By Mumini AbdulKareem
Soiled details of how embattled former Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) gubernatorial aspirant in Kwara State, Dele Belgore (SAN) and ex-minister of National Planning, Prof. Suleiman Abubakar allegedly received N500 million from the looted $115 million by former Minister of Petroleum, Diezani Alison-Madueke was narrated in court by one of the prosecution witnesses on Tuesday.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) said the money (about N37 billion) was allegedly shared by Alison-Madueke to different individuals in 36 states across the country ahead of the 2015 elections.
Earlier on Monday and led in evidence by the EFCC prosecutor, Rotimi Oyedepo, the witness narrated: thus “Sometime in April 2014, our managing director, gave a directive that certain companies and individuals would pay some amount of money into an account with our bank. The purpose of the payment was not disclosed. Over the period, thereafter, some amounts were paid into the account. The funds were deposited in dollar. The total sum was $115,010,000.
“On March 27, 2015, there was an instruction from the former Petroleum Resources minister, Diezani Alison-Madueke, through our managing director, that the funds in the account should be converted to naira and paid to certain individuals of which the list of beneficiaries was sent to our managing director and the amount to be paid to them in naira. The funds were paid according to Alison-Madueke’s instructions. On the list sent to our branch, the names of the defendants (Belgore and Suleiman) were on that list because the money was paid in about 36 states of the federation. The defendants are not customers of our bank. The instruction was that the sum of N450m should be paid to Mr. Dele Belgore (SAN) and Prof. Abubakar Suleiman.
“They both received the money and filled the receipt of payment as evidence of receipt of the money and acknowledgment of same. They both signed separate receipts of payment for the same N450million on March 26, 2015.
However, testifying further on Tuesday against the embattled Kwara PDP chieftains at the federal high court, Olaobaju under cross-examination by Belgore’s lawyer, Chief Ebun Shofunde (SAN), told the court that the accused personally stormed the bank to receive the money at night in cash, adding that the entire transaction was captured in the Close Circuit Television (CCTV) camera of the bank.
According to him, the cash was arranged in denominations of N1,000 and N500 and was (deliberately) not credited to any account.
He said part of the Diezani’s loot was delivered to the bank from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) in bullion van and refusal of the former minister of National Planning to identify himself initially delayed the collection when the duo arrived the bank.
“It is not true that none of the defendants collected one kobo out of the N450 million. The money was counted by way of bundle counting, and they were in N1,000 and N500 denominations. The money was kept overnight and in the vaults.
“That very day, before the beneficiaries came, we had already stacked the money for them to pick. As a professional banker, I can count N1billion in 20 minutes. But there was a delay because the minister refused to show his identity card. The beneficiaries said they could not carry the money that night because it was late. It is not true that none of the beneficiaries collected a dime”, he added.
EFCC re-arraigned Belgore and Suleiman on an amended money laundering charge in which Mrs. Alison-Madueke was included as a defendant, though “at large”.
Prosecution counsel Rotimi Oyedepo sought to tender the list, but Suleiman’s lawyer, Olatunji Ayanlaja (SAN), argued that the document did not fully comply with Section 84 of the Evidence Act and urged Justice Riwan Aikawa to reject it.
Belgore’s lawyer, Shofunde said the list emanated from the maker’s mail box but Oyedepo said the document substantially satisfied Section 84 of the Evidence Act, and urged the judge to admit it.
According to him, there was a certificate attached to the document, which came from the bank where the money was lodged, signed by its Chief Compliance Officer.
EFCC accused the defendants of conspiring to directly take possession of the N450 million, which they reasonably ought to have known form part of the proceeds of an unlawful act.
The commission said they “directly took possession of the sum” and conspired to make cash payment of N450 million, which “exceeded the amount authorised by law without going through financial institution”.
Belgore and Suleiman however pleaded not guilty to all the counts and Justice Aikawa adjourned till March 23 for ruling.
Recall that the commission had also accused them of paying one Sheriff Shagaya the sum of N50 million.