Pakistan’s Ex-President Zardari Faces Travel Ban Over Graft

Pakistan on the map. Credit: Google Map

 

Pakistan announced Thursday it would ban former president Asif Ali Zardari from travelling abroad following allegations of money laundering, as the nation marked 11 years since his wife, prime minister Benazir Bhutto, was assassinated.

Information minister Fawad Chaudhry told reporters in Islamabad that Zardari and his sister Faryal Talpur were among 172 people involved in cases of money laundering and use of fake bank accounts.

“All the 172 names … will be added to the ECL (Exit Control List),” he said.

Zardari, co-chairman of the opposition Pakistan People’s Party and who was president from 2008 until 2013, has long been the subject of corruption allegations, and is widely known in Pakistan as “Mr. Ten Percent”.

The announcement coincided with the 11th death anniversary of his spouse and two-time former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, who was killed in a gun and suicide bomb attack during an election rally in the garrison town of Rawalpindi on December 27, 2007.

Earlier this week Chaudhry said a joint investigation team (JIT) had found evidence of how Zardari allegedly laundered money through fake bank accounts and companies.

“I hope Zardari will now take the JIT seriously,” he said Thursday, adding that his government would not spare anyone involved in plundering national wealth.

Prime Minister Imran Khan, who came to power in July, has vowed to squash rampant corruption and recover billions siphoned from the country as his government scrambles to shore up Pakistan’s deteriorating finances and fast-depleting foreign exchange reserves.

Zardari’s travel ban comes days after former prime minister Nawaz Sharif was sentenced to seven years in prison for corruption on Monday, the latest in a long string of court cases against him.

Pakistan’s Supreme Court disqualified Sharif from politics for life over graft allegations in 2017, ousting him from power. His Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz was defeated by Khan in the July polls.

A Pakistani court established a commission in September to investigate the scourge of corruption, finding that at least $400 million had passed through “thousands of false accounts”, using the names of impoverished people.

The commission said some 600 companies and individuals “are associated with the scandal”.

AFP

S. Korea Ex-President Lee Jailed For 15 Years Over Corruption

This file photo shows Former South Korean president Lee Myung-bak was jailed for 15 years on October 5, 2018, for corruption, becoming the latest of the country’s ex-leaders to be formally convicted of criminal offenses.Jung Yeon-je / POOL / AFP

 

Former South Korean president Lee Myung-bak was jailed for 15 years for corruption Friday, becoming the latest of the country’s ex-leaders to be sent to prison.

The 76-year-old CEO-turned-president, who served from 2008 to 2013, was found guilty on charges including bribery and embezzlement and ordered to pay a fine of 13 billion won ($11.5 million) by the Seoul Central District Court.

The former South Korean leader was indicted in April on 16 charges that included bribery, embezzlement, and abuse of power.

The court found that Lee was the de-facto owner of DAS — a controversial auto parts company which he claimed was his brother’s — which he used to create slush funds of around 24 billion won.

Lee was also found guilty of accepting nearly six billion won from Samsung Electronics in return for a presidential pardon for its chairman Lee Kun-hee, who was jailed for tax evasion.

A Samsung spokesman declined to comment on Friday’s ruling.

“Despite objective evidence and credible testimonies, he has denied all offenses and shifted responsibilities to others by saying he was being framed,” said a judge during the trial that was broadcast live.

“Bringing everything into consideration, heavy punishment for the accused is inevitable,” she said.

Lee was not in attendance, citing ill-health and in protest against the court’s decision to televise the ruling.

Lee earlier dismissed what prosecutors say are “incriminating” documents and testimony from his relatives and aides as “fabrications”.

His lawyer called the ruling “extremely regrettable” and said the court’s finding of Lee as the de-facto owner of DAS “hard to understand”.

He told reporters that he will discuss appealing the verdict with Lee and reach a decision by Monday, according to Yonhap.

South Korean presidents have a tendency to end up in prison after their time in power – usually once their political rivals have moved into the presidential Blue House.

All four former South Korean presidents who are still alive have now been convicted of criminal offenses.

Conservative Lee’s successor Park Geun-hye was sentenced to 25 years in prison and fined millions of dollars for bribery and abuse of power.

She was ousted last year over a nationwide corruption scandal that prompted massive street protests.

