By OLUGBENGA SOYELE,
A witness of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Usman Zakari yesterday told a Federal High Court in Lagos how former Petroleum Minister, Mrs. Diezani Allison-Madueke, laundered the sum of $115 million USD, through three oil companies and some individuals.
Zakari, an Operative of the EFCC, who was testifying in the ongoing trial of a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Dele Belgore and a former Minister for National Planning, Prof. Abubakar Sulaiman, gave the name of the companies as Auctus Integrated Investment Limited, Northern belt Oil and Gas Limited, and Midwestern Oil and Gas Limited.
While the witness said some individuals and aides to the former Minister were used to launder part of the $115 million USD, he only mentioned the name of an oil tycoon, Leon Laitan Adesanya as one of them.
Belgore and a former Minister of National Planning during President Goodluck Jonathan’s Administration, Professor Abubakar Sulaiman, Ayanlaja (SAN) were arraigned before the court by the EFCC on a five count charge of conspiracy and money laundering.
The EFCC had alleged in charges that former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani Alison-Madueke conspired with the two defendants on or about March 27, 2015, to directly take possession of the sum of N450 million, which they reasonably ought to have known forms part of proceeds of unlawful act.
The trio were also alleged to have taken the said funds in cash, which exceeded the amount authorized by law, without going through the financial institutions.
Belgore and Sulaiman were also alleged to have paid the sum of N50 million to one Sheriff Shagaya, without going through the banks.
The offences according to the prosecutor, Mr. Oyedepo, are contrary to Sections 18(a)15(2)(d),1(a), 16(d) and punishable under sections 15(3) and 4, 16 (2)(b), and 16(d) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) (Amendment) Act, 2012.
Both Belgore and Sulaiman once again pleaded not guilty to the charge.
While being led-in-evidence by the EFCC prosecutor, Rotimi Oyedepo on Wednesday, Zakari said by the authority of the former Petroleum Minister, the three companies laundered $17.884 million USD, $16 million USD, $9.5 million USD, while Adesanya and Aide to the former Minister laundered $1.150 million and $25.776 million USD respectively.
The witness further told the court that the said monies were taken to the bank in “Ghana-must-go bags.
Zakari also testified that the former Minister had a meeting with the Managing Director of a new generation Bank on how the money should be change to Naira, and distributed to the 36 States of the country and the officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), during 2015 General election.
He also identified some of the documents which includes: email correspondence between the former Petroleum Minister and the Bank’s managing director, the documents signed by the two defendants while receiving the sum of N450 million.
The trial judge, Justice Rilawan Aikawa has adjourned the matter till June 8, for continuation of trial and the conclusion of the testimony of the witness.