A Federal High Court sitting in Lagos has adjourned the arraignment of President of the Nigerian Bar Association, (NBA), Mr Paul Usoro.
The NBA boss appeared earlier in court today before Justice Muslim Hassan over N1.4billion fraud allegations filed against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commision (EFCC).
The arraignment, however, could not hold as the NBA President, through his defence team, told the court charge sheet had not been served on him.
The NBA President was represented by a team of lawyers led by a former president of the NBA, Wole Olanipekun.
EFCC Counsel, Rotimi Oyedepo, told the court that the NBA President has been evading service of the charge.
Olanipekun said his client came to court on his own despite not being served with the charge sheet, adding that he was ready to accept the service of the charge sheet in the courtroom.
Olanipekun then urged the judge to direct the EFCC to serve his client the charge sheet. But the EFCC counsel resisted the move. He told the judge that he was not in a position to effect service in court especially as the charge sheet was with the Investigative Police Officer who was absent.
Justice Muslim Hassan, therefore, adjourned till December 18, for the arraignment. Justice Hassan said this is to enable the EFCC to serve Usoro with the charge sheet for the alleged offences.
Outside the court premises, operatives of the anti-graft agency moved to arrest Usoro but following the intervention of the EFCC counsel, the NBA President was invited to accompany the EFCC to their Lagos office. He was allowed to ride in his car with some lawyers.
The group then moved to the EFCC office where Usoro is expected to be served with the Charge Sheet.
Last week Wednesday, the EFCC had filed a 10 count of fraudulent conversion of N1.4bn against the President of NBA.
In the first count, the EFCC alleges that Mr Usoro, Governor Emmanuel Udom of Akwa Ibom State (who currently enjoys constitutional immunity against criminal prosecution), the Akwa Ibom State Commissioner for finance, Nsikan Nkan, the Accountant-General, Mfon Udomah, the Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice; Uwemedimo Nwoko and Margaret Ukpe, all of whom were said to be at large, conspired in 2015 to convert the sum of N1.4billion property of the Akwa Ibom State Government which they ought to have known forms part of the proceeds of crime.
The EFCC Counsel who signed the charge sheet, Mr Oyedepo, said the offences are contrary to Section 18 (a) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2011.
The EFCC, last week filed a 10-count charge against Mr Usoro.
Mr Usoro however said on Sunday, December 9, that he is innocent of the N1.4 billion money laundering charges brought against him by EFCC. He said this while fielding questions from reporters after the NBA National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting in Abuja.
He said, “I haven’t been served. I expect I will be served but the facts as I know it, I am completely innocent and the facts as I know it, I presented it in the address that was adopted by NEC.”
“Assuming that there was something that was done; except the association itself makes a complaint to the EFCC or any of the other criminal investigating agencies, then they don’t have any basis having to come in into what we are doing.”
The trial of the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, at the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) over alleged false declaration of assets continued on Tuesday in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital.
At the resumed hearing of the case, a witness, Amazu Nwachuckwu, gave testimonies about how the Senate President allegedly transferred funds from Nigeria to service his mortgage obligation through an offshore account in the United Kingdom.
Nwachuckwu, who works as a Funds Transfer Officer in Guaranty Trust Bank, explained how Dr. Saraki purportedly transferred over $3 million between 2009 and 2012 from his domiciliary account with the bank to American Express Europe Services Limited.
The defence team, led by Mr Paul Usoro, however, argued that their client never maintained a foreign account as a public officer.
Mr Usoro added that Senator Saraki obtained a loan of 375 million Naira from the bank to acquire a property in London.
He maintained that it was not in breach of any law.
Further hearing in the case has been shifted to January 18, even though Mr Usoro has informed the Tribunal that he had more questions for the witness.
The CCT had earlier struck out an application filed by the Senate President against the Chairman of the Tribunal, Justice Danladi Umar.
