Ohio lawmakers arrested for bribery and corruption

One of Ohio’s “three most powerful lawmakers” was arrested Tuesday in a raid of his rural Glenford farm, reports NBC News.

House Speaker Larry Householder was taken into custody as part of a $60 million bribery investigation, as were adviser Jeffrey Longstreth, former Ohio GOP chair Matthew Borges, and high-profile lobbyists Neil Clark and Juan Cespedes.

The AP reports Householder, a Republican, was a “driving force” behind the $1 billion bailout of the state’s two nuclear power plants, which was funded in part by adding a new fee to all electricity bills.

Previous attempts to bail out the nuclear plants had stalled in the Legislature before Householder became speaker. Months after taking over in 2016, he rolled out a new plan to subsidize the plants and eliminate renewable energy incentives.

The proposal was approved a year ago despite opposition from many business leaders and the manufacturing industry. Generation Now, a group that successfully fought an effort to put a repeal of the bailout law on Ohio’s ballot, was charged as a corporation in the case.

A criminal complaint filed by the FBI says Generation Now received $60 million from an unidentified company over the past three years.

In exchange, Householder and the other defendants worked to pass the nuclear plant bailout and block attempts to overturn it.

Householder and the others used the money to preserve and expand his political power in Ohio, the complaint said. US Attorney David DeVillers described the ploy as “likely the largest bribery scheme ever perpetrated against the state of Ohio.”

US contractor charged with COVID-Relief fraud

The owner of a residential construction contracting firm based in Washington, D.C., was charged with allegedly submitting fraudulent documents to a bank in connection with applications seeking more than $400,000 in a forgivable Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans guaranteed by the Small Business Administration (SBA) under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

Acting Assistant Attorney General Brian C. Rabbitt of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, Acting U.S. Attorney Michael R. Sherwin for the District of Columbia, Special Agent in Charge James A. Dawson of the FBI Washington Field Office’s Criminal Division, Inspector General Hannibal “Mike” Ware of the Small Business Administration’s Office of Inspector General (SBA OIG), and J. Russell George, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) made the announcement.

Oludamilare Olugbuyi, 40, of Washington, D.C., was charged in a federal criminal complaint filed in the District of Columbia with making false statements to a financial institution.

According to the complaint, Olugbuyi submitted several fake and fraudulent documents to a financial institution in support of two PPP loan applications seeking more than $400,000 in forgivable loans for a construction firm that he owned.  Specifically, Olugbuyi submitted what purported to be several IRS Forms 1099-MISC reporting hundreds of thousands of dollars in disbursements made to independent contractors.

The complaint alleges that the social security numbers reflected on the forms were either invalid or assigned to other people.  In addition, Olugbuyi allegedly submitted to the financial institution what purported to be a tax return reporting $175,565 in adjusted gross income for tax year 2019.

According to IRS records, however, on April 14, 2020, Olugbuyi filed an IRS Form 1040 reporting $1 in total income for 2019.  This document, known as a “non-filer return,” qualified Olugbuyi to receive a $1,200 Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES) economic impact payment.

The CARES Act is a federal law enacted on March 29, 2020, designed to provide emergency financial assistance to the millions of Americans who are suffering the economic effects caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.  One source of relief provided by the CARES Act was the authorization of up to $349 billion in forgivable loans to small businesses for job retention and certain other expenses, through the PPP.  In April 2020, Congress authorized over $300 billion in additional PPP funding.

The PPP allows qualifying small businesses and other organizations to receive loans with a maturity of two years and an interest rate of 1 percent.  PPP loan proceeds must be used by businesses on payroll costs, interest on mortgages, rent, and utilities.  The PPP allows the interest and principal on the PPP loan to be entirely forgiven if the business spends the loan proceeds on these expense items within a designated period of time after receiving the proceeds and uses a certain amount of the PPP loan proceeds on payroll expenses.

A federal criminal complaint is merely an accusation.  A defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

Deputy Chief Brian R. Young of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Christine Macey are prosecuting the case.

2 whistleblowers to receive $3,006,000 for exposing False Claims Act violations

Longwood Management Corporation and 27 affiliated skilled nursing facilities (Longwood) have agreed to resolve allegations that they violated the False Claims Act by submitting false claims to Medicare for rehabilitation therapy services that were not reasonable or necessary, the Department of Justice announced today.

Longwood is headquartered in California and the 27 skilled nursing facilities are also located in California.

“This settlement reflects the Department’s continuing commitment to ensure that patients are receiving individualized healthcare services appropriate to their specific medical needs,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Ethan P. Davis for the Department of Justice’s Civil Division.  “When skilled nursing facilities provide rehabilitation therapy services based on maximizing revenue rather than the interests of their patients, we will hold them accountable.”

