Lukman Olabiyi, Lagos
A former director of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Engineer Tuoyo Omatsuli, has been re-arraigned before the Federal High Court, Lagos over alleged N3.6 billion fraud.
Omatsuli was docked alongside Don Parker Properties Ltd, Francis Momoh and Building Associates Ltd before Justice Saliu Saidu on a 52-count amended charge bordering on the alleged offence by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
They, however, denied all the counts when the charge was read to them.
The defendants’ re-arraignment was coming about 16 months after they were initially docked by the anti-graft agency on a 45-count charge bordering on similar offence following which trial commenced in the matter.
The EFCC continued with the trial of the defendants immediately after their re-arraignment on Monday by calling its 13th witness, Adamu Usman Yusuf.
In his testimony, Yusuf, an EFCC’s investigator said he was a member of the Special Task Force (STF) commissioned to investigate the matter sequel to intelligence received by the commission.
“Sometime in 2016, the commission received an intelligence alleging that the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) made fraudulent transfers of funds to some companies. One of the companies mentioned is Starline Consultancy Services. The intelligence was accepted and assigned to my team”, he said.
Yusuf further disclosed that about N12 billion was received by Starline Consultancy Services from the NDDC out of which the firm also paid out N3.6 billion to a company known as Building Associates Ltd in tranches. He said investigations later revealed that Building Associates was owned by Francis Momoh (2nd defendant).
“From the money received by Building Associates, the 2nd defendant (Francis Momoh) made some fund transfers to various beneficiaries. One of them is Princely Estate. Jide Tinubu is also a beneficiary and many others.
“We also sent invitations to these beneficiaries to report to our office. They volunteered statements and also submitted documents to us as evidence of why they received the money.
“We later sent a letter of investigation to the NDDC requesting for details of payment made to Starline Consultancy Services. NDDC responded to us and from the document submitted by the NDDC, we discovered that the then management of NDDC employed the service of Starline to recover three per cent statutory allocation from oil and gas companies operating in the Niger Delta. Starline was paid 10 per cent of the money recovered as its commission,” the witness said.
Further hearing in the matter continues.
In the charge, Omatsuli was said to have procured the third and fourth accused (Momoh and Building Associates) to utilise a total sum of N3.6 billion paid by Starline Consultancy Services Ltd into an account operated by fourth accused.
The prosecution said that they ought to have known that the said sums, formed part of the proceeds of their unlawful activities which includes corruption and gratification.
The offences which were allegedly committed between August 2014 and September 2015 were said to have contravened the provisions of Sections 15(1), 15(2), 15(3) and 18 of the Money Laundering Prohibition Act 2011, as amended by Act No 1 of 2012.