Court Says EFCC Can Arraign Babalakin For Money Laundering

The Managing Director of Bi-Courtney, Wale Babalakin

A Federal High Court sitting in Lagos on Thursday struck out an application filed by the Managing Director of Bi-Courtney, Wale Babalakin, seeking an order of certiorari and prohibition against his arraignment by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on money laundering charges.

Ruling on the application by Mr Babalakin for an order of prohibition against the EFCC and the Attorney General of Federation from arraigning him before the Lagos High Court, Justice Idris Mohammed held that the application was defective as the applicant did not file service and serve same properly.

He therefore dismissed the case for non-compliance with court rules and awarded the sum of N5000 against the applicant.

Justice Idris equally dismissed the preliminary objection by the EFCC that the court lacked jurisdiction to entertain the applicant’s suit and that the application is incompetent and an abuse of court process.

Justice Idris had on November 29, 2012 granted leave to Mr Babalakin to apply for an order of prohibition to review the legality and constitutionality of the 27 count criminal charges preferred against him at the Lagos High Court.

The order was granted the same day the businessman was to be docked alongside four others before Justice Adeniyi Onigbanjo of a Lagos State High Court, Ikeja for fraudulently transferring various sums of money on behalf of the former governor of Delta State, James Ibori, through third parties to some foreign accounts under the guise of purchasing a Challenger Jet Aircraft.

He failed to show up, claiming a sudden illness that necessitated his hospitalization at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital.
However, the EFCC through its lawyer, Rotimi Jacobs, challenged the ruling.

At the last adjourned date, December 13, Mr Jacobs had urged the court to strike out the application for want of jurisdiction and lack of competence.

He argued that the court lacks the jurisdiction to entertain the application, and that the application was incompetent and amount to abuse of court process as the reliefs sought were not available in law.

He added that information before any court is for that court to deal with and that the Federal High Court cannot exercise powers over the State High Court. “What they are doing here is a gagging suit and I urged the court to dismiss it.

But Wale Akoni, counsel to Mr Babalakin told the court that an issue of interpretation had arisen regarding the leave of prohibition granted the applicant as the respondent had taken the view that there was no order of stay against them.

He further told the court that despite the order of the court, the EFCC had continued to lay siege to the hospital where the defendant is receiving treatment for undisclosed ailment.

He therefore urged the court to reiterate and reinforce with some measure of clarity the effect of the ruling against the respondent.

He said they were equally in court because the commission has no power to prosecute his client at the Lagos State high Court as section 19(1) of the EFCC Act is unconstitutional.

He said that there was no valid statutory power available to the respondent to file charges against the applicant.

He further added that the Commission ought to report to the AGF but that the Commission has not done that.

However, Mr Jacobs told the court that the matter before it was hearing of the substantive suit and the motion of preliminary objection.
He said the order of court was unambiguous and needed no further interpretation.

The EFCC lawyer said the matter before the court was simple and that it was whether the respondent has power to initiate criminal proceedings and whether they followed the right procedures.

He said the powers conferred on the AGF or the AG of the State to initial and prosecute is not exclusive. “The EFCC can initiate criminal proceedings against anybody”, he said.

Switzerland Amends Banking Law To Expose Illicit Accounts

The Switzerland Ambassador to Nigeria, Hans-Rudolf Hodel on Tuesday said his country has amended its bank secrecy laws making it more legally responsible to disclose suspicious funds lodged in the country’s financial institutions.

Mr Hodel, who was speaking at a seminar in Abuja on money laundering and terrorism in West Africa, said with the rise in the financing of global terrorism, individuals and groups can no longer loot money and dump in Swiss accounts without fear of discovery as the authorities are now authorised to raise alerts on suspicious transactions.

“We still have a bank secrecy law but it is very relative because as soon as there are suspicions of illicit fund be it for trafficking, terrorism or whatever criminal act, the bank secrecy is lifted and the accounts are seized,” the Ambassador said.

