Wednesday 16 October 2013

Switzerland breaks seal on banking secrecy

"Are the days where leaders stealing their country's money and hiding it in Swiss banks coming to an end?"

Switzerland breaks seal on banking secrecy

PARIS(AFP) – Switzerland broke the seal on its banking secrecy, until now considered virtually ironclad, by signing an international agreement on fighting tax evasion on Tuesday, the OECD said.
This marks “the end of banking secrecy” in Switzerland, the head of tax issues at the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, Pascal Saint-Amans, told AFP.
The inclusion of Switzerland in the agreement to exchange information among more than 60 countries will be “highly significant” in the fight against tax evasion, he said.
OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurria said Switzerland’s adherence to the the Multilateral Convention on Mutual Administrative Assistance in Tax Matters “sends a clear and strong signal that Switzerland is part of the community of states which consider international tax co-operation as a necessity.”
At the instigation of many advanced countries, the Paris-based OECD has spearheaded a clampdown on tax evasion and the concealment of illicit funds.
Swiss banking secrecy in its current form took shape before World War II, and provided the victims of Nazi persecution with a way to protect their assets.
The movement to scrap the policy in Switzerland and other well-known “tax havens” arose after the financial crisis of 2008 and subsequent eurozone debt crisis.
Ordinary people with money woes, often facing higher taxes to cover the costs of the crises, were outraged by revelations of tax evasion and avoidance by corporations and wealthy individuals.
US tax authorities in particular took tough action against some Swiss banks.
At the same time, high-profile controversies arose when lists of bank accounts stashed in Switzerland were leaked to tax authorities elsewhere.
The Swiss ambassador to the OECD, Stefan Flueckiger, said the signing of the Convention confirms Switzerland’s commitment to fight tax fraud and “safeguards the integrity and reputation of the country’s financial centre.”
The convention’s signatories so far include all 20 members of the Group of Twenty (G20) of the world’s leading economies, as well as more than 40 other countries.
In addition to exchanging information, signatories agree to organise simultaneous controls to track tax fraud.
The main objective is to ramp up the effort to catch cheats who hide assets and transactions behind the protective laws of offshore tax havens.
Until now, many tax authorities and their governments have complained that cross-border tax investigations have been stymied by the complex routes used to hide funds, coupled with obstructionism on the part of some national authorities.
These difficulties have been exacerbated by the increased openness of frontiers to capital flows as well as the use of new technologies for transferring money.
Saint-Amans said the convention “prepares the way for the automatic exchange of tax information”.
The OECD wants to make this the normal practice internationally, but it continues to be an extremely sensitive issue for the Swiss, as well as for some other countries.
Under the convention as it stands, however, the automatic exchange of information is optional.
The OECD noted that among the countries that have signed the convention or are preparing to are a number of jurisdictions often described as tax havens, some under the British crown, notably in the Caribbean.
Saint-Amans said the noose would continue to tighten on tax evasion and that countries that do not sign up to the agreement “would begin to be sidelined”.
He said: “I can’t see how going back could be possible.”
Switzerland, which has been under strong pressure since the financial crisis to open up its banking secrecy and to tax foreign assets, announced its intention to sign the agreement last week.
At the same time, it expressed its concern to preserve the integrity and reputation of its financial institutions.
The next hurdle — which could prove a formidable one — is ratification of the convention by the Swiss parliament.

Copyright infringement: National anthem composer’s estate sues company

Copyright infringement: National anthem composer’s estate sues company.

