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Osinbajo: Money Laundering is West Africa’s Greatest Existential Threat

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  • Osinbajo: Money Laundering is West Africa’s Greatest Existential Threat

Vice President Yemi Osinbajo said on Saturday in Abuja that money laundering posed serious threat to crucial existential issues in West Africa, stressing that the menace needs to be tackled with utmost unity and determination. Osinbajo stated this at the opening ceremony of the 18th ministerial committee meeting of the Inter-Governmental Action Group against Money Laundering in West Africa (GIABA).

The vice president said the political and economic stability of countries in the sub-region depended heavily on a successful war against the movement of the proceeds of crime. He lamented the obstacles to the repatriation of looted funds stashed in the developed countries, despite various mutual assistance treaties and the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) recommendations.

Osinbajo stated, “At risk from money laundering, especially the laundering of proceeds of corruption, and terrorist financing, are the stability of our financial and political systems, and ultimately the development of our countries and the prosperity of our people.

“What this means is that we are dealing here with an existential threat – it’s either we wipe it out or it wipes us out.”

He said, “We know that the lines between terrorist groups, corrupt politicians, traffickers (whether of drugs, guns or people); fraudsters; smugglers; kidnappers; illegal oil bunkerers, etc., have always been blurry; that these groups have always found complementary need for one another’s tactics and strategies. Indeed, if there’s one thing that the world’s deadliest terrorist groups, from Al Qaeda to ISIS to Al-Shabaab, have in common, it is the ease and expertise with which they diversify their criminal activity while retaining their overarching goal of inflicting maximum devastation.”

Osinbajo said the wide-ranging dangers of money laundering and other financial crimes should spur the countries to treat such criminalities with zero tolerance. “We have for long enough affirmed our commitment as a sub-region to fighting money laundering and terrorist financing. We must now back this intent with forceful action and visible results,” he said.

He acknowledged the previous efforts of countries within the sub-region to fight money laundering and terrorist financing, but said more needed to be done, especially to keep abreast of new criminal tactics.

According to the vice president, “Information sharing is very important to the success of our fight. This means that on the one hand we should rise above the temptations of secretiveness and mutual suspicion; and on the other hand, we must do everything in our power to sustain trust and confidence by safeguarding every piece of information that is being shared across national databases.

“We must also strive to work beyond the barriers imposed by the differences in our various legal systems, bearing in our minds that the criminals we are tackling have never allowed themselves to be held back by these obstacles.”

Osinbajo lamented the barriers to the return of looted funds from the developed countries. “Permit me to raise a matter of considerable importance to many of our nations,” he told the ministers from member states of the GIABA (the 15 ECOWAS countries, and Sao Tome and Principe), explaining, “It is the difficulty we experience in repatriating proceeds of corruption from financial institutions of the more developed nations.

“Despite numerous mutual legal assistance treaties and conventions, it is obvious that we are not making the sort of progress we expect to see. It is unconscionable, in our view, to have stolen funds in a bank within the jurisdiction of an FATF country and to have to go through a rigorous obstacle course to retrieve the funds and even when such funds are to be returned after several years, humiliating conditions are attached.”

He said, “It is the view of Nigeria that FATF countries must, as a matter of respect for the spirit of our collaboration, and with the same efficiency and zero tolerance for quibbling, ensure the smooth repatriation of proceeds of corruption to the economies from where they were stolen.

“The other issue is the dangers posed by anonymous corporate ownership. If nothing else, the Panama Papers, and now the Paradise papers, clearly illustrate the global scale and spread of this problem. So this is a global challenge and nothing less than a truly global approach will be needed to tackle it.”

Osinbajo, however, commended the United Kingdom, Norway, Netherlands, and Denmark for establishing public registers of the real, human owners of companies within their territories.

He stated, “We call on other G8 and G20 countries not only to follow suit but also to initiate actions to end corporate secrecy in some of their dependencies. We cannot have anonymous ownership of companies, trusts and other arrangements designed to cover ownership of assets, and at the same time expect optimal results from anti-money laundering measures.”

Meanwhile, Speaker of the ECOWAS Parliament, Moustapha Cisse Lo, has called on companies, development agencies, and donors in the sub-region, like MTN Foundation, European Union, United Nations agencies, and African Capacity Building Foundation to support the parliament with resources needed for the execution of its development projects. Cisse Lo stated this yesterday in Abuja at the closing of the ECOWAS Parliament, Fourth Legislature, 2017 Donors Conference.

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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