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Exclusive: EU eyes legal action over Cyprus’s ‘golden passport’ | News

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European Commissioner for Justice Didier Reynders has told Al Jazeera he is looking into the possibility of legal action against Cyprus over the country’s citizenship-through-investment scheme.

Reynders also called for changes throughout Europe to citizenship-through-investment schemes and said he preferred to completely phase them out.

His comments come after Al Jazeera’s Investigative Unit published The Cyprus Papers, a collection of leaked documents that showed Cyprus sold passports to criminals, fugitives and people considered to be at high risk of corruption.

Those documents, consisting of almost 1,500 passport applications containing more than 2,400 names, showed Cyprus failed to conduct due diligence on dozens of cases, allowing criminals and people under international sanctions to buy citizenship for the EU-member state.

Reynders told Al Jazeera he asked the legal department of the European Justice Commission “to analyse if it is possible in the legal framework that we have now to start an infringement proceeding or to come with a legislative proposal”.

Reynders added he would like to see some action from the European Union on new legislation, but the bulk of the responsibility falls on the shoulders of Cyprus.

“After the report that you have published and some others in the past, the first element is to be sure that there are some investigations at the national level from the justice system,” Reynders said.

“It is the task of the justice system in Cyprus to analyse the situation, and if it is possible for the Cypriot authorities to revoke the nationality.”

Reynders also focused on the importance of collaboration between EU member states, calling for more information-sharing between supranational authorities.

“We want to have clear information about the different people asking for nationality with a clear exchange of information with Europol and other kinds of institutions at the European level.”

Cypriot response

On Wednesday, the Cypriot government also responded to Al Jazeera’s revelations, calling the reporting “propaganda, not journalism”.

“All of the persons in question, for whom we will avoid naming for obvious reasons, at the time of submission of their applications, met the criteria and were holders of clean criminal records in their countries of origin and countries of residence,” Cypriot Minister of Interior Nicos Nouris said during a news conference, according to local media.

“What is being found is a deliberate attempt by Al Jazeera to falsify data and information,” Nouris added, without providing proof of his claims.

Nouris said an investigation was continuing into the source of the leaked documents Al Jazeera obtained.

‘Time is of the essence’

In a response to Reynders’ comments, global anti-corruption NGO Transparency International welcomed his suggestions but implored the EU to make haste with its response.

“The Cyprus Papers show that it’s not just about a few bad apples and the occasional lapses of judgement. This is a systemic problem. The only way forward is for Cyprus to suspend the scheme, revoke the passports in question, and open investigations to establish accountabilities for the apparent abuse,” Laure Brillaud, Transparency’s senior policy officer, told Al Jazeera.

However, Brillaud also said it was not the first time the EU proposed changes to the programmes.

“Now it is important the commission follows through on its promise. We have previously heard the commission say they will not tolerate abuse through these schemes but not take decisive action,” she said.

“The EU must waste no more time, initiate infringement proceedings against Cyprus, and potentially other countries that sell EU citizenship, for violating the principle of sincere cooperation between the member states.

“What we need to see from the EU is legislative proposals to fundamentally reform these schemes or a road map for ending risky golden visa programmes.”



Source – www.aljazeera.com

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Another blow as Judge throws out Kiggundu’s lawyer Muwema

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When court sat on Friday to hear the Kiggundu’s application to stop independent audit, he did not have a written application, and Justice Henry Adonyo instead ordered the plaintiff’s lawyer Fred Muwema to go make a written application seeking court to dismiss the audit and return to court on September 30 for a hearing of the application. But this adds more pressure on Kiggundu who is choking with the loans.

On 31 August, the judge ordered the Institute of Certified Public Accountants of Uganda (ICPAU) to carry out and independent audit into the accounts of the businessman and financial statements exchanged between the two parties, and present a report to court.

When asked by journalists why he has filed for an application seeking dismissal of the audit, Fred Muwema had this to say. “We are saying that let the validity and legality of those credit facilities (loans) be decided first before you can audit” He said.

The ruling on the application of the main suit to determine whether the businessman owes loan arrears to the bank is set for 5th October 2020, after which a date for hearing of the case will be set.

