From Godwin Tsa, Abuja
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on Wednesday told the Abuja division of the Federal High Court how the sum of N75 million was recovered from Halima Tanimu, wife of former Minister of Special Duties and Inter-Governmental Affairs under the Goodluck Jonathan administration, Tanimu Turaki (SAN).
A prosecution witness Hamma-Adama Bello, an Investigator with the commission while testifying as the 12 prosecution witness (PW12) gave a breakdown of narrated how huge sums of monies were moved from the Ministry of Special Duties for sensitisation projects for the government.
Tanimu Turaki who had also served as supervising minister for Federal Ministry of Labour between 2014 and 2015, was arraigned alongside his former Special Assistant, Sampson Okpetu, and two firms, Samtee Essential Limited and Pasco Investment Limited.
They were last arraigned on May 4 on a 16-count charge bordering on unlawful and criminal misappropriation of funds.
Count one of the charge reads: ‘That you Kabiru Tanimu Turaki (whilst serving as Minister for Special Duties and Inter-Governmental Affairs) sometime in January 2015 within the jurisdiction of this honourable court did use the sum of N159,104,000 (One Hundred and Fifty-Nine Million, One Hundred and Four Thousand only) out of the sum of N359,104,000 (Three Hundred and Fifty-Nine Million, One Hundred and Four Thousand Naira only) released to the Federal Ministry of Special Duties and Inter-governmental Affairs for the purpose of sensitisation and enlightenment of Muslim Youths, knowing that the said sum proceeds of unlawful activity to wit: criminal misappropriation and you thereby committed an offence contrary to section 15(2)(d) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2011 (as amended) and punishable under section (15(3) bf the same Act.’
They pleaded not guilty to all 16 counts and the court ordered that the defendants continue to enjoy the administrative bail condition granted them by the EFCC
Although they pleaded not guilty to the charges, the anti-graft agency alleged that the defendants used the companies to launder fund totally about N845 million stolen from the two ministries where the minister held sway under the then administration.
While being led in evidence-in-chief by counsel to the EFCC, Mohammed Abubakar, the witness said about N359 million was moved from the Ministry of Special Duties for a sensitisation project for the government.
Hamma-Adama, who was the lead investigator in the agency, however. said the money was later transferred in tranches into private individuals’ accounts.
Giving the breakdown, he said N45 million was transferred to the minister’s brother, Abdullahi Maigwandu, through his Zenith Bank account.
Out of the N45 million, he said Maigwandu transferred N20 million to the Guarantee Trust Bank account of Halima Tanimu Turaki, the ex-minister’s wife.
According to the PW5, the sum of N20 million was transferred to O-Pec Nig Ltd.
He said the remaining N5 million was withdrawn in China using the ATM of Maigwandu by Halima to procure furniture items.
‘N30 million was transferred to Abubakar Sani Gude’s Zenith Bank account from the ministry’s account and the N30 million was sent to the wife of the 1st defendant (Turaki),’ he said.
Hamma-Adama said when Maigwandu was invited for interrogation he confessed that the money came from the ministry and he neither had any business with the ministry nor engaged in any sensitisation exercise.
The witness said Maigwandu, who is a civil servant in Kebbi with a monthly salary of N33,000, also told the EFCC that the N45 million was received by the minister’s wife.
‘We called for the Maigwandu’s account statement in Zenith Bank. We discovered he is a civil servant in Kebbi on a salary of about N33,000.
‘We suspected a case of money laundering and we did a network analysis and we discovered that he could not have owned that money because he is on N33,000 salary,’ the PW5 said.
He said Maigwandu told the investigators that every money in that account belonged to Turaki, except his salary.
‘He said he is a brother to the former minister and that the money was transferred on his instruction,’ the EFCC operative added.
Hamma-Adama hinted that as at the time the N45 million was transferred to Maigwandu, he was having about N7, 300 in his account.
He said with all the information gathered, Halima was invited to their office.
‘She came alongside the 1st defendant (her husband) and a lawyer.
‘On video, she mentioned that the transaction was done at her instance. She said she is a housewife.
‘She said she was not a contractor with the Ministry of Special Duties. She said she did not carry out any sensitisation exercise for the ministry.
‘We ask if she knows Gode and Gwandu and she said she did.
‘She said the transaction was her transaction and it was done on her instructions,” the witness said.
Hamma-Adama, who told the court that Halima, through her lawyer, Abdulaziz Ibrahim, who is presently representing the 3rd defendant in the ongoing trial, refunded the sum of N75 million to the EFCC.
The PW5 also said that the sum of N50 million was transferred to Abdulrahman Yusuf, a bureau de change operator, who is a friend and business associate of Turaki.
He said Yusuf did some transfers to the former minister and also transferred N20 million to the 2nd defendant’s company, Samtee Essentials Ltd.
The witness said Yusuf, who had several bank accounts, also confessed that he did not carry out any sensitisation programme for the ministry because he was not in the line of such business.
Justice Ekwo adjourned the matter until Feb 9 and Feb 10 for trial continuation.