The scandal had also led to the ouster and imprisonment of the country’s former president, Park Geun-hye, a media reported.
The scandal, involving Park and her long-time friend, Choi Soon-sil, broke out in October 2016.
Park was charged with forcing major corporations, including Samsung, to donate to foundations controlled by Choi, taking bribes and forcing companies to sign contracts beneficial for Choi and her associates.
Last year, Park was sentenced to 25 years in prison, while her friend received a 20-year term.
Lee was arrested on Feb. 17, 2017, over several accusations, including giving a $6.38 million bribe for the equestrian training of Choi’s daughter.
In August 2017, the South Korean court found Lee guilty of embezzlement, bribery and perjury, and sentenced him to five years in jail.
Lee did not plead guilty to the charges brought against him and appealed the court’s decision.
In February 2018, Lee was released from prison after an appeals court in Seoul suspended his bribery sentence.
His sentence was reduced to two and a half years and Lee was released on four-year probation.
The media outlet notes that the Supreme Court is seeking this verdict to be reviewed, as several expensive gifts and donations given by Samsung to Choi’s family in exchange for some preferences can’t be considered to be bribes.
According to the Yonhap News Agency, a scenario in which a jail sentence is imposed may strike a new blow to the country’s largest conglomerate.
The agency stressed that the country is already suffering the consequences of Japan’s ban on selling high-tech materials used in electronic equipment to Seoul.
Martial law in southern Philippines to be lifted at end of 2019
Martial rule in the Philippines’ conflict-wracked southern region will on Tuesday be finally lifted after more than two years it was imposed by President Rodrigo Duterte, his spokesman said.
Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said that the declaration of martial law in the southern region of Mindanao would expire on Dec. 31, but expectedly, Duterte would no longer seek its extension.
“The commander-in-chief made the decision following the assessment of his security and defense advisers of the weakening of the terrorist and extremist rebellion,“ Panelo said.
Duterte first imposed martial rule in Mindanao in May 2017, when Islamic State-allied militants laid siege to Marawi City, triggering a five-month battle that left more than 1,200 dead and displaced over half a million residents.
The declaration was extended three times by Congress upon Duterte’s request to give troops more time to defeat the militants.
Top leaders of the militants, including the reported emir of the terrorist Islamic State in South-East Asia, were killed at the end of the siege, while other militants were captured.
“The government is confident on the capability of our security forces in maintaining the peace and security of Mindanao without extending martial law.
“The people of Mindanao are assured that any incipient major threat in the region would be nipped in the bud,” Panelo said.
Meanwhile, security officials have since been warned that while the leaders of the siege had been neutralised, foreign terrorists have continued to train and operate in Mindanao.
Edited by: Yahaya Isah/Emmanuel Yashim
German machine manufacturers expect slump to continue in 2020
Germany’s machine manufacturing companies on Tuesday expected their slump to continue in 2020 as they end a weak year.
The Mechanical Engineering Industry Association (VDMA) on Tuesday confirmed its forecast that production would again fall by two per cent in real terms in 2020.
The export-oriented key German industry had been affected by the slowdown in the global economy, international trade disputes and structural changes in the car industry.
The VDMA President, Carl Welcker, said at a news conference in Frankfurt, that three developments were largely responsible for the fact that incoming orders and production in 2019 fell well short of the previous year’s level.
According to the VDMA, the first 10 months of 2019, production in the German mechanical engineering sector declined by 1.8 per cent in real terms when compared to the same period in 2018.
Welcker, however, added that other intake fell by 9 per cent.
Our industry is not in a crisis, but many of our customers are uncertain about their prospects and thus are postponing or stopping their investments.
I expect the sector to record a two per cent drop in production this year, down to around 218 billion euros (or 242 billion dollars).
The economic easing that can currently be observed in Germany and on important foreign markets is not much more than an end to the downward process.
“It is too early to give the all-clear because the global economic development is still burdened by a high degree of uncertainty,” Welcker said, noting that a rapid improvement was not in sight.
Edited by: Yahaya Isah/Emmanuel Yashim
Australia launches review of foreign aid priorities
Australian ministers on Tuesday announced that Dennis Richardson, former head of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO), would lead a review of the country’s international development policy priorities.
Foreign Minister Marise Payne and Alex Hawke, the Minister for International Development and the Pacific made the announcement as the government launched a review of its foreign aid priorities.
They said the new policy would guide the country’s support for a secure, stable, prosperous and resilient Indo-Pacific.
Australia’s aid budget has been cut by 27 per cent to four billion Australian dollars (2.73 billion U.S. dollars) since the coalition was elected to govern in 2013.
