Items filtered by date: Tuesday, 18 September 2018

Authorities in Brazil have seized more than $16m (£12m) worth of cash and luxury watches from a delegation accompanying Teodorin Nguema Obiang, vice-president of Equatorial Guinea, local media report.

The 48-year-old, known for his lavish taste, is the son of the oil-rich Central African country's president.

Brazil limits people from entering the country with more than $2,400 in cash.

About 76% of Equatorial Guinea's 1.2m population live in poverty.

President Teodoro Obiang Nguema, who is Africa's longest-serving leader, and his son, have been accused of misusing the country's oil revenue. They both deny any wrongdoing.

Human rights groups have also accused the president of systematic repression of opponents. The Equatorial Guinea embassy in Brazil reportedly told police that Mr Obiang was in the country for medical treatment.

What was the money for?

The 11-man entourage - travelling on a government plane - landed in Viracopos International Airport in Campinas in Sao Paulo last Friday, according to media reports.

Police found $1.5m in cash and watches worth an estimated $15m in two bags, the other 17 bags had clothes, says local news site Globo.

Global reports that Equatorial Guinea's embassy told the Brazilian police in a statement that the money was for Mr Obiang's use on an onward trip to Singapore, while the watches - engraved with his initials - were for his personal use.

Brazil's foreign ministry told news agency AFP that it was "in permanent coordination with the federal police and the customs service over the case and to decide what measures should be taken".

Mr Obiang was the only member of the delegation who had diplomatic immunity as the group was not on an official mission, Globo reports.

Police searched other delegation members as Mr Obiang waited outside in a car, it added.

Who is Teodorin Nguema Obiang?

Last year The Economist reported on Mr Obiang's flashy lifestyle in a report titled Instagram playboy is also the vice-president of Equatorial Guinea.

It featured pictures of the vice-president showing off his expensive cars and mansions.In 2017, a French court handed him a three-year suspended jail term for corruption. The court ruled his assets in France be seized, including a mansion on Avenue Foch in Paris. He also got a suspended fine of 30m euro (£27m; $35m).

In the same year Swiss prosecutors seized 11 luxury cars belonging to Mr Obiang. They said he had plundered his country's oil wealth to buy luxuries, including a private jet and Michael Jackson memorabilia.

In 2015, Mr Obiang reportedly paid a samba dance group some $3.5m to adopt an Equatorial Guinea theme during Brazil's annual carnival.

A spokesperson for the Beija-Flor samba group denied that they had received the money but said it had received "cultural and artistic support", the UK Guardian reported.

More about Equatorial Guinea:

  • Population: 1.2 million
  • Rich in oil and gas
  • About 76% of the population live in poverty
  • President Teodoro Obiang Nguema, 76, seized power from his uncle in a 1979 coup
  • The capital, Malabo, is on an island in the Atlantic Ocean, 235km (147 miles) from mainland
  • Building a new city in the rainforest called Djibloho, a "city of the future"
  • Africa's only Spanish-speaking country

UN, World Bank

 

Source: BBC

Published in World

A commission of inquiry into corruption in South Africa is underway. How it goes about its work, and delivers on its mandate, will have profound constitutional and political consequences.

This is more so because it is clear that deposed former President Jacob Zuma, who is at the core of the allegations, has launched a fightback campaign that can undermine President Cyril Ramaphosa’s efforts to clean up government.

The remit of the commission, which is headed by Constitutional Court Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, is to establish the extent of what’s become known as “state capture” by rogue elements in government. Its findings will reveal how the country’s democracy was so imperilled within two decades of its founding election in 1994. It’ll also help ensure that the necessary remedial action is taken to prevent a repeat.

South Africa needs to find out how Zuma and his cronies, the Gupta family, were able to exploit weaknesses in the country’s governance system.

To perform its role effectively, a judicial commission must act as an inquisitorial inquiry whose job is to find out what happened and why. This requires it to refrain from acting like a normal (adversarial) court of law. The commission isn’t a substitute for criminal prosecution or, for that matter, civil litigation.

A great deal flows from this foundational point.

Zondo’s job isn’t to “follow the money” as some have suggested. Important features of the corporate labyrinth built by the Guptas and their allies and accomplices has already been uncovered, for example the property holdings of the Gupta family, or examined in court proceedings.