Chun Doo-hwan and Roh Tae-woo, former army generals who served as president through the 1980s to early 1990s, served jail terms for corruption and treason after leaving office.

Both Chun and Roh received presidential pardons after serving about two years.

Another former leader, Roh Moo-hyun, committed suicide after becoming embroiled in a corruption probe.

AFP

DR Congo’s Bemba To File New ICC Appeal

FILE Photo of Congolese ex-vice president Jean-Pierre Bemba

 

 

Congolese ex-vice president Jean-Pierre Bemba will appeal his sentence for bribing war crimes witnesses and hopes to overturn his conviction in a case which has barred him from elections, his lawyer said Wednesday.

The International Criminal Court on Monday confirmed a one-year sentence and 300,000-euro ($350,000) fine against Bemba for tampering with witnesses in his main trial for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Any fresh appeal will, however, come too late to get Bemba on the official list of candidates for the Democratic Republic of Congo’s December 23 election, from which he has been barred by the bribery conviction.

“It is my intention to appeal the decision issued by the Trial Chamber” within the 30-day deadline allowed by the ICC, Bemba’s lawyer Melinda Taylor said in an email to AFP.

Bemba has already lost an earlier appeal, but Taylor said Bemba had a right to make a fresh challenge as Monday’s decision was by lower trial judges, and not the ICC’s higher appeals chamber.

“I have also identified several grounds of appeal which could if upheld by the Appeals Chamber, result in the termination of the (bribery) case against Mr. Bemba,” she added.

Bemba was freed from a decade in jail in The Hague and made a triumphant return home after his separate conviction for war crimes and humanity was itself overturned on appeal in June.

He had been condemned in 2016 to an 18-year jail term for murder, rape, and pillaging by his private army in the neighboring Central African Republic in 2002-2003.

But the Congolese election commission has since excluded Bemba from December elections because of the conviction for bribery, corruption and coaching 14 defense witnesses during his main war crimes trial.

The panel is expected to give the green light to opposition figures Felix Tshisekedi and Vital Kamerhe, as well as to Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, a hardline former interior minister backed by President Joseph Kabila, Bemba’s main rival.

Bemba was found guilty in 2016 in the witness tampering case along with four other people, and the ICC’s appeals chamber rejected his appeal against the original conviction and sentence in March this year.

The appeals judges also sent the case back to trial judges for re-sentencing as they said the original penalties were too low, but the trial judges reconfirmed their earlier sentences on Monday.

AFP

Argentine Police Search House Of Ex-President Kirchner

Argentina’s Federal police officers of the explosives division arrive to raid a property of former Argentine President and current senator Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner as part of the so-called corruption notebooks case, in Recoleta neighbourhood, Buenos Aires, on August 23, 2018. 
Juan MABROMATA / AFP

 

Argentine police investigating the so-called notebooks corruption case began searching the homes of former president Cristina Kirchner on Thursday.

The move came after judge Claudio Bonadio successfully petitioned the Senate on Wednesday to partially lift Kirchner’s parliamentary immunity so her three residences could be searched for evidence of multi-million dollar bribes paid by businessmen in exchange for public works contracts during her administration.

AFP

Sri Lanka To Probe Ex-President

Sri Lanka’s President Maithripala Sirisena                                     Ishara S. KODIKARA / AFP

 

Sri Lanka’s ex-president Mahinda Rajapakse is to be questioned over the 2008 abduction of a newspaper editor, police said Wednesday, as authorities investigate the former leader and his family over allegations of murder and fraud.

Investigators believe a group of military officials behind the abduction of the Nation news editor Keith Noyahr was also responsible for the assassination of another newspaper editor fiercely critical of Rajapakse.

The Criminal Investigations Department has told Rajapakse he will be questioned at his home in Colombo on Friday, police spokesman Ruwan Gunasekera told AFP.

Noyahr’s abduction, which prompted widespread criticism, came after he published an article criticising a top military commander.

He was snatched from outside his home near Colombo as he returned from work, and was released — battered and bruised — in the streets of a suburb of Colombo a few hours later.

Prosecutors allege he was taken away in a white van and beaten up at a safe house run by the Directorate of military intelligence (DMI).

Noyahr has since moved to Australia.

Investigators also believe the DMI was behind the killing of Lasantha Wickrematunga, an editor who had accused Rajapakse’s defence secretary and brother Gotabhaya of taking kickbacks for arms purchases, and was due to testify in court when he was killed.

