The trial of former Benue State governor, Gabriel Suswan, and his Commissioner for Finance, Omodachi Okolobia, commenced yesterday before Justice A. R. Mohammad of the Federal High Court sitting in Maitama Abuja, with a prosecution witness telling the court how Suswan ordered the sale of Benue State-owned shares through Elixir Investment Partners Limited, a stock brokerage firm.
Both Suswan and Omodachi are being prosecuted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, on a nine-count charge bordering on money laundering, abuse of office and obtaining by false pretence to the tune of N3.1 bn.
Suswan and Okolobia were alleged to have diverted the proceeds of the sale of shares owned by the Benue State government and Benue Investment and Property Company Limited.
The offence is punishable under Section 15, Sub-section 3 of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act as amended in 2012. At today’s hearing, prosecution witness, Junaid Sa’id, an operative with the EFCC, told the court how the Commission had swung into action upon receipt of a petition against the accused persons.
Led in evidence by Counsel to EFCC, Rotimi Jacobs, SAN, Sa’id said: “After the Commission received a petition on July 14, 2015, both the staff of Benue Investment and Properties Company (BIPC) and Elixir Investment Partners Limited were invited for interrogation. Investigation revealed that Suswan had requested that shares owned by Benue State be sold for the sum of N 10bn.
‘‘Thereafter, Elixir Investment Partners Limited was appointed as stock brokers to carry out the sale of the shares. Elixir realised over N9bn from the sale of the shares and was directed to make payment into three accounts. Subsequently, the sum of N1bn was directed to be paid to Benue Investment Properties Company and the balance into two separate accounts in favour of Benue State Ministry of Finance.’’
According to him, when payment was to be made by Elixir to one of the Benue State Ministry of Finance accounts, it was discovered that the account belongs to Fanffash Resources.
‘‘Okolobia directed Elixir to pay the money into Fanffash Resources account,’’ he added.
Speaking further, Sa’id told the court that letters were written to Zenith Bank Plc, requesting for the mandate and account statements of Benue State Ministry of Finance and Fanffash Resources.
– Xavier Ndanyongmong