By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA- A Spanish contractor, Mr Jose Lopez-Pepe, has dragged the Imo State government before the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, alleging that his Nigerian partner, one Benjamin Emenike, connived with some commissioners and diverted contract funds.
In a petition he filed through his lawyer, Abiodun Oduwole, and copied to the Inspector General of Police, IGP, Mohammed Abubakar, the Spaniard, alleged that while he travelled abroad to procure technical drawings and other equipment for the contract valued at about N3.6 billion, Emenike who is the Managing Director of a company, Hormipresa Nigeria Ltd, collected part payment for the project and bought several exotic cars.
Consequently, Mr Lopez-Pepe, who claims he never received the payment by the state government for the job, prays the IGP and the anti-graft agency to investigate Emenike and some officials of the Imo State government and make them account for the project funds.
Specifically, the petition, a copy of which was made available to Vanguard, read: “We bring to your attention, Sir, the unlawful activities of Mr. Benjamin Emmanuel Emenike, the Managing Director of Hormipresa Nigeria Limited, and pray that you cause an investigation into the following allegations.
“A contract for the construction of some infrastructure in Owerri was awarded to New Int. FPS S.L (NIFPS) on November 8, 2011 by the government of Imo State. The total amount of the contract is about N3.6 billion. Being a foreign company registered in Spain, NIFPS introduced Mr. Benjamin Emenike’s company (Hormipresa Nig. Ltd), an indigenous company, to the government of Imo State as its sister company/agent and requested for an advance payment of 30% of the contract sum to be paid to NIFPS through Hormipresa. Both Mr. Benjamin Emenike and Mr. Jose Marin Lopez-Pepe (the Managing Director of NIFPS) opened a joint account at Zenith Bank for the purpose of this contract and its execution. The mandate was for both parties to be compulsory signatories.
“However, when Mr. Marin Lopez-Pepe traveled to Spain to secure the technical drawings and other equipments for the project, Mr. Benjamin Emenike connived with the account officer at Zenith Bank to change the mandate of the account to enable only him (Mr. Emenike) operate the account. The said account officer perfected and facilitated the fraud on Mr. Marin Lopez-Pepe by helping Mr. Benjamin Emenike to successfully access the said 30% mobilization fund without the consent of the second compulsory signatory, Mr. Marin Lopez-Pepe.
“A total of N1.2 Billion Naira (about 6 Million Euros) was paid to NIFPS through Hormipresa Nigeria Limited, being 30% of the contract sum, the take-off grant for the project. However, since accessing the funds, Mr. Ben Emenike has refused to remit or transmit the money to Mr. Marin Lopez-Pepe or NIFPS, despite repeated and numerous letters from Mr. Marin Lopez-Pepe’s solicitors requesting him to account for all money had and collected in connection with the contract and to transmit same to him.
“When the pressure became heightened, Mr. Ben Emenike resorted to using his money laundering contacts also facilitated by Mrs. Grace Okparaeche to launder money into Mr. Lopez-Pepe’s accounts in Spain, in order to frustrate him and put him in trouble with Spanish governments. He made a number of transactions where he transferred money from a Nigerian account to a Spanish account through Hong Kong, Russia and London, and through unknown, unregistered and spurious companies, thereby making such funds flagged for money laundering. Of course, these moneys are trapped in Spain for further investigation as they do not emanate from clear and direct sources.
“Mr. Marin Lopez-Pepe’s accounts have also been frozen. The total amount of money sent to Mr. Marin Lopez-Pepe’s account is about 1.8 Million Euros. At a point, and due to the suspicious manner the moneys were being transferred, Barclays Bank, UK, refunded 500,000 Euros to Mr. Benjamin Emenike, claiming that the transaction could not be followed through because it had money laundering patterns to which they would not be a party. Mr. Marin Lopez-Pepe was advised by his bankers in Spain that only a letter from Imo State Government could ensure that the monies are indeed released to him.
“By the time Mr. Lopez-Pepe came back to the country to obtain the letter from the state government and personally demand for an account of all the money Mr. Ben Emenike collected for the contract job, the latter had forwarded a petition to the Inspector-General of Police, wrongly alleging obtaining by false pretences and fraud against the former. He conspired with the Imo State Commissioner for Lands and Urban Development, (who had previously demanded from Mr. Marin Lopez-Pepe a gift of a Mercedes Benz worth N15 Million Naira and the sponsorship of his wedding to the Governor’s daughter), to trick Mr. Lopez-Pepe into a meeting at the Commissioner of Police’s office in Owerri where he was arrested and taken to INTERPOL Office, Abuja. He is currently undergoing trial at the Federal High Court, Owerri.
“Unknown to him, Mr. Benjamin Emenike had connived with the said Imo State Commissioner for Lands and Urban Development, and a Legal Director at Rochas Foundation who prepares legal documentation for Imo State government, to prepare a spurious award letter in favour of Hormipresa Nigeria Limited, for the same contract. Thus, two awards were purportedly made by the state government on the same project. The first award, made to NIFPS, was duly accepted, supported by a contract agreed to by both Imo State Government and NIFPS and duly executed by the Secretary to the State Government. The second award offer purportedly made to Hormipresa was merely signed by the Principal Secretary to the State Governor. No contract, no acceptance. In fact, Imo State Government released funds to Mr. Benjamin Emenike solely on the authority of NIFPS, having expressly requested for same and having introduced Hormipresa as a sister company/agent.
“We know that Mr. Benjamin Emenike spent the bulk of the balance of the mobilization funds with him, that is, 4.7 Million Euros, to bribe his way through the mercenaries of the state government, and had acquired the following items for his personal use: Purchased a total of 20 cars, as contained in the schedule to this petition, Rented a shopping complex worth N6 Million, Imported goods and other wares for the rented shops, worth about N6.5 Million, Commenced a building project in Obodo-Ukwu, Bought numerous buildings in Owerri, Rented apartments in Abuja, Multiple transfers of funds to various accounts at GTBank, Enterprise Bank, former Fin Bank, etc, belonging to himself, ODK Nig Ltd, Real Image Integrated Consultants, and so on, totaling over N200 Million. The account numbers, branches and amount transferred are further included in the schedule to this petition.
“What baffles everyone, Sir, is why Benjamin Emenike walks the streets freely, having misappropriated 4.7 Million Euros, while the original awardee of the contract, Mr. Marin Lopez-Pepe, who is yet to access the portion of the contract money purportedly sent to him, that is, 1.3 Million Euros, is being kept in jail and standing trial over spurious allegations.
“We therefore urge you Sir to use your good office to investigate the said Mr. Benjamin Emenike and his activities with respect to the said contract, and help NIFPS recover the stolen and misappropriated funds from him. We believe this will help restore the confidence of foreign investors in our country.”
It will be recalled that Mr Lopez-Pepe who is the manager of New International FPS SL was earlier arrested by the police over allegation that he defrauded the Imo State government to the tune of about €1.6 million.