From: Godwin Tsa, Abuja
AFTER prolonged legal theatrics, the Federal Government yesterday opened its case against the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki with expose of how more than N600,000 was allegedly paid into his account 70 times in a single day.
This was the evidence in chief of a prosecution witness, Michael Wetkas, who told the Code of Conduct Tribunal that Saraki’s Personal Assistant on Domestic Affairs, Abdul Adama made the different transactions. The court also heard how another aide to the Senate president, simply named Ubi allegedly made five lodgments of N77 million in five tranches in a single day.
Earlier attempt by Saraki to stall proceedings by way of an application by his lead counsel, Mr. Paul Usoro (SAN) seeking an adjournment was rejected by the tribunal.
Meanwhile, Saraki has expressed happiness over the commencement of his trial.
He said the proceedings of yesterday had given him confidence that if the trial was conducted fairly, he would be vindicated.
In a statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Yusuph Olaniyonu, Saraki said even though the prosecution tried to bring in some dramatic narratives, it was clear that they were merely thrashing around and hoping to titillate the public with salacious tales. He added that he was hopeful however that when the time comes, his lawyers would have the opportunity to present his case.
Trial continues today.
At the resumed hearing yesterday, Saraki’s legal team had set a legal trap for the prosecution counsel, Chief Rotimi Jacobs (SAN) by an application for stay of proceedings pending his appeal against the ruling of the tribunal assuming jurisdiction to prosecute the case.
Jacobs had informed the tribunal that the matter was on March 24, adjourned till yesterday for trial to commence, pointing out that his witness was in court and was ready for trial to commence.
But the defence counsel urged the tribunal to adjourn the case till a period after the hearing of his client’s motion for stay of proceedings of the CCT which was filed before the Abuja Division of the Court of Appeal on Monday.
Usoro gave the appeal number as CA/A/172C/2016, adding that the appellate court had fixed April 26 for the hearing of his client’s motion for stay of proceedings.
But Jacobs countered the application for adjournment, saying it had the same implication as a motion for stay of proceedings which he said had been prohibited by section 306 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015.
Jacobs, who noted that the matter had been adjourned more than five times at Saraki’s instance, since the commencement of the case last September, said: “This has become too much. My lord should refuse this application for adjournment.”
Delivering his ruling after the matter was stood down, the tribunal Chairman, Danladi Umar rejected the application. The chairman insisted that Saraki’s trial on 13 counts of false assets declaration cannot be stopped on the basis of the motion he filed at the Court of Appeal challenging the court’s jurisdiction to entertain the case.
Following the ruling, the prosecution counsel called his first witness, who gave a graphic account of how the Senate President allegedly used fictitious names to launder billions of naira.
According to him: “When the defendant was governor of Kwara State between 2003 and 2011, the commission received several petitions from various groups. One of the petitioners was Kwara Freedom Network. They brought several petitions all bordering on abuse of office by the defendant, misappropriation of public fund and money laundering.
“Sometime in 2014, the then executive chairman of the EFCC, Ibrahim Lamorde received intelligence reports of suspicious transactions involving the defendant. He set up a team of investigators. Our task was to investigate the intelligence reports.
“The investigation report was reviewed by my team. In the course of our investigation, we discovered that there were several companies which were linked to the defendant. Some of them include Carlisle Properties Investment Ltd, Skyview Properties Ltd, LimKvars Ltd, and TIly-lie Ltd. Some of the companies maintain accounts at Gauranty Trust Bank (GTB), Zenith Bank, Access Bank, and other banks.
“From the investigation, it was discovered that the defendant maintained three accounts at GTB. The first account is a naira currency account, the second is a US dollar account and the third is a pound sterling account.
“The naira account was analysed, and it was discovered that between 2005 and 2013, the account had an in-flow of about N4 billion. The major source of inflow into the accounts was loans taken from GTB within the period. The loans were about N2.5 billion, and the other source of inflows into the account was massive lodgments by individuals. Other in flows into the account were from the companies.
“It was discovered that money was used for purchase of property. The dollar account was also analysed. The major source of inflow into the dollar account was Tily-lie Properties Ltd, which was about $2 million. Other source was from bureau de change companies. And the rest was cash lodgments by individuals.
“The cash in the dollar account between 2009 and 2013 was $6 million. We discovered that up to $3.4 million was wired to American Express Services Europe Limited, which was used to fund the defendant’s American Express Service New York card account number 374588216836009. The defendant wired over 1.5 million pound sterling to Fortis Bank for the purchase of a property in the UK.
“After that, because of the suspicious inflows into the account, the bank (GTB) officials were invited. The reason for the invitation of the officials was that some of the individuals who were making the cash lodgment into the account were bank officials.
“One Oluwa Tujimu reported to the commission. From our of interactions with him, we discovered that some of the lodgments were made through a superior at the bank, Bayo Daudu, who was the relationship manager of the account. In our interaction with Daudu, it was discovered the cash sums were handed over to him by the defendant for lodgment in the account. According to Daudu, he goes to Kwara State Government House to collect the money from the defendant for lodgment into the account at the GRA Ilorin branch of GTB.
“We discovered one name, Abdul Adama who made transaction 50 times into the account in a single day. The sum was broken down to N600, 000 and N900, 000, and was lodged in the same day.
“Subsequently, after that one Ubi made a lodgment on the same day about 20 times in the same range of N600, 000 and N900, 000, we looked for Adama and invited him. He reported that the cash sums were handed over to him by the defendant and stated further that the cash sums that were lodged in by Ubi into the same account were from the defendant.
“Adama and Ubi were personal assistants to the defendant while he was governor. Further investigations revealed that other individuals who made lodgments into the account were fictitious. GTB said they had done the needful by reporting the suspicious transactions to FIU.”
The witness claimed that the report of the anti graft agency was submitted to the Federal Ministry of Justice which later referred the report to the Code of Conduct Bureau for further investigation because the findings bothered mainly on properties that were not declared in the Assets form