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Goldman Sachs Banker Jailed in Nigerian Corruption Case

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Pius Utomi Ekpei, AFP/Getty ImagesFormer governor of oil-rich Delta State James Ibori raises his hand to acknowledge his supporters after leaving a courtroom in 2009.
By Estelle Shirbon

LONDON -- Former Goldman Sachs banker Elias Preko was sentenced to 4½ years in prison by a London court Monday for laundering $5 million on behalf of James Ibori, the former governor of Nigeria's oil-producing state of Delta.

Ibori is serving 13 years in a British jail after pleading guilty last year to 10 counts of fraud and money laundering. He is the most senior Nigerian politician to be held to account for the corruption that has blighted Africa's most populous country and top oil producer, where the case is being closely watched.

Harvard graduate Preko, 54, became the fifth of Ibori's associates to be jailed for assisting his corruption after the ex-governor's wife, mistress, sister and lawyer were all convicted by British courts in previous trials.

The cases have been tried in London because some of the money was laundered in Britain and some of the defendants were based there. Attempts by Nigeria's own anti-corruption agency to prosecute Ibori, dating back to 2007, have foundered.

A jury at London's Southwark Crown Court unanimously convicted Preko, a Ghanaian national, of two offenses of money laundering between March 2003 and April 2008 when he was arrested.

He was charged with assisting Ibori in channeling stolen money through a web of offshore trusts and shell companies.

Preko had left Goldman Sachs (GS) before he committed the offenses and the bank isn't accused of any wrongdoing. The court heard Preko tried to open accounts on Ibori's behalf when he still worked there but this wasn't authorized by the bank.

The Delta governor from 1999 to 2007, Ibori was in his heyday a power broker at the heart of Nigeria's ruling party. After he left office and lost immunity from prosecution his fortunes ebbed and flowed according to political developments in Abuja until he was extradited from Dubai to Britain in 2011.

'Amounts Beyond Belief'

"The evidence against you in this case was very clear. You knew what Mr. Ibori was doing and you were actively assisting him," Judge Anthony Pitts told Preko in his sentencing remarks.

"You are a man of considerable ability and intelligence,
highly educated, capable of making lots of money perfectly legitimately."

The court had heard that in a decade at Goldman Sachs, where he was in charge of private clients in sub-Saharan Africa, Preko had made $12 million in salary and received a severance payment of $3 million when he left the bank.

"You had the ability to walk away [from Ibori]. You chose to involve yourself with him as a professional man, against the code of upstanding conduct for men in your position," Pitts said.

The judge noted that the sums Preko had helped launder were "relatively small amounts in a case where the amounts are almost beyond belief".

Ibori's total fortune isn't known. During his sentencing in April 2012 Pitts put the amount of stolen money covered by his guilty pleas at 50 million pounds ($82 million) but said this may be a "ludicrously low" fraction of his total booty.

In a three-week hearing this year prosecutors sought a court order for the confiscation of 90 million pounds in assets that they said were the proceeds of Ibori's crimes, but the hearing ended inconclusively and will restart next year.


 

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U.S. Stocks Close to Scoring 'Perfect 10' for 2013

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Jin Lee/Bloomberg via Getty Images
By STEVE ROTHWELL

NEW YORK -- The stock market is poised for a "Perfect 10."

As stocks surge this year, putting them on course for their best annual performance in a decade, all 10 industry groups in the Standard & Poor's 500 index (^GPSC) are closing in on gains of 10 percent or more for 2013.

That hasn't happened in almost two decades.

The last year that all 10 industry groups in the S&P 500 closed the year higher by 10 percent or more was in 1995, when the overall index rose 31 percent. There have been several years of big yearly gains since, but none that have seen all the sectors notch double-digit jumps.

The S&P 500 gained 26 percent in 1998, but materials and energy stocks fell. The broader index advanced 26 percent in 2003 but phone companies and makers of consumer staples fell short of the 10 percent hurdle.

The reason for the broad gains this year? It's the first time since the Great Recession that investors are starting to believe that the economic recovery, while tepid, is sustainable, says Natalie Trunow, chief investment officer at Calvert Investments, an investment manager.

The housing market is recovering,
hiring has picked up and people are less scared of losing their jobs. That has helped boost consumer confidence and support spending.

"Only 12 months ago, the markets were not convinced that we were in recovery mode," says Trunow, who notes there were fears the economy could slide back into recession as recently as last summer.

Here are the 10 industry groups in the S&P 500 index, which is up 26 percent so far in 2013. Here's how each sector has performed:

Health Care: Some stocks in this sector offer the prospect of explosive growth because of new drugs, or medical devices. Other more established names like Pfizer tempt investors with attractive dividend yields. Health insurers have also done well as the Affordable Health Care Act rolls out.
  • This year's gain: 36 percent.
Consumer Discretionary: Retailers and other consumer services have surged this year, boosted by two of the stock market's star performers. Netflix has notched the biggest gain of 275 percent, driven by earnings and subscriber growth. Best Buy has jumped 230 percent as it stabilizes earnings.
  • This year's gain: 36 percent.
Industrials: Delta Air Lines and Southwest Airlines are among the biggest gainers in this sector. Airlines tend to do well when the economy is improving as people travel more for business and leisure. Investors are also optimistic that industrial companies will benefit from an improving economy.
  • This year's gain: 31 percent.
Financials: Banks, insurers and other financial stocks have gained on optimism that the industry is healing after the financial crisis and the Great Recession. A recovering housing market is also helping. Genworth Financial, an insurance company, is the biggest gainer among financial stocks, surging 102 percent as its U.S. residential mortgages business recovers.
  • This year's gain: 30 percent.
Consumer Staples: Makers of essential, everyday products might not offer the most exciting growth prospects, but they pay a healthy dividend. Companies like Procter & Gamble are particularly attractive to investors as the yields on Treasury notes remain close to record lows.
  • This year's gain: 22 percent.
Energy: U.S. oil prices rose and U.S.-based drillers increased production dramatically, helping push domestic production to the highest level in more than two decades. This boosted the revenue and profits for some companies in the industry. Natural gas producers got a lift as prices rose from the 20-year lows they hit in 2012.
  • This year's gain: 20 percent.
Information Technology: Big things were expected from the technology industry at the start of the year. Corporations were supposed to invest in technology to boost productivity. It hasn't happened to the degree investors hoped. The sector has lagged the market. The biggest gainer in the index is chipmaker Micron, which surged 212 percent as demand for its products rose.
  • This year's gain: 19 percent.
Materials: Sealed Air, which makes Bubble Wrap and other types of packaging, leads gains for the sector. The company's stock has risen 83 percent after returning to profitability. Owens-Illinois, a maker of glass containers for beer, liquor and other beverages, has also posted strong gains as its earnings improve.
  • This year's gain: 18 percent.
Utilities: Power companies are seen as safe and steady. They might not offer good growth prospects, but everybody needs power, and these companies pay a healthy dividend, which is important for investors seeking income.
  • This year's gain: 10 percent.
Telecommunications: Phone companies could keep the S&P 500 from its "Perfect 10" status. They are the laggards in the index and the only group falling short of 10 percent gains. These companies are viewed in a similar light to power companies. Demand is steady, but growth prospects are limited. The compensation for investors for holding these stocks is a big dividend payment.
  • This year's gain: 8 percent.

 

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