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CCT trial begins: How Saraki laundered billions of naira as Kwara gov —EFCC

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  • As Kenya’s William Ruto’s case is dismissed by ICC

A witness with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Michael Wetkas, on Tuesday, told the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) how the Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki, allegedly laundered billions of naira when he held sway as governor of Kwara State between 2003 and 2011.

Led in evidence by the prosecution counsel, Rotimi Jacobs, the witness, a detective with the EFCC, alleged that the personal account of the Senate President at Guaranty Trust Bank Plc had an inflow of about N4 billion between 2005 and 2013.

“When the defendant was governor of Kwara State between 2003 and 2011, the commission received several petitions from various groups. One of the petitioners was Kwara Freedom Network. They brought several petitions all bordering on abuse of office by the defendant, misappropriation of public fund and money laundering.

“Sometime in 2014, the then chairman of the EFCC, Ibrahim Lamorde, received intelligence reports of suspicious transactions involving the defendant. He set up a team of investigators. Our task was to investigate the intelligence reports,” he said adding that the investigation revealed that there were several companies which were linked to the defendant.
Some of the companies, he said included, Carlisle Properties Investment Ltd, Skyview Properties Ltd, LimKvars Ltd, and TIly-lie Ltd.

The witness said some of the companies maintained accounts at Guaranty Trust Bank (GTB), Zenith Bank, Access Bank, and others, pointing out that Saraki maintained three accounts at GTB.
The first account, according to him, is a naira currency account; the second is a dollar account, while the third is a pound sterling account.

“The naira account was analysed, and it was discovered that between 2005 and 2013, the account had an in-flow of about N4 billion. The major source of in-flow into the accounts was loans taken from GTB Plc within the period. The loans were about N2.5 billion, and the other source of in-flows into the account was massive lodgments by individuals. Other in flows into the account were from the companies. It was discovered that money was used for the purchase of property.

“The dollar account was also analysed. The major source of in-flow into the dollar account was Tily-lie Properties Ltd, which was about $2 million. Another source was from Bureau de Change companies and the rest was cash lodgments by individuals.

“The cash in the dollar account between 2009 and 2013 was $6 million. We discovered that up to $3.4 million was wired to American Express Services Europe Limited, which was used to fund the defendant’s American Express Service New York card account number 374588216836009.

“The defendant wired over £1.5 million to Fortis Bank for the purchase of property in the United Kingdom (UK). After that, because of the suspicious in-flows into the account, the bank (GTB) officials were invited. The reason for the invitation of the officials was that some of the individuals making the cash lodgment into the account were bank officials. One Oluwa Tujimu reported to the commission.

“From our of interactions with him, we discovered that some of the lodgments were made through a one Bayo Daudu, who was the relationship manager of the account. In our interaction with Daudu, it was discovered the cash sums were handed over to him by the defendant for lodgment in the account.
“According to Daudu, he goes to Kwara State government house to collect the money from the defendant for lodgment into the account at the GRA Ilorin branch of GTB.

“We discovered one name, Abdul Adama, who made transaction 50 times into the account in a single day. The sum was broken down to between N600,000 and N900,000 and was lodged the same day,” the witness said.
He added that subsequently after that, one Obi made a lodgment on the same day about 20 times in the same range of N600,000 and N900,000.

“We looked for Adama and invited him. He reported that the cash sums were handed over to him by the defendant and stated further that the cash sums that were lodged in by Obi into the same account were from the accused.
“Adama and Obi were personal assistants to the accused while he was governor,” the witness said.

Earlier, the Code of Conduct Tribunal had over-ruled Saraki’s application by his counsel, Paul Usoro, for an adjournment on the ground that Saraki had appealed the decision of the tribunal, which assumed jurisdiction to hear and determine the charges preferred against him by the Federal Government.
Usoro told the tribunal that there was an application for stay of proceedings at the Abuja division of the Court of Appeal challenging the jurisdiction of the tribunal to entertain the matter.
“Our prayer is for an adjournment not for stay of proceedings. We are asking for an adjournment based on our motion filed before the Court of Appeal for stay of proceedings of the trial before this tribunal,” Usoro had said.
Mr Danladi Yakubu Umar ruled that the commencement of trial could not be stopped by the application, which he noted offended the provisions of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015.

Reacting, Saraki said he was glad that his trial had eventually commenced before the Code of Conduct Tribunal.
He said the proceedings of Tuesday had given him confidence that if the trial was conducted fairly, he would be vindicated.
Saraki said though the prosecution tried to bring in some dramatic narratives, it was clear that they were merely thrasing around and hoping to titillate the public with salacious tales.

