AN investigator with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Chukwuma Orji on Tuesday told an Ikeja High Court how some items listed to cost N1. 450m was changed to N39. 4m by some officials of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, (NIMASA).
Orji further told the court that the money was routed through a company, Gama Marine Nigeria Limited which is allegedly owned by one of the defendants in the trial of Patrick Akpobolokemi who was the Director General of NIMASA as at the time the N754m fraud was committed.
Akpobolokemi is facing trial alongside Ezekiel Agaba, Ekene Nwakuche, Governor Juan, Vincent Udoye, Adegboyega Olopoenia and a company, Gama Marine Nigeria Limited, on a 13-count charge bordering on diversion of funds to the tune of N754million.
They had all pleaded not guilty to the 13 count charges bordering on conspiracy and fraud.
While being cross-examined by counsel to the sixth and seventh defendant, Chukwudili Enebeli, Orji maintained that the defendants who were committee members of Voluntary International Maritime Organisation Member State Audit Scheme (VIMSAS), a security scheme of NIMASA which they allegedly used to syphon money from the agency.
The investigator further told the court that the Committee members diverted the funds to their personal use.
Orji also told the court that during investigation of the VIMSAS Committee, it was revealed that there were items in the contracts and the terms of the approved budget, which included training and re-training of 6,000 seafarers, purchase of Global Maritime Distress and Safety Access, GMD, purchase of communication gadgets and other related equipment and as well as their maintenance.
The investigator, who informed the court that an audit query was issued to Akpobolokemi by NIMASA, which he acted upon, further stated that money was paid into the account of Arrow World Consulting Company from the account of VIMSAS Committee and subsequently diverted to individuals’ accounts for personal use.
Orji however under cross-examination said that the sixth and seventh defendants were not signatories to NIMASA’s accounts.
The trial judge, Justice Raliat Adebiyi thereafter adjourned the matter till March 23 for the continuation of trial.
Earlier during proceedings, Enebeli (the 6th and 7th defendants counsels), tried to tender the extrajudicial statement of one Ufoma Okorodibia, a move which was opposed to by EFCC prosecutor, Rotimi Oyedepo who told the court that it was not in line with the Evidence Act.
Justice Adebiyi later ruled in favour of the prosecution and the document was deemed inadmissible.
The first to fifth defendants (Akpobolokemi, Captain Agaba, Nwakuche, Juan, Udoye) were alleged to have between October 30, 2014, and May 6, 2015, converted to their personal use N346,844,680.00 property of NIMASA released to them for the implementation of VIMSAS.
They were also alleged to have on or about May 28, 2015, with a dishonest intent converted to their own use the sum of N257,000,000.00 money released for the VIMSAS.
The defendants were alleged to have with intent to defraud knowingly forged a document titled “Re: Request For Payment as a consultant for VIMSAS Administration Services” dated May 25, 2015, purported to have been issued by Arrow World Consulting limited.
They were alleged to have also forged a document titled: Re: Final Invoice for Consultancy services with respect to the development of VIMSAS Implementation framework, Reviews and Updates” dated April, 28,2015.
Captains Olopoenia, Udoye, and Gama Marine Nigeria Limited were specially alleged to have on February 2, 2015, with a dishonest intent converted to their own use the sum of N16,000,000.00 property of NIMASA.
The offences alleged to have been committed by the accused persons are contrary to section 419 and punishable under Section 285(1) of the Criminal Code Laws of Lagos State 2011.
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