Authorities in Qatar have asserted that they have seized 144 counterfeit World Cup trophies following the latest raid on fakes hitting the market ahead of the football tournament that starts o November 20.
The disclosure was made on Wednesday by the interior ministry which said officers launched an operation “acting on a piece of information about a website that promotes the sale of cups that mimic the true shape of the World Cup.”
It released a photo showing the 144 life-sized trophies laid out across a floor and stated that “further legal procedures will be followed”.
The ministry did not say where the trophies were found, nor whether suspects had been detained.
Football’s governing body FIFA and Qatari authorities have stepped up warnings recently about distributing or buying World Cup fakes.
In another report, Qatari authorities had last week given a fresh directive to evict some hundreds of migrant workers from most of the buildings in central Doha which is coming on the countdown to the World Cup.
Some of the municipal workers and some security guards had reportedly moved into about 12 buildings late on Wednesday to clear and lock them, according to local residents, ahead of the tournament which would be kicking off on November 20.
The Quatari government had also revealed that the buildings were “uninhabitable”, proper notice was given, and that alternative “safe and appropriate accommodation” had been found for all evictees.
The affected area which was largely around Al-Mansoura, has been massively redeveloped in the recent years and some World Cup fans will be staying in some of the apartments in the district, where dozens of mechanical diggers are parked in the streets.
In the early hours of Saturday, Yunus, a Bangladeshi driver, slept on the back of his flat-bed truck on a street in Al Mansoura, three nights after being forced out of one block.
US Court Acquits Air Peace Boss, Fines Mayfield $4000
Nigerian Commercial airliner, Air Peace and its chairman, Allen Oyema have finally found justice after three years of intense investigations which had also involved about five agencies of the American government and the subsequent legal fireworks that had come with it.
It had been revealed that the District Court in Atlanta, Georgia had finally exonerated the Chief Executive of Air Peace, Chief Allen Onyema of any business fraud which he had been accused of too.
The court, which had initially discovered that there had been no loss against any bank in the indictment suit which had been filed by the Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia, had however, ordered a probation and $4000 fine against a former staff of Springfield Aviation Company Inc., Ebony Mayfield on Friday.
A statement which had been made by the law firm of Augustine Alegeh & Co., counsel to the Airline had also explained that Mayfield was an administrative staff of Springfield with limited knowledge in Letter of Credit Transactions, who had also pleaded guilty to one count in the indictment, presumably as she realised the futility of attempting to explain several Letters of Credit which had been utilised for purchase of aircraft for Air Peace Limited in a jury trial.
The firm had also explained that Probation was the lowest possible sentence which had beenavailable under American Federal Law.
“Our clients never took loans or credit from any American Bank and Mayfield was never paid the sum of $20,000 at any time to commit any fraud, as it is being peddled by a section of the Nigerian Press.
“There was no loss of money or any damage whatsoever to any third party. The American government admitted in Court that no bank suffered any financial loss in the matter.
“Mayfield, like other Springfield Aviation Company Inc. staff was only paid her bi-weekly salary and/or allowances,” it clarified.
According to the firm, the decision confirmed the position of its clients that there was no fraudulent intent in all the Letters of Credit, because there was no victim in any way, manner or form.
All the funds involved, it explained, were legitimate funds belonging to its clients.
“Our clients maintain their innocence in the matter and state that all steps taken in respect of the Letters of Credit were taken in good faith and with legitimate funds.
“All the aircrafts involved were brought into Nigeria and utilised in the operations of Air Peace Limited. There was no victim. There was no loss of funds to any person and there was no criminal intent whatsoever.
“Our client’s position has been reviewed by various Law Enforcement Agencies in Nigeria and no evidence of criminality has been established against them. Our Clients remain resolute in the assertion of their innocence,” the firm declared.
The firm had also noted that there have been false and unsubstantiated press stories in Nigeria, about the indictment.
Behind The Oil Theft In Nigeria, Behind the Menace
Nigeria, as presently constituted, qualifies to be named a crime scene. From state-sanctioned insecurity to massive corruption, down to outright abuse of state power. It appears as though Nigeria is fast becoming a banana republic of some sort. With every passing day, a new development occurs, attempting to cement the notion that Nigeria is a criminal state where only crime and criminality thrive.
The anomalies are endless and the situation is rotten and sour.
With no big shot at redemption, Nigeria has continued to crumble, and may very soon become irredeemable.
Ironically, it took recent revelations about the grand schemes of oil theft for many Nigerians to come to the new realisation.
