- Prosecution alleges loans repaid with public funds
Tobi Soniyi in Abuja
Mr. Michael Wetkas, the prosecution witness in the trial of the Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki, for alleged violations of the Code of Conduct for Public Officers, monday told the Code of Conduct Tribunal that Saraki stated in his assets declaration form that he acquired the real properties in issue through bank facility.
Wetkas, who was under cross examination by counsel to the Senate President, Mr. Paul Usoro (SAN) also admitted that the assets form of Saraki for 2007, indicated that on July 11, 2007, the Senate President declared the assets as acquired with loan obtained from a bank.
But the witness stated that four years later, Saraki declared that the same properties were acquired from proceeds from his commodity business.
The witness, who was asked to read bank statement of the defendant, told the tribunal that the loans obtained to purchase the properties in dispute had been liquidated prior to the 2011 declaration.
The witness, who is an operative of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), said the repayment of the loans were made in five tranches between May 2007 and May, 2008.
He said: “The first payment was made in May 2007, the second was August 2, 2007, the next was November 2, 2007, the next was February 1, 2008, and the last one was paid in May 2, 2008.”
When asked if he had any evidence that the funds used to repay the loans were from the Kwara State government, the witness refused to give a direct answer but later admitted that he did not mention Kwara State Government in his earlier evidence.
He however, insisted that the manner the loans were repaid contravened the Money Laundering Act.
When reminded that if the offence was that of money laundering, CCT should not be the court to try Saraki, the witness kept quite.
In his reaction, the prosecution counsel, Mr. Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), argued that earlier during investigation, it was proven by some people that the money lodged in Guaranty Trust Bank was given to them by Saraki in Government House.
Usoro had referred the witness to counts two and three of the charge against Saraki, which accused him of false declaration of assets while in office as Kwara State Governor as well as using his position as governor to abuse the rights of people of the state.
The witness in the course of cross-examination, admitted that five other assets were declared and that one common denominator in all the assets indicated that they were acquired with proceeds from sales of rice and sugar and that they were all acquired by Saraki before he became governor in 2003.
He said: “For instance, the first property was acquired in 1990, the second was in 1996, the third was in 1991, the fourth was in 1992, the fifth was in the year, 2002 while the last property in question was bought in 2006.
“On page eight of an exhibit tendered earlier before the court, the property was declared and was captured correctly in his assets form as ‘bank loan’ and the amount of loan indicated appropriately.
“After the end of tenure, by law, he was supposed to make another declaration on assumption of his second tenure, and going through Exhibit 4, the declaration form reads July 11, 2007, and going through the form, on page five, the property was declared and equally indicated as having been acquired with bank loan for N496 million.”
Still under cross-examination, the witness admitted that he neither investigated the Kwara State Government fund nor the business structure of the Senate President.
He also admitted that Carlisle Properties and Investment Limited, a private company and not Saraki as an individual, acquired the property at Glover Road, Ikoyi Lagos.
At about 2.35p.m., Chief Kanu Agabi (SAN) through Usoro pleaded with the tribunal for an adjournment but again, Jacobs objected, stressing that the witness should be made to complete his evidence.
At the end, the tribunal adjourned further trial till today.