• Wednesday, June 19, 2024
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BusinessDay

NDDC officials use private firm accounts to launder funds

NDDC

The last is yet to be heard about the deep rooted allegations of corruption at the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).

It will be recalled that the National Assembly ad-hoc committee probing the activities of the NDDC Interim Management Committee (IMC) led by Kemebradikumo Pondei recently made shocking discoveries of how over N40 billion was fraudulently spent.

But fresh documents available to BusinessDay show that the issue of corruption in NDDC is more than imagined.

For instance, in May 2019 alone, a sum of N3,956,267,688.53 was siphoned from the NDDC account domiciled with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) using private company accounts. The illegal transactions were facilitated by some NDDC staff with active connivance of bank workers, according to a report by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), seen by BusinessDay.

Following a tip off, a team of investigators from the EFCC Intelligence and Special Operations Unit recently visited seven commercial banks alleged to be the conduit pipe for the illicit business.

According to the EFCC Interim report submitted to the former acting chairman of EFCC, Ibrahim Magu, by the Head of the investigating team dated September 19, 2019, and obtained by BusinessDay, the investigators discovered that “most of the funds were either withdrawn cash or transferred to Bureau de Change Operators and dollars equivalent collected cash by staff of NDDC and those of the banks, confirming the suspicion that the funds were laundered. Some of the funds were equally diverted to the personal accounts of NDDC officials which they utilised,” the report stated.

As a result, the EFCC said it placed a Post No Debit Order (PNDO) on three bank accounts of the suspects while a total sum of N827,745,699 was frozen through interim freezing order from the court. The bank accounts allegedly under EFCC investigations belong to the seven private companies, or Companies A to G, as seen by BusinessDay.

The EFCC investigation was carried out by its Lagos Zonal Office with crime report number (CR: 730/2019) and involved investigation of activities of seven commercial banks alleged to have been used by the suspects to commit the crime. Individuals and corporate bodies including the banks’ senior officials were said to have been interrogated by the EFCC operatives.

A look at the report reveals bone-chilling findings.

Company A maintained an account with a well-known commercial bank (name withheld) where according to the EFCC report, witnessed an inflow of the sum of N798,179,305.82 million from NDDC on May 27, 2019.

On May 31, 2019, the total sum of N181,500,000 million was transferred from the account to an individual suspected by the EFCC to be an unlicensed Bureau De Change operator who converted it to $500,000 cash and the same was collected by a former staff of a first-generation bank.

Consequently, the EFCC placed a Post No Debit status on the account on May 31, 2019 and the total sum of N616,714,792.48 million was frozen.

Interestingly, the same account had earlier received a total sum of N525,295,931.30 million from NDDC on September 24, 2018. The funds were allegedly transferred as follows:

•N5,000,000.00 to a House of Rep. candidate in Akwa Ibom State at the 2019 elections.
•N10,000,000.00 for printing of campaign materials for a former MD at NDDC.
•N175,250,000.00 to a BDC operator for dollar exchange.
•N36,200,000.00 which was converted to $100,000.00 cash
•N30,000,000.00 which was converted to $82,000 cash
•N230,000,000.00 cash withdrawal

On its part, Company B maintained an account with a major Nigerian bank, which witnessed an inflow of the sum of N287,065,000 million from NDDC on May 28, 2019.

On May 31, 2019, the total sum of N79,965,800 million was transferred to persons alleged by the EFCC to be unlicensed BDC operators who converted it to $220,900 cash and the same was collected by one staff of a major bank.

There was also a cash withdrawal of the sum of N6,000,000 million. As a result of these suspicious transactions, the anti-graft agency said it froze a total sum of N211,030,906.49 million belonging to the company.

That was not all: the same account had earlier allegedly received a total sum of N27,000,000 million from NDDC on February 27, 2019 and March 27, 2019, which funds were all allegedly transferred on April 15, 2019.

Another company used by NDDC officials to launder funds was Company C, which maintained accounts domiciled with two commercial banks.

An analysis of the accounts reveals no inflow from NDDC in May 2019. But a Post No Debit status was subsequently placed by EFCC on the account on May 31, 2019, and the total sum of N503,704.53 and N28,217.00 in the two accounts in the two banks were frozen.

The other firm, Company D, maintained an account with a well-known commercial bank. The account witnessed an inflow of the sum of N471,494,880 million from NDDC on May 2, 2019. On May 2, 2019, the total sum of N450,000,000 million was transferred. N10,000,000 million and N11,000,000 million were equally transferred, respectively.

The balance on the account as at May 31, 2019 was N56,690.00. The same account had earlier received a total sum of N507,168,191.78 million from NDDC on March 6, 2019. The above funds were subsequently transferred to companies/individuals.

Also involved in the illegal transaction is a Company E, whose bank account witnessed inflows of N467,859,684.91 million on January 21, 2019, and N569,635,468.53 million on February 12, 2019 from NDDC.

The funds were subsequently transferred to companies, individuals suspected to be BDC operators and dollars equivalent were collected by a female staff of one of the commercial banks. She was alleged to have been used by the suspects to perpetrate the crime.

While submitting the report, the EFCC operatives noted that from their findings, “It is obvious that public funds are being diverted from the NDDC account to private company accounts for a purported purpose that the investigation will soon unravel” and pledged their determination to get to the root of the problem.

It was not clear as at press time what the EFCC and the government hoped to do with the report, given the fact that the former acting chairman, Ibrahim Magu, who ordered the investigation is himself undergoing investigations over similar allegations.