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Alex Enumah in Abuja
Hamma Bello, a prosecution witness, in the ongoing trial of the former Head of Service of the Federation, Stephen Oronsaye, has told an Abuja high court that a total sum of N1,205,437,880.68billion was lodged by Oronsaye in a secret account with Access Bank, through which he allegedly defraud the federal government.
Bello made the disclosure monday while giving his testimony before Justice Olasunbo Goodluck of an Abuja High Court.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had on March 15, 2016 arraigned Oronsaye on a two- count charge of breach of trust which he allegedly committed between 2013 and 2014 by defrauding the federal government of N190million using his position as the then Chairman of the Presidential Committee on Financial Action Task Force (FATF).
Oronsaye was accused of converting the N190million to his personal use through the investment of the fund in Access Bank Plc’s Banker’s Acceptance for a tenor of 90 days at 9 and 12 per cents interest rates “in violation of the extant financial regulations.”
The defendant, while still serving as the Head of Service of the Federation, was appointed as chairman of the PCFATF, which was set up to ensure the passage of the anti-money laundering bill and countering financial terrorism, among other terms of reference.
At the resumed hearing yesterday, Bello, who is appearing as the sixth prosecution witness (PW6) and an operative of the EFCC, led in evidence by Offen Uket, told the court that PCFATF officially had opened its account with Zenith Bank Plc before Oronsaye secretly and without approval opened the Access Bank account for the PCFATF which he was the sole signatory.
According to the witness, even though the bank account was opened much later, it had a total lodgments of N1,205,437,880.68billion and total credit balance N11,200,914.7million.
Bello also disclosed that the defendant gave express instruction to the bank on the interest ranging from 9.9 per cent interest rate a discovery that made the operatives to write to the office of Accountant General of the Federation to seek clarification if there was another PCFATF.
Led in evidence by Offen Uket, counsel to the federal government the witness said Oronsaye and one other member of the committee were the signatories to the official Zenith Bank account.
He said investigation revealed that PCFATF’s Zenith account was fully funded in four tranches of N50million, N90 million, N45 million, and N100 million.
Bello disclosed further that after Oronsaye solely opened the Access Bank account in the name of the committee he wrote to the then Minister of Finance Okonjo-Iweala for funding but the woman rejected the suggestion.
He said the central bank however obliged him and on October 5, 2015, paid N50 million into the account of the committee.
“On March, 25, 2013, the defendant brought two letters, one to the CBN governor from the Presidential Committee on Task Force, tagged core issues reviewed under the amendment of the money laundering Act, 2011,” he said.
The witness claimed that Oronsaye’s letter was uncalled for because the committee was fully funded, adding that the request made the EFCC to suspect a foul play as the committee does not report to any of the agencies (i.e, CBN and EFCC), that were included in their activities.
He said even though Oronsaye who was the chairman of the committee was a director on the board of CBN, he was not representing CBN on the committee.
“Therefore the request to the CBN for funding was not only improper, but fraudulent,” he argued.
The witness disclosed that after the improper request, the sum of N90 million was paid into the committee’s account on May 21, 2013.
“Another payment of N100 million was made on December 24, 2014, to the same Access Bank account.
Thereafter, another N50 million was paid into the account which made it a total sum of N240 million,” he said, adding: “We noticed that individuals who had no business with the PCFTF made withdrawal from the account. One Sunday Oge, made 31 cash withdrawals on behalf of the defendant from the Access Bank account and most of them were N150 000. In few occasions the amount was N30 million.
“Another person also withdrew several times from the account to the tune of about N17 million”
He said the defendant agreed that the money was given to him by the withdrawer, a certain Friday Ololo.
According to the witness Oronsaye failed to let them have access to Friday Ololo to provide the documents and to explain his role.
The matter has been adjourned to June 24 for continuation of trial.