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Court convicts Dariye's bankers for diverting N1.16bn

By The Citizen
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Some bankers who allegedly aided a former governor of Plateau State, Joshua Dariye, to divert about N1.16bn ecological funds meant for the state in 2001, have been convicted by a Federal High Court in Kaduna, an official of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Bamanga Bello, has told a Federal Capital Territory High Court in Gudu, Abuja.

‎Bello, a Special Control Unit Against Money Laundering at EFCC and a prosecution witness in the ongoing trial of Dariye before the FCT High Court, said this as part of his testimony‎ on Thursday.

The witness said the All States Trust Bank (now defunct) and some of its officials aided Dariye in manipulating bank transactions and concealing information about the identity of the owner of an account which was allegedly used in siphoning the Plateau State's fund.

He said the bank and its officials involved were found to have violated the provision of Section 5 of the Money Laundering Decree 2005.

Led in evidence by the lead prosecuting counsel, Mr. Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), the witness said that both the bank and the employees were successfully prosecuted by the EFCC‎.

‎Bello said he had over 10 years banking experience, having worked with Habib and later Standard Trust banks and rose to the level of branch manager.

Detailing the activities of his team of investigators, Bello said the fraud perpetrated by the bank was uncovered by analysing the documents relating to the account allegedly opened by Dariye, using an unregistered company, Ebenezer Ritnan Venture‎s.

He said, 'Sometime in 2004 I was co-opted to investigate a case of alleged conspiracy, abuse of office, misappropriation of public fund and money laundering against the former governor of Plateau State, Chief Joshua Dariye.

'In the course of investigation, I was given the account opening documents of Ebenezer Ritnan Venture to analyse. I did the analyses and discovered so many irregularities in the documents. From my analyses, proper documentation was not made. Wrong account opening documents were used and wrong information were used to hide the real identify of the real owner of the account.

'The account opening application form is for an individual current account, but the name of the account is written as Ebenezer Ritnan Venture, which is not an individual. The date of birth is written as 27 July 1957; Ebenezer Ritnan is not an individual and cannot have a date of birth.

'For nationality, it is Nigerian. Ebenezer Ritnan is not an individual and cannot have nationality. For occupation, it is written businessman. By the time the account was opened, the real owner was the governor of Plateau State then, he was a public servant, not businessman. For employment, it said self-employed. As at the time the account was opened, the real account owner was not self-employed, he was a public servant.

'The signature on the form was confirmed to be that of Dariye, the the governor of Plateau State. The address given was found to be fictitious because it could not be located. I also looked at the signature specimen card. The office address of Ebenzer Ritnan Venture was not written, but there must be physical address of an account holder before an account is opened.

'One of the signatories of the account of Ebenezer Ritnan was found to be fictitious, while the other was the signature of Dariye. There was no picture of the account owner, there was no means of identification of the account owner.

'All this information is required before an account could be opened by a bank. In this same case, the bank and its staff that were involved were charged before FHC, Kaduna and I testified before Justice Liman. The bank and those involved in the opening of this account were convicted by the Federal High Court, Kaduna.'

Under cross examination by Dariye's lawyer, Garba Pwul, Bello said the bank negligently proceeded to open the account without sufficiently establishing the identity of the customer.

He said, 'There was an approval for waiver. The request for waiver was made by Obesa and it was approved by the Executive Director, Northern Operations.The waiver granted, without the actual identity of the customer, violated Section 5 of the Money Laundering Act, 2005.

'During the course of investigation I interviewed Odesa, who said the real owner of the account did not want the reveal his identity and he promised to help him obtain waiver.

The application for the account opening was made on December 12, 1999.'

Dariye, who was governor of Plateau State between 1999 and 2007 is now the Senator representing Plateau Central in the National Assembly.

He is being prosecuted for allegedly diverting the sum of N1.61bn which he was said to have requested from the Presidency in 2001 for reclamation of some lands devastated by past mining activities in the state.

The trial judge, Justice Adebukola Banjoko is to fix date for further hearing.