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EU commences phased boycott of Russian crude oil.

Russian Crude

The European Commission has formally drafted a long-awaited ban on Russian crude oil imports, according to the Wall Street Journal, and it circulated the details to EU member states on Tuesday.

If adopted, the measure would force Russia to sell its oil at a discount to faraway buyers, like refiners in India and China.

The proposed text would require most EU member states to phase out Russian crude imports within six months and all Russian refined products within the year, officials told the paper.

The plan contains a 20-month extension for Hungary and Slovakia, which both rely heavily on Russian crude oil supplies.

All 27 EU member states must agree to the plan in order for it to be enacted.

The government of Hungarian President Viktor Orban has been vocal in its objections to the idea of a Russian crude oil ban, and the carveout would allow Hungary to continue to source Russian oil for the foreseeable future.

In addition to a ban on Russian oil, the sixth round of sanctions will also remove additional Russian banks from the SWIFT financial messaging system and list Russian “disinformation actors,” according to EC foreign affairs commissioner Josep Borrell.

The possibility of an outright ban on Russian oil reflects significant efforts by EU member states and oil refiners to find alternate sources of crude.

 Germany, which once sourced about one-third of its oil from Russia, now expects to fully transition to other suppliers by the end of the summer.

It may also accelerate a trend of “self-sanctioning” by Western oil traders, who have already begun limiting their exposure to Russian crude because of the perceived risks.

 If these barrels are locked out of the market in Europe and North America, they will have to be sold for less to buyers in India, China and elsewhere – but the obstacles are significant.
According to Bloomberg, the options for financing and insuring Russian oil are getting slimmer, and Asian buyers are demanding steep discounts to cover the inconvenience.

Assuming that Russia can find alternate markets to absorb production, tanker owners could be up for a windfall with the reshuffling of the oil trade.

With fewer short-haul shipments running between Russia and Europe, tonne-mile demand for long-haul transport of oil could rise.
 In addition, Western sanctions on Russian shipping have restricted the trading patterns and insurance options for Russian tanker companies, creating more opportunity for their foreign competitors, according to shipbroker Gibson.

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Foreign

US court jails Gov. Abiodun’s ex-aide, Rufai

 

The Eyewitness reporter
A former Nigerian government official was sentenced Monday to five years in prison for stealing more than $500,000 in pandemic relief benefits in the United States.

Abidemi Rufai, a former side to Ogun State Governor, Dapo Abiodun, was wearing a $10,000 watch and $35,000 gold chain when he was arrested at JFK International Airport in New York on his way to Nigeria in May 2021.

Rufai pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Tacoma, Washington, in May to wire fraud and aggravated identity theft charges, and Judge Benjamin Settle issued the sentence Monday. The judge also ordered Rufai to pay more than $600,000 in restitution.

Prosecutors said the 45-year-old had a history of defrauding the U.S. government, including using stolen identities to file for emergency relief after hurricanes in Texas and Florida.

“When disaster struck, so did Mr. Rufai,” Seattle U.S. Attorney Nick Brown said in a news release. “Whether it was hurricane disaster relief, small business loans, or COVID unemployment benefits, he stole aid that should have gone to disaster victims in the United States.”

Such fraud was rampant in pandemic relief programs, according to the U.S. Labor Department’s inspector general, who said last week that $45.6 billion may have been paid out improperly in unemployment insurance from March 2020 to April 2022.

The Justice Department filed charges against dozens of people in Minnesota last week in connection with a $250 million fraud scheme that exploited a federally funded child nutrition program during the pandemic.

Rufai, of Lekki, Nigeria, has a master’s degree and is politically connected in his home country, prosecutors said. He had purported to run a sports betting company since 2016, his finances were opaque and his main source of income apparently was defrauding the U.S. government.

He was known as a prolific political fundraiser, and in 2019, he ran unsuccessfully for Nigeria’s National Assembly, Assistant U.S. Attorneys Cindy Chang and Seth Wilkinson wrote in a sentencing memo.

Between April and October 2020, he use a cache of stolen identities — investigators found more than 20,000 of them, with birthdates and social security numbers in one of his email accounts — to file for pandemic-related benefits. He applied with the workforce agencies of at least nine states, including Washington’s Employment Security Department, in the names of at least 224 Americans.

Just after returning to Nigeria in August 2020, Rufai was appointed as a special aide to the governor of Nigeria’s Ogun State. He was featured in news magazines, photographed with a luxury Mercedes sport-utility vehicle he had purchased with stolen funds and had shipped to Nigeria.

