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Bank accused of financing terrorists

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SCB stated that it was "confident the courts will reject these claims". It stated that US officials had earlier ruled that the whistleblowers' accusations were "meritless" and "did not show any violations of US sanctions". However, the whistleblowers say that the US authorities committed "a colossal fraud on this court by falsely denying" that the whistleblowers submitted "previously unknown, damning evidence".

According to US court documents, a British bank that dodged punishment for money laundering processed billions of dollars in transactions for terrorist organisation donors.

Standard Chartered, one of the UK’s top banks, escaped punishment from the US Department of Justice after Lord Cameron’s government intervened on its behalf in 2012.

According to new documents filed in a New York court, the bank violated sanctions on Iran by conducting thousands of transactions totalling more than $100 billion between 2008 and 2013.

An independent expert has found $9.6 billion in foreign exchange transactions with persons and corporations classified by the US government as aiding “terrorist groups” such as Hezbollah, Hamas, al-Qaeda, and the Taliban.

In response, the bank denied the whistleblowers’ assertions, stating that their prior charges had been “thoroughly discredited” by US authorities.

Sanctions violated. Standard Chartered was publicly accused of manipulating transaction data on Swift, an international payment system used by hundreds of financial institutions, to move billions of dollars via its New York branch on behalf of sanctioned entities such as Iran’s Central Bank.

However, in September 2012, George Osborne, then chancellor of Lord Cameron’s administration, quietly intervened on the bank’s side.

Three months later, the US Department of Justice declined to pursue the bank.

The foreign exchange transactions described in the court files have yet to be disclosed, and it is not argued that Mr Osborne or Lord Cameron were aware of them at the time.

The bank has twice acknowledged violating sanctions against Iran and other nations, first in 2012 and then in 2019, paying penalties totalling more than $1.7 billion. However, it has not confessed to making transactions for “terrorist” outfits.

Two whistleblowers, including Julian Knight, a former Standard Chartered executive, passed over private bank files to US authorities in 2012.

They say that US government entities presented false claims to a court to have their whistleblower award application rejected.

The US authorities investigating the bank successfully asked to have their case dropped in 2019. An FBI agent told a judge that there was nothing that “indicated or suggested that the bank had engaged in improper US dollar transactions” after 2007.

The whistleblower’s charges were disregarded as “meritless” by US officials, who claimed no fresh crimes were discovered.

However, independent research by David Scantling, an expert with decades of expertise investigating criminal bank transactions for the CIA, refutes this.

In a court filing last Friday, he claims that the spreadsheets contain records of over half a million separate transactions between 2008 and 2013, which were “cloaked,” meaning they were not immediately visible in the spreadsheets but could be extracted using a simple technique familiar to analysts in his field.

His affidavit states that the records include many transactions by Standard Chartered Bank (SCB) “with or on behalf of Iranian banks, Iranian companies, and Middle Eastern money exchanges that, according to [the US government], finance designated foreign terrorist organisations.”

He claims SCB performed transactions for a bank acting as a front for the Central Bank of Iran despite claiming to have ceased operations in Iran in 2007.

That occurred at the same time that it borrowed an average of $2 billion per day from the Term Auction Facility, a US government-created emergency programme designed to help banks weather the global financial crisis of 2007–2009.

“The newly extracted data simply cannot be reconciled with the government’s representations to the court in this matter that the [whistleblowers’ evidence] contains no evidence of undisclosed sanctions violations,” the declaration filed by Scantling states.

The transactions include those of Fatima Fertiliser, a Pakistani fertiliser business infamous for exporting explosive chemicals used by the Taliban in roadside bombs that killed or injured hundreds of British and American soldiers in Afghanistan.

SCB, Liverpool FC’s shirt sponsor, allegedly enabled 73 transactions for a Gambian front business headed by Mohammad Ibrahim Bazzi, a prominent Hezbollah financier.

Daniel Alter, former chief counsel at the latest York Department of Financial Services, which initially investigated SCB for violating penalties, described the latest revelations as “shocking” and “exponentially worse” than what the bank disclosed in 2012.

“This shows a frightening connection to not just commercial entities, but terrorist organisations, terrorist front companies for organisations such as Hamas, Hezbollah, al-Qaeda, the Taliban – things that make up a regulator’s nightmare – and we didn’t know that: it was never disclosed to us. And it wasn’t apparent in the data that we had,” Mr Alter told the BBC. “It’s a whole different story”.

SCB, with its headquarters in London, primarily serves consumers in Africa, the Middle East, and Asia.

Mr Osborne’s secret intervention on the bank’s behalf put it in danger of criminal prosecution for money laundering by the US Department of Justice.

