Saturday, April 21, 2018

United States Suspends Export Privileges To Chinese Firm

FILE COPY United States’ President, Donald Trump speaks at the White House Opioid Summit in the East Room of the White House in Washington, DC. Credit: MANDEL NGAN / AFP
 
United States’ authorities issued an order Monday barring US exports of sensitive technology to Chinese telecom giant ZTE because of false statements made during an investigation into its illegal sale of goods to Iran and North Korea.
The company pleaded guilty in March 2017 to unlawful exports and was hit with $1.2 billion in fines, the largest criminal penalty in US history in an export control case.
ZTE pleaded guilty to conspiring to unlawfully export, obstruction of justice and making a false statement.
But Commerce Department investigators said the company made additional false statements multiple times about having taken actions against the employees responsible when they had not.
“ZTE made false statements to the US Government when they were originally caught and … made false statements during the reprieve it was given, and made false statements again during its probation,” Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said in a statement.
These false statements covered up the fact that ZTE paid full bonuses to employees that had engaged in illegal conduct, and failed to issue letters of reprimand.
“ZTE misled the Department of Commerce. Instead of reprimanding ZTE staff and senior management, ZTE rewarded them. This egregious behavior cannot be ignored,” Ross said.
A senior official told reporters the department suspended export privileges for ZTE, meaning it can no longer receive US components to incorporate into their products “to prevent them from furthering their illegal activities.”
The official said there is no “off-ramp” for the company to seek a reversal of the blockade.
The five-year US government investigation into ZTE’s actions was first revealed in March 2016.
From January 2010 to March 2016, the company shipped $32 million in US cellular network equipment to Iran, and made 283 shipments of cell phones to North Korea, with the full knowledge of the highest levels of company management, officials said.
ZTE used third-party companies to hide the export of US components to the sanctioned countries and then hid the information by “sanitizing databases” with information on the sales. It deleted emails from employees involved in the scrubbing of records, and required employees with information about the illegal exports to sign non-disclosure agreements.
AFP
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Shippers’ Council Partners Oyo Govt To Set Up $200m Modern Dry Port

 
The Nigerian Shippers’ Council has partnered with the Oyo State Government to establish a $200m modern dry port, as well as a truck transit park in the state.
This is in collaboration with some Chinese investors.
The secretary and executive officer of the council, Hassan Bello said this over the weekend, during his visit to Governor Abiola Ajimobi, in his office in Ibadan.
“We are here because Oyo State is critical to development in transportation in Nigeria. Since 2006 the Federal Government had taken a decision to establish an inland port in the six geopolitical zones of the country, of which Oyo State is important. We have others in Abia, Jos, Kano, Maiduguri and Funtua.
READ ALSO: Adeosun Appoints Mary Uduk As Acting SEC DG
“Because of the strategic importance of Ibadan, we have had inquiries from a serious Chinese investor for the project. Five days ago we signed a Memorandum of Understanding to develop this very important Ibadan dry port project.
“What we are looking for from the state government is to have, along the railway line that is currently ongoing, a 60,000 hectares of land to develop a modern dry port, while the transport transit park will require 35,000 hectares of land,” Bello said.
Enumerating the advantages of the modern dry port project, he said it would provide job opportunity for 10,000 people, adding that the truck transits park would equally generate 25,000 jobs.
Bello said that the project was heavily dependent on the ongoing Lagos-Kano rail project, which would decongest the heavy traffic on road transportation of goods from the Lagos port to the rest of the country.
He disclosed that the proposed park alone would gulp N4.8billion, through the Public-Private-Partnership (PPP).
When completed, he said that the park would have hotels, motels, resident doctors, restaurants, shopping mall, commercial banks, among other facilities for the convenience of transporters.
In his response, the governor promised the support of the administration and called on the council to hasten the paper works required for the project to commence soonest.
The governor said that the projects would cause a remarkable reduction in road carnage, improvement in economic activities and maximization of employment opportunities, but called for strict enforcement of rules guiding parking of trucks on completion of the park.
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US Adds India To Currency Watch List With China

