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Okogbule recounted how the portfolio investors obtained an unsecured loan of N6 billion from Diamond Bank in 2007, a sum he alleged the bank helped the expatriates to launderto the UK.
United Kingdom’s Serious Fraud Office (SFO) “can neither confirm nor deny” its interest in a N6 billion alleged fraud case in which Allan Dick West Africa (ADWA) Limited allegedly made away with the unsecured loan granted by Diamond Bank.
ADWA has since been liquidated.
Joint liquidators of the UK firm, Akinwunmi & Busari and Ihegwoazu & Co, had set aside N200 million from the N750 million MTN Nigeria paid to settle debts ADWA owed local contractors.
The liquidators said they would use the money to prosecute the case in the UK against the parent company, Allan Dick Company (ADC) Limited, UK.
But the principal partners of the two law firms, Akinwunmi and Ihegwoazu, disclosed in an exclusive interview that the cost of prosecuting the case is more than the budgeted N200 million.
They said they opted to work with the SFO,the equivalent in Nigeria of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
But an SFO official TheNiche contacted said she could not confirm if the SFO has any interest in the case, even though the Nigerian lawyers claimed they had solicited the assistance of the crime buster.
An email sent to Nilima Fox, SFO Head of Media Department, read: “Joint liquidators of Allan Dick West Africa, Akinwunmi&Busari and Ihegwoazu& Co, both legal practitioners in Nigeria, said they have since applied to your office for assistance to bring the suspects to book.
“Please kindly oblige us with information on the progress you have made in your investigation. We request for facts, figures and statements on the case. Or is the case closed?”
Fox quickly replied that he was out of the office and advised that his colleague in the SFO press office, Susan Givens, be contacted.
Eventually, however, it was Jina Roe who responded to the enquiry. She wrote: “Without wishing to be unhelpful, I can neither confirm nor deny SFO interest in this matter.”
TheNiche pressed for precise information on the cross border transaction in which the UK firm allegedly transferred huge sums of money into personal and corporate accounts at a time it claimed to be insolvent.
The SFO replied, “We have no further comment.”
The Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, West and Gate (W&G) Limited, Paul Okogbule, and other local contractors affected by the case decided on a legal action against Akinwunmi&Busari and Ihegwoazu& Co, Diamond Bank, and all those on the other side of the matter.
A letter written to ADWA’s liquidators, Akinwunmi and Ihegwoazu, by Citi Lawyers (solicitors to West and Gate and the contractors of Allan Dick), demanded a refund of N200 million to the local subcontractors of ADWA.
Another letter to Diamond Bank also demanded a refund of N150 million to the subcontractors.
Both letters are dated December 19, 2013.
They demanded a refund of N200 million “illegally deducted by yourself and Mr. Victor Ihekweazu of the firm of Akinwunmi & Busari and Ihekweazu and Co respectively from the amount paid by MTN to our clients.
“Your failure to comply with the above demand within seven clear days of your receipt of this letter will leave us with the option of taking the appropriate legal steps in a competent court of law.”
The letter to Diamond Bank demanded a refund of N150 million “illegally deducted by your bank officials from the amount paid by MTN to our clients.
“Your bank’s failure to comply with the above demand within seven clear days of your receipt of this letter will leave us with the options of forwarding our petitions to the appropriate authorities and instituting legal action in a competent court of law.”
The contractors detailed how Diamond Bank lost N6 billion to ADWA, a telecommunications services firm promoted by ADC, its parent company in the UK.
Okogbule recounted in Lagos how the portfolio investors obtained an unsecured loan of N6 billion from Diamond Bank in 2007, a sum he alleged the bank helped the expatriates to launder to the UK.
ADWA commenced liquidation without repaying the loan and paying contractors who worked on MTN base stations.
The contractors alleged that Diamond Bank and its appointed liquidators short-changed the subcontractors that executed the work, paying them about N4 million each regardless of what they were owed.
The contractors alleged that contrary to bank rules, Diamond Bank, instead of going after its N6 billion loan, took a lion share from N850 million MTN paid to the local subcontractors of ADWA.
They alleged that the bank did this after it claimed to have written off the loan or sold it to the Assets Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON).
Investigation showed that the liquidators of ADC paid N150 million dividend to Diamond Bank.
During the banking industry audit in 2009, Diamond Bank had concealed the unsecured loan from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and as a result failed to sell same to AMCON.
Diamond Bank’s last financial result does not state that it wrote the loan off or sold it to AMCON in the wake of reforms initiated by suspended Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN)Governor Lamido Sanusi.
Also, the financial results of Diamond Bank for 2011 and 2012 do not report the recovery of the N150 million.
Despite appropriating N200 million of the N750 million MTN paid, the liquidators of ADWA did not take legal action against ADC in the UK.
The liquidators, who met in April last year with the creditors of ADWA, said in an interview that they could not initiate legal proceedings in the UK against British directors of ADC because it would cost huge sums of money.
But Okogbule, whose contract is worth over N17 million, countered that Diamond Bank may have decided to let sleeping dogs lie, having lost interest in the recovery of the loan.
He disclosed that two of the local contractors have died as a result of their inability to repay loans used to execute the contracts for MTN on behalf of ADWA.
Efforts to get Diamond Bank to respond to inquiries yielded no result.
The bank said after a meeting between journalists and its corporate communication executives and media consultants, TPT,that it would give an official response.
It is yet to do so.
When contacted, MTN General Manager (Corporate Affairs), Olufunmilayo Onajide, explained that the Allan Dick transaction ended up in a Lagos high court where the suit between the company’s liquidators and MTN was decided.