On September 10, 2012, Mr Osborne wrote to Ben Bernanke, then chairman of the Federal Reserve, and Tim Geithner, then-Treasury Secretary under President Barack Obama. He met them the next month.

Two months later, the bank was fined $300 million but avoided prosecution by entering into a deferred prosecution agreement (DPA), which is a type of corporate probation. There was no prosecution of any particular bank officer.

In the same month, Mr Knight presented US authorities with proof suggesting the bank’s misbehaviour was considerably worse than previously confessed and extended after 2007.

SCB committed to a second DPA in 2019 for transactions between 2007 and 2011 and was fined an additional $1.1 billion.

‘Meritless’
The FBI and US Department of Justice declined to comment. Neither Lord Cameron nor Mr Osborne reacted on the record.

SCB stated that it was “confident the courts will reject these claims”. It stated that US officials had earlier ruled that the whistleblowers’ accusations were “meritless” and “did not show any violations of US sanctions”.

However, the whistleblowers say that the US authorities committed “a colossal fraud on this court by falsely denying” that the whistleblowers submitted “previously unknown, damning evidence”.

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Ambulance trial: AG opposes admissibility of recording for cross-examination

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The tape, which had been served to all parties before to the hearing save for Richard Jakpa's lawyers, was played in open court. Justice Afia Serwah Asare-Botwe ordered for the recording to be played to ‘verify if what was provided is the same as the one before the court and if the audio is admissible’ The audio was confirmed by the prosecution to be the one served on them as well as the one produced for the mistrial application which was dismissed by the judge. Channel One News says that the recording was significantly identical to the one aired by the National Democratic Congress during its recent press conference on the topic.

On Thursday, June 13, the High Court in Accra will determine whether or not to accept an audio recording of a discussion between Godfred Yeboah Dame and Richard Jakpa, the third accused in the current ambulance case.

This comes after attorneys representing minority leader Dr Cassiel Ato Forson filed the recording to cross-examine Richard Jakapa about his claims that the Attorney General has been contacting him at strange hours to incriminate Ato Forson.

Similarity of Audio

The tape, which had been served to all parties before the hearing save for Richard Jakpa’s lawyers, was played in open court. Justice Afia Serwah Asare-Botwe ordered for the recording to be played to ‘verify if what was provided is the same as the one before the court and if the audio is admissible’

The prosecution confirmed the audio to be the one served on them and the one produced for the mistrial application which the judge dismissed.

Channel One News says that the recording was significantly identical to the one aired by the National Democratic Congress during its recent press conference on the topic.

OBJECTION BY PROSECUTION

The prosecution nonetheless opposed the inclusion of the audio as evidence. Arguing for the state, the director of public prosecution, Yvonne Attakora-Obuobisa highlighted, that even if the tape was earlier permitted by the same court to dispose off the mistrial application, it does not in the current context provide any relation to the main trial.

Ms. Attakora-Obuobisa noted that the recording was only admitted then because the court needed to assess if the Attorney General intended to ask Richard Jakpa to accuse Dr. Cassiel Ato Forson. She reminded the court that it was assigned ‘negligible weight’.

She then claimed that in the current situation and line with section 51 of the evidence ACT, the recording is ‘extremely irrelevant”.

According to her, the recording discusses matters of the issuance of the letters of credit and those issues, in her opinion, are already before the court through the cross-examination of the witnesses of Ato Forson like Alex Mould and Seth Terkper, as well as evidence adduced by prosecution witnesses.

She was of the clear view that ‘the recording is of no consequence whatsoever in arriving at any finding in regard of the activities of the accused person (Ato Forson) that has resulted in financial loss or the purposeful misapplication of public funds’

To make the audio acceptable, Yvonne Attakora Obuobisa also emphasised the point that the attorneys of Ato Forson need to establish that the recording does not infringe any articles of the constitution. She cites Article 18(2) of the 1992 constitution which ensures the right to privacy.

The Director of Public Prosecution claims, that the audio recording does not fulfil the exemption of recording without authorization, to prevent a crime.

To her, the attorneys of Dr. Cassiel Ato Forson have not been able to substantiate any criminal the Attorney General was committing or about to commit for which the recording needed to be done without the approval of the Attorney General.

ATO FORSON’S LAWYERS RESPONSE

Dr Abdul Bassit Aziz Bamba, who headed the minority leader’s counsel, branded the objection as ‘frivolous, unsustainable, and should be overruled’. He contends that the recording’s content is important since it pertains to talks on exhibits currently before the court, which deal with the ambulance supply arrangement and authorization.

He contends further that the tape is significant as to when the Letters of credit should have been formed and whether any financial harm at all has been made to the state.

