Monday, 30 November 2015

N155billion Scam: EFCC quizzes Jonathan’s associate who helped distribute ‘slush fund’

INVESTIGATION: EFCC quizzes Jonathan’s associate over ‘slush fund’

In continuation of its investigation into the N155billion Malabu Oil deal involving former Petroleum Resources Minister, Dan Etete, and some top officials of the Goodluck Jonathan administration, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission on Monday interrogated a close associate of both Mr. Etete and Mr. Jonathan.

PREMIUM TIMES learnt that Aliyu Abubakar, a businessman with interest in construction, arrived the agency’s headquarters on Monday morning on the invitation of the EFCC and was still being grilled as at 6 PM.

Mr. Abubakar, this newspaper learnt, is being questioned for his alleged role in the laundering and distribution of at least $523million, being part of the proceeds of the controversial Malabu oil deal.

Investigators found that Mr. Etete allegedly transferred the funds into Mr. Abubakar’s account, from where it was diverted into several other accounts of individuals and organizations.

This website had on May 24, 2012 reported how the Nigerian subsidiaries of two multinational oil companies, Nigeria Agip Exploration Limited (Agip) and Shell Nigeria Exploration and Production Company Limited (Shell), paid $1.1billion (N155billion) to the Federal Government in April 2011 for onward transmission to Malabu Oil, whose principal is Mr. Etete.

Our subsequent investigations later showed that the EFCC had indeed investigated the deal, concluding that the transaction pointed at a “cloudy scene associated with fraudulent dealings”.

The EFCC investigation also clearly established that Mr. Etete’s Malabu only served as a money laundering machine, as substantial parts of the funds was later transferred to various accounts owned by “real and artificial persons” suspected to have links with the Goodluck Jonathan presidency and other government officials.

Presidency sources familiar with the matter said the EFCC intimated then President Jonathan and then Attorney General of the Federation, Mohammed Adoke of its findings.

“But I can tell you that the investigation suffered a setback since the presidency got wind of it,” one of our sources had said. “There is high-level complicity in the deal and there is therefore high-level cover up. The report is gathering dust on the president’s desk.”

Relying on court papers in the United States (where some consultants sued Malabo for breach of contract), checks at the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) and on its own investigations, the EFCC had established that “a prima facie case of conspiracy, breach of trust, theft and money laundering can be established against some real and artificial persons.”

Mr. Aliyu and the beneficiaries

At the heart of what is clearly a brazen theft of public funds is Aliyu Abubakar, quizzed for the first time Monday since May 2012 when PREMIUM TIMES first exposed the deal.

Mr. Aliyu had very close business ties with Diepreiye Alamiesegha, convicted former governor of Bayelsa state, who died on October 10 this year.

Mr. Alamiesegha it was who picked Mr. Jonathan as his running mate in the 1999 governorship election in Bayelsa state and whom Mr. Jonathan succeeded in office after the former was impeached over corruption charges.

The late governor played a major role in Mr. Jonathan’s national politics, serving as a major influence, an adviser and at a point, a top campaign official.

Mr. Aliyu, through companies co-owned by him, received direct payments of $523million (N81bn) from the largesse.

Investigators believe that the businessman, introduced to the president by Mr. Alamieyeseigha, was Mr. Jonathan’s front in the transaction.

Sharing the money

On August 16, 2011, Mr. Adoke and the then Minister of State for Finance, Yerima Ngama, coordinated the payment of a first tranche of $401.5million (N60billion) into a First Bank account 2018288005 belonging to Malabu.

Another $400millionn (N60billion) was, based on the duo’s instructions, transferred into a Malabu Bank PHB (now Keystone bank) account 3610042472 from a Nigerian government account with JP Morgan International Bank. The balance of the funds was reportedly lodged into Mr. Etete’s account with Zenith Bank.

Immediately Malabu received the money, the distribution began. Rocky Top Resources Limited, co-owned by Mr. Aliyu received $336 million (N50bn) from the Malabu Keystone Bank deposit. Other companies that got money from the Malabu curious transfers include A-Group Construction Company, also co-owned by Mr. Aliyu. It received $157mn (N24bn), while Novel Property and Development Limited, also co-owned by Mr. Aliyu, got $30 million (N4.5bn).

Companies not linked to Mr. Aliyu but got money from Malabu include Mega Tech Engr Co. Ltd, which received $180 million (N27bn) and Imperial Union Limited, $34million (N5.1bn).

Some sources had told PREMIUM TIMES that those companies, like Mr. Aliyu’s, simply acted as fronts for political office holders, who helped to facilitate the transfer, as they had no basis to receive such huge sums of money from Malabu.

PREMIUM TIMES extensive investigation into this matter had shown how, in order to cover up what is clearly one of the most elaborate corruption schemes in Nigeria’s history, Mr. Jonathan tapped Mr. Ngama, and Mr. Adoke to hurriedly transfer the funds to Mr. Etete on August 16, 2011, a day before the then Minister of Finance, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, assumed office.