Monday, March 27, 2017 7:44 am
Nigeria’s anti-graft agency, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission has detailed how aides of Senate President, Bukola Saraki diverted about N19bn from the N522bn Paris Club refund.
The aides of the Senate President also worked alongside some bankers in the alleged theft, according to a report submitted to President Muhammadu Buhari by the anti-graft agency on 10 March, multiple reports in Nigerian newspapers indicated on Monday morning.
The Nation newspaper reported that 15 accounts linked to individuals who allegedly participated in the theft of the N19 billion have been frozen by the EFCC while about $183,000 (N71, 370,000) of the loan refund has been traced to a jeweller’s account in Dubai.
Specifically, the anti-graft agency is investigating a former Heritage Bank Executive Director, Mr. Robert Mbonu, Melrose General Services Limited, the Relationship Manager to the Senate President, Kathleen Erhimu, Obiora Amobi, the Deputy Chief of Staff to the Senate President, Hon. Gbenga Peter Makanjuola, Mr. Kolawole Shittu and Oladapo Joseph Idowu who were alleged to have played different roles in the diversion.
The EFCC report said in part: “Mr. Robert Mbonu is alleged to have received N3.5billion into his company’s (Melrose General Services Limited’s) account from the NGF through Account 0005892453 domiciled in Access Bank.
“Investigation revealed that one Kathleen Erhimu is the Relationship Manager to Dr. Bukola Saraki’s account with Access Bank.
“That Saraki at a meeting introduced one Joseph Oladapo Idowu and Gbenga Peter Makanjuola to her and Hon. Makanjuola thereafter introduced Mr. Robert Mbonu to Ms Kathleen Erhimu.
“That Mbonu operates an account , Melrose General Services with Access Bank Plc 0005892453 and 0005653500 which was up till 13th December a business account.
“That Halima Kyari , the Head of Private Banking Group stated in a letter dated 13th December , 2016 , Mr. Robert Mbonu requested a transfer of Melrose General Services Company account from Business Account to a Private Banking Group Platform as he was expecting huge funds into the account.
“Subsequently, on the 14th December, the sum of N3.5billion was lodged into Melrose General Services Company account number 0005892453 domiciled in Access Bank from the Nigerian Governors Forum (NGF).
“That thereafter Mr. Obiora Amobi and Hon. Gbenga Makanjuola were introduced to Access Bank as representatives of Melrose General Services Limited by Robert Mbonu to enable them cash withdrawals from the account.
“That one Oluyemi Braithwaite, the MD/ CEO of Reinex Bureau de Change, Caddington Capital Limited and Westgate Limited also manages a BDC stated to have known Mbonu as a client and he requested for dollars in exchange for the Naira equivalent which were to be handed over to one Mr. Gbenga in Abuja.
“That Ms Oluyemi Braithwaite contacted one Hassan Dantani Abubakar, the owner of Hamma Procurement Limited, Ashrab Nigeria Limited and Insoire Solar Application to make available the dollars based on the Naira equivalent as transferred from Robert Mbonu who she had introduced via phone to Hassan Dantani.
“That on 16th December 2016, Melrose General Services transferred the sum of N246million to Hamma Procurement First Bank Accouny No. 2030756168 in exchange for the sum of $500,000 which was handed to one Mr. Gbenga in Abuja who acknowledged receipt of the same amount.
“That on the 21st Dec 2016, Ms Oluyemi Braithwaite contacted Hassan Dantani Abubakar, requesting for another transaction of $370,000. Melrose General Services Company transferred the sum of N181m to Inspire Solar Application. The $370,000 was handed over to one Mr. Dapo in Abuja.
“That on the 4th of January 2017, Mbonu through Melrose General Services Company transferred the sum of N248, 500,000 to Caddington Capital Limited belonging to Ms Oluyemi Braithwaite who transferred same to Hassan Dantani Abubakar’s FCMB account, Ashrab Nigeria Limited for the sum of $500,000. The dollar equivalent was handed over to Mr. Kolawole Shittu in Abuja
“That on the 10th of January 2017, Mr. Robert Mbonu through Melrose General Services Company transferred the sum of N99,820,000 to Caddington Capital Limited belonging to Ms. Oluyemi Braithwaite who transferred same to Hassan Dantani Abubakar’s FCMB Ashrab Nigeria Limited for the sum of $200,000. The dollar equivalent was handed over to one Mr. Peter in Abuja.
“That on the 19th December, there was a cash withdrawal of the sum of N50million from Melrose General Services account via cheque by Hon. Gbenga Peter Makanjuola.
“Also, the sum of $1,570,000 was received by the trio of Mr. Gbenga Peter Makanjuola, Mr. Kolawole Shittu and Mr. Oladapo Joseph Idowu at various times and locations at Abuja FCT.
“That on the 29th December, 2016, Mr. Robert Mbonu called Mrs. Kathleen Erhimu of Access Bank requesting her to source for a customer that would have the sum of $500,000 in exchange for the Naira equivalent. She introduced Mr. Robert Mbonu to Acarast Commercial Limited and Capital Field Investment to help him source for dollars.
“That on the 21st December 2016, GCA Energy Limited paid the sum of $25,000 to Asterio Energy Services Limited which subsequently transferred the sum of $23,200 to Cactus Communication Limited account with Access Bank.
“The MD of Sought-After International Synergy Limited, Julius Okedele stated that Mr. Kelechi Edomobi of Acarast Commercial Enterprises contacted him and requested to purchase dollars after the transfer of N73,950,000 to Sought-After International Synergy Limited. Mr. Edomobi gave him the account number of Cactus Communication Limited Access Bank as the nominated account to receive the dollar equivalent of the sum of $149,000.
