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EFCC Re-arraigns Orji Kalu, Others for Alleged N3.2bn Theft

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Money Laundering

A former governor of Abia State, Orji Uzor Kalu; his ex-aide, Jones Udeogo and Kalu’s company, Slok Nigeria Limited, were on Tuesday arraigned before a Federal High Court in Abuja by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, nine years after their cases were stalled.

Also, the EFCC on Tuesday arraigned the immediate past Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Usman Jibrin (retd.) and three others for alleged diversion of N600m.

Kalu and others had been initially arraigned in 2007 before Justice Adamu Bello of the Federal High Court, Abuja (now retired).

They were arraigned in an amended 34-count charge over an alleged diversion of about N3.2bn from the Abia State Government’s treasury during Kalu’s tenure as governor.

Before their arraignment, Kalu and others had argued against the proceedings, and urged the court to await the pending appeal by Slok pending at the Supreme Court.

But Justice Anwuri Chikere rejected their objection to their arraignment and ordered that the charges be read to them.

When the charges were read to them, the accused persons pleaded not guilty, while the court granted them bail on the terms attached to the bail earlier granted them on April 30, 2008 when they were earlier arraigned before Justice Bello.

The court adjourned the case till December 6 for the commencement of trial.

After pleading not guilty to the charges, lawyer to the ex-governor, Awa Kalu (SAN), urged the court to allow them to remain on the bail earlier granted them.

He gave to the court a copy of the enrolled orders made in 2008 by Justice Bello, granting bail to Kalu and Udeogo.

Counsel for Udeogo, Solomon Akuma (SAN), aligned with Kalu’s lawyer and urged the court to adopt Justice Bello’s position.

The EFCC counsel, Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), did not however object to the position canvassed by the defence lawyers, saying he was interested in their trial.

Others the EFCC arraigned with Jibrin include Rear Admiral Shehu Ahmadu (retd.), who was the Commander, Central Pay Office; and Rear Admiral Bala Mshelia (retd.), who is a former Chief of Naval Accounts and Budget.

The EFCC also arraigned a firm, Habour Bay International Limited, which allegedly helped the accused persons to perpetrate the fraud.

The ex-naval officers were arraigned before Justice A. S Umar of the FCT High Court sitting in Maitama, Abuja on four counts bordering on criminal conspiracy.

The anti-graft agency alleged that the naval chiefs whilst in office allegedly bought a house worth N600m from the account of Naval Engineering Services without the said purchase contract being captured in the budget.

It was also alleged that the documentation for transfer of ownership of the property was done such that a private company owned by the family of Jibrin became the buyer.

The offence is in contravention of Section 26 (1) (b) and punishable under Section 22 (4) of the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission Act 2000.

The defendants pleaded not guilty when the charges were read to them.

In view of their plea, counsel for the EFCC, Abdullah Faruk, asked the court for a date for commencement of trial.

However, Y. C. Maikyau, (SAN), representing Jibrin and the firm, through an oral application made pursuant to Section 36(5) of the 1999 Constitution sought for the bail of his clients.

Maikyau told the court that the defendants had been enjoying administrative bail granted them by the EFCC and had never breached any of its terms.

The counsel stated that though he had earlier filed and served the prosecution with a formal bail application, he felt the need to move an oral application subject to the discretion of the court.

Counsel representing Mshelia and Ahmadu also requested bail based on Jibrin’s argument.

Justice Umar after listening to the submissions of counsel on both sides, remanded the accused persons and adjourned till Wednesday (today) for hearing on the bail application.

CEO/Founder Investors King Ltd, a foreign exchange research analyst, contributing author on New York-based Talk Markets and Investing.com, with over a decade experience in the global financial markets.

Government

COVID-19 Vaccine: African Export-Import Bank (Afrexim) to Purchase 270 Million Doses for Nigeria, Other African Nations

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African Export-Import Bank (Afrexim) Approves $2 Billion for the Purchase of 270 million Doses for African Nations

African Export-Import Bank (Afrexim) said it has approved $2 billion for the purchase of 270 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines for African nations, including Nigeria.

Prof. Benedict Oramah, the President of the Bank, disclosed this at a virtual Africa Soft Power Series held on Tuesday.

He, however, stated that the lender is looking to raise more funds for the COVID-19 vaccines’ acquisition.

He said: “The African Union knows that unless you put the virus away, your economy can’t come back. If Africa didn’t do anything, it would become a COVID-19 continent when other parts of the world have already moved on.
“Recall that it took seven years during the heat of HIV for them to come to Africa after 12 million people had died.

“With the assistance of the AU, we were able to get 270 million vaccines and financing need of about $2 billion. Afreximbank then went ahead to secure the $2 billion. But that money for the 270 million doses could only add 15 per cent to the 20 per cent that Covax was bringing.

