Patience Jonathan Risks Forfeiting $15m As Affected Companies Plead Guilty | Independent Newspapers Limited
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Patience Jonathan Risks Forfeiting $15m As Affected Companies Plead Guilty

Patience Jonathan
Posted: Sep 16, 2016 at 5:52 am   /   by   /   comments (0)



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A representative of Pluto Property and Investment Company Limited, the first of the four companies involved in a $15 million money laundering case linked to former First Lady, Patience Jonathan, abruptly pleaded guilty before the judge on Thursday.

The representatives of the other three companies – Sea Gate Property Development and Investment Company Limited; Trans Ocean Property and Investment Company Limited; and Avalon Global Property Development Company Limited – followed suit and pleaded guilty before Justice Babs Kuewumi of the Federal High Court, Lagos.

Waripamo Dudafa, who served as Special Adviser on Domestic Affairs to former President Goodluck Jonathan; Amajuoyi Briggs, a former presidential aide; and Adedamola Bolodeoku, a former Skye Bank official, who were arraigned alongside the companies, however, pleaded not guilty.

The judge adjourned till September 27 for trial.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission arraigned the suspects on a 15-count amended charge of money laundering, stealing, and forgery totalling $15.5 million before Justice Kuewumi.

According to the EFCC, the offences were committed between November 2013 and May 2015.

In count 1, the suspects were accused of conspiring to launder $15.5 million “on or about the 13th of November 2013.”

Counts 2 – 9 accused them of stealing of various sums ranging from $250,000 to $1.2 million.

Counts 10 – 15 said Messrs Dudafa, Briggs, Bolodeoku, and one Sompre Omiebi (who is still at large) forged documents to open accounts in Skye Bank and Wema Bank in the name of the listed companies.

During their investigations, the EFCC had frozen the accounts.

But last week, Mrs. Patience Jonathan filed a fundamental rights enforcement suit before the court claiming ownership of the money found in the companies’ accounts, asking that the ‘no-debit’ order placed on them be lifted.

In an affidavit deposed to by one Sammie Somiari, a lawyer, Mrs. Jonathan said she asked Dudafa to assist her to open the bank accounts which the EFCC had frozen.

The former First Lady said the monies were meant for her medical treatment.

Before the pleas were read, the first three defendants’ lawyers argued that the four companies’ representatives – who did not have legal counsels – ought to provide a letter from their respective companies authorising them to appear before the judge.

“Anybody can be called upon from the street to come and represent a company,” said Tochukwu Onyiuke, counsel to the second defendant, Mr. Briggs.

Gboyega Oyewole, counsel to Dudafa, said the defendants were in a joint trial.

“It cannot be severed,” he said.

“Whatever plea pleaded by the defendants will tell on the companies. Worst case scenario, my Lord will discountenance them and enter a not guilty plea for them.”

But Rotimi Oyedepo, counsel to the EFCC, argued that the representatives were listed as directors in the companies’ Corporate Affairs Commission registration records.

“If they (defence counsels) are objecting to their plea being taken, it is extremely immature to bring it up at this stage, it is after their plea had been taken,” said Oyedepo.

“If they want us to show that the persons appearing in the court are listed in the CAC as directors, we have the proof.”

After the plea was read, the judge granted Messrs Briggs and Bolodeoku bail in the sum of N250 million each, with two sureties.

The judge refused to allow Dudafa to continue on a bail granted him in another trial before a different judge, remanding him in prison and insisting that his lawyer must file a bail application before his court.

Meanwhile, the former first lady has denied allegations that her accounts were used to launder huge sums.

In a statement by her media aide, Yemi Akinbode, Mrs. Jonathan said she was constrained to respond to “tissues of lies being churned out” by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

“That Mrs. Patience Ibifaka Jonathan is laying claim to ownership of a whopping sum of $31.7 million fund recovered by EFCC is a complete fallacy. Mrs. Jonathan does not own and has never owned such amount of money. The reason for this lie is best known to the EFCC.

“That another sum of $20 million has been traced to Mrs. Patience Ibifaka Jonathan, is again, another falsehood aimed at hoodwinking the public against Mrs. Jonathan.

“That a further sum of $5 million has again being traced to another account of Mrs. Patience Jonathan. This is also a fallacy.

“That Mrs. Patience Jonathan opened accounts in the names of cooks, drivers and artisans. This is perhaps the biggest falsehood to the knowledge of EFCC.”

The former first lady picked holes in the authenticity of the representatives of the four companies who pleaded guilty to charges of money laundering.

Her lawyer, Gboyega Oyewole, said she would appeal the validity of the representatives of Pluto Property and Investment Company Limited, Seagate Property Development and Investment Company Limited, Trans Ocean Property and Investment Company Limited and Avalon Global Property Development Company Limited.

The former first lady’s counsel alleged that the prosecution presented four unknown people as the companies’ representatives, all of whom he said did not show letters authorising them by their respective boards to represent them in the case.

“This is a clear evidence of the desperation of the prosecution to pull down the former First Lady and confiscate her hard-earned money,” the statement quoted Oyewole as saying.

Mrs Jonathan was quoted as saying that EFCC was bent on denting her image and trampling on her fundamental human rights.

Her words: “This is an irony. I was the one who went to court for the repatriation of my confiscated money when I realised that the EFCC and its co-travellers were playing politics with this issue after I had come out publicly to say that the said money belongs to me and that I have all evidence to prove the sources of my money.

“Up till this very moment, EFCC has refused to interrogate or invite me for questioning, while the agency has continued to detain Dudafa under heavy armed security guards.

“The biggest twist in court on Thursday (yesterday) was that the fourth to seventh defendants pleaded guilty to all the 15-count charges. 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 my money.”

Mrs. Jonathan reiterated her respect for the sanctity and integrity of the judiciary as the bastion of hope for every citizen of the country.

She, however, expressed disappointment that her “well-earned image” was being maligned in the court of public opinion through the “tissues of lies being churned out by the EFCC in respect of the matter.”

Mrs Jonathan restated that she was not a director, shareholder, promoter or participant in any of the four companies that pleaded guilty, and that she was the sole signatory to all the accounts, contrary to the fabrication that she used her driver and cook as proxies.

She also denied ever receiving any monies from any unknown sources into her accounts, adding that they were opened in order to facilitate her travel overseas particularly for medical treatment, sundry purchase for herself and her late mother Mrs. Charity Oba (Mama Sisi).

On how her monies got to the accounts, she said she directed a former Special Adviser on Domestic Affairs to President Jonathan Waripamo Dudafa to open the accounts for her, only for him to open them in his companies’ names rather than her name.

“She immediately complained about this anomaly to Hon. Dudafa and the bank officials, Demola Doledeoku and Dipo Oshodi came back to the villa with forms to change and convert the said accounts to the personal name of Mrs Jonathan.”