About a month ago, the Chief Executive Officer of the Nigeria National Petroleum Company Limited, Mele Kyari dropped a bombshell when he announced that the government of the day just discovered a loading port somewhere in Niger Delta that had been in operation for over nine years undetected. This loading port had a 4 km illegal pipeline connected to it that ran from Forcados in Delta State down to the sea where the cycle of economic sabotage against Nigeria is rounded up.
The recent discoveries of the magnitude of oil theft going on in Nigeria clearly underscore the fact that Nigeria is a criminal state. How can a country be so blessed yet appear so cursed? A country blessed with huge deposits of crude under its soil yet it remains home to the highest number of the poorest people. Terrible!
Given the magnitude and sophistication of the ongoing crude oil theft going on in the country, it is safe to posit that it is the biggest organised crime in the history of Nigeria as a country. This is a scheme that is perpetrated by people who fully understand that their ugly scheme is not only causing life-threatening environmental pollution, but also causing the government a massive loss in revenue at a time when every dollar is needed to keep the country’s economy above the waters. Oil companies are divesting from the country in the face of revenue losses and the country’s oil industry is now looking like a shadow of itself.
Over the past six years, Nigeria has consistently failed to meet its quota in the global oil market as capped by the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), for reasons ranging from vandalism to a gargantuan scale oil theft. This has impacted government revenues in very debilitating ways. More throbbing is the fact that, at a period when many oil producing countries around the world have been reaping billions of dollars and Euros from the Russia-Ukraine windfall, Nigeria is severely handicapped.
According to industry experts, the quantity of oil stolen in the country daily is well over 100,000 barrels. With a barrel of oil selling for an average of $100 for a better part of the year, it meant an income of $10 million was being donated to oil thieves. The question on the lips of Nigerians in the face of all this is, who are those committing this economic sabotage against Nigeria?
One thing that has been severally reiterated is that oil theft at that scale cannot take place without active connivance with people who control instruments of the state, the protection of regulators in the industry, and funding by the elites. Of course, there is no way a 10,000-tonne barge will move from a point of loading in the creeks down to the sea without being detected. There is surely no way big ocean liners which are deployed to lift stolen crude oil move freely within the territorial waters of Nigeria without being noticed by the Nigerian security team who are paid using taxpayers money to keep Nigeria’s security system safe.
It is important to point out that contrary to popular misconceptions, oil theft did not start recently. Interestingly, prior to becoming President, Buhari had accused Jonathan of not doing enough to end oil theft. Buhari alleged that about 400,000 barrels of crude were stolen daily under Jonathan’s nose. Of course, he vowed to end it if Nigerians elect him as their next President, and sadly, seven years later, rather than end it, he institutionalised it and this time, Nigerians are paying a heavier price for his ineptitude as the Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces and Minister of Petroleum. That Nigeria is still insolvent despite the scale of theft and abuse it has continued to experience should be the 8th wonder of the world.
The failure of successive governments to check this situation clearly provides an idea as to how poor governance in Nigeria has been. The reality is that currently, oil thieves have grown so powerful that they now hold the Nigerian state to ransome. The whole situation clearly underscores the embarrassing failure of the security architecture in Nigeria and how useless they have proven to be. It is curious to believe that after over two decades of disruptions in the oil and gas sector in the Nigeria Delta, the Nigerian Navy is yet to come up with a single specialised capacity to protect a sector that is primarily the source of blood to the Nigerian body. The truth remains that if this madness is allowed to continue unabated, it will bring Nigeria to its knees financially, politically and economically.
The present situation in Nigeria is not only embarrassing, but is also suffocating and stifling the hopes of over 200 million citizens who have now been turned into paupers even in the midst of plenty.
These things surely raise questions about the whole essence and existence of Nigeria because anomalies and illegalities are fast becoming the norm in the country. While the economy is on a fast lane to absolute destruction, those saddled with the responsibility of sailing the ship to safety are abdicating their responsibilities not minding the fact that the economy is gradually caving in.
What Nigerians must know right now is that their oil wealth is being stolen by a syndicate that has sworn to keep them on the ground. The group of people stealing Nigeria’s oil comprise the military, oil companies, the navy, and government officials, which is why they seem unstoppable.
The list isn’t complete without mentioning current and former governors, ministers, and members of the Fulani oligarchy. Interestingly, one of them is even running for President in 2023!
Oil theft is threatening the corporate existence of Nigeria, and Nigerians should better start speaking before it is too late.
Central African Republic Seleka militia leader pleads not guilty at ICC
A suspected leader of the Seleka militia groups in the Central African Republic, Mahamat Said Abdel Kani, pleaded not guilty on Monday to charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity at the opening of his trial at the International Criminal Court.
Prosecutors said Said oversaw a prison in the capital Bangui where inmates were beaten and tortured.