Senator Saraki had accused Mr Umar of bias and asked him to disqualify himself from hearing the case.
The cross-examination of chief prosecution witness, Mr Micheal Wetkas, in the trial of Nigeria’s Senate President , Dr. Bukola Saraki, has ended.
Counsel to the Senate President, Mr Paul Usoro, at the resumed sitting on Tuesday asked the witness if he still stood by his claims that the Senate President received salaries four years after he left the Kwara State Government House as governor, even though he was receiving salaries as a Senator and the witness answered in the affirmative.
Done with that Mr Usoro informed the Tribunal that he had come to the end of cross-examining the witness.
When asked if they wanted to cross-examine, the prosecutor Mr Umar Ibrahim who stood in for the lead prosecutor Mr Rotimi Jacobs asked for an adjournment to enable the prosecution prepare for a re-examination
The Chairman of the Tribunal, Mr Danladi Umar, then told parties in the case that the Tribunal would not be able to adjourn to any date in 2016 and subject to the agreement of parties the trial has been adjourned to January 11, 2017.
Senator Bukola Saraki is facing trial for alleged false assets declaration.
The trial of the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, has resumed at the Code of Conduct Tribunal in Abuja.
This comes after more than five months and following the dismissal of his appeal by the Appeal Court, challenging his trial by the Code of Conduct Bureau.
At the resumed trial, the prosecuting counsel, Mr Oluwaleke Atolagbe told the tribunal that the case was adjourned for conclusion of trial but this was countered by the defence lead counsel, Mr Kanu Agabi who said that the case was for continuation of trial instead.
The key witness Mr Michael Wetkas, also maintained his stance to continue with his evidence. He was cross examined on counts two, three and four on the mode of payment of property purchased by the Senate President in 2006.
The defence counsel in charge of the cross examination for the day, Mr Paul Usoro reminded the tribunal that the cross examination was suspended on counts 8 and 9 which concerns the properties in Abuja.
Under cross examination by counsel to the Senate President, Mr Paul Usoro, the chief prosecution witness read out charge number two which alleged that the Senate President declared that he purchased his property in Ikoyi, Lagos state from proceeds of food commodities, when he purchased it with loans from a commercial bank.
He was then asked to read the asset declaration form of the Senate President for the year 2007 and Mr Wetkas agreed that the form indicated that the properties were bought with a loan from the bank.
He was, however, quick to add that four years after in 2011 the same properties were declared to have been acquired from proceeds from the commodity business of the defendant.
The witness was then asked to read the bank statement of the defendant and he read that the loan obtained to purchase the properties in dispute has been liquidated prior to 2011 declaration in five trenches between May 2007 and May 2008.
He insisted that the manner in which the loan was repaid contravened the money laundering act.
But when counsel to the Senate President asked if the offense was that of money laundering and that the tribunal should not be the court to try Dr Saraki, the prosecutor, Rotimi Jacobs, raised an objection, arguing that earlier during investigation, it was proven by some people that the money used to repay the loan was given to them by the Senate President in the Kwara government house.
While the defence counsel says it has made significant progress in debunking the testimonies of the prosecution witness, the prosecutor accused the defence of wasting time.
The defence says it will continue with the cross examination at the next adjourned date.
Cross examination of the prosecution witness in the trial of the Senate President Bukola Saraki, continues at the Code Of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) in Abuja.
Under cross-examination on Wednesday, Mr Michael Wetkas, insisted that the Senate President did not declare the property he bought in London and the loan he used to buy the property at the end of his tenure as Governor of Kwara State in 2011.
He was, however, not able to provide evidence showing that the property was purchased by the defendant.
The cross-examination of an operative of the anti-graft agency and prosecution witness, Mr Michael Wetkas, in the trial of the Nigerian Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, at the Code of Conduct Tribunal continued on Wednesday.
The CCT went ahead with the trial in spite of the nationwide strike declared by the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC).
