Sat. Jul 31st, 2021

N1.4bn Fraud: How N700m Was Paid Into Paul Usoro’s Account By Akwa-Ibom Govt. Zenith Bank

A prosecution witness in the case of alleged N1.4 billion money laundering involving the President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) Paul Usoro (SAN) has revealed how N700 million was paid into the bank account of Paul Usoro on the instruction of Linus Nkan, former Accountant-General of Akwa Ibom State.

Usoro (SAN) is being prosecuted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for allegedly laundered the sum of N1.4 billion for the Akwa-Ibom State government, under the present administration of Governor Emmanuel Udom. 

One of the banks allegedly used to laundered the said sum by the NBA president, is Zenith Bank Plc.

Giving the details on how Akwa-Ibom Government allegedly paid several millions into Usoro’s Account with the Zenith Bank Plc, the EFCC witness, Udom Idongesit, a Relations Manager at the Aka Road branch of the bank in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, while being led-in-evidence by the counsel to the EFCC, Rotimi Oyedepo, on Wednesday, gave vivid details on how millions were lodged into Usoro’s account that on March 10, 2016.

Udom stated that a withdrawal instrument of N700 million on the imprests account of the Akwa Ibom State Accountant General was made payable to Paul Usoro’s Zenith Bank account.

She also told the court that she made moves to get Usoro to open an account with her Bank so that the money could be paid to him through the account which was opened for the defendant by her due to the fact that the defendant never had an account with her bank (Zenith Bank) prior to this transaction.

She further told the court that she got Usoro’s contact from Akwa-Ibom State Governor, Mr. Udom Emmanuel on March 14, 2016 and later put a call through to the defendant informing him about the payment.

She said upon getting Usoro, he directed her to work with two of his colleagues, when she had confirmed the exact name registered on the form.

She said: “Mr. Paul Usoro instructed me to work with two of his colleagues. When I confirmed the exact names registered on the form, I sought the approval of my zonal head to open the account and made the deposit while waiting for documentation.

“I filled the deposit slip and the depositor’s name that I filled was Paul Usoro,” Idongesit told the court.

She further told the court that after she had opened the account in the Usoro’s name, N300 million was first credited to Usoro’s account on March 14, 2016 in cash which was the first entry and subsequently, more funds were credited into the defendant’s account to the tune of N400 million.

She however told the court that she did all the transactions on behalf of Paul Usoro as instructed by the defendant.

Furthermore, the witness told the court that monies were later transferred into individuals and companies from the defendant’s account on the instructions from Usoro.

She said: “On March 22, 2016, Mr. Paul Usoro instructed me to transfer the sum of N2.5 million to one Assam Ekanem, N7.5 million to Taiwo Oyetibo & Co, N7.5 million to Oyechi Ipeaza, N5 million to Uzuegbu Nelson Aju, N30 million to OEB Offiong and N7.5 million to DD Dodo & Co.

“Transfer of N3 million was also made to one Reginald Nwobbi, N2 million to Sevanne Chambers and N20 million to Theophilous Oyesanya”.

She further told the court that there were emails to show and reflect the instructions given to her by the defendant regarding all the transactions, also emails showing the means of records to all transactions were available.

Also while giving evidence, the witness told the court that the N700 million paid into Paul Usoro’s account emanated from the Accountant-General office of Akwa Ibom State.

However, all emails regarding the transactions, instruments of payment, account opening package, certification of identification and statements of account were tendered by the prosecutor, Mr. Oyedepo as evidence and were all admitted in evidence by the court.

Justice Rilwan Aikawa however, after admitting some documents tendered by the prosecution counsel as exhibits, adjourned the case till January 13 and February 11 and 12, 2020 for continuation of trial.

It would be recalled that Usoro (SAN) was first arraigned before Justice Sule Hassan on December 18, 2018 before the case was transferred to Justice Aikawa.

Paul Usoro (SAN) was re-arraigned on Friday, March 1, 2019, before Justice Aikawa of the Federal High Court, Lagos on 10 counts of N1.4bn fraud.

He was charged along with Nsikan Nkan, Akwa Ibom State Commissioner for Finance; Mfon Udomah, Accountant-General of Akwa Ibom State; Uwemedimo Nwoko, Attorney-General of Akwa Ibom State and Margaret Ukpe, who are all at large.

He had however pleaded not guilty to the charges preferred against him by the EFCC.

One of the counts reads: “that you, Paul Usoro (SAN), Emmanuel Udom (currently constitutionally immune against criminal prosecution), Uwemedimo Thomas Nwoko (still at large), Nsikan Linus Nkan, Commissioner of Finance, Akwa Ibom State (still at large), Mfon Jacobson Udomah, Accountant-General, Akwa Ibom State, (still at large) and Margaret Thompson Ukpe (still at large) sometime in 2015 in Nigeria, within the jurisdiction of this Honourable  Court, conspired amongst yourselves to commit an offence, to wit: conversion of the sum of N1,410,000,000 (One Billion, Four Hundred and Ten  Million Naira), property of the Government of Akwa Ibom State of Nigeria, which sum you reasonably ought to have known forms part of the proceeds of an unlawful activity to wit: criminal breach of trust and thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 18(a) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2011 as amended and punishable under Section 15(3) of the same Act”.