Major General Amal Karunasekera, the DMI’s chief at the time, is currently in custody over the case.

During Rajapakse’s tenure, 17 journalists and media workers were killed.

The former president and members of his family are under investigation for murder and large-scale financial fraud during his decade as president.

All deny any wrongdoing and in turn accuse the current government of pursuing a political vendetta.

AFP

S.Korea Sentences Ex-President’s Friend To 20 Years Imprisonment

South Korean President Moon Jae-in (R) talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s sister Kim Yo Jong (C) as they watch a concert of Pyongyang’s Samjiyon Orchestra at a national theatre in Seoul on February 11, 2018. PHOTO: YONHAP / AFP

 

The secret confidante of ousted South Korean president Park Geun-Hye was convicted Tuesday and jailed for 20 years for her key role in the scandal that brought down the head of state.

Choi Soon-Sil — who became close to Park through her father, a shadowy religious figure — was vilified during the massive nationwide protests that rocked Asia’s fourth-largest economy and culminated in Park’s impeachment last year.

The Seoul Central District Court found Choi guilty of abuse of power, bribery and interfering in government business.

The verdict is a potential pointer to the decision in Park’s separate trial since 15 of the 18 charges Choi faced mirror counts on the ex-president’s own indictment.

Judge Kim Se-Yoon told a packed courtroom that Choi took advantage of “long private ties” with Park to force companies to donate funds to foundations she controlled and used for personal gain.

She accepted more than 14 billion won ($13 million) from telecommunications giant Samsung and retail conglomerate Lotte, he said, and “meddled in state affairs widely”.

Choi had no title or security clearance, but prosecutors said she interfered in a wide range of official issues, including the nomination of cabinet members and ambassadors — and in editing many of Park’s speeches.

“In light of the size of material gains obtained by the accused, the severe confusion in state affairs caused by her crimes and the people’s sense of frustration, the guilt of the accused is very heavy,” he said.

She had shown no repentance, the judge added. “The accused is sentenced to 20 years in prison.”

Choi, who wore a dark blue coat and a badge bearing her prison number, showed little reaction as the sentence was passed.

Choi’s fellow-accused Shin Dong-bin, chairman of the Lotte group which is SouthKorea’s fifth-biggest conglomerate, was given two and a half years in prison.

He was arrested in court, having been out on bail during the trial — but smiled calmly after he was sentenced, while his legal team looked grim.

Former Park aide Ahn Jong-beom was jailed for six years.

Choi had pleaded not guilty, claiming she never sought any personal benefit but attempted to help Park’s work, and her lawyer Lee Kyung-Jae said the defence would appeal.

“This is a heavy sentence bordering on cruelty,” he told reporters.

“We admit we have failed to convince the court judges that the accused Choi is not guilty. We will do our best to have a different ruling in the appeals court.”

– Networks of privilege –

The scandal, one of the largest in SouthKorea‘s modern history, catalysed wider economic and social frustrations among South Koreans.

It exposed networks of privilege among the country’s business and political elite and has seen more than a dozen officials put behind bars.

The South Korean economy is dominated by giant family-controlled firms known as “chaebol”, which powered a decades-long economic boom but have long had murky ties with authorities.

Choi and Park colluded to have Lotte chairman Shin donate seven billion won to a foundation to build a sports centre, in exchange for the government issuing a licence for a duty-free shop.

But Samsung heir Lee Jae-Yong walked free from prison last week when most of his bribery convictions were set aside on appeal. His jail sentence was replaced with a suspended term — the third generation of his family to benefit from merciful legal treatment.

The court ruled Tuesday that the 3.65 billion won Samsung spent to buy horses and equine equipment for Choi’s daughter, and another 3.6 billion won it paid to a company controlled by Choi, amounted to bribes for her.

But there was no evidence Samsung had asked for policy favours in order to smooth the succession of Lee Jae-Yong, it said.

Park’s own trial has been hit by delays — her defence team quit in protest when the court extended her detention, and new charges have been added to her indictment.

The former head of state also denies the charges against her and has stopped attending court, claiming she is a victim of “political revenge”.

Tuesday’s verdict was “definitely bad news for Park Geun-Hye”, said Gang Moon-Dae of activist group Lawyers for a Democratic Society, given the similarity of the charges in the two proceedings.

