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Rivers Govt Kicks as EFCC Probes N117b Transactions

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  • Rivers Govt Kicks as EFCC Probes N117b Transactions

Detectives are probing about N117b suspicious transactions by the government of Rivers State in the last three years.

The huge cash was intermittently withdrawn over the counter by a state official designated for the purpose, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) sources said at the weekend.

There were indications that the withdrawals from the state accounts were laundered by some state officials.

The state government yesterday described the probe as a “political witch-hunt” and vowed not to be intimidated.

Four suspects have been shortlisted for interrogation in connection with the massive withdrawals. They include an official in charge of Finance and Accounts at the Government House in Port Harcourt and a cashier.

The EFCC has detained a bank’s Managing Director (MD), who admitted that N5.2billion was realised as charges for the “controversial” transactions.

According to the sources, the withdrawals were made in tranches of N10million with as many as 50 cheques cashed in a day.

The sources said it was a case of “gross violation” of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act of 2011.

One of the sources said: “Based on intelligence report, the EFCC swung into action.

“Our findings indicated that the withdrawals were made in cash from the state accounts mostly by one person. There are no records of what the cash was used for. We are working on clues that it was diverted.

“The EFCC team has obtained all the records of the withdrawals, including date and time. For instance, on June 8, 2015 barely few days in government, about 45 cheques amounting to N450million were cashed over the counter for no justifiable purpose.

“Also, on June 9, 2015 about 50 cheques amounting to N500million were withdrawn. We will soon release the details of findings by our team.”

Another source spoke of how a bank chief was quizzed last Thursday and released on administrative bail.

“But he was asked to come back on Friday and we have been interacting with him up till Sunday. He admitted that all the withdrawals were made over the counter in cash.

“He also said the bank benefited about N5.2billion from the charges collected on the transactions,” the source said.

Another source said the bank was guilty of “lack of Suspicious Transaction Report(STR)” and violation of Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act 2011, especially sections on special surveillance on certain transactions and Limitation to make or accept cash payment.

The Act reads: “Special surveillance on certain transactions.

“6. (1) Where a transaction –

(a) involves a frequency which is unjustifiable or unreasonable;

(b) is surrounded by conditions of unusual or unjustified complexity;

(c) appears to have no economic justification or lawful objective; or

(d) in the opinion of the Financial Institution or Designated Non-Financial Institution involves terrorist financing or is inconsistent with the known transaction pattern of the account or business relationship, that transaction shall be deemed to be suspicious and the Financial Institution involved in such transaction shall seek information from the customer as to the origin and destination of the fund, the aim of the transaction and the identity of the beneficiary.

(2) A Financial Institution or Designated Non-Financial Institution shall within 7 days after the transaction referred to in subsection (1) of this section –

(a) draw up a written report containing all relevant information on the matters mentioned in subsection (1) of this section together with the identity of the principal and where applicable, of the beneficiary or beneficiaries;

(b) take appropriate action to prevent the laundering of the proceeds of a crime or an illegal act; and

(c) send a copy of the report and action taken to the Commission.

(3) The provisions of subsections (1) and (2) of this section shall apply whether the transaction is completed or not.

(4) The Commission shall acknowledge receipt of any disclosure, report or information received under this section and may demand such additional information as it may deem necessary.

(5)(a) The acknowledgement of receipt shall be sent to the Financial Institution or Designated Non-Financial Institution within the time allowed for the transaction to be undertaken and it may be accompanied by a notice deferring the transaction for a period not exceeding 72 hours.

(b) Notwithstanding the provisions of paragraph (a) of this subsection, the Chairman of the Commission, the Governor of the Central Bank or their authorized representative shall place a Stop Order not exceeding 72 hours, on any account or transaction if it is discovered in the course of their duties that such account or transaction is suspected to be involved in any crime.

(6) If the acknowledgement of receipt is not accompanied by a stop notice, or where the stop notice has expired and the order specified in subsection (7) of this section to block the transaction has not reached the Financial Institution or Designated Non-Financial Institution, it may carry out the transaction.

(7) Where it is not possible to ascertain the origin of the funds within the period of stoppage of the transaction, The Federal High Court may, at the request of the commission, or others persons of authority duly authorized in that behalf, order that that the funds, accounts or securities referred to in the report be blocked.

(8) An order made by the Federal High Court under subsection (7) of this section shall be enforced forthwith.

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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