Alleged N1.4bn Subsidy Fraud: Court Admits More Evidence Against Nadabo Energy Boss

 

The ongoing trial of Abubakar Ali Peters and his company, Nadabo Energy Limited, for alleged N1.4billion fraud, before Justice Christopher Balogun of the Lagos State High Court sitting in Ikeja, continued on Tuesday, with the court admitting in evidence all the documents tendered by the prosecution against the defendants.

Abubakar and his company are being prosecuted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), for allegedly using forged documents to obtain N1,464,961,978.24 from the Federal Government as oil subsidy, after allegedly inflating the quantity of Premium Motor Spirit, PMS purportedly imported and supplied by the company.

They pleaded “not guilty” to the charges preferred against them.

The prosecution counsel, Seidu Atteh, had at the sitting on March 10, 2021, sought to tender correspondences between the EFCC and Petrocam Trading PYT Limited as well as the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) in relation to the alleged fraud.

He had sought to tender them through the Executive Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, Abdulrasheed Bawa, who is the fifth prosecution witness and the lead investigator.

Read Also: Alleged Fuel Subsidy Fraud: Bawa In Court To Testify Against Nadabo Energy

The defence team, led by Osagie Isiramen, had, however, raised objections to the admissibility of the documents, citing several authorities, including Section 83 of the Evidence Act.

He had argued that the documents sought to be tendered were being brought to the knowledge of the defence, during the pendency of the trial, several years after the case had already commenced.

“The defence should not be taken by surprise,” he had said.

In his response, Atteh had cited several authorities, arguing that, “the difference here is that the documents were not just created by the time they were included as additional proof of evidence”.

Delivering the ruling on Tuesday, Justice Balogun dismissed the objections raised by the defence as lacking in merit.

With regard to the correspondence between the EFCC and Petrocam, Justice Balogun held that “The documents sought to be tendered were already in existence before this case was filed.

“Petrocam only gave documents of what already took place to the EFCC; and so, there is no surprise for the defence.”

On the objections raised to the admissibility of the correspondence between the EFCC and the CAC, the Judge reminded the defence of its ruling on February 2, 2021, on a similar argument still being canvassed and said: “The Court is still bound by its ruling in relation to certifying officers and payment for certification and shall abide by its earlier ruling. And so, in the circumstance, the objection is overruled.”

Thereafter, the letters of investigation activities written by the EFCC to Petrocam and the CAC as well as the responses from the two agencies were admitted in evidence against the defendants as exhibits O4, O5 and O51.

Testifying further, Bawa told the court that the correspondences were thoroughly studied in the course of the investigation.

He also told the court that the correspondences further unearthed several activities embarked upon to defraud the Federal Government in fuel subsidy funds.

He said: “We studied the responses from Petrocam and found out that, contrary to the claim of the defendant that Ashland Energy SA was the supplier, it was Petrocam Trading PYT Limited that supplied about 4,500MT equivalent to about 6.5million litres of PMS as against the claim of about 14,000MT of PMS equivalent to about 19.8million litres purportedly supplied by the defendant.

“The response also confirmed to us that the Letter of Credit (LC) No. SPG/DLC/11/0013 is actually in favour of Petrocam and not Ashland Energy as claimed by the defendant’s purported documents.

“We also found out that the daughter vessel, MT St Vanessa, received the product on 2nd December 2011 from a mother vessel, MT Eviridiki, which was contrary to the claim by the defendant that, on the 2nd of December 201, MT Vanessa received the products from MT American Express.”

“The correspondence with the CAC”, he said, “confirmed that Abubakar was among the shareholders and directors of the company and that indeed the company was duly registered.”

In furtherance of the investigation and a fallout of the correspondence with Petrocam, Bawa said letters of investigation activities were sent to Enterprise Bank Limited, requesting to be furnished with the copies of instruments used for the utilisation of certain funds in the account of the first defendant.

He further said: “The bank received our original letter, acknowledged the copy and accordingly responded to our letter in writing, attaching copies of the requested documents.

“We equally wrote another investigation letter to Skye Bank Plc for copies of the account opening documents and the statement of account of the first defendant.

“The bank duly acknowledged receipt and also responded in writing, attaching all the requested documents as well as Certificate of Identification.

“We studied the statement of account and found out that the said account is the account that received the subsidy payment of more than N1.4billion on 4th April 2012 in favour of the transaction in the matter before this honourable court.”

According to him, further analysis indicated that “the entire subsidy payment received was utilised by the defendant, including a huge transfer of N850million to Enterprise Bank, which we found out to be for the liquidation of the LC raised in favour of Petrocam for the actual transaction that took place.”

He further testified that “then Spring Bank was approached by the defendant to finance the said importation.

“The bank agreed and raised the Letter of Credit valued at $4.8million In favour of Petrocam.”

