By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA—Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, yesterday, told the Federal High Court in Abuja that it stored over N3 billion loot recovered from former Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, Mr. Andrew Yakubu, in iron boxes.
The anti-graft agency, which made the revelation at the resumed trial of the former NNPC boss on charges bordering on money laundering, said the boxes were also sealed with iron rods.
Testifying as the third prosecution witness, PW-3, a lead investigative officer from Kano zonal office of the commission, Mr. Ahmed Yahaya, said the iron boxes were kept at the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, for safe-keeping.
Yakubu who was GMD of the NNPC between 2012 and 2014, was accused of stashing over N3 billion at his house in Kaduna.
Meantime, at the resumed trial, the PW-3 who is a Deputy Detective Superintendent, told the court that he is also the EFCC exhibit keeper in Kano state.
Led in evidence by the prosecution counsel, Mr. Ben Ikhani, the witness said: “My lord I know the defendant. On Febraury 3, 2017, at about 4:50pm, my head of operations called and informed me that a team of operatives attached to Intelligence Special Operation Section, ISOS, were coming back from Kaduna on special assignment and that they were coming back with a full cabinet safe.
“The recovered safe which was made by Gubabi was opened by experts and monies were discovered in that safe.
‘’The recovered monies were counted in the presence of the investigating team, the zonal head of operations, the deputy zonal head of operations and Mr. Bitrus Yakubu.
“Finally, a total sum of 97,725 pieces of 100 notes of United States dollars were discovered, valued at N9. 772 million.
“Then six pieces of 50 notes of USD, valued at $300 and 1,480 pieces of 50 notes of Pound Sterling valued at £74,000 were also recovered from the safe.
“The monies were duly packaged and registered in the Court Exhibit Register and tagged with CER-038/17. That was on Febraury 7, 2017.”
“On February 13, 2017, I recieved a court order by the legal department and investigative team for the interim forfeiture of the recovered amount.
“After all the relevant investigation, the whole monies were carried to the Kano branch of the Central Bank of Nigeria on March 17, 2017, for proper safe-keeping.
“The monies were also counted there by their experts and the same amounts were discovered. The bank then issued us with a certificate of delivery which was duly signed by both the staff of EFCC and that of the CBN.
“The staff of the EFCC that signed included myself, Ahmed Yahaya, Sanusi Abdullahi, Tasul Abubakar and Aliyu Abdullahi, while the CBN staff are the head of treasury, the head currency and the branch controller.
“At the point of delivery, the monies were counted by Travelex an expert company, and were arranged in iron boxes by the bank staff and travelex staff. The boxes were sealed with iron rods in our presence.
“To the best of my knowledge, the monies are intact with the CBN”.
The witness identified the safe where the loot was allegedly stashed by the defendant.
The court had earlier admitted the safe in evidence as exhibit A.
A Federal High Court in Kano had on February 13, 2017, granted interim order forfeiting the recovered monies to the federal government.
Meantime, trial Justice Ahmed Mohammed admitted a copy of the court order and marked it as exhibit F.
The CBN delivery certificate dated March 17, 2016, was also admitted in evidence as Exhibit G.
While being cross-examined by the defence counsel, Mr. Ahmed Raji, SAN, the witness told the court that he was not aware that EFCC took any insurance policy in respect of the money it kept at the CBN.
“I don’t know of any insurance policy, unless the certificate given to us serves as such. The last time I was at the CBN in respect of this money was on March 17, 2017.
“As far as we are concerned, the monies are safe. That is my conviction”.
The witness said boxes containing the monies were sealed but not locked with a key, saying he has never gone back to check the boxes and the seal.
Justice Mohammed has adjourned further hearing on the matter till February 28.
FG had in the charge marked FHC/ABJ/ CR/ 43/ 2017, alleged that Yakubu failed to declare the money in the assets form he filed at the EFCC on August 18, 2015, and thereby committed an offence contrary to section 27(3) (a) of the EFCC (Establishment) Act 2004 and punishable under section 27(3) (c) of the same Act.
In count three and four of the charge dated March 9, FG, alleged that Yakubu had between 2012 and 2014, without going through a financial institution, received cash payments of $9, 772, 800 and £74, 000, and thereby committed an offence contrary to section 1 of Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act 2012 and punishable under section 16(2) of the Act.
In count five and six, FG alleged that Yakubu had with intent to avoid a lawful transaction under the law, transferred at various times in Kaduna, aggregate sums of $9,772, 800 and £74, 000, when he reasonably ought to know that the said funds formed part of the proceed of some form of unlawful activity and thereby committed an offence contrary to section 7(4) (b) (ii) of the Advance Fee Fraud Act, 2006.