At the resumed session on Wednesday, a counsel to Dr. Saraki, Mr Paul Usoro, asked the witness to read page 9 of exhibit 3.
He was being drilled about his testimony regarding transfer of funds between foreign accounts held by the defendant.
He said that from the dollar account you would see a debit entry €1,200,000 on April 12, 2010 and that in the narration it was written ‘dollar exchange for Dr. Bukola Saraki’.
He added that on the pound sterling account which is exhibit 9, on that same day there was a credit in pounds sterling.
He said further that on February 15, 2010 there was a transaction with a debit of 1million dollars with the same narration like the first one seeking conversion of the funds to pound sterling and also on the same day there was a credit of $632,511.07 with a narration seeking conversion to pound sterling.
Wetkas then referred the tribunal to exhibit 8 where said funds were converted into pounds on behalf of the defendant.
When asked if there must be a telex for the transfer, the witness says yes. He also identified the telex which is part of his exhibit.
Having identified all the transfers, he was asked to read count 11 which is for making a false declaration which Dr. Saraki submitted at the end of his second tenure, where he allegedly failed to make declaration of loan he obtained from a commercial bank and remitted to Fortis Bank in full and final payment for undisclosed property he bought in London.
Mr Wetkas said that exhibit 7 has an offer letter of banking facility for the purchase of a property in London.
Mortgage Intervention He insisted that the Senate President did not declare the property he bought in London and the loan he used to buy the property at the end of his tenure as the Governor of Kwara State in 2011.
According to Mr Wetkas, the London counterparts of the anti-graft agency are yet to furnish the commission with the details of the property.
He told the tribunal that Senator Saraki did not declare over 375 million dollars, which he converted to pound sterlings for the purchase of two houses in London that were also not declared.
When asked to read the telex for the transfers for the said transaction which he had earlier tendered as evidence, the witness pointed out that it was for mortgage intervention.
Asked if he knew the meaning of mortgage intervention, the witness admitted that he had little knowledge of mortgage business, but that the commission reached out to their counterparts in London, who gave them details of the title deeds of the property and the owner.
He, however, said he was not in possession of the documents when asked if he had evidence to substantiate his claims.
On counts 10 and 15, Mr Wetkas told the tribunal that he did not give any testimony about them.
He was then directed to Count 5 which accused the Senate President of failing to declare his interest in number 37b Glover Road, Ikoyi and that he failed to declare the said property in his asset declaration form in 2011, and also failed to declare the annual income of 5.5 million Naira annual rent accrued from the property.
When asked how he came about that conclusion, the witness said that the Managing Director of Carlisle Properties and Investment owned by the defendant, one Mr Sule Izuabe, told him, under interrogation, that all the properties managed by the company was owned by the defendant and that during a search of the premises of Carlisle Investments and Properties Limited, the operatives of EFCC came across a document, which was labeled as ‘estimated annual income’.
This he said, made him reach the conclusion that the property was owned by the defendant.
When asked if he had the title deed of the property, Wetkas said the document contained the name of four different owners.
He said the property was linked to the Senate President because of the income that was linked to the property, but that other officers had further investigated the ownership of the property and would be testifying in that regard.
The witness also admitted under cross examination that he had no document to show that the sum of 5.5 million Naira as alleged in the charge accrued to the defendant.
The proceedings was adjourned to Wednesday, May 25 2016 for continuation of cross examination.
When asked about the numbering in MacDonald Street, the witness, who is an opertive of the anti-graft agency, Mr Michael Wetkas, maintained his testimony that number 15 was one and the same property.
He also told the Tribunal that the Presidential Implementation Committee (PIC) on the sales of the Federal Government properties did not tell them that they were two separate property and that the Managing Director of Carlisle Properties and Investment Limited did say that the property belonged to the Senate President.
Mr Wetkas also said that the defendant, in his asset declaration in 2011 and 2015, declared it as number 15 and not number 15 A and B, claiming that that was why the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) maintained the position that it was the same property.