According to him, the investigation showed that the defendant reached out to one Mr. Jide Offor Akpan of International Maritime and Shipping Ltd, who helped to charter MT St Vanessa, adding that “It was the same vessel that received 6.5million litres on 2nd December 2011 from Petrocam based on the LC that was raised.

“We found out that Q & Q Control Services Limited was engaged by the defendant to witness the ship-to-ship transfer of 6.5million litres or about 4,500MT of PMS from MT Eviridiki into MT St Vanessa.

“We also found out that St Vanessa only picked products from MT Eviridiki on 2nd December 2011 of 6.5million litres and discharged the same on behalf of the defendant at Masters Energy depot in Port Harcourt.”

According to him, the findings were contrary to the claims in the documents submitted by the defendant to the Petroleum Products Pricing and Regulatory Agency (PPPRA).

Thereafter, Atteh sought to tender the correspondences between the EFCC and Enterprise Bank as well as Skye Bank.

However, though Isiramen did not object to the admissibility of the EFCC letters, he objected to the admissibility of the responses from the two banks.

Following the arguments by the defence and prosecution, citing several authorities, Justice Balogun adjourned till December 7, 2021, for “ruling and continuation of trial”.

Subsidy Fraud: Witness Denies Receiving $620.000 From Farouk Lawan

The Chairman of the House Of Representatives Committee on Narcotics and Financial Crimes, Adams Jagaba, has denied any connection with the alleged $620,000 bribe which the then Chairman of the House’s Ad-Hoc Committee on Fuel Subsidy, Farouk Lawan, was said to have received from billionaire businessman, Femi Otedola, in 2012.

At the resumed trial of Farouk Lawan in Abuja, Jagaba denied claims by Lawan that he handed over the alleged bribe received from Otedola to him with a covering.

Lawan was accused of accepting the bribe in exchange for the removal of Otedola’s company’s name, Zenon Petroleum and Gas Ltd, from the list of firms indicted by the house committee for allegedly abusing the fuel subsidy regime in 2012.

Although the prosecutor was unavailable for comments, lawyer to Lawan faulted the decision of the court to refuse his application seeking to recall a witness for further cross-examination.

Subsidy Fraud: Two Convicted For Stealing 754m Naira From Govt.

artificial fuel scarcity, imo state, imo state governmentA Lagos State High Court in Ikeja on Friday convicted two oil marketers, Walter Wagbatsoma, Adaoha Ugo – Ndagi and their company, Ontario Oil and Gas Limited for defrauding the Federal Government of the sum of 754 million Naira.

The convicts, were arraigned before the court for allegedly obtaining the sum from the government through the Petroleum Product Subsidy Support Fund.

They were arraigned by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission on an eight count charge of conspiracy, obtaining property by false pretence, forgery and altering of documents.

While delivering judgment in the five year old case, Justice Lateefat Okunnu held that the prosecution had proved its case against the convicts beyond all reasonable doubt.

Collapsed In The Dock

The judge stressed that the convicts knew that the documents they presented to the government to claim subsidy was forged but they presented it anyway to derive “undeserved benefits”.

The first convict, Walter Watgbasoma, who is the Chairman of Ontario Oil and Gas Limited, was convicted in absentia, as he had fled the country despite the fact that the court was with his passport and other travel documents.

He is currently under house arrest in the UK where he is also accused of fraud.

The second convict, Mrs Ugo-Nnadi, who was present in court, collapsed in the dock before the judge could pronounce the sentence.

The ensuing confusion forced the court to adjourn the proceedings to Monday, January 16 when the sentence will be delivered.

Family members later claimed that Mrs Ugo-Nnadi, who is the Managing director of Ontario Oil and Gas Limited, was subsequently rushed to a hospital in the company of some prison officials.

The Court has, however, acquitted and discharged the third defendant, one Babafemi Fakuade, an official of the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA) for lack of evidence linking him to the crime.

The offense committed by the two convicts attracts a minimum sentence of seven years imprisonment while the maximum sentence is 20 years.

N979.6m Subsidy Fraud: EFCC Says Suspects Have Escaped To Canada

Oluwaseun OgunbamboOne of the major oil marketers on the wanted list of the EFCC, Mr Oluwaseun Ogunbambo, may have fled to Canada.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, told an Ikeja High Court on Thursday that the suspect fled to Canada to avert justice.

Mr Oluwaseun is charged with receiving 979.6million Naira from the Federal Government without supplying any petroleum product.

According to spokesman of EFCC, Mr Wilson Uwujaren, the suspect now at large and another oil marketer Habila Theck and their company, Fargo Energy Limited were facing trial for defrauding the Government of 979.6million Naira.

The defence counsel, Mr Raphael Oluyede, said that Ogunbambo was absent in court because he was recently attacked by some unknown gunmen, who had wanted to abduct him.