“Longwood’s business plan called for substantial revenue from Medicare, and it pressured therapists to provide additional, unnecessary services when targets were not met,” said U.S. Attorney Nick Hanna for the Central District of California.  “This case demonstrates the power of whistleblowers to shine a light on improper business practices and obtain significant recoveries on behalf of United States taxpayers.”

The settlement resolves allegations that Longwood submitted false claims for rehabilitation therapy by engaging in a systematic effort to increase Medicare billings.  Medicare reimburses skilled nursing facilities at a daily rate that reflects the skilled therapy and nursing needs of qualifying patients.  The greater the patient’s needs, the higher the level of Medicare reimbursement.  The highest level of Medicare reimbursement for skilled nursing facilities is for “Ultra High” therapy patients, who require a minimum of 720 minutes of skilled therapy from two therapy disciplines (e.g., physical, occupational, or speech therapy), one of which has to be provided five days a week.

Longwood allegedly knowingly submitted or caused the submission of false and fraudulent claims to Medicare for medically unreasonable and unnecessary Ultra High levels of rehabilitation therapy for Medicare Part A residents.  Specifically, Longwood allegedly pressured therapists to increase the amount of therapy provided to patients to meet pre-planned targets for Medicare revenue.  These targets were alleged to have been set without regard to patients’ individual therapy needs and could only be achieved by billing for a high percentage of patients at the Ultra High level.

The settlement covers conduct that occurred from May 1, 2008 through Aug. 1, 2012 at six facilities (Alameda Care Center, Burbank Rehabilitation Center, Magnolia Gardens Convalescent Hospital, Montrose Healthcare Center, Sherman Oaks Health & Rehab Center, and West Hills Health & Rehab Center); and from Jan. 1, 2006 through Oct. 10, 2014 at twenty-one facilities (Burlington Convalescent Hospital, Chino Valley Rehabilitation Center LLC, Colonial Care Center, Covina Rehabilitation Center, Crenshaw Nursing Home, Green Acres Lodge, Imperial Care Center, Imperial Crest Health Care Center, Laurel Convalescent Hospital, Live Oak Rehabilitation Center, Longwood Manor Convalescent Hospital, Monterey Care Center, Intercommunity Healthcare Center, Park Anaheim Healthcare Center, Pico Rivera Healthcare Center, San Gabriel Convalescent Center, Whittier Pacific Care Center, Studio City Rehabilitation Center, Sunnyview Care Center, View Park Convalescent Center, Western Convalescent Hospital).

Contemporaneous with the civil settlement, Longwood has entered into a five-year Corporate Integrity Agreement with the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG) that requires an independent review organization to annually assess the medical necessity and appropriateness of therapy services billed to Medicare.

“The government contended Longwood falsely claimed medically unreasonable and unnecessary levels of rehabilitation services at the expense of taxpayers,” said Timothy B. DeFrancesca, Special Agent in Charge for the Office of Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.  “My agency’s compliance agreement is designed to monitor claims to Medicare and prevent submission of false claims in the future.”

The settlement partially resolves allegations brought in two lawsuits filed by whistleblowers under the qui tam provisions of the False Claims Act, which allows private parties to bring suit on behalf of the government and to share in any recovery.  The whistleblowers, Judy Boyce, Benjamin Monsod, and Keith Pennetti will collectively receive $3,006,000 of the settlement proceeds.

The settlement was the result of a coordinated effort by the Civil Division of the Department of Justice, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Alabama, and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General.

The cases are captioned United States ex rel. Pennetti v. Longwood Management Corp., et al., Case Number CV-14-4133 (C.D. Cal.), and United States ex rel. Boyce, Judy and Monsod, Benjamin v. Aegis Therapies, Inc., GGNSC Holdings LLC, and Longwood Management Corp., CV-16-8050 (C.D. Cal.).  The claims resolved by this agreement are allegations only and there has been no determination of liability.

COVID-19: Italian mafia groups exploiting the health crisis

Previously, Marco worked as a blacksmith with his father until 1996, but since then, he has done all sorts of work but has never declared it.

“It’s like defeat, honestly. Underground work is not good, but one has to do it in order to survive,” he explained.

Marco asked for council housing in 2012, but has not received it. He moved into a flat in one of the so-called Velei’s ten years ago. The housing estates have become an emblem of lawlessness – tolerated but abandoned by the State.

“Fortunately, I am able to save some money here. I’m not proud of it, but I pay no rent, no electricity. We squat in this place. This is the only way we can get by. If we had to rely on the State, we would have starved to death. They don’t come here to see what’s good and what’s bad. They abandoned us, that’s it,” he said.

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People like Marco have become easy prey for the mafia groups, as national anti-mafia prosecutor, Federico Cafiero De Raho, explained: “Poverty is the first area of intervention for the various Italian mafia groups, both for recruitment and to gain social power.

