Business - News - March 9, 2021

How bank concealed N1.1bn transfer to late ex-Customs CG’s private lawyer, ICPC tells court

The Federal High Court, Abuja on Tuesday heard how a property development firm, Cambial Limited, concealed and transferred about N1.1 billion into the account of a private lawyer, Umar Hussaini, ostensibly for the sale of 120 units of houses for officers of the Nigeria Customs Service.
Hussaini, a private solicitor to the late Comptroller General of the Nigeria Customs Service, Abdullahi Dikko Inde, is currently facing a two-count charge before the Federal High Court, Abuja presided by Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu.
The Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) accused Hussaini of obtaining by false pretence contrary to and punishable under the Advance Fee Fraud and Other Related Offences Act 2006.
Testifying as third Prosecution Witness, an ICPC operative, Yetunde Ope-Faniran, told the court Hussaini, who was, received about N1.1 billion from Cambial Nigeria Limited through the bank account of his law firm, Capital Law Office under the false pretence that he was an external solicitor to the Nigeria Customs Service.
Also, the operative said Husaini also falsely claimed that the money was required as a “completion security deposit” for the sale of 120 housing units for officers of the Nigeria Customs Service.
The Court was told that an examination of the statement of account of Capital Law Office with Stanbic IBTC Bank Plc shows that the lodgment of the N1.1 billion had been masked but the account statement of Cambial Ltd with Zenith Bank PLC reflected the transfer of the money to Capital Law Office on the 6th of April, 2010.
The Court further heard that the Hassaini had told ICPC officers that the money paid to him on the instruction of the late NCS boss was “death benefit of a deceased relative of Dikko”.
Although Hussaini could not provide the name of the alleged deceased relative of the former Customs boss, an investigation by the anti-graft agency revealed he transferred the bulk of the money to a Bureau De-Change (BDC).
It was learned that the money was later converted into $3million by the BDC and handed over to late Dikko through one of his subordinates, Garba Makarfi, who was then an Assistant Comptroller General of Customs.
The witness said both Dikko and Makarfi denied instructing Hussaini to receive any money on their behalf either from Cambial Limited or through the BDC, prompting Hussaini to tell investigators how the money was spent to acquire properties for the late Dikko.
The ICPC official said Hussaini made voluntary statements in which he narrated how he received a dollar equivalent of N22 million from Dikko to buy a plot of land and later supervised the building of a block of four-bedroom terrace apartments in Jabi area sometime in 2010.
The investigators in their statements narrated how Hussaini said he also registered and acquired premises of Exotic Cuisine and Bakery Ltd in Gwarimpa, Abuja on behalf of late Customs chief..
The operative revealed that Hussaini was a registered shareholder of some companies, including Svishtov Ventures Limited and Svishtov International Farms Limited in Kaduna State, which he managed and operated on behalf of the late NCS boss.
Continuing in her testimony, the prosecution witness said the ICPC was investigating an attempt by unknown persons to transfer the ownership of one of the companies, Exotic Cuisine and Bakery Ltd to late Dikko’s daughter, Aisha Dikko, through forgery of the signature of the defendant.
Investigators traced and interviewed the lawyer who purportedly filed the Change of Directors Form with the Corporate Affairs Commission and he also denied knowledge of the signature on the documents.
Under cross-examination by Ibrahim Wangida, counsel to Hussaini, the witness said Forensic Report established that both signatures of Hussaini and the lawyer who filed the documents with the Corporate Affairs Commission were forged, but Investigation did not link Hussaini with the forgery.
The witness further stated that her Investigation also showed that Hussaini paid N250 million to one company named Abyss Motors Limited, which could not be traced.
She confirmed that none of the money paid to the defendant was linked to the Nigeria Customs Service or to death benefits of any relative of Dikko.
The witness also said that Hussaini returned about N350 million to Cambial Limited.
Pressed further by the defense counsel, the witness said she was aware that late Dikko secured a judgment stopping ICPC from arresting or prosecuting him before he died, but denied knowledge of any similar judgment in favour of Hussaini.
The case was thereafter adjourned to April 28 and 29, 2021 for continuation of hearing.

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