Mr Hodel said Switzerland is currently engaged in activities that will strengthen regional capacity and cooperation in dealing with the financing of terrorist groups.

Other experts present at the event pointed out that the quickest way to kill terrorism is to cut off its life source which is funding.

Bank secrecy is a legal principle under which banks are not allowed to provide to authorities personal and account information about their customers unless certain conditions apply (for example, a criminal complaint has been filed).

Created by the Swiss Banking Act of 1934, which led to the famous Swiss bank, the principle of bank secrecy is always considered one of the main aspects of private banking. It has also been accused by civil society organisations and governments of being one of the main instruments of underground economy and organized crime.

Former bank employees from banks in Switzerland (UBS, Julius Baer) and Liechtenstein (LGT Group) have testified that their former institutions helped clients evade billions of dollars in taxes by routing money through offshore havens in the Caribbean and Switzerland. One of these, Rudolf Elmer, wrote in the New York Times, “It is a global problem…Offshore tax evasion is the biggest theft among societies and neighbour states in this world.”

The Swiss Parliament ratified on June 17, 2010 an agreement between the Swiss and the United States governments allowing UBS to transmit to the US authorities information concerning 4,450 American clients of UBS suspected of tax evasion.

I am more than a conqueror – Mrs Ajimobi

The wife of the Oyo State governor, Florence Ajimobi, on Wednesday dismissed media reports that she had been arrested by London Metropolitan Police for alleged money laundering.

The wife of the Oyo State governor, Florence Ajimobi

Mrs Ajimobi, who arrived at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Ikeja, Lagos at 6:50am aboard a Virgin Atlantic Airways aircraft, said the PM News report that she was arrested in London last Saturday for money laundering was the handiwork of mischief makers, who she said were playing “dirty politics”.

She said the originators of the report were out to tarnish her image.

The Oyo state first lady explained that she had on Sunday accompanied her daughter, who was returning to school in London.

She said: “I have never had any encounter with the London Metropolitan Police and I will never do. It was just a rumour, like you said. I think the time has come for Nigerians to stop playing dirty politics.

“We should be very objective when giving information, particularly members of the press. We should always verify the information we are given. The ultimate measure of any man or woman is where you stand in times of conflict, challenges and controversy and not in times of comfort. I stand on the solid rock of Jesus Christ and all other grounds are sinking sand.

“This is a phase and it will pass over, because I am more than a conqueror. It is the price I have to pay as the wife of a politician, particularly in Oyo State, where there is a record of dirty politics. I do not have any blemish in my wardrobe and I am never going to have any.”
Mrs Ajimobi said contrary to another rumour that she was arrested two weeks ago, she travelled with her husband to Taipei, Asia, through Dubai, for an official assignment.

She said: “I went on an official visit to Taiwan with my husband and we did not go to London. From Lagos, we went to Dubai, then Hong Kong and Taipei. From Taipei, we returned to Hong Kong, Dubai and back to Lagos. The record is there in my international passport. I can give you my passport to photocopy.

“It was also alleged that I had travelled out of Nigeria 52 times since my husband assumed office. That sounds very ridiculous to me. It means I do not even live in Nigeria. Like I said, we can make photocopies of my passport for verification.”

On her mission to London on Sunday, Mrs. Ajimobi said: “I have a 14-year-old child that has been in England since 2007. She is still in secondary school and comes home. The school insists that parents pick up their children because they are minors and there are no exemptions for international pupils.

“I cannot shelve my responsibilities as a mother because my husband is a governor. I have to manage my home, take care of my children and be a responsible and committed mother. That I will do, no matter what anybody says. My children need me. My daughter in London needs me and I will be there for her. I am not using government funds because she has been there since 2007.”

The first lady said those spreading rumours about her arrest should fear God.

She said: “The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom. If they have the fear of God, they will stop being mischievous. They should think before they act because on judgment day, we will all account for our actions.