He added that he was hopeful, however, that when the time comes, his lawyer would be able to present his case.

In the meantime, the International Criminal Court has thrown out the case against Kenyan Deputy President William Ruto.

The court ruled there was insufficient evidence, but it refused to acquit him.

In a split ruling, one judge declared it a mistrial because of a “troubling incidence of witness interference and intolerable political meddling”.

Mr Ruto denied murder, deportation and persecution charges during violence that followed the 2007 elections in which about 1,200 people were killed.

Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta welcomed the ruling, saying the trial had been a “nightmare” for the nation.

Mr Ruto is one of the most senior politicians to be tried by the ICC.

In 2014, the prosecutor dropped similar charges against Mr Kenyatta, alleging that witnesses had been intimidated to make them change their testimony.

The case against Mr Ruto’s co-accused, journalist Joshua arap Sang, was also dismissed.

Mr Ruto and Mr Kenyatta were on opposite sides of the 2007 election, but formed an alliance that won the 2013 election.

The ICC’s decision to “terminate” charges against Kenya’s deputy president effectively brings to an end the international efforts to pursue justice for the victims of violence that followed the disputed elections in 2007.

Some 1,200 people were killed and more than half a million were forced to flee their homes during inter-ethnic clashes driven by fierce political rivalries and the pursuit of power.

The court’s decision will come as a blow to the victims of the violence, and their families, who want to know the truth behind what happened, who was responsible – and to claim compensation.

“This ruling does not mean the violence didn’t occur, it does not mean that the victims do not exist,” said Nelly Warega, a human rights lawyer who represents some of the victims.

The pain and ethnic rifts are still felt today, as nobody has yet been held accountable for fomenting the violence which was widely seen as having been organised rather than spontaneous.

Mr Ruto’s supporters burst into celebrations after the verdict was announced, reports the BBC’s Wanyama wa Chebusiri from his home town of Eldoret in western Kenya.

The prosecution case Mr Ruto was dogged by repeated setbacks.

In February judges at the ICC barred the use of recanted testimony, meaning that prior recorded witness statements could not be used by prosecutors.

Several key witnesses in the case have changed their statements, which prosecutors said was due to intimidation and bribery.

Mr Ruto’s lawyers said he should be acquitted because so many key prosecution witnesses either dropped or changed their original statements.

ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda acknowledged that the loss of witnesses weakened the case against the deputy president – but she argued there still remained enough evidence to proceed with the trial.

Tribune with additional report from BBC

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WAIVER CESSATION: Igbokwe urges NIMASA to evolve stronger collaboration with Ships owners

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…Stresses the need for timely disbursement of N44.6billion CVFF***

Highly revered Nigerian Maritime Lawyer, and Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Mike Igbokwe has urged the Nigeria Maritime Administration and safety Agency (NIMASA) to partner with ship owners and relevant association in the industry to evolving a more vibrant merchant shipping and cabotage trade regime.

Igbokwe gave the counsel during his paper presentation at the just concluded two-day stakeholders’ meeting on Cabotage waiver restrictions, organized by NIMASA.

“NIMASA and shipowners should develop merchant shipping including cabotage trade. A good start is to partner with the relevant associations in this field, such as the Nigeria Indigenous Shipowners Association (NISA), Shipowners Association of Nigeria (SOAN), Oil Trade Group & Maritime Trade Group of the Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (NACCIMA).

“A cursory look at their vision, mission and objectives, show that they are willing to improve the maritime sector, not just for their members but for stakeholders in the maritime economy and the country”.

Adding that it is of utmost importance for NIMASA to have a through briefing and regular consultation with ships owners, in other to have insight on the challenges facing the ship owners.

“It is of utmost importance for NIMASA to have a thorough briefing and regular consultations with shipowners, to receive insight on the challenges they face, and how the Agency can assist in solving them and encouraging them to invest and participate in the maritime sector, for its development. 

“NIMASA should see them as partners in progress because, if they do not invest in buying ships and registering them in Nigeria, there would be no Nigerian-owned ships in its Register and NIMASA would be unable to discharge its main objective.

The Maritime lawyer also urged NIMASA  to disburse the Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund (CVFF)that currently stands at about N44.6 billion.