The commission’s job isn’t to track the flow of funds or any money-laundering machines. That will be the job of the criminal courts, as and when they get the chance.

Instead, Zondo should grapple with the politics of state capture. He needs to get under the skin of the politics of state capture; to get on record why and what happened; and to make clear findings of political accountability. Speed is of the essence. He needs to move fast enough that the commission maintains momentum and does not allow Zuma and other implicated parties to get out ahead of it, or to seek to tilt public opinion in their favour.

The urgency is underscored by reports that Zuma is plotting with others against Ramaphosa.

Process and powers

To evaluate the commission’s progress, it is important to keep in mind its terms of reference and its powers. What can Zondo investigate and what can the commission do about whatever it uncovers?

Firstly, its terms of reference are deep, but narrow. Seven of the nine elements of the terms of reference refer directly to the Guptas’ or Zuma’s interference with government decision-making and procurement. Tthe remaining two invite a broader inquiry into state procurement.

So the terms of reference are essentially confined to the Gupta family and its relationship with the democratic state – from the presidency and the cabinet, down through state agencies and state-owned enterprises, and down deep into the executive arm of government.

In digging for the truth, those responsible for what happened will – or should – be identified by the commission so that they can be held to account.

But what powers does the commission have to take remedial action to address any wrongdoings it uncovers?

Very little. Certainly, far less than people seem to think. The commission’s task is to investigate and report back to Ramaphosa, which may include recommendations.

These recommendations are not, per se, binding. The commission is essentially a fact-finding mission and does not have the power to make orders.

So the report could say, for example, that criminal activity has been committed, and the commission may refer the matter for prosecution or further investigation.

But, the prosecutorial authorities don’t have to wait for the conclusion of the commission process. Indeed, they should be following the proceedings closely and initiating action wherever it suggests that criminality may have occurred.

Uncertainty about this point has led to some procedural confusion during the opening fortnight, particularly around whether those implicated would have an opportunity to cross-examine.

Unfortunately, Zondo let the matter fester unnecessarily before finally ruling on September 11. He had little difficulty dismissing the application of the Gupta brothers on the basis that they are, in essence, fugitives from justice who are unwilling to come back to South Africa to give evidence to the commission. In the case of Zuma’s son, Duduzane Zuma, he granted the application to cross-examine.

This may be justified. But it may also be a red herring. The best commissions of inquiry are those with strong “counsel for the inquiry” who don’t just lead evidence of one side of a story, but who test the evidence as they go along, adding to its weight and credibility, in pursuit of a robust version of the truth.

High stakes

There are anxieties about Zondo’s pace. It is worth remembering that this commission derives from the report on state capture by former public protector Thuli Madonsela. Because she had had neither sufficient time nor resources to complete her work, appointing a judicial commission of inquiry was the remedial action that had to be taken.

Madonsela wanted the commission to complete its work in six months. It was a rather optimistic target. But it wasn’t entirely unreasonable provided that the commission focused on the narrow scope set by the terms of reference, and organised its procedure in a lean and equally focused manner.

Zondo has asked for an additional two years. It very far from clear why he needs so long and has led the lobby group, the Council for the South African Constitution, to join the court proceedings to object to any extension.

Regardless, the commission needs to act as swiftly as it can. South Africans are being reminded daily that Zuma may have left office, but that he still is capable of muddying the waters. If it focuses efficiently on its core task, and evidence of the political conspiracy that underpinned the state capture project is adduced and tested, the proceedings of the commission may serve to keep a lid on Zuma’s fightback campaign.

The stakes are very high for all concerned – for Ramaphosa’s political future, and for the country he leads.The Conversation

 

Richard Calland, Associate Professor in Public Law, University of Cape Town

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Published in Opinion & Analysis
Former mineral resources minister Mosebenzi Zwane threatened Standard Bank's operating licence and threatened to change the banking laws, all in an effort to allow the politically connected Gupta family to keep their bank accounts open.
 
This is according to Standard Bank's former head of compliance, Ian Sinton, who was testifying at the Commission of Inquiry into State Capture on Monday.
 
He detailed how they had faced pressure and threats from the ANC at Luthuli House and Cabinet ministers to rescind their decision to close the Gupta-linked Oakbay group's accounts.
 
The commission heard that former Oakbay Investment CEO Nazeem Howa had written to the government, including the Presidency and the ANC, asking them to intervene.
 
