty plea would almost certainly signal he has worked out a deal for leniency, but he is likely to plead not guilty to the abuse of power charge to show that he is a victim of a power struggle, according to a source with ties to the leadership.

Court spokesman Liu Yanjie told reporters that Bo was “emotionally stable and physically healthy” during the trial.

“The court session proceeded in an orderly fashion,” he said.

TWO-DAY TRIAL

Bo’s trial will last for two days and the verdict is likely to be in early September, state broadcaster CCTV said.

The Jinan Intermediate Court said on its microblog feed that five of Bo’s family members and 19 journalists attended the hearing. In another picture published by the court, Bo’s siblings appeared to be in court. The court said over 100 people filled the courtroom.

Underscoring popular support for Bo, a handful of supporters protested outside the courthouse for a second day to denounce what they said was politically motivated persecution. Police, who had blocked off the courthouse, hustled them away.

One protester’s sign read: “The Chongqing experience is good for the country and the people, common prosperity is what the people want”. Another held up a photo of Mao Zedong.

Bo also embezzled 5 million yuan from a government project in the northeastern city of Dalian, where he served as mayor, the court said.

The charge of abuse of power against Bo relates to the murder case involving Gu, the court said. Bo was a rising star in China’s leadership circles when his career was stopped short last year by the murder scandal involving Gu, who was convicted of the November 2011 murder of British businessman Neil Heywood, a business partner and family friend.

Bo’s former police chief in Chongqing, Wang Lijun, has also been jailed for trying to cover up the case. Bo was furious with Wang when he was told that his wife was a murder suspect, and sacked him despite not having party authority to do so, sources with knowledge of the case have said.

Neither did he report the matter to his bosses in Beijing, all of which led to the abuse of power charge, they said.

“Bo violated regulations to block the investigation of the murder in which Bogu Kailai was a suspect,” said court spokesman Liu, using Gu’s official but rarely used name.

Nevertheless he has been seen by his backers as the victim of a power struggle. Bo’s downfall has triggered heated debate between his leftist followers, who are nostalgic for the revolutionary ideals of the Mao Zedong era, and reformers, who advocate faster political and economic change.

Bo could face a death sentence for his charges, though a suspended death sentence is more likely, which effectively means life imprisonment, or a 20-year term.

The trial will be watched as a test case of China’s commitment to the rule of law, especially whether Bo will be given a chance to defend himself.

Yet his guilt is an almost foregone conclusion given that prosecutors and courts come under Communist Party control. Courts have a 98 percent conviction rate.

The new administration of President Xi, who formally took the reins of state power in March, will likely trumpet Bo’s case as a success in its fight against deep-rooted corruption.

($1 = 6.1234 Chinese yuan)

Court Orders Russian Banker Placed Under House Arrest

A Russian court has ordered the head of French banking giant Societe Generale’s Russian unit,Vladimir Golubkov, placed under house arrest over bribery charges.

Rosbank chief, Golubkov, was charged with commercial bribery and will be placed under house arrest until July 16.

The court opted for house arrest despite a request by the investigation to put Golubkov, who is accused of soliciting a $1.5-million bribe from a businessman, into pre-trial detention.

According to reports, investigators released a film of Vladimir Golubkov with cash piled on his office desk, a reason for several bankers to doubt the authenticity of the case brought against the Russian.

Golubkov and his subordinate, Rosbank vice-president, Tamara Polyanitsyna, were charged with bribery after both were detained by police on Wednesday in a dramatic sting operation which found stacks of bank notes laid out on Golubkov’s desk.

The case could increase alarm among international investors and sheds a damaging light on business practices in Russia, where France’s SocGen is one of the few Western banks left in a market dominated by home-grown state players.

$3million bribe: Reps to hold emergency session

Following the $3million bribe allegations against the Chairman, House of Representatives committee on the management of fuel subsidy, Farouk Lawan, the House is to reconvene for a special plenary session on Friday to take a position on the matter.
The Chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Media, Zakari Mohammed on Wednesday, confirmed that the House will be cutting short its one-week break to hold the emergency plenary session.

A source in the National Assembly said that the leadership of the House, had a closed door meeting on Wednesday, where the decision was reached.

In an earlier statement released by the House of Representatives, the lawmakers had vowed to investigate the allegation of $3 million against Mr Lawan.

The Chairman, Zenon Petroleum and Gas Limited, Femi Otedola in an interview with a national daily newspaper, alleged that Mr Lawan and the Secretary of the probe committee, Boniface Emenalo had collected $620,000 from him in a sting operation masterminded by the State Security Services (SSS).

The amount, according to Mr Otedola was part payment of $3 million, which he alleged Mr Lawan had demanded from him to exonerate Zenon Oil from the probe committee’s report.

He said on April 21, the Saturday before the plenary, Mr Lawan came in person to his residence and collected $250,000 in cash, as the first instalment and on Monday April 23 “Lawan came and collected another $250,000.”

On Tuesday, the oil magnate appeared before a Special Task force set up by the acting Inspector General of Police, Abubakar Mohammed to investigate the bribery allegation.

Mr Otedola at the meeting with the police authority, presented audio and video evidence of how Mr Lawan got the first instalment of the bribe and how he demanded the balance.

Besides submitting the evidence, Mr Otedola informed the investigators of how the lawmaker mounted pressure on him with a list of senior officials of the House,  who he claimed were to be settled with the bribe money.