Israel Postpones Netanyahu Graft Trial By 2 Months Over Virus

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the weekly cabinet meeting at his office in Jerusalem, on July 8, 2018. ABIR SULTAN / POOL / AFP

 

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s corruption trial has been postponed until May 24 due to concerns about coronavirus, Jerusalem’s District Court said Sunday.

Netanyahu, the first Israeli premier ever to be indicted in office, had been scheduled to stand trial from Tuesday over alleged bribery, fraud and breach of trust.

In a statement, the court noted that given the coronavirus pandemic it had been instructed to hear “only urgent matters”.

“We have decided to postpone the first hearing (in Netanyahu’s trial) until May 24,” the court said.

Israel has 200 confirmed cases of the virus with tens of thousands of people in home quarantine.

Netanyahu has been charged with a range of offences including receiving improper gifts and offering a media mogul lucrative regulatory changes in exchange for favourable coverage.

He denies wrongdoing.

Despite the indictments, Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party won the most seats in March 2 elections and he is aiming to form a new government.

But Likud and its allies fell short of the 61 seats needed for a majority in the Knesset, or parliament. It was Israel’s third inconclusive vote in less than a year.

Netanyahu has called on his main challenger Benny Gantz of the centrist Blue and White party to form an emergency, national unity government to tackle the coronavirus crisis.

Gantz has said he is open to discussing the proposal, with negotiations set for this week.

South African President, Ramaphosa Cleared Of Graft Accusations

President of South Africa, Cyril Ramaphosa addresses a public meeting in the Western Cape Province. RODGER BOSCH / AFP

 

A South African court on Tuesday ruled in favour of President Cyril Ramaphosa in a probe of suspected money laundering and personal enrichment linked to his 2017 party leadership election campaign fund.

Judges dismissed an investigation by Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane, who had accused Ramaphosa of misleading parliament over his campaign financing.

In a damning report last year, Mkhwebane — South Africa’s ethics watchdog — published findings concerning a 500,000 rand ($31,460) donation to Ramaphosa’s campaign from a company that is facing extensive corruption allegations.

Ramaphosa initially told lawmakers the payment was to his son for consultancy work at the company, now known as African Global Operations (AGO).

He later backtracked and said it was a donation towards his campaign to become ANC party leader — a hard-fought battle in which he beat ex-president Jacob Zuma’s chosen candidate in 2017.

Mkhwebane accused Ramaphosa of deliberately misleading parliament for illegal purposes.

But the president dismissed the report and took the case to the High Court, which on Tuesday declared Mkhwebane’s findings as “unlawful”.

“There is simply no evidence that the president received personal financial benefit from any campaign contributions,” said judge Elias Matojane.

“Her findings on the money laundering issue were not only irrational but indeed reckless,” he said.

Ramaphosa’s office welcomed the sentence and reaffirmed its “commitment to honest and effective governance” on Twitter.

Mkhwebane’s spokesman Oupa Segalwe told AFP the Public Protector would “study the judgement” along with her legal team before “mapping the way forward”.

Mkhwebane was appointed Public Protector in 2016 and her term ends in 2023.

While her position is meant to investigate public corruption and misconduct, she has been criticised for being close to graft-tainted Zuma.

A handful of Mkhwebane’s other investigations have already been dismissed in court, and parliament is currently assessing her competency for the job.

A few months after winning the ANC leadership, Ramaphosa went on to become president after Zuma was entangled in graft scandals that forced him to step down in February 2018.

Ramaphosa led the ruling African National Congress (ANC) in the May 2019 national elections where the party won with a reduced majority.

He has vowed to crack down on high-level corruption that looted state coffers during Zuma’s nine-year administration.

The ANC remains bitterly split between Zuma and Ramaphosa’s supporters.

AFP

Kano Anti-Corruption Agency Invites Emir Sanusi Over Fresh Allegations

Emir Of Kano Decries North's Poor Educational System
Emir of Kano, Muhammadu Sanusi II (file photo)

 

The Kano State Public Complaint and Anti-Corruption Commission has ordered the Emir of Kano, Muhammadu Sanusi II, to appear before it on Monday, March 9, 2020.

The anti-graft agency said this in a statement on Thursday as the Kano Emirate requested for another day for the monarch to appear before the body.

Emir Sanusi was supposed to appear before the agency on Thursday to answer questions on alleged illegal sales of land belonging to the emirate.

According to the Chairman of the Commission, Barr. Muhuyi Rimingado, the investigations are not related to any other probe of the Emir.