The country's four big banks closed the Gupta accounts in 2016 over 70 listed "suspicious transactions" totalling almost R7bn, which were recorded by the Financial Intelligence Centre, which implicated the Guptas and their companies.
 
Sinton said, in May 2016, they had met with the inter-ministerial committee set up by Cabinet to investigate the closure of the bank accounts. The meeting was attended by Zwane, former labour minister Mildred Oliphant and Mzwanele Manyi.
 
They were told that Manyi was attending as "an advisor to the ministers".
 
Manyi established close links with the Guptas, taking over their media entities New Age and ANN7 that have since been closed down. He has also publicly put up a spirited defence of the family.
 
Sinton said that, during the meeting, despite their explanation that they could not disclose their clients' details, they went on to speak about the closure of the Gupta accounts.
 
'They suggested we should be more responsive'
 
He said Zwane had told them that he was a member of the ANC and that, as a governing party, it had powers to change the banking laws to stop the banks from closing the accounts of their clients.
 
"Banks should not be allowed to close bank accounts and, as the ANC, we have the ability to change the laws and were inclined to change the law to make it illegal for banks to close the accounts," he said.
 
Zwane's comments were in response to Sinton saying they had to obey the laws related to suspicious transactions, and that they had faced an adverse ruling against them already in a British court over their business dealings in Tanzania.
 
This was after Sinton had explained the domestic and international banking laws demanded that they cut ties with any client involved in potential fraud, corruption and money laundering.
 
"Toward the end of the meeting they reminded us that, as a bank, we operated under a licence granted by government, and they suggested we should be more responsive to concerns they were raising on behalf of government," Sinton said.
 
"The meeting was an attempt by two Cabinet ministers, on behalf of Cabinet, to persuade us to retract our decision to close the Gupta accounts," he said.
 
Sinton had earlier told the commission that the ANC's then secretary general Gwede Mantashe had also demanded a meeting with their CEO, Sim Tshabalala, over the accounts.
 
The meeting at the ANC's headquarters was attended by Mantashe, deputy secretary general Jessie Duarte, and chairperson of the party's sub-committee on economic transformation, Enoch Godongwana.
 
'It was the first time I saw my boss react so angrily'
 
At both the IMC and ANC meetings, Standard Bank top brass were confronted with allegations that they were part of "White Monopoly Capital" and taking "instructions from Stellenbosch".
 
The White Monopoly Capital narrative was revealed in the Gupta Leaks to have been orchestrated by the now defunct PR agency, London-based Bell Potinger.
 
"It was the first time I saw my boss Sim Tshabalala react so angrily," Sinton said.
 
Standard Bank gave the Gupta-linked businesses two months' notice after ABSA closed their accounts.
 
Sinton said the notice was also sparked after Gupta-owned TEGETA demanded that R1.45bn, contained in a trust account set up solely for the rehabilitation of the mine, be transferred to Bank of Baroda.
 
He said that, after Standard Bank refused to transfer the money as the instruction did not come from the listed trustees, the trustees were quickly changed.
 
He said they were also concerned by auditing firm KPMG's decision to cut ties with the Gupta-owned businesses, and reports by then deputy finance minister Mcebisi Jonas, and former MP Vytjie Mentor that they were offered ministerial positions by the Guptas.
 
On Tuesday, a representative from ABSA is expected to testify when the commission resumes at 11:30.
 
 
News24
Published in Bank & Finance
Tuesday, 18 September 2018 11:39

Naspers South Africa to unbundle MultiChoice

One of South Africa's biggest companies is shaking things up.

Media giant Naspers says it will unbundle its pay-TV unit. Naspers plans to list MultiChoice as a separate stock. The company says the decision will unlock value for its shareholders.

MultiChoice's DStv service is the biggest TV operation in Africa, broadcasting to some 50 countries, and was one of the first satellite companies to pioneer the then newly-minted digital broadcasting when it began in 1996.

It already has a stake worth $155-billion in Chinese company, TenCent. Naspers shares were up just under a percent when markets closed.

Published in Business
Tuesday, 18 September 2018 08:34

Germany rolls out world's first hydrogen train

Germany on Monday rolled out the world’s first hydrogen-powered train, signalling the start of a push to challenge the might of polluting diesel trains with costlier but more eco-friendly technology.