@ The Niche.

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N3bn Fraud Trial: Court permits Yahaya Bello’s accused nephew to travel abroad





The Federal High Court in Abuja has permitted an accused nephew of former Kogi State Governor Yahaya Bello to travel to the United Kingdom for medical attention.


To enable the defendant, Ali Bello, to embark on the foreign medical trip, the court ordered the release of his passport seized from him as part of his bail conditions.


Obiora Egwuatu, the trial judge, issued the order on Monday, overruling the objection of the prosecution agency, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), to grant the accused person’s request.


He said the prosecution failed to present convincing evidence to back its claim that Ali would jump bail or tamper with evidence if allowed to embark on the medical trip.


He said he had no reason to believe Ali would jump bail, having fulfilled previous undertakings to return to Nigeria to continue his trial on two separate occasions.


“Since the grant of bail, he has not breached the terms of bail and has been coming to court to stand his trial.


“It is not controverted that this court had on two previous occasions granted the applicant similar prayers.


“On those two occasions, that is, between the 1 to 31 August 2023 and 17 December 2023 and 10 January 2024, the applicant did not breach the terms of the permission granted,” the judge said.


Stressing the need to ensure a defendant is healthy to stand trial, the judge said, “I wholeheartedly subscribe to the view that a defendant should be alive to stand trial” and face the consequences of his crime if found guilty.


Mr Egwuatu ordered the court’s deputy chief registrar who keeps Ali’s passport to release it to him, the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports.


He also ordered the defendant to return the passport on or before 15 September.


Series of charges relating to Kogi funds

Ali and three others are standing trial on money laundering charges involving N3 billion allegedly diverted from the Kogi State coffers during former Governor Bello’s tenure.


The three co-defendants in the case are Abba Adaudu, Yakubu Siyaka Adabenege and Iyadi Sadat.


The case is only one in a series of prosecutions the EFCC brought against Ali, Mr Bello and their associates over their alleged fraudulent handling of Kogi State Government’s funds.


Ali and a co-defendant, Dauda Sulaiman, are charged with money laundering in another case involving the alleged diversion of N10 billion of Kogi State’s funds. The case is before a different judge of the Federal High Court in Abuja, James Omotosho. The prosecution has already called seven witnesses in the trial.


Mr Bello, the former governor, faces money laundering charges involving an alleged diversion of Kogi State’s N80 billion in a separate case before Mr Omotosho. Both Ali and Mr Suleiman are named as accomplices in the case.


EFCC brought the charges against Mr Bello after completing his two terms of eight years as governor in January but has been unable to get him to court for arraignment.


