Thursday, 26 May 2016

Alleged Fresh Diezani’s $153m Loot: Fidelity Bank MD, Okonkwo, Remanded in EFCC Custody

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission is set to charge the Managing Director of Fidelity Bank Plc, Mr. Nnamdi Okonkwo, over a fresh revelation that he allegedly helped a former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani Alison-Madueke, to launder $153m during the build-up to the presidential election.

An impeccable source at the EFCC told one of our correspondents that Okonkwo was brought before a Magistrate’s Court in Ikeja, Lagos, on Wednesday and the court ordered that he be remanded in the EFCC custody for one week pending the outcome of investigations.

A detective at the anti-graft agency told The PUNCH that the bank MD, who was arrested last month for allegedly helping Diezani to disburse $115m to some personalities in 2015, had told investigators that the ($115m) N23bn was the only fund he handled for the ex-minister.

Operatives of the commission continued their investigation into Okonkwo’s financial dealings with Diezani after his release and were said to have been stunned by the fresh discovery.

The source added, “The Fidelity Bank boss was taken to court today (Wednesday) and we obtained an order to remand him in custody for seven days pending the outcome of investigations.

“He was remanded based on the fresh discovery of $153m. All things being equal, he will be charged to court next week.”

All attempts to speak with the spokesman for Fidelity Bank, Henry Ndiulo, on Wednesday proved abortive as he did not return several calls to his mobile.

The spokesman for the EFCC, Mr. Wilson Uwujaren, said he was not aware of Okonkwo’s arrest but promised to find out.

He had yet to call back as of the time of filing this report.

Meanwhile,  the EFCC on Wednesday continued investigations into the N23bn ($115m) bribe disbursed to various states by Diezani through some banks during the build-up to the 2015 presidential election.

According to the EFCC, a former acting Governor of Taraba State, Senator Sani Abubakar, chaired the committee that supervised the sharing of N450m in Taraba State and a former Minister of Labour and Productivity, Senator Joel Danlami, benefited from the cash while Senator Sa’idu Kumo of Gombe State collected N450m campaign fund for the re-election of former president Goodluck Jonathan.

Chief Joel Madaki, the current Chairman, PDP in Adamawa State, and Amb. Hassan Adamu were also alleged to have signed and collected N450m.

The anti-graft agency said the money was disbursed to several local government chairmen in the respective states.

All attempts to speak with the former acting governor proved abortive as his phone line did not connect while a text message sent to his telephone was not responded to as of the time of filing this report on Wednesday.

On the distribution of the fund in Taraba State, sources at the commission explained that each local government received N28m.

The source said, “A former acting Governor of Taraba State, Senator Danladi Abubakar, who was the Senator representing Taraba North Senatorial District in the National Assembly, was the chair of the sharing committee of the N450m campaign slush fund.

“Other members were a former Minister of Labour and Productivity, Senator Joel Danlami, and a former Speaker of the House of Assembly, Mark Useni.

“Investigation by the EFCC revealed the role played by the trio in the collection and sharing of the fund. It also showed that Ikenya and Useni signed and collected the fund from Fidelity Bank on behalf of the state before proceeding to the Government House to distribute the fund.

“When interrogated, Ikenya and Useni claimed they distributed the money to the 16 local governments in the state. They gave N140m (N28m each) to five local government areas while N264m (N24m each) went to the remaining local government areas. However, Useni admitted he collected Takum Local Government’s fund of N24m.”

The EFCC source added that Ikenya and Useni confessed to have personally benefited individually from the fund.

He added, “The former minister admitted to have taken N4m from the fund. He presented a Guaranty Trust Bank draft of N2m and promised another draft for the same amount. His co- suspect deposited a draft of Stanbic IBTC for N1m and the balance to be paid later.”

Explaining how the one in Gombe was shared, the source explained that Senator Kumo, who is a former National Secretary of the All Nigeria Peoples Party, signed and collected N450m campaign fund for the re-election of Jonathan.

“Kumo admitted that out of the said amount, he got only N2m, which he promised to pay back,” the EFCC source added.

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