The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission has furnished President Muhammadu Buhari with details of how the President of the Nigerian Senate, Bukola Saraki, and his aides allegedly laundered up to N3.5 billion from the Paris Club loan refund.
The report also fingered Mr. Robert Mbonu of Melrose General Services Limited.Mbonu is a former Managing Director of Societe Generale Bank of Nigeria, the commercial bank owned by the Saraki family which was later liquidated.
The Federal Government had, in December 2016, approved the sum of N522.74bn to be paid to the 36 states of the federation as part of the reimbursement of the over-deduction on the Paris Club loan from 1995 to 2002.
The EFCC narrated how Mr. Saraki, using his deputy chief of staff and other aides, laundered N3.5 billion that he allegedly received from the Paris Club loan refund to state governors.
The manner the Paris Club loan refund was spent by public officials has been a subject of nationwide controversy for several weeks, with EFCC hinting at some point that an investigation was underway.
But the governors pushed back against the allegations, describing the EFCC’s probe of the fund as “unwarranted attack on the Nigeria Governors’ Forum, its officials and associated entities.”
But in its report to the president, the EFCC detailed how Mr. Saraki, in 2016, introduced Gbenga Makanjuola, a former lawmaker who now serves as his deputy chief of staff, to Kathleen Erhimu, an Access Bank staff.
In its March 10 correspondence, our sources said, the EFCC informed President Buhari that Mr. Mbonu received N3.5 billion in mid-December 2016, part of which was later transferred to accounts and persons linked to the senate president.
“A prima facie case of conspiracy to retain the proceeds of unlawful activities and money laundering contrary to Sections 15(3) and 18(9) of the Money Laundering Prohibition Act 2004 can be established against the aforementioned suspects,” the EFCC told Mr. Buhari in the report.
“Additionally, investigation into their personal accounts is ongoing.”
The report could further complicate things for Mr. Saraki, who is already standing trial on separate charges of false declaration of assets since 2015.
Yusuf Olaniyonu, a spokesperson for Mr. Saraki, in his response said the allegations were false and were Mr. Magu’s way of fighting back after he was denied confirmation by the Senate. But the report was forwarded to the president on March 10, while the Senate rejected Mr. Magu’s nomination on March 15.
Mr. Makanjuola, did not respond to requests for comments.
The EFCC spokesperson, Wilson Uwujaren, did not respond to requests for comments either.
Read excerpts of the EFCC damning findings below; and Mr. Saraki’s response below that.
“Mr. Robert Mbonu is alleged to have received the sum of N3.5billion into his company’s account(Melrose General Services Limited) from the NGF through Account 0005892453 domiciled in Access Bank.
“Investigation revealed that one Kathleen Erhimu is the Relationship Manager to Dr. Bukola Saraki’s account with Access Bank.
“That Saraki at a meeting introduced one Joseph Oladapo Idowu and Gbenga Peter Makanjuola to her and Hon. Makanjuola thereafter introduced Mr. Robert Mbonu to Ms Kathleen Erhimu.
“That Mbonu operates an account, Melrose General Services with Access Bank Plc 0005892453 and 0005653500 which was up till 13th December a business account.
“That Halima Kyari, the Head of Private Banking Group stated in a letter dated 13th December 2016, Mr. Robert Mbonu requested a transfer of Melrose General Services Company account from Business Account to a Private Banking Group Platform as he was expecting huge funds into the account.
“Subsequently, on the 14th December, the sum of N3.5 billion was lodged into Melrose General Services Company account number 0005892453 domiciled in Access Bank from the Nigerian Governors Forum (NGF).
“That thereafter Mr. Obiora Amobi and Hon. Gbenga Makanjuola were introduced to Access Bank as representatives of Melrose General Services Limited by Robert Mbonu to enable them cash withdrawals from the account.
“That Mr. Obiora Amobi and Gbenga Makanjuola made cash withdrawals of various tranches of N5million and N10million.
“That one Oluyemi Braithwaite, the MD/ CEO of Reinex Bureau de Change, Caddington Capital Limited and Westgate Limited also manages a BDC stated to have known Mbonu as a client and he requested for dollars in exchange for the Naira equivalent which were to be handed over to one Mr. Gbenga in Abuja.