Background

Hamis Kiggundu through his companies Ham enterprises and Kiggs International (U) ltd sued DTB branches in Kenya and Uganda for deducting money from his accounts something which the bank contends and said they only acted as per the loan agreement of deducting 30% from Kiggundu’s accounts to recover the credit facilities rendered to him between February 2011 and September 2016

But Court documents filed by the bank in their defense shows that Kiggundu, between February 2011 and September 2016, was granted various credit facilities by the said DTB Banks.

First, via Ham Enterprises Limited, Kiggundu obtained a loan of $6,663,453 and another Sh2.5bn from the DTB (U) to finance his projects in the real estate business.

Later, according to New Vision, he got a facility worth $4.5m through Kiggs International (U) Limited from DTB (K) and mortgaged his properties, which include Plot 328 located at Kawuku on Block 248 Kyadondo, three plots that include 36, 37 and 38 on Folio 1533 Victoria Crescent II situated in Kyadondo and land on Makerere Hill Road on LRV 3716 Folio 10 Plot 923 Block 9.

Documents show that as of January 21, 2020, Kiggundu was in default on payment obligations of $6.298m on the loan facility of $6.663m, as well as sh2.885b on the demand overdraft facility of sh1.5b and the temporary demand overdraft facility of sh1b.

The banks say that Kiggundu was in default on the payment of another $3.662m out of a total loan facility of $4m and another $458,604 on a loan facility of $500,000, as of January 21, 2020.

The DTB consequently served him with a demand notice to either pay up or lose the assets that he submitted as collateral security. The bank threatened to attach a plot on Makerere Hill Road and other prime commercial properties.

Analysts says that Kiggundu’s lawyer is playing delaying tactics aimed at stopping the independent audit as ordered by the court earlier. Kiggundu had wanted court to believe his own audit of loan transactions, but that would amount to injustice to the banks that gave him money-DTB Uganda and DTB Kenya.

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Minister Rukutana charged with attempted murder, remanded

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The state minister for Labour, Gender and Economic Development Mwesigwa Rukutana has been remanded to Kyamugorani prison in Mbarara district.

Rukutana appeared before Ntungamo Grade One magistrate Nazifah Namayanja this afternoon from where he was charged with seven offences related to attempted murder, assault, malicious damage, and threatening violence.

Rukutana was captured in a video that went viral on social media showing him grabbing a gun from one of his bodyguards and started shooting at a vehicle belonging to supporters of his political rival Naome Kabasharira. At the time of the incident, Rukutana had just lost the Rushenyi country NRM flag to Kabasharira.

The prosecution alleges that on September 5, 2020, at Kagugu village in Ntungamo district, Rukutana and others still at large assaulted Julius Niwamanya and threatened to kill or injure him together with three others. The others are Stuart Kamukama, Dan Rwibirungi, and Moses Kamukama. 

It is also alleged that Rukutana also willfully and unlawfully damaged a motor vehicle registration number UAR 840X Toyota Rav 4 type which belongs to Moses Muhumuza.

According to the Judiciary public relations officer, Jameson Karemani, Rukutana has not taken a plea of these charges against him since they can only be tried by the chief magistrate who was not in court today.

As a result, the magistrate decided to send him to Kyamugorani, awaiting his return to court on Tuesday.      





Source – observer.ug

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Lira district headquarters closed over COVID-19

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Lira district headquarters have been closed after one staff tested positive for COVID-19 last week. 

On Monday morning, district staff were blocked at the gate with only the deputy chief administrative officer, his secretary and the receptionist allowed access to their offices. 

Paul Samuel Mbiiwa, the deputy chief administrative officer says that only heads of department will be allowed at the headquarters while the rest will work from home. He adds that the restriction will help to curb the spread of the virus.

“You see corona is not a joke. We have taken a step at fighting it and that is why you are seeing the staff outside. Even in my office here I do not want people to come if there is anything we can discuss on the phone.”

Francis Okello Olwa, a senior community development officer who doubles as the district spokesperson says that the entire district offices will be fumigated and closed for two days.

Health authorities in the district are planning to take samples from all the staff because they could have interacted with the one who tested positive. Currently, there are 19 COVID-19 patients under treatment at Lira regional referral hospital.     

On Sunday four health workers at the hospital tested positive for COVID-19. Dr Patrick Odongo, a senior medical officer at the hospital also succumbed to the virus.  





Source – observer.ug

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