Since April, Mr Bello has shunned six court sessions scheduled for his arraignment, which has now been rescheduled for 25 September.


Ali’s medical trip request

On 5 April, Ali filed an application in the trial before Mr Egwatu seeking an order to release his passport from the deputy chief registrar of the court to enable him to travel abroad for medical consultation and examination.


He said the trip was to fulfil a routine cardiologic follow-up to review his medication and undergo cardiac tests.


He said he received medical advice to undergo the process annually.


He also recalled that the judge had granted him similar permissions to embark on the foreign medical trip on two occasions – first between 1 and 31 August 2023 and second between 17 December 2023 and 10 January 2024.


He said he returned to Nigeria on both occasions and returned his passport to the court’s deputy chief registrar as he was ordered to.


He pleaded with the judge to order the release of his passport again, undertaking to return it to the official upon his return from the UK to Nigeria.


The defendant also gave an assurance to be law abiding in the UK.


EFCC opposes request

The EFCC opposed the application.


Arguing against the request in court, EFCC’s prosecuting counsel, Rotimi Oyedepo, a SAN, cited a five-paragraph counter-affidavit detailing reasons for the commission’s objection. An EFCC official, Abubakar Salihu Wara, swore to the facts in the document on 19 April.


Mr Oyedepo argued that Ali failed to place any medical report before the court to show the health condition that necessitated the medical appointment.


Mr Oyedepo said Exhibit ‘A’ attached to the application did not disclose the email address of the sender and the receiver of the said medical appointment.


He added that the applicant did not present anything to show that Exhibit ‘A’ emanated from the London Centre for Advanced Cardiology as claimed.


He argued that Ali might tamper with evidence gathered for his prosecution if his application is granted.


However, Ali filed a further affidavit to dispute the prosecution’s claims.



Apart from banking on the reputation Ali had earned by fulfilling his promises to return to Nigeria when granted the foreign trip permissions on two previous occasions, the judge also ruled that EFCC’s reasons for objecting to the request were not convincing.


Mr Egwatu held that EFCC failed to show that the name of the London hospital Ali planned to visit and its address “are not in existence”. He said there was no contrary evidence disputing the fact that the applicant “has a scheduled appointment with the said cardiologist.”


According to him, there was also no evidence presented by the EFCC to show that while Ali was on bail, he did or attempted to interfere with evidence or collude with any person to tamper with evidence.


The judge further said that a defendant ought to be healthy to stand the rigours of trial.


Former Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) governor Godwin Emefiele, facing multiple corruption trials, recently applied to the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, to seek medical attention in the UK, but the court rejected the request.


The judge in the case upheld EFCC’s objection, which was argued by Mr Oyedepo, the same prosecutor in Ali’s trial.





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Reps ask FG to suspend NMDPRA boss over anti-Dangote refinery comment





The House of Representatives has called on the Federal Government to suspend the Chief Executive Officer of the Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority, Farouk Ahmed, pending the conclusion of the investigations of allegations against what it called the unguarded statement by the CEO.


The resolution of the House followed the adoption of a motion of urgent public importance sponsored by the member representing Esosa Federal Constituency, Edo State, Esosa Iyawe, during Tuesday’s plenary on the need to address issues arising from Farouk’s utterances about the nation’s local refineries.


The lawmaker reminded his colleagues that claims of adulterated fuel in the Nigerian market must be thoroughly investigated, stating that fuel quality can impact engine hardware.


This he said, is the reason ultra-low sulphur diesel is recommended for all types of power plants, storage tanks, industrial facilities, fleets and heavy equipment, and even ships, as high sulphur content in fuels, causes damage to engines and contributes to air pollution.


He said considering the various risks associated with sulphur, countries across the world have taken steps to regulate it by setting standards that require maximum reduction of emissions of this chemical compound, which diesel producers are expected to adhere to.


The Labour Party lawmaker, however, noted that the NMDPRA permits local refiners to produce diesel with Sulphur content of up to 650 parts per million until January 2025, as approved by the Economic Community of West African States.