He said: “Preliminary findings suggest that a company, Country Wide House Ltd. served as a corporate vehicle to allegedly launder the sum of over N2bn being proceeds of several hectares of land in Darmanawa phase I and II and Bubbugaji, under the former right of occupancy CON-RESS 2016-503 illegally sold to Messer family home fund limited at the alleged instance of His Highness the Emir of Kano.”

Rimingado also claimed that “Investigation further revealed that some of the proceeds of the sales remitted to the Emirate Council’s bank account can be traced to the companies of interest to His Highness.”

According to the body, the investigation of the Emir followed information brought to it by a whistleblower, on the 29th of December 2019.

I’m Not Afraid Of Prison, Says Zuma After Medical Trip

In this file photo taken on July 27, 2018 former South African president Jacob Zuma stands in the dock of the High Court of Pietermaritzburg during his hearing over 16 corruption charges. Former South African president Jacob Zuma must pay back state funds and cover his own costs, a court ruled on December 13, 2018, leaving him facing massive legal bills as he fights graft charges.
Phill MAGAKOE / POOL / AFP

 

South Africa’s graft-accused former president Jacob Zuma returned home on Saturday after a month-long trip to Cuba for medical treatment and declared he was not afraid of prison.

Zuma, 77, was slapped with an arrest warrant earlier this month after his lawyers claimed he was too ill to travel back to South Africa for a pre-trial hearing on corruption charges.

A high court issued the warrant after it questioned the authenticity of his sick note, but said it would not be executed until the case is set to resume on May 6.

A crowd of people gathered at Johannesburg’s OR Tambo international airport to welcome Zuma, the former ANC leader who ruled South Africa from 2009 to 2018.

“I am not afraid of prison,” Zuma told his supporters in Zulu before being ushered out of the arrivals hall.

READ ALSO: S.Sudan Rebel Leader Machar Sworn In As Vice President

He raised his thumbs and grinned from behind a pair of dark glasses as a singing crowd gathered around him.

Zuma is alleged to have taken bribes of four million rand (about $267,000) related to a $3.4 billion arms deal in 1999 when he was deputy president.

In all, he faces 16 charges of fraud, graft and racketeering related to the purchase of fighter jets, patrol boats, and military equipment.

The arrest warrant was just the latest twist in a case that has seen many legal turns over the past decade and a half.

Critics have dubbed Zuma the “Teflon president” for his reputed ability to evade judicial reckoning.

He has also been accused of orchestrating the systematic plunder of government coffers during his rule in a scandal known as “state capture”.

“(Zuma) has always respected the courts,” supporter Carl Niehaus told reporters before the ex-president’s arrivals.

“There is no need to vilify him and try and turn him into a fugitive of justice.”

Little has been disclosed about the current state of Zuma’s health or the type of treatment he has been receiving.

He was forced to step down in 2018 by the ruling African National Congress (ANC) after a nine-year reign marked by corruption allegations and dwindling popularity.

AFP

FULL VIDEO: I Strongly Believe Coronavirus Is Caused By Corruption – Magu

 

The acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Ibrahim Magu on Tuesday said he strongly believes the dreaded coronavirus disease is caused by corruption.

Magu also noted that if Nigeria doesn’t kill corruption, it will kill the nation.

“We have zero tolerance to corruption in the EFCC. Tackling corruption is a clarion call although corruption is a huge burden to the nation. It has spread to all facets of our lives.

READ ALSO: Nothing Like Multiple Taxation In Lagos – Sanwo-Olu

“Corruption is the biggest strategy (sic) to humankind. Your Excellency, corruption is worse than all the diseases now running about. And I strongly believe, Your Excellency, that even the coronavirus is caused by corruption,” he said.

Magu made this statement at the passing out parade of 281 cadets of the EFCC Detective Inspector Course-5, at the Nigerian Defence Academy, Kaduna.

The event was also attended by President Muhammadu Buhari, Kaduna State Governor Nasir el-Rufai and Kebbi State Governor, Atiku Bagudu.

Magu also stressed that corruption is a huge burden in Nigeria and it has inflicted the country with major setbacks including poverty, unemployment, the fallen standard of education, weak access to affordable healthcare, the questionable integrity of electoral process, lower GDP among others.

Taribo West, Babayaro Join Fight Against Corruption

Pastor Taribo West, Former Nigerian Footballer and the General Overseer of Taribo West Ministries, preaches in his church in Lagos, on January 12, 2020.  PIUS UTOMI EKPEI / AFP

 

In his playing heydey, Taribo West was a tough-tackling defender taking on the best strikers in Italy’s Serie A with his trademark shock of brightly-coloured braids.

