Kenya’s Finance Minister Pleads Not Guilty To Graft Charges

Kenya’s Finance Minister Henry Rotich (R) sits at the Milimani Law Court in Nairobi as he attends a hearing to face corruption charges, on July 23, 2019. SIMON MAINA / AFP

 

Kenya’s Finance Minister Henry Rotich pleaded not guilty on Tuesday to corruption charges linked to the construction of two dams, a rare example of a sitting minister facing court in the graft-wracked country. 

Rotich and about a dozen top officials appeared in a packed Nairobi court to be charged with financial crimes including fraud, abuse of office and receiving bribes, to which they replied in turn: “not true”.

Rotich handed himself over to police on Monday after the country’s top prosecutor ordered he and 27 other officials be arrested and charged over an alleged multi-million dollar corruption scandal.

READ ALSO: Former Gabon MP Jailed For Six Years Over Electoral Violence

Director of Criminal Investigations George Kinoti has said he will seek arrest warrants for suspects from an Italian firm contracted to build the dams, and for those in Kenya who have not yet handed themselves in.

Chief Magistrate Douglas Ogoti set bail for Rotich and his top administrator Kamau Thugge at 15 million shillings ($140,000) in cash or the option of a bond worth 50 million shillings.

He also ordered the two to stay away from their offices, which were “considered a scene of the crime”, during the trial.

 ‘Riddled with irregularities’ 

The two dams at the heart of the scandal were to be built in western Kenya to provide much-needed water and electricity to residents.

But chief prosecutor Noordin Haji said the conception, procurement and payment processes for the project was “riddled with irregularities”.

“Investigations established that government officials flouted all procurement rules and abused their oath of office to ensure the scheme went through,” he said.

The contract was awarded to Italian firm CMC di Ravenna in a manner Haji said flouted proper procurement procedures, and despite financial woes that forced the company into liquidation.

The same company had previously failed to complete three mega-dam projects.

According to the contract, the project was to cost $450 million (401 million euros), but the treasury had increased this amount by $164 million “without regard to performance or works,” said Haji.

 ‘Breach’ of trust 

Some $180 million has already been paid out, with no construction to show for it.

Another $6 million was paid for the resettlement of people living in areas that would be affected by the project, but there is no evidence of land being acquired for this, the chief prosecutor said.

“I am satisfied that economic crimes were committed and I have therefore approved their arrests and prosecutions,” Haji said Monday.

Rotich has held the finance ministry since 2013.

“The persons we are charging today were mandated with safeguarding our public interest and deliberately breached this trust,” according to Haji.

“Under the guise of carrying out legitimate commercial transactions, colossal amounts were unjustifiably and illegally paid out through a well-choreographed scheme by government officers in collusion with private individuals and institutions.”

Dozens of top executives and government officials have been charged since last year, with President Uhuru Kenyatta vowing to combat corruption.

Kenyatta is the latest in a string of presidents to declare war on graft, but with a history littered with unsolved cases, many Kenyans see the scourge as an unavoidable fact of life.

AFP

Pakistani Ex-Leader Sharif Sentenced To Seven Years In Prison For Graft

File photo of Nawaz Sharif.

 

The  state media reported on Monday,The Former Pakistani leader Nawaz Sharif was sentenced to seven years in prison for corruption, after the latest conviction in a series of allegations which saw him ousted from power last year.

Sharif, a three-time prime minister, has denied all the charges against him and claims he is being targeted by the country’s powerful security establishment.

Monday’s conviction, centred on family businesses in the Middle East, is his second stemming from a corruption investigation spurred by the Panama Papers leak, and comes as new Prime Minister Imran Khan has vowed to tackle endemic graft in Pakistan.

He was taken into custody and will be sent to a prison in Lahore, and was also fined 1.5 billion rupees ($10.8 million), according to state-run Pakistan Television.

Security was tight at the court, with some scuffles breaking out between Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) supporters and security forces, who responded with tear gas.

Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, who succeeded Sharif as prime minister last year, said the PML-N would appeal the verdict but would “not resort to violence”.

“The people of Pakistan and history will not accept this decision,” he told reporters in Islamabad.

The Supreme Court disqualified Sharif from politics for life over the allegations last year, and directed an anti-corruption body to investigate three different charges regarding his family’s properties and businesses.

