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BIG STORY

Access Bank Recognized As The ‘Best Digital Bank In Africa’ 2020

Gbemileke Ajayi

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For its continued investment in digital innovation, Africa’s largest retail bank, Access Bank PLC has been recognized as the ‘Best Digital Bank in Africa’ by Asian Banker.

The announcement was made at the Asian Banker Middle East and Africa Regional 2020 Awards virtual ceremony.

Access Bank, over the years, has leveraged technology including advanced analytics, cloud computing, artificial intelligence, machine learning, and robotics process automation to reform business operations and drive performance.

Herbert Wigwe, the Chief Executive Officer of Access Bank PLC, commented on the award saying, “We are delighted to receive this award, which recognizes our contribution towards revolutionizing the practice of digital banking in Africa. This award serves as an encouragement for us to consolidate our efforts towards becoming a truly digitally-led bank. We always ensure that customers enjoy secure, seamless, and convenient services across multiple channels.”

Access Bank has invested heavily in leading technological evolution in the African banking sector through its strategic partnership with the Africa Fintech Foundry to nurture the next generation of innovative fintech startups. The Bank has also employed the use of technology to help achieve its sustainability targets. It has developed a portal that helps to monitor its environmental footprint, especially its carbon emissions.

Ade Bajomo, Access Bank’s Executive Director, Information Technology and Operations; added that “The peculiarities of the global community today, have called for more digitally-driven banking services. Through our multiple offerings including our USSD *901#, advanced mobile banking application ‘Access More’ and our recently unveiled facial biometric payment solution, Access Bank has continued to offer best-in-class technology-driven solutions to all customers. Access Bank will continue to defy the negative stereotypes attributed to Africa, and make strides toward becoming ‘Africa’s gateway to the world’.”

Just recently, Ade Bajomo, was appointed the new President of the FinTech Association of Nigeria (FintechNGR). This further buttresses Access Bank’s thought leadership in digital transformation, use of advanced analytics, cloud computing, artificial intelligence, machine learning, and robotics process automation to sustain banking and improve customer experience.

BIG STORY

Joe Biden Revokes Trump’s Visa Ban On Green Card Applicants, Says US Businesses Harmed

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In a huge relief for those seeking a green card, US President Joe Biden on Wednesday revealed an order from his predecessor that blocked many green card applicants from entering the United States.

Biden has revoked former President Donald Trump’s order that limited the number of new work visas for temporary foreign workers in the United States amid the coronavirus pandemic.“The suspension of entry imposed in Proclamation 10014… does not advance the interests of the United States.

“To the contrary, it harms the United States, including by preventing certain family members of United States citizens and lawful permanent residents from joining their families here,” Biden said in the order provided by the White House on Wednesday.

In June 2020, Trump signed a proclamation that suspended certain categories of non-immigrant work visas as part of an effort to revive the U.S. economy amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The list includes H-1B visas for work in high-tech industries and a range of others for low-skill workers, interns, teachers, and company transfers.

 

(India/NAN)

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BIG STORY

Police Funding: Senate Approves N1.3bn For Teargas, N1bn For Arms and Ammunitions, N9bn For Others [Full Breakdown]

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The Senate on Wednesday approved N11.3 billion (11,352,457,101.70) as the budget of the Nigeria Police Trust Fund (NPTF) for the 2020 fiscal year.

About N1.3 billion (1,362,814,243) of the amount was allocated for the procurement of teargas. About N1 billion was allocated for the procurement of arms and ammunition.

The approval was a sequel to the consideration and adoption of the harmonized report of the Senate and House of Representatives Committee on Police Affairs. The Chairman of the Senate Committee on Police Affairs, Haliru Jika, presented the report.

A breakdown of the NPTF’s budget was contained in the report which was made available to the media.