Now the former Inter Milan and AC Milan player is one of several ex-Nigeria national team stars and officials on a crusade to stamp out the corruption eating away at the game in his West African homeland.

“Nigerian football is sinking, it’s almost dead,” West said as he took to the airwaves of a popular radio station in the capital Abuja.

“There’s almost no place where you can talk out against those managing football because they have paid everybody.”

Football in Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation, has long been blighted by graft among officials that has seen players left unpaid and drained money away from developing the game.

The current leadership of the Nigeria Football Federation, headed by controversial president Amaju Pinnick, is facing a slew of corruption cases including allegations it diverted millions of dollars paid by FIFA to boost the sport in the country.

Nigeria has a wider problem with corruption – it came 146th out of 180 in the 2019 Transparency International rankings.

But as so often in Nigeria, justice can be hit or miss.

In November, a court dropped a raft of charges against Pinnick and his deputies on a technicality. All remain in their jobs and deny the accusations against them.

– ‘Corruption just killing’ –

Since finishing his career in the mid-2000s, West has lost the braids and swapped his football shirt for church attire to become a Christian preacher in his frenetic home city of Lagos.

Known as outspoken even during his playing days, he is using his profile to keep up the pressure in the hope that this time around something finally gets done about the graft that he believes is ruining the game.

“The corruption is just killing,” he said.

Other former players are also speaking out alongside him.

“A lot of things that are not acceptable around the world are now the norm in Nigeria football,” said Emeka Ezeugo, who featured for the swashbuckling Nigerian team at the 1994 World Cup in the United States.

He lamented that declarations of zero-tolerance by the authorities under President Muhammadu Buhari seemed to be having little impact.

“I am hugely disappointed with the federal government because it has accepted all that’s going on in our football despite its stance against corruption.”

Emmanuel Babayaro was one of the heroes when Nigeria made history to become the first African team to win an Olympic gold at the 1996 Atlanta games.

But since then he’s been left angered by the dwindling opportunities for young hopefuls to make careers in sport.

“Football ought to be a big employer of labour and a big business but because of the brazen corruption many aspiring footballers are so frustrated,” he said.

Nigeria’s footballers’ union, which represents past and current players, in February, filed a lawsuit aimed at getting the government to force the officials accused of corruption to stand down.

“They are public officers and that is what happens in such a situation,” union president Harrison Jalla told AFP.

– Whistleblowers –

It is not just ex-players taking a stance.

Some former and current officials at the national federation have come forward as whistleblowers and their complaints have formed the basis for much of the legal cases.

“The players have seen the truth and they are also pained that the football they gave everything, including the best of their youth, for to grow it is dying in the country,” explained Tunde Aderibigbe, a director who has petitioned anti-corruption agencies to launch probes.

“The local league, which produced many of them, is now a big joke with no sponsors and this year, teams representing Nigeria have failed internationally.”

Former technical director James Peters lamented the lack of infrastructure and development progammes due to corruption.

“Both the technical department and the technical committee, which has not sat for more than a year, have not been alive to their responsibilities because monies meant for them have found their way to private pockets,” he said.

“It breaks my heart that despite enormous investments… we still cannot boast of basic infrastructure to grow football in Nigeria.”

AFP

‘Corruption Index Is Not Research-Based’ – Garba Shehu Rubbishes TI Report On Nigeria

 

Presidential spokesman, Garba Shehu, on Friday, played down the relevance of Transparency International’s latest report on the state of corruption in Nigeria.

TI released its 2019 Corruption Perception Index (CPI) on Thursday, ranking Nigeria 146 out of 180 countries and scoring the country 26 out of 100 points, a decline from the 2018 version.

But Mr Shehu, speaking on Sunrise Daily, said the report could not be passed off as factual since it was based on secondary sources. 

READ ALSO: Why Nigeria Was Ranked Low In Corruption Index – Transparency International

“The report itself is a perception index,” he said. “So perception is what it is. It is different from the reality that you have on the ground. The report is harsh on the government. It does not take due cognisance of the ground reality.”

“In fairness to the TI that presented the report, they said themselves that it is not research-based,” Mr Shehu added. “So it is not fact-based but based on second-rate data – information collected here and there. In effect, anybody could put together this kind of report from press releases issued by opposition political parties. 

“The fact on the ground contradicts this report. This administration has done enormously well. We have achieved quite a lot.”

When he was further prodded to clarify his position on the quality of TI’s secondary sources, Mr Shehu maintained that the report does not reflect the country’s reality. 

