Friday, December 9

MUST READ!!! $2 bn Abacha loot: Gwarzo issued 60 false security letters

 MUST READ!!! $2 bn Abacha loot: Gwarzo issued 60 false security letters

The ignoble role played by the Cen­tral Bank of Nigeria (CBN) during the regime of late General Sani Abacha in releasing over $2 bil­lion cash through more than 60 false security votes letters has been exposed.

Similarly, the activities of the Union Bank of Nige­ria Plc and the defunct In­land Bank Plc (part of the conglomerate of banks that merged to form the Unity Bank Plc), and the intricate web of wire-transfers of the Abacha loot have been un­earthed.

Documents obtained from the District of Colum­bia Criminal Court in the United States (US) portrayed both the then National Secu­rity Adviser (NSA) and CBN as “irresponsible and anti Nigeria” and operated in ways that jeopardised the interests of the country.

A 41-page document captioned “Verified Com­plaint for Forfeiture In Rem” which was submitted at the US court through the Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Section (Crim­inal Division) of the US De­partment of Justice by Jaiku­mar Ramaswamy, the Chief Asset Forfeiture and Mon­ey laundering Section Offic­er, and verified and executed on November 15th, 2013, by Debra LaPrevotte, an FBI Su­pervisory Special Agent, ex­posed the ignoble roles of the NSA and the CBN in the en­tire fraud.

According to the docu­ment, Alhaji Ismaila Gwarzo, who was then the NSA, exe­cuted several false security let­ters directing the withdrawal of funds from the CBN.

These letters were ap­proved by the late Gen. Sani Abacha and immediately ex­ecuted by the CBN without raising an eyebrow, although CBN officials were aware that the requests were fraudulent and that the withdrawals vi­olated the country’s financial regulations.

The court document also highlighted that although top officials of the CBN knew that the document referred to as “security vote letters” were ille­gitimate monies stated in such letters, they were nonetheless released, while the same CBN facilitated the means though which such monies were laun­dered overseas in an intricate web using various Nigerian banks.

For example, Ramaswa­my disclosed that “In order to steal public funds from Ni­geria, the National Security Adviser, Gwarzo, at General Abacha’s direction, prepared one-to-two page letters to General Abacha purporting to request millions of US dol­lars, British Pounds Sterling and Nigerian Naira, to ad­dress unidentified “emergen­cies” that threatened Nigeria’s national interests.

“General Abacha en­dorsed each letter with his sig­nature, thereby approving the disbursement of the requested monies. The endorsed ‘secu­rity votes letters’ were sent to the CBN, and the CBN, act­ing in accordance with the letters, disbursed the funds as directed in cash or travel­ler’s cheques or through wire transfers”.

The prosecutors empha­sised that “Using these ‘securi­ty votes letters’ to take money from the CBN violated what the CBN has described as Ni­geria’s “acceptable government procedures”.

However, the depositions explained that “the proper government procedures re­quired the Minister of Finance and the Accountant-Gener­al to approve each disburse­ments in accordance with Ni­geria’s budget” and not as they had done at that time.

The prosecutor added that “the security votes with­drawals were not properly ap­proved by both the Minister of Finance and the Accountant-General and were also not in­cluded in Nigeria’s budget of the relevant fiscal years”.

Describing the actions of the CBN as less than sal­utary, the US prosecutors in­sisted that even after the over 60 false security vote letters had been issued, the CBN re­leased the money in cash and also facilitated the fraudulent procedures through which the “funds were deposited into ac­counts controlled or used to purchase assets for the bene­fit of General Abacha, by in­cumbent Governor Abubakar Atiku Bagudu of Kebbi State or other members of the con­spiracy”.

Further providing details of the ignoble procedures used to launder the money out of Nigeria, the prosecutors stressed that “the conspirators transported the proceeds of the security votes fraud out of Nigeria to accounts in Europe that were under the conspir­ators’ private control” or the nominated companies where they had controlling influence.

Two prominent Nigerian banks, the Union Bank of Ni­geria Plc and the defunct In­land Bank Plc, were listed as the major banks used to wire such illicit monies.

Investigations by The AU­THORITY showed that, “the funds were transferred from Union Bank or Inland Bank back to the CBN, to an ac­count held by Union Bank or Inland Bank at the CBN.

“The CBN then trans­ferred the funds from the ac­count of Union Bank or Inland Bank to their respective over­seas domiciliary accounts held at banks in either London or New York.

“The specific London ac­count varied depending on which Nigerian commercial bank had been used in the first instance”, stressing that “through these cash swaps, millions of dollars were trans­ported into and out of the US into accounts held in the name of the defendant’s corpora­tions, including correspond­ence banks like Barclays Bank Plc, New York; Eagle Alli­ance account at ANZ Lon­don, Morgan Guaranty Trust Bank, New York and Com­merzbank AG in London, among other banks (some of which had been mentioned in our previous news stories on this matter).

For instance, on Novem­ber 5th, 1995, $6 million was wired and landed at Eagle Alli­ance Account in Barclays Bank on November 13.

Similarly, $320,000 was moved from Inland Bank to Morgan Guarantee Trust Bank; between August and November, 1995, at least $7.2 million was wire- transferred into Eagle Alliance account at ANZ London by or on behalf of Senator Ahmadu Daura.

In 1997, additional $20 million proceeds of the ‘se­curity votes fraud’ was wire transferred from Inland Bank of Nigeria Plc’s domiciliary account at Commerzbank AG in London into and out of correspondent bank, Cred­it Lyonnais, New York, for de­posit into account number 223405881USD held in the name of Rayville at Banque SBA, in Paris.

On July 17, 1997, addi­tional $10 million was wire transferred across same sets of banks in the name of Har­bour Engineering, located at Banque SBA in Paris.

As for $59 million which was wire transferred between November 1997 and January 1998, the hearing court was informed that “first, the $59 million in proceeds were trans­ferred from Inland Bank; sec­ond, the CBN credited the pro­ceeds to the bank’s domiciliary account held at Citibank (New York); third, Citibank trans­ferred the money into a corre­spondent bank account held at Barclays Bank (New York); fourth, Barclays Bank trans­ferred proceeds into Mecos­ta’s account at Standard bank”.

Several other mind-bog­gling fraudulent procedures used to steal Nigeria’s resourc­es were also mentioned in the said court document, ostensi­bly forcing President Muham­madu Buhari to begin current strident moves to clean up the activities of the National Se­curity Adviser (NSA) and in­troduce current reforms at the CBN - which are already yield­ing positive dividends.

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