“There are young people who felt that the support offered by the Camorra was the only way to meet the basic survival needs for their families,” he said.

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Whilst the Italian government has been criticised for its lack of social support, its law enforcement has been strong for years. Post-lockdown, the police expected an increase of criminal activity and have been on alert, as Alfredo Fabbrocini, head of mobile policing in Naples explained.

“We have a flexible strategy. It changes at the same pace organised crime patterns change but we also try to anticipate their moves. We try to understand from the street how the Camorra is adapting its activity and try to stop it.

“The Camorra has not gained strength from the lockdown. It tries to diversify its criminal activity as it needs to earn money. It’s not stronger, it’s just hungrier,” he added.

It is estimated that Italian Mafia groups earn over 30 billion euros each year, just through drug trafficking. The Camorra needs to find financial channels to hide its money and the easiest way is through businesses, so the groups lend money to those struggling, even when their illicit loans can’t be paid back.

“When the money cannot be returned, the Camorra takes advantage of that. Because of the money the Camorra can acquire management of the business. From that moment on, the Camorra will use that company as a conduit to launder its own illicit money,” Alfredo Fabbrocini said.

Extortion has also resumed on top of loan-sharking, with Camorra collecting protection money, known as pizzo, as soon as the lockdown was lifted.

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“There is even more anger, even more tension. The pandemic has sunk those who were already going through a crisis. In this period, when extortionists appear on construction sites to ask for the protection money, many colleagues are saying no,” Rosario D’Angelo, co-founder of the anti-racketeering association Fai, said.

Rosario is also a former victim of racketeering. Today with his association, he helps other entrepreneurs to speak out. He says very few dare to challenge the Camorra. It was not easy for him either.

“Until 1996-97 my dad paid thousands of euros to the racketeers, but he did not say anything at home. When I took over the business, I discovered what was going on. For the first few years I paid out of fear. Then, in 2005 we decided to set up an association and I filed my first complaint. I made 18 complaints leading to six arrests on six different occasions and at six different worksites in Naples,” he said.

Law enforcement agencies expect record extortion levels at the end of August, a traditional deadline for the Camorra to collect. Usury might rise by 30% this year because of the pandemic, according to the local anti-usury office of one of the leading workers’ unions.

Responding to that, the anti-racketeering association SOS Impresa has brought together business associations, law enforcement and government institutions to help coordinate against the Camorra.

President of SOS Impresa, Luigi Cuomo, talked to Euronews about it.

“Today we are in a phase in which the criminal phenomenon of usury is growing, but it is growing silently, because now victims need those who will become their loan-sharks. They are the ones creating this flawed relationship. In one year’s time we’ll know how much this phenomenon, this deadly embrace, is developing at this precise moment,” he said.

Today, there is social, economic and political support for the people who reject usury and extortion. There is money available, as well as policies in place and associations to help them. However, many have paid with their lives for this to happen.

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Mimma Noviello is one of Domenico Noviello’s four children. He was a local entrepreneur killed in 2008 by one of the Camorra clans, the Casalesi, after he refused to pay the pizzo protection money.

“He gathered the family and we talked all together. He basically asked us for permission to say no. He felt that if he had bowed his head, he would also have left this burden to us, his children,” Mimma Noviello, daughter of the Camorra victim, told Euronews.

Domenico and his family had informed the police and their extortionists were caught and imprisoned. He was killed seven years later – shot 13 times.

“I realised only later that his killing was a warning. But it was an extreme one. They killed one to show everybody. They managed to scare other business people. They killed him, do you realise that? There was no retaliation on his children. They killed him. It was very hard for us.

“At the time I immediately supported my father’s decision and I would do it again. Since then, I’ve understood even more the value of saying I don’t pay the pizzo, I will never pay it, not me, not you. Never,” she added.

Criminology expert Paolo Miggiano, who became a family friend, told Domenico’s story and legacy in the book The Other Casalese, that has just been published:

“The situation is certainly different today. Law enforcement agencies and the courts have worked with great commitment to dismantle criminal groups, especially here in Campania. It would have been better, though, to respond on two fronts – the force of the State – police and justice – and at the same time economic and social aid for the development of the region. I might have missed it but I haven’t seen this happen,” Paolo Miggiano said.

Meanwhile, experts fear that Southern Italy faces a long and painful recovery as a result of Covid-19 and unlike the North, there is much more social inequality and it Is not being addressed.

The city councilor in charge of juvenile affairs talked to Euronews about it at a voluntary association venue supporting families and children in need.

“This place where we are today gets no Government money. If it did, three times as many children would be here today. This is what I want from the Government. I believe we must not only make sure that the economy and trade are relaunched, but also that the social side and community links are good. This starts from childhood, which is always ignored,” Alessandra Clemente, head of juvenile policies at Naples City Hall told Euronews.

