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Saraki's Anti-graft Gate: Saraki used Kwara funds to repay personal loans--Witness


Nigerians Senate President, Senator Bukola Saraki has been alleged to have diverted Kwara state funds to prosecute private responsibilities as governor of the state from 2003 -2011.
A Witness Mr. Michael Wetkas, submitted the account to the  Economic and Financial Crimes Commission on Tuesday to aide the Code of Conduct Tribunal trial on how the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, allegedly diverted Kwara State Government’s funds as the governor of the state.

The witness Aalleged that Senator Saraki, who was the governor of Kwara State between 2003 and 2011, used the proceeds of the loot to repay personal bank loans which the former governor allegedly expended on the acquisition of landed assets in Lagos and Abuja.

Saraki is being prosecuted on 13 counts of false and anticipatory asset declaration which he made at the beginning and at the end of each of his two terms as governor.

The witness said, “It was discovered that the properties were acquired through the loans.

“The loans were repaid, through cash lodgements collected from the defendant at the Kwara State Government House and made in GTB, GRA, Ilorin branch.”

Wetkas said it was discovered that some of the individuals, who lodged funds into the accounts, were bank officials.

He added that the bank officials and some aides to the former governor collected the funds lodged into the accounts directly from Saraki at the Kwara State Government House.

He explained that Saraki paid back the loans with Kwara State Government’s fund through his aides, one of whom lodged between N600,000 and N900,000 in the former governor’s account 50 times on a particular day.

He said, “Because of the suspicious inflows into the account, the bank (GTB) officials were invited. The reason for the invitation of the officials was that some of the individuals, who were making the cash lodgements into the account, were bank officials.

“One Oluwatujimu reported to the commission.”

From our interactions with him, we discovered that some of the lodgements were made through his superior at the bank, Bayo Daudu, who was the Relationship Manager of the account.

“In our interaction with Daudu, it was discovered that the cash sums were handed over to him by the defendant (Saraki) for lodgement in the account.

“According to Daudu, he goes to Kwara State Government House to collect the money from the defendant for lodgement into the account at the GRA Ilorin branch of GTB.

“We discovered one name, Abdul Adama, who made transaction 50 times into the account in a single day. The sum was broken down to N600, 000 and N900, 000 and was lodged in the same day.

“Subsequently, after that one, Ubi made a lodgement on the same day about 20 times in the same range of N600,000 and N900,000. Adama reported that the cash sums were handed over to him by the defendant and stated further that the cash sums that were lodged in by Ubi into the same account were from the defendant.

“Adama and Ubi were personal assistants to the defendant while he was governor. Further investigations revealed that other individuals, who made lodgements into the account, were fictitious.

“From the lodgements into the accounts, we observed and discovered that one Ubi (we don’t have his surname) made five lodgements of over N37m in cash.”

According to the witness, Saraki failed to declare many of the landed assets as of 2011 when he completed his second term as governor.

The prosecution, led by Mr. Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), crossed the last legal hurdle before it could call its first witness on Tuesday after the tribunal dismissed another request for an adjournment by the defence.

The defence team had sought another adjournment on the basis of a fresh application for stay of proceedings and appeals, both of which they only filed on Monday, against a ruling of the tribunal which had been delivered on March 24.

Wetkas, who was led in evidence by Jacobs, said the EFCC received a number of petitions, accusing Saraki of abuse of office, misappropriation of public funds and money laundering shortly after the Senate President completed his second term as governor.

The witness said this prompted the then Chairman of the EFCC, Mr. Ibrahim Lamorde, to set up an investigative team, which he (Wetkas) headed in 2014.

He said his team, which later harmonised its findings with another broad investigative team, comprising operatives of the Department of State Services and the Code of Conduct Bureau, revealed that Saraki operated a number of companies which had accounts with Zenith and Guaranty Trust banks.

He said investigation revealed that between 2005 and 2013, a GTB account of one of the firms had an inflow of about N4bn, with the major source of the fund coming from the N2.5bn loans which he took from the bank within the period.

He said between 2009 and 2013, the dollar account operated by Saraki’s firm, Tiny Tee Properties Ltd, had an inflow of $6m.

