- Samsung Boss Indicted for Bribery, Embezzlement
The heir to the Samsung empire, Lee Jae-Yong and four other top executives were indicted Tuesday on multiple charges including bribery and embezzlement, South Korean prosecutors said in the latest blow to the world’s biggest smartphone maker.
The AFP reported that the presentation of formal charges against Lee Jae-Yong and his colleagues makes them almost certain to face trial, casting new uncertainty over South Korea’s biggest business group as it seeks to recover from a humiliating recall.
As well as charges of bribery, embezzlement and hiding assets overseas, Lee is accused of perjury, said the spokesman for prosecutors probing a corruption and power abuse scandal that has seen President Park Geun-Hye impeached.
Three of the five men — but not Lee, the vice-chairman of flagship subsidiary Samsung Electronics — resigned their positions, the conglomerate said.
The group said it was “dismantling” its Future Strategy Office, the coordinating body that oversees major decisions such as acquisitions or entering new business.
The move, described as a “reform plan”, was announced in a brief five-line statement emailed minutes after the indictment.
Under the scheme, each Samsung unit will be allowed to run more independently, a powerful group body handling government lobbying will be disbanded and decisions over donations will be made more transparent, it said.
But Chung Sun-Sup, the head of chaebol.com, a private watchdog forum on conglomerates, said: “It is yet to be seen whether this is another cosmetic measure aimed to divert public criticism.”
In the past, he told AFP, “Samsung has dissolved group-controlling organisations when it got caught in breach of laws, only to revive them afterwards under different names”.
The Lee family could be “expected to continue wielding power and influence over the whole group”, he added, although professionals might get a greater voice in operating each of its subsidiaries.
The tech giant, whose group revenues are equivalent to a fifth of the country’s GDP, is struggling to recover from the embarrassing recall crisis over its Galaxy Note 7 smartphone last year.
The PR disaster is partly blamed on the group’s top-down management style, in which each Samsung unit simply follows orders from the elite Future Strategy Office without question.
– Merger deal –
The corruption scandal centres on Choi Soon-Sil, who is accused of using her close ties with President Park to force local firms to “donate” nearly $70 million to non-profit foundations, money which Choi allegedly used for personal gain.
Samsung was the single biggest donor to the foundations. It is also accused of separately giving millions of euros to Choi to bankroll her daughter’s equestrian training in Germany.
The 48-year-old Lee, the scion of Samsung’s founding Lee family, has effectively been at the helm of the conglomerate since his father suffered a heart attack in 2014.
One of the policy favours which Lee allegedly sought from Park was state approval for a controversial merger in 2015 of two Samsung units seen as a key step to ensure a smooth power transfer to him.
The deal was opposed by many shareholders who said it had wilfully undervalued shares of one of the two firms. But it eventually went through after the national pension fund — a major Samsung shareholder — approved it.
A former welfare minister who had overseen the pension fund was charged with abuse of power last month for pressuring it to vote in Samsung’s favour.
Lee has denied all accusations.
Samsung Electronics shares closed up one percent on Tuesday, at 1,922,000 won per share.
Tuesday’s indictments came a day before the special prosecutors — who were appointed in December — were set to hand back the case to state prosecutors after the government rejected a request to extend their inquiry.
It would be up to the state prosecutors to probe other South Korean conglomerates, including Hyundai Motor and retail giant Lotte Group, the special prosecutors’ spokesman said.
During their term they indicted a total of 31 suspects — 17 of them on Tuesday — including an ex-arts minister and former presidential chief of staff.
Oil Inches Higher But Rangebound as COVID-19 Cases Soar
Oil prices edged higher in rangebound trade on Monday on optimism about a rebound in the U.S. economy as vaccinations accelerate, but rising COVID-19 cases in other parts of the world kept a lid on prices.
The prices have remained rangebound in the last three weeks, with Brent between $60 and $65 per barrel and WTI at $57 to $62.
“Oil prices are entering a consolidation phase after swinging wildly last month,” Stephen Brennock of oil broker PVM.
