…7 Untouchables accused of blackmail, extortion of money from suspects; appropriating exhibits, selling off forfeited / seized assets
…Asked to explain role in exploits of Ag. EFCC chairman
…Magu brought to Aso Villa at about 10:00 yesterday for more grilling
By Emma Nnadozie, Crime Editor, Kingsley Omonobi & Johnbosco Agbakwuru
Interrogation of embattled Acting Chairman of the Economic & Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, Ibrahim Magu entered Day Four yesterday with the Presidential panel led by Justice Ayo Isa Salami grilling select operatives of the commission.
The operatives, referred to as “Magu’s Boys”, are said to be seven in number, and were grilled by the Presidential panel over their roles in the acting chairman’s exploits.
The seven operatives, also pejoratively called “The Untouchables” were accused of committing several atrocities, including allegedly blackmailing and extorting money from suspects, appropriating exhibits to themselves and selling off forfeited or seized assets without remitting the proceeds to government coffers.
The activities of the “The Untouchables,” according to sources who confided in Vanguard, formed part of the allegations in the memo the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, SAN, forwarded to President Muhammadu Buhari.
Meanwhile, Magu was brought to Aso Villa at about 10:00am yesterday for further grilling by the panel. He was also accompanied by his lawyer. All the directors of the agency and the Secretary, Ola Olukayode, were also at the panel to say what they knew about the allegations against their boss.
Magu threatens hunger strike
Apparently seeing that the Presidency may keep him in detention indefinitely until he answers allegations made against him by the Attorney-General, Vanguard gathered yesterday that embattled Chairman of Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, Ibrahim Magu, may go on hunger strike.
Vanguard gathered that some politicians and other wealthy Nigerian and foreigners who alleged that they were duped by Magu and some operatives of the EFCC are said to have started forwarding petitions on how they were coerced to part with huge sums of money and property under the guise of recovering ill-gotten wealth.
Magu, still being interrogated by the Justice Ayo Salami-led Presidential panel along with seven of his aides reportedly got into trouble after information gotto the Presidency about some of his dealings both in and outside the country. The informants, according to sources, gave detailed information that prompted a shocked Presidency to immediately order his arrest while a presidential panel was set up without delay.
According to sources, people in rarefied circles of power, in and outside the country put together the details and delivered to the Presidency, prompting his arrest.
A Presidency source said last night that Magu may not be released from detention until he responds satisfactorily to all allegations against him.
The source told Vanguard last night: “You are aware that they (detectives) have searched his house. Detectives that carried out the search combed his house. It was after the search that they arrested seven of his aides as part of the probe.
“Justice Salami is simply carrying out stern instructions from the Presidency over the issue of Magu and it was after he discovered that it will be virtually impossible to grant him bail that Magu started threatening to go on hunger strike, with a view to drawing public sympathy.
“However, it was learned that when the Presidency got information about his plans to go on strike, in insisted that the embattled EFCC acting chairman will not be released until he returns all the money he was accused of stealing.”
Soft-landing bids fail
Meanwhile, Vanguard gathered that frantic efforts made so far by highly-placed persons from various parts of the country close to Magu to seek soft landing for him have failed, as the Presidency is said to have insisted on carrying out a thorough investigation and getting to the root of the matter without minding whose ox was gored.
Police sources hinted that the team of investigators handling the matter had been directed by the Presidency not to compromise their investigations and that some of them will soon be dispatched abroad to comb banks where it was alleged Magu stashed huge sums of money.
However, the sources could not say whether Magu, a Commissioner of Police, is being detained inside a cell at the FCID, Zone 10, Abuja, or given special treatment by keeping him in one of the posh offices there.
At yesterday’s sitting of the panel, a source close to the commission said the panel asked all the directors and sectional heads to submit, within seven days, all files of cases handled by the agency since 2015, as well as forfeited assets and cash releases.
Tough bail situation
On bail, a source told Vanguard yesterday that only the Presidential panel could grant him bail.
Magu’s lawyer, Toni Ojaomo, had said on Tuesday he would seek his client’s bail but the source at police headquarters said since it was not the police that ordered his arrest, the force would also not be involved in his bail.
