...defendant pleads not guilty, as the court fixes Dec 6 for trial
By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
The Federal Government, on Thursday, re-arraigned British national, James Nolan, who was fingered in the alleged gas supply contract scam that led to $9.6billion judgement liability against Nigeria, before a Federal High Court sitting in Abuja.
The defendant was docked on an amended 32-count charge dated November 20, which the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, preferred against him.
Nolan, who was identified as a signatory to accounts of Process and Industrial Developments Limited, P&ID, Nigeria, and the In-Country Support Manager of P&ID, Virgin Island, firms that were involved in the alleged contract scam, pleaded not guilty to the amended charge.
Aside money laundering, the defendant who was charged alongside his compatriot, Adam Quinn (currently at large), and two firms, Goidel Resources Limited and ICIL Limited, was alleged to have engaged in sundry acts of fraud, tax evasion and failure to disclose their activities to the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment in line with the Money Laundering Act.
The defendants were hitherto slammed with an a16-count criminal charge by the anti-graft agency.
Meantime, trial Justice Abang adjourned the rule on the admissibility or otherwise of the first prosecution witness, PW-1, Mr Adewale Agunbiade, an account officer with Guarantee Trust Bank, Abuja.
The witness had informed the court that he was the account officer of P&ID Nigeria Limited.
While being cross-examined by Nolan’s lawyer, Mr Paul Erokoro, SAN, the PW-1 admitted that he made several statements before EFCC investigators regarding P&ID’s account and some of its transactions in the country.
He recalled the account was opened by two persons, Jadesola Awoyinfa and Adamu Usman, who he identified as Directors and “promoters of P&ID Ltd”.
“In my words in the statement, I made it clear that the account was initiated on August 10, 2006.
“And from the details of transactions provided for activities in the account, we have $76, 170 as inflow from the account of P&ID, care of K. Treppides Company Ltd, which was paid to P&ID Nigeria Limited on September 5, 2006.
“It is a foreign transfer, so I cannot tell right now in which country the company is based”, the witness told the court.
Continuing, he said: “While I was at the EFCC, certain transactions of note were referred to me on the statement of account of P&ID to comment on them.
“From the statement here, on September 5, 2006, $135, 000 was inflowed from P&ID, care of Treppides Company Limited, to P&ID Nigeria Limited.
“I deduced the details I stated on the transactions from the statement communicated to EFCC by my bank.
“The record sent to EFCC by my bank included the Statement of Account, along with some foreign exchange inflow receipt.
“When I say foreign exchange inflow, I refer to funds that came in from outside Nigeria.
“It is important to note the difference between P&ID Ltd and P&ID Nigeria Ltd as referenced in my statement.
“The information on the transfers refer to funds sent from accounts outside the country, to account in Nigeria.
“The name of accounts from which the funds were transferred was stated as P&ID Ltd, so I do not have enough information to define its relationship with P&ID Nigeria Ltd.
“The record of our bank shows that the account belonged to P&ID Ltd but the funds were sent on its behalf by Treppides Company Ltd.
“The remark for the transfer of the money, from the transfer information, indicated the sender as P&ID, in care of K-Treppides Company Ltd.
“On April 13, 2007, another $50, 000 was inflowed from P&ID Ltd, in care of K-Treppides Company Ltd, to P&ID Nigeria Ltd”.
Asked if it was a normal practice for a firm to wire money to its subsidiary through another firm, the witness said: “My lord, there is nothing unusual in a company transferring funds on behalf of another.
“A company can transfer funds legally on behalf of another company, depending on the nature of the transaction or the relationship between the companies.
“I cannot however at this time, give a scenario to buttress why a company could send funds on behalf of another company”.
Asked if P&ID had sent the funds through ISIS or Boko Haram, if his bank would have agreed to effect the transaction, the witness said: “My lord Sanction List are availed to financial institutions and banks all over the world who would not in the first place affect transfers on behalf of sanctioned organizations and individuals.
“Proceeds of these transfers will also be verified by the banks against the Sanction List.
“There are some organizations that the bank is precluded from doing business with.
“The banks check and identify the source of funds sent. In this case, if the funds had emanated from a sanctioned party, the bank would not have accepted the funds”.
The witness said he was not aware of a claim by counsel to the defendant that intermediate firm, K-Treppides Company Ltd, is a leading financial audit, tax and accounting company that provides services to international companies across the globe.
Meanwhile, an attempt by the defence lawyer to tender a statement the witness made to the EFCC was opposed by the prosecution counsel, Mr Ekele Iheanacho, who contended that proper Foundation for its admissibility was not laid.
The court had earlier granted him bail to the tune of N500million with one surety in like sum who it stressed must be a serving Senator without a pending criminal charge.
It ordered the defendant to surrender all his international passports, even as it mandated the Nigerian Immigration Service to confirm how many passports that were issued to him within the past 20 years.
EFCC had in a counter-affidavit that was deposed to one of its operatives, Aminu Lawal, told the court that it got an intelligence report that the defendant concluded plans to “sneak out of the country” before he was apprehended by security operatives.
It told the court that the defendant was arrested after an extensive covert manhunt that stretched for over two weeks.
The prosecution alleged that the defendant engaged in money laundering and tax evasion, forgery of immigration documents, running of a trafficking syndicate and was involved in corrupting Nigerian officials.
EFCC told the court that its Enugu office was investigating other allegations against the defendant.
However, the Briton who was initially arraigned on October 21, prayed the court to grant him bail on health ground.
He told the court that he was suffering from acute bipolar disorder and a recurring health condition that requires proper and constant medical attention.
The defendant said he had lived with his family and done business in Nigeria for over 20 years, insisting that he had no prior criminal record.
He told the court that his commitment towards both human and infrastructural development in the country earned him a title in Kebbi State.
Contending that charges against him contained bailable offences, the defendant, said he would not interfere with any ongoing investigation against him.
He prayed the court to release him on bail since he was not charged with a capital offence to warrant the forfeiture of his constitutionally guaranteed right to liberty and fair trial, a request the court acceded to.
However, the defendant had yet to fulfil his bail conditions as he was brought to court in handcuffs on Thursday.