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February 25, 2021

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How Nigerian senator Stella Oduah, Chinese firm, CCECC, others laundered N5billion in five months – EFCC

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The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has indicted a senator, Stella Oduah, and the Nigerian subsidiary of Chinese construction giant, CCECC, in alleged fraudulent cash transactions of about N5billion over five months in 2014, PREMIUM TIMES reports.

PREMIUM TIMES reported that the EFCC could not arraign the nine defendants in the 25-count charge at the Federal High Court in Abuja on February 9, because the defendants had not been served the relevant court documents.

The judge, Inyang Ekwo, then adjourned the proceedings till February 22.

CCECC, FG and Oduah

The China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC) Nigeria Ltd is the Nigerian subsidiary of the parent CCECC established by the Chinese government to execute international contracts and economic cooperation.

The firm, which has enjoyed decades of patronage from the Nigerian government, is handling major infrastructural projects, such as the construction of railways and major roads under President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration.

It signed contracts for the construction of airport terminal projects with the Nigerian government during the tenure of Ms Oduah as Minister of Aviation.

Ms Oduah, who now represents Anambra North in the Nigerian Senate, was removed as the Minister of Aviation by then President Goodluck Jonathan on February 12, 2014, following a scandal over N255million armoured cars which she made the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), an agency under her supervision as Minister of Aviation, buy for her at inflated prices.

The web of transactions, which the EFCC has now characterised as money laundering – in the fresh charges, started on February 5, 2014, about a week to Ms Oduah’s sack as aviation minister.

The transactions continued till five months after.

EFCC’s charges

On December 17, 2020, EFCC filed a total of 25 counts against Ms Oduah (1st defendant), CCECC Nigeria Limited (9th defendant) and seven others comprising persons and firms.

One of the other defendants in the case, Gloria Odita (2nd defendant), is said to be an aide to Ms Oduah when she was Minister of Aviation. She is said to be the company secretary of Sea Petroleum & Gas Company (SPGC) Limited, a firm founded by the former minister.

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The rest of the defendants are an employee of SPCG and aide to Ms Oduah, Nwobu Nnamdi (3rd defendant), Chukwuma Chinyere (4th defendant), Global Offshore and Marine Ltd (5th defendant), Tip Top Global Resources Limited (6th defendant), Crystal Television Limited (7th defendant), and Sobora International Limited (8th defendant).

The Charges

The EFCC, in the 25 counts, accused them of conspiracy to commit money laundering, transferring, taking control and taking possession of proceeds of fraud, aiding and abetting money laundering and opening anonymous bank accounts.

Specifically, the prosecution alleged in two of the 25 counts that Ms Oduah and Ms Odita opened anonymous “Private Banking Nominee” dollar and naira accounts with First Bank, thereby committing an offence contrary to section 11(1) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act 2011 (as amended) and punishable under section 11(4) (a) of the same Act.

PREMIUM TIMES’ review of the charges showed that CCECC Nigeria Limited allegedly transferred over N2.5billion into the naira account of Private Banking Nominee between March 31 and June 6, 2014.

In seven of the counts where CCECC is indicted singly and along with Ms Oduah and Ms Oditah, the company was accused of conspiring with the women to commit money laundering, and directly transferring to Private Banking Nominee account various sums of money totalling N2,583,385,246 which it “reasonably ought to have known forms part of the proceeds of an unlawful activity to wit: fraud…”

The prosecution alleged for instance in Count 17, that CCECC Nigeria, “on various dates between March 5, 2014, and May 30, 2014” in Abuja “directly transferred the sum of N868409,349.00 from your account with Zenith Bank Place to Private Banking Nominee Account 2024414450 domiciled with First Bank Plc, which money you reasonably ought to have known forms part of the proceeds of an unlawful act to wit: fraud…”

It alleged in another count that Ms Oduah and Ms Odita, on various dates between March and May 2014, “took control of the sum of N1,225,347,524 transferred from China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC) Nigeria Ltd bank account with Zenith Bank Plc to Private Banking Nominee Account No 2024414450 domiciled with First Bank Plc, which money you reasonably ought to have known forms part of the proceeds of an unlawful act to wit: fraud…”

It also alleged that under similar circumstances, Ms Oduah and Ms Odita, between March 31 and April 1, 2014 in Abuja “did take control of N500,000,000 directly transferred from the GTB account number 0033880295 account” belonging to CCECC to “Private Banking Nominee account number 2024414450 domiciled with First Bank Plc.”

Many other counts centred on transactions involving over N2.4billion which flowed out from I-See Security’s bank account but with nothing to do with CCECC.

In one of the other counts, for instance, Ms Oduah and Ms Odita, the duo who featured most prominently in the charges, were said to have, on February 26, 2014, used their “positions to transfer the sum of N838,000,000 from Broadwaters Resources Limited account number 2023201064 with Frist Bank to Sobora International Ltd account number 2022354121 also domiciled with Frist Bank Plc” when they reasonably ought to know that the money was part of proceeds of fraud.

The prosecution similarly accused the two of using their “positions” to transfer “the sum of N1,629,250 from I-See Security Nig. Ltd account number 2021756955 with First Bank Plc to Global Offshore and Marine Ltd account number 2022977296 also domiciled with First Bank Plc” on February 12, 2014.

It also alleged that Tip Top Global Resources Ltd on April 17, 2014 “took possession of N780,000,000 transferred from account number 0042101097 with Diamond Bank Plc from Global Offshore and Marine Ltd account number 2022977296 domiciled with First Bank” under fraudulent circumstances.