“I do not grudge them; I just know they have God to contend with. I have maintained a good reputation for over 32 years and anybody trying to tarnish that image will have God to contend with. I know they will pay for it.”

Money laundering: EFCC arrest MD of Zenith

The Managing Director of Zenith Properties Limited, Maitama Abuja, Ifobiya Oloruntoba Seyi and the Credit Controller of Exclusive Stores, Wuse 2, Abuja, Obinna Ararume, are among five persons arrested by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), over noncompliance with Anti Money Laundering Laws.

“Three others arrested during the special operation are Mr. Anita Udoh, one of the managers of Exclusive Stores; Mathew Omale and Babayaro Alhaji Bako, both security men of Exclusive Stores who obstructed the operatives of the Commission from carrying out their duties,” a statement by the spokesman of the commission, Wilson Uwujaren said.

Mr Wilson said the arrests were carried out by the Special Control Unit Against Money Laundering (SCUML), as part of the on-going effort to enforce compliance with anti-money laundering laws by Designated Non- Financial Institutions (DNFIs).

“Section 5 of the Money Laundering Act 2011 requires existing DNFIs to submit to the ministry of commerce, within three months from the commencement of the Act, a declaration of their activities and all record of transactions in chronological order, indicating each customers surname, forenames and address. Section five sub section two further states that “The Ministry shall forward the information received pursuant to subsection 1 of the section to the Commission within 7 days of its receipt.

“The DFNIs include dealers in jewelleries, cars, supermarkets and luxury goods, chartered accountants, audit firms, tax consultants, clearing and settlement companies, legal practitioners, hotels, casinos, or such other businesses as the Federal Ministry of Commerce or appropriate regulatory authorities may from time to time designate.

“It would be recalled that the Commission had on October 9, 2012, arrested four persons over non-compliance with the money laundering law. They were the Managing Director of NICON Properties Limited, Wuse Abuja, Mr. Yahaya Atai Odoma; the Accountant of the company, Mr. Rufai S. Bidu; Mr. Obee Williams Abu and Mr. Enger Peter of Hotel de Lamitel, Kadu Kuchi district, Abuja.

“Similarly the EFCC had on October 4, 2012, arrested officials of seven companies for non- compliance. The companies includes Pent House Properties; Jorany Hotels, Wuse 2 Abuja; Febsons Hotels Nigeria Limited, Wuse zone 4, Abuja; Nawa Properties, AMAC Plaza, Wuse Zone 3, Abuja; Grand Product Company Limited, (Grand Square); Abmed hotels Limited and Lamonde Hotels.

“The Head SCUML, Angela Nworgu says more arrests will be made as the enforcement exercise continues,” the statement said.

Lagos Speaker fails to stop money laundering trial against him

The Federal High Court Sitting in Lagos on Thursday dismissed the application brought by the Speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly, Adeyemi Ikuforiji to quash the money laundering charge filed against him by the Economic and Financial crimes Commission (EFCC).

The presiding judge, Justice Okechukwu Okeke in a ruling delivered in a packed courtroom filled with Mr Ikuforiji’s supporters and some lawmakers, held that the reasons canvassed in support of the application to quash the charges were not tenable.

The court also dismissed a counter motion filed by the EFCC challenging the propriety of the Speaker’s application; the judge held that the objection raised by the commission was misconceived, and lacking in merit.

Justice Okeke in his ruling also faulted the Speaker’s argument that since the alleged acts were done in his capacity as the Speaker he was not liable as that would amount to suing Lagos State government.

According to the court such reasoning cannot stand because the Speaker and his aide were charged to court in their own capacity.

The judge maintained that “If the prosecution had wanted to, it could have filed the action against the Lagos State Government or the Attorney-General, but this action is filed against the accused persons.

The motion to quash the charge was therefore dismissed while the court ordered an accelerated hearing of the matter.

It will be recalled that the EFCC had on March 1, 2012 arraigned Mr Ikuforiji and his Personal Assistant, Oyebode Atoyebi, on an amended 20-count of money laundering.