He refers to the substance of the recording indicating that it can be heard on the tape, that Dr. Sylvester Anemana who was the second accused in the affair, until a Nolle Prosequi was made for his case, was the one who approved the Letters of credit and not Dr. Ato Forson.

Dr Bassit Bamba further stressed upon the court to find the tape acceptable on grounds that the ‘same reasons and more’ for why the court ascribed importance to the tape in examining their application for mistrial remain in the current case.

Lawyers of Ato Forson further sought the court to enter the tape into evidence as the interaction is between Richard Jakpa and the Attorney General who is a public servant and required to carry out his mission in good faith.

The attorneys believe that the Attorney General was aiming to undermine the right of their client to a fair trial.

Dr. Bassit Bamba also disagreed with the prosecution’s stance, that the recording without the authorization of the Attorney General undermines Godfred Dame’s right to privacy.

He claims that the activities of the Attorney General in seeking to press his perspective of the case on Richard Jakpa constituted interference with the administration of justice and amounted to contempt of court.

He contends also that the Attorney General’s conduct relates to a crime of intentional suppression contrary to the mandates of sections 239 and 246 of the Criminal and Offences Act, 29.

ADJOURNMENT

Justice Afia Serwah Asare-Botwe after hearing the arguments of the two parties delayed the case to Thursday to issue a verdict on the admissibility of the audio.

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Otumfuo’s visit to Ga Mantse is a testament to togetherness and conflict resolution—Titus Glover

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He stated that Otumfuo's extensive experience on the throne, as well as his ability to manage and settle disagreements, make him an invaluable mentor to the Ga Mantse, who is fresh to the throne. Mr. Glover praised the Asantehene's generosity, noting that it is a great honour for the Ga state to welcome such a renowned guest. He believes that this visit would strengthen the connection between the two kingdoms, benefiting both sides. "Otumfuo has been on the throne; he has witnessed everything that goes into the chieftaincy, including how to organise people." How to resolve a quarrel. And I believe Nii Ga is only a few years away.

Titus Glover, Greater Accra Regional Minister, characterised Asantehene Otumfuo Osei Tutu II’s historic visit to Ga state on Sunday, June 9, 2024, as a testament to togetherness and conflict settlement.

The visit, which began with a special durbar hosted by the Ga Mantse, King Tackie Teiko Tsuru II, aims to foster friendship, collaboration, and community development between the two ancient kingdoms.

The visit follows Ga Mantse’s recent involvement in the 25th anniversary of Otumfuo’s accession to the throne and his 74th birthday celebrations.

In an interview with ChannelOne News, Mr Glover emphasised the value of friendship in chieftaincy and stated that the visit demonstrates the necessity of building unity and resolving problems.

He stated that Otumfuo’s extensive experience on the throne, as well as his ability to manage and settle disagreements, make him an invaluable mentor to the Ga Mantse, who is fresh to the throne.

Mr. Glover praised the Asantehene’s generosity, noting that it is a great honour for the Ga state to welcome such a renowned guest.

He believes that this visit would strengthen the connection between the two kingdoms, benefiting both sides.

“Otumfuo has been on the throne; he has witnessed everything that goes into the chieftaincy, including how to organise people.” How to resolve a quarrel. And I believe Nii Ga is only a few years away.

“That means he has something he can learn from and Asantehene does not visit anywhere at a time. For him to take a step to visit you in your kingdom or state, it means he has valued that relationship.”



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Asantehene contributes GH₵500,000 to the Ga Education Fund

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Otumfuo also thanked Nii Teiko Tsuru II and the Ga state, stating, "I appreciate your participation at my 25th anniversary celebration. You expressed affection. I pray to the gods for guidance. My doors are open. I am always available to provide you guidance on any issue. He emphasised the need of togetherness, asking the people of Ga and Ashanti to band together for the betterment of their villages.

Over the weekend, Asantehene Otumfuo Osei Tutu II donated GH₵500,000 to the Ga Education Fund at the Ga Mantse royal palace in Accra, demonstrating his passion for education.

In his remarks, he emphasised that growth must prioritise children’s well-being.

“I want to donate an amount of GH₵500,000 to the Ga Education Fund to help in the education of less-privileged Ga children,” he said.

Otumfuo also thanked Nii Teiko Tsuru II and the Ga state, stating,

“I appreciate your participation at my 25th anniversary celebration. You expressed affection. I pray to the gods for guidance. My doors are open. I am always available to provide you with guidance on any issue.

He emphasised the need for togetherness, asking the people of Ga and Ashanti to band together to improve their villages.

This durbar is notable since it is part of Asantehene Otumfuo Prempeh II’s first historic visit to Georgia since 1946.

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