“While there are still plenty of reasons to be bullish, market players have become more cautious as infections have surged in Europe, India and some emerging markets, while vaccine rollouts have proved slower than anticipated,” he added.
India now accounts for one in every six daily infections worldwide, and other parts of Asia are seeing infection rates rise.
Asian oil demand remained weak and some buyers asked for lower volumes in May partly because of refinery maintenance and higher prices.
The United States has fully vaccinated more than 70 million people but U.S. gasoline demand has not picked up as much as expected.
The U.S. economy is at an “inflection point” amid expectations that growth and hiring will accelerate in the months ahead, but faces the risk of reopening too quickly and sparking a resurgence in coronavirus cases, Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell said in an interview broadcast on Sunday.
“There really are risks out there. And the principal one just is that we will reopen too quickly, people will too quickly return to their old practices, and we’ll see another spike in cases,” Powell said in a CBS interview, recorded on Wednesday.
On the production side, no new oil drilling rigs were started in the United States in the most recent week, a report published by Baker Hughes showed.
Equatorial Guinea to Launch Vision on Post-COVID Energy Transition Plans with Report and Film
The Africa Energy Series (AES): Equatorial Guinea 2021 campaign – comprising a report and a documentary – will serve as a critical tool to navigate the energy investment landscape in one of Africa’s more mature petroleum producing markets; Equatorial Guinea has largely been able to sustain its pace of engagement with global investors in the face of COVID-19, forecasting $1.1 billion in FDI in oil and gas activities in 2021; The third edition of the AES: Equatorial Guinea 2021 report will be released at Africa Oil & Power’s U.S. Africa Energy Forum 2021 networking event in Washington, D.C. this July.
Africa Oil & Power is proud to announce the upcoming launch of its Africa Energy Series (AES): Equatorial Guinea 2021 investment report and documentary, as part of a multimedia campaign set to champion the domestic energy sector and shape the West and Central African energy narrative.
The dual-language publication will target key developments driving a post-COVID-19 recovery in Equatorial Guinea – namely, the growth of petroleum and power industries; regional gas monetization initiatives; a clean energy transition; the impact of environmental, social and governance criteria; and expansion of the national diversification agenda.
A 30-minute documentary will provide a visual complement to the publication, featuring first-hand interviews with government officials, private sector players, industry regulators and energy experts discussing Equatorial Guinea’s unparalleled ambition and future plans.
“From spearheading regional gas monetization initiatives to drilling new exploration wells as early as Q2 2021, Equatorial Guinea continues to cement its reputation as a progressive, dynamic force on the African energy stage,” said H.E. Gabriel Obiang Lima, Minister of Mines and Hydrocarbons. “The Africa Energy Series publication in conjunction with a detailed documentary format, gives us the voice to showcase the depth of our full-stream investment opportunities to a global audience.”
Since the onset of COVID-19, Equatorial Guinea has been proactive in safeguarding opportunities for foreign investors and continuing to drive capital into its hydrocarbon resources. In February, Chevron achieved first gas flow from the successful execution of its Alen Gas Monetization project, a $475-million investment representing the first phase of Equatorial Guinea’s Gas Mega Hub masterplan.
The Ministry of Mines and Hydrocarbons is currently promoting several capital-intensive projects – including the construction of modular oil refineries, a gold refinery, liquefied petroleum gas strategic tanks, a urea plant and the expansion of a compressed natural gas project – which are open for investment. Last December, the Ministry of Mines and Hydrocarbons announced a forecast of $1.1 billion in foreign direct investment in oil and gas activities in 2021.
Active in Equatorial Guinea since 2015, AOP released its first AES documentary on the country in 2016, followed by investment reports in 2018 and 2019.
The AES: Equatorial Guinea 2021 investment report will be launched at the U.S. Africa Energy Forum 2021 online seminar and in-person networking event in Washington, DC. (July 12). The documentary will be launched at the U.S. Africa Energy Forum conference in Houston (October 4-5) and broadcast globally on news networks.
