Alleged money laundering: How Dariye jumped bail in London – British detective

By The Citizen

For the first since former Plateau State governor, Joshua Dariye was reported to have jumped bail in London about 12 years ago, a British detective who apprehended the ex-governor for money laundering in the United Kingdom, was in Abuja Monday to give details of how the incident occurred.

Peter Clerk, a detective with the London Metropolitan Police, who testified as a witness in the trial of Dariye before the High Court of the Federal Capital territory (FCT) explained how Dariye jumped bail in London in 2004 while still serving as a governor.

Clerk, now retired, said the warrant issued by a London court for Dariye's arrest was still valid today and that the ex-governor would be arrested anytime the United Kingdom authorities felt the need.

Dariye, who was Plateau governor between 1999 and 2007, and now senator representing Plateau Central, is being prosecuted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission on 23 counts of diversion of the N1.61bn ecological fund meant for land reclamation and flood chanelisation works at Bokkos part of the state.

The witness, who also gave details of how Dariye was arrested with a lady - Christabel Bentu - in a hotel in London in 2004, said the ex-governor opened nine accounts in Barclays Bank, London in 1995, and told the bank he (Dariye) was a Manager with Benue Cement.

Clerk, who said he retired in 2015, told the court that his investigation of Dariye was informed by the arrest of some of his associates, who claimed he (Dariye) owned some of the cash found on them.

Led in evidence by lead prosecution lawyer, Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), Clerk, who was the 9th prosecution witness, denied the defence's insinuation that he came to testify in the case in Nigeria because of his anger against Dariye over his refusal to return to London after he was granted bail.

'On September 28, 2004 we were informed that Mr. Dariye was in London in a hotel. I went there with two other officers. When we got there, I informed him that we were investigating his accounts and we arrested him and informed him, under caution that we believe that the money in relation to money laundering. He said nothing.

'We further informed him that we will search the hotel room. We went to 1220 room and found Christabel Bentu and searched same and found 50,000 pounds cash. She said was arrested for suspicious money laundering. She said she is his Personal Assistant.

'We searched Mr. Dariye's hotel room and found 43,000 pounds cash and other denominations and currencies. Christabel Bentu was taken to West Central Police Station, while Dariye was taken to another police station and he was interviewed by me for about 2 hours.

'In September 2004, I looked at Mr. Dariye in the eye and said to him, I know you are a very religious man. I asked him, will you come back on September 14, 2004? He said yes, he will, but failed to show up. Bentu also failed to show up.

'Immediately, we made an application for his arrest in Landon. The warrant is still valid till today. It was circulated in all computers that Dariye was wanted. If I had the evidence given to me in December 2004 by EFCC in Nigeria, Dariye would have been charged in London.

'We did not ask for his extradition because we knew he had immunity from prosecution as a serving governor. So we did not pursue extradition. When he left office in May 2007, the EFCC arrested him and started their proceedings. We did not interfere with that proceeding, because we know that domestic proceedings will take precedent,' Clerk said.

The witness also told the court how Dariye allegedly bought property in London, using a proxy.

He also told the court that Dariye opened nine accounts in Barclays Bank in 1995, but with little activities until May 1999 when Dariye became governor.

'The money that was paid by this company (Pinnacle Communications Limited) amounted to 395,000pounds for the property at No: 28 Regent Plaza Apartment, 8 Grevile Road, London, NW8.

'Barclays Bank confirmed that Pinnacle Communications had an account with their branch in North West. One Lucky Omorhuwa, his driver was arrested by me. The driver said, prior to the day of the purchase, he drove Dariye and Lucky Omorhuwa to purchase the apartment.

'Lucky was arrested and he admitted that he purchased the property for Dariye and that he was given naira equivalent in Nigeria.

'From examining Mr. Dariye's account, we discovered that he travelled all over the world, from his passport, we saw stamps from several countries. We found seven pairs of shoes, which cost 700pounds per pair. He paid Euro7, 000 for a pen. He purchased a lot of things in high luxurious stores.

Under cross-examination by Dariye's lawyer, Garba Pwul (SAN), the witness said 'I'm here on my own free will. I started the investigation of the case in January 2004 in London. So, as a good police officer, I was interested in seeking to the end of the case I started. That was why I came.'

Clerk, who confirmed that he earlier testified some years before an investigative committee in Jos, Plateau State, explained that he did not complete his evidence before the investigating Committee in Jos because the defence was playing games.

'They would not ask me questions on the evidence. They had three days to cross examine me. They had ample opportunity to have asked me all they wanted. But they were playing game and were concerned about the admissibility of the evidence,' he said.

He admitted that the evidence he gave actually led to Dariye's impeachment.

He also acknowledged that the Court of Appeal and Supreme Court set aside the impeachment.

On whether he knew the Court of Appeal and Supreme Court set aside the impeachment because he did not complete his evidence, he said the defence had sufficient to have concluded cross-examining him.

On whether it was not the same issue that played out, since he also refused to return to London, said he did not sign an undertaking, but that Dariye signed an undertaking.

'He broke the law in London by not coming back. He signed an undertaking to return but he refused to return. Mr. Dariye knows he is wanted in London. That is why he has not returned to London. Since 2004 and now, 2016, he has not returned to the UK. Before then, he used to frequent London every now and then.'

On Pwul's claim that he was motivated to testify before the court by the anger he bore against Dariye, the witness said 'In my career, there are many people, who have refused to return after being granted bail. You do not get angry, you get used to it. I was used to it.'

The witness said he attended the court today because of the invitation from the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). he told the court that he trip to Nigeria, accommodation and all other expenses have been taken care of by the National Crime Agency  of the UK and the British High Commission in Nigeria.

Clerk ended his testimony Monday, following which the trial judge, Justice Adebukola Banjoko adjourned to June 6 for continuation of trial. - The Nation.