The Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) in Abuja heard yesterday that the Kwara State Government paid about N1.2million monthly as salary and pension to former Governor Bukola Saraki, four years after he ceased to occupy the office. Saraki was governor between 2003 and 2011.
A prosecution witness in his false assets declaration trial before the CCT said although Saraki had been a senator since May 2011, after the expiration of his second term as governor, the state government only “stopped crediting his account with N1,165,466.12 monthly as salary and or pension on August 31, 2015”.
Michael Wetkas, an official of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), who opened his testimony on Tuesday as the first prosecution witness, continued yesterday.
Wetkas, led in evidence by the lead prosecution witness, Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), testified for about five hours, during which he gave details of transactions in Saraki’s three accounts operated in naira, dollar and pound sterling with the Guaranty Trust Bank (GTB).
The witness gave details of how several funds, which he said belonged to Kwara State, were allegedly diverted into Saraki’s private accounts both in Nigeria and overseas, with which he purportedly acquired property and liquidated some personal loans.
Wetkas, who drew the tribunal’s attention to some “suspicious” transactions in the defendant’s accounts with GTB, noted that during investigation, it was discovered that the identity of those making payments into the accounts were deliberately hidden by the bank.
The witness, who was part of the investigating team, said most of the bank tellers for payment were completed in similar hand writing, but without the address and phone numbers of the depositors.
He said the investigators also found that staff of the bank allegedly aided the defendant in some of the suspicious transactions in his accounts.
Wetlkas said although the EFCC confronted the bank with the conduct of its staff and that most of the tellers were not properly completed, the bank said it had reported the discovery to the National Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU) as required.
The witness said the defendant transferred about $3,400,000 to the United States through his dollar account in GTB.
He said the defendants and those, who aided his transactions in the accounts failed to make payments in large sums to beat the Money Laundering Act provisions.
“From Exhibit 15, which is the statement of the defendant’s salary account in Intercontinental Bank (now Access Bank), it was found that in 2009, N254,412.25k was paid as salary for July 2007; for May 2011, N291,124 was paid on June 10, 2011. The narration reads: KWSG May 2011 salary.
“On July 4, 2011, there was another payment of N572,286.32k, with the narration: KWSG June salary; on August 29, 2011 there was also N744,002.22k payment as salary. On September, 29, 2011, there was a transaction of N 743,902.22 with the narration as September salary. October 27, 2011, a transaction of N1,165,466.12 as October salary.
“On December 27, there was a payment of the same N1,165,466.12. On December 28, 2011, there was payment of the same N 1,165,466.12. The narration said December pension. In February 2012, he was paid the same amount, with the narration saying salary,” Wetkas said.
He said by his team’s investigation, Saraki was still earning money from the state government as either salary or pension up until August last year, even whe he was serving his second term as a senator.
“Exhibit 7 is the bank statement in respect of the defendant’s naira account with GTB), from which he made N200,240,000 bank draft to the Implementation Committee on the Sale of Federal Government Property.
On 29 March 2005, there was a loan disbursement of N200m which preceded the earlier bank draft. On October 16, 2006, the defendant obtained a loan of N380m. On the same day, there were two bank drafts, combined in one transaction, in favour of the Implementation Committee. The drafts of were valued at N256,312,815.
“On October 16 of 2005, there was another draft of N12,815,000. On February 5, 2007 there was a transaction in the sum of N380m in the naira account. On February 27, 2007 there was a cash deposit of N3m by one Samuel. On the April 3, 2007 there was a telegraphic transfer of N180,675,000 at the instance of the defendant as part payment, to the Implementation Committee, for another property. The total lodgement in the account was N77m.
“On, November 22, 2007, there were cash lodgements into the account by Adul Adama in 50 different transactions. Before the lodgements, the account was in debit balance of N80,210,976.70. On November 29, 2007 there were cash lodgements by Ubi in about 20 transactions, the total sum being around N20m.
“On March 15, 2008 there were cash lodgements by various individuals. Before then the account was in a debit balance of N96,857,885.17. On April 18, 2008, there were also cash lodgements by several individuals with different names. On September 23, 2008, there was also the same pattern of cash lodgements by different individuals.