He added that this is not the time to wait for handouts or free vaccines as other countries will naturally sort themselves out before African nations.

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China Calls for Better China-U.S. Relations

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China Calls for China-U.S. Relations

Senior Chinese diplomat Wang Yi said on Monday the United States and China could work together on issues like climate change and the coronavirus pandemic if they repaired their damaged bilateral relationship.

Wang, a Chinese state councillor and foreign minister, said Beijing stood ready to reopen constructive dialogue with Washington after relations between the two countries sank to their lowest in decades under former president Donald Trump.

Wang called on Washington to remove tariffs on Chinese goods and abandon what he said was an irrational suppression of the Chinese tech sector, steps he said would create the “necessary conditions” for cooperation.

Before Wang spoke at a forum sponsored by the foreign ministry, officials played footage of the “ping-pong diplomacy” of 1972 when an exchange of table tennis players cleared the way for then U.S. President Richard Nixon to visit China.

Wang, a Chinese state councillor and foreign minister, said Beijing stood ready to reopen constructive dialogue with Washington after relations between the two countries sank to their lowest in decades under former president Donald Trump.

Wang called on Washington to remove tariffs on Chinese goods and abandon what he said was an irrational suppression of the Chinese tech sector, steps he said would create the “necessary conditions” for cooperation.

Before Wang spoke at a forum sponsored by the foreign ministry, officials played footage of the “ping-pong diplomacy” of 1972 when an exchange of table tennis players cleared the way for then U.S. President Richard Nixon to visit China.

Wang urged Washington to respect China’s core interests, stop “smearing” the ruling Communist Party, stop interfering in Beijing’s internal affairs and stop “conniving” with separatist forces for Taiwan’s independence.

“Over the past few years, the United States basically cut off bilateral dialogue at all levels,” Wang said in prepared remarks translated into English.

“We stand ready to have candid communication with the U.S. side, and engage in dialogues aimed at solving problems.”

Wang pointed to a recent call between Chinese President Xi Jinping and U.S. President Joe Biden as a positive step.

Washington and Beijing have clashed on multiple fronts including trade, accusations of human rights crimes against the Uighur Muslim minorities in the Xinjiang region and Beijing’s territorial claims in the resources-rich South China Sea.

The Biden administration has, however, signalled it will maintain pressure on Beijing. Biden has voiced concern about Beijing’s “coercive and unfair” trade practices and endorsed of a Trump administration determination that China has committed genocide in Xinjiang.

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U.S. Supreme Court Allows Release of Trump Tax Returns

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President Trump Signs Executive Order In Oval Office Of The White House

U.S. Supreme Court Allows Release of Trump Tax Returns

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday paved the way for a New York City prosecutor to obtain former President Donald Trump’s tax returns and other financial records as part of a criminal investigation, a blow to his quest to conceal details of his finances.

The justices without comment rebuffed Trump’s request to put on hold an Oct. 7 lower court ruling directing the former Republican president’s longtime accounting firm, Mazars USA, to comply with a subpoena to turn over the materials to a grand jury convened by Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, a Democrat.

“The work continues,” Vance said in a statement issued after the court’s action.

Vance had previously said in a letter to Trump’s lawyers that his office would be free to immediately enforce the subpoena if the justices rejected Trump’s request.

A lawyer for Trump did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Supreme Court, which has a 6-3 conservative majority included three Trump appointees, had already ruled once in the dispute, last July rejecting Trump’s broad argument that he was immune from criminal probes as a sitting president.

Unlike all other recent U.S. presidents, Trump refused during his four years in office to make his tax returns public. The data could provide details on his wealth and the activities of his family real-estate company, the Trump Organization.

Trump, who left office on Jan. 20 after being defeated in his Nov. 3 re-election bid by Democrat Joe Biden, continues to face an array of legal issues concerning his personal and business conduct.

Vance issued a subpoena to Mazars in August 2019 seeking Trump’s corporate and personal tax returns from 2011 to 2018. Trump’s lawyers sued to block the subpoena, arguing that as a sitting president, Trump had absolute immunity from state criminal investigations.

The Supreme Court in its July ruling rejected those arguments but said Trump could raise other objections to the subpoena. Trump’s lawyers then argued before lower courts that the subpoena was overly broad and amounted to political harassment, but U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero in August and the New York-based 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in October rejected those claims.

Vance’s investigation, which began more than two years ago, had focused on hush money payments that the president’s former lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen made before the 2016 election to two women – adult-film actress Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal – who said they had sexual encounters with Trump.

In recent court filings, Vance has suggested that the probe is now broader and could focus on potential bank, tax and insurance fraud, as well as falsification of business records.

In separate litigation, the Democratic-led U.S. House of Representatives was seeking to subpoena similar records. The Supreme Court in July sent that matter back to lower courts for further review.

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