Rufai later returned to the U.S., and on May 15, 2021 — just a day after prosecutors filed an amended complaint against him — he was arrested trying to leave the country on a business class flight. In recorded phone conversations from jail he discussed moving a large amount of money immediately following his arrest, prosecutors said.

Rufai apologized in a letter to the court, saying “my actions are outrageous and inexcusable.” He blamed them on gambling addiction and pressure to provide for his wife and children.

“Your honor, I am now a rehabilitated man that is ready to live a crime-free life and also be a responsible man to my family and my community as a whole,” he wrote.

The defense requested a 2.5-year sentence, citing letters from supporters who wrote that Rufai had a charitable foundation that helped pay educational fees for primary students. The Justice Department sought nearly six years, saying a longer term was necessary in part to deter others who might commit similar crimes.

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Foreign

2,044  stranded Nigerians repatriated  from Libya in 8 Months – NEMA

Director General of NEMA, Mustapha Habib Ahmed
…as 174 stranded Nigerians arrive Lagos 

Eyewitness reporter

The National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), said it has repatriated 2,044 Nigerians stranded in the crisis-ridden North African country, Libya into the country.

This was disclosed by the Director General of NEMA, Mustapha Habib Ahmed, against the backdrop of fresh 174 stranded Nigerians brought back into the country from Libya at the Cargo wing of Muritala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos, on Tuesday.

It could be recalled that the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), in collaboration with the European Union (EU) has been repatriating thousands of stranded Nigerians from various countries since 2017 through a Special Assisted Voluntary Repatriation Programme (SAVP).

The NEMA DG, who was represented by the Lagos territorial office coordinator, Ibrahim Farinloye, said in 2022, the agency received 12 flights, with 2,044 Nigerians that are stranded in Libya, but assisted back into the country.

Giving details of the repatriated Nigerians, he said, “Out of those brought back are, 848 male adults, 719 female adults, 180 children and 123 infants.

He continued, “the aircraft landed at the cargo Wing of the Murtala Muhammad International Airport at about 1535 hours.
“The profiles of the returnees show that 69 female adults; five female children and 10 female infants were brought back.”
“Also aboard the flight are 75 male adults, 12 male children and three male infants. Among the returnees are 23 with minor medical cases.”

Agencies present to receive the returnees are, the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS); the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN); the Refugee Commission, the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP), the Federal Ministry of Health and the Nigeria Police Force (NPF).

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Foreign

EU freezes Russian oligarchs’ assets worth over 10 billion Euro  (Rs82K crore )

Russian President Vladimir Putin

In retaliation to the Russian military offensive against Ukraine, the European Union has blocked the assets of Russian oligarchs worth nearly €10 billion (over Rs 82K crore) as part of sanctions, TASS reported.

Further, another set of frozen assets was reported in the month of April.

As the war in Ukraine has reached its 91st day, the EU has provided billions of euros in military aid to war-torn Ukraine to fight against Russia’s unjustified invasion, further imposing severe sanctions on Moscow.

Earlier in April, the European Union had frozen about €30 billion (Rs 2,48,418 crore) in assets of Russian and Belarusian oligarchs and businesses.

 This came on April 8, when European Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders presided over the fifth meeting of the EU’s Freeze and Seize Task Force, which included members from the United States and Ukraine.

Assets worth €29.5 billion have been frozen, and transactions worth €196 billion have been banned, according to the EU statement.

 Didier Reynders had deemed it essential for the EU and its foreign allies so that they can step up their efforts to cease supporting Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war machine.
He emphasised that, in addition to implementing punishments, it is also necessary to track their progress.
He urged all members to take the necessary steps to implement the sanctions on Russia.

Josep Borrell has also recommended taking frozen Russian foreign exchange assets to reconstruct Ukraine.

Apart from this, to fund the costs of reconstructing the war-torn country, the European Union’s top official had recommended taking frozen Russian foreign exchange assets.
 Josep Borrell, the EU’s high representative for foreign policy, spoke to the Financial Times on May 8 about how the US used Afghanistan’s blocked funds to pay compensation to terrorism victims and to provide humanitarian help to the country.
He emphasised that using Russian funds to restore a country devastated by conflict makes sense.
According to the Financial Times report, EU authorities are looking into whether Russian reserves may be redirected towards Ukraine’s building.

Meanwhile, the European Union has approved a 500 million euro military aid tranche for Ukraine.

 After the approval of three tranches of military assistance totaling 1.5 billion euros this year, the fourth tranche would add 500 million euros to financing previously assigned to Ukraine underneath the European Peace Facility (EPF), bringing the total amount to 2 billion euros, according to a statement released by the European Council on Tuesday.

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