He further said: “In fact, there is a letter written to the Senate President by the Ministry of Housing telling him that there is a presidential concession that number 15 MacDonald be sold to the defendant.
“All the while there was no mention of 15 A and B that is why we say that the nomenclature is just for the convenience of the defendant”.
Asking a follow up question, Mr Usoro pointed out the witness had brought new details into the mix.
He asked again: “What makes you think that the defendant by 2007, because you have earlier said it was not declared, what makes you think the defendant has expanded the property”?
Responding, the witness said he believes that “when you by a property you decide how to restructure or renovate it”.
“I did not ask him if he did the restructuring and remodelling,” he told the Tribunal, saying they believe that it is one and the same property.
The Tribunal then took him to page 187 of the document from the PIC, with the defence counsel asking when the letter by the occupant of number 15 Mr Eguwagu to the PIC was written. He responded, June 21, 2008.
The Counsel further asked if the petition came after the asset declaration of the Senate President. He said yes and explained that the asset declaration of the Senate President was done on July 11, 2007, about a year difference.
Mr Usoro further drilling him said: “According to the letter by Mr Eguwagu, is it true that he said curiously that nobody had approached me to say he or they have bought the property and that the property was handed over to him by Ministry of Housing and that he was still leaving in the property?
Mr Wetkas agreed that by the content of the letter by Mr Eguwagu was still leaving in the property by 2008 June.
He was also asked if Mr Egwuagu also said that nobody had approached him that they had bought the property including Tiny Tee.
The witness also agreed that Mr Egwuagu also attached some documents which included the content referred to by Mr Wetkas.
Mr Usoro then told the Tribunal that he withdrew an initial statement that Mr Wetkas lied, saying instead that he misrepresented the facts.
When Mr Wetkas was asked if he had any other documents that contradicted the information in Mr Egwuagu’s letter, he said he had none.
When asked if he said there was a letter written by the committee that the presidency had said the property should be given to the Senate President, Wetkas answered in the affirmative and also produced the letter as ordered by the Tribunal, which was the page 122 of exhibit 16.
He was then asked to read the document and show anything in the letter that specifically showed that 15 A and B were not the same as he said earlier. He could not mention any part of the letter that contained that and then he told the Tribunal that there was nothing in the letter that said so.
He however, stressed that why he brought the letter was for prove that number 15 existed and that it was offered to the defendant because all the correspondence, with regards to the case all, mentioned Number 15 and not 15A and B . . According to the letter, the then President, Mr Olusegun Obasanjo, gave special presidential concession to Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola.
When asked if he still stood by charge one that Saraki on September 16 2003, did make an anticipatory asset declaration of number 15A and B, which he claimed to have acquired in the year 2000, by his companies Tiny Tee and BT Oil Limited, he said that the bank record of payment showed the list of directors of Bt Oil.
He was asked if he investigated BT Oil, he told the Tribunal that he did not check, explaining that he was yet to established a link between BT Oil and Dr. Saraki.
He was then handed the joint report of the EFCC/Code of Conduct Bureau investigative team and he identified them as same.
The defence then asked that the document be tendered in evidence.
The trial of Nigeria’s Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, on alleged falsification of assets at the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) has been adjourned till Wednesday, April 6.
During hearing on Tuesday the counsel to the Senate President, Mr Paul Usoro, had asked for an adjournment on the basis that an appeal had been entered before the appellate court. The defendant filed a motion of stay of proceedings which is before the Registrar of the court, he told the Tribunal.
Mr Usoro said that the process of appeal had been transmitted to the CCT and the record of appeal was before the Tribunal.
He explained that the prayer for adjournment was to essentially allow the Court of Appeal to entertain and arrive at a decision in the appeal, which it had graciously fixed a clear date of April 26, 2016 to hear.
The Senate President’s counsel also requested that the case should be adjourned on the ground that he was appearing for the first time in he case and that he was not fully briefed of the matter.