The estate of the composer of the National anthem, the Late Pa Benedict Elide Odiase, has sued  a telecommunications company for the sum of N1.5 billion for the use of the National Anthem titled “Arise O’ Compatriots”  as ring and call back tones without authorization or licence.    
In the writ (suit number witheld) which was issued by D. A. Awosika & Partners LLP and filed before the Federal High Court,Lagos,  the estate represented by Mr.  Benedict  Obasuyi  Odiase and Ms  Benedicta  Izegboye Odiase, the telecommunication company is  accused  of various re-orchestration, adaptation, recording and deploying the  musical work, composed, authored and performed by the Late Odiase, MON, as telephone ringtone and caller tones  to millions of its subscribers through out  Nigeria without the plaintiff’s authorisation.
The estate further accused the company that it has  infringed, and continues to infringe, the plaintiffs’ copyright in the  musical works by Odiase, whose copyright now devolves on the plaintiffs and no authorisation of the plaintiffs was given for such exploitation.
The  plaintiffs averred that they never gave authorisation to  any person, or assigned the ownership of the copyright in the musical  composition of the work “Arise O Compatriot” to the defendant, any organisation or person to act on their  behalf.
The plaintiffs also accused the telecommunication company of not only infringing, but has flagrantly continued to infringe on the plaintiffs’ copyright in the aforementioned work by using same  without the plaintiffs’ permission or consent in the advertisement and promotion of the defendant’s products,  thereby boosting the telecommunication’s  business profile and profit.
Based on court processes filed, the plaintiffs want, among other  reliefs, a declaration of the court that the unauthorised adaptation,  synchronisation and deployment of the musical work entitled “Arise O’  Compatriot” as telephone ringtones on the defendant’s network,  platforms or premises, without the permission of the plaintiffs as infringement of  the proprietary interests of the plaintiffs and an award of N1.5 billion as damages and costs.
Meanwhile, the telecommunication’s company has written to the plaintiffs’ lawyers claiming that the infringement was committed by its content providers and  therefore it should not be held liable for the infringement of copyright in the work on its platform or network.
Hearing date in the case is yet to be fixed.

  • Tade Makinde

Nigeria attains 41,000km of optic fibre infrastructure

"Nigeria is making impressive progress in the area of telecommunications, its only a matter of time before we have a fast internet services"

Nigeria has acquired a fibre optic telecommunications infrastructure measuring about 41,000 kilometres, the Minister of Communications Technology, Mrs. Omobola Johnson, has said.
Johnson said this at the 11th Annual Conference of the Commonwealth Telecommunications Organisation, which ended in Abuja on Friday.
About 11,000km of the fibre optic network was laid between 2010 and 2013; and 4,000 of this capacity is terrestrial cable along power transmission line.
Fibre optic cable is made from strands of glass and is used to carry high capacity telecommunications signal especially across long distances.
Before the use of fibre optic, copper cable was the popular material but the new material has the advantages of higher capacity and longevity.
Johnson said although Nigeria had acquired tremendous bandwidth capacity on the international scene through the deployment of undersea cables by telecommunications operators, the country had not witnessed marching deployment of fibre optic cables within.
She said, “Bandwidth capacity on undersea fibre-optic networks has increased significantly. Nigeria had access to a potential 4.76Tb/s of international bandwidth capacity at the time the ministry was created in 2010.  Since then, an additional 5.1 Tb/s of capacity has been added making a total of 10Tb/s, and this total is expected to increase further to a potential 15Tb/s by 2014.

“The rollout of the terrestrial fibre-optic network is not keeping pace with the increasing international bandwidth landing on Nigeria’s shores.  Approximately 30,000km of fibre had been laid as at 2010 and we estimate that an additional 11,000km was laid since then (of which 4,000 was over power line).
“However, additional fibre is mainly duplications along a few commercial routes. The government’s response has been to facilitate increased confidence in the Nigerian communications sector that has led to a willingness to increase investment.  This has been done by providing a predictable and stable environment that supports the development of the industry.”
The inadequate broadband capacity, according to her, can also be seen in the insufficient number of base stations deployed by service providers as well as in the growing number of people that require service.
She said, “The number of base stations in Nigeria has increased exponentially since the inception of GSM; from 116 in 2001 to about 21,000 by 2010.  The pace of growth has, however, slowed even as some existing base stations have been decommissioned as a result of terror attacks, theft and vandalism.
“Significantly, more base stations need to be deployed across the country to meet our national target of a five-fold increase in broadband penetration by 2018.”
In contrast, however, the number of subscribers to telecommunications networks had been increasing, Johnson added, with active subscriber base above 110,000 by the end of July; thus, giving a clear indication that the infrastructure gap in the country was significant.