The witness said, “The commission received several petitions from various groups. One of the petitioners was Kwara Freedom Network. They brought several petitions all bordering on abuse of office by the defendant, misappropriation of public funds and money laundering.

“Sometime in 2014, the then executive chairman of the EFCC, Ibrahim Lamorde received intelligence reports of suspicious transactions involving the defendant. He set up a team of investigators. Our task was to investigate the intelligence reports.

“The investigation report was reviewed by my team. In the course of our investigation, we discovered that there were several companies which were linked to the defendant. Some of them include Carlisle Properties Investment Ltd, Skyview Properties Ltd, Limkars Ltd, and Tiny-Tee Ltd. Some of the companies maintain accounts with Guaranty Trust Bank, Zenith Bank, Access Bank and other banks.

“From the investigation, it was discovered that the defendant maintained three accounts with the GTB. The first account is a naira currency account, the second is a US dollar account and the third is a pound sterling account.

“The naira account was analysed and it was discovered that between 2005 and 2013, the account had an inflow of about N4bn. The major source of inflow into the account was loans taken from GTB within the period. The loans were about N2.5bn, and the other source of inflow into the account was massive lodgements by individuals. Other inflows into the account were from the companies.

“It was discovered that the money was used for the purchase of property. The dollar account was also analysed. The major source of inflow into the dollar account was Tiny Tee Properties Ltd, which was about $2m. Other source was from bureau de change companies. And the rest was cash lodgements by individuals.

“The cash in the dollar account between 2009 and 2013 was $6m. We discovered that up to $3.4m was wired to American Express Services Europe Limited, which was used to fund the defendant’s American Express Service New York card account number 374588216836009.

“The defendant wired over 1.5m pound sterling to Fortis Bank for the purchase of a property in the UK.”

He said Saraki failed to list the assets in his asset declaration form.

Wetkas added, “My team searched the office of Carslie Properties and Investment Limited  in Lagos at 30 Saka Tinubu, Victoria Island, Lagos, where the team discovered documents containing the list of documents of properties linked to the first defendant.

“Some of them were purchased from Presidential Implementation Committee on Government Properties.

“Some were bought from the Central Bank of Nigeria. We had to write a number of land registries in Abuja, Lagos Land Registry and we also wrote the CBN.

“These properties were not in the asset declaration forms.

“In analysing the forms, some infractions were observed on some of the forms.

“We discovered that property, known as 15 Mcdonald, Ikoyi, Lagos, which was purchased through a company, Hitel Limited, was not declared in the forms. We also discovered that 17A and 17B of Mcdonald, Ikoyi, Lagos, were bought for aggregate sum of N497.2m in 2006.”

He said the Senate President failed to declare his property at Plot 2A Glover Road, Ikoyi, Lagos, which he bought for N325,000,000 between 2007 and 2008, through his company called Carlisle Properties.

He said the accused also failed to declare the property at 37A Glover Road, Ikoyi, Lagos, which he allegedly bought through Carlisle Properties.

He stated that the defendant failed to declare the property at No. 1 Targus Street, Maitama, Abuja, otherwise known as 2482, Cadastral Zone A06, Abuja, on September 16, 2003.

The accused allegedly failed to declare the property at No. 3 Targus Street, Maitama, Abuja, otherwise known as 2482, Cadastral Zone A06, Abuja, which he acquired from one Alhaji Attahiru Adamu.

He was said to have failed to declare his leasehold interest in No. 42 Remi Fani-Kayode Street, Ikeja, Lagos, which he acquired through his company, Skyview Properties Limited, from First Finance Trust Limited.

His asset declaration forms, which he submitted to the CCB at the beginning and at the end of each of his tenure as governor in 2003 and 2011, were admitted as exhibits.

Also admitted was the asset declaration forms he has submitted to the CCB as a senator since 2011.

The defence, led by Mr. Paul Usoro (SAN), said he would defer his objection to the admissibility of the documents in his final written address.

Wetkas was the Federal Government’s first prosecution witness in a trial which only commenced on Tuesday after about six months of delay caused by a series of interlocutory applications and appeals deployed by Saraki.
Saraki was accompanied to the Tuesday’s proceedings by some senators.
The trial continues on Wednesday (today).
END

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