How Saraki laundered $2m, acquired properties – Witness

How Saraki laundered $2m, acquired properties – Witness
April 06 09:32 2016

By Nura Salami

[A] witness in the ongoing trial of the Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki, has given details of how Saraki allegedly used money belonging to Kwara State government to purchase properties in various places.

The witness, Michael Wetkast who is an investigative officer with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) told the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT), sitting in Abuja on Tuesday that after the expiration of Mr. Saraki’s second term as governor of Kwara state in 2011, the EFCC, received several petitions from various groups in the State, especially the Kwara Freedom Network bordering on allegations of abuse of office, misappropriation of public funds and money laundering.

According to him, the petitions were investigated in 2014, and the then chairman of the EFCC, Ibrahim Lamorde received an intelligence report of suspicious transactions relating to the Senate President.

He added that Mr. Lamorde set up a three-man panel of investigators comprising of himself (Wetkast), and two others – Chris Odofin and Nura Bako – to investigate the intelligence report and report back its findings.

“In the course of our investigations, the committee discovered several companies whose activities are linked to defendant.

The companies include Carlisle Properties and Investments Limited, Skyview Properties Limited, Linkers Nigeria Limited, Tiny-tee Limited and several others.

“Some of the companies maintain account with Guarantee Trust Bank, Plc, Zenith Bank Plc, Intercontinental Bank (Now Access Bank) Plc and others,” he said.

He also said the panel found that Saraki maintained three accounts with Gtb Plc; One in Naira, another in dollar and one other in Pound Sterling.
“An Analysis of the accounts showed that from 2005 to 2013 about N4 Billion moved in and out of the accounts. The major source of cash in inflow from the accounts were loans taken from Gtb within the period.

“Loan disbursements into the accounts stood at N2.5 Billion, while other source of inflow were a massive cash lodgements by individuals. Investigations showed that inflows into the account of Carlisle properties Limited was used for the acquisition of properties.

“The dollar domiciliary account of Carlisle had over $2 million, while the total turnover of dollars from 2005 to 2013 was over $6 million.

From the inflow into the dollar account, $3.4 million was wired to American Express Service Europe Ltd, used to fund an American express service New York Card No. 374588216836009,” he said.

Wetkast informed the tribunal that other payments into the account were changed into Pound Sterling and wired to the UK through Fortis Bank for purchase of a property in London at over £1.5million.

“From the telex transfer document available to investigators and positions taken from the Bank, it is suggested that the Fortis account belongs to the defendant,” he said.

He said the EFCC invited some of the Gtb officials for questioning because it was observed that some of the lodgements into the account were done by the Bank officials.

“One of them, Oluwatojimi Adeye, reported to the commission that the monies he lodged into the accounts were given to him by a superior officer, Bayo Dauda, who was the relationship manager of the account mentioned.

“ Dauda informed investigators that the cash were handed to him by the defendant.

He said he used to go to the Government House Ilorin to collect the cash. Most lodgements were done by two individuals, one Ubi and another Abdul Adama.

“Ubi in a single day made five separate lodgements of about N77 million in five transactions.” “Abdul Adama on a single day made 50 lodgments into the same account of monies between N600, 000 to N980,000. Ubi made additional 20 lodgements on the same day of cash ranging from N600, 000 to N900,000.

“Adama said the monies were handed to him by the defendant and that he was also the one sending Ubi to make the lodgements because he worked under him.

“After a while, the pattern of inflow changed. Although the figures remained at N600,000 to N900,000, this time around lodgements were made by several individuals.

“Investigations revealed that those individuals were fictitious. The bank, when confronted, said they have done the needful by drawing a report to the Nigeria Financial Intelligence Unit, NFIU.

They also provided evidence to that effect,” he said. Mr. Wetkast also stated that an inter-agency committee had also worked on the same issue in 2006, and that the EFCC Chairman directed that the commission’s official who worked in the 2006 team should join the team of investigators alongside other officials of the Code of Conduct Bureau.

The CCB officials, he said, furnished the expanded committee with copies of the Asset declaration Forms submitted by Mr. Saraki between 2003 to 2011.

“The team analysed the documents and resolved to invite the Managing Director of Carlisle properties and investments limited, Kennedy Sule.

“The team however, found out that all the transactions in the accounts of the company were directed by the defendant. The team requested the list of all the properties managed by Carlisle Limited from Mr. Sule because the company has identified rent received from tenants as its major source of revenue.

“Mr. Kennedy went underground and efforts to get him proved abortive forcing the commission to declare him wanted.

“The Commission, left with no option, sought, and obtained a search warrant that enable it to search the office of Carlise at No. 30 Saka

Tinubu in Victoria Island, Lagos. “The team recovered a list of properties yielding income to the defendant. Some of the properties were obtained from the Presidential Implementation Committee on the sale of government houses, while some were bought from the Central Bank of Nigeria.

“The committee wrote to AGIS in Abuja, the Land registry office in Lagos and the CBN seeking details of the sale of the properties,” he said.

A history of undeclared assets Mr, Wetkast said in the course of its investigation and after a holistic analysis of Mr. Saraki’s asset declaration form, certain infractions were observed.

He said a property at 15, McDonald Street, Ikoyi, Lagos, which was purchased through Tiny-tee limited was not declared in his form.

Another property, 17 and 17B, also in McDonald, Ikoyi, bought at the aggregate sum of N497,200 million in 2006 was never declared.

“The defendant claimed in his form that he bought the property through the sale of Rice and Sugar, however, investigations showed that the property was acquired through a loan taken at Gtb Ilorin GRA, Branch,” he said.

Another property at 37A, Glover road, Ikoyi, which was bought at N325 million between 2007 and 2008 was not declared at the end of his tenure in 2011.

The 37A Glover road property generates N5.5 million as revenue to the defendant.

Other properties acquired by the Senate president, but not declared in his declaration forms, Mr. Wetkast said, include “ No 1 Takus street Maitama, which was purchased in 1991 from one Baba Akawu, and another at No. 3

Takus bought at about the same time. “Another loan of N375 million taken from the Gtb was used to purchase a property in London, while he was still serving as governor of Kwara state,” he said.

Following the witness testimony, prosecution counsel, Rotimi Jacobs, sought to tender the certified true copies of the asset declaration forms mentioned by Mr. Wetkast as evidence.

The defence counsel, Mr. Usoro informed the CCT chair that he would reserve his objection to the documents.

The Chairman then adjourned the continuation of the hearing to Wednesday.

The trial commenced after efforts by Mr. Saraki’s lawyers to force an adjournment failed.

One of his lawyers, Paul Usoro, had informed the tribunal of an application for stay of proceedings at the Court of Appeal challenging the jurisdiction of the tribunal to entertain the matter.

The Chairman of the tribunal, Danladi Umar, however ruled that the application before the Court of Appeal could not stop the commencement of trial based on the provisions of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act.