U.S. Africa Energy Forum 2021 Launches: Promotes U.S. Role as Primary Investor in African Energy
The U.S. Africa Energy Forum 2021 – organized by Africa Oil & Power, in partnership with the African Energy Chamber’s U.S.-Africa Committee – will foster alignment between U.S. and African governments’ energy policies and highlight African oil, gas, power and renewable projects across the energy value chain for U.S. investors; the multi-day forum unites U.S. and African policymakers, energy executives and industry leaders to create new linkages and foster discussions that drive long-term policy formation and project execution; the in-person, two-day summit and gala dinner will be hosted in Houston, Texas (October 4-5, 2021) and an online seminar and in-person networking event will be held in Washington D.C. (July 12).
Africa Oil & Power (AOP) and the African Energy Chamber are excited to announce the launch of the first-ever U.S. Africa Energy Forum (USAEF). This event aims to create deeper cooperation between the U.S. and Africa on energy policy, to reach alignment on long term sustainability goals, to stimulate greater American investment in the African oil, gas and power sectors, and to engage and reposition the U.S. as the primary partner of choice for African energy developments.
Under the theme “New Horizons for U.S. Africa Energy Investment” the forum will explore diverse foreign investment and export opportunities across the continent, including natural gas as a vital fuel for the energy transition; energy storage and battery minerals; Africa’s place in global energy supply chains; the benefits of the African Continental Free Trade Area; evolving energy technologies and how they relate to the future role of petroleum resources; and on-and off-grid power developments.
An online seminar and in-person networking event will be held in Washington D.C. on July 12, 2021, building up to the in-person U.S. Africa Energy Forum summit and gala dinner, to be hosted in Houston, Texas, on October 4-5, 2021. Africa Oil & Power and the African Energy Chamber invite all U.S.-based companies with an interest in engaging with African industry leaders and project developers to participate in the USAEF Houston summit.
This initiative comes at an important juncture in U.S.-Africa relations. The Biden Administration’s announcements of its intentions to proactively build a stronger U.S.-Africa partnership coincides with the fact that African projects are seeing rising interest from U.S. companies and lending institutions alike. The USAEF event is thus dedicated to enabling dialogue between its participants that advances these developments.
“Our mission has always been to showcase the resource potential that Africa has to offer while at the same time showing its growing preference for sustainable energy policies and technologies. Toward that end, we hope it becomes evident that Africa does not just want investment capital: it wants smart capital and an accompanying partnership with the investors,” says James Chester, Senior Director of Africa Oil & Power. “The U.S. Africa Energy Forum represents the first-of-its-kind opportunity to catalyze U.S. participation in Africa’s energy transformation – via technology, policy support, capital injection and skills development – and turns a new page in the chapter on global energy investment.”
In partnership with the African Energy Chamber’s U.S.-Africa Committee, AOP will introduce American companies to African opportunities and advance an agenda of sustainable, long-term investment in African energy and other sectors by U.S. organizations.
“The rise in support from the U.S. to the continent is a credit to Africa itself, which is increasingly viewed as a favored destination for global investors, multilaterals and export credit agencies,” says Jude Kearney, President of Kearney Africa and former Deputy Assistant Secretary for Service Industries and Finance at the U.S. Department of Commerce during the Clinton Administration. “Africa continues to command a healthy share of global FDI in oil and gas industries. It has for decades shown that investment in those sectors is favorable compared to other jurisdictions and can be successful by many measures. Even as Africa and the rest of the world wrestles with a global pandemic, Africa’s energy sector shows vitality and resiliency – not only in hydrocarbons but in regard to new opportunities in mining, liquefied natural gas, and agriculture.”
Both African governments and private sector sponsors of African energy projects value highly the combination of investment and partnership that US investors famously convey. The USAEF seeks to enable successful partnerships between its participants such that the energy development goals of U.S. investors and strategic partners and their African counterparts can be achieved.
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