But the Prosecuting Counsel, Mr Rotimi Jacobs, opposed the application.
According to him, the CCT had adjourned the matter for trial to commence and he was ready with his witnesses to commence trial.
He said that the defence was aware that what they had filed could not stop the proceedings.
He said that the request for an adjournment was not based on the motion served on the prosecution but on an application of stay of proceedings pending before the Court of Appeal.
After the counter comments, the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) ruled that it had jurisdiction in the case of alleged falsification of assets brought against Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki.
The Tribunal said the natural thing to do was to proceed with the trial in spite of a request for an adjournment by counsel to the Senate President, Mr Usoro.
After that ruling the Tribunal proceeded with the hearing, with one of the witnesses, Micheal Wekpas, a detective superintendent with the Economic Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) giving a testimony of his involvement in the matter.
He said the anti-graft agency had received several petitions against Mr Saraki shortly after the second tenure of the Senate President as Governor of Kwara State.
One of such petitions, according to him, came from a group, Kwara Freedom Network, alleging misappropriation, corruption and money laundering.
The EFCC’s operative told the Tribunal that while investigations were going on sometime in 2014, the then chairman of the EFCC, Mr Ibrahim Lamorde, received intelligence report on suspicious transactions by the Senate President.
He said that after the report was received, Mr Lamorde set up a team of three investigators headed by him (the witness) and having two other officials of the anti-graft agency, Chris Odofin and Nura Bako, as members.
Their task was to further investigate the intelligence report and report back to the chairman of the commission.
The intelligence report was previewed by the team and in the process of further investigation, they discovered that there were several companies linked to the defendant.
According to Mr Wekpas, some of the companies include, Carlisle Properties and Investment Limited, Sky View Properties Limited, Limkers Nigeria Limited and Tinly-tee Limited.
He further told the Tribunal that some of the companies maintained accounts with Guaranty Trust Bank Plc (GTB), Zenith Bank Plc, Intercontinental Bank now Access Bank and other commercial banks.
Mr Wepkas further stated that the team also discovered three accounts with GTB, which were a Naira, Dollar and Pounds Sterling accounts.
The accounts, he said, were analysed in the course of investigation and it was discovered that between 2005 and 2013 the Naira account had total inflow and outflow of about four billion Naira and that the major source of inflow into the account was loans taken from Guaranty Trust Bank Plc within the period.
The loans taken into the account, according to the witness, was over 2.5 billion Naira.
He also told the Tribunal that the other source of inflow into the account was massive cash lodgements by individuals.
“Other inflows into the account was from the company, Carlisle Properties and Investment Limited owned by the Senate President.
“It was also discovered that the inflows into the account was used for acquisition of property,” he said.
The dollar account, according to the EFCC operative, was also analysed, with discoveries showing that the the major source of inflow into the dollar account was Carlisle Properties and Investment Limited which was over two million dollars.
The other sources of inflow into the account were from various Bureau De Change companies and other cash lodgements by individuals.
He told the Tribunal that the total turnover of the dollar account between 2009 and 2013 was over six million dollars.
“From the Inflow into the dollar account we discovered that up to 3.4 million dollars was wired to American Express Services Limited which was used to fund the Defendant American Express Service New York card account 37458836836009.
“The other funds from the dollar account, which was changed into Pound Sterling, was wired to Europe through Fortis Bank to purchase a property in London.
“Over £1.5 million was wired to Europe,” he said.
The witness said that from the telex transfer document that was available to them during investigations and also from the position of the bank, it was suggested that the account belonged to the defendant.
“After that, because of the suspicious nature of the inflows into the account, the bank officials were invited by the investigating team.
“The reason for the investigation was because some of the individuals making lodgements into the account were staff of the bank,” he further told the Tribunal.
