South Africa hears bid to ground graft-accused family’s jet

A Bombardier Global 6000 jet stands on the tarmac at the airport in New Delhi in this file photo. The jet is similar to the one owned by South Africa's Gupta family, which has disappeared. (Reuters photo)
Updated 09 March 2018
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South Africa hears bid to ground graft-accused family’s jet

JOHANNESBURG: Canada went to court in South Africa Friday to ground a private jet used by the Gupta business family which has been accused of corruptly influencing former president Jacob Zuma.
Export Development Canada (EDC), the country’s state-run trade credit agency, alleges the controversial family’s businesses defaulted on a $41 million loan for the Bombardier Global 6000 which subsequently disappeared.
The Canadian-built aircraft’s public tracking device was deactivated on February 4, the court heard.
“As we sit today, my client cannot tell where the aircraft is,” EDC’s lawyer Alfred Cockrell told the South Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg.
EDC is now petitioning for the aircraft to be grounded, wherever it is located, until a bid to have the plane seized can be heard in an English court.
“All my clients want is for the aircraft to sit in a hangar somewhere so it can’t be flown to Dubai or India or somewhere,” said Cockrell.
EDC doesn’t “want to sell this aircraft in the interim period, they just want the aircraft to be put in a safe place where it can be stored and where it cannot be used by the Guptas.”
Cockrell added that grounding the aircraft would not be an inconvenience for the Guptas as they would be able to charter another jet or fly first class.
The Indian-born Guptas, one of South Africa’s wealthiest business families, are facing police investigations in the country over alleged corruption as well as their links to former president Jacob Zuma, who resigned following several graft scandals.
Cockrell said EDC feared “damage to the aircraft,” “reputational harm” and that “the aircraft may be forfeited because it is the proceeds of crime.”
South Africa has launched several investigations into the family and Indian tax officials this week raided several properties belonging to the Gupta brothers in their former home town as part of a money laundering probe.
Last month, South African authorities also raided Gupta properties in Johannesburg as part of the ongoing investigation into alleged graft.
One of the three Gupta brothers, Ajay, was declared a “fugitive from justice” by police after he failed to respond to a summons.
Thirteen other people are facing charges linked to allegations that millions of dollars of public money meant for poor South African dairy farmers was embezzled by the Guptas.
They are also accused of receiving highly favorable government contracts during Zuma’s presidency.
Led by Atul, the Guptas arrived in South Africa in 1993 as white-minority apartheid rule crumbled, a year before Nelson Mandela won the country’s first democratic elections.
The case was adjourned for lunch and will resume Friday afternoon.


UN report: Sex abuse in UN peacekeeping drops, up elsewhere

A UN peacekeeping force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) liaison fixes her colleagues hat as they attend the UNIFLIS's 40th anniversary celebration at its base in Lebanon's southern border town of Naqura on the border with Israel, south of Beirut, on March 19, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 14 min 51 sec ago
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UN report: Sex abuse in UN peacekeeping drops, up elsewhere

  • Guterres said the increase in those allegations was possibly due to "awareness-raising" and improved reporting by the 30 U.N. agencies, funds and programs

UNITED NATIONS: Allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse in U.N. peacekeeping missions decreased in 2018 — but allegations against other U.N. personnel and against staff of organizations implementing U.N. programs increased, according to a U.N. report released Monday.
Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in a report to the U.N. General Assembly circulated Monday that the alleged victims were mainly women and children.
The United Nations has long been in the spotlight over allegations of child rape and other sexual abuses by its peacekeepers, especially those based in Central African Republic and Congo. But the latest figures demonstrate again that sexual misconduct spans the entire U.N. system and beyond to outside organizations helping to implement its programs on the ground.
Guterres stressed the U.N.'s "zero-tolerance" policy and said he has embarked on "a cultural transformation" to eliminate sexual abuse and exploitation throughout the U.N. system, which comprises more than 90,000 staff and over 100,000 uniformed personnel.
According to the report, the number of cases in U.N. peacekeeping and political missions dropped to 54 in 2018 from 62 in 2017, and from 104 reported cases in 2016. It said 74 percent of the allegations in 2018 came from the U.N. peacekeeping forces in Central African Republic and Congo, and the remaining 24 percent from the peacekeeping missions in Mali, Haiti, Liberia and South Sudan.
By comparison, there were 94 reported cases of sexual exploitation elsewhere in the United Nations system, and 109 allegations involving U.N. partner organizations, the report said.
Guterres said the increase in those allegations was possibly due to "awareness-raising" and improved reporting by the 30 U.N. agencies, funds and programs.
The U.N. chief stressed that continuing allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse "harms those we serve, undermines the United Nations values and principles and tarnishes the reputation of the women and men who work with integrity and dedication to realize the objectives of the organization."