Switzerland’s prosecutors are seeking legal assistance from Malaysia after a probe into a government investment fund revealed “serious indications” that about $4 billion may have been misappropriated from state companies in the Southeast Asian nation.
The Swiss Attorney-General’s office said in a statement Friday that during an investigation of 1Malaysia Development Bhd., four cases involving allegations of criminal conduct and occurring between 2009 and 2013 have so far come to light. It has been ascertained a small amount of funds were transferred to Swiss accounts of former Malaysian public officials, according to the statement. The Swiss authority is seeking help from the Malaysian attorney general to determine whether funds were misappropriated.
“The monies believed to have been misappropriated would have been earmarked for investment in economic and social development projects in Malaysia,” the Swiss authority said in the statement. “To date, however, the Malaysian companies concerned have made no comment on the losses they are believed to have incurred. The object of the request for mutual assistance is therefore to advise the companies and the Malaysian government of the results of the Swiss criminal proceedings, with the aim of finding out whether losses on this scale have been sustained.”
1MDB, whose advisory board is headed by Prime Minister Najib Razak, has been the subject of overlapping investigations in Malaysia, as well as overseas jurisdictions including Singapore and Hong Kong amid allegations of financial irregularities.
1MDB said in a statement Saturday that it hasn’t been contacted by any foreign legal authorities on any matters relating to the company.
“1MDB remains committed to fully cooperating with any lawful authority and investigation, subject to advice from the relevant domestic lawful authorities, and in accordance with international protocols governing such matters,” the company said in the statement.
Malaysia will cooperate with its Swiss counterparts and review the findings before determining a course of action, Attorney General Mohamed Apandi Alisaid in a statement Saturday. A spokesman for the Prime Minister’s Office said they won’t be commenting on the matter.
Swiss authorities in August opened criminal proceedings against two executives of 1MDB and what it classified as “persons unknown” on suspicions of bribery of foreign public officials, misconduct in public office, money laundering and criminal mismanagement. The proceedings were based on notifications of suspicious transaction reports by the Swiss financial intelligence unit MROS, the attorney-general’s office said in September.
While the Swiss statement on Friday didn’t identify any individuals, it named companies “in connection” to its investigation of 1MDB. The suspected cases that were discovered were “each involving a systemic course of action carried out by means of complex financial structures,” according to the statement.
Genting Bhd., one of the companies mentioned by the Swiss prosecutor, declined to comment. 1MDB built an energy business by acquiring assets from Genting and Tanjong Plc. Calls after office hours to Tanjong, another company cited in the statement, weren’t answered.
While an initial Malaysian auditor general’s report in July on 1MDB didn’t reveal any suspicious activity, the nation’s central bank had made requests for the attorney general to initiate criminal proceedings against the debt-ridden company. The Malaysian attorney general’s office dismissed the central bank’s requests, which alleged that 1MDB breached the Exchange Control Act.
Separately, the attorney general closed the door on a graft investigation into Najib this month, clearing him of wrongdoing over a “personal contribution” of $681 million from Saudi Arabia’s royal family, and funds from a company linked to 1MDB that appeared in his personal bank accounts. Under Malaysia’s federal constitution, the decision to initiate criminal prosecution lies solely with the attorney general.
Najib has maintained the funds were not used for private benefit, with $620 million later returned to the Saudi donors, although there hasn’t been a clear explanation as to what the rest was spent on or where that money is now. Both the premier and 1MDB have consistently denied any wrongdoing.
FG Resumes Conditional Cash Transfer Programme Across Six Local Govt. In Kebbi
The Federal Government has resumed the Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) programme in Kebbi State, commencing with a payment of N9.24bn to 76,107 CCT beneficiaries.
The National Coordinator of the programme, Hajiya Halima Shehu, made the announcement during a state visit to Governor Atiku Bagudu in Birnin Kebbi.
“As at now, payment to CCT beneficiaries is ongoing in the state. A total number of 76,107 beneficiaries across six local government areas of Bagudu, Danko, Wasagu, Dandi, Jega, and Shanga, will be receiving the payment. The beneficiaries will be receiving 26 months of payment circles, starting from January to February 2020.
“The payment will be in two batches of those 60,000 beneficiaries for four payment cycles, using the virtual account. The second batch has 70,107 beneficiaries for nine payment cycles through the debit cards. The total amount for the two batches in the state, according to Shehu, was over N9.24 billion.
“The Federal Government of Nigeria, in partnership with the World Bank in 2016, designed and developed a safety net programme for Nigeria under the platform of National Social Safety Net Programme (NASSP).
“One of the components of NASSP is the national conditional cash transfer office responsible for implementing the household uplifting- conditional cash transfer to the poor and the vulnerable households across the country,” she said.