Angola’s Dos Santos Says ‘Ready To Fight’ Against ‘Untrue’ Graft Claims

Angolan businesswoman Isabel dos Santos visits the new started EFACEC Portuguese corporation’s electric mobility industrial unit in Maia. AFP

 

Angola’s billionaire former first daughter Isabel dos Santos on Thursday dismissed graft allegations against her and vowed: “to fight through the international courts to defend my good name”.

The British-educated tycoon and eldest daughter of ex-president Jose Eduardo dos Santos has been charged in Angola with money laundering and mismanagement during her stewardship of state-owned oil firm Sonangol.

“The allegations which have been made against me over the last few days are extremely misleading and untrue,” she said in a statement issued through a public relations firm in London.

“This is a very concentrated, orchestrated and a well-coordinated political attack, ahead of elections in Angola next year.

“It is an attempt to neutralise me and to discredit the legacy of President dos Santos and his family,” dos Santos said.

“No-one should be taken in by these diversionary tactics.”

Documents leaked this week by the New York-based International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) alleged she plundered state coffers to build her fortune, estimated at $2.1 billion (1.82 billion euros).

But in her statement Thursday, dos Santos said the “stolen” documents had been leaked “selectively to give a false impression of my business activities”.

She added: “I am ready to fight through the international courts to defend my good name.

“I have engaged lawyers to take action against inaccurate and defamatory reports.

“We deny all the latest allegations being made by Angolan authorities.”

A spokesman at the PR firm representing dos Santos said he did not know her current location, but that she had been in Britain this week.

AFP

Why Nigeria Was Ranked Low In Corruption Index – Transparency International

 

Nigeria is now ranked 146 out of the 180 countries on the 2019 corruption perception index published by transparency international, having dropped two places.

According to the report released Thursday, the country scored 26 out of 100 points, dropping from the 27 points that it has maintained since 2017.

In the 2018 index, Nigeria rose by four places from 148 to 144.

Addressing journalists in Abuja the head of Transparency International in Nigeria, Auwal Rafsanjani says Nigeria scored 26 out of 100 points, dropping from the 27 points that it has maintained since 2017.

Mr. Rafsanjani stated that selective adherence to the rule of law and corruption in political parties were some of the reasons for the poor ranking.

The Corruption Index ranks 180 countries and territories by their perceived levels of public sector corruption in the opinion of experts and business people, using a scale of 0 to 100, where zero means “highly corrupt” and 100 means very clean.

READ ALSO: We Will Repatriate Alison-Madueke To Face Financial Crime Charges – Magu

“Our analysis also suggests that reducing big money in politics and promoting inclusive political decision-making are essential to curb corruption.

“From fraud that occurs at the highest levels of government to petty bribery that blocks access to basic public services like healthcare and education, citizens are fed up with corrupt leaders and institutions,” the report read in part.

The Sub-Saharan Africa region was classified as the lowest-performing region while Western Europe was the highest-scoring region.

Of the 19 countries in the West African region, Nigeria was ranked the fourth most corrupt country.

Transparency international’s chair, Delia Ferreira Rubio asked the government to urgently address what she describes as the corrupting role of big money in political party financing and the undue influence it exerts on political systems.

 

Croatia Sentences Ex-PM For Corruption

Croatia’s former prime minister Ivo Sanader attends a hearing during his trial in Zagreb, Croatia.  STR / AFP

 

A Croatian court on Monday sentenced former prime minister Ivo Sanader to six years in jail and the boss of Hungary’s MOL energy group to two years for bribery.

Sanader — already serving time for a separate graft conviction — and MOL’s Zsolt Hernadi were convicted for “receiving and giving a bribe” concerning a 2009 deal after the Hungarian firm purchased shares in local oil and gas group INA, the judge said.

Judge Maja Stampar Stipic said the deal allowed then-PM Sanader to pocket 10 million euros ($11 million) in exchange for granting the Hungarian firm control over INA.

MOL, whose main shareholder is the Budapest government, has a 49 percent INA stake, while Zagreb holds a 44 percent stake.

“As the top state official, Sanader … jeopardised Croatia’s vital economic interests,” prosecutor Tonci Petkovic said in his final statement.

Defence attorneys for CEO Hernadi, who was tried in absentia, argued that the prosecutors did not prove an “incriminating tie” between the two defendants.

Both men pleaded not guilty and can appeal the verdict.

The former premier was already found guilty of the charge in 2012, but the country’s top court overturned his eight-and-a-half-year jail sentence and called for a re-trial.