“Park is likely to draw a heavier sentence,” he told AFP, “possibly up to 25 years in prison”.

AFP

Dudafa Says EFCC Forced Him To Write Statement

Dudafa Says Statements Made To EFCC Were ForcedThe Federal High Court has adjourned till February 13, it’s ruling on the admissibility of a court order on which authority the EFCC remanded a former Senior Special Assistant on Domestic Affairs to ex-President Goodluck Jonathan, Waripamo-Owei Dudafa.

The defendant had contended that the EFCC remanded him in custody without access to his lawyers.

He had also denied statements made in custody insisting that the statements were dictated and he was mentally tortured to sign them in order to regain his freedom.

Under cross-examination on Tuesday from Mr Rotimi Oyedepo, the Counsel to the EFCC, Mr Dudafa denied being offered administrative bail by the commission.

He, however, admitted that one Barrister Sylvanus Habila who is his Uncle came to his rescue and acted as his lawyer.

The EFCC says the administrative bail was not completed because the lawyer recommended on behalf of the defendant’s sureties produced forged documents before the commission.

The EFCC told the court that this lawyer was also present in court when the remand order from a magistrate court was obtained.

Mr Dudafa, however, insisted that the lawyer was seen and not heard as the remand proceedings was an exparte one.

A move to tender the remand order in court to show that the lawyer made an argument for Mr Dudafas bail in the Magistrate court was rebuffed by the Defence Counsel, Mr Gboyega Oyewole who insisted that the document was not certified neither was it properly produced before the court.

The EFCC insisted that the document was produced in its primary form and did not require certification.

Following arguments and counter arguments on the issue, Justice Mohammed Idris adjourned till Feb 13 to consider his ruling on the admissibility of the document.

Mr Dudafa is testifying in a trial-within-trial to determine the voluntariness of some statements he made while in the custody of the EFCC after his arrest on charges of illegally concealing about 1.6billion Naira which were alleged to be proceeds of crime.

Iran’s Ex-President Rafsanjani Dies

Iran's Ex-President Rafsanjani DiesIran’s ex-President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, a dominant figure in the country’s politics since the 1980s, has died at the age of 82, media say.

Mr Rafsanjani had suffered a heart attack on Sunday and died in an hospital in Tehran.

He served as president from 1989 to 1997 but lost to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad when he ran again in 2005.

Rafsanjani was an influential figure in Iran, and headed the Expediency Council, a body which is intended to resolve disputes between the parliament and the Guardian Council.

He was also a member of the Assembly of Experts, the clerical body that selects the supreme leader, Iran’s most powerful figure.

Rafsanjani has been described as “a pillar of the Islamic revolution.” His pragmatic policies – economic liberalization, better relations with the West and empowering Iran’s elected bodies – appealed to many Iranians but was despised by hardliners.

The 12-member Guardian Council, a dominant force in Iran that interprets the constitution, disqualified Mr Rafsanjani after he entered the race for the 2013 presidential election as a reformist candidate.

Obasanjo Meets With Buhari

Buhari-ObasanjoPresident Muhammadu Buhari on Friday held a closed-door meeting with Nigeria’s former President, Olusegun Obasanjo.

The ex-President, however, refused to speak to State House correspondents after the meeting.

The former President arrived for the meeting at about 12.30 p.m. and discussions between the two leaders lasted about an hour.

A source told Channels Television that the meeting centred on the outcome of Obasanjo’s recent international engagements.
Buhari-Obasanjo-meeting
The source explained that during the meeting, the former President formally briefed President Buhari on the report of the Eminent Persons Group he presented to the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States at the Summit of Heads of States which ended on Wednesday in Papua, New Guinea.

President Buhari had late last year sought the assistance of the former President in mediation in the political crisis in Guinea Bissau because.

he said his choice was based on his wide political and military experience.

In a meeting with the President of Guinea Bissau, Jose Mario Bavz, in December 2015 on the sidelines of the Summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) holding in Johannesburg, South Africa, President Buhari said he had considered the former President’s strong commitment to the unity of Nigeria and Africa before choosing him.

President Buhari also met with Anglican bishops, led by the Primate of the Anglican Church in Nigeria, Archbishop Nicholas Okoh.