The months-long saga has seen him appear before accountability courts 165 times since September 2017, according to the English-language Dawn newspaper.

In July this year, he was convicted in one case revolving around family properties in London, and sentenced to 10 years in prison.

He was in London at the time as his wife received cancer treatment, but returned to Pakistan days ahead of the election, only to be arrested and imprisoned on arrival.

He was released in September after a court suspended his sentence pending an appeal hearing.

He was acquitted on the third charge, relating to business in Britain.

Sharif has been prime minister three times but power has been a rough ride.

He was first expelled from office in 1993 on suspicion of corruption. He won an election in 1997, only to be ousted and exiled after a military coup in 1999.

He returned to Pakistan in 2007 and took power once more in 2013 until his ousting last year.

AFP

Jacob Zuma Must Pay Mounting Legal Fees – Court

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.
Phill MAGAKOE / POOL / AFP

 

Former South African president Jacob Zuma must pay back state funds and cover his own costs, a court ruled on Thursday, leaving him facing massive legal bills as he fights graft charges.

Zuma, who was ousted in February over multiple graft scandals, could be liable for a $2 million legal bill but that figure would rise sharply, according to local media.”The state is not liable for the legal costs incurred by Jacob.

Mr  Jacob Gedleyihlekisa Zuma in his personal capacity in criminal prosecutions instituted against him,” judge Aubrey Ledwaba said in his ruling at the High Court in Pretoria.

The judge also ordered the recovery of state funds previously spent defending Zuma, ruling in a case which was brought by opposition parties.

Zuma is expected to appeal.

His ruling African National Congress (ANC) party said that Zuma had done nothing wrong as the court had only just ruled.

“Nothing was wrong until today… We will need to study this order,” acting party spokesman Dakota Legoete told the eNCA broadcaster.

But the main opposition Democratic Alliance party said in a statement that Zuma’s “system of corruption” had been shut down by the ruling.

“(The system) where those who loot the state are then able to defend themselves using public money has been stopped today,” the party said in a statement.

Zuma, who is thought to have little personal wealth, is due back in court in May for a hearing on whether the corruption charges against him should be dropped.

The former president, who served from 2009 until earlier this year, is battling to quash the charges against him over a $2.5-billion corruption case linked to a 1990s arms deal.

He has been charged with 16 counts of fraud, racketeering and money laundering.

He is accused of taking around four million rand ($340,000, 280,000 euros) in bribes from French defence company Thales.

Both Zuma and the French arms maker deny all charges.

The charges were first brought against him in 2005 but dropped by prosecutors in 2009 shortly before he became president, before being reinstated in 2016.

Beset by scandal, Zuma was forced to resign after a long stand-off with the ruling ANC party.

His successor Cyril Ramaphosa has vowed to root out corruption in government and the party.

AFP

Malaysian Ex-PM’s Wife Hit With Two New Graft Charge

Rosmah Mansor wife of former Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak (C), is escorted by police personnel during her arrival at court in Kuala Lumpur on November 15, 2018. MOHD RASFAN / AFP

 

The wife of Malaysia’s toppled ex-leader was hit with two new corruption charges on Thursday for allegedly accepting bribes worth 189 million ringgit ($45 million) to help a firm secure a government solar power contract.

Rosmah Mansor — widely reviled in Malaysia due to her penchant for lavish overseas shopping sprees — has already been charged with money laundering and tax evasion related to a billion-dollar scandal that helped topple her husband’s government at polls in May.

Court documents showed the new charges related to Rosmah seeking and receiving payments in connection with a solar project in schools in the eastern state of Sarawak in 2016 and 2017.

Rosmah, 66, pleaded not guilty to both charges and was freed on a 1 million ringgit bail.

The court will fix the trial dates on December 10.

Rosmah, who has already been hit with 17 charges of corruption and money-laundering, had faced fresh questioning by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission on Wednesday.

She faces up to 40 years in jail if found guilty of the two new charges.

She has pleaded not guilty to all charges against her.

In a separate case Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor, a former minister close to Najib, was charged with corruption Thursday for improperly receiving 3 million ringgit related to land deals in 2013 and 2016.

Tengku Adnan pleaded not guilty and was freed on bail. He will reappear in court on December 12 when trial dates will be fixed.

