From ADE ALADE
•As EFCC compiles fresh reports for further prosecution
Trouble for former Delta State governor, Chief James Ibori, may be far from being over, as the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) is compiling fresh charges against him and some of his former aides over allegations bordering on stealing and laundering of åover $32 million state funds.
Ibori was last Tuesday sentenced to 13 years imprisonment by a Southwark Crown Court, London presided over by Judge Anthony Pitts after pleading guilty to 10 criminal counts of conspiracy to defraud and money laundering filed against him by the Metropolitan Police.
An indication that more troubles await the former governor, after he might have served out his jail sentence in the United Kingdom, was contained in a statement issued by the EFCC on Tuesday to state its official reaction to the conviction of Ibori.
The anti-graft agency had, in its reaction, said: “The EFCC wishes to restate the fact that the offences for which Ibori was jailed in London is only a fraction of the array of criminal infractions committed by the former governor. The commission remains committed in its determination to bring Ibori and other alleged corrupt politically exposed persons and corporate titans to book in Nigeria, no matter how long it takes.”
Investigations by Saturday Sun, however, revealed that the EFCC’s boast was based on an updated investigation report, which detailed how the funds over which Ibori was jailed in London were stolen from Delta State.
A top official of the anti-graft agency, who has been part of the team investigating Ibori since 2007, revealed, under condition of anonymity: “The former governor has been jailed in London for money laundering offences but our latest report details the predicate offence of stealing and so, that provides a basis for fresh charges against him in addition to other issues.”
The report borders on how the former governor and some of his aides allegedly sold Delta State equity shares in a GSM telecommunication company, Econet Wireless Nigeria, now Airtel Nigeria Ltd without accounting for the proceeds in excess of $32 million. The report said some of the former aides of Ibori and bank officials had already been interrogated in relation to the latest investigation.
The top source revealed: “On the directives of the executive chairman to look into the matter, the team reviewed the case files on the earlier investigation carried out by this office, with a view to ascertaining the veracity of the above mentioned claims. He added that the accounts of Delta State Government (DTSG) and that of a private finance company were requested from a new generation bank and analysed, which led to further request of accounts details of some companies that featured in the transaction from their respective bankers, including certain transaction instruments and the corresponding instruction issued by both the state and the said companies to their bankers to effect same.
He said: “Also, investigation activities letter was written to Airtel Nigeria (formerly Celtel Nigeria) requesting for all the relevant information regarding the sale of the state’s shares to Celtel Nigeria BV sometime in 2006 and was later followed up with a visit by the team to the company and the information was obtained. Investigation activities letters were also written to Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) requesting for registration details of the said companies.
“After a thorough and careful scrutiny of the above information obtained, the addresses/telephone numbers of the companies involved were extracted and thereafter invited for interview, including their respective bankers, who managed and executed the transaction on their behalf. The invitees reported and their statements were recorded accordingly.”
Part of the latest investigation report being relied on by the EFCC to draft charges bordering on stealing against the former governor and some of his ex-aides revealed that the engagement of the private finance company, in accordance with the terms of the said Exclusive Arranger Agreement of 21st November 2005, was on the recommendation of the ex-commissioner of finance who was actively involved in the consummation of the transaction contrary to his claim.
It said that the said fee paid to the company, “in the total invoiced value of US$13,820,941.47 was recommended by ex-commissioner of finance who also directed … verbally to effect the payment through the said third party companies”, adding that nothing indicates that the company “played any role in securing the protective buyer, neither did it carry out the negotiation of the sale which were the services spelt out in the agreement to be rendered by it.”
The report said that the entire transaction was handled by the ad hoc committee/investment committee set up without a broker. It said that CELTEL NIGERIA LTD confirmed, in a letter dated July 2, 2006 to have had NO dealings with the finance company regarding the shares held by any of the state government.
It also said that the state officials could not present any material evidence that the finance company performed other than the rider contained in the said agreement, coupled with the guarantee and indemnity compelling the state to it “professional fee in a total sum of $13,820,941.47, which translated to N1,796,722, 391.10 @ 130/US$.”
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