Monday, 17 July 2017

NIGERIA/UNITED STATES: US prosecutors accuse ex-oil minister of taking bribes for fraudulent contracts

Our tour this week starts in Houston, where an assets seizure case could invigorate Nigeria's anti-corruption investigations. Still on anti-corruption, the International Monetary Fund has arrived in Mozambique to assess the damage caused by the US$2 billion secret loan scheme; and in neighbouring South Africa, veteran anti-apartheid campaigner Lindiwe Sisulu joins the race to become leader of the governing African National Congress (ANC). In Bamako, protestors show what they think of President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta's reform plans and the IMF makes a politically-charged reply to a loan request from Kinshasa.

NIGERIA/UNITED STATES: US prosecutors accuse ex-oil minister of taking bribes for fraudulent contracts
A bid by the United States' authorities to seize a $50 million apartment in Manhattan and an $80 mn. luxury yacht signals some critical advances in the investigations into about $30 bn. of swap deals backed by Nigeria's former Oil Minister, Diezani Allison-Madueke.

Last week, Ibrahim Magu, Acting Chairman of Nigeria's Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, told Africa Confidential that he expected to see substantial progress in the case against Allison-Madueke in the coming weeks. She has been in London since British police arrested her in October 2015, seizing her passport and over £30,000 ($39,000) in cash. Under English law, police have until October this year to charge her; if they fail to, they will have return her cash and papers and allow her to leave the country (AC Vol 58 No 7, The great oil chase).

The US Department of Justice's Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative filed a suit in Houston, Texas, on 14 July claiming that oil traders Kolawole Akanni Aluko and Olajide Omokore paid substantial bribes to Allison-Madueke to approve their highly profitable deals, which swapped crude oil exports for imports of refined products. Some of the evidence cited includes covertly recorded conversations between Aluko and Allison-Madueke.

For now, the case is solely about the US authorities seizing control of the flat and the boat, which are held by companies linked to Aluko. But those involved in the case say the next stage will be to target individuals named in the asset recovery case for further investigation.

Much interest surrounds reports that some of Allison-Madueke's former associates have been cooperating with foreign prosecutors to identify corporate entities into which hundreds of millions of dollars from fraudulent deals were paid.

MOZAMBIQUE: IMF delegation arrives in Maputo as Russian state bank offers to restructure secret loan deal
Inch by inch, investigators are discovering the true cost to Mozambique of the $2 bn. of secret loans ostensibly extended for a tuna fishing fleet and maritime security. Sources close to an audit of the deal have told Africa Confidential that the overpricing could be more than $1bn. (AC Vol 58 No 14, Rock and Kroll).

A senior Swiss financial official described the role of foreign banks in the deal – Credit Suisse and Russian state bank VTB Group – as 'scandalous' and requiring 'full investigation'. This follows revelations in the audit that the two banks had extracted some $200 mn. in fees from Mozambique for structuring the deal.

Britain's Financial Conduct Authority would have to take a major role in this probe because the secret deal was structured by the VTB and Credit Suisse operations in London.

The IMF, whose officials arrived in Maputo last week, demanded an internationally credible audit of the $2 bn. deal.

The banks are questioning the audit's figures but VTB said last week that it was prepared to review Mozambique's financial obligations: 'We have proposed several different restructuring options to Mozambique. Currently the involved parties are waiting for IMF debt sustainability assessment.'
Any progress between the IMF and the Maputo government on fresh financing would depend on prising open many more secrets linked to the tuna bond scandal.

SOUTH AFRICA: Sisulu joins leadership race as the standing of Zuma and his wife heads downhillThe entry of a third heavyweight politician, Human Settlements Minister Lindiwe Sisulu, into the African National Congress leadership race complicates everybody's calculations. It may also prompt more public criticism of President Jacob Zuma, accused of damaging the ANC's standing.
Sisulu told the independent eNCA television channel that she wanted to undertake the 'daunting task' of restoring the 'dignity' of the ANC, an indirect criticism of Zuma's tenure under which corruption scandals have proliferated.

Until now the contest, to be decided at the party's elective conference in December, looked like a two-horse race between Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa and the former Chairwoman of the African Union Commission, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.

Party insiders say that President Zuma's efforts to back his ex-wife, Dlamini-Zuma, have proved counter-productive, partly because she is suspected of wanting to protect him from the numerous corruption charges he faces.

MALI: President Keïta looks weaker after mass protests against his bid to boost his powers and counter separatists
The standing of President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta (IBK) suffered another blow on 15 July when thousands of Malians joined a demonstration in Bamako against his reform plan to strengthen the executive and establish new regions in the north.

Rattled by widespread opposition to his proposed constitutional reforms, IBK has abandoned plans for a referendum on them this month but his office says there will still be a constitutional referendum later this year.

The proposed reforms and redrawing of regional boundaries were part of peace talks with Tuareg separatists in the north two years ago but many in the south oppose any concessions on the issue. These proposed reforms and the stalling of the national peace process are understood to have been raised in talks between Keïta and France's President Emmanuel Macron last month.

SOMALIA: Communication crisis continues a month after Swiss-owned ship cuts underwater internet cableOfficials in Mogadishu says the country's businesses are daily losing more than a $10 mn. after MSC Alice, a Swiss-owned container ship, dropped anchor last month and cut the country's main underwater cable linking it to the internet. Now only the small group of Somalis who have access to satellite connections have been able to get out their messages.

Indeed, Africa Confidential's correspondents in the country have had to find new ways to file their stories. Most importantly, the internet crash is hampering the effort to provide relief to those Somalis hit by drought, food shortages and cholera.

CONGO-KINSHASA: IMF to set tough conditions for loans as political crisis worsens
Financial pressures are mounting on President Joseph Kabila's government as he seeks to extend his time in office. Despite his rhetoric against outside interference in the country's politics, his government is desperately seeking foreign aid after export earnings crashed and the Congolese franc lost 40% of its value this year.

After Prime Minister Bruno Tshibala wrote to the IMF last month, the Washington-based organisation said the government would have to show greater accountability in its financial operations and that it had established 'a credible path towards political stability'. That last comment is as overtly political as the IMF gets.

Relations between Kabila's government and most of the IMF's biggest shareholders are at an all-time low. In 2012, the Fund suspended a $560 mn. lending programme because of secret and highly lucrative deals in the mining sector.

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