A Lagos High Court sitting in Ikeja on Thursday granted an order for an interim forfeiture of assets belonging to an oil marketer, Oluwaseun Ogunbambo of Fargo Oil & Gas Ltd, who is standing trial for fraudulently collecting money meant for fuel subsidy. The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) obtained the order from the court presided over by Justice Adeniyi Onigbanjo through an ex parte application on Thursday.
Though the anti-graft agency did not specify the worth of all the assets it sought the court to freeze, it alleged that Mr Ogunbambo was being prosecuted for frauds totalling about N4.5 billion.
The affected assets, mostly bank accounts with a United Kingdom and five Nigerian banks, also includes a landed property at 2 Olamijuyin, Avenue Parkview Estate, Ikoyi Lagos.
The UK bank account bearing the name of his England-based company, Seatac Petroleum Ltd, was said to be having £1 million standing to its credit.
Five of the bank accounts bear the names Fargo Petroleum Gas Ltd, Arnage Oil & Gas Ltd and Seatac Petroleum.
Also, the account of one company, Nassaman Oil Service Ltd, belonging to Mamman Ali, son of former Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, Ahmadu Ali, was among the assets frozen at the instance of alleged fraud linked with Seun Ogunbambo.
The EFCC’s counsel, Francis Usani, moving the application for forfeiture on Thursday said, “the properties and bank accounts set out in the schedule hereto, properties of the persons currently standing trial for conspiracy to obtain money by false pretence, obtaining the sums of over N4.5 billion by false pretence, forgery and uttering of a documents in Charge Nos ID/116C/2012, ID/133C/2012 and ID/122C/2012 all pending in this judicial division (Ikeja), be in the interim forfeited to the Federal Government of Nigeria pending the determination of all the pending proceedings against him”.
Two of the charges are pending before Justice Onigbanjo, who granted the forfeiture order on Thursday.
In the other charge involving Mr Ogunbambo and his firm, Adeline Investment, pending before another judge, Justice Olabisi Akinlade, the defendant was alleged to have used forged cheques and false claims to defraud Stanbic IBTC Bank of about N430 million in 2010.
According to the other two charges involving him, Habila Theck and Fargo, the accused were said to have defrauded the Federal Government under the fuel subsidy scheme up to the tune of N976.7 million.
In the other case involving Ogunbambo, Mamman Ali, Christian Taylor as well as Nasaman Oil Services, they were accused of defrauding the FG of N4.5 billion under the subsidy scheme.
The Lagos High Court sitting in Ikeja on Monday failed to sit on the scheduled re-arraignment of Mamman Ali, son of former Chairman of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Ahmadu Ali, along with three others for alleged fuel subsidy fraud.
No reason was given for the failure of the court to sit but the court registrars announced a new date of Monday the 26th of November 2012 for the re-arraignment.
Present in court were the duo of Mamman Ali and Christian Taylor, who had initially been arraigned along with their company Nasaman Oil on the 26th of July for fuel subsidy fraud totaling about 2.23bn.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has however said that following further investigations, the defendants would be re-arraigned on an amended charge along with some other persons whose names were not originally on the charge.
The Special Assistant to President Goodluck Jonathan on Intergovernmental Affairs, Mrs. Mariam Ali, has volunteered to be the bail surety for one of the suspects of fuel subsidy fraud, Christian Taylor.
Christian Taylor, a Sierra Leonean, who is amongst the people arraigned for the fuel subsidy scam was, last week granted bail by Justice Adeniyi Onigbanjo. But on Tuesday, he applied to have his bail conditions varied.
The judge was told by his lawyer, Kolade Obafemi that it would be difficult for him as a foreigner to produce a blood relation to stand surety for him as he has no such relation in Nigeria.
The lawyer then informed the court that in place of a blood relative, a reputable and responsible Nigerian, an aide of President Goodluck Jonathan, Mrs. Mariam Ali, has agreed to stand surety for the Sierra-Leonean.
“The proposed surety, Dr. Mariam Ali is a responsible Nigerian. She is the Special Assistant to the President on Intergovernmental Affairs,” he said.
Mrs. Ali who is a Special Adviser to President Jonathan has also agreed to use her landed property situated in Surulere, Lagos as part of the bail bond.
Taylor is standing trial alongside with Mahman Ali, who is son of Mariam and a former Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Ahmadu Ali.
