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Saraki asks CCT Chair to disqualify self

The Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, has filed another application before the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT), to stop his ongoing trial on charges of alleged false assets declaration. In the motion, dated April 20, 2016 and filed before the CCT on Wednesday, Dr Saraki is asking the tribunal chairman to disqualify himself on the basis that he (, Danladi Umar) is allegedly under criminal investigation by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

Saraki alleged in the motion that Umar would likely be biased in the handling of his trial since the EFCC which is allegedly leading his own prosecution before the CCT is also investigating the tribunal chairman. The application was filed before the CCT by Mr. Raphael Oluyede, who has not been part of Saraki’s defence team before the CCT. Oluyede was the lawyer who filed the case seeking to stop Saraki’s trial but which was dismissed by Justice Abdu Kafarati of the Federal High Court in Abuja last Friday. However, the EFCC on Wednesday, the same day that Saraki filed the motion, sent a letter to the Code of Conduct Tribunal clearing the CCT chairman of a N10 million allegation upon which the investigation was based.

Spokesman of the tribunal, Ibrahim Alhassan, disclosed the clearance of Umar by the EFCC in a statement on Wednesday. “The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has today conveyed a letter to the chairman Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT), Hon Danladi Yakubu Umar, exonerating him on the alleged N10 million bribe by one AbdulRashid Owolabi, in his petition to the commission,” Alhassan said. “The letter was addressed to the secretary to government of the federation, captioned ‘RE: Investigation Report RE: N10million Bribery Allegation against the Chairman Code of Conduct Tribunal, Abuja.’ ‘With reference NO: EFCC/P/ NHRU/688/V.30/99, dated 20th April, 2016.’ “The letter which was signed by Emmanuel Adegboyega Aremo, secretary to the commission reads: ‘Kindly recall our correspondence of 5th March, 2015, (reference EFCC/EC/ SGF/03/56) with the above subject, please.” ‘‘We would like to reiterate the commission’s position in regard to this matter as earlier communicated to you and stated that the allegations levelled against Justice Umar were mere suspicions and consequently insufficient to successfully prosecute the offence.” Alhassan, in the statement, added that “today’s clearance letter was second to the previous one sent on the March 5,2015 during the administration of President Goodluck Jonathan through the office of the then secretary to the government of the federation Chief Pius Anyim.” Meanwhile an investigator with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission EFCC and a Prosecution witness Micheal Wetkas on Wednesday told the Code of Conduct Tribunal [CCT] that some banks documents relating to accounts openings and other financial transactions of the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki were burnt in a fire.

The witness further told the tribunal under crossexamination that the EFCC investigation on the Senate president was basically on money laundering before the issues of acquisition of properties and assets declaration later crept in. The prosecution witness, Wetkas who was cross-examined by Saraki’s counsel, Mr. Paul Usoro [SAN] said his investigation team did not have documents relating to Saraki’s foreign accounts including account opening documents and statement of accounts. “We do not have documents relating to his foreign accounts but from our investigation we discovered that he operates a foreign credit card which is like a foreign account,” the witness told the tribunal. He added “My investigation was an offshoot of a report of suspicious transactions relating to Saraki’s personal and business accounts.

We commenced investigations and discover that there were massive lodgments in his personal accounts by banks account managers with Guarantee Trust bank [GTB] and other staff of the bank including his personal aides when he was the Governor of Kwara State. “We discovered that most of those individuals were suspicious and that several loads disbursement and inflows into his account which were used to acquire several properties that are subject of this trial before the tribunal.” Wetkas also told the tribunal although Saraki was charged with operating of foreign accounts but that the EFCC never had the opening package and Financial statement of the alleged foreign account. He said that although he led the team that investigated Saraki, he however admitted that he never met Saraki for interrogation or obtaining statement from him. Wetkas was cross examined based on count 11 of the charge which bothers on foreign account operation when Saraki was the governor of Kwara state. He admitted the count does not bother on asset declaration but money laundering.

Answering questions on the alleged transfer of funds into foreign account by Saraki, the witness said that some documents and telex relating to the transfer of funds from Saraki’s GTB account to foreign banks were burnt. He further told the tribunal that the bank swore to an affidavit and obtained a police statement in respect that there was an inferno and part of the documents burnt were Saraki’s relating to the foreign transfer.

He further told the tribunal that the bank told him there was a fire, but quickly recounted that he would not want to commit himself as to whether there was a fire or otherwise. He however said that he believed that there was fire incident and the burnt documents formed part of the documents which the bank swore an affidavit to. “We made a request to the bank to furnish us with additional evidence and documents to show the execution of some of his financial transactions. However, several of these instruments and telex were furnished by the bank but others were missing due to fire outbreak. There were police report and affidavit that some of the documents were burnt,” Wetkas disclosed.

When he was however asked to show the tribunal a copy of the affidavit, Michael Wetkas said he could not find it. When asked which bank issued the foreign account to the defendant, he responded that it was American Express Bank, New York and that it is an existing bank. He however admitted that he did not find out the country of incorporation but he knew that the bank existed through open source information. Cross examined further, the witness admitted that the name of the beneficiary bank in the document he submitted to the tribunal upon his investigation was different from the bank he mentioned under cross examination.

The document to the tribunal had indicated Standard Chatered Bank, New York and not American Express Bank, New York as earlier testified was the beneficiary. He however informed the tribunal that the two banks are agents, but when asked to show from the face of the document where it was written that the banks were agents, the witness said he could not find such. He added that he is not an expert when it comes to banking issue and as such he will not be able to answer some questions in details on the financial transaction of Saraki and the foreign banks. Asked whether he investigated the American Express Bank, New York in the cause of his investigation, Wetkas responded that he only investigated card account. When asked whether he knows the functions of a debit card, he kept mute and later admitted that he is not a banker and will not know the functions of the card. When asked whether he has a debit card, he responded that he only has an ATM card. Meanwhile, Saraki’s trial continues today at 10 am.

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