A close-up shot of a dollar bill. Photo: ATTA KENARE / AFP
 
The US Treasury added India to its watch list of countries with potentially questionable foreign exchange policies, joining China and four others, according to a report issued Friday.
Treasury said the “monitoring list” includes those “major trading partners that merit close attention to their currency practices.”
In addition to India, the semi-annual report to Congress names five countries that continue on the list from October: China, Germany, Japan, Korea and Switzerland.
Countries remain on the list for two report cycles “to help ensure that any improvement in performance versus the criteria is durable and is not due to temporary factors.”
While no major trading partner was found to be manipulating its currency, five of those on the list meet two of the three criteria, while China is included because “it constitutes a disproportionate share of the overall US trade deficit.”
The US has a deficit of $337 billion with China of a total global trade deficit of $566 billion, according to government data.
“We will continue to monitor and combat unfair currency practices, while encouraging policies and reforms to address large trade imbalances,” US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement.
The Treasury report is required by Congress to identify countries that are trying to artificially manage the value of their currency to gain a trade advantage, for example by keeping the exchange rate low to promote cheaper exports.
The report said India, which has a $23 billion trade surplus with the United States, “increased its purchases of foreign exchange over the first three quarters of 2017,” although the rupee still rose in value.
And while China — which is at the center of a brewing trade dispute with Washington — remained on the watch list, Treasury said “the Chinese currency generally moved against the dollar in a direction that should” help reduce China’s trade surplus with the United States.
Germany also remained on the watch list, even though it is part of the European currency union, which means it cannot independently control the exchange rate for the euro.
Even so, the report notes that Germany “has the world’s largest current account surplus” and has made “little to no progress in reducing this massive surplus the past three years.”
Treasury called for all the countries on the list to implement economic reforms to address their surpluses.
AFP
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BREAKING: Adeosun Reassigns Portfolios In SEC

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The Minister of Finance, Mrs Kemi Adeosun, has approved the reassignment of portfolios in the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).
Special Adviser on Media and Communications to the minister, Mr Oluyinka Akintunde, revealed this in a statement on Friday in Abuja.
More to follow…
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Panama Papers’ Law Firm Shuts Down Operations

File photo of foreign currency to illustrate the story.
The law firm at the heart of the “Panama Papers” global tax evasion scandal that brought down two world leaders announced Wednesday it would shut down operations, citing negative press and what it called unwarranted action by authorities.
“Reputational deterioration, the media campaign, the financial consequences and irregular actions by some Panamanian authorities have caused irreparable damage, resulting in the total ceasing of public operations at the end of this month,” Mossack Fonseca said in a statement.
But it added a smaller group would continue working to address requests from authorities and other public and private groups.
Last August, co-founder Jurgen Mossack acknowledged the firm had closed most of its offices abroad after its damaged credibility caused business to flounder.
April 3, 2016 marked the beginning of the “Panama Papers” scandal — a leak of 11.5 million files from Mossack Fonseca’s digital archive that revealed how wealthy and influential figures across the world had created offshore businesses to safeguard assets.
The information was obtained by German newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung, who shared it with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists. It was released as a searchable database, with revelations continuing to be unearthed to this day.
Icelandic prime minister Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson was forced to resign after it was revealed his family had offshore accounts — while former Pakistani prime minister Nawaz Sharif was disqualified for life from office after being implicated in the documents.
Other figures implicated included former British premier David Cameron, football star Lionel Messi, Argentina’s President Mauricio Macri, Spanish filmmaker Pedro Almodovar, to name but a few.
At least 150 investigations were opened in 79 countries to examine possible tax evasion and money laundering, according to the US-based Center for Public Integrity.
AFP
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FG Committed To Prosperity Of Nigerians, Says Osinbajo