The commission is accusing the Speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly and his aide of accepting cash payment from the Assembly to the tune of N501 million without going through a financial institution.

Justice Okeke adjourned the case till the 24 October for commencement of trial.

N6.5 billion theft: Court remands former Bayelsa State governor in EFCC custody

A Federal High court sitting in Abuja on Tuesday remanded former Bayelsa State governor, Timiprie Sylva in the custody of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) until Thursday 7 June when the court will decide on his bail application.

Mr Sylva who voluntarily appeared in court even with speculations that he is outside the country is standing trial for alleged corruption and conversion of N6.5 billion belonging to Bayelsa State for personal use.

The former governor took a not guilty plead to the six count corruption charges read to him by the Clark of the court.

He there after asked for bail through his counsel Lateef Fagbemi who told the court that the charges against Mr Sylva are offences that will allow the defendant bail until his guilt or otherwise is proven.

He asked the court to take notice that the accused appeared in the court voluntarily and will continue to do so.

Mr Fagbemi added that the court should also be lenient with the conditions of bail.

Opposing the bail application, counsel to EFCC, Festus Keyamo argued that the accused had evaded service for several months and that such a person cannot be trusted to be available through out the trial.

Mr Keyamo told the court that though the offences for which the former governor is standing trial are bail-able, it is not enough to secure bail as bail still lies at the discretion of the court.

Haven listened to the two lawyers the trial judge, Justice Adamu Bello fixed ruling for Thursday 7 June while remanding the former governor in prison custody.

However, based on the agreement between the prosecuting and defence counsels, the presiding judge change his earlier pronouncement and remanded the former governor in the EFCC custody.

Two UK investigators arrested for collecting bribe from Ibori

Two private investigators were on Tuesday arrested for alleged £20,000 bribery in connection with the investigations into money laundering charges against former Delta State governor, James Ibori.

The officers, who were alleged to have been hired by Mr Ibori to find out what information the UK Metropolitan police had on him, were working for a company known as RISC Management run by a former Scotland Yard Detective Keith Hunter.

According to SKY News cable television report on Wednesday, RISC was hired by the law firm representing Mr Ibori.

It also quoted Mike Schwarz, a partner at Bindmans, a British Law Firm, as informing the Home Affairs Select Committee of the British parliament of possible cash payments made by RISC to sources who were “presumably police officers or those close to the investigation.”

Mr Schwarz stated that invoices at the firm’s disposal showed roughly half a dozen payments amounting to about £20,000 “over an eight- or nine-month period.”

The private detectives aged 53 and 58 were both arrested on suspicion of bribery as part of a “pre-planned operation that forms part of a long and complex investigation by the Directorate of Professional Standards (DPS)”, the report quoted Metropolitan Police as saying.

A statement from the force also said: “The Metropolitan Police Service is investigating an allegation that illegal payments were made to police officers for information by a private investigation agency.”

The former Delta state governor pleaded guilty at Southwark Crown court in February to a series of charges linked to the theft of money from the state treasury and fraud involving state-owned shares in a mobile phone firm.

N18 billion scam: Court says former Nasarawa governor has a case to answer

A Federal High Court sitting in Lafia, Nasarawa State has ruled that former governor of the State, Aliyu Akwe Doma has a case to answer on corruption charges brought against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

Former governor of the State, Aliyu Akwe Doma

EFCC’s Wilson Uwujaren said the commission told the presiding judge, Justice Marcel Awokulehin to strike out an application seeking to quash the charges againstMr Doma and six others standing trial on a 17 count of money laundering and stealing of state funds totalling over N15 billion.

“The other accused persons are Senator John Dangoyi, Abdulmumin Jibrin, Timothy Anthony Anjide, Dauda Egwa, Suleiman Ibrahim, Broworks Ltd and Green Forest Investment Ltd.” Uwujaren said.

