About $32.5million recovered for the federal government by some senior lawyers in the controversial out-of-court settlement of the Halliburton scam has been declared missing from the government’s coffers.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), which raised the alarm over the alleged missing $32.5million yesterday, said that investigation in the matter had reached an advanced stage, and that those indicted would soon be charged to court.
A competent source within the commission disclosed the development to LEADERSHIP last night.
The federal government had on December 11, 2010, entered into an agreement to settle the Halliburton scam out of court in exchange for ex-gratia payment of the said $32.5million.
The allegedly missing $32.5million was part of the over $180million recovered by five senior lawyers for the federal government, following negotiations and out-of-court settlement on the widely publicised scams – Halliburton, Siemens, Samprogetti and Japan Gasoline issues.
The five senior lawyers were hired by the former attorney-general of the federation (AGF) and minister of justice, Mr Mohammed Adoke (SAN), and were led by the former president of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Mr Joseph Daudu (SAN). Other members of the negotiating team were Mr Damien Dodo (SAN), Mr Emmanuel Ukala (SAN), Mr Godwin Obla (SAN) and Mr Rowland Ewubare.
LEADERSHIP learnt that the five senior lawyers had already been invited by the EFCC in order to determine their involvement and they made useful statements to the agency on the matter.
The EFCC source, who sought anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the matter, said, “We are unable to locate the said $32.5million at the CBN and the Office of Accountant General of the Federation even though the said amount was purportedly paid into the federal government’s account.
“We suspect a conspiracy in this matter as so many people were involved. But I can tell you authoritatively that investigation has reached an advanced stage. Once investigation is concluded, the suspects will be charged to court.”
LEADERSHIP investigation further gathered that the details of the account provided by the federal government for the ex-gratia payment had issues. The development was said to have prompted Ewubare to furnish Halliburton with an escrow account number to enable the firm pay into it. The details of the account are as follows: JP Morgan Chase, New York. Swift B/C Code, CHASUS 33, Account No 000742501406865 and Account Title, Madison Avenue Escrow/CBN/FGN.
But Ewubare, in his statement before the EFCC, noted that the signatories to the escrow account were undisclosed nominees and himself. He added that the agents of the escrow account deducted 3.5 per cent from the amount.
The lawyer further claimed that he paid N2.8 billion to the federal government from his own share.
LEADERSHIP, however, gathered that the EFCC is yet to confirm Ewubare’s claims. The development might not be unconnected to the lawyer’s claim that the necessary documents on the escrow account, signed between him and the federal government on the matter, are still in the United States.
The anti-graft agency has directed him to furnish it with the documents in due course.
One of the lawyers on the negotiating team, Mr Damien Dodo, has, however, faulted the propriety of the allegation, saying it is unfounded.
In his statement before the EFCC, Dodo said, “I deny the allegation in its entirety. It is totally baseless, false, wicked and malicious.
“I affirm that the legal fees paid to legal team comprising J. B. Daudu (SAN), E. C. Ukala (SAN), Godwin Obla (SAN), Rowland Ewubare and myself were legitimate fees for all the work and negotiations that helped the federal government to recover over $180million.”