By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
The Federal High Court in Abuja, on Thursday, heard how Malabu Oil and Gas Limited and six other companies, violated the Money Laundering law with respect to transactions related to the disputed Oil Prospecting Licence, OPL, 245.
A prosecution witness, Mr Temitope Erinomo, who is the Principal Compliance Officer at the Special Control Unit Against Money Laundering in the Federal Ministry of Trade and Investments, told the court that investigation revealed that all the firms operated in breach of provisions of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2011.
He said investigation equally revealed that there were several transactions by the companies that were not reported to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC.
Erinomo testified as the first witness, PW-1, in the 67-count charge the EFCC preferred against Malabu Oil and Gas Limited and seven other Defendants that included an oil mogul, Aliyu Abubakar.
Other firms that were cited as defendants in the charge are; A-Group Construction Company Limited, Rocky Top Resources Limited, Mega-Tech Engineering Limited, Novel Properties, and Development Company Limited, Imperial Union Limited and Carlin International Nigeria Limited.
EFCC alleged that they were involved in money laundering to the tune of about $800million.
The witness who was led in evidence by EFCC’s lawyer, Mr. Bala Sanga, told the court that while Malabu Oil was registered as a consultancy firm, the other companies allegedly linked to Abubakar were registered to carry out construction activities.
He said the EFCC wrote several letters to the Ministry between December 31, 2019, and January 21, 2020, requesting information on the Defendants.
According to the witness, upon investigation, the Ministry found out that Malabu Oil and the other companies, being Designated Non-Financial Institutions, DNFI, failed to either register or make a declaration of their activities to the Ministry in compliance as required by the law.
He said the Money Laundering Act made it mandatory that DNFI firms must not only register with the Ministry, but also submit statutory reports of their activities and declare qualified transactions to both the Ministry and the EFCC.
The witness further told the court that the firms were also required by law to put anti-money laundering measures I’m place, set up an internal audit to measure the effectiveness of the measures, as well as to appoint a compliance officer from among the members of the management staff.
“Upon receipt of the letter from the EFCC, we searched through our registration database and our report filing database and we found out that these companies have not made declarations of their activities with the ministry in accordance with the act.
“We also found out that they had also not filed reports to the Ministry and the EFCC and we also found out that there were several violations of statutory reports that were not reported.
“Likewise, they did not have an internal audit unit to measure the effectiveness of the measures they have taken to combat money laundering.
“They did not appoint a compliance officer from among the management staff to ensure compliance.
“They also did not carry out training for their staff on anti-money laundering measures. We also uncovered several transactions that were not reported to EFCC”, the witness added.
EFCC had among other things, alleged that Malabu oil, a former Petroleum Minister, Dauzia Etete (Dan Etete), Seidougha Munamuna and Amaran Joseph, both directors of the company who are currently at large, took control of the sum of $401,540,000 paid from the federal government of Nigeria Escrow Account No: 0041451493 IBAN 30CHAS609242411492 with JP Morgan Chase Bank in London into the account 2018288005 of Malabu Oil & Gas Limited domiciled with First Bank of Nigeria Limited.
It alleged that Malabu oil negotiated and signed the block 245 resolution agreement with the federal government of Nigeria with Shell Nigeria Ultra Deep Limited, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, Nigeria Agip Exploration Limited, and Shell Nigeria Exploration and Production Company Limited, whereby taxes, accruals and royalties due to the federal government of Nigeria were unlawfully waived.
All the Defendants pleaded not guilty to the charge against them.
Meantime, trial Justice Inyang Ekwo adjourned the case till October 27 for the witness to be cross-examined by counsel to the Defendants.