Saraki’s trial begins as CCT sets aside Appeal Court order
• Witness says his aide made 50 deposits of N.6m, N.9 m into account
• Lists properties not declared to CCB • ‘His property business funded with bank loans’
• Bureau may investigate Panama Papers allegations against Nigerians
• Iceland PM resigns
As the trial of Senate President Bukola Saraki began yesterday, a witness disclosed how aides of the lawmaker deposited huge sums of money into the account of the senator .
The Federal Government’s witness, Michael Wetkas, public servant and a Principal Detective Superintendent with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), testified before the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT). He said that cash running into millions of naira was deposited on daily basis by two personal assistants to Saraki on domestic matters.
According to him, while one Abdul Adama allegedly deposited sums ranging between N600,000 and N900,000 50 times in a day into Guarantee Trust Bank, Ilorin, his colleague, Ubi, whose surname he could not remember allegedly deposited the same amounts 20 times in one day into the same account.
The trial commenced following the tribunal’s dismissal of an application for adjournment brought before it by Saraki.
The defendant through his counsel, Paul Usoro (SAN) who had appeared with Mahmood Magaji (SAN) and about 80 others had asked the court for an adjournment pending the decision of the Court of Appeal after entertaining the appeal filed by the defendant.
According to him, Court of Appeal has fixed hearing on the application for April 26, 2016.
He said: “An application for stay of proceedings was launched, praying the higher court to stay proceedings of the tribunal. Our prayer for adjournment was to allow the Court of Appeal entertain the case and make decision and the Court has given April 26 for the hearing of application”.
Counsel to the Federal Government, Rotimi Jacobs, however, reminded the court that the matter was last adjourned on March 24 to enable parties prepare for the commencement of trial
Chairman CCT, Mr. Danladi, Yakubu Umar, who had adjourned the case briefly for about 30 minutes after hearing parties involved in the case, said the court had earlier ruled that it had jurisdiction to take the trial and as such, the normal thing to do was commence trial without further delay
The tribunal consequently called for the prosecution witness, marking the commencement of the Senate president’s trial.
Meanwhile, the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) says it will be interested in investigating the ‘Panama Papers’ allegations against some Nigerians.
The ‘Panama Papers’ are 11.5 million documents taken from the files of Panamanian law firm, Mossack Fonseca, described as the fourth-largest offshore law firm in the world.
According to Wetkas: “The defendant was the governor of Kwara State between 2003 and 2011 and shortly after the expiration of his second tenure, EFCC received various petitions from various groups alleging abuse of office and misappropriation of public funds and money laundering against him.
“These petitions were assigned to other EFCC teams for investigation and while the investigations were ongoing by those teams, sometime in 2014, Executive Chairman, EFCC, Ibrahim Lamorde, received an intelligence report of suspicious transactions relating to the defendant.
“On the tip of this, he set up a team of three investigators headed by me. Our tax was to further investigate the report and file our findings. In the course of our further investigation, we discovered that there are several companies whose activities are linked to the defendant.
‘‘Some of these companies include Carlisle Properties and Investment Limited, Skyview Properties Limited, Limkers Investment Limited, and Tiny Tee Limited .
“Some of these companies maintained account with Guarantee Trust Bank (GTB), Zenith Bank, Intercontinental, now Access Bank and other banks.’’
He continued :‘ ‘ From investigations, it was discovered that the defendant maintained three accounts with GTB. The three are naira currency account, the second one is dollar account and the third is pound sterling account.
‘‘The accounts were analysed in the course of the investigation. The naira account was analysed and it was discovered that between 2005 and 2013, the account had up to N4 billion.
“The major source of inflow into the account was loans taken from GTB amounting to over N2.5 billion. Others are from his company, Carlisle Properties Investment Limited. It was also discovered that the inflows into the account were basically used for purchase of property.
‘‘The dollar account was also analysed and the major source of inflow into it was proceeds from Carlisle Properties and Investment Limited, which was over $2 million. Other source of inflow was from bureaux de change companies and another source was cash lodgments by individuals. The total turnover of this account between 2009 and 2013 was over $6 million. Up to $3.4 million was wired to American Express Services Europe Limited, which was used to fund independent American Express Service with New York card account.
“The other part of the dollar account was changed into pound sterling and also into euro for the purchase of property in London. Over £1.5 million was wired into the account. From the Telex transfer document we have, auditors from GTB Bank, who were invited, suggested that the account belonged to the defendant.
“Because of the suspicious nature of the inflows into the account, it became necessary to invite the bank officials. The reason was because some of the individuals making cash lodgments into the accounts were bank officials. In our discussion with one of them, we discovered that the money was given to him by his superior in the bank one, Bayo A. Dauda.’’
Still giving his testimony, he said: “From our interactions, it was discovered that Dauda was given the cash by the defendant at the government house . This account was domiciled at GTB, Ilorin Branch.
“From the lodgments, we discovered that one Ubi on a single day, made five lodgments of about N77 million. We also discovered that Abdul Adama, made lodgments 50 times into the account. The sums were broken down between N600,000 and N900,000, in the 50 places.
