The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission on Wednesday arraigned Malabu Oil and Gas Limited for money laundering offences in connection to the controversial oil block, OPL 245 transactions.
A businessman, Aliyu Abubakar, and six other firms were also arraigned alongside by the EFCC in the 48 counts involving about $1 billion and N673 million.
When the charges were read to the defendants before Justice Inyang Ekwo of the Federal High Court, Abuja, they separately pleaded not guilty to the counts in which their names were mentioned as defendants.
Apart from Malabu Oil firm and Abubakar, others who were arraigned along with them were the businessman’s six firms.
The firms were: A-Group Construction Company Limited, Rocky Top Resources Limited, Mega Tech Engineering Limited, Novel Properties and Development Company Limited, and Carlin International Nigeria Limited.
In one of the counts, the prosecution alleged that Malabu Oil and two of its Directors, said to be on the run: Seidougha Munamuna and a former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Dauzia Etete, who is widely known as Dan Etete, “directly or indirectly converted” the sum of $401,540,000 paid from the Federal Government of Nigeria Escrow Account with JP Morgan Chase Bank in London into Malabu Oil’s account with First Bank of Nigeria Limited.
The commission alleged that they converted the money “knowing that the funds formed part of an unlawful activity, that is, “negotiation and signing of oil block 245 Resolution Agreement with Shell Nigeria Ultra Deep Limited, Nigeria Agip Exploration Limited, Shell Nigeria Exploration and Production Company Limited whereby taxes due to the Federal Government was waived”.
This, the prosecution, alleged constituted an offence contrary to section 15(2)(b) of the Money Laundering Prohibition Act 2011 (as amended) and punishable under section 15(3) of the same Act.
The prosecution also alleged that the same set of persons took control of the said sum of $401,540,000 in violation of section 9(a) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, an act punishable under section 15(3) of the same law.
EFCC similarly alleged that in September 2011, Abubakar and Rocky Top Resources Limited took control of the of $336,456,906.78 which was said to be part of proceeds of unlawful activity in the Malabu Oil deal.
It alleged that in August 2011, Abubakar and Imperial Union Limited also took control of the sum of $34,540,00 received from Malabu Oil and Gas.
The fund was also said to be part of the proceeds unlawful activity in the OPL 245 deal.
Abubakar who was named in 43 of the counts was also accused of failing to report in writing to the EFCC certain single-fund transactions involving the bank accounts of his separe companies between 2011 and 2014.
The EFCC alleged that the firms being Designated Non-Financial Institutions, are by virtue of section 10(1)(b) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act 2011 ought to report such huge transactions to the EFCC in writing, failing which is punishable under section 10(3) of the same law.
Specifically, Abubakar and his Carlin International Nigeria Limited allegedly failed to report the lodgement of N300 million in the firm’s account by a former Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mohammed Adoke (SAN) in February 2012.
It was also alleged that the businessman and A-Group Construction Company Limited failed to report the sum of N32.108 million paid to Triax BDC in January 2014; and N38 million paid to them by Falana Properties Limited in August 2015.
In August 2011, the businessman and Megatech Engineering were said to have to failed to report the transfer of $180 million from Malabu Oil’s account to them.
In September 2016, they were said to have similarly failed to report the transfer of N50 million to them.
They were also said to have failed to report the transfer of N253.05 million from Megatech’s account to Hasbunallahu BDC Limited in September 2016.
The EFCC also alleged that the sum of $73.5 million paid to Rocky Top Resources by Malabu Oil in September 2013 was not reported.
Similarly, Abubakar and Novel Properties were accused of failing to report the deposit of $30 million from Malabu Oil and Gas into Novel Properties’ account in September 2011.
After the 48 counts were read, EFCC’s prosecuting counsel, Bala Sanga, said he would not oppose Abubakar’s bail application.
Abubakar’s lawyer, Chief Akin Olujinmi (SAN), who thanked Sanga for showing understanding, urged Justice Ekwo to adopt the previous bail conditions adopted as was done in a similar case before the judge on June 17.
The other defendants were firms which did not require bail applications.
They were separately represented by R. Atabo, and Olalekan Ojo (SAN).
Justice Ekwo adjourned the trial until September 7, 2020.