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European Firm Slapped with Fine for Illegal Payouts to Nigerians

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Special to the NNPA from the Global Information Network –

Siemens AG, Europe’s largest engineering company, charged with making secret payments to Nigerian officials, has settled the case for $47 million, reported the Bloomberg news wire.

Attorney General Mohammed Bello Adoke said Nigeria would accept the fine and withdraw the charges because the company expressed deep regret and promised to be of good conduct in all their future dealings in the country.

Adoke said the heavy fines imposed on Siemens, apart from the deterrence effect would go a long way toward financing infrastructural delivery in the country.

Siemens is no stranger to corruption lawsuits. In December 2008, Siemens agreed to pay $800 million – to settle U.S. charges that it violated anti-corruption laws by funding bribes to governments around the world, including in Nigeria.

According to court documents, the company paid bribes to foreign government officials to obtain business, falsified corporate records to hide the payments, and failed to implement effective internal controls that might have prevented such payments in Venezuela, China, Russia, Vietnam, Israel, Mexico, and Nigeria. This misconduct involved employees at all levels of the company, including senior management.

Further, kickbacks were paid to Iraqi ministries in connection with sales of power stations and equipment under the United Nations Oil for Food Program. Together with various penalties imposed by Germany, Siemens' penalties reached an astronomical $1.6 billion - the largest monetary sanction ever imposed for charges under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

Due to the company’s “extraordinary cooperation” and “uncommonly sweeping remedial action,” Siemens remains a responsible contractor for the business of the U.S.

Mandela's Wife Grieves for Zimbabwe Children Lost to AIDS

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Special to the NNPA from the Global Information Network –

During a weeklong tour of Zimbabwe, Graca Machel, wife of former South African president, Nelson Mandela, decried the loss of 100 children who die each day in that southern African country, many of them as a consequence of HIV/AIDS.

Machel, a UNICEF Children’s Advocate, noted there is knowledge, medication, and capacity to reduce the number of children infected with HIV and to treat those with AIDS. There was no reason, she said, why children in Zimbabwe and other countries in the region should continue to die because they have no access to treatment.

On her tour, the former first lady met with children from several different organizations, and called the experience “emotional.” A frequent critic of the government of President Robert Mugabe, Machel did not openly fault the President during the visit but urged him to continue with a constitution-rewriting process started in June.

Meanwhile, a bitter divorce proceeding has thrown a harsh light on the wealth accumulated by Mugabe’s closest allies. Government Minister Ignatius Chombo is suing his estranged wife Marian for possession of nearly 100 properties, 15 cars (including Land Cruisers, Mercedes Benzes, and trucks), safari camps, cattle, mines, and 10 companies.

Chombo’s reported riches are merely “the tip of the iceberg amid reports that “other senior Mugabe party officials literally (own) whole towns, like Rusape and Victoria Falls,” declared a spokesman for the opposition.

Revelations about Chombo’s wealth call into question the Mugabe administration’s claims that sanctions imposed by western countries are to blame for the country’s economic collapse during the last decade, the spokesman said.

Machel concurred, adding that the Mugabe administration should assume responsibility and protect the rights of its citizens.

Ethics Proceeding Against Congresswoman Waters Cancelled

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Special to the NNPA from the AFRO-American Newspaper –

The House ethics subcommittee cancelled the Nov. 29 hearing that was scheduled to consider allegations of ethics impropriety against California Democrat Rep. Maxine Waters.

The Committee on Standards of Official Conduct panel said in a statement it postponed an adjudicatory hearing, the equivalent of a trial by the committee, because new evidence has surfaced. The matter has been referred back to investigators.

The California congresswoman decried the delay, saying it showed “a complete disregard for due process and fairness” given that the investigation began more than a year ago.

“Today, the Committee has brought discredit upon itself and this institution by denying me, and more importantly my constituents, the right to set the record straight,” she said in a statement.

Waters became a target of the ethics panel over allegations that she helped OneUnited, a Massachusetts-based, minority-owned bank in which her husband owned stock and once served as a board member, received $12 million in bailout funds.

The congresswoman was accused of arranging a meeting between the Black-owned bank officials and Secretary of Treasury Henry Paulson in 2008 without disclosing her husband’s history with the company.

The Wall Street Journal, one of two newspapers that chronicled the receipt of $12 million in federal money under the Troubled Asset Relief Program, has pointed out that members of Congress may vote on matters that affect their financial holdings. But, the paper noted that the rules are unclear about the role members of Congress can play in contacting executive branch agencies about firms in which they have a financial stake.

The Congressional Black Caucus member has maintained that her efforts to ensure that the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act assisted small and minority institutions were not solely on behalf of OneUnited.

“As the highest ranking African-American and woman on the Financial Services Committee, my staff and I did what we said we did and what we have always done, which is provide a voice in the process for those who lack it,” she said.

The evidence referred to by the committee is, according to the Associated Press, an e-mail that, the wire service says, shows Waters, a senior member of the House Financial Services Committee, followed the drafting of language in the bank bailout bill that would have affected OneUnited. The newly discovered document—which Waters said the committee actually had since Oct. 29—will likely support her claims, she added.