President Buhari appoints EFCC acting chairman after Magu’s suspension

President Muhammadu Buhari on Friday approved the suspension of Acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Ibrahim Magu.

Umar Gwandu, spokesperson for Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami (SAN), confirmed the news in a statement on Friday.

The statement added that EFCC’s Head of Operations, Mohammed Umar, had been named as the Acting Chairman of the organisation.

The statement reads, “President Muhammadu Buhari has approved the immediate suspension of Ibrahim Magu as Ag. Chairman EFCC in order to allow for unhindered inquiry by the Presidential Investigation Panel under the Tribunals of Inquiry Act and other relevant laws.

“President Muhammadu Buhari has also approved that the EFCC Director of Operations, Mohammed Umar, should take charge and oversee the activities of the commission pending the conclusion of the ongoing investigation and further directives in that regards.”

Magu was arrested by a joint team of operatives of the Department of State Services and men of the Nigeria Police Force on Monday and then taken to the Presidential Villa where he has been grilled for several days by a panel led by a former Court of Appeal judge, Ayo Salami.

Magu was arrested after it was alleged that he had four houses and was moving money outside the country through third parties.

In a 2016 report, the DSS revealed that Magu was living in a N40m mansion paid for by a corrupt individual.

Neighbors react after police points gun at black teens

Residents of Clayton County, Georgia are calling for the firing of a police officer who was filmed pulling a gun on five teenagers, leading to a tense confrontation with neighbors.

In a video shared on Instagram, the officer can be seen pointing the gun at the Jonesboro teens as neighbors urge him not to shoot.

“There were about 30 of us, telling the kids to remain calm and begging the officer to put his gun down,” Shanelle Ladd, who pulled over and recorded part of the incident, tells CNN.

Police defended the officer’s actions, saying the video shows a “small portion of the entire incident,” Fox News reports.

Police said the officer was responding to a 911 call from a gas station clerk who said the boys tried stealing from the store and waved what appeared to be a gun in the parking lot.

Police, who released body camera footage of the Monday incident, said the officers found a realistic BB gun one boy had thrown into bushes. Authorities said the teens were cooperative and were not handcuffed or charged.

At a press conference Tuesday, residents called for changes to policing.

“If one of those kids had made the wrong move, what would have happened?” Ladd asked. They were joined by rapper and community activist Clifford “TI” Harris: “Why don’t we ever see little white kids being held a gunpoint? Period,” he said, per 11Alive. “The constitution was written for all Americans except it seems like you only have to be a certain shade or a certain color to reap the benefits.”

No COVID-19 palliative package for Nigerians as FG claims

Nigerians living in Abuja, the country’s capital, who are intended beneficiaries of the COVID-19 palliatives, have denied receiving any amount of money or relief materials from government.

Minister of Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management, Sadiya Umar Farouq, had said 2.6 million vulnerable persons benefited from the Federal Government’s cash transfer intervention programme.

She said 11 million households have been identified in 35 states, who benefited from the scheme.

Farouq said the FCT had 5,982 households, in Nasarawa, 8,271; Katsina, 6,732; and Anambra State has 1,367 households respectively.

SaharaReporters however, gathered that in communities such as Dutse Alhaji, Lugbe, Kuje, Gwagwalada and Gudu, Nigerians vulnerable to the economic impact of COVID-19 had no idea of any fund that was disbursed for that purpose despite governments claim that millions of Nigeria had received N20,000 each.

Through the Household Upliftment Programme, the government has been paying some vulnerable Nigerians N5,000 since 2017 after basic data is captured and a form of identification was issued.

SaharaReporters however, found out that beneficiaries of the scheme since 2017 do not receive payment every January.

“At the beginning of the year, they do skip January disbursement and pay N10,000 by February, but this year 2020 they have not showed up.

“They came beginning of April and started disbursement of the money. January to April money was dispensed at once (N5,000 X 4 = N20,000). The communities where not told this is a COVID-19 palliative package,” a source told SaharaReporters.

Many members of the communities visited expressed shock that government said it had provided N20,000 as palliatives to them.

Ex-prison warden commits suicide in court to avoid 3-year sentence for bribery

A former Russian prison service official diagnosed with terminal cancer shot himself dead in a courtroom on Wednesday after being handed a three-year jail sentence on corruption charges.

Viktor Sviridov, who had served as a transport manager in the federal prison service, took out a pistol and shot himself dead in the courtroom after hearing the verdict.

An investigation has begun into how Sviridov was able to smuggle the gun into the court building.

Sviridov has pleaded guilty to extorting a 10-million ruble (€150,000) bribe from another prison service official but his lawyers asked the judge not to impose a prison sentence because of his advanced and incurable cancer.

“The circumstances in which the defendant … carried weapons to the courthouse, are being established,” Ulyana Solopova, spokeswoman for the Moscow City Court, told RIA Novosti.

