TAJ Bank Director, 4 others charged with money laundering

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Alkali Habib, a Director with TAJ Bank, and four private companies and their directors have been charged before a Federal Capital Territory (FCT) High Court sitting in Abuja with the Money Laundering and Breach of Public Procurement Act.

Charged alongside Habib are Innocent Nwobodo, Edwin Iyk Anyadigibe, Ahmad Salihijo Ahmad and Abdulmumini Haruna, Directors of Winslow Logistics, Antasar Nigeria Limited, Equal Logistics Services Limited, Velocity Logistics and Marine Services Limited, and Sahams Crystal Investment respectively.

The Defendants are charged by a private firm, Donnington Nigeria Limited for Breach of the Public Procurement Act bordering on Money Laundering.

It is the first litigation in Nigeria’s history where private organisation(s) apart from certain government agencies would bring individuals or businesses before the court for Money Laundering.

In the 10 counts filed differently against the defendants by Donnington Nigeria Limited through its Lawyer, Dr. R.O. Atabo (SAN), the companies and their promoters were substantially accused of committing act of Money Laundering in their financial operations with Count 9 of the charges against Winslow Nigeria Limited and its Director, Alkali Habib read thus: “That Winslow Logistics Nigeria Limited (RC 773791), being a designated Non-financial institution, and Alkali Habib, a Director and shareholder of Winslow Logistics Nigeria Limited (RC 773791) sometime between the period of September 2017 to 2020 in Abuja within the Abuja Judicial Division of the Federal High Court failed to comply in writing to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission in any lodgement or outflow transaction of the sums above N10m as required under section 10(1)b of the Money Laundering Prohibition Act 2011 (as amended), and you thereby committed an offence under Section 10(3) of the said Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2011 (as amended) and punishable under 10 (3) of the same Act.”

The other defendants’ charges apart from Velocity Logistics and its said Director, Ahmad, are in a similar vein as those of Antasar and Habib.

Meanwhile, the report affirmed that the genesis of the litigation was the consequence of a dispute arising from the Cargo Tracking Note Regime that includes Crude Oil Tracking designed to secure and curtail issues of terrorism, shipments of illegal weapons, ammunition, drug trafficking in water transportation and oil theft and other dubious practices at seaports and shore. The Cargo Tracking Note Scheme will generate revenue for the Federal Government, which Donnington Nigeria Limited, on its own initiative, applied to the President for the reintroduction of the Advance Cargo Declaration and Cargo Tracking Note that include Crude Oil Tracking also as a means for Foreign exchange revenue generation for the Government.

The Minister of Justice /Anthony General of Federal on January 11, 2022 had upon request for validation of the Executive Directive of Mr. President dated 10th May 2021, and on the recommendation of the Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC) approved that the Federal Ministry of Finance, Budget and Planning in collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Petroleum Resources should engage a competing consultant to undertake the ACD/CTN on behalf of the Federal Government but with reason the process was unduly truncated at 90% conclusion when the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP) without ever writing a letter to notify Donnington Nigeria Ltd, and without carrying out Due Diligence/ Background Checks hurriedly issued No Objection Certificate to Five allegedly unqualified companies while committing Contempt of Court by refusing to obey Court Injuction to the Complaints annoyance.

“Based on our client’s engagement by the federal government of Nigeria, our client purchased equipment/items and recruited staff as well as set up a portal which was dedicated for the reintroduction of Cargo Tracking Scheme and engaged foreign partners from the United Kingdom and Dubai, UAE namely: Messrs Vortex Limited, UK and DP World, UAE, who came to Nigeria on three occasions to make presentations at an immeasurable expense,” lawyer Atabo (SAN) wrote in a published open letter to President Muhammadu Buhari.

Reports said the transition incensed promoters of Donnington Nigeria Limited, and in that light went about to run suitability checks on those companies to ascertain if they abide with the provision of the law with regard to prospective contract seekers’ qualifications.

In the source’s account, the exercise was not a waste of labour, rather, the wounded Director(s) of Donnington discovered alleged non-compliance with the Anti-Money Laundering requirement and Breach of Public Procurement Act by the selected companies and its directors.

“By dint of Donnington’s inquiries from appropriate quarters, it found out that four of the five companies and their Directors shirked the compulsory registration with the Special Control Unit Against Money Laundering(SCUML), a unit under the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, with all the defendants violating Anti-Money Laundering Act in their financial dealings by concealing cash inflow and outflow in excess of N5m for individuals and N10m for companies which disclosure to SCUML is made compulsory by the law, while penalties for a violation include De-registration and or Suspension of the company or its license, fine or imprisonment or both.

“Promoters of Donnington imposed on themselves the task of scrutinising those companies, and also, along the line, they discovered that Velocity Logistics’ Director is allegedly Ahmad, the Managing Director of Rural Electrification, a public officer, an ownership that Violates Public Service Rules, as it is illegal for government officials to engage in private business except agriculture.

“Velocity Logistics’ purported ownership is also an infraction of Public Procurement Act as every bidder or contract applicant must accompany every bid with affidavit stating the full disclosure of its Director(s) and shareholders.

“The aggrieved party felt its disengagement and total exclusion from the Cargo Tracking contract is a brutal injustice, and a violation of its natural claim to the job, and in one of the said discoveries found that the lead partner in the contract, Antaser Nigeria Limited, a company registered both in Belgium and Nigeria has no real presence in Nigeria and no bank accounts in any of the country’s banks,” the source with intimate knowledge of the issue narrated.

Findings revealed that the defendants are all proxies with the direct beneficiaries of the contracts said to be an aide of President Buhari from North-Central, a prominent figure in the outgoing Buhari’s Administration from Adamawa State, a State Governor from North-West, a former Managing Director, Nigerian Ports Authority, a Minister from North-East, Director General in one of Federal Government’s agencies.

Others are a minister from North-West, a female minister and a Senior Special Adviser to the President.

The legal action embarked upon by the prosecutor is historical being the first time a private person or organisation would drag alleged suspects to court for Money Laundering relying on a 2022 precedent of the Supreme Court.

A fresh reason to bring P&ID’s $11 billion debt judgement awarded in favour of the UK company against the federal government of Nigeria by a London court to the fore, it is a litmus test for the Nigeria’s justice system, in the sense that the government has been seeking to overturn the judgement on many grounds including levelling allegations of bribery and corruption against P&ID’s promoters, and violating Nigeria’s anti-Money Laundering law at the company and its Director(s) for allegedly failing to obtain the SCUML certificate, and reporting its inflow and outflow above N10m and N5m respectively to the Money Laundering watchdog.

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