The prosecutor, Mr Emmanuel Jackson, however, debunked the claim that Ogunbambo was attacked by unknown gunmen. He stated that it was evident that he was no longer in Nigeria.

“He has abused the liberty of being granted bail and his action is making the criminal law to look like a toothless bulldog”, he said.

Fuel Subsidy scam: EFCC to arraign 20 suspects

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has concluded arrangements to prosecute the first batch of suspects implicated in the oil subsidy fraud. The suspects, comprising six oil companies and 11 individuals, will be docked in a Lagos courts.

According to a press statement signed and released by the spokesperson of the commission, Wilson Uwujaren, the companies involved are: Nasaman Oil Services; Eternal Oil and Gas Plc; Ontario Oil & Gas Plc; Nadabo Energy Limited; Pacific Silver Line Limited, Axenergy Limited and Fago Petroleum and Gas Limited.

The statement listed the 11 individuals involved in the scam as: Mamman Nasir Ali; Christian Taylor; Mahmud Tukur; Ochonogor Alex; Walter Wagbatsoma; Adaoha Ugo-Ngadi; Fakuade Babafemi Ebenezer; Ezekiel Olaleye Ejidele; Abubakar Ali Peters; Jude Agube Abalaka, Abdulahi Alao and Oluwaseun Ogunbanbo.

Ezekiel Olaleye Ejidele is director of the accounting firm, Akintola Williams Deliote while Fakuade Babafemi Ebenezer is a staff of the Petroleum Products Pricing and Regulating Agency, PPPRA.

“Nasaman Oil Services; Mamman Nasir and Christian Taylor are to face charges bordering on obtaining N4, 460, 130, 797. 94 (Four Billion, Four Hundred and Sixty Million, One Hundred and Thirty Thousand, Seven Hundred and Ninety Seven Naira, Ninety Four Kobo) from the Federal Government of Nigeria under false pretence. The sum is alleged to have been fraudulently obtained as subsidy payments from the Petroleum Support Fund for the purported importation of 30.5million litres of Premium Motor Spirit from SEATAC Petroleum Limited of British Virgin Islands,” the statement reads.

In the same vein, the anti-graft agency will prosecute Abdullahi Alao and Axenergy Limited for allegedly obtaining the sum of N2, 640, 141, 707.75 (Two Billion, Six Hundred and Forty Million; One Hundred and Forty One Thousand; Seven Hundred and Seven Naira, Seventy Five Kobo) being payments received from the Petroleum Support Fund for the purported importation of 33.3 million litres of Premium Motor Spirit.

Others include Mahmud Tukur, Ochonogor Alex; Abdulahi Alao and Eternal Oil And Gas Plc who will be docked for fraudulently obtaining the sum of N1, 899, 238, 946. 02( One Billion, Eight Hundred and Ninety Nine Million, Two Hundred and Thirty Eight Thousand, Nine Hundred and Forty Six Naira, Two Kobo) from the Petroleum support Fund for a purported importation of 80.3million litres of Premium Motor Spirit.

Also, Nadabo Energy Limited, Abubakar Ali Peters, Jude Agube Abalaka and Pacific Silver Line Limited are to be prosecuted for allegedly obtaining the sum of N1, 464, 961, 978.24 (One Billion, Four Hundred and Sixty Four Million, Nine Hundred and Sixty One Thousand, Nine Hundred and Seventy Eight Naira, Twenty- Four Kobo ), being payments fraudulently received from the Petroleum Support Fund for a purported importation of 19.4million litres of Premium Motor Spirit.

Walter Wagbatsoma; Adaoha Ugo -Ngadi; Fakuade Babafemi Ebenezer; Ezekiel Olaleye Ejidele and Ontario Oil & Gas Nigeria Limited will be arraigned for fraudulently obtaining the sum of N1, 959, 377, 542, .63 (One Billion, Nine Hundred and Fifty Nine Million, Three Hundred and Seventy Seven Thousand, Five Hundred and Forty Two Naira, Sixty Three Kobo) from the Petroleum Support Fund for a purported importation of 39.2 litres of Premium Motor Spirit.

Lastly, Fago Petroleum and Gas Limited and Oluwaseun Ogunbanbo are to be docked for fraudulently obtaining the sum of N979,653,110.20 ( Nine Hundred and Seventy Nine Million, Six Hundred and Fifty Three Thousand, One Hundred and Ten Thousand Naira, Twenty Eight Kobo), from the Petroleum Support Fund for a purported importation of 33, 627, 84 litres of Premium Motor Spirit.

The EFCC said the 20 suspects are among the over 140 individuals and organisations it is investigating for their alleged involvement in the subsidy payments.

“More suspects will be arraigned periodically as the investigation progresses,” the commission’s spokesperson said.