Payne said the new policy would reflect Australian values, including its commitment to human dignity, gender equality, and inclusive development.
“the policy will reflect on our commitment to poverty reduction and helping those impacted by natural and man-made disasters.’’
According to an analysis by the Lowy Institute, a leading think tank, Australia’s foreign aid budget will be among the lowest of the 32 countries in the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development by the year 2020/2021.
Edited by: Hadiza Mohammed/Emmanuel Yashim
Greece turns to UN, EU over Turkey-Libya maritime deal
Greece on Tuesday has formally informed the UN that in its view, the Turkey-Libya deal on maritime boundaries in the Mediterranean Sea was invalid, government spokesman Stelios Petsas said.
Petsas said that Letters detailing the position were sent to the UN Security Council and the Secretary-General.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said his intentions were to include the issue on the agenda of the EU summit on Friday and seek support from member countries.
The latest steps were set to raise tensions in the eastern Mediterranean by another notch. However, Greece had already expelled the Libyan ambassador to Athens over the issue.
Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said sometimes ago that Athens insisted that the deal on maritime boundaries Turkey signed with Libya was to protect their rights in the eastern Mediterranean.
He said that the deal was under international law and would ensure a fair share of resources.
The deal comes amid Turkish offshore drilling activities near Cyprus which angered the EU and Greek Cypriots on the divided island, further straining traditionally poor relations between Ankara and Athens.
Cyprus, which joined the EU in 2004, considered the drill area to be part of its exclusive economic zone.
However, Ankara maintained that its gas exploration was in line with international law.
The island-state had, since 1974, been split into a predominantly Greek south and a Turkish north, whose sovereignty is recognised only by Ankara.
Edited by: Yahaya Isah/Emmanuel Yashim
Saudi King urges coordinated efforts against Iran at GCC summit
Saudi King Salman, on Tuesday, urged his Gulf neighbours to work together against the kingdom’s regional rival, Iran during the opening session of a regional annual summit in Riyadh.
“Our region today is facing challenges that require combined efforts to confront, as the Iranian regime continues its hostile actions to undermine security, stability and support terrorism,’’ Salman said.
The 40th summit of the six-country Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) was held in 2019, after several attacks in the Gulf region, which Riyadh and its allies blamed on Iran.
The summit also comes amid a possible rapprochement between Saudi Arabia and Qatar since a regional dispute erupted in 2017, when a Saudi-led quartet cut ties with Qatar, demanding it downgrades ties with Iran.
This, Salman said, was rejected out rightly by Doha.
Edited by: Yahaya Isah/Abdulfatah Babatunde
Cameroon publishes provisional lists for general elections
Cameroon’s electoral body, Elections Cameroon (Elecam)has published the provisional lists of political parties to run for legislative and municipal elections scheduled for 2020.
According to a statement of Elecam on Tuesday, a total of 470 candidate lists were submitted by 35 political parties, 451 lists have been accepted.
Candidates of the ruling party, Cameroon People’s Democratic Movement (CPDM), are reported to be running unchallenged in 17 constituencies.
Specifically, in the Centre region where the capital Yaounde is located, CPDM runs solely in 7 out of 11 constituencies.
In the troubled Anglophone regions where a separatist conflict is ongoing, mostly CPDM, and Social Democratic Front (SDF), a major opposition party deeply rooted in the English-speaking part of the country, will take part in the elections.
Another major opposition party Cameroon Renaissance Movement (CRM) did not show in the provisional lists.
According to Cameroon’s electoral code, these provisional lists are subject to appeal before the Constitutional Council.
The twin elections will take place on February 9 2020 amid threats by separatists to disrupt the elections in the two troubled English-speaking regions.
Government has assured hitch-free elections nationwide, stressing that “all necessary security measures’’ shall be taken to ensure that the elections take place peacefully.
Edited by: Hadiza Mohammed/Ali Baba-Inuwa
Algerian court convicts 2 former prime ministers of corruption
An Algerian court has convicted two former Algerian prime ministers and other senior officials to prison in a corruption case.
Ahmed Ouyahia was sentenced to 15 years and Abdelmalek Sellal to 12 years in prison on charges of squandering public funds and abusing authority in a case related to car assembly plants.
Both premiers served under longtime president Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who was forced to step down in April in the wake of nationwide protests and pressure from the country’s powerful military.
The Sidi M’hamed Court in the capital Algiers also sentenced former industry minister Abdeslam Bouchouareb, who is on the run, to 20 years in prison in absentia.
