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Report: Italian prosecutor ‘concealing key evidence in Adoke’s trial’

Report: Italian prosecutor ‘concealing key evidence in Adoke’s trial’
May 18
09:41 2020
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A key evidence in the trial of Mohammed Bello Adoke, Nigeria’s former attorney-general, by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has been hidden from an Italian court by prosecutors, THISDAY has reported.

Adoke is being tried in Nigeria over allegations of money laundering in the OPL 245 affair while Shell and ENI are also being tried in Milan, Italy, over alleged corporate corruption.

In Nigeria, the EFCC charged Adoke to court in January 2020, alleging that he collected N300 million as kickback from the sale of OPL 245 to the two oil companies.

He was said to have collected the money from Aliyu Abubakar, a property developer who is also on trial in Italy for allegedly sharing bribes to politicians in the OPL 245 deal that was concluded in 2011.

However, Adoke has always maintained that he got a N300 million mortgage from Unity Bank to buy a property valued at N500 million from Abubakar’s company, Carlin International Nigeria Ltd, and when he could not come with his N200 million equity contribution, the loan was cancelled and he lost the property which was still under development.

The former minister of justice also said Abubakar returned the N300 million to Unity Bank in 2012 and sold the property — located at No. 271, Cadastral Zone A06 Maitama, Abuja — to the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) in 2013.

TheCable confirmed that the property is now owned by the central bank.

THISDAY, citing court documents, reported that the Italian prosecutor, Fabio De Pasquale, gave the court the impression that the property still belongs to Adoke.

Adoke has always maintained that if the property was his, the EFCC would have sought a forfeiture and placed its caveat of “KEEP OFF: UNDER EFCC INVESTIGATION” on the property.

According to THISDAY, in the minutes of the October 26, 2018 hearing with Criminal Proceeding No. 54772/13 RGNR, the prosecution witness, Ferri Alessandro, confirmed to the court that N300 million was transferred from the Unity Bank Plc account of Adoke on February 15, 2012 for the benefit of Carlin International Nigeria Ltd.

He said this was in respect of the Abuja property which he also confirmed Carlin International had offered to Adoke with a letter of “offer to sell” dated October 5, 2011.

The property was offered to Adoke for N500 million, out of which the bank credited his account with N300 million for onward payment to Carlin International, Alessandro told the court.

He also said that judging by the entries and exits from the same account between February 15, 2012 and October 17, 2013, the sum of roughly N300 million was returned to Adoke’s account through two bureaux de change and several cash deposits in 2013.

He also said Adoke incurred interest charges as his account had gone into the red after the N300 million was transferred to Carlin International in February 2012.

The lead prosecutor, Fabio De Pasquale (pictured), identified the peculiarity of the allegations made against Adoke that “it appears that it is Mr Adoke who gave money to Mr Abubakar in reference to the purchase of No. 271, Cadastral Zone A06 Maitama, Abuja, from Carlin International Nigeria Ltd”.

Alessandro answered in the affirmative, according to the transcript of court proceedings, and the following conversation then ensued between the prosecutor and his witness:

Prosecutor: So with these cash payments and with these two transfers from the bureau de change… the bill (that is, exits and entries into Adoke’s account) is in balance substantially.

Ferri Alessandro (prosecution witness): Exactly.

Prosecutor: And the house remains in Adoke (Adoke’s).

Ferri Alessandro (prosecution witness): And the house, yes.

Prosecutor: It would seem there was the purchase of a house.

Ferri Alessandro: Yes. Let’s say that a further confirmation of this sale then comes from the analysis of Carlin’s account, which there was also…

Although Adoke is not a party to the proceedings in Milan, it is thought that the prosecutor should still have investigated and presented the available evidence on the ownership of the property.

Although Carlin International refunded the bank’s N300 million payment and took back the property to sell to the CBN, the EFCC has still gone ahead to charge Adoke to court for money laundering and criminal breach of trust.

The agency is alleging that the N300 million deposits into Adoke’s account in 2013 were bribes from Abubakar.

Abubakar had, in his statement to the EFCC, maintained that the N300 million he paid into Adoke’s account was a refund of the mortgage advance by the bank and that he returned the money, retrieved the property’s CofO and sold the house to the CBN.

Two people who testified before a Milanese court trying Shell and ENI over allegations of sleaze in the OPL 245 appeared to absolve Adoke of partaking in the reported bribery scheme.

Ednan Tofik ogly Agaev, a former Russian ambassador to Colombia, said he was pressured to mention a name in his interrogation by the FBI and he randomly mentioned Adoke.

He refused to adopt the statement he made to FBI in court.

Vincenzo Armanna, a former ENI manager who is also on trial, told the same court that, in fact, Adoke threatened to arrest and prosecute ENI officials for negotiating kickbacks in the deal now regarded as the biggest corporate sleaze in history.

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