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Alleged $40 Million Fraud – Jonathan’s Cousin Loses Against Anti-Graft Agency

Alleged $40 Million Fraud – Jonathan’s Cousin Loses Against Anti-Graft Agency

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A Lagos Division of the Federal High Court on Monday dismissed the fundamental rights enforcement suit instituted by Robert Azibaola, a cousin to a former president, Goodluck Jonathan, against the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.

Mojisola Olatroegun, the judge, said the suit by Mr Azibaola is an abuse of court process as the applicant had instituted similar suits in multiple courts.

According to the judge, the EFCC had acted in accordance with the appropriate laws in their investigation of Mr Azibaola.

Mr Azibaola had dragged the EFCC before the court challenging his arrest and detention over an alleged $40 million fraud.

Joined as respondents in the suit were the Attorney General of the Federation and the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

In an affidavit sworn to by Faith Robert, a lecturer at the Niger Delta State University, Bayelsa State, Mr Azibaola, described as a close confidant to Mr Jonathan, said his relationship with the former president is the reason for his current travails in the hands of respondents who want him to implicate Mr Jonathan at all cost.

According to Mr Azibaola’s affidavit, he was contacted sometime in 2012 by the late Patrick Azazi, a retired general and former national security adviser, due to his vast experience to temporarily curb the problems of petroleum, pipeline vandalisation and oil bunkering.

Consequently, in September 2014, $40 million was paid into the account of Oneplus Holdings Nigeria limited for the assignment with the agreement that he would be paid 10 per cent of the said sum.

However, after a change of government in May 2015, a committee set up to review some of the projects of the previous administration instructed Oneplus Holdings to refund the $40 million immediately.

Thereafter, Mr Azibaola said he was detained through a warrant for remand obtained at a magistrate court for alleged financial misappropriation on “a purely civil transaction.”

He urged the court to declare that the acts of the respondents in obtaining remand orders against him for the purpose of keeping him in their custody is a flagrant violation of his fundamental right as guaranteed by the Nigerian Constitution.

He also sought an order of the court restraining the respondents from further violating his rights through unlawful arrest and detention.

In a counter affidavit sworn to by a counsel of the EFCC, Idris Mohammed, the anti-graft agency averred that sometime in November 2015, the EFCC received an intelligence report against Mr Azibaola, his company, and others regarding a suspicious contract awarded by the former NSA, Sambo Dasuki, from the committee set up to audit the procurement of defence equipment by the armed forces from 2007 to date.

The committee, the EFCC stated, discovered that between 2012 and March 2015, Mr Dasuki, a retired colonel, awarded several fictitious contracts to different companies to the tune of N2,219,188,609; $1,671742,613; and E9,905,477.

The EFCC said Mr Dasuki also directed the Central Bank of Nigeria to “frivolously transfer” N650 million to Tunji Adeniyi & Co meant for purchasing a property at Plot 2245 Maitama Cadastral for Mr Azibaola as well as $40 million to Oneplus Holdings Limited for the supply of Tactical Equipment to special forces.

The money was transferred without the award of any contract, the EFCC added.

The commission stated that Mr Azibaola received $40 million and diverted same to his own personal use and to the use of others. He allegedly used the funds to swap deals with several companies through the aid of his wife, Stella Robert, and his account officer, one Amobi Agum.

The EFCC averred further that in an effort to conceal and obscure proceeds of the transaction, Oneplus Holdings through Mr Azibaola and his wife ordered the transfer of $1.5 million to Reya Telecommunications Limited who, subsequently in a personal transaction, transferred $1.4 million to NETSPACE Telecommunications.

The EFCC said it recovered documents during the search of Oneplus Holdings on March 24, 2016, which indicated that Mrs Robert and one Dike Ndubuisi received $7,556,000 in cash between October 17, 2014, and January 27, 2015, which was converted to N1,344,208,000 for their personal use.

Another $4,313,856.4 was directly transferred to sister companies of Oneplus Holdings and other related in-house transactions for the procurement of machines and equipment for sister companies via Reya Telecommunications Limited and Jorgenson, the anti-graft agency said.

Furthermore, the EFCC said, Mr Azibaola and his wife, assisted by their account officer, transferred $2 million to one Capital Field Investment and another $2 million was paid into the account of one Kamaludeen Dahiru.

In another investigation, the EFCC said it discovered that Mr Azibaola while acting as the managing director of Mangrovetech Construction and Engineering Company Nigeria Limited, now Kakatar Ce Limited, received N2,504,917,058 from the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency and converted same to his own use.

The commission said after initially refusing to honour an invitation to the EFCC office, Mr Azibaola showed up to avoid being declared wanted and later began “running from one place to another” and frustrating the investigation, forcing the EFCC to obtain a remand order from a court in Abuja.

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