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Vice President Yemi Osinbajo says the Federal Government remains committed to delivering a lasting prosperity to all Nigerians.
Professor Osinbajo said this on Thursday at a Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) clinic in Onitsha, the commercial capital of Anambra State.
As part of efforts to diversify the economy, he said the Federal Government was enhancing the efforts of the state governments to improve the living standard of the people.
“In the past three years, we have demonstrated an abiding commitment to facilitating genuine efforts by all states of the Federation to attract investment to diversify the economic base and deliver lasting prosperity to their people.
“So, the holding of this MSME clinic here today is a further demonstration of that commitment,” he said.
The vice president added that the Federal Government was committed to working with Anambra to create a better life for those who live, work, and carry out their businesses in the state.
He described the state as the home of the nation’s commerce, saying the Onitsha market has been legendary for a very long time giving its size and its vibrancy.
Osinbajo, however, decried that MSMEs have been neglected in the country over the years, as a result of competing priorities and the tendency to discount the real contributions of the sector to the nation’s economy.
He stressed that while MSMEs are seen to be small, together they account for about 50 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and more than 80 per cent of the Nigerian labour force.
The vice president noted further that they are of decisive importance in the economy as it has become inevitable for government to look inwards to grow what Nigerians eat and consume what they make.
He explained that the MSMEs clinics were conceived in this context and were designed to bring regulatory agencies whose work affects the business experience of small businesses nearer to them.
Professor Osinbajo also revealed that the partnership between the Federal Government and Anambra is not limited to national MSMEs clinic, but also extended to other areas such as the home-grown school feeding programme.
He said both governments are already feeding more than 103,000 pupils and engaging about 1,004 cooks in several schools of at least 1,600 across the state.
The event was also attended by the state governor, Willie Obiano; the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige; and the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment Dr Okechukwu Enelamah, among other dignitaries.
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Inflation Rate Drops For 14th Consecutive Time

A file photo taken at a food market
 
The Nigerian economy has recorded a drop in the inflation rate for the 14th consecutive time since January 2017, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) said.
According to the latest figures released on Thursday by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), the Consumer Price Index (CPI) which measures inflation increased by 13.34 per cent (year-on-year) in March 2018.
“This fourteenth consecutive disinflation since January 2017 is 0.99 percent points less than the rate recorded in February 2018 (14.33) percent. Increases were recorded in all COICOP divisions that yield the Headline Index,” the statistics agency said in its report.
According to them, on a month-on-month basis, the headline index increased by 0.84 per cent in March 2018, up by 0.05 percent points from the rate recorded in February.
The NBS revealed further that the percentage change in the average composite CPI for the twelve-month period, ending March 2018 over the average of the CPI for the previous twelve month period, was 15.60 percent, showing 0.33 percent point lower from 15.93 percent recorded in February 2018.
The urban inflation rate also eased by 13.75 per cent (year-on-year) in March 2018 from 14.76 per cent recorded in February, while the rural inflation rate eased by 12.99 per cent in March 2018 from 13.96 percent in February.
The latest data shows that on a month-on-month basis, the urban index rose by 0.86 per cent in March 2018, up by 0.04 from 0.82 per cent recorded in February, while the rural index also rose by 0.82 per cent in March 2018, up by 0.05 from 0.77 percent recorded in February.
The corresponding twelve-month year-on-year average percentage change for the urban index is 15.87 percent in March 2018.
NBS noted that this is less than the 16.24 per cent reported in February, while the corresponding rural inflation rate in March 2018 is 15.34 percent compared to 15.64 percent recorded in February.
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Hiding Monies Overseas Must Stop, Buhari Warns Nigerians