“That Ms Oluyemi Braithwaite contacted one Hassan Dantani Abubakar, the owner of Hamma Procurement Limited, Ashrab Nigeria Limited and Insoire Solar Application to make available the dollars based on the Naira equivalent as transferred from Robert Mbonu who she had introduced via phone to Hassan Dantani.
“That on 16th December 2016, Melrose General Services transferred the sum of N246million to Hamma Procurement First Bank Accouny No. 2030756168 in exchange for the sum of $500,000 which was handed to one Mr. Gbenga in Abuja who acknowledged receipt of the same amount.
“That on the 21st Dec 2016, Ms Oluyemi Braithwaite contacted Hassan Dantani Abubakar requesting for another transaction of $370,000. Melrose General Services Company transferred the sum of N181m to Inspire Solar Application. The $370,000 was handed over to one Mr. Dapo in Abuja.
“That on the 4th of January 2017, Mbonu through Melrose General Services Company transferred the sum of N248, 500,000 to Caddington Capital Limited belonging to Ms Oluyemi Braithwaite who transferred same to Hassan Dantani Abubakar’s FCMB account, Ashrab Nigeria Limited for the sum of $500,000. The dollar equivalent was handed over to Mr. Kolawole Shittu in Abuja
“That on the 10th of January 2017, Mr. Robert Mbonu through Melrose General Services Company transferred the sum of N99,820,000 to Caddington Capital Limited belonging to Ms.
Oluyemi Braithwaite who transferred same to Hassan Dantani Abubakar’s FCMB Ashrab Nigeria Limited for the sum of $200,000. The dollar equivalent was handed over to one Mr. Peter in Abuja.
“That on the 19th December, there was a cash withdrawal of the sum of N50 million from Melrose General Services account via cheque by Hon. Gbenga Peter Makanjuola.
“Also, the sum of $1,570,000 was received by the trio of Mr. Gbenga Peter Makanjuola, Mr. Kolawole Shittu and Mr. Oladapo Joseph Idowu at various times and locations at Abuja FCT.
“That on the 29th December, 2016, Mr. Robert Mbonu called Mrs. Kathleen Erhimu of Access Bank requesting her to source for a customer that would have the sum of $500,000 in exchange for the Naira equivalent. She introduced Mr. Robert Mbonu to Acarast Commercial Limited and Capital Field Investment to help him source for dollars.
“That on the 21st December 2016, GCA Energy Limited paid the sum of $25,000 to Asterio Energy Services Limited which subsequently transferred the sum of $23,200 to Cactus Communication Limited account with Access Bank.
“The MD of Sought-After International Synergy Limited, Julius Okedele stated that Mr. Kelechi Edomobi of Acarast Commercial Enterprises contacted him and requested to purchase dollars after the transfer of N73,950,000 to Sought-After International Synergy Limited. Mr. Edomobi gave him the account number of Cactus Communication Limited Access Bank as the nominated account to receive the dollar equivalent of the sum of $149,000.
“Investigation further confirmed that Cactus Communication Limited is owned and operated by Joseph Oladapo Idowu, an aide to Bukola Saraki.
“That Mr. Kelechi Edomobi also transferred the sum of N1m on the 15th of January 2017 to Joseph Oladapo Idowu’s personal account number 0001679877 with Access Bank Plc.
“That Asterio Energy Services Limited on 21st and 22nd December 2016 transferred $100,000 and $85,000 to Bhaskar Devji Jewellers LLC in Dubai respectively the same company that Dr. Bukola Saraki repeatedly made transfer to from his Black Card Account.
“That Cactus Communication Limited on 30th December 2016 paid the sum of $59,,660.67 to Bhaskar Devji Jewellers LLC in Dubai .
“That Asterio Energy Services Limited on 20/1/2917, 30/1/2017 and 31/1/2017 transferred $46,000, $39,000 and $37,620 respectively to Cactus Communication Limited.
“Based on the foregoing findings, it is clear that Robert Mbonu, the Managing Director of Melrose General Services Company and his company were used to help divert proceeds of unlawful activities under the guise of payment for contractual obligations with the Nigerian Governors Forum ( NGF).
“Suffice to apprise that all payments received by Melrose General Services Company from the NGF have hitherto been diverted directly via cash withdrawals and indirectly through transfers by Hon. Gbenga Peter Makanjuola, Kolawole Shittu and Oladapo Joseph Idowu who are principal aides of the Senate President.
“Furthermore, other payments from Melrose General Services Company has also been linked to companies that Dr. Bukola Saraki has interest in and carry out transactions with.