Breakdown of the budget

Below is the breakdown of the N11.3 billion budget as contained in the document:

*Provision of specialised/operational vehicle double cabinet-pick-up van for patrol – N7,600,000,000

* Procurement of arms and ammunitions – N1,000,000,000

* Procurement of personnel protective gear (bulletproof vest and helmet) – N469,338,550

* Procurement of riot control equipment (teargas) – N1,362,814,243

* Provision of COVID-19 protection kit for police personnel – N358,379,191

* Supply of drugs and medical equipment for police hospitals – N533,894,117

* Office furniture and equipment – N29,031,000

Mr Jika in his presentation said it is the first budget of the NPTF since the establishment Act came into being in 2019.

Only 0.5 percent of the total revenue that accrued to the Federation Account and 0.5 percent of the total Value Added Tax were remitted to the NPTF account; the other sources of revenue as prescribed in the NPTF Establishment Act have not made any remittance, he explained.

Giving a breakdown of the budget component, the lawmaker said projected income was put at N35 billion (N34,984,314,243) while N11.3 billion (N11,354,457,101.70) was budgeted for capital expenditure.

He explained that the balance of N23.6 billion (N23,631,857,141.30) will be carried over to the 2021 budget of the NPTF.

He, therefore, called on the NPTF to expedite action on the implementation of the 2020 budget in order to meet up the April 30 deadline.

In his remarks, the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, said the approval of the NPTF budget would “help the police to increase their capacities and of course, provide better and improved services across the country.”

“This is one of the benefits of what we have passed here – the Police Trust Fund – and I’m sure that the National Assembly will continue to support our security agencies for optimal performance,” he added.

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BIG STORY

Invictus Obi To Restitute $10.7million, Forfeits Wedding Ring, Two Cars In Nigeria, N280m To U.S

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* To undergo three years of “supervised release” after serving his complete jail term

Obinwanne Okeke, also known as Obi Invictus has been ordered to restitute about $10.7million which he fraudulently obtained from identified victims of his at least five years of wire fraud in the U.S and other places.

According to Premium Times, a judge of the Eastern District of Virginia, Rebecca Smith, while sentencing him to 10 years in jail on February 16, also ordered the forfeiture of his identified assets to the U.S government.

The assets include his “white gold emerald cut engagement ring with small accent diamonds.”

The other forfeited assets are two cars back home in Nigeria, and N280,555,010 translating into about $700,000 which the Nigerian government had seized from him.

The judge, Rebecca Smith, ordered Mr Okeke to restitute $10.7million as proceeds of his fraud to the U.S. government in addition to the jail term.

Mr Okeke, who had already spent 19 months in detention as of the time of his sentencing, was also ordered to undergo three years of “supervised release” after serving his complete jail term.

On completing his jail term, Mr Okeke will be presented before a duly-authorized immigration official of the Department of Homeland Security Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement “for deportation review,” said the judge.

The office will determine whether to immediately deport him or make him undergo the three years “supervised release” in the U.S.

The fraud

U.S authorities said Mr Okeke and his co-conspirators, who remain at large, “through subterfuge and impersonation,“ engaged in a multi-year global business email and computer hacking scheme that caused a staggering $11 million in losses to his victims.”

Mr Okeke, 31, also known as Invictus Obi, had in June last year pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud.

His guilty plea which helped him to have one of the two counts initially filed against him dropped conceded to making restitution and forfeiture of his seized assets.

Sentencing

PREMIUM TIMES on Thursday exclusively obtained the court’s Restitution Order’ and ‘Consent Order of Forfeiture’ which are part of the sentencing documents signed by the judge and the parties to the case.

Apart from the judge, others who signed the two documents are, the Acting United States Attorney in the Eastern District of Virginia, Raj Parekh, Mr Okeke, and his defense lawyer, John Iweanoge.

“Pursuant to 18 U.S.C § 3663A(a)(1), the defendant is ordered to pay restitution in the total amount of $10,679,166.54 jointly and severally with any other defendants who are ordered to pay restitution for the same losses,” the restitution order read in part.

Attached to the document is a list of three victims of Mr Okeke’s fraud.

They are Unatrac Holdings LLC in Washington DC, which was duped $5,429,166.54; Orient Insurance PJSC, duped $5million, and QBE European Operations which lost $250,000 to the fraudsters.

The court ordered that all the payments for the restitution which “shall be made to the Clerk of Court” “shall distribute the funds to Unatrac first and to the remaining victims on a pro-rata basis.”