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President Muhammadu Buhari has warned Nigerians to stop hiding monies meant to develop the nation in foreign countries, in a bid to avoid paying tax.
The President, who is in the United Kingdom, gave the warning on Wednesday in a statement signed by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Mr Femi Adesina.
READ ALSO: FIRS Partners EFCC To Prosecute Tax Defaulters
“Hiding monies overseas, evading taxes by manipulation, and other unwholesome practices, have never developed a country, and for Nigeria to attain her true potential, these must stop,” he said.
“For a nation of people who are competitive and driven, it is not a pride that we are the lowest performer in tax to GDP, not just in Africa, but in the world. Nigeria’s growth needs are such that every Nigerian must do his duty to his nation, to his neighbour, and to himself.”
to this end, President Buhari approved the extension of the Voluntary Assets and Income Declaration Scheme (VAIDS) to June 30, 2018.
He explained that the short extension after the original March 31 date was based on the appeals of professional bodies and individual taxpayers.
The President stressed that a new date was also given, based on the conviction of the Ministry of Finance that the overall objective to increase compliance would be attained, and additional revenue would accrue.
He, however, said no further extension of time would be approved after June 30, while a fresh Executive Order would be made to give legal backing to the new timeline.
President Buhari further urged Nigerian companies and individuals to join the government in the rebuilding mission, “and do the right thing by taking this window of extension to regularise.”
He added that the right thing may not be convenient or comfortable, “but in the long run, we will all have a nation we can be proud of.”
The President also urged tax authorities to use the extension window to perfect plans to prosecute those who fail to regularise their tax status.
VAIDS is one of the key policies being used by the Federal Government to reposition the Nigerian economy and correct inherited underdevelopment.
The country has one of the lowest tax collection rates in the world at just six per cent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
According to the Presidency, this was partially a function of the reliance on oil that saw the nation abandon the historical revenue collection systems and switch to a culture of sharing resources, rather than generating them.
President Buhari had in 2017 launched the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP), and the VAIDS tax amnesty was first in the series of reforms aimed at transforming Nigeria’s tax system and provide sustainable predictable funding for all tiers of government.
The Presidency believes tax revenues will ensure that public infrastructure is provided, and public services are funded to improve the lives of the people.
They maintained that taxes redistribute wealth from those who have more to those who have less, and VAIDS is one of the windows to achieve such.
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FIRS Partners EFCC To Prosecute Tax Defaulters

Executive Chairman of the FIRS, Babatunde Fowler, with EFCC Acting Chairman, Mr Ibrahim Magu, at the EFCC head office in Abuja on April 10, 2018.
 
The Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) are working together to arrest and prosecute tax defaulters in the country.
In a statement from the anti-graft agency on Tuesday, the duo explained that the partnership targets taxpayers who evaded the just concluded amnesty programme known as Voluntary Assets and Income Declaration Scheme (VAIDS).
The Executive Chairman of the FIRS, Babatunde Fowler, who led a delegation on a visit to the EFCC head office in Abuja, commended the EFCC role particularly in the recovery of N28billion from various tax defaulters across the country.
“Through the intervention of the EFCC, the agency has been experiencing a high level of tax compliance and it’s yielding positive results.
“When tax defaulters are reported and invited to your office (EFCC), we see results, we don’t know how you do it, but we are seeing results and people are complying,” he said.
Fowler believes the FIRS alone cannot curtail the activities of tax evaders without the collaboration of other national and international agencies such as the EFCC.
He further stressed the need to strengthen the existing collaboration and synergy between the two agencies, noting that his organisation would explore every other means backed by the law to ensure that taxes are paid and not diverted.
According to the FIRS boss, funds will be available for the government to provide the infrastructure needed for the socio-economic well-being of the citizenry if taxes are paid.
Responding, Acting Chairman of the EFCC, Mr Ibrahim Magu, assured his guest that the EFCC was ready to partner with any agency, organisation or individual in fighting corruption for the purpose of moving the nation forward.
He appreciated the visitor and called on all Nigerians to support the anti-corruption drive from home, offices and in whatever way they could to ensure a better future for the future generation.
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Oando Shares Move Up On Stock Exchange

