Ex-governor Ohakim gave me $2.29m cash to buy house – Witness

By The Citizen

A witness,  Mr. Abu Sule, told a Federal High Court in Abuja on Wednesday that he collected $2.29m cash in Ghana-Must-Go' bag from a former Governor of Imo State, Ikedi Ohakim, to help the former governor to buy a property in Asokoro, Abuja.

Sule, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission's second prosecution witness in Ohakim's ongoing trial, said this while he was being cross-examined by the former governor's lead counsel, Awa Kalu (SAN).

The witness said he collected the $2.29m, which was an equivalent of N270m, from Ohakim in $100 bills at night sometimes in November 2008 and handed it over to the then owner of the property, Alhaji Isah Maidabino, the next day.

The witness, an architect and Managing Director of Tweenex Consociates H.D Ltd., said he kept the money in the boot of his car overnight before handing it over to Maidabino, now a director in the office of the Head of Service of the Federation.

The EFCC is prosecuting Ohakim who was Imo State governor between 2007 and 2011 on three counts of money laundering.

The charges arose from his alleged purchase of the property at 60, Kwame Nkrumah Street, Plot No 1098, Cadastral Zone A04,  Asokoro District, Abuja with cash payment of $2.29 which was said to be dollar equivalent of N270m in November 2008.

Ohakim was also accused of failing to declare the property as part of his assets when asked by the EFCC to do so.

The prosecution said the offences bordering on cash payment of N270m violated section 15(1)(d) and section 14(1)(b) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2004.

Sule had earlier in his evidence-in-chief, narrated how he allegedly helped Ohakim to buy and conceal the former governor's ownership of the property.

The witness had told Justice Adeniyi Ademola, that the former governor instructed him to use his (Sule's) company, Tweenex Consociates H.D Ltd., to buy the property.

Led in evidence by the prosecution counsel, Mr. Festus Keyamo, the witness said Ohakim subsequently put pressure on him to prepare a tenancy agreement with Tweenex as the landlord to make it look as if he (Ohakim) was a tenant in the property.

Fielding questions from Kalu on Wednesday, Sule said he did not count the $2.29m when the former governor handed over the money to him out of trust they had for each other.

He however said he counted it along with Maidabino before handing the money over to him.

He said, 'The money ($2.29m) was given to me by the defendant. It was given to me in a 'Ghana-Must-Go' bag and that was how I transported it. It was in $100 bills. I didn't count the money and he (Ohakim) didn't request for counting because we trusted each other. But I counted it along with Alhaji Maidabino.

'I did not issue a receipt because a receipt was not demanded. I was sent on an errand and I delivered it.

'I carried the money to a bank in Maitama in Unity Bank. I handed over the money to Alhaji Maidabino at Unity Bank.

'Alhaji Maidabino issued deed of assignment and sale agreement to me.

'He did not acknowledge the receipt of the sum in writing.

'I didn't pay the money into any account. I didn't see Alhaji Maidabino pay that sum into any account. I did not witness any transaction.

'What Alhaji did with the money, I don't know. But he handed over the title documents of the property to me.'

Fielding more questions, he said did not have any security arrangement in place when carrying the money from one place to another.

He said, 'I had no security. I trusted in God. I left the money in my car boot and I went home and I slept. I was not accompanied to the bank by any security operative, I went alone.'

He confirmed that all his dealings with the former governor were always documented and that he had issued a receipt for a N20m transaction to the defendant.

Sule confirmed that he did not issue any receipt for the $2.29m given to him by Ohakim.

He also said he did not collect any receipt from the Maidabino because the title documents which he collected from him (Maidabino) were sufficient as proof of payment.

Sule said, 'I gave the money to him (Maidabino) and he gave me the title documents. He signed the sales agreement and I believe that was a good receipt.'

But he confirmed that the sales agreement was between Tweenex and Maidabino and  that up till date, Tweenex remained the registered owner of the property at 60, Kwame Nkrumah Street, Plot No 1098, Cadastral Zone A04,  Asokoro District, Abuja.

He said he could not confirm the details of the use of the property as collateral by Maidabino for certain loans.

But he confirmed that up till October 6, 2009 the transfer of the ownership of the property was still 'encumbered' by Unity Bank.

The EFCC called Maidabino as its third prosecution witness on Wednesday.

Maidabino confirmed that he sold the property to Tweenex through Sule sometimes in November 2008.

Led in evidence by Keyamo, the witness, a serving director in the office of the Head of Service of the Federation,  said he had finished building the house in 1997 while he was a deputy director in the Presidential Villa.

Maidabino, who will be 60 on June 6, 2016, confirmed that he collected $2.29m cash at Unity Bank, Maitama, from Sule for the sale of the house.

Justice Ademola adjourned the trial till Thursday. - Punch.