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How N1.9bn Gas Project Was Squandered –Witness

Witness revealed how N2bn meant for community gas project, was squandered among Shell Consultants and officials of the Bayelsa state Urban and Regional Planning Department.

Xavier Ndanyongmong

Afanda Bashir Emmanuel, the first prosecution witness in the ongoing trial of Chidi David Adabanya and 11 others by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, yesterday revealed how the accused persons squandered approximately N2 Billion meant for the community gas project, among Shell Consultants and officials of the Bayelsa state Urban and Regional Planning Department.

At the resumed hearing yesterday Emmanuel, a staff of EFCC, who was led in evidence by the prosecution counsel, Rotimi Jacobs, SAN. told the Federal High Court presided over by Justice Ademola Adeniyi, that the matter was reported to the Commission via a petition signed by Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) alleging that the staff saddled with the responsibility to oversee the project conspired with some officials of Bayelsa state government and defrauded SPDC to the tune of approximately N2 billion.

Prosecution tendered the petition and attachments which were admitted as Exhibit 1.

Emmanuel further narrated how the disbursement of the money was unravelled by the Commission in the course of investigation. According to him, “we reviewed the petition and decided to follow the money trail. My Lord, the money was paid to the account of Forstech Technical Company domiciled in Stanbic IBTC Bank. “While on the money trail, we found out that money was paid out from the account of Forstech Technical, and we invited the first beneficiary of the payment which was Alliance Autos Nigeria Limited located at Victoria Island Lagos. The money was for the purchase of a vehicle which investigations revealed was at the behest of one Ezekiel Bennett Hart, the 7th accused, for his wife despite his initial denial of any knowledge of Forstech to the Commission. Also transfers were traced to Benedicta, Hart’s sister. When she was questioned as to the source and purpose of the money, she revealed that it was from her brother for her to buy a car and take care of their ailing mother”.

The witness further told the court that when the 7th accused was invited to explain the source and reason for the payments and transfers to Alliance Autos and the UBA account of his sister, he claimed a colleague at SPDC, Chidiebere Adabanya was indebted to him and he asked him to pay him back through his sister’s account for convenience. Also, that the money paid to Alliance Auto was an unsolicited gift from Adabanya.

The witness revealed that during investigation the 7th accused’s email account was accessed, and mails emanating from Gastroil Ventures (3rd accused ) to the 7th accused giving instructions as to how monies were to be paid into different accounts were discovered.

In what appears to be a classic case of money laundering, the witness told the court how the money was disbursed to several companies’ accounts. The companies include Baloon Bureau De Change’s account in Finbank (now FCMB), whose owner Harley Halliday explained that the inflow of over a hundred million naira from Forstech was at the instance of the first accused, Adabanya, who wanted the dollar equivalent.

The witness said, Investigations revealed that the 7th accused and his wife owned the Standard chartered Account, to which 200, 000.00United State Dollars was traced. When questioned, he said the money was an unsolicited gift from Adabanya.

Bilquis Integrated Services, Fun Ala and Fambo limited belonging to officials of Bayelsa state were also beneficiaries of the bazaar, with no evidence of work done.

According to PW1, “We saw movement of monies in millions into Gastol Oil Ventures. A letter of enquiry was sent to CAC to find out the identities of the owners of Gastol Oil Ventures and Forstech. The owners were found to be Zubairu and Halima Muazu. The documents showed that their offices were at Warri, Delta State. A team of operatives was sent to Warri, to verify the claim, only for them to discover that no such offices exist.

Justice Ademola adjourned the matter to June 3rd and 5th for continuation of trial.

Adabanya a former employee of SPDC, along with some officials of the Bayelsa State Government allegedly obtained the sum of N1.9billion through a phony consultancy contract in the SPDC Gbaran- Ubie project in Bayelsa State. The other accused persons are Forstech Technical Nigeria Limited, Gastroil Ventures Limited, Uzoma Ibe, Andrew Feyaikebena Ebakpa, Kwokwo Ebiki Bina, Benneth Ezekiel-Hart, Bolouwenimo Kwokwo, Presley Ebakpa, Bikyiis Integrated Services Limited, Fun-Ala Nigeria Limited and Fambo Integrated Services Limited.

The accused persons were in November 17, 2014 re-arraigned before Justice Ademola Adeniyi of the Federal High Court Abuja on a 22-count charge bordering on money laundering.

They pleaded not guilty to the charge when it was read to them.

Count one of the charge reads: “that you Chidi David Adabanya, Forstech Technical Nigeria Limited, Gastoil Ventures Limited, Uzoma Ibe, Andrew Feyaikebena Ebakpa, Kwokwo Ebiki Bina, Benneth Ezekiel Hart, Bolouwenimo Kwokwo, Presley Ebakpa, Bikyiis Integrated Services Limited and Fambo Integrated Services Limited between February 2009 and September 2010 in Yenogoa, Bayelsa State within the jurisdiction of the Federal High Court conspired among yourselves to do an illegal act to wit: money laundering and thereby committed an offence contrary to section 17(a) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2004 and punishable under section 14(1) of the same Act.”

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