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The shares of troubled energy trader, Oando Nigeria Plc, moved up the maximum 10 per cent to N6.99, within the first one hour of trading on the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE) on Wednesday.
Stock trader and Chief Executive of Cowry Asset Management, Mr Johnson Chukwu, told Channels Television that investors demand for the shares of Oando topped nearly 77 million in early trade.
News filtered in early today that the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) late Tuesday ordered the Stock Exchange to lift its six-month share price freeze on Oando Nigeria.
The energy company is currently under independent forensic investigation ordered by the Securities Commission with an interim report due in a few weeks’ time.
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China Vows To Open Markets Amid United States’ Trade Dispute

China’s President Xi Jinping and US President Donald Trump. Photo: Nicolas ASFOURI / POOL / AFP
 
China said Wednesday it would further open its financial markets in the latest apparent attempt to cool economic tensions with the United States, as IMF chief Christine Lagarde warned the world trade system was in danger of being “torn apart” by protectionism.
China’s securities regulator said foreign investors would be able to buy more Chinese stocks through existing programmes linking Hong Kong’s bourse with mainland exchanges, and that it will also “strive” to establish a similar link between Shanghai and London this year.
Central Bank Governor Yi Gang, speaking at the Boao Forum for Asia on the southern Chinese resort island of Hainan, also said Beijing would fast-track previously announced plans to remove limits on foreign shareholdings in Chinese financial institutions.
Foreign firms will be allowed to own as much as 51 percent of joint ventures in the securities, funds and futures industries, up from the current 49 percent.
All limits are to be removed in three years, the government had said previously.
Foreign ownership restrictions in Chinese banks and financial asset management firms will also be removed, it was announced at Boao.
The foreign-ownership reforms were first announced in November during a state visit by US President Donald Trump, but Wednesday’s announcements appeared to set a firmer timetable.
Yi was quoted as saying implementation would commence “in the coming months”.
The latest promises came a day after President Xi Jinping pledged at the same forum to lower car tariffs and take other steps to open China’s economy “wider and wider”.
Xi’s comments addressed major US complaints in their simmering trade row and triggered a rebound in world stock markets that had earlier quaked as the planet’s two largest economies traded threats of retaliatory import tariffs.
He doubled down on Wednesday, saying China would not swerve from reform and calling on trading partners “to board the express train of China’s economy”, according to the state-run Xinhua news agency.
Threats and counter-threats
Despite the positive signals, Lagarde warned during a speech in Hong Kong on Wednesday that the world’s rules-based trade system was under threat from rising protectionist sentiment.
“The multilateral trade system has transformed our world over the past generation… But that system of rules and shared responsibility is now in danger of being torn apart. This would be an inexcusable, collective policy failure,” she said.
“There are threats, there are counter-threats. There’s an attempt to open a dialogue, and I think that we should support that dialogue attempt as much as we can.”
Both Yi and the China Securities Regulatory Commission said the allowable daily two-way trading volume between Hong Kong and mainland China’s two exchanges would each be increased fourfold to 94 billion yuan ($15 billion), effective May 1.
A Hong Kong-Shanghai trading connection was established in 2014, and a similar one between Hong Kong and China’s second exchange in Shenzhen two years later, giving foreigners greater access to Chinese stocks via Hong Kong, and vice versa.
A proposed London-Shanghai link was first disclosed in 2015 but no firm timetable had been set.
The US and the European Union have long complained about market access in a host of industries, with foreign firms unable to take controlling stakes in Chinese firms.
In the tightly-controlled banking sector, for example, overseas companies currently cannot hold more than 25 percent of a lender’s capital, making it difficult for them to play a major role in the domestic market.
Analysts have previously downplayed such reform promises, saying they are being made now that Chinese enterprises have a firm hold on domestic markets.
Trump, however, on Tuesday praised Xi’s “kind words” on reform and pledged to cooperate with China toward “great progress” in resolving trade differences.
Yi also said China would not devalue its currency as a weapon in a trade war, state television said.
AFP
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Adeosun Denies Controversy Over Returned Abacha Loot

