Four companies linked to former President Goodluck Jonathan’s wife, Patience, Thursday  pleaded guilty to laundering $15,591,700 (about N5billion). They are: Pluto Property and Investment Company Ltd (represented by Friday Davis), Seagate Property Development and Investment Company Ltd (represented by Agbor Baro), Trans Ocean Property and Investment Company Ltd (represented by Dioghowori Frederick) and Avalon Global Property Development […]
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Four companies linked to former President Goodluck Jonathan’s wife, Patience, Thursday  pleaded guilty to laundering $15,591,700 (about N5billion).

They are: Pluto Property and Investment Company Ltd (represented by Friday Davis), Seagate Property Development and Investment Company Ltd (represented by Agbor Baro), Trans Ocean Property and Investment Company Ltd (represented by Dioghowori Frederick) and Avalon Global Property Development Ltd (represented by Taiwo Ebenezer).

The companies, along with a former Special Adviser on Domestic Affairs to President Jonathan, Waripamo Dudafa, a lawyer Amajuoyi Briggs and a banker, Adedamola Bolodeoku, were arraigned at the Federal High Court in Lagos.

Dudafa, Briggs and Bolodeoku, however, pleaded not guilty to a 17-count charge before Justice Babs Kuewumi.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) said the accused persons conspired on November 13, 2013 in Lagos to launder $15,591,700.

It said the defendants “reasonably ought to have known that the funds form part of the proceeds of an unlawful act”.

The alleged offence is contrary to Section 18(a) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) (Amendment) Act 2012 and punishable under Section 15 (3).

Mrs Jonathan had sued EFCC and Skye Bank over the freezing of her bank accounts, demanding N200million in damages.

She said the funds in the accounts of the companies, which pleaded guilty, were hers.

An aide, Sammie Somiari, who deposed to an affidavit on behalf of the former first lady claimed she helped Mrs Jonathan open the accounts.

He said Dudafa, on March 22, 2010 brought two Skye Bank officers, Bolodeoku and Dipo Oshodi, to meet Mrs Jonathan at home, following which she authorised the accounts’ opening and was the sole signatory.

He, however, added that after the five accounts were opened, Mrs Jonathan discovered that Dudafa opened only one of the accounts in her name; the other four were opened in the names of Dudafa’s companies.

According to Somiari, Mrs Jonathan had been operating the accounts after Oshodi promised to change the accounts’ names to hers.

“Since 2010 up until 2014 and thereafter, the applicant (Mrs Jonathan) had been using the cards on the said accounts and operating the said accounts without let or hindrance.

“Even in May, June and July 2016, the applicant traveled overseas for medical treatment and was using the said credit cards abroad up until July 7, 2016 or thereabouts when the cards stopped functioning,” he said.

Mrs Jonathan is urging the court to compel the EFCC to immediately remove the “No Debit Order” placed on her accounts.

Seagate Property, Dudafa, Bolodeoku and Sompre Omiebi (said to be at large) were accused of indirectly retaining $1,094,500 through a Skye Bank Plc account (2110002207) between November 14 and 19, 2013. EFCC said the money “forms part of an unlawful act to wit: stealing.”

They were also accused of indirectly retaining $1,200,000 through the Skye Bank account between January 21 and December 19, 2014; as well as $1,349,700 through the same account between March 31 and May 20, 2015.

Trans Ocean and others were said have “indirectly retained” $1,897,600 and $1,839,900, through Skye Bank account 2110002245 between February 2014 and last May.

Pluto Property and others allegedly retained $1,895,400 and $1,200,000 through Skye Bank account 2110002238 between February 21, 2014 and last May.

EFCC said Avalon Global and others, last May 28, indirectly retained $250,000 through a Wema Bank Plc account no 0122493290.

The commission said Dudafa, Briggs, Bolodeoku and Omiebi, on November 26, 2013, conspired to forge a Skye Bank mandate card purportedly signed by Friday Davis as Signatory A, an offence punishable under Section 1 (19)(6) of the Miscellaneous Offences Act, 2004.

It said the forged document was to the prejudice of Skye Bank which was induced to open an account no. 2110002238 in Pluto Property’s name.

EFCC said they also forged mandate cards with which the accounts of Trans Ocean (no. 2110002245, with Kola Fredrick as Signatory B), Avalon Global (2110002252, with Taiwo Ebenezer and Chima John as Signatory A and B) and Seagate Property (2110002207, with Agbo Baro as Signatory A) were opened.

Dudafa, Bolodeoku and Omiebi were also accused of forging a Wema Bank corporate account mandate card to the bank’s prejudice.

EFCC said the mandate card, with which Avalon Global’s account was opened, was signed by Taiwo Ebenezer and Chima John.

Before the arraignment, defence counsel had objected to the charge on the basis that the individuals who claimed to represent the companies did not exhibit any authorisation letters.

“EFCC could have picked them on the street. There has to be a letter in writing from the companies in line with Section 477 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act,” Dudafa’s lawyer Gbenga Oyewole said.

Bolodeoku’s lawyer, Joseph Okobiemen said: “This is a joint trial. Whatever plea given by the companies will rob off on others.”

Briggs’ lawyer, Tochukwu Onyiuke, added: “They merely claimed they’re representatives, but they have not exhibited any documents appointing them.”

However, Justice Kuewumi discountenanced the objections and directed the court’s registrar to read the charges.

After the representatives pleaded guilty on the companies’ behalf, prosecution counsel Rotimi Oyedepo asked the court to allow him review the facts of the case so the judge could sentence the companies, but the judge said that would be done on the next adjourned date.

Justice Kuewumi granted Briggs and Bolodeoku bail for N250million with one surety, who must be a property owner in a “highbrow” area of Lagos.

The surety must be deposit the Certificate of Occupancy and his International Passport at the court. The land registry is to verify the CofO, the judge ordered.

Dudafa’s lawyer, Gboyega Oyewole, had urged the court to allow his client to continue on the bail terms earlier granted him by Justice Mohammed Idris of the same court.

EFCC first arraigned Dudafa on June 16 on 23-counts of conspiracy and concealment of crime proceeds. He and Iwejuo Joseph Nna (alias Taiwo A. Ebenezer and Olugbenga Isaiah) were accused of conspiring to conceal proceeds of crime amounting to over N1.6billion on June 11, 2013. They pleaded not guilty to all the counts.

Justice Kuewumi said since the charge was different, a fresh bail application ought to be filed.

He adjourned until September 27 for trial.

 

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Source:The Nation Nigeria