“At the resumed hearing of the case on Monday, Prosecution counsel, Dele Adesina, SAN told the court that EFCC was opposing eight applications brought in by Doma and six other co-accused persons seeking to quash the case against them,” he added.

“Counsel to all the accused persons excluding the 4th and 8th accused persons, S.I Ameh, SAN, had earlier moved a motion to quash the charges preferred against them.”

Counsel to Doma and Abdulmumin Jibrin, Charles Edosonwan, had asked the court to discharge the accused persons because the prosecution did not disclose the element of crime in the charge.

However, EFCC’s Counsel argued that the accused persons’ counsel should have brought the application to quash the case before their plea was taken.

The judge, after ruling that Doma and his co-accused persons have a case to answer, adjourned the case till June 11th, 2012.

Ibori’s conviction a lesson for corrupt leaders – Human Right Watch

The Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Tuesday said that the money laundering conviction and 13-year prison term for former Delta state governor, James Ibori, is a landmark in the global fight against corruption.

A statement issued by the HRW said the world has just got smaller for government officials who believe they can loot their country’s resources with impunity.

“The world has just got smaller for government officials who believe they can loot their country’s resources with impunity,” said Daniel Bekele, Africa director at Human Rights Watch.
“By prosecuting Ibori, the UK authorities have struck a blow not only against financial crimes at home, but also against impunity for corruption around the globe.”

Mr. Bekele said “this case was not just about financial transactions in British banks; it was about acknowledging global responsibility for helping to stop the devastating human cost of corruption in Nigeria.”

The Human Right Watch had reported that Nigerians are yet to benefit from the country’s tremendous oil wealth. Maternal mortality rates are among the world’s highest, and poverty rates continue to climb. Nearly 100 million Nigerians – some 60 percent of the population – live on less than a dollar a day, according to a recent report from the National Bureau of Statistics.

Public funds that could have been used to improve schools and health facilities have instead been squandered and siphoned off by the country’s ruling elite. Human Rights Watch has documented how in some cases powerful politicians have used the vast wealth at their disposal to arm criminal gangs that fuel political violence.

Despite the EFCC’s efforts in Nigeria to combat endemic government corruption – since 2005, the agency has arraigned 19 former state governors on corruption charges – not a single senior politician or government official in Nigeria is currently serving any prison time for these crimes.

Meanwhile, the United Kingdom continues to provide substantial foreign aid to Nigeria. The Department for International Development announced, in 2011, that it would allocate $1.6 billion in aid to Nigeria over the next four years, more than doubling the amount of annual aid over this period.

Former Goldman Sachs banker helped Ibori launder loot – Prosecutor

Prosecutors in the United Kingdom on Thursday accused a former Goldman Sachs banker from St John’s Wood, Ellias Preko, 52, of helping former governor of Delta state, James Ibori set up a web of offshore trusts and companies to launder the cash.

Prosecutors said the Harvard graduate banker abused his “gold-plated credentials” to conceal Mr Ibori’s “dirty money”.

Mr Ibori had last month pleaded guilty to seven counts of fraud and money laundering after police claimed he stole £160million during his eight-year term in office.

The Prosecutor told a Southwark crown court that Mr Preko used his connections and reputation to “unlock financial doors” and “sidestep regulations” to help siphon off £4m of Ibori’s fortune.

Prosecutor Sasha Wass said that Mr Preko, who was Goldman Sachs’ executive director for private clients in Sub-Saharan Africa, first met Mr Ibori in 1997.

It is alleged he created a series of Guernsey-based trusts and shell companies for Mr Ibori before leaving Goldman Sachs in 2001.
The prosecutor said Mr Preko walked away with many of the bank’s West African clients, who the she described as “clients that Goldman Sachs were not prepared to touch”.

Ms Wass told the court that Ibori siphoned millions out of the Delta State by rigging the tendering process for state contracts and awarding contracts to his mistress.

He amassed a wealth of “enormous proportions” with which he bought properties in the UK, South Africa and the US.