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The Minister of Finance, Mrs Kemi Adeosun, has denied controversy surrounding the repatriated funds looted by the late former military Head of State, General Sanni Abacha.
Mrs Adeosun said this in a statement by her Special Adviser on Media and Communications, Oluyinka Akintunde, on Tuesday in Abuja.
Reports had emerged that the minister allegedly wrote a letter to President Muhammadu Buhari, blocking the payment of $16.9million fees to lawyers for the repatriation of the funds.
In her reaction on her personal Twitter handle, Adeosun said, “Let me make this clear: the media reports claiming that I wrote to the President regarding the Abacha refunds are all false and should be disregarded. There is no controversy whatsoever regarding the recovery.”
Similarly, in the statement, the minister insisted that there was no time she wrote a “strongly-worded letter to the President” or any member of the Federal Executive Council (FEC), objecting to the payment of fees to two lawyers for the recovery of Abacha funds.
The minister also denied claims of controversy surrounding the Abacha recovery, disclosing that the sum of US$322,515,931.83 was received into a Special Account in the Central Bank of Nigeria on December 18, 2017, from the Swiss Government.
“For the avoidance of doubt, there is no controversy concerning the recovery of the Abacha monies from the Swiss Government,” she said.
Let me make this clear: the media reports claiming that I wrote to the President regarding the Abacha refunds are all false and should be disregarded. There is no controversy whatsoever regarding the recovery. The $322.5m received from the Swiss Govt in Dec 2017 is with @cenbank. https://t.co/6ahsrpDTcR
— Kemi Adeosun (@HMKemiAdeosun) April 10, 2018
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Delta Govt Shuts Down Asaba Airport

 
The Delta state government has shut down the Asaba International Airport in the state capital, to enable the completion of the resurfacing of its runway.
The Secretary to the State Government, Mr Ovie Agas, announced the closure of the airport on Monday during an interview with reporters in Asaba.
“The airport will be closed for five weeks with effect from April 9, 2018, to enable the completion of the resurfacing of the Trunk B part of the runway.
“Since the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) downgraded the airport in 2015, the airport has been undergoing a major upgrade, especially the resurfacing of its runway as well as the provision of some vital technical facilities,” the SSG said.
He, however, assured the people if the state that at the end of the five-week duration of the closure, all things being equal, the airport would be back in full stream.
Agas was also optimistic that the development would, in turn, boost the economy of the state and improve the living standard of the people.
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Lufthansa To Cancel 800 Flights Over Strikes

FILE COPY The name of German airline Lufthansa is pictured on a model aeroplane at the company’s headquarters in Frankfurt am Main, western Germany, where the airline is presenting its annual report. Photo Credit: Daniel Roland / AFP
 
German airline giant Lufthansa said it will cancel “more than 800” flights Tuesday as public-sector workers walk out on strike for more pay, hobbling major airports like Frankfurt.
“Lufthansa must cancel more than 800 of its planned 1,600 flights tomorrow, including 58 long-distance services, because of the strike. The cancellations affect around 90,000 passengers,” the group said in a statement Monday, adding that service would be back to normal Wednesday.
AFP
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Lufthansa To Cancel Flights In German Airport Strikes

FILE COPY The name of German airline Lufthansa is pictured on a model aeroplane at the company’s headquarters in Frankfurt am Main, western Germany, where the airline is presenting its annual report. Photo Credit: Daniel Roland / AFP
 
German airline giant Lufthansa said it will cancel “more than 800” flights Tuesday as public-sector workers walk out on strike for more pay, hobbling major airports like Frankfurt.
“Lufthansa must cancel more than 800 of its planned 1,600 flights tomorrow, including 58 long-distance services, because of the strike. The cancellations affect around 90,000 passengers,” the group said in a statement Monday, adding that service would be back to normal Wednesday.
AFP
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