Although the prosecution led by counsel to the EFCC, Mr. Rotimi Jacobs, opposed the variation of the bail condition on the ground that Taylor was trying to misrepresent fact as he had earlier claimed in his statement that he was a native of Edo State from Okpe local government area before turning around to claim Sierra leone, his counsel assured the court that he would not jump bail.
The judge, however overruled Jacobs, saying, “the essence of granting the bail was to ensure that the accused attended trial.”
Based on this, Justice Onigbanjo varied the bail condition and substituted it with a reputable and responsible Nigerian with landed property in Lagos.
Taylor and Ali along with their company, Nasaman Oil Services were arraigned on July 26 on three counts which includes the fraudulent collection of about N2.23bn from the Central Bank of Nigeria as subsidy for importing PMS.
The commencement of the trial was fixed for October 30.
A Lagos High court sitting in Ikeja on Thursday granted bail to the sons of the former and serving national chairman of the People’s Democratic Party(PDP), Ahmadu Ali and Bamaga Tukur, and some other suspects indicted in the oil subsidy scam.
Mamman Nasir Ali, Mahmud Tukur, and two others were granted bail by Justice Adeniyi Onigbanjo in the sum of N20 million each with two sureties in like sum, one of the sureties according to the court must be a blood relation and another a level sixteen officer in the Federal or State civil service.
The court also held that one of the sureties must own a property worth N100 million in Lagos and that the title of the said property must be registered with the state land registry and the sureties must present to the court’s registrar a three years tax clearance.
Justice Onigbanjo also ordered the defendants who also included Ochonogor Alex and Christian Taylor to deposit their travel passports with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), which can only be released to them on the orders of the court.
Alao to remain in custody
Though all the accused persons are free to go home upon fulfilling the terms of the bail, Abdulahi Alao, the son of Ibadan businessman and politician, Arisekola Alao would, however, remain in the custody of the EFCC until the 1 August when another judge, Justice Habeeb Abiru, handling the second charge filed against him by the anti-graft agency will determine whether to grant him bail or not.
His bail application for the trial which he and his company, Axenergy Limited are being arraigned, could not be heard because the EFCC pleaded for more time to respond to the application. He is facing a seven count of obtaining N1. 8 billion under false pretence
Mr Alao in the charge was specifically accused of conspiring to obtain N1. 8 billion from the Federal Government by falsely representing that the sum represented subsidy paid to him under the Petroleum Support Fund for the importation of 20, 014, 627 liters of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) which he falsely claimed was purchased and imported to Nigeria from Mercuria Trading N.V, vide MT Gavros ExMT Nippon Princess.
In the second case before Justice Onigbanjo, Mahmud Tukur, Ochonogor Alex, Abdulahi Alao and Eterna Oil and gas are facing a nine count of obtaining a sum of over N5 billion under false pretence.
They were said to have conspired to obtain the sum from the Federal Government by falsely representing that the sum represented subsidy paid to Eterna Oil and gas under the Petroleum Support Fund when they claimed to have purchased 33, 288, 338 litres PMS from Mercuria Trading SA and imported to Nigeria through MT Fulmer EX MT Emirate Star and MT Panther EX Emirate Star.
More false pretense
In yet another case, Mamman Nasir Ali, Christian Taylor and Nasaman Oil Service Limited were also arraigned before Justice Onigbanjo on a three count charge of obtaining N4. 8billion under false pretense.
Nasir Ali is the son of Ahmadu Ali, former chairman of PDP, and former chairman of the board of the Petroleum Products Pricing and Regulatory Agency (PPPRA).
However, the arraignment of Walter Wagbatsoma, Adaoha-Ugo-Ngadi, Fakuade Babafemi Ebenezer, Ezekiel Olajide Ejidele and Ontario Oil & Gas Nig. Ltd could not go ahead as Wagbatsoma failed to appear before the court.
His counsel Babajide Koku (SAN) informed the court that his client was not in court because he’s presently out of the country but would return to the country on Monday to enable him appear before the court.
But counsel for Ugo-Ngadi, Ebenezer and Ejidele, the second, third and fourth defendants respectively, Mr. Wale Akoni, (SAN), Abimbola Odeyemi and James Ogunyemi urged the court to separate the case of their clients from Wagbatsoma’s to enable their clients to be properly arraigned and also enable the court take their bail applications.
But Justice Abiru in his short ruling refused the request of the counsel on the basis that the request is premature at this stage as they are not yet properly before the court, he held that until their plea is taken the court cannot assume jurisdiction or make orders over the case.
The judge then adjourned the case till the 1st of August while the accused persons would remain in the custody of the EFCC.