In the same vein, the EFCC alleged that Nwobu Nnamdi, Chukwuma Chinyere and Crystal Television Limited on April 28, 2014 “did take control of the sum of N840,613,092.28 transferred to the account of Crystal Television Ltd number 2022332068 with First Bank Plc from Global Offshore and Marine Ltd No. 202977296 with First Bank Plc.”

It also accused Ms Odita of aiding and abetting Ms Oduah to transfer N780,000,000 from Global Offshore and Marine Ltd account to Tip Top Global Resources account on April 16, 2014, and to transfer N840,613,092.28 from Global Offshore and Marine Ltd account to Tip Top Global Resources Ltd Account on April 24.

Indicting those alleged to be involved in the entire I-See Security transactions, the prosecution alleged that Ms Oduah, whilst being the Minister of Aviation; Gloria Odita, whilst being the Company Secretary to SPGC and an aide to Ms Oduah; Nwobu Nnamdi, whilst being an employee of SPGC and an aide to the ex-minster; Chukwuwumba Chinyere, Global Offshore And Marine Ltd, Tip Top Global resources Ltd, Crustal Television Ltd, and Sobora International Ltd, between January and April 2014 in Abuja “did conspire among yourselves to commit an offence to wit: money laundering.”

The offence of conspiracy to commit money laundering was said to be contrary to section 18(a), and punishable under section 15(3) and (4) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act 2011 (as amended).

The EFCC said transferring of funds which the defendant ought to know to be part of the proceeds of unlawful activities, violated section 15(2)(b) and punishable under 15(3) of the same Act.

It added that taking control of such funds is contrary to section 18(a) and punishable under 15(3) of the same Act, and that taking possession of such proceeds of fraud violated section 15(2)(d) and is punishable under section 15(4) of Act.

The EFCC added that the alleged offences of aiding and abetting the transfer of proceeds of fraud levelled against Ms Odita violated section 15(2)(b) and is punishable under section 15(3) of the Act.

The money flow

The review and analysis of the charges by PREMIUM TIMES showed that the suspicious transactions totalling N5,052,415,984, described as proceeds of fraud by the EFCC, started from the accounts of two firms – I-See Security Nigeria Limited and CECC Nigeria Limited.

The charges indicated that I-See Security Nigeria Limited had a total outflow of N2,469,030,738 from its First Bank account, while the CCECC Nigeria Limited had a total outflow of N2,583,385,246 from its Zenith Bank, UBA, and GTB accounts.

I-See Security’s outflow

From I-See Security’s account, N839,780,738 was transferred to the First Bank account of Broadwaters Resources Company Limited on February 5, 2014.

On February 12, 2014, according to the commission, N1,629,250,000 was transferred to the First Bank Account of Global Offshore and Marine Ltd.

While the February 12, 2014 transaction completed the outflows from I-See Security’s account, it did not end the chain of the flow of the funds.

The prosecution alleged that out of the N839,780,738 earlier transferred to Broadwaters Resources from I-See Security’s account, N838,000,000 was further transferred to the First Bank account of Sobora International Ltd on February 26, 2014.

It added that Global Offshore and Marine Ltd also transferred N780,000,000 from its First Bank account to the Diamond Bank account of Tip Top Global Resources Ltd (Diamond Bank Plc) on April 17, 2014, and N840,613,092.28 to the First Bank account of Crystal Television Ltd on April 28, 2014.

The total transfers of 1,620,613,092.28 to the account were from the N1,629,250,000 transferred to Global Offshore and Marine Ltd by I-See Security on February 12, 2014.

CCECC outflows

In the CCECC Nigeria Ltd transactions, the EFCC alleged that there was a total outflow of N2,583,385,246 alleged to be proceeds of fraud from its Zenith Bank, UBA, and GTB bank accounts between March and June 2014.

All the outflows, according to the EFCC, went to Private Banking Nominee account, which Ms Oduah and Ms Odita allegedly opened anonymously with First Bank.

The prosecution alleged that between March 31 and April 1, 2014, the Chinese firm transferred N500milion, alleged to be proceeds of fraud from its GTB account to Private Banking Nominee account.

It similarly accused the firm of transferring N537,256,601, also alleged to be proceeds of fraud from a Zenith Bank account to Private Banking Nominee account from April 11 to 17, 2014.

The EFCC also alleged that on March 19, 2014, CCECC Nigeria Limited transferred N48,700,300 from a Zenith Bank account to Private Banking Nominee account.

According to the commission, from March 5 to May 30, 2014, CCECC also transferred N868,409,349 from Zenith Bank account to Private Banking Nominee account.

It added that between March 18 and May 30, 2014, the Chinese firm transferred N229,018, 996 from its undisclosed account Private Banking Nominee account.

It also stated that on June 6, 2014, the firm also transferred N400million from its UBA account to Private Banking Nominee.

Defence

Under the Nigerian criminal justice system, the defendants, who may plead not guilty during their arraignment on February 22, will open their defence after the prosecution calls its witnesses, presents its exhibits and then closes its case.

But Ms Oduah, who is the central figure and connected to all the 25 charges, has always denied corruption allegations levelled against her.

She stated, in response to the N255million bulletproof car scandal that saw to her exit from office in 2014, that she had “made a mark in oil and gas and agricultural businesses before joining politics.”

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