SaharaReporters has received exclusive documents of a police investigation revealing how Nigeria’s current Senate President, Bukola Saraki, made a series of questionable deposits and illegal withdrawals from banks in order to launder stolen funds through shell companies and an American Express credit card. The report was authored by a team of detectives at the Special Fraud Unit of the Nigerian police headed by a Commissioner of Police.
The police investigation found that Mr. Saraki, during his tenure as Governor of Kwara State, was the “prime promoter” of several shell companies, including Skyview Properties Ltd., Limkers Ltd., Dicetrade Ltd., Carlisle Properties and Investment Ltd., and the parent company known as Joy Petroleum.
Senator Saraki’s moneymaking scheme, according to the details of the Special Fraud Unit’s investigation, was to withdraw millions of naira disguised as loans from GTBank, Intercontinental Bank, Zenith Bank Plc. The funds were then moved into different accounts, sometimes under the guise that the purpose was to pay off some bank debts with other “loans.”
A part of the investigation discovered that Senator Saraki at various times withdrew 11 billion naira from the Intercontinental Bank, 160 million naira from Zenith Bank, and 204 million naira from GTBank. According to the report, “the investigation also saw evidence of a 200 million naira loan facility that was availed by Zenith Bank to Joy Petroleum Ltd.”
During an interrogation, Mr. Saraki admitted to owning all these companies with the exception of Joy Petroleum. The owner of Joy Petroleum, the senator claimed, was his former personal assistant, Mathew Obahor. He also added that Mr. Obahor administered the other companies throughout his tenure as Governor of Kwara State.
However, the investigators believed that Mr. Saraki lied to them about Obahor’s role. They found out that Mr. Obahor was “sick and in a vegetative state and could not have instructed the bank” to make financial transactions in the name of Joy Petroleum or any of other companies.
As the special investigators reviewed Bukola Saraki’s statements they found that Zenith Bank issued a loan in Saraki’s name on November 25, 2009 for N160 million.
When pressured, the bank provided two incriminating documents including “(1) an internal [bank] ledger statement of account in the name of Dr. Bukola Saraki showing a debit withdrawal of 160 million on 26/11/2009 and a credit deposit of 11,901369.98 on 26/05/2010. (2) A page of the bank’s Manager’s Cheque register showing that a draft of 160 million [naira] in favor of Joy Petroleum Ltd was signed for by one Uche Phillips.”
The investigation noted, “Bukola Saraki, who was purportedly granted a N160 million loan with which a draft of N160 million was made in the name of Joy Petroleum Ltd, was not a customer of Zenith Bank. He neither maintains a current nor saving account with the Zenith Bank that claimed to have granted him the loan.”
The report also added that Bukola Saraki did not apply for that loan with a “formal request as is best practice.”
The police also concluded that the “purported loan has remained unpaid and un-serviced and there is no evidence that the bank has made any demand on Dr. Bukola Saraki to repay the purported loan.”
The Special Fraud Unit extended its investigation into companies belonging to Bukola Saraki, and discovered “evidence indicative of money laundering.” The investigation found that “a series of cash lodgments were found in accounts of the companies solely belonging to Dr. Bukola Saraki within the period he was the Executive Governor of Kwara State. The investigation observes that the monies were deposited in cash by personal aides of Dr. Bukola Saraki, especially one Abdul Adama.”
The investigators found that the total sum of money laundered by Mr. Saraki was more than two billion naira. They also remarked on numerous sneaky tactics that Saraki’s aides used to make secret deposits of laundered funds. According to investigators, Abdul Adama “was responsible for making the cash deposits using several fictitious names and GSM numbers of several unsuspecting members of the public.” The police used the identical handwriting on the deposit slips to trace the deposits to Mr. Adama.
The investigators also discovered that Bukola Saraki’s wife, Toyin Saraki, was listed as the second Director and shareholder of Skyview Properties Ltd, but she was unable to explain how the company generated revenue or the source of cash deposits.
The police investigators also found, according to the report, that “a series of cash lodgments was found in the personal accounts of Dr. Bukola Saraki during the period he was Executive Governor of Kwara State.” Moreover, the report concluded that the “pattern and frequencies of cash deposits into these personal accounts of Dr. Bukola Saraki, are indicative of money laundering.”
The police report also asserted: “the [stolen] funds were mostly washed overseas to fund Dr. Bukola Saraki’s American Express Card No. 374588216836009.” The investigators concluded that Mr. Saraki’s personal account “also received an inflow of about $4,560,871.27 between May 18th 2009 and May 5th 2011, mostly cash lodgments and a couple NIFT Transfers.”
The Special Fraud Unit recommended that Bukola Saraki be prosecuted for offenses related to money laundering, violation of foreign exchange laws, and breaches of the Failed Banks (Recovery of Debts) and Financial Malpractices in Banks Act.
The police investigators accused Mr. Saraki of using proceeds of corruption to purchase properties abroad. In particular, the report revealed that Senator Saraki bought several houses in the UK both in his name as well as that of his wife.
One of our sources in the Ministry of Justice stated that Nigeria’s immediate past Attorney General, Bello Adoke, obstructed the prosecution of the current Senate President. “Both the police investigators and some lawyers in the Ministry [of Justice] recommended that Governor Bukola Saraki should face prosecution. However, the AGF [Adoke] refused to give permission to prosecute Saraki based on the weighty evidence provided by the Special Fraud Unit,” a source in the ministry told our correspondent.
Instead of proceeding with the prosecution of Mr. Saraki, the Ministry of Justice instructed the Special Fraud Unit to focus more of their attention on the role of Zenith Bank in the shady financial transactions.
Mr. Adoke’s tenure as AGF saw the weakening of the ministry’s prosecution of political powerful as well as high-level corporate elements in Nigeria. Mr. Saraki was one of the notable beneficiaries of the Adoke era of “looking the other way instead of tackling massive cases of graft and money laundering,” said one source.