He quoted the NMDPRA boss as saying that the diesel produced by the Dangote Refinery is inferior to the ones imported into the country and that their fuel had a large content of sulphur, which he put at between 650 to 1,200 ppm.



“In their defence, Dangote called for a test of their products, which was supervised by members of the House of Representatives, wherein it was revealed that Dangote’s diesel had a Sulphur content of 87.6 ppm (parts per million), whereas the other two samples diesel imported showed sulphur levels exceeding 1800 ppm and 2000 ppm respectively, thus disproving the allegations made by the NMDPRA boss.



“Allegations have been made that the NMDPRA was giving licences to some traders who regularly import high-sulphur content diesel into Nigeria, and the use of such products poses grave health risks and huge financial losses for Nigerians.


“The unguarded statements by the Chief Executive of the NMDPRA, which has since been disproved, sparked an outrage from Nigerians who tagged his undermining of local refineries and insistence on the continued importation of fuel an act of economic sabotage, as the imported products have been shown to contain high levels of dangerous compounds.”


He condemned what he called the careless statement by Farouk, noting that “Without conducting any prior investigation, he was not only unprofessional but also unpatriotic, especially in the face of the recent calls for protest against the Federal Government.”


Recall that a joint committee of the House on Monday, July 22, 2024, commenced investigations into Farouk’s allegations against Dangote Refinery.


The panel, made up of the Committees on Petroleum (Downstream and Midstream) is also conducting a legislative forensic investigation into “The presence of middlemen in crude trading and alleged unavailability of international standard laboratories to check adulterate

d products”, among others.




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Democrats Raise Over $40 Million Online Following Biden’s Presidential Race Exit




In a remarkable display of financial support, Democrats raised more than $40 million online following President Joe Biden’s announcement that he would be exiting the presidential race. This surge in donations, which occurred on Sunday, marked the most significant single day of online contributions for the Democratic Party since the 2020 election.

According to a New York Times analysis of ActBlue’s online contribution tracker, the wave of donations began shortly after President Biden’s withdrawal and coincided with Vice President Kamala Harris gaining momentum in the nomination race. Prior to Biden’s announcement, donations were averaging less than $200,000 per hour. However, within just one hour after the news broke, donations soared to $7.5 million.

The ActBlue platform processes contributions for various Democratic candidates and causes, not limited to Biden or Harris. It includes donations to Democratic House and Senate candidates as well as political nonprofits. The overall increase in donations highlights the unified support within the party during a pivotal moment.

Kenneth Pennington, a Democratic digital strategist, expressed his enthusiasm on X (formerly Twitter), stating, “This might be the greatest fundraising moment in Democratic Party history.” The previous record for single-day donations on ActBlue was set after the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in September 2020, with approximately $73.5 million processed. Sunday’s donations, reaching over $50 million by the end of the day, made it one of the platform’s most successful days ever.

The influx of contributions comes at a critical time for the Democratic Party, which has been grappling with internal conflicts and a need to regain momentum in the race aga inst former President Donald J. Trump. Fundraising had significantly slowed among major Democratic donors following President Biden’s underwhelming debate performance, but his departure from the race seemed to galvanize the party’s base.

Biden’s exit and his endorsement of Vice President Harris appeared to unify Democratic supporters, resulting in a dramatic spike in contributions. As Harris builds momentum to secure the nomination, the financial backing will undoubtedly play a crucial role in her campaign.

President Biden’s withdrawal had been anticipated by many, although the timing came as a surprise. He announced his decision while recovering from Covid at his Delaware beach house. In a letter posted on X, Biden reflected on his presidency, calling it the “greatest honor of my life.” He emphasized that stepping down was in the best interest of the party and the country, allowing him to focus on his duties for the remainder of his term.

Biden’s endorsement of Harris was swift and unequivocal, with his campaign quickly rebranding to “Harris for President.” Prominent Democrats and potential rivals, including California Governor Gavin Newsom, promptly voiced their support for Harris.

The surge in donations following Biden’s exit signifies a critical juncture for the Democratic Party. With substantial financial resources now at their disposal, the party aims to leverage this momentum to overcome recent challenges and strengthen their position in the upcoming election.


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