“If this evidence is so damning, the Committee should present its case before the public, as we asked them to do when I first learned of their desire to postpone the hearing. Apparently the Committee now recognizes, as I have maintained, that there was no benefit, no improper action, no failure to disclose, no one influenced, and there is no case.”

Amid Guilty Conviction, Rangel Remains Defiant

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By Herb Boyd, Special to the NNPA from the New York Amsterdam News –

After waiting two years to be tried by the House ethics subcommittee, Rep. Charles Rangel was convicted within three days at a trial that never was. The embattled representative from Harlem left the proceedings after delivering his opening statement, refusing to participate at a hearing in which he “was deprived of due process rights.”

On last week, Rangel was found guilty of 11 of 13 counts of ethics.

A violations by the eight-member subcommittee of four Republicans and four Democrats, which cited that he used congressional stationery and staff members to solicit donations for a center to be named in his honor at City College, failed to pay some taxes and did not accurately report his personal income.

The panel of representatives split on one of the charges related to the four rent stabilized apartments and two of the counts were merged on the alleged misuse of House mailing privileges.

Reading the verdict, the chair, Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-CA, said, “We have tried to act with fairness, led only by the facts and the law. I believe that we have accomplished that mission.”

A defiant Rangel had a different view of the process and the outcome.

“How can anyone have confidence in the decision of the ethics subcommittee when I was deprived of due process, right to counsel and was not even in the room?” Rangel wrote in a statement. “I can only hope that the full committee will treat me more fairly, and take into account my entire 40 years of service to the Congress before making any decisions on sanctions.”

That decision is expected to be rendered by the full committee of 10 this week. It is widely considered that the 80-year-old representative will be either severely censured or reprimanded.

“I am disappointed by the unfortunate findings of the ethics subcommittee,” Rangel continued. “The committee’s actions are unprecedented in view of the fact that they arrived at [their conclusion] without rebuttal or counter evidence on my behalf.”

Rangel asserted that only a week before the trial was to take place, he was presented with an 80-page motion of summary judgment on Monday. Without legal counsel, he insisted he was not prepared to go to trial and requested a delay. The delay was denied, and acceding to the wishes of the prosecutor, Blake Chisam, the subcommittee began its deliberations with an understanding that the facts of the case were uncontested.

When Chisam was asked by a panelist if there was possible corruption by Rangel, he said no, nor, in his opinion, had the congressman intentionally sought personal financial gains by his actions. “Sloppiness” was the extent of Rangel’s errors, Chisam added.

“The committee elected to reject my appeal for additional time to secure new counsel and thus acted in violation of the basic constitutional right to counsel,” Rangel wrote. “The committee’s findings are even more difficult to understand in view of yesterday’s declaration by the committee’s chief counsel, Blake Chisam, that there was no evidence of corruption or personal gain in his findings.”

“I think Charlie was marvelous in refusing to go to trial without an attorney,” said the Rev. C. Vernon Mason. “They deliberately let him twist in the wind for two years, thereby exhausting his legal funds and then denied him the opportunity to seek counsel. Not having a prompt exercise of due process is a grievous miscarriage of justice.”

Fellow New York congressional colleague Rep. Eliot Engel concurred with Mason and was concerned that Rangel might be condemned before the full Committee on Standards of Official Conduct has ruled on the charges. “I think that people should judge Charlie Rangel by his long career and put into perspective what has happened as of late,” Engel told reporters at the Capitol on Tuesday. “I think he has done a very many good things for his district and for New York and for the country.”

Thousands of Harlemites thought the same thing when they re-elected him for a 21st term.

“What I remember most about Congressman Rangel is what he did back in the late ’80s in disallowing tax breaks for corporations doing business in South Africa, which at that time was under an apartheid government,” said Professor Michael Thelwell of the University of Massachusetts. “For that alone, his legacy, for me, is secure.”

In his autobiography, “And I Haven’t Had a Bad Day Since,” this bill is discussed as part of the “Rangel Amendment.” And after the full committee’s decision this week, let us hope that the good congressman will not have to amend the title of his autobiography.

Despite Success, Michael Steele Under Fire by Republicans

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By James Wright, Special to the NNPA from The Washington Informer –

Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele's term ends in January 2011, and he has not definitely said whether he will run again for the position. Steele is being criticized by party activists for being ineffective despite the fact that he played a key role in the GOP's success in the recent midterm elections. Steele said that the country came back to the Republican Party after two years of failed policies supported by President Obama.

"The American people signaled that they wanted change on Nov. 2," Steele said to a group of reporters at the Republican National Committee headquarters in Southeast Washington, D.C. "They did not want health care reform, which is the worse piece of legislation passed by Congress. They did not want the policies of Obama, [Sen. Harry] Reid and [U.S. House Speaker Nancy] Pelosi to continue.”

During the 2010 midterm elections, the Republicans recaptured control of the U.S. House of Representatives. The GOP picked up 6 seats in the U.S. Senate but the Democrats still have control of that chamber with 51 Democrats, 2 Independents and 47 Republicans.

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