A typical sentence for the bribery conviction would be between 7 and to 15 years in prison, the agency said.

Pope Francis not in support of tax cuts for ‘rich people’

Pope Francis has criticized the practice of tax cuts for the rich in the name of “investment and development,” calling it a “structure of sin” at the seminar set up by the Pontifical Academy for Social Sciences.

He lamented the fact that “billions of dollars” end up in “tax haven accounts” instead of funding “healthcare and education,” something that in his own words impede “the possibility of the dignified and sustained development of all social agents.”

“Poverty, discrimination, climate change, the globalization of indifference and the exploitation of human beings all prevent the flourishing of millions of children,” he said.

Eradicating poverty has been a recurrent topic in Francis’ pontificate. The head of the Catholic Church once more emphasized that poverty is rising around the world; however, it is a solvable problem: “There is no determinism that condemns us to universal inequity. Let me repeat: we are not condemned to universal inequity.”

Though the Pope spoke of the dangers of “extreme poverty” in his economic speech, reports suggest that extreme poverty is falling every year around the globe, Russia Today reported.

Still, a higher tax rate for wealthier individuals is a popular idea with some parties in both the U.S. and the United Kingdom, and the gap between rich and poor is indeed widening. A recent Oxfam report indicated the wealthiest one percent of the world’s population has twice as much wealth as the remaining 90 percent or 6.9 billion people.

Nigerians angry with Buhari’s daughter for ‘toying’ with presidential jet

President Muhammadu Buhari is respected in regional and global circles for his commitment to fighting corruption, but his daughter’s recent show of “affluence” has got tongues wagging.

Nigerians are expressing outrage over the decision by the Nigerian Government to authorise the use of a jet from the presidential fleet to fly President Muhammadu Buhari’s daughter, Hanan, on a private trip to Bauchi.

Buhari's daughter.jpeg

Recall that Hanan recently ordered the Department of State Services to unlawfully arrest and detain a Delta State-based businessman, Anthony Okolie, for 10 weeks after he legally purchased an MTN telephone line from a registered outlet in Asaba, the state capital.

The mobile number was previously owned and used by Hanan but later recycled for sale by the network provider after being dormant for a while.

After noticing that the number was in use elsewhere, the young lady, who is a graduate of Photography from Ravensbourne University, London, reported the matter to the DSS and ordered the arrest and detention of Okolie.

Failing several times to appear at the DSS office to give any statement to support her claims, the secret police eventually released the young businessman after 10 weeks in unlawful detention.

In the latest of the controversy to trail her, Hanan on Thursday attended an event to photograph a Durbar by Rilwanu Adamu, Emir of Bauchi, in one of the jets in the presidential fleet. As a result of the act, Nigerians especially social media users have continued to rain hard knocks on Hanan and the Presidency for allowing her use a presidential jet for a private trip.

Under standard practice, only the President, First Lady, Vice-President, Senate President, Speaker, Chief Justice of Nigeria, former Presidents and a Presidential delegation are allowed to use the presidential jet.

Before wrestling power from the Peoples Democratic Party in 2015, the All Progressives Congress – dangling a mantra of change and a ‘blast from the past’ before Nigerians – promised to dispose some of the jets in the Presidential fleet due to the expensive nature of maintenance. But despite those lofty promises, only two helicopters out of 10 were given to the Nigerian Air Force while two presidential aircrafts previously put up for sale had yet to be discarded as of 2018.

Under the 2020 national budget, around N8.5bn has been earmarked for maintenance of jets in the Presidential fleet.

Expressing displeasure at the use of one of the jets for a private trip by President Buhari’s daughter, a Twitter user, Young Otutu, said, “Lest we forget: The daughter of the president who promised not to allow unwarranted spending in governance, Hanan Buhari is busy flying Airforce 1 to go greet dignitaries and their wives with DSS securities, all on tax payers funds. Lest we forget.”

Another Twitter user identified as Dr Dbanj, said, “In what capacity is she being received at the airport? What kind of waste is this? If Npower could render so many generals jobless in these streets, yet this one flight could have kept them going for one month.

“Guess this was why we refused to sell any part of the fleet.”

Also enraged by the incident, @Kabir_kb1 said, “So, Hanan Buhari is now cruising with our Presidential jet….Though we were told in 2016 that there was a plan to sell them in order to reduce cost, but now his daughter, despite the fact that he’s regarded as the “Man of Integrity” is using one of them.”

However, defending Hanan’s usage of the aircraft, Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, said that there was no big deal in the act. According to him, President Buhari informed the National Security Adviser of the move before his daughter embarked on the trip to Bauchi.

He said, “It’s true that a member of the First Family was flown to Bauchi on a mission duly authorised. It wasn’t an impromptu or improper trip because it followed normal procedure.

