* The freeze on personal assets is among the largest in Swiss history
* The Supreme Court said prosecutors did not prove money laundering
* De Sao Vicente was Angolan insurance mogul for nearly 20 years
LONDON, March 23 (Reuters) – Switzerland’s top court this month ruled a freeze of $ 900 million belonging to a jailed Angolan businessman, citing insufficient evidence for money laundering allegations by prosecutors.
The ruling overturned one of the biggest personal asset freezes in Swiss history, which prosecutors picked up in 2018 and upheld by a court last year, but is being kept pending appeal.
Carlos Manuel de Sao Vicente is a key figure in the Angolan oil industry, leading a group of companies called AAA International that sold insurance contracts to state oil company Sonangol for nearly two decades at huge profits.
According to an unpublished copy of the March 10 decision obtained by Reuters, the Supreme Court in Lausanne noted that prosecutors “did not correctly determine, because it was their duty, the predicate offenses for money laundering necessary to justify enforcing the seizure. on the assets of the applicant’s bank ”.
“The Petitioner has provided an explanation for each (bank) activity deemed problematic by the public prosecutor,” the court added.
The Swiss public prosecutor did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment on the court’s ruling.
‘REPLACEMENT OF THE LEGAL’
Prosecutors said in their initial court filings they had frozen $ 1.25 billion in accounts linked to de Sao Vicente, his family and company after a Swiss bank marked a transfer to them as suspicious.
They released most of the accounts in April 2019 except for two accounts in the name of de Sao Vicente.
De Sao Vicente, who has been jailed on suspicion of corruption in Angola since late last year, described transfers between 2012 and 2019 as legitimate reimbursements for loans he previously made.
Angolan prosecutors did not respond to a Reuters request for comment on the ruling. Court filings to date indicate that there has been no request from Angola for repatriation of funds.
De Sao Vicente’s wife, whose name along with other family members was attached to a bank account that was initially blocked and later released by Swiss prosecutors, is Irene Neto, a former deputy minister of the ruling party in Angola and the daughter of the former president of Angola.
Neto denies any role in his business or any corruption.
Lawyers for de Sao Vicente company AAA International told Reuters that the ruling proved him to be a legitimate businessman and that they hoped the freeze would eventually be lifted.
“The decision clearly shows that the Swiss case is empty and it will be much more difficult for Swiss prosecutors to maintain the seizure,” Sonja Maeder Morvan of Geneva-based Reiser Avocats told Reuters.
Angola, which derives a third of the country’s revenue from oil, has been trying to fight decades of allegations of corruption and nepotism as it seeks to attract foreign investment into its sluggish economy. (Reporting by Noah Browning; Editing by Jan Harvey and Emelia Sithole-Matarise)
DUBAI, March 7 (Reuters) – Lawyer for Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a British Iranian released aid worker, told Iranian state television he had no information on the status of his imposed travel ban by Iranian justice. about the travel ban, ”Hojjat Kermani said on state television. Zaghari-Ratcliffe was released on Sunday after a five-year prison sentence, but was again called to court on another count. (Writing by Parisa Hafezi edited by Raissa Kasolowsky).
GOMA, Democratic Republic of the Congo (Reuters) – A military plane leaving eastern Congo bound for Italy on Tuesday loaded the bodies of the Italian ambassador and bodyguards in coffins wrapped in the Italian flag, a day after they were shot dead in an ambush at the United Nations Convoy.
Ambassador Luca Attanasio, 43, and his bodyguard Vittorio Iacovacci, 30, died while traveling in a World Food Program convoy to visit a school feeding project. WFP driver Mustapha Milambo also died.
The two crates were loaded onto an Italian military cargo plane in the city of Goma in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, near the Rwandan border. The plane then took off for Rome.
According to the Congolese presidency, a two-car convoy was stopped on the road north of Goma by six gunmen, who killed the Milambo driver and took the other six passengers away. Soldiers and park rangers tracked the group and a gun battle ensued, during which the kidnappers shot the two Italians.
