TRIAL CONTINUES IN CHARGE AGAINST DUDAFA AND FORMER MANAGER OF HERITAGE BANK

Trial continued yesterday, the 27th of October 2016, in the criminal charge filed by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) against Mr. Waripamo-Owei Dudafa, former Special Assistant to the president under the Goodluck Jonathan administration and Mr. Iwejuo Joseph Nna, the former branch manager of the Yenagoa branch of Heritage Bank. The duo are facing a 23-count charge on money laundering offences relating to concealing the proceeds of crime. Both are accused in the first count with conspiring to conceal proceeds of crime while they are individually charged in seven counts in respect of Mr. Joseph and eight counts in respect of Mr. Dudafa with procuring the services of several companies – Seagate Property Development & Investment Company, Avalon Global Property Dev. Co. Ltd, Ebiwise Resources, Pluto Property & Investment Co. Ltd, Rotato Inter Link Services Ltd and De Jakes Fast Food Restaurant Nig Ltd – to conceal proceeds of crime. Mr. Joseph is said to have carried out these acts on behalf of Mr. Dudafa. Mr. Dudafa is charged in the last seven counts of failing to furnish information to the Commission in respect of the monies held on his behalf in Ebiwise Resources, Avalon Global Property Dev. Co. Ltd, De Jakes Restaurant and Ibejige Services Ltd and his interest in two of the companies. The charge is pending before Hon. Justice Idris of the Lagos Division of the Federal High Court.

Mr. Dudafa is facing another 15-count charge along with Amajuoyi Azubuike Briggs, Adedamola Bolodeoku and four companies – Pluto Property and Investment Company Ltd, Seagate Property Development & Investment Co. Ltd, Trans Ocean Property & Investment Company Limited and Avalon Global Property Development Company Ltd in respect of similar offences. Read the last report on that charge pending before Hon. Justice Kuewunmi here.

Two prosecution witness had earlier testified in the suit, one is a staff of Heritage Bank who had come to tender documents particularly the mandate and different written instructions in respect of the accounts belonging to the companies with Heritage Bank. The second witness the Commission had called is a Bureau De Change Operator, Murtala Bashir Abubakar who runs three companies – Na Mu Duka Ventures, Yamusa Oil Services Ltd and 313 Ventures. He testified that he had known Mr. Dudafa since he was the Commissioner for Local Government in Bayelsa State under the administration of Governor Timipre Sylva and he had converted and disbursed monies on his behalf. He testified that he received instructions via text messages except in respect of one transaction where Mr. Dudafa invited him to the Presidential villa and handed him four million dollars in cash. His statements of account as well as those of his companies were tendered and he highlighted all the transactions between himself and Mr. Dudafa from 2013 to 2015. His telephone wherein he received instructions from Mr. Dudafa via text messages was also tendered. Under cross-examination, Mr. Abubakar stated that his transactions with Mr. Dudafa were legitimate and did not contravene any Central Bank of Nigeria regulations. He stated that he received instructions from Mr. Dudafa through three telephone numbers. Mr. Oyewole, counsel to Mr. Dudafa informed him that only one of those numbers is the registered number of Mr. Dudafa and asked him to state the message he received from that number. Mr. Abubakar stated that the only message he had received from the number was to ask the exchange rate of pound sterling to Naira to which he had replied. When asked by Mr. Abumere, counsel representing Mr. Joseph, Mr. Abubakar confirmed that he had never met Mr. Joseph or transacted with him.

The Commission called two more witnesses yesterday – compliance officers from Guaranty Trust Bank and Heritage Bank. Mr. Olanrewaju from Guaranty Trust Bank testified that upon getting an enquiry letter from EFCC, they supplied the Commission with copies of the account opening documents and statements of account of De Jakes Fast Food. The documents were tendered by the Commission. He further testified that the signatories to the account of De Jakes Fast Food are Mrs. Priye Dudafa and Mr. Waripamo-Owei Dudafa. Prompted by Mr. Oyedepo, counsel representing the EFCC, he identified several entries in the statement of account of the company – on the 18th of March 2013, a total sum of 63.2 Million Naira was paid into the account by one Namuduka Ventures; on the 23rd of January 2015, there was a credit of 30 Million Naira to the account from a 313 BDC Ltd and a total of 78 Million Naira from Abubakar Murtala Bashir; on the 26th of January 2015, the sum of 1.2 Million Naira was credited to the account by Abubakar Murtala Bashir while a total sum of 40 Million Naira was credited to the account by Dambazzau Global and another total sum of 28 Million Naira was credited to the account by a Babura Global; on the 30th of January 2015, there was a credit of the total sum of 23.3 Million Naira to the account from Dambazzau Global. He further testified that from the incorporation documents submitted to the bank, there were three directors of the company named as Hon. Waripamo-Owei Dudafa, Mrs. Priye Dudafa and Dudafa (Jnr). Under cross-examination, Mr. Olanrewaju stated that the account in question was domiciled in Yenagoa. He agreed that if any funds were credited to an account in contravention of any banking or money laundering regulations or which looks like suspicious activity, a report would be made by the bank to the relevant regulatory authorities. He however could not say whether any report was made in respect of the transactions relating to the said account. He stated that he doesn’t know Mr. Joseph.

EFCC also called Mr. Adeniyi Tunde, a compliance officer from Heritage Bank. He identified Mr. Joseph as a former branch manager of the Yenagoa branch of the bank and testified that upon receiving a letter from the EFCC inviting the account officers of certain accounts, the bank’s head office which is on Ahmadu Bello, Victoria Island, Lagos sent for Mr. Joseph and he replied that he would be coming the following day. He said that the following day, he called Mr. Joseph who said that he was close to Lagos and was in fact at Sagamu and subsequently became unreachable as his phone was switched off. When they could finally get hold of him the following day, he stated that he was ill and was in the hospital and that he would forward a medical report to the bank. He testified that Mr. Joseph finally showed up sometime in May 2016 and he was taken to the offices of the EFCC where he was detained by the Commission. He stated that EFCC officials subsequently brought Mr. Joseph to the Bank where he showed them how he wrote and signed instructions in order to release funds from the account. He added that Mr. Joseph was not forced by any of the EFCC officials present with them at the bank to sign the instructions. Under cross-examination, Mr. Adeniyi Tunde stated that the accounts in question were domiciled at the Yenagoa branch of the Bank. He stated that he does not know if any queries or reports were made in respect of the transactions in the accounts. He stated that from the 10th of May 2016 when Mr. Joseph reported to the bank till the 1st of June 2016 when he was brought by EFCC officials to the bank and he signed the instructions, Mr. Joseph was in detention at the EFCC and he cannot say what transpired between the EFCC and Mr. Joseph during that period. Upon being asked by Mr. Abumere who is representing Mr. Joseph, he confirmed that Mr. Joseph did scan a medical report to the bank when he was unable to come to Lagos immediately.

The case has been adjourned to the 8th and 10th of November 2016 for continuation of trial.

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