“Lest it be forgotten, what is on the lips of almost every shipowner, is the need to disburse the Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund (the CVFF’), which was established by the Coastal and Inland Shipping Act, 2003. It was established to promote the development of indigenous ship acquisition capacity, by providing financial assistance to Nigerian citizens and shipping companies wholly owned by Nigerian operating in the domestic coastal shipping, to purchase and maintain vessels and build shipping capacity. 

“Research shows that this fund has grown to about N44.6billion; and that due to its non-disbursement, financial institutions have repossessed some vessels, resulting in a 43% reduction of the number of operational indigenous shipping companies in Nigeria, in the past few years. 

“Without beating around the bush, to promote indigenous maritime development, prompt action must be taken by NIMASA to commence the disbursement of this Fund to qualified shipowners pursuant to the extant Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund (“CVFF”) Regulations.

Mike Igbokwe (SAN)

“Indeed, as part of its statutory functions, NIMASA is to enforce and administer the provisions of the Cabotage Act 2003 and develop and implement policies and programmes which will facilitate the growth of local capacity in ownership, manning and construction of ships and other maritime infrastructure. Disbursing the CVFF is one of the ways NIMASA can fulfill this mandate.

“To assist in this task, there must be collaboration between NIMASA, financial institutions, the Minister of Transportation, as contained in the CVFF Regulations that are yet to be implemented”, the legal guru highlighted further. 

He urged the agency to create the right environment for its stakeholders to build on and engender the needed capacities to fill the gaps; and ensure that steps are being taken to solve the challenges being faced by stakeholders.

“Lastly, which is the main reason why we are all here, cessation of ministerial waivers on some cabotage requirements, which I believe is worth applause in favour of NIMASA. 

“This is because it appears that the readiness to obtain/grant waivers had made some of the vessels and their owners engaged in cabotage trade, to become complacent and indifferent in quickly ensuring that they updated their capacities, so as not to require the waivers. 

“The cessation of waivers is a way of forcing the relevant stakeholders of the maritime sector, to find workable solutions within, for maritime development and fill the gaps in the local capacities in 100% Nigerian crewing, ship ownership, and ship building, that had necessitated the existence of the waivers since about 15 years ago, when the Cabotage Act came into being. 

“However, NIMASA must ensure that the right environment is provided for its stakeholders to build and possess the needed capacities to fill the gaps; and ensure that steps are being taken to solve the challenges being faced by stakeholders. Or better still, that they are solved within the next 5 years of its intention to stop granting waivers”, he further explained. 

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Breaking News: The Funeral Rites of Matriarch C. Ogbeifun is Live

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The Burial Ceremony of Engr. Greg Ogbeifun’s mother is live. Watch on the website: www.maritimefirstnewspaper.com and on Youtube: Maritimefirst Newspaper.

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Wind Farm Vessel Collision Leaves 15 Injured

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…As Valles Steamship Orders 112,000 dwt Tanker from South Korea***

A wind farm supply vessel and a cargo ship collided in the Baltic Sea on Tuesday leaving 15 injured.

The Cyprus-flagged 80-meter general cargo ship Raba collided with Denmark-flagged 31-meter wind farm supply vessel World Bora near Rügen Island, about three nautical miles off the coast of Hamburg. 

Many of those injured were service engineers on the wind farm vessel, and 10 were seriously hurt. 

They were headed to Iberdrola’s 350MW Wikinger wind farm. Nine of the people on board the World Bora were employees of Siemens Gamesa, two were employees of Iberdrola and four were crew.

The cause of the incident is not yet known, and no pollution has been reported.

After the collision, the two ships were able to proceed to Rügen under their own power, and the injured were then taken to hospital. 

Lifeboat crews from the German Maritime Search and Rescue Service tended to them prior to their transport to hospital via ambulance and helicopter.

“Iberdrola wishes to thank the rescue services for their diligence and professionalism,” the company said in a statement.

In the meantime, the Hong Kong-based shipowner Valles Steamship has ordered a new 112,000 dwt crude oil tanker from South Korea’s Sumitomo Heavy Industries Marine & Engineering.

Sumitomo is to deliver the Aframax to Valles Steamship by the end of 2020, according to data provided by Asiasis.

The newbuild Aframax will join seven other Aframaxes in Valles Steamship’s fleet. Other ships operated by the company include Panamax bulkers and medium and long range product tankers.

The company’s most-recently delivered unit is the 114,426 dwt Aframax tanker Seagalaxy. The naming and delivery of the tanker took place in February 2019, at Namura Shipbuilding’s yard in Japan.

Maritime Executive with additional report from World Maritime News

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