The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has alleged that Senate President Bukola Saraki and some of his aides laundered N3.5bn Paris Club loan refund.
The N3.5bn was allegedly part of the N522bn loan refund disbursed to all the states of the federation in December. The refund was as a result of over-deductions from the statutory allocations of the states for debt servicing from 1995 to 2002.
In a report to President Muhammadu Buhari, the anti-graft agency alleged that the said amount was paid by the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) into the bank account of Melrose General Services, a company owned by Robert Mbonu, an associate of Saraki.
NGF had reportedly hired Mbonu as its consultant on the deal.
The EFCC said withdrawals were later made from the account by Saraki’s aides – Gbenga Makanjuola, his deputy chief of staff, and one Obiora Amobi.
“Mr Robert Mbonu is alleged to have received the sum of N3.5billion into his company’s account(Melrose General Services Limited) from the NGF through Account 0005892453 domiciled in Access Bank,” it said.
“Investigation revealed that one Kathleen Erhimu is the relationship manager to Dr Bukola Saraki’s account with Access Bank.
“That Saraki at a meeting introduced one Joseph Oladapo Idowu and Gbenga Peter Makanjuola to her and Hon. Makanjuola thereafter introduced Mr Robert Mbonu to Ms Kathleen Erhimu.
“That Mbonu operates an account, Melrose General Services with Access Bank Plc 0005892453 and 0005653500 which was up till 13th December a business account.
“That Halima Kyari, the Head of Private Banking Group stated in a letter dated 13th December 2016, Mr Robert Mbonu requested a transfer of Melrose General Services Company account from Business Account to a Private Banking Group Platform as he was expecting huge funds into the account.
“Subsequently, on the 14th December, the sum of N3.5 billion was lodged into Melrose General Services Company account number 0005892453 domiciled in Access Bank from the Nigerian Governors’ Forum (NGF).
“That thereafter Mr Obiora Amobi and Hon Gbenga Makanjuola were introduced to Access Bank as representatives of Melrose General Services Limited by Robert Mbonu to enable them to cash withdrawals from the account.
“That Mr Obiora Amobi and Gbenga Makanjuola made cash withdrawals of various tranches of N5million and N10million.
“That on the 19th December, there was a cash withdrawal of the sum of N50 million from Melrose General Services account via cheque by Hon. Gbenga Peter Makanjuola.
“Also, the sum of $1,570,000 was received by the trio of Mr Gbenga Peter Makanjuola, Mr Kolawole Shittu and Mr. Oladapo Joseph Idowu at various times and locations at Abuja FCT?
“Based on the foregoing findings, it is clear that Robert Mbonu, the managing director of Melrose General Services Company and his company were used to help divert proceeds of unlawful activities under the guise of payment for contractual obligations with the Nigerian Governors Forum ( NGF).
“Suffice to apprise that all payments received by Melrose General Services Company from the NGF have hitherto been diverted directly via cash withdrawals and indirectly through transfers by Hon. Gbenga Peter Makanjuola, Kolawole Shittu and Oladapo Joseph Idowu who are principal aides of the senate president.”
The EFCC concluded that “a prima facie case of conspiracy to retain the proceeds of unlawful activities and money laundering contrary to Sections 15(3) and 18(9) of the Money Laundering Prohibition Act 2004 can be established against the aforementioned suspects”.
Wilson Uwujaren, EFCC spokesperson, told TheCable that investigation in the matter was still in progress.
However, Yusuph Olaniyonu, Saraki’s special adviser on media, has described the allegation as a “mudslinging campaign”.
“It is obvious that at this point when Mr Magu believes the senate president should be blamed for his failure to secure confirmation as chairman of EFCC by the senate, he would want to fight back by cooking up reports and masterminding its leakage. We maintain our stand that Dr Saraki has no direct or indirect link to the distribution of the NGF money. No money from the Paris Club refund was paid to Dr Saraki,” he said.