Oil audit: EITI wants Nigerians to demand enforcement

" When a government tends not to protect its main source of income from fraudsters then that government needs to re-evaluate its priorities"

The Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative – a global body that ensures transparency around countries’ oil, gas and mineral resources – on Monday urged Nigerians to demand the implementation of the recommendations of the nation’s oil sector audit report.
The report, which indicted many companies and government agencies in the sector, was released in July by the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative.
The International Chair, EITI, Ms. Clare Short, said Nigerians should demand a change in the running of the country’s extractive industries based on the findings of the NEITI audit report.
Short, who was on a working visit to Nigeria, spoke at a conference organised by NEITI for civil service organisations and stakeholders in Abuja.
She said, “The analysis done by NEITI is very impressive but the reforms that come from it haven’t been implemented yet. So, we are at a crucial point now where you need informed demand for a change.
“I think we are now in a position, especially in Nigeria, to make an informed demand and you are the people to make this.
“The comfortable ones in the society can make the changes and it has to be on behalf of those who are not getting their fair share as the demand for change comes.”
Short emphasised that a country’s natural resources belong to its citizens. She said citizens should have the right to see what their government was receiving from these resources.
“However, in too many countries, this information is not publicly available,” she added.
According to the EITI chair, if the Nigerian government would judiciously use the proceeds from the oil sector, the level of poverty in the country would be reduced “or eliminated before 2030.”
Short said President Goodluck Jonathan assured the EITI team of the Federal Government’s willingness to ensure that NEITI’s findings were upheld. The team had earlier visited the President.
“He (Jonathan) made strong commitments on issues that have to do with transparency in the extractive industry because they’ve got the power to make sure that things are done properly,” she said.
The Chair, Publish What You Pay, Ms. Faith Nwadishi, said if Nigerians refused to ask for the implementation of the recommendations of the NEITI audit, the findings of the report would be discarded.


EFCC broke, can’t pay lawyers

" When EFCC is broke how will the organisation fight corruption? The only way any government can proof it is actually fighting corruption is to ensure that apparatus put in place to do so can dutifully carry out its job"

                                                     EFCC boss, Ibrahim Lamorde

The Federal Government’s anti-graft war, which many have dismissed as below average, may collapse as  the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, one of the agencies saddled with the responsibility of prosecuting  the  campaign,  is said to be broke.
Investigations by our correspondent in Abuja on Tuesday revealed that the  EFCC  had been finding it difficult to meet its obligations to the  lawyers handling cases on its behalf.
The most affected are senior lawyers in charge of cases against  influential politicians/ suspects who are either involved in high profile money laundering or outright stealing.
One of the lawyers, who disclosed this to our correspondent on condition of anonymity, said  he and some of his colleagues, were not happy with the turn of events.
He said that some of them had not been paid their professional fees for long, adding that this was capable of affecting their performance in court.
The lawyer said, “It may interest you to know that we have not been paid for long. I believe that  the commission is broke.”
It was also gathered that the cash crunch had seriously affected the commission to the extent that its enlightenment programmes  on radio and television stations had been suspended.
The programmes called Zero Tolerance, is used to educate Nigerians on the  evils of corruption in the society.
Apart from that, the commission needed for also uses the   programmes  to inform Nigerians about its activities and ongoing cases in court.
The presenters of the programmes, especially those on television,  interview notable people in the society on the evils of corruption.
But the inability of the commission to pay the affected stations, our correspondent gathered, made it to suspend the programmes.
A top source in the commission said, “It is painful that we could be in this mess. Imagine an agency fighting corruption to be financially incapacitated? It  is  bad.
“The programmes  we suspended were designed to project the commission and also keep Nigerians abreast of  the activities of the commission.
“But now, they are dead because we can’t pay the affected stations. We could have suspended the publication of our in-house magazine as well, but the Chairman resisted it and vowed to make sure that it  is not suspended.”
In the last edition of the magazine, former President Olusegun Obasanjo had berated those running the commission, saying  there were areas they were not doing well.
He said because of this, they should be ashamed of themselves.
Obasanjo said in the interview, which was published in the magazine, “I feel concerned about Nigeria and I will never stop feeling concerned and that’s why occasionally, I speak up.
“Even now, I am speaking up to say that all of you in EFCC, there are areas where you should be ashamed of yourselves.
“If you take an organisation which took Nigeria from level 2 to level 43 and then it starts coming down to level 34, then,  something is wrong.”
The Chairman of the EFCC, Ibrahim Lamorde, had while addressing the House of Representatives earlier this year said,“It is important to note that for 2012, we requested N21.8bn from the Budget Office of the Federation out of which only N10.9bn was allocated, representing 51 per cent of our requirement.”
He further revealed that of the N300m and N700m for Legal Services and Staff/Office Equipment Insurance Premium respectively for 2012, not a kobo was allocated.
Also, the total budget estimate of N10, 97bn  for 2012 represents a decrease of N2.87bn from that of 2011 appropriation figure of N13 85bn  or 21 per cent  thereof.
Of the N10bn acquired for the construction of the Head office in the 2012 budget, only N3bn was appropriated and as of November 21, 2012, only N1.39bn  was released.
Attempts to get an official response from  the Spokesman for the EFCC, Mr. Wilson Uwujaren, were unsuccessful as he  did not pick  calls to his mobile telephone.
Uwujaren  also did not  respond to a text message sent to him on the subject as of9pm on Tuesday.