Allegations of corruption swirling around Rosmah and her husband, former prime minister Najib Razak, contributed his coalition’s shock election loss in May.

Najib and his cronies are accused of plundering billions of dollars from state investment fund 1MDB to buy up super-yachts, Van Gogh artwork and finance a Hollywood blockbuster.

He has also been arrested and hit with a barrage of corruption charges. He denies any wrongdoing.

AFP

Malaysia Ex-PM, Allies Charged In Latest Graft Cases

Former Malaysia’s prime minister Najib Razak is escorted by police to the courthouse in Kuala Lumpur on October 25, 2018. Malaysia’s former leader Najib Razak and two of his allies will face corruption charges on October 25, as authorities target a growing list of figures linked to the scandal-plagued old regime.photo: MOHD RASFAN / AFP

 

Malaysia’s toppled leader, an ex-finance ministry official and a former spy chief were charged with misusing public funds on Thursday, the latest corruption cases against figures from the scandal-plagued old regime.

Former prime minister Najib Razak has now been hit with 38 charges since losing power, most related to allegations that he and his cronies plundered vast sums from sovereign wealth fund 1MDB.

The scandal played a major part in prompting voters to oust his coalition at elections in May after six decades in power and elect a reformist alliance headed by Mahathir Mohamad.

Najib was jointly charged in a Kuala Lumpur court with Mohamad Irwan Serigar Abdullah — former treasury secretary-general, a key finance ministry position — with misusing 6.6 billion ringgit ($1.6 billion) of public money.

They were charged with six counts of criminal breach of trust over offenses that allegedly took place between December 2016 and December 2017.

They denied all the charges. Four of those related to 1MDB’s dealings with Abu Dhabi sovereign wealth fund IPIC, the anti-corruption agency said.

The others were overpayments related to two Chinese-backed infrastructure projects — a major rail link and the construction of gas pipelines, Najib’s lawyer Shafee Abdullah said.

He insisted Najib had simply been making payments to avoid defaulting on debts, which would have been disastrous for the economy.

“My conscience is clear,” Najib insisted after being charged, “the decisions taken were taken for the interests of the nation.”

The Chinese-financed projects have been suspended by Mahathir’s government, which suspects the deals were dubious and aimed at raising cash quickly to pay 1MDB debts.

The fund slid into a massive debt hole as huge sums of money were allegedly stolen and used to buy everything from a super-yacht to a high-end real estate and pricey artworks.

The US Department of Justice, which is seeking to seize assets allegedly bought with looted 1MDB money in America, alleges that a total of $4.5 billion was misappropriated from the fund.

Hasanah Abdul Hamid, the former head of a shadowy spy agency which worked directly under Najib, was charged with one count of criminal breach of trust. She is accused of pocketing $12.1 million of public money in the run-up to May’s election.

She denies the accusation. Her lawyer Shaharudin Ali insisted her case was not linked to 1MDB, state news agency Bernama reported.

Najib and his two allies are free on bail.

The former prime minister’s luxury-loving wife, Rosmah Mansor, and the new leader of his party and long-time lieutenant, Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, have also been arrested and charged with corruption in recent weeks

AFP

South Africa Finance Minister Resigns Over Graft Testimony – President

This file photo of South Africa’s Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene Photo: RODGER BOSCH / AFP

 

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa on Tuesday said Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene had resigned over discrepancies in his accounts of meetings with the business family at the heart of a corruption scandal.

Nene was seen as one of Ramaphosa closest allies and a leading figure in the government’s efforts to tackle graft that allegedly flourished under former president Jacob Zuma, who was ousted in February.

But Nene revealed to a judicial inquiry last week that he had met with the Gupta business family at their home and offices six times — contradicting earlier statements that he had only met them in passing at social occasions.

“I have decided to accept his resignation,” Ramaphosa told a televised press briefing in Cape Town.

He added that Nene feared his testimony “detracted from the important task of serving the people of South Africa as we work to reestablish public trust in government.”

Nene, who was widely respected by investors, served as finance minister from 2014 to 2015 until he was sacked by Jacob Zuma and was re-appointed by Ramaphosa earlier this year.

He apologized after giving testimony to the inquiry, which is probing allegations of systematic corruption under Zuma’s government involving the three Gupta brothers.

