Four companies involved in a money laundering case linked to the former First Lady, Mrs Patience Jonathan, on Thursday pleaded guilty before a Federal High Court, sitting in Lagos.
The companies — 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 — pleaded guilty to a 15-count charge preferred against them by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) before Justice Babs Kuewumi.
The companies were arraigned alongside former Special Assistant to former President Goodluck Jonathan on Domestic Affairs, Waripamo Dudafa; former presidential aide, Amajuoyi Briggs; and former Skye Bank official, Damola Bolodeoku.
The three pleaded not guilty before the judge.
The EFCC slapped a 15-count charge on the accused bordering on conspiracy and fraud.
However, Patience Jonathan in a statement signed by her counsel, Gboyega Oyewole, disowned the representatives of the companies, claiming they were mercenaries recruited by the EFCC to plead guilty so that her funds could be confiscated by the state.
When the case was called yesterday, the four companies announced their representation as follows: Friday David represents Pluto Properties and Investment Company, and Agbor Obaro represents Sea Gate Property Development Company.
Also, Fredrick Dioghowori announced his representation for Trans Ocean Property Limited, while Taiwo Ebenezer represented Avalon Global properties Limited.
After the charge was read to the accused, the first, second and third accused pleaded not guilty to all counts of the charge.
Meanwhile, the four individuals representing the companies listed in the charge, each pleaded guilty to the offences.
Following the guilty plea of the companies, the EFCC prosecution team led by Mr. Rotimi Oyedepo, then prayed the court to allow a short time for review of the facts, adding that he would not waste the time of the court.
The trial judge, Justice Kuewumi, however, declined the prosecution’s request, ruling that he would adjourn to a future date.
Meanwhile, the counsel representing the second and third accused, Messrs Tochukwu Onyiuke, and Joseph Okebiemen, informed the court of a bail application filed on behalf of their clients, adding that same had not been opposed.
They urged the court to admit the accused to bail on liberal terms.
The counsel representing the first accused, Mr. Gboyega Oyewole, also informed the court that his client was already on bail on existing conditions granted by a brother judge, and urged the court to allow his client enjoy same bail standing.
To the request of the counsel, Justice Kuewumi declined granting bail to the first accused, and ordered him to file a formal application for bail before the court.
The court, however, granted bail to the second and third accused in the sum of N250 million with one surety in like sum.
The judge added that the sureties must be owners of landed properties in Lagos, and if a public servant, such surety must produce a letter of introduction from his employer.
The judge also ordered the sureties to submit evidence of tax clearance.
He adjourned the case to September 27 for continuation and ordered the accused to be remanded in prison custody pending the perfection of their bail.
In the amended charge, the EFCC alleged that the accused had between November 13, 2013, and June 2015, used the different companies to commit the offences.
The accused were alleged to have conspired to retain over $15 million, which sum they reasonably ought to have known formed part of the proceeds of crime.
The alleged offences are said to be contrary to and punishable under sections 15 (d), 17(a), 18(a), and 27 (3) (c) of the EFCC (Establishment) Act 2004.
The offence is said to have also contravened the provisions of sections 1(2) (c), and 1(19) (6) of the Miscellaneous Offences Act, Cap M17, Laws of the Federation, 2004.
It also contravened the provisions of sections 18 (a) of the money laundering prohibition Act, 2012.
However, Mrs Jonathan has picked holes in the authenticity of the representatives of the four companies who pleaded guilty yesterday to charges of money laundering.
Counsel to the former first lady, Oyewole, told the court that his client would file an appeal to challenge the validity of the representatives of the companies.
In a statement by her media aide, Yemi Akinbode, the former first lady was quoted as saying that the second amended charge and the conduct of the Federal High Court have shown clearly that the EFCC was bent on denting her image and trampling on her fundamental human rights.
Mrs Jonathan said: “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.”
She further said: “The biggest twist in court on Thursday 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 and/or participant in any of the four companies now under trial, and that she was the sole signatory to all the said 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 and that the accounts 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).
UK Government Has Approved Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine
The United Kingdom on Wednesday Approved Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine
British government on Wednesday became the first country to approve Pfizer and BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for use, according to the UK government.
The vaccine will be rolled out from next week and the first dose could be administered as early as December 7th, stated people familiar with the matter.
Last week, the UK government announced it had ordered 40 million doses of Pfizer and BioNTech COVID-19 and appointed Nadhim Zahawi, the current junior business minister, as the minister responsible for the deployment of the vaccines.
British government on Wednesday morning said, “The Government has today accepted the recommendation from the independent Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) to approve Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine for use”
“The vaccine will be made available across the UK from next week.”
Matt Hancock, Health Secretary, revealed that the programme would commence early next week.
“It is very good news,” Hancock said.
Zabarmari Massacre: Buhari to Provide More Resources for the Nigerian Military
President Muhammadu Buhari has promised to provide more resources to the military in the aftermath of the Zabarmari massacre.
On Saturday, Boko Haram killed 43 people with around 70 people still missing in Zabarmari, a village in Borno State.
Reacting to the massacre, Buhari, through his official Twitter handle @MBuhari said “Nothing is more important than ensuring the security of lives and property of Nigerians. Everything is secondary when security is at stake. I will ensure that more resources are made available to the military and other security agencies to prosecute the war against terrorism.
“As we mourn all the lives lost in Zabarmari, the Armed Forces have been given the marching order to take the fight to the insurgents, not on a one-off, but on a continuous basis, until we root out the terrorists.
“We will intensify our cooperation with neighbouring countries on bilateral and multilateral levels, to ensure that there is no hiding place for the terrorists.
“As I noted earlier, the massacre by Boko Haram in Zabarmari is nothing short of senseless, barbaric, gruesome and cowardly. It reinforces our resolve to root out all forms of insurgency and insecurity not just in Borno but everywhere across Nigeria.”
Boko Haram Kills Rice Farmers in Borno State, Northeast Nigeria
Rice farmers were killed on Saturday morning in the Northeast Nigeria by suspected Islamist militants, Boko Haram, according to a Reuters Report.
The report also noted that 30 of the people killed were beheaded while over a dozen others were still missing.
However, resident of the Zambarmari Village where the attacks took place said a total of 70 people were feared dead.
Another resident and Amnesty International were quoted as saying at least 10 women were among those missing.
In another statement by Edward Kallon, the United Nations’ humanitarian coordinator in Nigeria, it was armed men on motorcycles that led the brutal attack on civilians harvesting their fields.
“Armed men on motorcycles led a brutal attack on civilian men and women who were harvesting their fields,” Edward Kallon stated.
“At least 110 civilians were ruthlessly killed and many others were wounded in this attack,” he added, noting that several women are believed to have been kidnapped.
“The incident is the most violent direct attack against innocent civilians this year. I call for the perpetrators of this heinous and senseless act to be brought to justice,” Kallon said.
On Sunday, Governor Babaganan Umara Zulum of Borno State, who was at the burial told journalists that at least 70 farmers were killed on Saturday.
The Governor, therefore, called on the Federal Government to recruit more Civilian Joint Task Force members, Soldiers and civil defence fighters to protect farmers in the region.
He added that people are facing desperate choices.
“In one side, they stay at home they may be killed by hunger and starvation, on the other, they go out to their farmlands and risk getting killed by the insurgents,” he said.
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