Two bright blue Coradia iLint trains, built by French TGV-maker Alstom, began running a 100-kilometre route between the towns and cities of Cuxhaven, Bremerhaven, Bremervoerde and Buxtehude in northern Germany—a stretch normally plied by diesel trains.

“The world’s first hydrogen train is entering into commercial service and is ready for serial production,” Alstom CEO Henri Poupart-Lafarge said at an unveiling ceremony in Bremervoerde, the station where the trains will be refuelled with hydrogen.

Alstom has said it plans to deliver another 14 of the zero-emissions trains to Lower Saxony state by 2021, with other German states also expressing an interest.

Hydrogen trains are equipped with fuel cells that produce electricity through a combination of hydrogen and oxygen, a process that leaves steam and water as the only emissions.

Excess energy is stored in ion lithium batteries on board the train.

The Coradia iLint trains can run for around 1 000 kilometres on a single tank of hydrogen, similar to the range of diesel trains.

Alstom is betting on the technology as a greener, quieter alternative to diesel on non-electrified railway lines—an attractive prospect to many German cities scrambling to combat air pollution.

“Sure, buying a hydrogen train is somewhat more expensive than a diesel train, but it is cheaper to run,” Stefan Schrank, the project’s manager at Alstom, told the media.

Other countries are also looking into hydrogen trains, Alstom said, including Britain, the Netherlands, Denmark, Norway, Italy and Canada.

In France, the government has already said it wants the first hydrogen train to be on the rails by 2022.

 

© Agence France-Presse

Published in World

The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) said it will impose N10,000 ($28) fine per item for every failed NIP transaction caused by any financial institution operating in the country.

It said the implementation of the sanction, which would be effective from October 2, 2018, would be monitored using complaints from senders and/or beneficiaries.

The CBN said the sanction would be placed on any Instant (Inter-Bank) Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT) service provider that fail to reverse such payment within 24 hours.

Instant (Inter-Bank) service provider are any financial institution licensed by CBN to carry on the business of facilitating electronic funds transfer services in partnership with sending and receiving entities.

The CBN, in its Regulation on Instant (Inter-Bank) EFT Services in Nigeria released during the weekend, said the policy was in furtherance to its mandate for the development of electronic payments system in the country.

Also the financial regulator also said delayed application of inward NIP into beneficiary’s accounts beyond four (4) minutes would also attract another N10,000 ($28) fine per item.

The apex bank however advised any stakeholder to the instant EFT service willing to propose an amendment to the regulation to formally forward such proposal to the office of its Director, Baking and Payments System Department for consideration.

Instant (Inter-Bank) EFT also known has instant EFT or instant payment means a system between two distinct entities when delivery from the sending entity to the receiving entity takes place within one (1) minute.

 

The Ripples.

Published in Bank & Finance

Zainab Ahmed, who is acting minister of finance, said Monday that Nigeria’s economy faced “challenging times” as she formally assumed duty.

President Muhammadu Buhari appointed her to oversee the finance ministry following the the resignation of Kemi Adeosun who resigned over forged certificate of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC).

Ahmed, who is the Minister of State, Budget and National Planning, said the new task would require collaboration with minister officials to achieve success.

Mahmoud Isa-Dutse, permanent secretary and some directors in the ministry, welcomed her.

“These are very challenging times for our country. It means we are part of the economic team that has been charged with making sure there is economic stability in our country,” she said.

“We have very serious revenue challenges and it is up to us to shore up the revenues of this country.

“Mr President has a lot of confidence that we can do this very well together. We are working for Mr President, but at the end of the day we are working for the benefit of the citizens of our country.

“There are a lot of sacrifices that I know that you have done, and we are going to push ourselves to still do more so that at the end of the day we will say Alhamdulillah– glory be to God!

“The finance ministry has overtime been known to have very skilled personnel; from interacting with some of you, I know that there is a lot of skill set within the ministry, and that I am in good hands.

“I plan to work very closely with the whole of the directors, most especially with the permanent secretary.

“I want to declare that today the permanent secretary is my new next-of-kin. What that means is that I am going to work hand-in-gloves with him, and I expect everybody to do the same thing.

“There are some things I know about finance, but there is a lot that I don’t know; and the knowledge resides in you.”

 

Vanguard.

Published in News Economy

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