Croatia has sought Hernadi’s arrest for years, but Hungary has refused to extradite him.

Sanader, conservative prime minister from 2003 to 2009, has faced several other graft cases in which he is suspected of embezzling millions of euros.

In April he was jailed to serve a six-year sentence in another corruption case.

In 2018 he was also sentenced to two and half years for war profiteering, but acquitted of abuse of power charges in another trial.

Sanader is the highest official to be charged with corruption in Croatia since independence from Yugoslavia in 1991.

Tackling corruption was key for the country’s successful bid to join the European Union in 2013.

AFP

Vietnam Ex-Minister Gets Life Sentence In Bribery Case

Vietnam Flag

 

A court in Vietnam sentenced a former communications minister to life in prison Saturday for receiving millions of dollars in bribes, as the hardline administration presses its anti-graft drive against once-powerful figures in the communist state.

Nguyen Bac Son was charged alongside his then-deputy Truong Minh Tuan with receiving $3.2 million in bribes to approve the 2015 purchase of a TV firm that would have lost state-run telecommunications firm Mobifone $300 million.

The two-week trial in Hanoi for the men — once members of the powerful communist party central committee — ended Saturday, according to state-run media Tuoi Tre.

Son, a minister from 2011-2016, was sentenced to life in prison while Tuan — who took over as minister until he was fired in July last year — got 14 years in prison.

“The defendants’ behaviour caused bad opinions in society, resulting in especially huge losses for the state,” state media quoted the verdict as saying.

It also “caused $300 million in losses to state coffers,” the verdict said, though the transaction was never fully completed.

Son reportedly admitted wrongdoing before the court and asked for leniency, while Tuan said he was “shameful for his mistakes”, said Tuoi Tre.

Prosecutors had initially proposed the death penalty for Son, but he was spared after he returned the money on Friday before the verdict’s announcement.

Both men had received the money from Pham Nhat Vu, director of the loss-making TV company Audio Visual Global, who was also sentenced to three years in prison Saturday, while 11 other officials involved received jail terms between two and 23 years.

Vu’s brother is Vietnam’s richest man Pham Nhat Vuong, with assets totalling billions of dollars thanks to a cradle-to-grave empire that includes housing, holiday resorts, farms, schools, shopping malls and cars.

The case has captivated a public unused to seeing powerful figures publicly toppled.

Since Vietnam’s transition to a hardline ultra-conservative administration in 2016, the government has ramped up an anti-corruption campaign which has jailed dozens of senior officials, bankers and businessmen.

Some observers believe the drive to be politically motivated.

Vietnam, one of Asia’s fastest growing economies, has long been plagued by endemic corruption, with Transparency International ranking it 117 out of 180 countries on its corruption index.

AFP

Lawmaker Arrested In Japan Over Alleged Bribes

A file photo taken on Dec. 9, 2019 shows Japan Liberal Democratic Party lawmaker Tsukasa Akimoto attending the Lower House plenary session in Tokyo. AFP

 

A Japanese lawmaker was arrested on suspicion of accepting bribes worth tens of thousands of dollars from a company that wanted to build a casino, Tokyo prosecutors said Wednesday.

Tsukasa Akimoto, a former member of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s ruling party, received three million yen in cash in 2017 ($27,400 at the current rate), prosecutors said in a statement without identifying the company.

The arrest could put pressure on the Abe administration, which legalised casinos in 2018 despite bitter opposition.

Akimoto, who denied the allegations in a tweet, was the senior vice minister in charge of overseeing the government’s casino policy.

Prosecutors alleged he received the money “knowing the company provided it for the purpose of asking for favourable arrangements” for casino projects.

Prosecutors also arrested three employees of Chinese betting company 500.com, which allegedly bribed Akimoto, according to public broadcaster NHK.

Akimoto resigned from Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party after his arrest.

Prosecutors also alleged he was “invited on a trip to Hokkaido… and received the financial benefits worth around 700,000 yen including airfare and accommodation”.

Japan’s government has long pushed for the construction of mega-resorts that integrate casinos, entertainment venues, restaurants, hotels and conference facilities, similar to Las Vegas.

The policy’s supporters argue that casinos will boost the stagnant economy by bringing in tourists and business, similar to regional gambling hubs like Macau.

Japan is often viewed as the holy grail of gambling in Asia because of its wealthy population, proximity to the huge Chinese market, and an appetite for other forms of legal gambling such as horse racing and pachinko, a slot machine-style game.

But many activists are concerned about Japan’s well-documented gambling addiction issues.

AFP