UK Immigration: 'One In Five Marriages A Sham' Nigerian man arrested and deported.

Up to one in five marriages conducted in civil ceremonies in parts of the country may be bogus, one of Britain's most senior registrars has warned.
In an interview with Sky News, Mark Rimmer, the chairman of the Local Registration Services Association , said 20% of weddings in urban areas were suspicious - the worst it has ever been.
Home Office figures show the number of reported cases has tripled in the last three years to 1,800.
But Mr Rimmer said the number of sham marriages - which were likely an attempt to gain residence in the UK - reported to the authorities was "the tip of the iceberg" and that official figures are a "drop in the ocean" compared with the full scale of the problem.
He said the issue is now worse than in 2004 when the first legislation to combat the phenomenon was introduced and that registrars are having to conduct ceremonies they suspect to be bogus "through gritted teeth".
"We have seen huge increases in potential sham marriages presenting themselves to us, we now have more reports from registrars going to the Home Office, but I think that is the tip of a very large iceberg, and effectively the real scale of the problem is far greater than that that is reported to the Home Office officially.
"Most registration officers are not immigration officers, they came into this business to facilitate marriage. So therefore they don't want to be cynical.
"Unfortunately therefore what happens is the ones that are absolutely blatant get reported and there are some that are borderline that slip through without being reported - and that is the iceberg under the water and that's huge - it is absolutely huge.
"In an area like anywhere in London it is multiple times per week ... it would not be unreasonable to say that 20% of all our marriages are suspicious or have some elements of suspicion about them.
"So one in five in London, probably in the other big cities as well it will be a similar problem. Obviously in county areas in the countryside it is not as big a problem, but certainly in the urban areas, with high areas of ethnicity it is significant."
As part of an investigation into the issue, Sky News witnessed a raid last month by Home Office officials on a suspected sham marriage between a Nigerian man and a Portuguese woman in Harrow, northwest London.
The 32-year-old groom was arrested and has since been deported, while the 22-year-old woman is on bail under criminal investigation.
Cllr Susan Hall, Leader of Harrow Council, said: "It is appalling to see the lengths some people go to in dressing up and organising guests for a sham marriage.
"A marriage is supposed to be the happiest day in your life. Well, in this case, the couple certainly got a day they won’t forget."
Mr Rimmer suggested that overall 15,000 of the 173,000 civil weddings that take place each year in England and Wales could be bogus - almost 10 times the official level.
Officials found the process very frustrating, he told Sky News.
"You go into a marriage thinking that you are going to a proper relationship - sealing and cementing someone's relationship - yet you know that this is purely a financial transaction, you can imagine how frustrating that can be. Very often the ceremony is done through gritted teeth," he said.
Both David Cameron and Theresa May have repeatedly pledged to tackle sham marriages.
In a speech in October 2011, Mr Cameron pledged to "end the ridiculous situation where a registrar who knows a marriage is a sham still has to perform the ceremony".
But Mr Rimmer said the situation was worse than ever after a series of legal challenges.
He said: "Sham marriages have been a problem for many, many years. And the previous government introduced legislation to combat it back in 2004.
"As a result of that legislation, it did put a cap on the problem for the first year or so, but unfortunately the legislation was subject to challenge and the government lost on a couple of occasions in the high court.
"Eventually it was watered down to a degree it became meaningless and eventually was repealed in 2010. Since 2010, we have had the problem re-emerging and it is even worse than the problem was in 2004."
In July 2008 the Law Lords ruled that Home Office rules under which foreign nationals needed official permission to marry breached human rights.
Mr Rimmer added that while the rules for British citizens bringing foreign partners into the country to marry have been tightened, EU citizens are still free to abuse the laws.
He said: "The law relating to British nationals getting married is becoming more and more rigid. So therefore there are probationary periods if you marry a British national during which time the Border Agency/Home Office can check up as to whether that relationship is still in existence.
"There is not the same check with European Union nationals, so therefore the scams are usually perpetrated by European nationals other than Brits, because it is more advantageous to do so.
"Some nationalities in Europe being trafficked in for the sex industry - are being sold on to go through bogus marriages, so these people are victims in themselves, under duress.
"These sham marriages are a direct result of organised crime, this is organised criminality, a lot of racketeers making millions of pounds out of the racket - this is actually not something that is like a green card - this is massive criminality on an industrial scale."
Mr Rimmer said his organisation is working with ministers to introduce new legislation that could help reduce the number of sham marriages by including ceremonies held in the Church of England.
Brodie Clarke, former head of the UK Border Force, told Sky News it is impossible for officials to police every marriage.
He said: "They can't be everywhere. We do need to depend on the public and have sought that support from registrars to say if there's something suspicious here, please report it. And that would then trigger the attendance of somebody or an examination by somebody from UKBA to look at those circumstances.
"So it can't be done just by uniformed people in the Home Office - it needs partnerships of all. That's the only way this is going to pull together and work.
"But those demands and requirements of partners have to be reasonable and they have to be able to deliver on those demands and requirements - and that's a challenge, I think, for government to make that work."
Immigration Minister Mark Harper told Sky News: "Sham marriages have for too long been an easy target for migrants seeking to circumvent our immigration rules, often assisted by organised criminals.
"Registrars are frustrated when they marry couples who are obviously sham. We need more effective tools to deal with it.
"By extending the marriage and civil partnership notice period to 28 days in England and Wales and allowing this to be increased to 70 days in some circumstances we will make time to investigate, prosecute and remove those involved in sham marriages."
- Sky News