“This includes the sum of $183,000 which was transferred to Bhaska Devji Jewellers, Dubai, a company Dr. Bukola Saraki had repeatedly made payments to.
“Also, the sum of N200million was transferred to Wasp Networks Limited that subsequently transferred the sum of N170million to Xtract Energy Services Limited, a company that routinely made deposits into Dr. Bukola ‘s Access Bank United States Domicilliary Account.
“Mr. Bosun Ottun, the Managing Director of Xtract Energy Services, a company that deals in forex trading confirmed that Wasp Networks Limited transferred N170,000,00 on January 16, 2017, to Xtract Energy Services Ltd.’s FCMB account for the purchase of $350,000 which he later transferred into Wasp Networks Stanbic IBTC Bank United States Dollar domiciliary account.
“That Wasp Networks has returned to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission recovered funds the sum of N200,000,000 paid to the company by Mr. Robert Mbonu.
“That Mr. Robert Mbonu through Melrose General Services Company paid N20,000,000 to Thebe Wellness Services.
“That Dr. Richardson A. Ajayi, the Managing Director of Thebe Wellness Services confirmed that N20,000,000 from Melrose General Services was a loan from Mr. Robert Mbonu which was to be used as an investment in the Thebe Wellness Services.
“That Thebe Wellness Services has returned to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission recovered funds the sum of N20,000,000 paid to the company by Mr. Robert Mbonu.
“Investigation also revealed that Acarast Commercial Enterprises was operated and owned by one Mr. Kelechi Edmobi who equally owned the following companies: Edmonton Commercial Services, Arcadian Energy Services Limited, Asterio Energy Services Limited.
“That Kelechi Edmobi uses the companies listed in xxxi above for foreign exchange transactions and bureau de change services.
“That Acarast Commercial received the sum of N92, 685, 000 from Melrose General Services on December 20, 2016 and paid the sum of N12, 000,000 to GCA Energy Limited, the sum of N73, 950,000 to Sought-After International Synergy Ltd. and N9, 500,000 to Vertice Solution Limited.
“$1, 570, 000 was also received from various Bureau de Change operators by the trio of Gbenga Peter Makanjuola, Mr. Kolawole Shittu, Mr. Oladapo Joseph at various locations at Abuja, FCT.
“That on December 29, 2016, Mr. Robert Mbonu called Mrs. Kathleen Erhimu of Access Bank requesting her to source for a customer that could have the sum of $500,000 USD in exchange for the naira equivalent. She introduced Mr. Robert Mbonu to Acarast Commercial Limited and Capital Field Investment Limited to help him source for the dollars.
“That Melrose General Services Company Limited through their Access Bank account transferred the sum of N248, 750,000 to Capital Field Investment Limited in exchange for a $500,000 USD which was later transferred by Capital Field Investment Limited to Mr. Michael Prest of Petrodel Resources Nevis Limited United States dollars domiciliary account in Lloyds Bank, United Kingdom.
“That Mr. Robert Mbonu stated that he transferred the funds to Mr. Michael Prest for him to bid for products which would be refunded if he was successful in the bid of crude oil product and there was no contractual agreement entered into by both parties. However, Mr. Michael Prest is a close friend to Dr. Bukola Saraki.
“That Mr. Robert Mbonu through Melrose General Services Company Limited Access Bank Account transferred N92, 685,000 to Acarast Communication Limited in exchange for a $183,000 USD which was later transferred to Bhaskar Devji Jewellers in Dubai for purchase of jewelleries.
“However, investigation revealed that Dr. Bukola Saraki from his United States dollars domiciliary black card account number: 0058931185 with Access Bank transferred the sum of $19,649.44 USD, $2, 817.86 USD and $19,725.02 USD on 23/09/13. 16/12/14 and 16/12/14, respectively, to Bhaskar Devji Jewellers in Dubai.
“That Mr. Robert Mbonu has not taken delivery of the jewelleries and couldn’t provide a date when the jewelleries he paid for would be delivered.
“That Mr. Robert Mbonu through Melrose General Services Company Limited Access Bank account transferred the sum of N200,000,000 to Wasp Networks Limited’s Stanbic IBTC Bank on January 11, 2017 for a purported investment in the company.
“That Wasp Networks Limited transferred the sum of N170,000,000 on January 16, 2017 to Xtract Energy Services Ltd.’s FCMB account.