Two former industry ministers, Youcef Yousfi and Mahdjoub Bedda, were handed 10 years in prison each in the same case.
A former governor of Boumerdes Province was sentenced to five years in prison, while eight businessmen were handed jail terms ranging between two to seven years.
Former transport and public works minister Abdelghani Zaalane was acquitted.
The verdicts can be appealed.
Bouteflika, now aged 82, ruled energy-rich Algeria for two decades, an era that was dominated by cronyism and mismanagement.
The verdicts come ahead of a presidential election on Thursday, which demonstrators say will not be fair because some of Bouteflika’s allies are still in power. The army has said the vote will be fair and is the only way out of the crisis.
Abboud noted the verdicts and sentences were announced just before the vote.
It’s about how the same system that created these judges who are pronouncing these sentences is the same system that created how these ministers were holding power allegedly and misusing public funds allegedly,” he said.
The court in Algiers also handed 10-year prison terms to two former industry ministers, and sentences ranging from three to seven years to five prominent businessmen.
Many former senior officials have been in detention as the army seeks to quell mass protests over corruption and demands to remove those guilty in the ruling elite.
In all, 19 defendants – two former prime ministers, other prominent former politicians and car industry tycoons – face charges ranging from money laundering to abuse of office and granting undue privileges.
The proceedings have been dominated by accusations of illegal funding during Bouteflika’s last election campaign this year.
The prosecutor on Sunday said the campaign had caused a loss to the public treasury estimated at $920m.
Ouyahia and Sellal, and the other main defendants, denied the accusations against them.
Sellal broke down on Sunday, swearing he had “not betrayed the country”.
Among the businessmen jailed was Ali Haddad, a former chief of Algeria’s largest business association, who was imprisoned for seven years.
Former transport minister Abdelghani Zaalane was the only defendant acquitted.
The court also issued a 20-year prison sentence in absentia to former industry minister Abdesslam Bouchouareb, who is abroad. An international arrest warrant has been issued by the same court.
Edited by: Emmanuel Yashim
Afghanistan heads towards self-sufficiency in rice production – ministry
Ministry for Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock (MAIL) on Tuesday said Afghanistan is moving towards achieving self-sufficiency in rice production as 66 per cent of rice has been produced inside the country.
According to a statement, the insurgency battered-country produced over 383,000 tons of rice in 2019, up to nine per cent increase, compared to 2018.
“The country has now become self-sufficient by 66 per cent in rice production in 2019 as a result of using improved seeds, modern machinery, providing technical assistance to farmers by government and the favourable weather,’’ the statement read.
A survey, jointly conducted by the Central Statistics Office and MAIL, indicates a sharp increase in paddy cultivation in the country.
The total amount of rice-fields in 18 out of the country’s 34 provinces has increased from 116,000 hectares in 2018 to 128,000 hectares 2019.
Afghanistan usually imports 588,000 tons of rice yearly, and with the noticeable growth in rice production, the country has become self-sufficient in 2019.
Therefore, the rice import would fall to enable the country to earn $65 million in 2019.
Rice and wheat flour are two main food sources in Afghanistan.
For the Afghan citizens, the bumper harvest in the rice production is a rare piece of good news in a country critically affected by drought, conflict and high food prices and where millions of people are pushed into food insecurity.
Edited by: Hadiza Mohammed/Abdulfatah Babatunde
Western Australia legalises voluntary-assisted dying
Western Australia has voted to legalise voluntary-assisted dying, becoming the second jurisdiction in the country to do so.
Western Australian (WA) Premier Mark McGowan made this known on Tuesday after the historic vote.
He said: “Today we showed that at least in Western Australia, we can do big things.
And in this parliament we have big, compassionate hearts and we’re willing to take some political risks to do the right thing.
The upper house of the state parliament last week passed the Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill after 55 amendments to the initial version of the bill introduced by the centre-left Labor government.
The bill returned to the lower house and the amendments were ratified late Tuesday after an emotional and lengthy debate. After the laws passed, WA state lawmakers exchanged hugs as the visitors in the public gallery applauded.
Western Australia’s introduction of euthanasia laws follows the historic introduction of voluntary assisted dying in Victoria in 2017.
After an 18-month implementation period, the option for terminally ill patients to end their lives with a lethal combination of medication has been available in Victoria since June.
And to reflect that we’ve chosen compassion and the right to choose,” Roger Cook, the state’s health minister who oversaw the bill’s introduction, said in the parliament in Perth.
Like Victoria, there will be an 18 months of “implementation period,” when authorities will work out the details on how the scheme will exactly operate, until the law comes into effect.
Edited by: Emmanuel Yashim
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