Tuesday, 4 April 2017

Companies convicted of laundering Patience Jonathan’s $15m hire Ozekhome

A Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Chief Mike Ozekhome, on Monday appeared before the Federal High Court in Lagos for four companies which were convicted of laundering the sum of $15, 591,700 to
which wife of ex-President Goodluck Jonathan, Patience, had laid claim.

The companies — Pluto Property and Investment Company Limited; Seagate Property Development & Investment Co. Limited; Trans Ocean Property and Investment Company Limited and Avalon Global Property Development Company Limited — had on September 15, 2016 pleaded guilty to laundering the money.

They were arraigned before Justice Babs Kuewumi alongside a former Special Adviser on Domestic Affairs to ex-President Goodluck Jonathan, Waripamo-Owei Dudafa; a lawyer, Amajuoyi Briggs; and a banker, Adedamola Bolodeoku.

While Dudafa, Briggs and Bolodeoku pleaded not guilty, four persons, who appeared in court as the directors of the companies, pleaded guilty on their behalf.

The EFCC had told the court that it found the names of the four persons — Friday Davies, Agbo Baro, Bioghowri Frederick and Taiwo Ebenezer — listed at the Corporate Affairs Commission as the directors of the companies.

On that grounds, Justice Kuewumi had on November 2, 2016 convicted the companies of money laundering accordingly but reserved the sentence till the final determination of the cases of Dudafa, Briggs and Bolodeoku who pleaded not guilty.

The judge also noted that Patience had filed a separate suit wherein she was laying claim to the $15m.

At the Monday’s proceedings, the EFCC sought to open its case by calling its first witness but Ozekhome appeared and told the court that the convicted companies had briefed him to defend them and urged the judge to allow him do so.

Ozekhome questioned the legitimacy of the four persons who had earlier presented themselves as the directors of the companies and pleaded guilty on their behalf.

But the prosecutor, Mr. Rotimi Oyedepo, objected to the appearance of Ozekhome and insisted that the companies had already pleaded guilty and had been convicted.

After entertaining arguments from the parties, Justice Kuewumi adjourned till May 10, 2017 when Ozekhome would appear as counsel for the convicted companies.

The EFCC, in the charges, accused the four companies of conspiring with Dudafa, Briggs and Bolodeoku to launder the $15m.

The EFCC alleged that the seven accused persons conspired to forge Skye Bank mandate purporting that they were signed by Friday Davies, Kola Fredrick, Taiwo Ebenezer and Agbo Baro, to prejudice Skye Bank in their bid to launder the $15.6m.

They were also accused of forging a Wema Bank Corporate Account mandate card, purporting that it was signed by Taiwo Ebenezer and Chima John to prejudice Wema Bank.

The EFCC  told the court  that Dufada, Briggs, Bolodeoku and the four companies acted contrary to Section 1(2)(c) of the Miscellaneous Offences Act, Cap. M17, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004.

Meanwhile, the Federal High Court in Lagos, on Monday, lifted the order barring Ozekhome from accessing his Guaranty Trust Bank account into which he received N75m from the Ekiti State Governor, Ayodele Fayose.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission had, on February 7, 2017, obtained an interim order stopping Ozekhome from operating the N75m on the grounds that it formed part of proceeds of alleged criminal activities by Fayose.

The EFCC claimed that the N75m, which Fayose paid to Ozekhome, was part of the N2.26bn arms procurement funds, which a former National Security Adviser, Col. Sambo Dasuki (retd.), allegedly looted.

The anti-graft agency claimed to have traced N1.22bn out of the N2.26bn, which Dasuki allegedly looted, to Fayose.

On that basis Justice Abdulaziz Anka had, on February 7, frozen Ozekhome’s account for 120 days.

Displeased, however, Ozekhome approached the court, urging the court to vacate the interim order.

In a ruling on Monday, Justice Anka granted Ozekhome’s prayer and dismissed the counter-affidavit filed by the EFCC.

The judge said though it was not in doubt that the N75m came from Fayose, Ozekhome could not be held liable because there was no restriction on Fayose’s account as of the time the N75m was paid to his law firm.



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