By Matthew Ogune, Abuja
A first prosecution witness in the trial of Malabu Oil and Gas Limited, and seven others being prosecuted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission( EFCC), on Thursday, September 10, 2020, told a Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, that only Megatech Engineering Limited was registered with the Special Control Unit Against Money Laundering( SCUML).
Megatch Engineering Limited is among the eight defendants standing trial before Justice I.E. Ekwo of the Federal High Court, Abuja. Others are Malabu Oil & Gas Limited, Aliyu Abubakar, A Group Construction Company Limited; Rocky Top Resources Limited; Novel Properties and Development Company Limited, Imperial Union Limited and Carlin International Nigeria Limited.
They were arraigned on Tuesday, September 8, 2020 arraigned on sixty–seven amended count charges, bordering on money laundering to the tune of $875,740,000( Eight Hundred and Seventy Five Million, Seven Hundred and Forty Thousand United States Dollars).
At the resumed hearing of the case on Thursday, prosecution counsel, Bala Sangha, presented the first prosecution witness, Temitope Erinomo, a public servant who works with the Special Control Unit against Money Laundering (SCUML) of the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment.
In his testimony before the court, Erinomo disclosed that, upon investigation, they found out that it is only the fourth defendant : Megatech Engineering Limited that is registered with SCUML. “Between December 31, 2019, and January 24, 2020, we received series of letters from the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC in my office, requesting for information about the defendants. The letters sought among other things, to know the compliance status of the companies, with the relevant section of the Money Laundering Prohibition Act 2011 (As amended) and the letter also requested for additional information that we may find useful to the Commission in respect to the on-going investigation.”
“On receipt of the letter, we searched through our institution’s database, we found out that these companies have not made declaration of their activities to the ministry, and we also found out that they have not filed a report to the ministry and also to the EFCC. We also found out that, in respect to one of the defendants, that, there were several violation of statutory reports that were not reported and in a specific case, we have an account of single lodgement of $360,000(Three Hundred and Sixty Thousand United States Dollars) which was not filed, which was made into the account of one of the defendants domiciled with Guaranty Trust Bank( GTB) which was not reported.”
Malabu Oil & Gas Limited and the other companies being tried by the EFCC, are classified as Designated Non-Financial Institutions( DNFIs). They are required to be registered with SCUML and their operations are expected to be regulated by the Unit.
Erinomo explained that; “DNFIs means Designated Non-Financial Institutions, and this means, businesses that are designated under Section 35 of the Money Laundering Prohibition Act, 2011. They are Designated, based on the fact that they pose certain Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing Risk to the economy and the bases for such designation, is the fact that these companies and businesses, were being used previously by money launderers and other criminals to carry out their activities and the fact that they are currently being used and also possess the potential to be used in the future for such activities.”
Based on his testimony, Sangha applied to tender documents the witness presented as exhibits before the court. They are letters from the EFCC and they were marked and accepted by the court as exhibit PW1/A1-A26.
The witness also explained more about Malabu Oil and Gas Limited: “When we received the letter from the EFCC, we looked at the entire charter of Malabu Oil & Gas Limited, among other things, that it is a consultancy firm. We also received bank statements of the company from the EFCC and we analyzed these bank statements, and we found out that there were series of transactions that were not reported to the EFCC, and also no declaration of their activities were made to the ministry as well. We also found out from off-sight inspection, there was no appointment of a Compliance Officer and no records of training of their staff. We have no record of Malabu Oil & Gas Limited as a Designated Non-Financial Institution, having established an External audit unit and also having set up programmes to combat Money Laundering and other illegal acts.” The witness told the court that they found out similar infractions from 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th and 7th defendants.
After listening to his testimony and cross-examined by the defence counsel, Justice Ekwo adjourned the matter to October 27, 28 & 29 2020 for continuation of cross-examination and hearing.
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