Shehu commended the governor for providing her an audience and the chance to update him on the commencement of payments and the state’s successful implementation of the program.
Responding, Gov. Bagudu, represented by his Deputy, Alhaji Samaila Yombe-Dabai, thanked the Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, headed by Hajiya Sadiya Umar-Farouq, for actualising the programme in the state.
“I assure you that the state government will do all it takes to support the success of the programme in the state.
“We are looking forward to getting more local governments to be involved in the cash transfer programme,” Bagudu said.
Ukraine/Russian War: Twitter Heightens Fight Against Misinformation
In the wake of the Russia-Ukarine crisis, Twitter has stepped up its effort to put an end to misleading tweets from official accounts about the war.
Investors King gathered that Twitter has already limited content from more than 300 Russian government accounts, including President Putin. The new change will be effected under the company’s new “crisis” policies.
Twitter will also prioritise labelling false posts from accounts with wide reach, like state media or official government accounts, while preserving them for “accountability” reasons.
Twitter users will now be required to click through the warning notice to view the post and Twitter will disable the ability to like, retweet or share the content. The company said it would also change its search and explore features to avoid amplifying false tweets.
Twitter’s head of security and safety, Yoel Roth, wrote in a blog post announcing the changes saying “Today, we’re introducing our crisis misinformation policy – a global policy that will guide our efforts to elevate credible, authoritative information, and will help to ensure viral misinformation isn’t amplified or recommended by us during crises. In times of crisis, misleading information can undermine public trust and cause further harm to already vulnerable communities.
“Alongside our existing work to make reliable information more accessible during crisis events, this new approach will help to slow the spread by us of the most visible, misleading content, particularly that which could lead to severe harms.
“While this first iteration is focused on international armed conflict, starting with the war in Ukraine, we plan to update and expand the policy to include additional forms of crisis,” Twitter said examples of problematic posts included false or misleading allegations of war crimes, false information regarding the international response and false allegations regarding use of force.
The company said it would rely on multiple sources to determine when claims are misleading. Strong commentary and first person accounts are among the types of tweets that would not be challenged by the policy, it said.
Twitter has approved a $44bn takeover by billionaire Elon Musk, who has criticised its content moderation policies
The new policies come just weeks after Twitter’s board agreed to a $44bn (£34.5bn) takeover offer from billionaire businessman Elon Musk, who has called for less moderated speech on the platform.
Musk had said in the past week that he would revoke Twitter’s suspension of former United States president, Donald Trump.
Modest Increase in the FAAC Payout – Coronation Economic Note
The gross monthly distribution by the Federation Account Allocation Committee (FAAC) to the three tiers of government and public agencies amounted to N725.6bn in April (from March revenue). This shows an increase of 4.4% or N30.6bn from the previous payout.
Based on data in the local media, it was observed that companies’ income tax (CIT), petroleum profit tax (PPT), value-added tax (VAT), oil and gas royalties, import and excise duties recorded increases over the previous month. The FGN received a total of N277.1bn and state governments received N227.2bn, including N53.4bn representing the 13% derivation for the few oil producing states.
The headline figure consists of N337.4bn in gross statutory distribution, N165.6bn from the VAT Pool, and excess bank charges of N7.5bn was recovered. The total deductions for cost of collection was N44.4bn and the total deductions for statutory transfers, refunds and savings was N382.8bn.
The committee disclosed that the balance in the Excess Crude Account (ECA) is USD35.4m.
The average monthly FAAC distribution (N665.1bn in Q1 ‘22) declined from an average of N682.5bn in Q4 ’21 but is slightly above the average of N647.0bn recorded in Q1 ’21.
Based on local newswires, the Nigerian National Petroleum Commission (NNPC) has not made any remittance to the federation account this year due to the high fuel subsidy costs. The NNPC spent N210.4bn (USD500.1m), N219.8bn (USD522.9m) and N245.8bn (USD584.8m) as subsidies on petrol in January, February, and March respectively. This is a total of N675.9bn (USD1.6bn) in Q1 ’22.
The NNPC is expected to deduct N671.9bn from its remittance to FAAC for April which is due for sharing at the May ‘22 FAAC meeting. The estimated total shortfall of N671.9bn comprises of shortfalls recorded in February (N152bn) and March (N519bn).
Money markets saw an inflow of N391bn in early-May ‘22, representing the net distribution to state and local governments. The FGN’s share is directly to the treasury single account.
Analysts at Coronation expect continuous strain with regards to FAAC payouts. According to them, it is imperative for states that depend solely on the inadequate monthly FAAC distribution to seek ways to boost their internally generated revenue. The FGN’s primary objective should be to create a conducive business environment as IGR sustainability is a by-product of an enabling environment.
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