According to him, one of the officials of the bank, Mr Oluwatojimu Ade Deji, who reported to the commission told the anti-graft agency that the monies lodged into the account were giving to him by his superiors in the bank, one of which was one Abdulraham Dauda who was the relationship manager of the said account.
Mr Wekpas added that while questioning Mr Dauda, it was discovered that cash was handed to him by the defendant.
“According to him, he used to go to the Government house in Kwara state to collect the sums,” the witness stated.
He further said that from the lodgements in the account one Ubi on a single day made five separate lodgements of over 77 million Naira.
“We also discovered another name Abdul Adamma, who on a single day also made 50 different cash lodgements into the same account in lodgements of 600,000 and 900,000 Naira.
“Shortly after that the same Ubi again made another set of lodgements into the same account 20 times in the same range,” he said.
In its further investigation, the team invited Mr Adamma who said that the sums were giving to him by the defendant.
They were said to be personal assistants to the defendant.
The witness also told the Tribunal that after lodgements by Mr Adamma and others, the pattern of the lodgements into the account changed.
“Even though lodgements were still made in 600,000 and 900,000 Naira, they were made by different individuals.
“Further investigation on those individuals revealed that those individuals were fictitious.
“The team took up the matter with the bank officials who said they had done the needful.
“By submitting a report to the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit, we were furnished with evidence to that effect.
“We furnished our report to the chairman who ordered that we harmonise our report with the investigation by other teams on the case – the Code of Conduct Bureau, Department of State Services and the EFCC,” he said in his testimony.
Infractions in Asset Declaration Form
Mr Wekpas also said that in the process of harmonising the evidence, he called the EFCC official, who represented the commission on that team of a Joint Committee on Asset Investigation one Mr Adamu Garba and was ordered to join the investigative team.
“So, all the findings were harmonised and sent to the legal department for advice.
“The legal department informed the investigative team that it conferred with the Ministry of Justice on the matter and that the Ministry Directed that the matter be referred to the Code of Conduct Bureau.
“And that a joint team of the bureau and our team be established to conclude the investigation, especially as it relates to assets.
“One Mr Samuel Madu and Samuel Yahaya of the Code of Conduct Bureau were directed to join our team and they furnished us with the Assets Declaration Form filled and submitted by the defendant between 2003 and 2011,” he said.
The EFCC’s official further stated that the forms were analysed and the team invited the Managing Director of Carlisle Properties and Investment Limited owned by the Senate President.
“From our interaction with him, it was discovered that all the transaction in the account of the company were directed by the defendant.
“We requested the list of property managed by the company because we discovered that the major source of inflow into the account of the company was from rents by tenants.
“He promised to come back with the list of the property managed by the company but from that day he went underground and all efforts to get him proved abortive.
“We then declared him wanted because he never got back to the commission.
“Left with no option, the team obtained a search warrant from the court which we executed into office of Carlisle Properties and Investment Limited in Lagos.
“The team obtained a document containing a list of some of the property yielding interest to the company.
“Some were bought from the Presidential Implementation Committee and the Central Bank.
“We analysed these property with the ones on his Asset Declaration Form and found some infractions on the forms and two property were not reflected on the form,” he further told the court.
According to him, the property on the form were said to have been acquired from sales of sugar, but the EFCC discovered that it was bought from the loan he got from the bank which was repaid from the cash lodgements earlier referred to and made at Ilorin the capital of Kwara State.
He also told the Tribunal that another property was discovered in Abuja which was purchased in 1991. The property was not declared in his asset form.
The witness said that the team allegedly discovered that while he was in office, he maintained an American Express Service Card account with the American Express Bank New York.
After taking his testimony, the Tribunal adjourned its hearing till Wednesday, April 6.
In a statement issued after the seating of the Tribunal, Dr. Saraki said he was confident that if his trial was conducted fairly he would be vindicated.
A statement by his spokesman, Yusuph Olaniyonu, said Dr. Saraki was glad that his trial before the Tribunal on asset declaration in 2003 had finally commenced.