“I was wrong in meeting the Guptas at their residence and not in my office or at least a public place,” his apology letter read.

“These visits do cast a shadow on my conduct as a public office bearer. I deeply regret these lapses and beg your forgiveness.”

Former central bank governor Tito Mboweni was named as Nene’s successor.

AFP

Mike Okiro Dismisses Allegations Of Funds Embezzlement

Mike-OkiroThe Chairman of the Police Service Commission, Mr Mike Okiro, has denied claims that he embezzled over 275 million Naira election monitoring fund belonging to the commission.

Mr Okiri, who is being investigated by the Independent Corrupt Practices and Related Offences Commission, told Channels Television on Monday that there was no iota of truth in the allegation.

He insisted that the said fund was utilised for the purpose it was allocated.

According to the former Inspector General of Police, the balance of the fund was in the account of the commission.

“The allegation by a suspended staff of the commission is false and malicious,” he stressed.

Mr Okiro, who headed the Nigeria Police Force from 2007 to 2009, expressed optimism that the commission would do due diligence in its investigation.

Ex-MD Of Mint Company Appeals Extradition Order

Court JusticeLess than a day after an order for extradition to the UK was granted, the embattled former Managing Director of Nigeria Security Minting and Printing Company, Mr Ehidiamhem Okoyomon, has approached the Court of Appeal in Abuja Division, seeking an order to set aside the verdict of the Federal High Court, Abuja.

He also prayed the court for a stay of execution of the order to stop any possible attempt by the Nigerian government to whisk him away to the United Kingdom.

In a Notice of Appeal filed by his counsel, Alex Izinyon, the lawyer contended that the trial Judge of the Federal High Court erred in law when he ordered the extradition of the appellant to Great Britain to stand criminal trial, on the grounds that there is no subsisting Act of the National Assembly or treaty between Nigeria and Great Britain upon which the decision of the court was premised.

A Federal High Court in Abuja on Monday approved the extradition of Mr Okoyomon to the United Kingdom to face charges of bribery and corruption.

Justice Evoh Chukwu ordered that Mr Okoyomon should be extradited within 30 days to the Untied Kingdom for the trial.

Mr Okoyomon is wanted in the United Kingdom over his alleged role in the bribery involving officials of the Central Bank of Nigeria, the Nigerian Security and Minting Company and Security International Party of Australia.

He had approached the court to stop his extradition to the United Kingdom to face charges of corruption.

Court Okays Extradition Of Former Printing And Minting Boss

courtA Federal High Court in Abuja has approved the extradition of a former Managing Director of the Nigeria Security Printing and Minting Company, Mr Ehidiamhem Okoyomon, to the United Kingdom to face charges of bribery and corruption.

Justice Evoh Chukwu on Monday ordered that Mr Okoyomon should be extradited within 30 days to the Untied Kingdom for the trial.

Mr Okoyomon is wanted in the United Kingdom over his alleged role in the bribery involving officials of the Central Bank of Nigeria, the Nigerian Security and Minting Company and Security International Party of Australia.

He had approached the court to stop his extradition to the United Kingdom to face charges of corruption.

Power To Extradite

Operatives of the economic and crimes commission led him into a waiting security vehicle after the court’s decision.

In his judgment, Justice Chukwu held that there was a treaty agreement between Nigeria and the United Kingdom and since the treaty was valid and applicable in Nigeria the Federal Government had the power to extradite the accused person.

Justice Chukwu held that all legal procedures were properly followed by Nigeria’s Justice Minister, with the placement of certified true copy of letter of indictment of the accused and letter of request for his extradition from the British High Commissioner before the court, as stipulated by the law.

He said Mr Okoyomon did not challenge all issues of corruption levelled against him by the documents from the United Kingdom, meaning that he accepted the allegation brought against him.

The Judge further pointed out that no Nigerian court would willingly surrender it’s citizen to any country for trial, “but in this case, Okoyomon is a British citizen, as such there is nothing wrong in his extradition to his country for trial”.

After the decision of the court, the counsel to Mr Okoyomon, Chike Ekeocha, said his client would explore other means to stop his extradition.

With the ruling, the Federal Government can, within the next 30 days, extradite the former boss of the Nigerian Securities Minting and Printing Company to the United Kingdom to answer charges against him.