* PDP demands detainees’ release
Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) detectives are probing Abdullahi Babalele, ex-Vice President Atiku Abubakar’s son-in-law, for suspected laundering of about €150million (Euro).
Babalele is in EFCC’s custody with his alleged accomplice, Mr. Uyi Giwa-Osagie, who had earlier been arrested by detectives.
About €67, 950,000 of the suspected 150m Euro has been traced to the accounts of Osagie, Babalele, two slush firms and two Bureau de Change operators.
Of the € 67.9m, Uyi’s account received €26,050,00million between January 9 and 28. Babalele is expected to account for €41,900,000.
Detectives believe, going by their findings, that the €150million was allegedly laundered for the general elections.
Both Uyi and Babalele, who is the Group Finance Director of Atiku’s companies, were still in custody as at press time yesterday, pending the conclusion of the investigation.
The EFCC intercepted a $1.6m transaction on February 11 at a Bureau de Change on Lagos Island.
It was gathered that a comprehensive trail of the affected BDC exchange activities led to the unraveling of the huge cash.
A source, who spoke in confidence, gave insights into how the hefty cash was being moved around to avoid the prying eyes of the EFCC.
The source said: “In the course of our routine exercise of monitoring BDCs, our operatives went to a market on Lagos Island where they intercepted $1.6million at a Bureau De Change. We intercepted the dollars because they were unable to convert it into Naira.
“The $1.6m was already given to the BDC operator on the island for exchange into Naira. As at the time our operatives moved in, about $141,000 out of the $1.6million was already converted into Naira at the rate of N358 per dollar. The balance of $1, 459,000 was still intact because of the scarcity of Naira.
“Those interrogated claimed that the $1.6m belonged to a BDC man in Abuja. Further investigation on the real owner of the cash led to the identification of Mr. Uyi Giwa-Osagie.
“We interviewed Uyi but he was not forthcoming on how he came about the money.
“We, however, traced huge inflows into Uyi Giwa-Osagie’s account (Guernsey Trust Company Nigeria Limited) to the tune of €26,050,00million. The same money was later converted to $30m and lodged in a dollar account.
“From this dollar account, transfers were made to BDCs and that was how we intercepted the $1.6m.”
Detectives also uncovered how Babalele got involved in the alleged money laundering.
Another source said: “Our operatives discovered how €41,900,000 was wired into an account of a suspected shell company called Afritech Utilities by Intels West Africa Limited. Part of the same inflows was transferred to various BDCs for the purpose of conversion to Naira.
“The signatory of Afritech Utilities happens to be Abdullahi Babalele. We, therefore, felt there was the need to invite Babalele to explain how he came about this humongous money.”
Replying to a question, the source said: “Investigation confirmed that Afritech Utilities has three members of staff two directors and one secretary.
“The profiling showed that there is no particular business that Afritech is engaged in. Babalele at a point claimed the company is engaging in importation of cars but no shred of document to prove. Later, he said the importation of the cars was for family use.
“It is more or less a shell company. Guernsey Trust Company Nigeria Limited is only protecting the interest of others.”
Two BDC operators (one in Abuja; the other in Lagos) have been quizzed by the EFCC.
“We have interrogated these two BDC owners but investigation is still on,” the source said.
Uyi and Babalele have maintained that they have nothing to do with money laundering.
They alleged that the € 67.9m was a loan granted by Intels West Africa Limited to enhance business capital.
“Some loan agreements by Intels, Guernsey Trust Company Nigeria Limited and Afritech Utilities were presented to the EFCC’s team but no evidence of board or shareholders’ resolutions. It was not clear what the loan was meant for.
“The agreements appeared anticipatory in case of any issue. We are detaining the two suspects pending the conclusion of investigation when we will grant them bail,” another source said.
Asked to be specific on the summary of the findings, the source said: “Those funds intercepted in BDCs and the withdrawals were suspected to be cash-for-poll deal in order to influence the general elections.”
The Acting Head of Media and Publicity of EFCC, Mr. Tony Orilade, gave terse response to enquiries.
He said: “Yes, Babalele is with us. We don’t do our investigation in the media.
“I don’t have details for now but at the appropriate time, we shall speak.”
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) yesterday demanded the immediate and unconditional release of Deputy Director-General (Admin) of its Presidential Campaign Organisation, Tanimu Turaki, SAN.
Turaki, who was arrested by operatives of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), was reportedly being detained by the anti-graft agency.
A statement last night by the PDP spokesman said Turaki’s arrest and detention was part of the grand plot to use state apparatus of power to intimidate opposition leaders and scuttle the PDP’s determination to reclaim its February 23 presidential election victory in court.
Demanding the immediate and unconditional release of Turaki, who was said to have been arrested Monday, the party claimed the campaign chief was arrested and detained for no reason.
The statement reads: “Since the people’s candidate, Atiku Abubakar and the PDP expressed our unwavering determination to reclaim our victory at the tribunal, being armed with overwhelming evidence, our leaders have been subjected to escalated harassments, constant threats, blackmails, cajoling and contrivances by the APC to drop our legal option.
“It is instructive to state that Tanimu Turaki was arrested and detained upon invitation by the EFCC to endorse a bail document for the Finance Director of Atiku Abubakar’s company, Babalele Abdullahi, who was arrested earlier by the commission over flimsy allegations.
“The PDP, however, states in clear terms that the APC and the Buhari Presidency are fighting a lost battle as no amount of harassment and threats will ever make the party to buckle in its determination to take back the mandate.”