The four companies arraigned yesterday alongside a former Special Adviser on Domestic Affairs to ex-President Goodluck Jonathan, Waripamo-Owei Dudafa, have pleaded guilty to laundering $15,591,700.
The companies admitted before a Federal High Court in Lagos that they conspired with Dudafa; a lawyer, Amajuoyi Briggs; and a banker, Adedamola Bolodeoku, to launder the money.
The companies are: Pluto Property and Investment Company Limited; Seagate Property Development & Investment Co. Limited; Trans Ocean and Investment Company Limited, and Avalon Global Property Development Company Limited.
They were arraigned by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC. But Dudafa, Briggs and Bolodeoku pleaded not guilty to the amended 15 counts filed against them by the EFCC. The EFCC had since frozen the $15.6m found in the four companies’ accounts in Skye Bank. Wife of former President Jonathan, Patience, is laying claim to the money.
Following the guilty plea of the companies, the EFCC prosecution, led by Mr. Rotimi Oyedepo, prayed the court to allow a short time for review of the facts, adding that he would not waste the time of the court.
The trial judge, Justice Babs Kuewumi, however, declined prosecution’s request, adding that he would adjourn to a further date.
Counsel representing the second and third accused, Messrs Tochukwu Onyiuke and Joseph Okebiemen, informed the court of a bail application filed on behalf of their clients, adding that same has not been opposed.
They urged the court to admit the accused to bail on liberal terms.
Gboyega Oyewole, who represents the first accused, also informed the court that his client was already on bail on existing conditions granted by another judge, and urged the court to allow his client enjoy same bail.
But Justice Kuewumi declined granting bail to the first accused, and ordered him to file a formal application for bail before the court.
The court, however, granted bail to the second and third accused in the sum of N250m with one surety in like sum.
The judge added that the sureties must be owners of landed properties in Lagos, and if a public servant, such surety must produce a letter of introduction from his employer.
The judge also ordered the sureties to submit evidence of tax clearance. He adjourned the case to September 27 and ordered the accused to be remanded in prison custody pending perfection of their bail.
In the amended charge, the EFCC alleged that the accused had between November 13, 2013, and June 2015, used the different companies to commit the offences.
The accused were alleged to have conspired to retain over $15m, which sum they reasonably ought to have known formed part of the proceeds of crime.
The alleged offences are said to be contrary to and punishable under sections 15 (d), 17(a), 18(a), and 27 (3) (c) of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (Establishment) Act 2004.
The offence is said to have also contravened the provisions of sections 1(2) (c), and 1(19) (6) of the
Miscellaneous offence Act, Cap M17, Laws of the Federation, 2004. It also contravened the provisions of sections 18 (a) of the money laundering prohibition act, 2012.
Meanwhile, determined to recover the $15.5m, Dame Jonathan has filed a $200m suit against EFCC before a Federal High Court in Lagos.
Joined in the ensuing legal warfare are Skye Bank Plc, Dudafa, Pluto Property and Investment Company Limited, Seagate Property Development and Investment Company limited, Transocean Property and Investment Company Limited and Globus Integrated Service Limited.
In an affidavit in support of the originating summon sworn to by a legal practitioner, Sammie Somiari, and filed before the court by a Port Harcourt-based lawyer, Granville Abibo, SAN, the deponent averred that Patience Ibifaka Jonathan, on 22nd of March, 2010, with the assistance of officials of Skye Bank, Mr. Demola Bolodeoku and Dipo Oshodi opened five different accounts with the bank, the account opening and mandate forms were duly completed and signed by her.
Subsequently, Mrs. Jonathan discovered that apart from one of the accounts that bore her name, the other four accounts were opened in the name of four companies, which companies were owned by Waparimo-Owei Dudafa.
She also observed that the ATM cards of the said accounts were issued in the names of the companies. She complained to Dudafa, who promised to effect the necessary changes in the name of the said accounts.
Consequently, Mr. Dipo Oshodi promised to effect the necessary changes.
Mr. Somiari averred further that Patience Jonathan is not a director, shareholder or participant in these companies. The fund in the said accounts are solely owned and operated by her, Dudafa does not own any part of the funds in the said accounts.
He said, however, that the Skye Bank official, did not effect the instructions of the plaintiff to change the name of the said accounts to her name, despite repeated request made by her. Notwithstanding the refusal of the bank to effect the necessary change, she has been using the said ATM cards without any interference.
But sometimes in July 2016, she discovered that the ATM cards were not functioning, she was surprised at the development and immediately got in touch with Dipo Oshodi, her account officer with Skye Bank, who asked her to direct her enquiry to the bank. The bank informed her that a no debit/freezing order have been placed on the accounts.
On enquiry, the bank informed her that the accounts were frozen on the directive of EFCC as a result of ongoing investigation in relation to Dudafa.
She contended that she was never arrested or invited by EFCC prior to the no debit placed on the accounts. The counsel averred that despite several appeals, the bank has failed and refused to release the said accounts.
The lawyer said the freezing of the funds by Skye Bank merely on the directive of EFCC without an order of the court is unlawful.
Consequently, Dame Jonathan, while demanding for $200m as damages, is also urging the court not only to declare that the no debit/freezing order is unlawful, but to also issue an order discharging the no debit order and restrain the EFCC and its agent from further or subsequently placing a no debit/freezing order on the said accounts. No date has been fixed for hearing.