Recall that Magu is being detained on the ground floor of the Force Criminal Investigations Department, from where he is taken on daily basis to the Presidential Villa where he is being grilled by the Justice Ayo Salami panel.
Vanguard investigations revealed that since Magu was arrested on the orders of the Presidential Panel which complained to the President about Magu’s disregard for its assignment, the Inspector-General of Police, IGP Mohammed Adamu, directed the Force Criminal Investigations Department to get him arrested
The source said: “It is not the Force Criminal Investigations Department that is investigating Magu. It is the Presidential panel that is investigating him. It is the Presidential panel that can say if Magu should be granted bail.”
The issue of leadership vacuum festered at the commission’s head office yesterday, as no one is acting for the embattled acting chairman, as there had been no official communication from the Presidency on who should act.
It was learned yesterday that jostling for the leadership of the commission continued yesterday as powerful forces are said to be rooting for FCT Police Commissioner, Bala Ciroma.
Recall that the panel confronted Magu with fresh allegations at Wednesday’s sitting, as he was asked to account for 380 seized houses, seven vessels loaded with crude oil and disposal of assets worth N37 billion.
Allegations against Magu
Some of the allegations made against Magu by the AGF include:
- Alleged discrepancies in the reconciliation records of the EFCC and the Federal Ministry of Finance on recovered funds.
- Declaration of N539 billion as recovered funds, instead of N504 billion earlier claimed
- Insubordination to the Office of the AGF
- Alleged late action on the investigation of P&ID, leading to legal dispute
- Not respecting court order to unfreeze a N7billion judgement in favour of of a former executive director of a bank
- Not providing enough evidence for the extradition of Diezani Alison-Madueke
- Alleged delay in acting on two vessels seized by the Navy
- Alleged favouring of some investigators called Magu Boys
- Reporting some judges to their presiding officers without deferring to the AGF
- Alleged sale of seized assets to cronies, associates and friends
- Alleged issuance of investigative activities to some media prejudicial to some cases.
Magu’s response to allegations
Responding to the allegations made against him by the Department of State Service, DSS, under Lawal Daura, in a letter addressed to the AGF, dated December 21, 2016, the EFCC chief, Ibrahim Magu, had said:
“I most respectfully refer to your letter referenced HAGF/EFCC/2016/Vol.1/23 dated 19th December, 2016, asking me to respond within 48 hours to the allegations contained in a report written by the Department of State Service, DSS, and which provided the basis for the non-consideration of my confirmation on December 15, 2016, by the Senate.
“Having carefully considered all the issues, I hereby present a point-by-point response as follows:
Missing EFCC files
“It is true that my residence was searched on the orders of Mrs. Farida Waziri, shortly after she succeeded Mallam Nuhu Ribadu as Chairman of the EFCC and some documents relating to cases under investigation were found in my house. At the time of the raid, I was yet to formally hand over to my successor, Umar Sanda, as head of the Economic Governance Unit.
“My schedule at the time warranted that I work round the clock and it was impossible to conclude all assignments without working at home. The documents found in my house were actually found in my office bag where I kept documents relating to investigations.
“I was in the process of handing over and it would be wrong to suggest that I willfully kept the Commission’s files at home. Nevertheless, the incident was thoroughly investigated by the Police as I was placed on suspension without pay for 20 months. But in the end, I was reprimanded, recalled and promoted to Assistant Commissioner of Police.
“It is important sir, to draw your attention to the fact that some of us that worked closely with Ribadu were victimized after his exit. And my ordeal was orchestrated as punishment for being the chief investigative officer for most of the high-profile cases involving politically exposed persons, some of whom became very influential in government at the time.
Return to EFCC under Lamorde
“I was Assistant Commissioner of Police in Charge of Operations at the Anambra State Police Command when I was recalled to the EFCC in 2012.
“I did not lobby to return to the EFCC. It is preposterous for anyone to suggest that I was recalled to do a hatchet job for Lamorde as alleged in the DSS Report. My job schedule as Deputy Director, Department of Internal Affairs, under Lamorde, was simply handling issues of professional responsibility in the Commission. I had no inputs in core operations duties of the Commission.