“Investigations further revealed that prior to this transaction in xxii above, Xtract Energy Services Ltd. routinely made deposits into Dr. Bukola Saraki Access Bank United States dollar domiciliary account number: 0059429296 as follows: September 17, 2013, the sum of $80, 235.00, September 12, 2014, the sum of $96,930.00, November 18, 2014, the sum of $99,918.50 and December 19, 2014, the sum of $49,965, respectively.
“That Bosun Ottun further stated deposits into Dr. Bukola Saraki Access Bank United States Domiciliary Account Number: 0059429296 as follows: September 17, 2013, the sum of $80, 235.00, September 12, 2014, the sum of $96,930.00, November 18, 2014, the sum of $99,918.50 and December 19, 2014, the sum of $49,965 were brought to his company by Mr. Tunde Morakinyo who claimed that the funds were payments into Dr. Bukola Saraki’s card account.
“That as the above mentioned lodgments in xxiv are made from Xtract Energy Services into Dr. Bukola Saraki’s Access Bank United States dollar domiciliary account number: 0059429296, the proceeds were subsequently transferred to Dr. Bukola Saraki’s black card account number: 0058931185 for his bill settlement.
“A prima facie case of conspiracy to retain the proceeds of unlawful activities and money laundering contrary to Sections 15(3) and 18(9) of the Money Laundering Prohibition Act 2004 can be established against the aforementioned suspects.
“Additionally, investigation into their personal accounts is ongoing.”
It is Mere Mudslinging Campaign, Says Saraki’s Aide
“Our attention has been drawn to the circulation of a report I the media said to have been leaked by the Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mr. Ibrahim Magu to some journalists where he made several allegations against Senate President, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki, as it concerns the payment of the Paris Club Fund refund to the Nigerian Governors Forum (NGF).
“Let us first state that these allegations are not new. The EFCC had from the onset of its investigation into the Paris Club refund made attempts to drag in the name of Dr. Saraki and we have promptly denied any such involvement of the Senate President. In fact, the EFCC itself came out to deny the report as it then said it had nothing to indict the Senate President. The anti-graft agency said the investigation was still on-going then. Yet, as at that time it had all these information it is now dishing out.
“It is obvious that at this point when Mr. Magu believes the Senate President should be blamed for his failure to secure confirmation as Chairman of EFCC by the Senate, he would want to fight back by cooking up reports and masterminding its leakage. We maintain our stand that Dr. Saraki has no direct or indirect link to the distribution of the NGF money. No money from the Paris Club refund was paid to Dr. Saraki.
“In addressing the specifics of the allegation in the reports as we gathered from the press, EFCC believe that since the Senate President has worked in the same organisation with Mr. Robert Mbonu before, whatever transaction he is involved in should be linked to the Senate President in this era of mud-slinging and much-raking. We would like to say that Mr. Mbonu is not representing Mr. Saraki in any transaction he does with the NGF and no money from his company, Melrose, in his dealing with Nigeria Governors Forum came to Dr. Saraki either directly or indirectly. And if the EFCC has any information to the contrary, we challenge them to make it public.
“We state categorically that no aide of the Senate President acted on Saraki’s behalf in whatever they do with Mr. Mbonu.
“Again, If Melrose paid any money to a jeweller or any shop, that has nothing to do with the Senate President. We believe Melrose must have the necessary documentation in support of their transaction and we are sure the EFCC is aware of all these.
“In the same vein, if Melrose chose to invest in another company, that decision has nothing to do with the Senate President and the act of drawing a link between Mbonu and Saraki can at best be only pure mischief.
“At this point, it should be noted that Xtract Energy Services Limited is a well known foreign exchange dealer with almost 15 years of existence in the market and the company is widely known to do business with many organisations in the country. The last time the Senate President patronised the company was on December 19, 2014 and we challenge Mr. Magu and the EFCC to prove that the Senate President transacted any form of business with the foreign exchange dealer in the period of the payment of the Paris Club refund.
“We call on members of the public to view this concocted and leaked report as Mr. Magu’s form of fighting back. The report has no truth in it. It should be noted that the Senate President was not behind Magu’s failure to get confirmation from the Senate. That was democracy in action. Dr. Saraki is merely a presiding officer and first among equals. Dr. Saraki did not in any way interfere with the confirmation process.”