The court waived interest on the amount to be restituted by the convict and ordered that “no delinquent or default penalties will be imposed except upon Order of the Court.”

Forfeiture order
In the consent forfeiture order, the judge gave a monetary judgment capturing the total of $10,679,166.54 to be restituted by Mr Okeke.

This implies that the U.S authorities will be able to execute the order as the court’s final judgment for the forfeiture of any assets in which Mr Okeke has interests to raise the money for restitution.

According to the court, the sum “shall constitute a monetary judgment against the defendant in favour of the United States,” and “shall be offset” after final forfeiture and liquidation of all of the assets seized from Mr Okeke.

Some of Mr Okeke’s assets already ordered in the document for forfeiture is “18kt white gold emerald cut engagement ring with small accent diamonds and containing GIA number 2287567161.”

“This ring was seized from the defendant at the time of his arrest,” the document explained.

The court also ordered the forfeiture of the U.S government, “Approximately 280,555,010Nigerian Naira (approximately $700,000 U.S.) seized from the defendant by the Nigerian authorities in light of his arrest on the charges in this case.

“Proceeds from the sale of the defendant’s 2018 Toyota Camry and 2017 Toyota Hilux.”

It added, “The defendant agrees to sell these two vehicles, located in Nigeria, and send the proceeds to the U.S. Marshals Service.

“The defendant shall remit these proceeds to the U.S. Marshals Service within six months of the date of this order unless the defendant obtains an extension by written agreement with the government.

“The United States shall seize all forfeited property and shall take full and exclusive custody and control of same.”

U.S. assets also forfeited
The document also gave an indication without giving details that Mr Okeke may have assets in the U.S. that could be taken over by the government authorities in executing the monetary judgment of the court.

“With respect to the monetary judgment described in paragraph (1)(a) above, the United States may collect this monetary judgment by all lawfully available means, including but not limited to forfeiture of direct proceeds and substitute assets.

“Insofar as the United States seeks forfeiture of substitute assets, the defendant agrees and the court finds that one or more of the criteria set forth in 21 U.S.C. §853(p)(1) are present here and the United States may therefore seek forfeiture of substitute assets pursuant to § 853(p).”

But the court directed that in executing the forfeiture order on such assets in the U.S, the authorities “shall to the extent practicable, provide direct written notice to any persons known to have alleged an interest in the seized property, and shall publish notice of this order in accordance with Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 32.2(b)(6).”

The court added that any person, other than Mr Okeke, asserting any legal interest in the property “may, within 30 days of the publication of the notice or the receipt of the notice, whichever is earlier, petition the court for a hearing to adjudicate the validity of their alleged interest in the property.”

It also ordered: “Following the Court’s disposition of all timely petitions filed, a final order of forfeiture shall be entered. If no third party files a timely petition, this order shall become the final order of forfeiture, as provided by Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 32.2(c)(2), and the

The United States shall have clear title to the property, and shall dispose of the property in accordance with the law.”

Profile
Mr Okeke is the founder of Invictus Group, which he claimed to have a business interest in oil and gas, agriculture, and real estate, among others.

He is said to have a degree in International Studies and Forensic Criminology and Masters of International Relations and Counter-Terrorism Studies from Monash University in Australia

Mr Okeke, a businessman with international fame, was featured on the Forbes Africa Magazine in June 2016 cover.

Arrest

He was arrested on August 6, 2019, on a criminal complaint for computer and wire fraud to defraud Unatrac Holding Limited which is headquartered in United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Operatives of the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) nabbed him at Dulles International Airport, Virginia, as he prepared to depart the U.S after a visit to witness the birth of his 19-month-old daughter born on July 15, 2019.

Charged

On September 9, 2019, he was charged with two counts of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and conspiracy to commit computer fraud.

Mr Okeke, who initially denied the charges, later entered into a plea bargain agreement with the U.S authorities and pleaded guilty to Count 1 on June 18, 2020.

The guilty plea helped Mr Okeke to secure the withdrawal of the second charge that carries a lesser sentence and fines.

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