Tenancy of official residence
“I live in the official residence of the Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). This accommodation, contrary to the report of the DSS, is not my private home, neither was it rented and furnished for me by Commodore Umar Mohammed (rtd). It was rented and furnished by the Ministry of the Federal Capital Territory through the Abuja Metropolitan Management Council, under the Safe House Scheme.
“It is also false that the house was rented for N20million per annum and furnished for N43million. The entire cost for both two-year rent and the furnishing of the house is N39.628million.
Details of the transaction are contained in the contract award letter and payment schedule which are attached to this letter.
Expensive air travels
“Honourable Minister, the claim that I have a penchant for expensive air travels in a private jet belonging to Commodore Mohammed is baseless
“The two times I can recall travelling in Commodore Umar’s aircraft, were on a trip from Kano to Abuja, and Abuja to Maiduguri. In the first instance, I had gone to Kano on an official assignment with two of my directors, and Mohammed who was on his way back to Abuja offered us a ride in his jet.
“The second occasion was when I was going to see my sick mother in Maiduguri. These, for me, were harmless gestures as we were both members of the presidential investigative committee on arms procurement.
“At the time I had no knowledge that he was under investigation for any alleged crimes. I have also never flown in a private aircraft with any banker, let alone one that was under investigation by my agency.
High profile/dual lifestyle
“The allegation that I live a flamboyant lifestyle is also surprising to me. While it is true that I did travel first class on Emirates Airline to Saudi Arabia for Umrah, this action to the best of my knowledge, did not contravene the directive of Mr. President on First Class travels as suggested by the DSS Report.
“My trip to Saudi Arabia was a private journey to perform my religious obligation and it was not financed with public funds. More importantly, my decision to fly first class was not borne out of quest for luxury but compelled by necessity.
“The trip was made during the last ten days of Ramadan and other classes of ticket were not available. I had no other choice. That I flew first class in one instance is not enough evidence to suggest an extravagant lifestyle as alleged by the DSS Report. It is also not enough to suggest a dual personality.
“Any one that has associated closely with me will attest to the fact that I am not known for ostentatious living. And my new office as acting chairman of the EFCC has not changed this.
Relationship with Commodore Mohammed Umar, retd
“Sir, it is important to situate my relationship with Commodore Mohammed Umar (rtd), in proper perspective. Our paths crossed when we became members of the Presidential Committee on the investigation on arms procurement.
“He was instrumental in getting some of the information that helped the committee make significant breakthroughs in its assignment. Beyond that, the relationship between Umar and myself is one of professional acquaintance, devoid of issues of conflict of interest.
“So, it comes to me with shock, the imputation by the DSS that we have a “mutually beneficial relationship”. This appears suggestive that Mohammed and I were involved in activities that could be said to be untoward. I certainly have no knowledge of such activities.
“The claim that EFCC documents, including EFCC letters addressed to the Vice President and being investigation reports on the activities of Emmanuel Kachikwu and his brother Dumebi Kachikwu, were found in his home during a search by the DSS came to me as a surprise.
“If that is correct, he should be made to disclose how he came by such documents. I never discussed my official duties with him let alone give him documents pertaining to investigations being conducted by the commission.
“Interestingly, Mohammed was detained for several months by the DSS. In all those months, did he claim that I mandated him to commit any crime or that I was an accomplice to any crime? If there is any such claim, I will wholeheartedly like to be confronted with the allegation.
“It is interesting to note that when Mohammed was eventually charged to court, the charges against him were money laundering and illegal possession of firearms, and nothing related to my purported “shady” relationship with him.
Perceived reluctance to arraign Vice-Marshall Adesola Amosun
“The DSS Report that the reason EFCC delayed the arraignment of a former Chief of Air Staff, Air Vice Marshall Adesola Amosun, was because Mohammed never wanted Amosun to be prosecuted is astonishing. Anyone familiar with the EFCC under my watch knows that I perform my duties with the highest sense of responsibility.