“The Presidency informed the National Security Adviser of the mission who in turn informed the Commander of the Presidential Air Fleet.

“The normal practice in existence for a long time is that the Presidential Air fleet is available to the President and the first family and four others. These four are the Vice President, the Senate President the Speaker and any other person(s) authorised by the President.”

But condemning the act, rights lawyer, Inibehe Effiong, said the use of the Presidential jet by Buhari’s daughter amounts to an abuse of office and a waste of resources. He stated, “Buhari is only fooling himself and his supporters with this fake integrity.”

Netanyahu seeking immunity from corruption charges

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday said he will ask parliament to grant him immunity from corruption charges, a step that is expected to delay his trial for months.

The step most likely puts the trial on hold until after elections in March, when he hopes to win a majority coalition that will shield him from prosecution.

The announcement essentially turns the upcoming election campaign into a referendum on whether Netanyahu should be granted immunity and remain in office or step down to stand trial.

A recent poll indicated that a majority of Israelis oppose giving him immunity.

Netanyahu was indicted in November on charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust after failing to assemble a governing majority following back-to-back-elections last year. He now gets a third shot at holding onto his office in March.

In a nationally televised address, Netanyahu repeated his assertion that he is the victim of an unfair conspiracy and that he would seek to invoke the law that would protect him from prosecution while he remains in office.

“In order to continue to lead Israel to great achievements, I intend to approach the speaker of the Knesset in accordance with chapter 4C of the law, in order to fulfill my right, my duty and my mission to continue to serve you for the future of Israel,” he said.

The request most likely means that parliament will address the matter after March elections.

The current caretaker government is not empowered to make a decision on granting Netanyahu immunity.

In order to debate the matter, parliament would have to appoint a special committee that needs to study the request. But it remains unclear whether it will be allowed to do so.

Revealed! How ex-Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn escaped house arrest and 24-hour surveillance

Under house arrest and 24-hour surveillance, ousted Nissan chairman became an international fugitive when he reportedly hid inside a large musical instrument case Sunday and smuggled himself out of Japan to flee criminal prosecution there.

Ghosn’s wife, Carole, whom he hasn’t seen since his arrest more than a year ago, orchestrated his dramatic escape, according to The Guardian. He was aided by a band of Gregorian musicians, who were hired to perform at a dinner party at his home in Tokyo, and a team of former special forces officers, the paper reported, citing Lebanese TV news channel MTV for some of the details.

After the performance, Ghosn tucked himself inside one of the cases, which was transported to a small local airport, where a private plane took him to Istanbul, Turkey, the British paper reported.

The Guardian said he appears to have boarded a Bombardier Challenger private jet bound for Lebanon, where he arrived before dawn on Monday.

The Brazil-born auto titan was raised in Beirut and is a citizen of Brazil, France and Lebanon. As a citizen, he’s protected from extradition from Lebanon. Local authorities said he legally entered the country and wouldn’t face any repercussions, according to local media reports.

Ghosn was a giant in the auto industry. A dynamic executive credited with turning around the Japanese manufacturer, Ghosn was arrested in November 2018 and charged with multiple financial misdeeds while running Nissan. He and his wife have maintained his innocence and fought for his release from the Japanese justice system over the past year.

“I have not fled justice — I have escaped injustice and political persecution. I can now finally communicate freely with the media, and look forward to starting next week,” Ghosn said in a statement confirming his arrival in Lebanon.

He said he will “no longer be held hostage by a rigged Japanese justice system where guilt is presumed, discrimination is rampant, and basic human rights are denied, in flagrant disregard of Japan’s legal obligations under international law and treaties it is bound to uphold.”

Ghosn’s lead attorney in Japan, Junichiro Hironaka, told reporters that he was “surprised and baffled” by his client’s escape, the Financial Times reported.

Hironaka said his legal team still held all of Ghosn’s passports and last saw him on Christmas Day with an agreement to meet Jan. 7 to discuss his upcoming trial, according to the Financial Times.

“If this [escape] is true, we have to assume that this is a breach of bail conditions,” Hironaka said. “His act is unforgivable and a betrayal of Japan’s justice system.”

Lebanese media said that Ghosn arrived in the country by private jet from Turkey and the newspaper Annahar reported that caretaker State Minister Salim Jreissati said he entered with a French passport, according to Bloomberg.

Financial Times editor Lionel Barber tweeted on Tuesday that “Beirut sources saying [Ghosn] hid in a box designed for a musical instrument.”

The last time Carole Ghosn saw her husband was the day of his second arrest in April when a team of 20 Japanese prosecutors stormed the couple’s apartment in Tokyo at 5:50 a.m. and hauled him away.

“They checked everything. They took pictures of everything,”

Carole Ghosn later told CNBC in September that the upcoming criminal trial in Japan against her husband shows a “dark side” of the nation and bias against foreign executives.

