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Monday, 10 September 2018

Alleged N1.7bn Fraud: Ex-President's Aide Confesses That He Shared $10m On Instruction

Alleged N1.7bn Fraud: Ex-President's Aide Confesses That He Shared $10m On Instruction

Dudafar Waripamo-Owen

An aide to a former president alleged to have conspired to conceal N1.7 billion belonging to the Federal Government has confessed in court.

Dudafar Waripamo-Owen, an aide to Ex-President Goodluck Jonathan, on Monday told the Federal High in Lagos that he received and disbursed 10 million dollars (about N1.7 billion) on the ex- president’s instructions.

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The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Waripamo-Owen is standing trial alongside Joseph Iweujo, a former Manager of Heritage Bank.

The two defendants had earlier pleaded not guilty to the 23-count charge of fraud preferred against them by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

They were alleged to have conspired to conceal N1.7 billion belonging to the Federal Government; proceeds they knew were from a criminal activity.

At the resumed trial on Monday, the EFCC Prosecutor, Mr Rotimi Oyedepo, continued the cross-examination of the first accused (Waripamo-Owen) who was the only witness in his own defence.

When asked to re-confirm if he received 10 million dollars on the instructions of the ex-president, Waripamo-Owen said the money was given to him by Prince Atoeze on the instructions of the ex-president.

“Yes, I did receive the money on behalf of the president, but I was asked to change the sum to local currency and as well disburse same to the various companies’ accounts given to me’’, he said.

Waripamo-Owen, responding to another question on whether the dollar conversions and payments were made by Bureau De Change agent, said the funds were disbursed through physical cash transactions to the various accounts.

Waripamo-Owen also said that he had directed one Bashiru, a Bureau De Change agent to give Florence Itekese the sum of   N15 million on the instructions of Ex-President Jonathan.

NAN reports that this part of Waripamo-Owen’s cross examination by the prosecutor served as the end of his defence as the court granted his counsel’s application to close his defence.

Meanwhile, Joseph Iweujo, the second accused, and a former Yenegoa branch manager of Heritage Bank, was led to open his defence.

In his evidence-in-chief, Iweujo told the court that he managed the branch office of the bank between 2003 and 2016.

He said the branch office of the bank had managed some of the accounts belonging to the first accused person.

Iweujo also  said that the EFCC had asked him to testify against the first accused person or he would be prosecuted.

He added that he (Iweujo) had remained professional by not agreeing to bear witness against Waripamo-Owen.

Iweujo said the funds in question were not only transferred to his account, but also through the accounts of the Head of Operations of the bank, Mr Ademola Folorunsho, and the Funds Transfer Officer, Mr Stanley Nwogu.

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According to him, the payments and disbursements are legal transactions from the perspective of the bank.

Mr Ige Asemudara, the counsel to Iweujo, however, prayed the court to adjourn the trial to enable his client produce copies of the bank’s statements as exhibits.

Justice Mohammed Idris, therefore, adjourned the case until Sept.18 and Sept.19 for continuation of trial.

NAN reports that Waripamo-Owen was alleged to have used fictitious companies to siphon the amount through various pseudo accounts in Heritage Bank.

The prosecution is, therefore, alleging that the accused persons stole N1.7 billion through Sea Gate Property Development and Investment Ltd., Avalon Global Property Development Ltd., and Ebiwise Resources.

The anti-graft agency claimed that the accused persons received the money sometime in 2016 through Pluto Property and Investment Ltd., Rotato Interlink Services Ltd., De Jakes Fast Food Restaurant Ltd., and Ibejige Services Ltd.

The prosecutor, however, said the alleged offences had contravened Sections 17 (a) and 18 (c) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2004 and Sections 27 (3) of the EFCC Act, 2004.

-NAN

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