“The reason Amosun was not arraigned when the likes of Alex Badeh and Umar were arraigned was because he cooperated with the Commission in terms of assisting the process of recovering the proceeds of crime.
“Indeed, among the suspects arrested over the arms procurement scandal, he was most cooperative. The Commission recovered N2.835billion cash from him, aside from property worth One Billion Five Hundred and Eighty One Million Naira (N1,581,000,000), Two Million One Hundred and Fifty Thousand United States Dollars ($2,150,000) and One Million Pounds Sterling (£1,000,000).
“Since a key focus of the investigation was to recover as much proceeds of crime as possible, the Commission took its time to ensure it had recovered what was possible before arraigning the suspect in court. This had nothing to do with the wish of any individual. Moreover, the suspect has since been arraigned before a court of competent jurisdiction.
Alleged vendetta against Stanley Lawson
“The suggestion by the DSS Report that Stanley Lawson, a former Group Executive Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) was placed on a watch list, to settle scores with him is strange.
“It may interest you to know that I do not know Stanley Lawson personally and could not be settling personal scores by framing somebody that I do not know. Lawson’s encounter with the EFCC is in relation to the investigation into the mismanagement of $118 million public funds for electioneering campaign involving former Petroleum Resources Minister, Diezani Alison-Madueke.
“It was discovered that he made payment of $25million into Fidelity Bank and also facilitated the purchase of Ogeyi Place Le Meridien Hotel in Port Harcourt for Mrs. Alison Madueke, for which he collected Ninety Four Million Five Hundred and Sixteen Thousand Naira (N94,516,000) as commission. Lawson was arrested and he made a refund of the N94.5million traced to him. He was never placed on any watch list.
Work through Police cronies in EFCC
“I do not understand what the report meant by working with cronies. If what was implied is that I have preferred officers that I work with and who go about their work in unethical manner, my response is that nothing of such exists in the EFCC.
“Officers who work with me know that the easiest way to lose your job is to be found to be involved in unethical or corrupt activities. Indeed, when I assumed office as acting chairman, my first action was to return police officers with integrity issues back to the Nigeria Police Force.
“If the DSS finds that there are police officers in the EFCC who are working closely with me and have properties that their incomes cannot support, the Service is at liberty to expose them.
“Honourable Minister, Sir, I invite you to take notice of the fact that the DSS authored two separate vetting reports on me, one referenced SV.114/3 addressed to the Clerk of the National Assembly and the other referenced SV.114/3 addressed to the Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly Matters (Senate).
“Both letters were dated 3rd October, 2016, and signed by the same Officer, Folashade Bello, on behalf of the Director-General. While one of the reports advised the Senate against my confirmation, the other asked it to favourably consider my confirmation. The two reports emanating from the same agency raise questions of sincerity and motive.
“You will want to find out why they came up with two conflicting reports on the same subject on the same day. It is important to note that in all this, I was not given the opportunity of fair hearing.
“Above all sir, I am persuaded by my conviction in my innocence that in all the issues supposedly raised against me, no one has accused me of receiving gratification to act against my conscience or the interest of the country.
“I have attached to this letter all supporting documents and materials that would enable you arrive at fair position on all the issues raised.”
Osinbajo writes IGP, wants ‘false’ allegations linking him to Magu funds investigated
Meanwhile, Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo has petitioned the Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, over allegations linking him to funds allegedly stolen by anti-corruption chief, Ibrahim Magu.
An online platform had published that Mr Magu embezzled over N39 billion and gave Mr Osinbajo N4 billion to secure soft-landing.
The report claimed that unnamed sources within the panel investigating the suspended EFCC boss “exposed the vice president’s involvement in the scandal.”
“Specifically, Magu was said to have mentioned a N4 billion that he released to the VP based on directives the very day the president left the country for the United Kingdom on medical treatment,” part of the report read.
Osinbajo in a letter to the IGP through his lawyers, Taiwo Osipitan, on Wednesday said the report was untrue and defamatory.
He also copied the Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, in the letter.
The lawyer asked the IGP to investigate the allegations and if the purveyor was found guilty, the police should initiate criminal proceedings against Mr Ude and his platform to restrain them from future ‘false publications’.