“I plead not guilty to all charges and all situations,” Said, dressed in a dark grey suit, told the judges.
The mostly Muslim Seleka militia groups seized power in 2013-2014 as part of the Central African Republic’s long-running civil war, ousting then-President Francois Bozize.
ICC prosecutor Karim Khan told judges at the start of the trial that the Seleka ruled “by fear, by terror”. In the period of crimes charged Khan said Said was the de facto leader of a detention center where he “wielded immense power”.
Khan painted a picture of Said as the head of a prison that was actually a torture center who “actively hunted down civilians” and brought them to the prison knowing “what nightmare awaited them under his control”.
The ICC has charged leaders of both the Seleka and opposing Christian militias known as “anti-balaka”. Said is the first alleged Seleka member to go on trial.
In February last year Patrice-Edouard Ngaissona, a former African soccer executive whom prosecutors say was a senior anti-balaka militia leader and Alfred Yekatom, also known as “Rambo”, went on trial for charges relating to attacks on Muslim civilians.
Another suspected anti-balaka leader is also being held in ICC custody, awaiting a confirmation of charges hearing expected in early 2023.
The Central African Republic has been mired in violence since a coalition of mostly northern and predominantly Muslim rebels known as Seleka, or “Alliance” in the Sango language, seized power in March 2013. Their rule gave rise to the opposing anti-balaka Christian militias.
Liberia’s Former Defence Chief Samukai to Be Jailed for Embezzlement
The Supreme Court of Liberia handed down two-year prison sentences to former defence chief Brownie Samukai along with deputies Joseph Johnson and James Nyuman Ndokor after they failed to return one million euros worth of stolen money from a government pension account.
Samukai, who was in court as the ruling was being read on Thursday, fled the building before he was taken to jail.
Accroding to Marvin Sackor, Liberian Deputy Inspector General for Operations: “We are working with our counterparts, the National Security Agency, to get a clear understanding about the whereabouts of Samukai.”
The funds were stolen from the Armed Forces of Liberia pension account during the mandate of former President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, when Samukai headed the defense ministry.
The three men were ordered by the court to pay a total of €500,000 within six months, but failed to do so.
The Supreme Court’s Associate Justice Sie-A-Nyene G. Yuoh said the convicts will remain in prison until the balance amount is paid in full, with an interest rate of €20 per month, for what she termed a ‘gross violation’.
The three were found guilty of theft of property, criminal conspiracy, and misuse of public money among others for embezzlement from the Army’s compulsory savings account.
The ruling means Samukai will not be allowed to serve as Senator of Lofa County.
Brownie Samukai, a staunch critic of incumbent President George Weah and a stalwart of the former ruling Unity Party, was elected during the 2020 midterm Senate election but was barred from taking his seat after he was found guilty of raiding the Army coffers.
Positive ruling for soldiers
Soldiers whose money was stolen by the three former officials have welcomed the court ruling.
“The money was forcefully deducted from us monthly; surprisingly we heard the account was empty,” says soldier James Wilson*.
“I am happy, but I think their properties should be seized. We need the money,” Wilson told RFI via telephone from the Edward Binyan Kessely Military Barracks in Monrovia.
Samukai supporters say ruling politcally motivated
Supporters of Samukai have described the court’s ruling as a plot against the senator-elect.
“This is purely political! The people of Lofa are under-represented because our senator-elect has been prevented from taking his seat even though he’s already paid some of the money,” exclaimed Lofa resident Yanquoi Flomuku.
This refers to a payment made on Thursday of €170,000 in three separate checks, prior to the judgement.
But the court maintains as the three were convicted together, they must return the funds together.
Others insist that President George Weah and his Congress for Democratic Change party influenced the court’s ruling. They maintain he also has plans for political opponents such as politician Alexander Cummings of Alternative National Congress (ANC).
“Just as they used the court to keep Brownie Samukai out of the Liberian Senate, the Congress for Democratic Change intends to use the slanderous but baseless case of fraud to keep Alexander B. Cummings off the ballot paper,” says Menipakei Dumoe, an ANC political activist.
However, Adolphus N.S. Weah, an independent political analyst who doubles as Chairman of the Center for the Exchange of Intellectual Opinions (CEIO) disagrees.
He says the case is purely legal, describing the ruling as a boost against corruption.
“I don’t see any witch hunt here,” says Weah.
“It sends out a bad picture for someone to illegally take away resources belonging to servicemen so we should all support the court clampdown on corruption,” he told RFI in Monrovia.
While court’s search for the three culprits took two years, many see the ruling as a new day in Liberia’s fight against corruption.
*names have been changed for protection
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