“I think my husband doesn’t look like is going to get a fair trial, the way they are behaving, the way that they are treating him compared to Japanese like [former Nissan CEO Hiroto] Saikawa.”

The former Nissan chairman was ousted and arrested a little over a year ago after Saikawa, who was CEO at the time, accused him and another executive of a litany of financial misdeeds.

Irobiko Chimezie

EFFC gets warrant to arrest former Nigerian Attorney-General

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission has obtained a court order to detain  a former Attorney-General of the Federation, Mohammed Adoke, for 14 days.

A Federal Capital Territory High Court granted the order following EFCC’s application for remand order.

Adoke was handed over to the EFCC by Interpol on Thursday and taken into custody for his alleged involvement in the granting of the Oil Prospecting License 245 to Shell and ENI.

Justice Othman Musa of the FCT High Court, Bwari, gave the order as prayed by the EFCC to enable it conclude its investigation.

The anti-graft agency had sought a request from the court in Abuja on April 17 to secure a warrant of arrest against Adoke and four others after attempts to produce the defendants in court failed.

The court granted the request by the EFCC, leading to Adoke’s arrest by the police in Dubai, United Arab Emirate, in November.

Supercars worth more than £22m seized from an African leader’s son

Car lovers from around the world have splashed out more than £22 million at an auction for dozens of luxury motors seized from the son of Equatorial Guinea’s president amid a money-laundering probe.

The proceeds from the auction will go to a charity that support’s the country’s people.

The 25 lots sold by auction house Bonhams included a white-and-cream 2014 Lamborghini Veneno roadster that cost the buyer £6.8 million, including a 15% premium for the auction house but with potential taxes still to be added.

The supercar — one of only nine produced — had been driven only 201 miles and has an official top speed of 223mph, Bonhams said.

Total proceeds from the sale beat the £15.2 million authorities had hoped to fetch for a charity to benefit the people of oil-rich Equatorial Guinea.

The auction comes after the Geneva prosecutor’s office announced in February it had closed a case against Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mangue, the son of the country’s four-decade president, Teodoro Obiang, and two others following a probe of money laundering and mismanagement of public assets.

Swiss authorities seized the cars and ordered the sequestration of a yacht in 2016.

The yacht was released in an arrangement announced in February, under which Equatorial Guinea agreed to pay Geneva authorities £1 million “notably to cover procedural costs”, the prosecutor’s office said.

Other cars sold at the Domaine de Bonmmont golf club on the edge of Geneva included a yellow 2003 Ferrari Enzo for £2.5 million, and a 2015 Koenigsegg One:1 that fetched £3.8 million.

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The Lamborghini Veneno. Credit: Laurent Gillieron/Keystone/AP

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The Koenigsegg One:1. Credit: Laurent Gillieron/Keystone/AP

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An Aston Martin One-77 Coupe. Credit: Laurent Gillieron/Keystone/AP

An armored 1998 Rolls-Royce Silver Spur limousine, described as “perfect for someone with enemies” but requiring extensive work, sold for £70,000.

Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mangue, who is also a vice president of Equatorial Guinea, has been ensnared in legal trouble elsewhere.

Last year, Brazilian officials said £13 million in undeclared cash and luxury watches that were seized from a delegation he led may have been part of an effort to launder money embezzled from the country’s government.

A Paris court in 2017 convicted him of embezzling millions in public money, although the case is the subject of an appeal.

The Geneva prosecutor’s office in February cited rules allowing prosecutors to close cases in which the person under investigation had “repaired the damage or done everything that could have been expected of him or her to make up for the wrong that was caused”.

The investigation involved authorities in the US, the Cayman Islands, France, Monaco, Denmark, the Netherlands and the Marshall Islands.

More than 1.2 million people live in the tiny country of Equatorial Guinea, an African nation with one of the worst human rights records in the world.

Historical facts about Africa’s craziest despot Idi Amin

Idi Amin, who died on 16 August, 2003 is best known as a debauchee.

The late Ugandan military president is regarded as Africa’s worst despots. His harem was full of women during his Presidency and he sired hundreds of children purposefully., having thought of living behind him a whole tribe known by his name.

Officially Idi Amin had only four wives. The first, Sarah, known as “Mama Maliam”, was married to him in 1958. The second, Kay, was the daughter of a Protestant priest. The third was Norah and the fourth Medina. He would keep all his children with him in the presidential palace.

Idi Amin misused the Muslim law on divorce on March 26, 1974, when all of a sudden in a public function he divorced his first three wives- Maliam, Kay and Norah, by repeating the word “talaq” three times.

Idi Amin was so engrossed with his fourth wife, Medina, that he neglected the other three who established illegal relationship with other men. Kay was so full of venom that in order to take revenge upon her husband, she became pregnant by her lover. Idi Amin was so incensed that he put them behind bars and killed their lovers.