“Investigation further confirmed that Cactus Communication Limited is owned and operated by Joseph Oladapo Idowu, an aide to Bukola Saraki.
“That Mr. Kelechi Edomobi also transferred the sum of N1m on the 15th of January, 2017, to Joseph Oladapo Idowu’s personal account number 0001679877 with Access Bank Plc.
“That Asterio Energy Services Limited on 21st and 22nd December, 2016, transferred $100,000 and $85,000 to Bhaskar Devji Jewellers LLC in Dubai respectively the same company that Dr. Bukola Saraki repeatedly made transfer to from his Black Card Account.
“That Cactus Communication Limited on 30th December, 2016, paid the sum of $59,,660.67 to Bhaskar Devji Jewellers LLC in Dubai.
“That Asterio Energy Services Limited on 20/1/2917, 30/1/2017 and 31/1/2017 transferred $46,000, $39,000 and $37,620 to Cactus Communication Limited.”
“That Mr. Obiora Amobi and Gbenga Makanjuola made cash withdrawals of various tranches of N5 million and N10 million.
“Based on the foregoing findings, it is clear that Robert Mbonu, the Managing Director of Melrose General Services Company and his company were used to help divert proceeds of unlawful activities under the guise of payment for contractual obligations with the Nigerian Governors’ Forum ( NGF).
“Suffice to apprise that all payments received by Melrose General Services Company from the NGF have hitherto been diverted directly via cash withdrawals and indirectly through transfers by Hon. Gbenga Peter Makanjuola, Kolawole Shittu and Oladapo Joseph Idowu who are principal aides of the Senate President.
“Furthermore, other payments from Melrose General Services Company has also been linked to companies that Dr. Bukola Saraki has interest in and carry out transactions with.
“This includes the sum of $183,000 which was transferred to Bhaska Devji Jewellers, Dubai, a company Dr. Bukola Saraki had repeatedly made payments to.
“Also, the sum of N200 million was transferred to Wasp Networks Limited that subsequently transferred the sum of N170 million to Xtract Energy Services Limited, a company that routinely made deposits into Dr. Bukola ‘s Access Bank United States Domicilliary Account.
“A prima facie case of conspiracy to retain the proceeds of unlawful activities and money laundering contrary to Sections 15(3) and 18(9) of the Money Laundering Prohibition Act 2004 can be established against the aforementioned suspects.
“Additionally, investigation into their personal accounts is ongoing.”
I am not involved, says Saraki
The Senate President has however denied any involvement in the Paris Club refund scam. Saraki maintained that he has no direct or indirect link to the distribution of the NGF money and did not receive any payment from the refund, contrary to claims in the EFCC report.
In a statement by Mr. Yusuph Olaniyonu, his spokesman, the Senate President said:
“Our attention has been drawn to the circulation of a report in the media said to have been leaked by the Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mr. Ibrahim Magu where he made several allegations against Senate President Dr. Bukola Saraki, as it concerns the payment of the Paris Club Fund refund to the Nigerian Governors Forum (NGF).
“Let us first state that these allegations are not new. The EFCC had from the outset of its investigation into the Paris Club refund made attempts to drag in the name of Dr. Saraki and we have promptly denied any such involvement of the Senate President.
“In fact, the EFCC itself came out to deny the report as it then said it had nothing to indict the Senate President. The anti-graft agency said the investigation was still on-going then. Yet, as at that time it had all these information it is now dishing out.
“It is obvious that at this point when Mr. Magu believes the Senate President should be blamed for his failure to secure confirmation as Chairman of EFCC by the Senate, he would want to fight back by cooking up reports and masterminding its leakage.
“We maintain our stand that Dr. Saraki has no direct or indirect link to the distribution of the NGF money. No money from the Paris Club refund was paid to Dr. Saraki.
“In addressing the specifics of the allegation in the reports, as we gathered from the press, EFCC believe that since the Senate President has worked in the same organisation with Mr. Robert Mbonu before, whatever transaction he is involved in should be linked to the Senate President in this era of mudslinging and muchraking.
“We would like to say that Mr. Mbonu is not representing Mr. Saraki in any transaction he does with the NGF and no money from his company, Melrose, in his dealing with Nigeria Governors Forum came to Dr. Saraki either directly or indirectly. And if the EFCC has any information to the contrary, we challenge them to make it public.
“We state categorically that no aide of the Senate President acted on Saraki’s behalf in whatever they do with Mr. Mbonu.
“Again, If Melrose paid any money to a jeweller or any shop, that has nothing to do with the Senate President. We believe Melrose must have the necessary documentation in support of their transaction and we are sure the EFCC is aware of all these.
“In the same vein, if Melrose chose to invest in another company, that decision has nothing to do with the Senate President and the act of drawing a link between Mbonu and Saraki can at best be only pure mischief.
“At this point, it should be noted that Xtract Energy Services Limited is a well known foreign exchange dealer with almost 15 years of existence in the market and the company is widely known to do business with many organisations in the country.
“The last time the Senate President patronised the company was on December 19, 2014 and we challenge Mr. Magu and the EFCC to prove that the Senate President transacted any form of business with the foreign exchange dealer in the period of the payment of the Paris Club refund.
“We call on members of the public to view this concocted and leaked report as Mr. Magu’s form of fighting back. The report has no truth in it. It should be noted that the Senate Prssident was not behind Magu’s failure to get confirmation from the Senate.
“That was democracy in action. Dr. Saraki is merely a presiding officer and first among equals. Dr. Saraki did not in any way interfere with the confirmation process.”
With reports from The Nation