Lagos-Ibadan expressway rehabilitation through in 2 weeks – FG

"This is the main express road that leads Lagos the commercial heart of Nigeria to the rest of the country and the FG thinks its right to remain in this state."

Lagos-Ibadan expressway rehabilitation through in 2 weeks – FG

LAGOS — The Federal Government has promised to complete, within two weeks, the ongoing rehabilitation of failed sections of the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway that cause heavy traffic on the ever busy dual carriageway.
Commuters and motorists plying the expressway complain of spending long hours while driving through some sections of the road in recent times.
The Federal Controller of Works, Lagos State, Olutoyin Obikoya who made the promise, yesterday, stated that the Federal Ministry of Works hd mobilised Reynolds Construction Company, RCC, to carry out urgent rehabilitation works on the bad sections within two weeks.

Obikoya, who is the engineers’ representative on the reconstruction of Lagos-Ibadan (section I), explained that the work would be done to ensure the road remained in good condition for a long time.
Movement on the road, he said, was also being slowed down by the construction of an additional lane on the Ibadan-bound stretch and the mounting of concrete median at some points.
According to him:  “These activities require traffic diversion when necessary and work is carried out on five kilometres at a time.
“The ministry has been carrying out palliative works on the road and it is this construction work that is causing the traffic problem. They are working on the road and once it is done, movement will be better.”
The construction company, he said, would not work during the public holiday, that is today and tomorrow, but that after the holiday work would be intensified to ensure the job is completed within two weeks.


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