Maliam and Kay escaped and fled from Uganda and Norah was murdered by him. She was dismembered and her breasts were spitted from her body while alive. Then he got her corpse stitched, covered it by a sheet up to neck called her children and told them that their mother was a whore.

Medina also met the same fate. She was beaten by him in 1977 so severely that she had a deep cut at her temple and a miscarriage. It was the time when he forcibly married the famous Ugandan danseuse, Sarah, who was already married to another man and had a child from her husband. Idi Amin ordered Sarah brought to him, announced that he had sired Sarah’s child and married her according to Islamic rites. He got Sarah’s former husband “finished”.

Sarah was so terrified of Idi Amin that she would begin to tremble at Idi Amin’s sight.

Hardly and Ugandan young woman could boast that she had not fallen a prey to the lust of Idi Amin or his men vultures.

In February 1974, the illiterate Idi Amin was invited to deliver the convocation address at the Makerere University. All of a sudden, his eyes fell on Elizabeth Bagaya, a senior officer in the Uganda Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Elizabeth was young and beautiful. He called her to the stage, announced that Michael Ongoga who had replaced Wanume Kibedi as his Foreign Affairs Minister was thenceforth dismissed and Elizabeth Bagaya was the new serving personnel to hold the prestigious office.

After few hours, Michael Ongoga was done to death by Idi Amin’s gangsters. Idi Amin made advances to Elizabeth but she resisted. In order to win her over, he deputed her to lead a delegation to the U.N. General Assembly. When she was in New York, Idi Amin conferred the nation’s highest honor upon her. Upon her return to Kampala, she visited Idi Amin and as she came out of his office, he proclaimed her dismissed on the charge that while returning from New York she was seen in a compromising position in a toilet at Charles D’Gaule Airport of Paris. Elizabeth knew what this could mean. She fled from Uganda and thus saved her life and honor.

Out but Alive

President Dr. Milton Obote (1966-71 and 1980-85) had gone to Singapore to attend the Commonwealth Conference when on January 25, 1971, Radio Uganda played martial music throughout the morning. Then at 3:45 pm (East African time) there was an announcement that the Army had taken over the reins of the government in its hands and the civilian government of Dr. Milton Obote had been superseded. In this broadcast, it was announced that Idi Amin had been asked by the armed forces to take over the administration of the country.

This led to the establishment of one of the most diabolical, unscrupulous and insane despotisms in the annals of world history under a man who was not only uneducated, uncivilized and mentally a crack but also a cannibal and a brute savage capable of playing rough jokes at the cost of others’ lives. Idi Amin was an honorable idiot whose idiosyncrasies did not end even with the end of his power.

Ultimately, Dr. Milton Obote succeeded in toppling Idi Amin in 1979 but the despot escaped arrest and fled to Saudi Arabia in a transport plane with some of his children. He had pumped huge amounts of money and other valuables into his account with foreign banks. He treated the Bank of Uganda as his personal cashier and large parts of foreign exchange were appropriated by him and invested in Arab nations during his more than seven-year rule. On the basis of those financial resources, Idi Amin lived like a king in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, first in a suite at the luxury Sands Hotel and then in a guarded remote villa outside the city.

On January 3, 1989, Idi Amin arrived in Zaire on a fake Zairian passport. There he was apprehended by Zairian officials, who questioned him about his activities in Zaire. Media reports show that he claimed to be on his way back to Uganda via Kinshasa. Later, he was expelled from Zaire via Dakar in Senegal where Saudi Arabian officials were reported to have refused to let him board a plane to Saudi Arabia. Thus, Idi Amin was sent back to Zaire accompanied by one of his sons.

Meanwhile, the Uganda government wanted him extradited to Kampala where he could be questioned for massacres and human rights abuse. The Zaire government ruled out that possibility, admitting that Idi Amin’s presence in Kinshasa was an embarrassment to Zairian President Mobutu Sese Seko, who had close links with him when Idi Amin was the President of Uganda.

Towards the end of the month, Saudi Arabia was reported to have allowed Idi Amin to return in response to requests by African leaders made on telephone to King Fahd bin Abdul Aziz of Saudi Arabia.

President Mobutu of Zaire is reported to be one of the African leaders to have made such a request, including King Hasan II of Morocco.

King Khalid bin Abdul Aziz of Saudi Arabia had granted him political asylum on the condition that he would not meddle in African politics. Idi Amin’s eventual violation of this condition irked King, Fahd bin Abdul Aziz.

Idi Amin is a crazy and freaky man. In 1981, one fine morning, he rang up a London daily demanding to see the Queen of Great Britain. After that, he tried to enter the Western Nile province of Uganda, where he hails from–the suspected purpose was to raise a loyal army and once again capture power in Kampala.

Idi Amin died of renal failure in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

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