RWANDAN REBELS DON’T BLUE
Congo’s interior ministry blamed Rwandan Hutu rebel militias called the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) for the attacks. The FDLR, one of about 120 armed groups operating in eastern Congo, has denied responsibility for what it called the “cowardly killings”.
“The FDLR stated that they were not at all involved in the attack,” the group said in a statement.
The local governor said that the attackers spoke the Rwandan language Kinyarwanda.
The FDLR, set up by former Rwandan officers and militia blamed by the United Nations and others for the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, has been blamed for previous kidnappings, including two British tourists who were detained for several days in May 2018.
President Felix Tshisekedi sent his top diplomatic adviser to Goma to support an investigation by local authorities, and the Congolese envoy in Rome will hand over a letter from Tshisekedi to Italian President Sergio Mattarella, the Congolese presidency said.
Dario Tedesco, an Italian volcanologist living in Goma, pays tribute to his friend Attanasio.
“He was able to talk to all of us, very differently because, he adapted to each of us, (made) us feel we were important,” said Tedesco. “He believes in what he is doing and this shouldn’t be his last trip.” (This story corrects the number of passengers to six, in paragraph 4)
Reporting by Fiston Mahamba and Hereward Holland; written by Hereward Holland; editing by Nellie Peyton, Philippa Fletcher, Giles Elgood and Peter Graff
CAPE TOWN (Reuters) – For South African winemaker Vergenoegd Löw, the pandemic could be catastrophic, but a fierce trade war between China and Australia has cost the 325-year-old plantation its toll.
Its red, white and rose bottles pile up as South Africa bans the sale of alcohol under tight lockdown and visitors who once flock to vineyards near Cape Town to sip wine and snap photos of the notorious Indian Runner duck disappear.
That changed when Beijing imposed tariffs of up to 212% on Australian wines in November after Canberra led a call for an investigation into the origins of the COVID-19 outbreak in Wuhan.
Not just wine. Beijing hit various Australian goods with customs, created a new layer of bureaucracy and outright banned some Australian imports, giving a boost to African suppliers of anything from coal to beef to copper.
“We can now get a much larger volume of sales,” said Shaun McVey, marketing manager at Vergenoegd Löw, which has signed the new deal in China. “Instead of shipping maybe three or four containers a year, we’ve increased that to 15 to 20 containers.”
Chinese drinkers bought nearly 40% of Australia’s wine exports before long-burning tensions between Beijing and Canberra peaked and brought trade to a sudden halt.
Over the past three months, South African wine exports to China have surged 50%, according to trading agency Wines of South Africa, and hopes are high for more sales after Australian stocks waned during the Chinese Lunar New Year holiday.
Martyn Davies, Deloitte’s managing director for emerging markets and Africa, said a protracted trade war would create a wide window of opportunity for miners and other sectors such as agribusiness, although exploiting that potential would require work.
The Chinese market presents a variety of constraints, from incomprehensible language and bureaucratic barriers to tailoring marketing to its unique social media ecosystem, analysts say.
“Many African companies are significantly behind the curve,” said Davies Deloitte. “Australian companies have engaged China for 35 years.”
The lack of a trade agreement between China and countries in sub-Saharan Africa also means exporters may face an uphill battle.
Despite its increasingly important role as an investor in the continent, China only signed its first free trade agreement with the African nation, the Indian Ocean island nation of Mauritius, in January.
Thus, while some African products may overtake Australian goods in the pecking order, they remain at a disadvantage when competing with exports from countries with preferential Chinese trade terms such as Chile, Peru or New Zealand.
In the mining sector, China has spent the last decade scaling up projects in Africa to maintain the flow of raw materials to the manufacturing giants.
The investment is now paying off and African producing countries are pocketing royalties as exports to the world’s second largest economy get a boost at the expense of Australia.
Last year, state-owned Aluminum Corp of China Ltd, known as Chalco, shipped the first cargo of bauxite from the Guinea project, and a prolonged trade war between China and Australia will only help the West African nation’s economy.
Australia’s shipments to China of the stone used to make aluminum fell 22% in the last quarter of 2020 while imports from Guinea jumped 70%, according to Chinese customs data.
