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8 Nov 2016

Saraki Didn’t Sell Rice, Sugar To Buy Lagos Property –Witness

A prosecution witness, Mr. Michael Wetkas, in the ongoing trial of Senate President Bukola Saraki before the Code of Conduct Tribunal, said on Monday that the claim by Saraki that he bought a property in Lagos with proceeds of rice and sugar sale was false.

Wetkas, who was being cross-examined for the 13th-day by the defence, told the Danladi Umar-led CCT that the Senate President actually bought the properties located at 17A and B Mcdonald Street, Ikoyi, Lagos, in 2006 with the loans he obtained from Guaranty Trust Bank.

Saraki is being prosecuted by the Federal Government before the CCT on 16 counts, bordering on false and anticipatory asset declaration, which he allegedly made as Governor of Kwara State between 2003 and 2011.

At the resumed hearing of the case on Monday, Wetkas was asked by the defence lawyer, Mr. Paul Usoro (SAN), to read from the various asset declaration forms completed by the Senate President and earlier admitted by the CCT as exhibits.

In his asset declaration form of June 3, 2011, which he submitted at the end of his second term as governor, Saraki, declared that he acquired the property in 2006, and five others in 1990, 1991, 1992, 1996 and 2000 with proceeds of rice and sugar sale.

Saraki had earlier declared in his asset declaration form, dated July 11, 2007, at the end of his first term as Kwara State governor, and at the beginning of his second term as governor, that he acquired the properties through a loan worth N497m.

Wetkas, as directed by the defence lawyer, also read from the GTB statement of account of the Senate President covering 2005 to 2015.

The bank statement was earlier admitted by the CCT as Exhibit 7.

Wetkas confirmed that Saraki obtained three loans in the sums of N380m, N380m and N400m in connection with the properties he acquired.

He said, “In 2006, the balance was N9,779,109.79 before the loan was credited.

“This first loan taken was used to pay the one before. The loan amount was N380m. The property it was used to buy was worth N256.3m. There was five per cent charge, translating into N12,815,000.

“It was liquidated on February 5, 2007. When the loan was liquidated, it took the balance to a debit balance  of N231,552,804.93

“Then another loan of N380m was taken on the same February 5, 2007. The second loan was taken to defray the debit.

“It now gave a credit balance of N98m.

“As of the 2007 declaration, there was debit outstanding of the loan of up to N300m, which was not declared in 2007 declaration.

“On August 27, 2009, the balance on the account shows an inflow into the account of N100m through banker’s cheque.

“On July 31, 2009, it shows that the account was in debit of about N93,933,654.15.

“After the inflow of N100m on August 27, it went into credit balance of N6,066,345.6

“On April 30, 2009, the account was in debit position of N17m. On the same date, there was a loan disbursement of N400m.”

The witness confirmed that as of the time Saraki declared the said property at 17A and B Mcdonald Street, Ikoyi, Lagos, in 2011, he (the Senate President) had finished repaying the loans.

When asked to respond to the allegation in Count 3 that the repayment of the loan amounted to Saraki’s act of abuse of office as Governor of Kwara State and if the funds used in repaying the loans were drawn from Kwara State treasury, Wetkas maintained that “the funds were proceeds of crime”.

He said, “I have to be careful in answering your question. I have said I did not investigate the account of Kwara State Government.

“But I have earlier said in my evidence-in-chief that the loans were paid back through cash lodgements, made into the account of the defendant with GTB at G.R.A, Ilorin.

“Aides to the defendant, serving him when he was governor, have told us that the defendant gave them the cash at the Government House in Ilorin.

“The account officer has told us how the lodgements were made. We believe that the funds were proceeds of crime because the defendant could not have engaged in trade of rice and sugar while he was still governor.

“We believe that the cash given to the aides amounted to money laundering because they were above the threshold stipulated by law. So, if the case of money laundering is established against a public officer while in office, that is an abuse of office.”

But the defence lawyer, Usoro, asked the tribunal not to record the statement made by Wetkas on the grounds that the CCT lacked jurisdiction to look into money laundering allegations.

The trial continues on Tuesday.

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