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How Saraki operated, funded undeclared foreign accounts – Banker

Saraki

The Head of Funds Transfer Unit of the Guaranty Trust Bank, Mr. Amazi Nwachuckwu, appeared before the Code of Conduct Tribunal in Abuja on Tuesday giving details of how the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, operated and funded offshore accounts between 2009 and a 2012, while serving as a public officer.

Nwachukwu, who had within the period served at the Central Clearing and Foreign Operations units of the bank, appeared before the Danladi Umar-led CCT as the second prosecution witness in the ongoing trial of Saraki.

Saraki, who was governor of Kwara State between 2003 and 2011 and has since 2011 been elected to the Senate, is being prosecuted by the Federal Government on 16 counts bordering on asset declaration breaches.

The prosecution had alleged, among other asset declaration breaches, that the Senate President while being a public officer, operated bank accounts outside Nigeria, and failed to declare the foreign accounts to the Code of Conduct Bureau while being governor and a senator during the period.

The Federal Government also accused Saraki of failing to declare the sum of N375m loan which he allegedly obtained from GTB while still being governor and transferred the sum’s pounds sterling equivalent of £1,516,194.53 to his account with Fortis Bank, London, for the purchase of an “undisclosed property” in London.

It alleged that the acts of the Senate President constituted various offences under the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act.

Led in evidence by the lead prosecuting counsel, Mr. Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), Nwachukwu, the GTBank official, who entered the witness box as a prosecution witness on Tuesday, confirmed that Saraki was keeping dollar, pounds sterling and naira accounts domiciled in the Ilorin, Kwara State branch of the GTB.

Nwachukwu, who read from the documents including the Senate President’s bank statements earlier admitted as exhibits, said Saraki transferred over $3m from his dollar account to his foreign account between 2009 and 2012.

He also said Saraki transferred the sum of $73,223.28 to America Express Services Europe Limited, New York, through the America Express Bank, New York card account.

He said, “Dr. Saraki filled the transfer request form in Kwara State Government House, Ilorin.

“He gave the instruction to transfer the sum of $73,223.28 to the beneficiary, the America Express Services Europe Limited, New York, through the  America Express Bank, New York’s account number 730580 maintained by  America Express Service Europe Limited.

“The purpose of the payment was funding for amounts utilised on AMEX (American Express) cards issued to the customer (dollar credit card no. 374588216836009).

“For his dollar account number 441/441953/2/1/0, the customer (Saraki) signed the fund transfer form.

“The form was received from the account officer in Ilorin branch.

“We then processed it and transferred it to our corresponding bank abroad.

“The corresponding bank then transferred it to America Express Bank Limited.”

Nwachukwu said the former Kwara State governor authorised the transfer of the total sum of £1,526,194.53 from his pounds sterling account to his Fortis Bank, London  account in three instalments within two days on February 15 and 16, 2010.

The witness also said GTB also offered a N375m loan to Saraki through a letter dated February 10, 2010.

According to the witness, Saraki instructed GTB to transfer the pounds sterling equivalent of the loan to fund his mortgage on a London property.

He said, “Exhibit 7 is a letter dated February 10, 2010. It is a letter of offer of facility. From the letter, the borrower was Dr. Bukola Saraki. The sum of N375m was offered to him.

“The purpose of the offer was for the purchase of the property in London.

“From Exhibit 9 (bank statement), there was part-payment of mortgage redemption.

“On February 15, 2010, there was second part-payment for mortgage redemption. (The amount remaining to be paid was £1,394, 415.53).

“On February 16, 2010, there was full and final payment for mortgage redemption. Total amount payment was £1,516,194.53

“The transfers were done within two days on February 15 and 16, 2010.”

Responding to a question, the witness admitted that he did not have the full knowledge of the procedure of fund transfer in London, but that going by his Nigerian perspective derived from his experience with GTB, “for a customer to give instruction to transfer money to another account in another bank, that customer must be maintaining an account in that another bank.”

Nwachukwu explained that a “telex” was usually generated and sent to the customer who gave the transfer instruction as confirmation for the transfer of funds to foreign accounts.

He, however, said the “telexes” with respect to Saraki’s pounds sterling transfer were burnt in a fire incident that engulfed the Funds Transfer Unit at the GTB headquarters.

Nwachukwu said, “As I explained, when you debit a customer, he receives debit alert. When the transaction is consummated by transfer of the money abroad, a telex confirmation is generated and sent to the account officer who will now forward it to the customer.

“The three telexes with respect to the Saraki’s transactions) were destroyed by fire incident that happened in the unit.”

But he added, “I’m not aware of any complaint that the (Saraki’s) London account did not receive the money.”

The trial was adjourned till Wednesday for further cross-examination of the witness.

During the cross-examination of the witness, the lead defence counsel, Mr. Paul Usoro (SAN), tendered the statement made by Nwachukwu to the EFCC on September 10, 2015.

Nwachukwu had made statement ahead of the filing of the charges against Saraki on September 14, 2015.

Responding to a question asked by Usoro, the witness said he was only reading from the documents handed to him by the prosecution, adding, “I did not say I knew about the issues.”

He also confirmed that as of the time the telexes of February 15 and 16, 2010, were generated, he was not working at the Funds Transfer Unit of the GTB.

Nwachukwu said between 2009 and 2012 he was working at the Central Clearing and the Foreign Operations unit of the bank.

He said he played no role in the documentation relating to Saraki’s transactions.

He said, “I did not see the documents. But I know the existence of the documents because the process is standardised.

“I am here to testify based on the bank’s record.”

He also explained that he did not mention anything about the burnt telexes in his statement because he made the statement based on the questions asked by the EFCC interrogator, whom he said, did not raise any question concerning the fire incident.

Nwachukwu confirmed that an account number is different from the number on a bank card.

The witness explained that the “mortgage redemption” for which Saraki transferred the £1.5m to a foreign account meant payment for house purchase.

But he admitted that he did not have deep knowledge on mortgage.

He also said he did not have knowledge of the relationship between Saraki and Fortis Bank as well as the American Express Europe Limited and American Express Europe Bank.

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