Middle East & North Africa
Egypt: Corruption conviction against Mubarak and sons upheld
On 22 September, Egypt’s highest appeals court ruled against overturning the corruption conviction of Hosni Mubarak, the former president, and his two sons, Gamal and Alaa. The corruption charge relates to state funds that the three were convicted of spending on private residences in the 2000s. Although the trio have already completed jail terms for these charges, the recent ruling prohibits Gamal from returning to political office. The ruling followed warnings by Yasser Rizq, the chief editor of state newspaper Al Akhbar, that Gamal could team up with the Muslim Brotherhood, a Sunni political organisation banned by the current regime, in the next presidential elections due in 2022.
EU: Commission proposal on anti-money laundering legislation
In September, the European Commission published a proposal to tighten the bloc’s anti-money laundering legislation for banks and bolster the EU’s regulator, the European Banking Authority, with the power to order national regulatory investigations and to impose its own remedies, including sanctions, in the absence of an effective response. The proposal is pending approval from EU lawmakers and states. Despite recent high-profile money laundering scandals involving European banks in Malta, Luxembourg, Latvia, Spain and the Netherlands, several EU states have expressed scepticism over the plans. EU representatives will discuss the anti-money laundering initiative at their regular meeting on 2 October.
Italy/Nigeria: two sentenced in Italian court for bribing Nigerian officials
On 20 September, a Milan court sentenced Emeka Obi and Gianluca Di Nardo to four years in prison for their roles as intermediaries in the alleged payment of bribes in 2011 to Nigerian officials. These bribes were allegedly paid to secure offshore exploration licences in the country. The court also ordered the seizure of over $120 million from the pair. This case is related to a more prominent ongoing trial involving employees of Royal Dutch Shell plc and Eni SpA, focused on the 2011 bribery allegations.
Argentina: More bad news for Cristina Kirchner
On 17 September, an Argentinean federal judge ordered the arrest of Cristina Kirchner, a former president of Argentina now serving as a senator. The order is part of a grand corruption investigation focused on the Kirchner era. Kirchner was criminally charged for heading the scheme, for passive corruption and for receiving bribes. As a senator, Kirchner has immunity from prosecution, unless two-thirds of congress vote for it to be revoked. Kirchner has denied the accusations and claimed that she is being “politically prosecuted”.
Peru: Congress passes anticorruption reforms
On 19 September, the Peruvian congress unanimously approved one of four constitutional reforms aimed at curbing corruption in the country. The reforms have been led by President Martín Vizcarra, who replaced Pedro Pablo Kuczynski after the latter resigned amid an impeachment process fuelled by a vote-buying scandal. Vizcarra has advocated for constitutional anti-corruption reforms focused on the legislative and judiciary branches of government.
Nigeria: MTN ordered to return $8.13 million to central bank
In August, the Nigerian central bank ordered the Nigerian arm of MTN Group, a telecommunications firm, to return $8.13 billion to the bank. The bank found that, between 2007 and 2015, MTN Nigeria had repatriated these funds without the central bank’s approval and as such had breached Nigeria’s foreign exchange and anti-money laundering regulations. The bank also fined four Nigerian banks a total of $16 million for assisting MTN Nigeria in the repatriation of the aforementioned funds. Days later, Nigeria’s attorney general issued MTN Nigeria with a $2 billion bill for back taxes owed by the company.
South Africa: President authorises investigation into SAP
In September, President Cyril Ramaphosa authorised South Africa’s Special Investigating Unit to investigate whether SAP, a German software company, had paid a $2 million kickback to a public official as part of a contract awarded to SAP by the Department of Water and Sanitation in 2016. This follows an admission from SAP in March that the company had paid over $9 million to intermediaries associated with the controversial Gupta family in relation to deals with Eskom and Transnet, both South African state-owned entities.
Russia: Abramovich residency application refused on money laundering suspicions
Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich has lost a seven-month legal battle to prevent the publication of information regarding the reasons for the rejection of his Swiss residency request. According to a letter written by Swiss police, Abramovich was under “suspicion of money laundering and presumed contacts with criminal organisations”, and there were grounds for believing that “the applicant’s assets are at least partially of illegal origin”. Earlier this year, Abramovich withdrew his application to renew his UK visa, with changes to visa requirements meaning that applicants may be subject to an investigation into their source of wealth.
Russia: Head of National Guard challenges opposition politician to duel following corruption allegations
On 11 September, Viktor Zolotov, the head of the National Guard, published a video in which he challenged Alexei Navalny, an opposition politician, to a duel. Zolotov also makes various threats against Navalny in the video. The video has been viewed as a response to an investigation published by Navalny accusing Zolotov, a former bodyguard of President Putin, of overseeing large-scale corruption and embezzlement at the National Guard through inflated procurement contracts. Navalny was arrested by the Russian authorities on 24 September for his role in organising protests against the Russian government, having only been released from a 30-day prison sentence on similar charges that same day.