That’s after Guinea tripled its bauxite production between 2015 and 2019 when mining projects began operating, with most of it shipped to China. During the same period, Guinea’s gross domestic product jumped 40%.
Graph – China turned to Guinean bauxite because it avoided Australia:
Meanwhile, Chinese copper concentrate imports from Australia plunged to zero in December 2020. At the same time, exports were up 17% from the Democratic Republic of Congo, another country where Chinese companies such as China Molybdenum have invested heavily to secure major mineral supplies.
The South African coal industry has also received a much needed boost. Sales of Australian thermal coal to China, which is mainly used in power generation, and metallurgical coal for steelmaking, slumped to zero in December.
South Africa’s first shipment of thermal coal to China in five years landed last month and exporters expect sales to pick up further in 2021.
Graph – China’s copper imports from the DRC soar:
‘INNOVATIVE AND BEAUTIFUL’
To address the lack of a trade agreement with China, Standard Bank South Africa, which is partly owned by the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, has sought to equalize.
Africa’s biggest bank measured by assets uses online platforms and events to match its customers with Chinese buyers in a bid to boost exports.
However, those efforts now face unique challenges for the coronavirus pandemic, such as shipping pressure due to global trade distortions that have sparked a bidding war for container space and pushed prices to record highs.
“You get a lot of interest. And then when people look at the current logistics costs, they end up not completing the transaction, ”said Philip Myburgh, head of Standard Bank’s African-China banking.
However, wine is one of the African exports that Standard Bank considers a good bet. So was Edouard Duval, chief executive of East Meets West Fine Wines, one of China’s largest wine importers.
If South Africa could capture just 1% of Australia’s 38% share of the import market share quickly emptying out, that would double its exports to China, he said. “The potential is there … this is a very dynamic and fast-moving market.”
South Africa typically exports less than half of its wine and raised 9.1 billion rand ($ 616 million) in overseas sales last year, with Britain buying the most. Sales to China totaled only $ 19 million.
Although Chinese tariffs removed sales of Australian wine in November and December, its exports to China alone still totaled A $ 1.01 billion ($ 779 million) last year.
At the “Cheers” wine shop in Beijing, Lin Lulu doesn’t really care about the impact of the trade war with Australia.
“South African wines now have a big advantage over Australian wines because of the new fare situation,” he said, filling his shelves with South African red wines. South African wines are more innovative and beautiful.
($ 1 = 1.2962 Australian dollars)
($ 1 = 14.7621 rand)
Additional reporting by Mike Hutchings in Cape Town, Helen Reid in Johannesburg and Thomas Suen, Tom Daly and Muyu Xu in Beijing; Edited by David Clarke
A bill on a deal between Cameroon and Switzerland will soon be forwarded to the Senate for review and adoption.
The chairman of the National Assembly is expected to immediately pass to the Senate a bill to authorize the President of the Republic to ratify the Treaty on Migration issues between the Government of the Republic of Cameroon and the Swiss Federal Council, which was signed on 26 September 2014.
The Minister of Foreign Relations, Mbella Mbella defended the bill at the National Assembly plenary session on November 20, 2020 in the presence of the Minister of the Presidential Delegation in charge of Relations with the Assembly, Wakata Bolvine.
The minister explained that the agreement aims to define cooperation in the management of migration between Cameroon and Switzerland. Therefore, provide facilities for citizens of both countries to enter and stay in their respective territories, and promote respect for the human rights of irregular migrants. In particular, the agreement seeks to ensure the return and reintegration of irregular migrants with respect for their human rights. The agreement establishes the conditions for return action. These measures include the payment of the cost of repatriating re-registered GAM, provision of financial relocation assistance for individual projects and provision of financial assistance for medical returns.
When ratified, the treaty will give Cameroon a non-punitive legal instrument but prevent it from checking clandestine emigration while strengthening bilateral cooperation between Cameroon and Switzerland. It will also open new avenues of collaboration where young people can undergo training leading to entrepreneurship. For young Cameroonians, this is a socio-economic advantage in relation to the various training programs offered to them in the timber hotel trade designed to prevent them from making further attempts at irregular migration.