NAIROBI/MORONI (Reuters) – A programme to sell Comoros Islands citizenship to fund development resulted in thousands of passports being sold outside official channels via “mafia” networks and up to $100 million of revenues went missing, according to a report by the small Indian Ocean state’s parliament.
The report, produced by a parliamentary commission set up in June 2017 to investigate the citizenship programme, also said former presidents Ahmed Abdallah Mohamed Sambi and Ikililou Dhoinine, who were in power when the alleged abuses took place, were “suspected of the embezzlement of public funds.”
The programme was flawed from its inception and the current Comoros government should seek international help to recover the missing funds and take officials involved to court, the report concluded.
In a video posted on Facebook, Sambi rejected all accusations against him, saying they had been fabricated to discredit him. He didn’t respond to a request for further comment.
Ikililou told Reuters by telephone that he could not comment on the report as he had not read it yet. Both men have previously said they believed the scheme would help develop the country, an archipelago off the east coast of Africa.
The CEO of Phantom Secure was indicted on March 15, along with four associates, following allegations that the Canada-based company had sold “tens of millions of dollars” in altered BlackBerry phones to international drug cartels, reports indicate.
Last week, the Department of Justice apprehended Vincent Ramos in Seattle. He and his associates are charged with racketeering and conspiracy to facilitate drug distribution, crimes that have a penalty of prison for life, the BBC reported. This is the first time U.S. officials have targeted a company for knowingly encrypting technology for outlaws in order to evade law enforcement and obstruct justice, the Justice Department said.
“With one American dying of a drug overdose every nine minutes, our great nation is suffering the deadliest drug epidemic in our history,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a statement. “Incredibly, some have sought to profit off of this crisis, including by specifically taking advantage of encryption technologies to further criminal activity, and to obstruct, impede, and evade law enforcement, as this case illustrates.”
The 52-year-old had things to do and people to see, so he just phoned in his plea
France announced plans to make 15 the legal age of consent for sex after high-profile cases including those of two men who escaped rape charges for having sex with 11-year-old girls caused national outrage.
Equality Minister Marlene Schiappa told the AFP news agency Monday that “the government has decided to set the age at 15” following public consultations and recommendations from a panel of experts.
The legislation, which will be presented to lawmakers for approval later this month, is part of a slew of government measures to tackle sexual violence, gender-based discrimination and harassment.
Adults can be charged with groping and sentenced to a maximum of five years in prison if they’re found guilty of abusing a child under 15. The more serious charge of aggravated sexual assault or rape of a child carries a sentence of up to 20 years — but coercion or violence must be proven.