On N2.6bn fraud – ‘my company was used to obtain N76m’, Witness confesses

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A witness, Mr Emeka Emelano on Friday, told a Federal High Court Lagos, that his company was used to obtain about N72 million from NIMASA.

The witness, who introduced himself as sole proprietor of O2 services Plus Nig. Ltd, made the revelation at the resumed trial of Patrick Akpobolokemi.

Akpobolokemi is the immediate past Director General of Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency.

He is being arraigned by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) alongside six others, on 22 counts bordering on allegations of conversion and theft in the tune of N2.6 billion.

Other defendants are: Captain Ezekiel Agaba, Ekene Nwakuche, Governor Juan – and three companie — Blockz and Stonz Ltd, Kenzo Logistics Ltd and Al-Kenzo Logistic Ltd.

They are facing trial before Justice Ibrahim Buba, and had all pleaded not guilty to the charges.
Emelano is the fifth witness for the prosecution.

In his evidence in chief conducted by the prosecutor, Mr Rotimi Oyedepo,the witness told the court that his company specialised in Agro allied services and got remuneration for its services through its bank accounts.

He told the court that sometimes in 2015, his younger brother, Uche Emelano, sought to use his company to get a contract from NIMASA.

He said that his brother had informed him that the contract would come through the instrumentality of the third accused (Nwakuche).

According to the witness, his brother  instructed him to transfer any money paid to his company’s account as soon as he got alert from the bank.

Emelano said as soon as he began to receive bank alerts, he informed his brother, who in turn informed the third accused.

Emelano said that on June 18, 2015 he received an alert for N14.2 million and a further alert of N21 million, on March 15, 2015 he received an alert for N21 million and on May 4, 2015 he received an alert for N16 million.

Emelano added that he was thereafter instructed to transfer the monies to bank accounts with beneficiaries named as Blocks and Stonez Ltd and Governor Juan.

He informed the court that his company did not execute any contract for NIMASA to have necessitated payment of the various funds.

The witness added that he was also unaware of the nature of the contract for which his brother utilised his company’s account to obtain money from NIMASA.

Emelano emphasised: “I did not benefit anything from these monies paid, I only requested that the sum of N300,000 be left in the account to off set bank transfer charges.”

Meanwhile, under cross examination by counsel to the third accused, Mr Lanre Olayinka, the witness stressed that he did not enjoy any benefit from the sums paid into his account.

Olayinka then tendered a statement of account before the witness, and drew his attention to a cheque issued in his name for the sum of N100,000.

Olayinka asked:.”Mr Emelano, you claimed you did not benefit from the monies paid into your account, but from the document before you on March 6, 2015 you issued a cheque in your name for the sum of N100,000.

“If the money left in your account was for bank charges as you claimed, how come you issued a cheque for the amount in your name? For what purpose is the money”.

The witness responded:”I took transport na.”

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the response brought peals of laughter from the courtroom.

Justice Ibrahim Buba thereafter informed parties that a lot of time had been spent on the trial and adjourned the case to Feb. 16 for continuation of cross examination of the witness.

In the 22-count charge, the accused were alleged to have converted to their use, a total of N2.6 billion between December 23, 2013 and May 28, 2015.

The offences, the EFCC noted, contravened the provisions of Sections 15 (1), 15 (3), and 18 (a) of the Money Laundering Prohibition Act, 2012.

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