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Red Roses For Valentine, Red Card For Corruption, By Owei Lakemfa

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Netanyahu is determined not to go to jail like Ehud Olmert, Israeli prime minister from 2006 to 2009, who spent 27 months in jail for corruption before parole.


This is Valentine week, with billions around the world expressing love for their families and others. It coincided with the Christian Ash Wednesday, with individuals being told: “Love Thy Neigbour, As Thy Self”, even as Jesus loved humanity. However, the message from Palestine, the home of Christianity, was not love, but hatred for the neigbour. While many teenagers soaked in the Valentine, Ahed Tamimi, 17, is spending the season in Israeli military jail. On Valentine eve, the Israeli government hurled the teenager before a Military Court on a dozen charges, which included assault, stone throwing and incitement.

The trial which will resume on March 11, will be in secret, like the trials of other Palestinians who resist the Israeli occupation. The Tamimi story, is one of an unarmed girl, on December 15, 2016, confronting the Israeli soldiers who had shot her cousin, Mohammed in the head. In the process, she slapped an Israeli soldier. She is not the only Palestinian underage in prison, as at this week of love, there are other 330 Palestinian children in Israeli jails as prisoners of conscience.

Ironically, just as the imprisoned Palestinian children received no red roses for Valentine, so did Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu not get. On Valentine eve, the Israeli police declared that there was hard evidence to indict and convict him for bribery, fraud and breach of public trust. One of the charges is that Netanyahu, for over fifteen years, received gifts (bribes) worth over $283,000 from Hollywood producer, Arnon Milchan, in exchange for pushing the Milchan Law, which would have ensured that Jews who return to live in Israel from abroad were exempt from paying taxes for 10 years.

A second charge is that the prime minister asked the management of an Israeli newspaper Yediot Aharonot for positive coverage in exchange for help in reining in a rival publication. He is also implicated in a bribery scandal involving Australian billionaire James Packer, with the latter confessing to the crimes. There are other accusations, such as using state funds to pay for private family construction. But Netanyahu is confident the police will fail. He boasted: “Over the years, I have been the subject of at least 15 enquiries and investigations…Some have ended with thunderous police recommendations like those of tonight. All of those attempts resulted in nothing, and this time again they will come to nothing.” Netanyahu is determined not to go to jail like Ehud Olmert, Israeli prime minister from 2006 to 2009, who spent 27 months in jail for corruption before parole.

Not a few of us are praying for Netanyahu’s fall, not necessarily for corruption, but for world peace. Some Israeli leaders like Golda Meir and Ariel Sharon were known to be hawkish, but compared to Netanyahu, they were doves. Apart from the ceaseless attacks on Palestinians, seizure of their lands for ever expanding settlements, Netanyahu just attacked neigbouring Syria, is forcing African immigrants out of the country, got Israel out of UNESCO and is accelerating the full conversion of East Jerusalem, which is owned by the Palestinians, into Israeli property.

Cyril Ramaphosa had taken over as the party leader. Zuma has had to refund $23 million public funds he expended to renovate his private estate. He is like a cat with nine lives; he has survived eight impeachment attempts. But the ANC ultimatum may be the last attempt as it seems to sing the Nunc Dimitis to the Zuma era.


He may yet be exonerated for corruption, but not so for former South African President Jacob Zuma who was, this week, given an ultimatum by the ruling Africa National Congress (ANC) to step down after he had been indicted for corruption, and his deputy, Cyril Ramaphosa had taken over as the party leader. Zuma has had to refund $23 million public funds he expended to renovate his private estate. He is like a cat with nine lives; he has survived eight impeachment attempts. But the ANC ultimatum may be the last attempt as it seems to sing the Nunc Dimitis to the Zuma era.

One president who has already fallen in the anti-corruption war is Ms. Park Geun-hye of South Korea who, on Valentine eve, seemed to have moved one more step toward jail when her confidante and aide, Choi Soon-sil, over whom she was impeached, was jailed for twenty years. She was sentenced alongside Shin Dong-bin, the chairman of Lotte, the country’s fifth largest business conglomerate. The latter received a 30-month sentence. The verdict on the former president is due in the coming weeks.

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Another president who faced accusations of corruption is Petro Poroshenko of Ukraine. He had entered into an unholy alliance with the former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, a man who showed he was an unstable personality from the days in 2008 when he needlessly attacked, seized and humiliated Russian troops in an effort to be admitted into the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO). He had thought naively that Europe and the United States would not allow the Russians retaliate. When the latter did, there was no nation willing to stand by Georgia, while the Russians rolled over the country.

President Poroshenko made Saakashvili, an Ukrainian citizen in 2015, automatically losing his Georgian passport. Soon, the latter began a series of campaigns and protests, accusing the Ukrainian government of corruption. The latter stripped him of his citizenship. Attempts to deport Saakashvili failed. Finally this Monday, Ukrainian security forces entered a Kiev restaurant, seized and threw him into Poland, making of him a stateless man. His supporters are continuing a campaign to vote out Poroshenko on the basis of claims that he is a corrupt politician.

As Premier Dancila indicated, a red card does not mean the someone convicted of corruption is out or would automatically go to jail. Where presidents and powerful people are involved, corruption may just well be another political game.


Another drama on corruption played out on Valentine eve, this time in Guatemala, in a case that has embroiled the British charity, Oxfam in a second scandal within one week. Oxfam’s current chairman, Juan Alberto Fuentes Knigh,t who was also a former Guatamala Finance Minister, was seized along with a former Guatemala president, Alvaro Colom. They are accused of corruption in a public bus scandal. Oxfam was formerly dealing with a sex scandal involving its workers in Haiti, before this.

This same week, Swiss drug manufacturer, Novartis was accused of bribing senior Greek politicians and thousands of doctors. Two former Greek prime ministers, Antonis Samaras and Panagiotis Pikrammenos were listed as some of the beneficiaries of the crime. The bribes were allegedly in order to approve overinflated contracts and push the sales of Novartis drugs in the country.

Also this week, Romanian prime minister, Viorica Dancila offered her key adviser, Darius Valcov, who is also a former inance minister, a Valentine gift by refusing to sack him after he was given an eight-year prison sentence for corruption and money-laundering. Her argument is that the convict still has room to appeal his sentence. So until he exhausts all his room for appeal, he stays out of jail and remains in government.

As Premier Dancila indicated, a red card does not mean the someone convicted of corruption is out or would automatically go to jail. Where presidents and powerful people are involved, corruption may just well be another political game.

Owei Lakemfa, former Secretary General of African Workers is a Human Rights activist, journalist and author.

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