Patience Jonathan, wife of former President Goodluck Jonathan, is fighting frantically to ensure that the alleged laundered $15,591,700 million in the frozen accounts of her companies is not confiscated by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission
| By Olu Ojewale | Sep 26, 2016 @ 01:00 GMT |
PATIENCE Jonathan, wife of former President Goodluck Jonathan, is literarily in the eye of the storm. In past week, her name has dominated media headlines linking her to an alleged laundering of more than $34 million in four different accounts. So far, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, has traced at least $15,591,700 million to her.
On Thursday, September 15, while admitting ownership of the money, Patience accused the EFCC of hiring four mercenaries to plead guilty to allegation of money laundering charges on behalf of the four companies linked to her.
In a statement signed by Chima Osuji, her media aide, Patience alleged that the EFCC presented four unknown persons, who were not authorised by the companies’ boards to plead guilty on behalf of the companies. She alleged that the device was a ploy by the EFCC to ensure that her hard-earn money was confiscated.
The former first lady said that by so doing, the EFCC had violated Section 477 (2) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015, which demands that the EFCC should present to the court on Thursday, September 15, any letter to show that the four persons were authorised by the companies to represent them.
“This is a clear evidence of the desperation of the prosecution to pull down the former First Lady and confiscate her hard-earned money.
“It is an irony that it was the former first lady who went to court for the repatriation of her confiscated money when she realised that the EFCC and its co-travellers were playing politics with this issue after she had come out publicly to say that the said money belongs to her and that she has all evidence to prove the sources of her money. Up till this very moment, the EFCC has refused to interrogate or invite her for questioning.
“The biggest twist in court on Thursday was that the fourth to seventh defendants pleaded guilty to all the 15 counts. It is clear that these unknown faces were agents of the EFCC, who have been stage-managed and tutored to come to court to complicate the case as a strategy to confiscate her money,” Osuji’s statement said further.
The four companies, Pluto Properties and Investment Company, Seagate Property Development Company, Trans Ocean Property and Investment Company Ltd, and Avalon Global Property Ltd, all of which allegedly have links with former first lady, pleaded guilty to alleged $15 million fraud charge brought against them before a federal high court sitting in Lagos.
The EFCC had frozen the four accounts, belonging to the four companies, which were linked to Waripamowei Dudafa, a former special adviser to the former President Jonathan on Domestic Affairs.
But Patience Jonathan had come out publicly to claim ownership of the $15 million in the four companies’ accounts, saying she was using the money to settle medical bills while she was out of the country. She, therefore, urged the EFCC and Skye Bank to lift the restriction placed on the accounts.
In an interview on Friday, September 16, Wilson Uwujaren, spokesman of the EFCC, denied the allegation that the anti-graft agency used mercenaries to appear in court against her in order to deprive her of the money in contention. Uwujaren said the matter is already before the court and that her lawyer could approach the court to access the witnesses.
Contrary to the perception in some quarters, the EFCC spokesman said that Patience Jonathan was not under any EFCC investigation and that the case of $15 million came about while investigating a corruption allegation levelled against Dudafa. He said that in the course of the investigation, it was discovered that four companies were registered through which monies were being laundered. Uwujaren said all those whose names appeared as owners of the companies were interviewed and that “some of them did not know that their names were registered as directors of the companies.” Besides, he said: “the names on the accounts are not the operators of the account.”
Further, he said the EFCC discovered that some members of staff of Skye Bank who helped to open the accounts for the four companies did not border to ask for the biometrics of the accounts owners. Uwujaren said what makes the case suspicious is that, “the companies don’t have the identity of the former first lady, but she is the sole signatory to their accounts.” He said while the commission was still trying to fix the jigsaw, the former first lady distracted the EFCC by going to court to claim ownership of the money. “It was a surprise to us that she went to court to claim that we want to confiscate her money… If after our investigation no case has been established against her, her money will be returned to her.”
Uwujaren argued that Patience Jonathan had not been invited by the EFCC because the case was still being investigated and when it got the point of inviting her she would be invited. “People always accuse us saying we invite people without thorough investigation. This is why we want to do all the necessary investigation before calling her to explain how she came about the money and why she used third parties to open the accounts.”
On Thursday, the four accused companies pleaded guilty to conspiring with Dudafa, Amajuoyi Briggs, a lawyer; and Adedamola Bolodeoku, a banker, to launder the sum of $15, 591,700 on or about November 13, 2013.
The EFCC, while arraigning the seven accused persons before a Federal High Court in Lagos on Thursday, September 15, told the court that the $15.6m were proceeds of theft.
Though Dudafa, Briggs and Bolodeoku pleaded not guilty to the amended 15 counts pressed against them by the EFCC, the four companies, charged along with them, admitted that they committed the offence. The guilty plea was entered on behalf of Pluto, Seagate, Trans Ocean and Avalon by one Friday Davies, Agbo Baro, Bioghowri Frederick and Taiwo Ebenezer, respectively.
But while the four companies pleaded guilty, Dudafa, Briggs and Bolodeoku maintained their innocence, saying they did not commit the offence.
The EFCC had since frozen the $15.6m found in the four companies’ accounts with Skye Bank Plc by placing a ‘No Debit Order’ on the four accounts.
But Patience had filed a fundamental rights enforcement suit against the EFCC and the bank, claiming that the money, which the EFCC said were proceeds of theft, belonged to her. The former first lady is also seeking damages against Skye Bank in the sum of N200m for what she called a violation of her right to own personal property under Section 44 of the 1999 Constitution.
Besides, the former first lady has insisted that she did not use any proxy to open the accounts in question and has also shouted to high heaven that money was earned legitimately. That, perhaps, has shown that she is ready to answer any question that may arise on the accounts. But how long it would take the EFCC to find it proper to call her to answer questions on the money is a matter of conjecture. In the meantime, the pretty face of the former first lady is certainly not look pretty as the matter continues to get media attention.