He was negotiating to buy a £12.5million private jet when Scotland Yard detectives caught him.

Mr Ibori will be sentenced on April 16.

However, Mr Preko denies three counts of money laundering and two counts of forgery.

Goldman Sachs’ declining reputation

Goldman Sachs reputation of assisting corrupt clients to launder their dirty money was on Wednesday explained in an op-ed by a former Vice President of the bank, Greg Smith which was published in the US most famous newspaper, The New York Times.

In the article titled “Why I Am Leaving Goldman Sachs,” Mr Smith’s diatribe declared Goldman’s environment to be “as toxic and destructive as I have ever seen it.”

He said the management of the bank allows “the interests of the client… to be sidelined in the way the firm operates and thinks about making money.”

Though the bank gave a statement in response to its former employee’s article saying that the former Vice President is disgruntled and “merely one of 1,200 Vice Presidents” of the bank, it did not deny the accusation of corruption.

EFCC arraigns Lagos Assembly Speaker for laundering N501 million

After prolonged delays, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) today arraigned the Speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly, Adeyemi Ikuforiji at the Federal High Court, Lagos on 20 count charge of money laundering.

The anti-graft agency alleges that the Speaker used his position to launder over N500 million of the Lagos State House of Assembly funds.

At today’s hearing the Speaker Ikuforiji was arraigned alongside his Personal Assistant, Mr Oyebode Alade Atoyebi on an amended twenty-count charge of laundering over N501 million.

According to the charge sheet the EFCC alleged that Hon Ikuforiji and Mr Atoyebi conspired among themselves between April 2010 and July 2011 to “do an illegal act by accepting various cash payments from the State Assembly without going through a financial institution.”

Both men pleaded not guilty to the allegations after which their counsel, Tayo Oyetibo (SAN) asked the court for bail on self-recognition, because the Speaker is the “third citizen in Lagos State” and the other being “an aide to the Speaker.”

The EFCC did not oppose the bail applications but however urged the Court to impose bail conditions on the bail to be granted to his aide.

The Presiding judge Justice Okechukwu Okeke, granted the bail on self-recognition adjourned to the 26 & 27th of March.

The Speaker was initially scheduled to be arraigned on the 30th of January after weeks of failing to appear in court despite an arrest warrant.

The order was, however, discharged by the then presiding Judge, Justice John Soho on December 15, 2011, when the Speaker voluntarily came to court.

Justice John Soho subsequently withdrew from the case.

Counsel to the Speaker, had explained their absence in court was due to their not being served with the court proceeding by the EFCC to the effect that they should appear in court.

 

Ibori appears in London court today

~ James Ibori ~

Former Delta State governor, James Ibori, will on Monday appear before the Southwark Crown Court in London for the resumption of his trial. The embattled governor is faced with money laundering charges levelled against him.

There have been indications that the former governor may be prepared to cave in to a plea bargain with the Metropolitan Police. The Courts had dropped one of Ibori’s 14 charges in a bid to build a watertight case against the former governor accused of extensive money laundering.

Ibori, now facing 13 charges, had allegedly siphoned funds from the Delta State treasury into accounts in London.

His accomplices – including his sister, Christine Ibie-Ibori, his associate, Udoamaka Okonkwo and his wife, Theresa Nkoyo Ibori – have already received sentences between five and eight years for aiding the former governor’s illicit activities during his two-term tenure.

Mr. Ibori’s UK-based lawyer, Bhadresh Gohil, was also handed down a 10-year sentence in April. He had earlier been sentenced to a 7 year sentence that runs concurrently with his more recent conviction.

According to sources, the former governor is seriously considering a plea deal he had previously objected to. His lawyers are reportedly advising the beleaguered Ibori to take the deal, given the psychological and financial toll the case has taken on him, coupled with the possibility of severe penalty from the British authorities.

Mr. Ibori had been apprehended by Interpol in Dubai and extradited to London in 2011, where he has remained in police custody.