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UK to repatriate Sh450m stolen by two of Kenya’s richest men

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The United Kingdom has agreed to repatriate back to Kenya, millions of dollars of public funds allegedly stolen by two of the country’s richest men, following a landmark agreement signed in London on Monday.

The repatriation deal which Kenya struck with Jersey, a self-governing Island in the English Channel, will see the return of the sum of Sh450m allegedly stolen by Samuel Gichuru, a one time boss of Kenya’s power company and former Finance Minister, Chris Okemo

They duo allegedly siphoned the money through taking kickbacks from multinationals which they stashed in a company registered in the Island.

This arrangement, known as the Framework for the Return of Assets from Corruption and Crime to Kenya (Fracck), gives the Jersey authorities licence to unfreeze money they believe was stolen and send it back before those accused of stealing it go on trial.

The Kenyan corruption web was uncovered after Gichuru had a messy divorce from his wife, Salome Njeri, in 2006; not satisfied with the settlement she got from her estranged husband, Njeri made a report to the police alleging that some of her husband’s assets were being hidden in offshore accounts in Jersey.

The revelation led to a nine-year investigation by the Jersey authorities across 12 jurisdictions and in 2011, the duo were indicted and charged to court.

The were accused of committing economic crimes including cutting deals with a Finnish firm to construct a power station in Mombasa, Kenya’s second largest city, and taking millions of pounds in kickbacks from British, Norwegian and German engineering firms, as well as a US communications giant.

The Jersey authorities issued arrest warrants for both men and have been waiting for their extradition from Kenya ever since, while a Jersey-registered company, Windward Trading Limited, accused of laundering money for the two men, pleaded guilty to four counts of money laundering in a Jersey court.

The court ruled that the company, whose ultimate owner was revealed to be Gichuru, should be return more than $4.9m (£3.6m) to the Kenyan government.

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Nigeria: Court insists Binance executive can face trial on behalf of firm

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In an ongoing tax evasion case, a Nigerian court decided on Friday that Binance executive, Tigran Gambaryan, may go to trial on the cryptocurrency exchange’s behalf.

Binance and executives Gambaryan, a U.S. citizen and head of financial crimes compliance, and British-Kenyan national Nadeem Anjarwalla, a regional manager for Africa, face four counts of tax evasion. They are also accused of participating in specialized financial transactions without a license and laundering more than $35 million in another case.

All of them have entered not-guilty pleas on the allegations of money laundering. Following the court hearing on Friday, Binance’s attorney chose not to comment. The attorney for Gambaryan was similarly silent.

“We are deeply disappointed that Tigran Gambaryan, who has no decision-making power in the company, continues to be detained,” a Binance spokesperson said in a statement on Friday after the court hearing.

“These charges against him are completely meritless. He should be freed while discussions continue between Binance and Nigerian government officials.”

Gambaryan is still being held while Anjarwalla left the nation in March. The office of Nigeria’s security adviser has declared that it is collaborating with Interpol to pursue Anjarwalla’s detention.

After its executives were imprisoned as part of a crackdown on cryptocurrencies in February after being invited to the African nation for talks with officials, the CEO of Binance has warned Nigeria of establishing a dangerous precedent.

Nigeria’s Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) has announced that Gambaryan may face prosecution on behalf of the exchange; Binance has not been accused in the tax evasion case.

According to prior statements from Gambaryan’s attorney, Gambaryan was “neither a director, partner, nor company secretary” and did not have any formal authorization from Binance to take on the accusations on the firm’s behalf.

Judge Emeka Nwite decided on Friday that Gambaryan, who is Binance’s chief financial compliance officer and was lawfully designated to represent the company in a meeting in Nigeria, should be served with the charges against Binance.

On Wednesday, Gambaryan is scheduled to appear in court and enter a plea on Binance’s behalf. On Friday, Gambaryan’s request for bail in the money laundering case was turned down. As the nation struggled with ongoing dollar shortages, cryptocurrency websites became the go-to venues for trading the Nigerian naira. Nigeria has blamed Binance for its currency problems.

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Nigerian govt denies reports it plans to borrow pension fund for infrastructure

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The Nigerian government has denied reports that it plans to borrow the N20tn pension fund to finance infrastructural projects.

In a statement made in Abuja, Wale Edun, the Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister of the Economy, stated that the government would abide by the laws and guidelines in place pertaining to the pension fund.

Following a two-day Federal Executive Council meeting at the Presidential Villa on Tuesday, the minister reportedly informed reporters that the government would present a plan to use local funds, including the fund, to finance infrastructure development.

Edunstated that the government does not intend to exceed these legal boundaries, emphasising that the government was committed to protecting workers’ pensions.

“It has come to my notice that stories are making the round that the Federal Government plans to illegally access the hard-earned savings and pension contributions of workers. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

“The pension industry, like most the financial industries, is highly regulated. There are rules. There are limitations about what pension money can be invested in and what it cannot be invested in.

“The Federal Government has no intention whatsoever to go beyond those limitations and go outside those bounds which are there to safeguard the pensions of workers.

“What was announced to the Federal Executive Council was that there was an ongoing initiative drawing in all the major stakeholders in the long-term saving industry, those that handle funds that are available over a long period to see how, within the regulations and the laws; these funds could be used maximally to drive investment in key growth areas,” Edun clarified.

The plan to spend the pension fund was reported and was widely criticised. The Trade Union Congress of Nigeria and the Nigeria Labour Congress had earlier on Thursday urged the government to abstain from making any changes to the pension fund.

They stated, “Nigerian workers have entrusted their hard-earned savings for retirement security, not as a means for government projects. It is imperative to halt any further plans to tap into these funds, especially given the lack of transparency and accountability in past government borrowing practices.”

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