“Shortly after Adama, Ubi made lodgments in the same day for over 20 times between 600,000 and N900,000. We invited Adama and he stated that the cash was handed over to him by the defendant and the sums lodged by Ubi in the same account must have been given him by Adama.
“Ubi and Adama were Personal Assistants on Domestic Affairs to the Defendant. After a while, the pattern of cash lodgments changed. The range of N600,000 to N900,000 remained but different individuals were making lodgments.
“Further, our investigation revealed the individuals were fictitious. The team of investigators took up the matter with GTB and they said they had done the needful by drawing the reports and forwarding the same to the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU).
‘‘Based on that, EFCC Executive Chairman said other teams were investigating other petitions relating to the defendant. He therefore, directed that we harmonise the investigations which was done by a team made up of CCB, the Department of State Service (DSS) and EFCC.
“So, all the findings were harmonised and sent to the Legal Department for advice. The Legal Department later informed us that they conferred with the Ministry of Justice on the matter and that the ministry directed that the matter be referred to the CCB and that a joint team of CCB and EFCC be established to conclude the matter by working out details bordering on the asserts.
‘‘It was discovered that all the transactions in Carlisle Properties and Investment Limited were directed by the defendant. We requested Kennedy Izuagwe, the managing director to furnish us with details of their property. He promised to come back with the documents but has gone underground since then.
“The commission had no option than to declare Izuagwe wanted. We also obtained search warrant from the court and executed a search on the office of Carlisle Properties and Investment which is at No. 30 Saka Tinubu, Victoria Island, Lagos, where the team recovered a document containing the list of property yielding income for the defendant.
“ The document showed that some of the properties were purchased from the Presidential Implementation Committee for the Sale of Government Houses. Some were also bought from Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN). So, we wrote to the land registry in Abuja , Lagos State Land Registry and CBN. It was these properties together with those declared in assets form that the combined team is investigating.’’
He added: “From the analysis of the property, some infractions were observed in the assets declaration form. The property at No. 2 MacDonald, Ikoyi, Lagos which was purchased through Tiny Tee Limited was not declared in the form. We also discovered that the properties at No. 17 and 17B, MacDonald, Ikoyi, Lagos, were bought for aggregate sum of N497.2 million in 2006 and in the form, he declared that he bought it through the sales of rice and sugar but investigation revealed that it was acquired with loan from GTB.
“The loan was repaid by cash lodgments into the account. We also discovered another property at No. 2 A, Glover Road, Ikoyi, purchased in the name of Carlisle Property and Investment Limited. It was bought at N325 million sometime between 2007 and 2008 from CBN. It was also not reflected in assets declaration form in 2011.
“There was another property at No. 37A, Glover Road, Ikoyi, it yields N5.5 million annually for the defendant. That was one of the documents recovered through search conducted in Carlisle Property and Investment Limited. It was also not declared in assets declaration form.
“Another property was discovered at No. 1, Gagus Street, Maitama, Abuja, which is also known as 2482. It was purchased from one Baba Akawo. It was not declared in his assets declaration form. This property was bought about the same time with his company, Carlisle Property and Investment Limited.
“The sum of N375 million was taken from GTB for the purchase of property in London while he was still the governor of Kwara State. We looked out for the property in assets declaration form but it was not disclosed.’’
The trial continues today.
Chairman of the Bureau, Sam Saba told The Guardian on telephone yesterday that though details were just coming in and information scanty about the involvement of Nigerians, the bureau would in the coming days, certainly be interested in an investigation.
Meanwhile, Iceland Prime Minister, Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson, has tendered his resignation in the wake of a mounting political crisis over his family’s offshore investments,.
But local media reported yesterday that his departure had yet to be agreed by either his coalition partners or the country’s president.
On CCB’s interest in allegations made against Nigerians , Saba said: “ The story is just breaking and we are yet to have details, but of course, we will be interested to know more as details unfold.”
Spokeswoman for the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission(ICPC) Mrs. Rasheedat Adunni Okoduwa told The Guardian the commission was yet to take a position on the matter.
“The story is just breaking and it involves other individuals around the world. That goes to show the extent of corruption globally. But the commission is yet to have a stand on whether to investigate. I will call you when we have a stand on it”, she said. Spokesman to the EFCC, Wilson Uwujaren also took the same position.
At the breaking of the ‘Panama Papers’ story yesterday some world leaders, among them, Iceland’s Prime Minister, Gunnlaugsson; Russian President Vladimir Putin’s associates; South African President Jacob Zuma; soccer star Lionel Messi and son of former Ghanaian President John Kufuor were named.
Locally, Nigeria’s former Senate President, David Mark who is still a serving senator and the current Senate President, Saraki who already has a case with the CCT, were also named.
Former Delta State Governor, James Ibori, who is currently serving a jail term in the United Kingdom was also indicted.
But Saraki has denied involvement in the Panama Papers issue.