EFCC probes Saraki’s aides over N3.5b Paris Club cash
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission( EFCC) has frozen 15 accounts of some individuals and companies for the alleged diversion of N19billion from the London-Paris loan refund.
Besides, about $183,000 (N71, 370,000) of the loan refund has been traced to a jeweller’s account in Dubai.
The anti-graft agency is probing a former Heritage Bank Executive Director Mr. Robert Mbonu, three aides of Senate President Bukola Saraki and three others on how N3.5billion was wired into some accounts. The cash is said to be part of the N19billion allegedly diverted from the N522.74 billion initial refund to states.
The others are 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.
Mbonu is said to be one of the consultants engaged by the Nigerian Governors’ Forum (NGF).
These highlights are contained in a March 10, 2016 report, which has been submitted to President Muhammadu Buhari.
The report got to the Presidency about five days before the Senate’s rejection of Acting EFCC Chairman Ibrahim Magu’s second nomination.
The report may have fuelled Magu’s rejection by the Senate because some of Saraki’s aides were implicated, a source close to the investigation said.
An EFCC source said: “This agency has frozen more than 15 accounts used to divert the N19billion remitted into the account of the Nigerian Governors Forum(NGF).
“Some of these accounts include those of Bureau De Change, companies, mortgage firms, and personal types.
“We have been able to recover some money from these frozen accounts. Also, some bankers have made useful statements to this commission.”
In a report to the presidency, the EFCC confirmed that it had traced $183,000 into the account of a Dubai jeweler.
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.”
From the initial tranche of ofN522.74 billion, about N19 billion was remitted by states into two accounts of the Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF) as commission to consultants.
But the commission was found out to have ended up in the accounts of some of the seven governors, some public officers and some individuals who had no business with the refunds.
It was also learnt that some consultants engaged by the NGF and some states have not been paid by the governors.
Besides locating the two accounts where the N19 billion was allegedly remitted into, the EFCC has interrogated more than four people involved in hiring of consultants and payment.
Some states remitted as much as N600 million into NGF’s emergency accounts for the commission.
It was learnt that the two NGF accounts were hurriedly opened in defiance of the agreement.
According to findings, reports made available to presidency by the EFCC and other security agencies showed that the governors did not keep to the terms for the refund.