“On April 30, 2009, there was a draft in favour of BGL Assets Management Limited in the sum of N400m. There were also cash lodgements by different individuals on the same day. There was a lodgement of N65,000.00 into the account, after which there was a loan disbursement of N400m that same day.
“On October 26, 2009 there were also cash lodgements by many individuals about 87 times. Investigation revealed that the account was in debit balance. These several payments were made to repay the loan.
“The money was not paid at once to circumvent the Money Laundering Act. If the payment was made in a lump sum and above these amounts, the bank would have been required to report in line with the Money Laundering Act. The transactions would have been in violation of the Act.
“We demanded for the deposit slips from Guaranty Trust Bank. We raised issues with the bank because there were no details of those who made the payment, but only their names.
“Since there were no addresses in the deposit slips, so we could not trace them. The deposit slips were not filed in the normal way because the handwriting filled many of the deposit slips. All the bank told us was that they had since reported the suspicious transactions to the National Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU).
“Exhibit 8 is the statement of the US dollars account. On May 18, 2009 there was lodgement by Todimu (a banker), at Ilorin GRA branch $8,000, and another $8,000.
One Bayo (also a banker) made payment of $4,000. All the transactions amounted to $20,000 on the same day.
“On May 19, 2009, payments of $10,000 were made into the dollar account with GTB 18 times, totalling $180,000. The last three deposits of $10,000 each were made by the defendant himself, totalling $30,000.
“On June 12, 2009, there was lodgement of $50,000 by one Garba Dare. Another payment of $99,975 was transferred into the account by Bin Dahuur, a Bureau de Change operator. On August 26, 2009, there was $49,969 lodgement by Carstle Properties and Investment Ltd. On September 2009, there was also $59,964 paid by the same company.
“Most of the outflow from the account were to American Express Services,Europe Limited. Part of the outflow was to bureau de change companies. From our investigation, the total transfer to the American Express Services Europe Ltd account was up to $3,400,000.
“Based on Exhibit 8, the defendant gave the instruction for the transfers made to American Express Services, whose account number is 730580. According to the telex for transfer that we have, American Express Services only received the money for onward transfer to the beneficiary banks, one of which is American Express Bank, New York.”
At a point, lead defence lawyer and former Attorney-General of the Federation and Justice Minister Kanu Agabi sought an adjournment, a request the judge rejected, insisting that the witness be allowed to conclude his evidence-in-chief.
When the witness resumed, Jacobs tendered some documents relating to the transactions, through the witness.
Some of them were search warrants and documents in relation to the properties at 2A and 37A Glover Road, Ikoyi, Lagos, and letters written by the investigators to the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) and its response in relation to some companies in which the defendant has interest, some of which he declared in his asset declaration forms.
Wetkas said: “All the funds that entered the defendant’s salary account with Access Bank were from the Kwara State Government.
“On June 3, 2015 the balance in the account was N52, 372,417.61 On the June 3, there was a transfer to GTB of N25m, leaving the account with a debit balance of N2,628,632.39. On June 3, there was also a debit transaction of N30m transferred to GTB from his salary account in Access Bank.
“On the closing of the account on September 16, 2015, it was a debit balance of N599,019.63,” the witness said.
While the witness spoke, Saraki, dressed in white agbada, a cap and black pair of shoes, sat quietly in the accused box. He occasionally wrote on a plain sheet.
At about 5.30pm, when the power generating set supplying electricity to the tribunal suddenly went off, Kanu rose for the third time to plead with the tribunal Chairman, Justice Danladi Umar, to adjourn the hearing.
Kanu pleaded for a minimum of two weeks adjournment, perhaps to coincide with the hearing of the appeal he filed at the Court of Appeal against the tribunal’s decision to assume jurisdiction over the case. His application for stay of proceedings has been slated for April 26 for hearing.
Justice Umar adjourned till April 18 for Wetkas to conclude his testimony and for the defence to cross-examine him immediately.