PREMIUM TIMES has obtained exclusive details of how officials at the an Abuja branch of Fidelity Bank allegedly facilitated the laundering of hundreds of millions of naira by the embattled former Chairman of the Pension Reform Task Team, Abdulrasheed Maina.
Details contained in the proof of evidence attached to the 35-count amended charge of stealing and money laundering against a former Head of Service, Steve Oronsaye and five others showed how the bankers relying on telephone instructions and scanned email messages from Mr. Maina helped him to move hundreds of millions of naira from the accounts of the three companies to some Bureau De Change operators.
The operators then converted the monies to United States Dollars for onward delivery to Mr. Maina.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission is accusing Mr. Maina, including three companies linked to him – Cluster Logistics Limited, Kangolo Dynamic Cleaning Limited and Drew Investment and Construction Company Limited – of corruption and money laundering.
The former pension chief is widely believed to be hibernating abroad, to escape prosecution by law enforcement organizations in Nigeria, particularly the EFCC.
Earlier this week, the Commission declared Mr. Maina wanted as the agency claimed that it had been on his trail for months with no trace of his whereabouts. His lawyers disagreed, saying the former pension boss had never been invited for interrogation.
The agency’s investigators, through a complex chart, provides some rare glimpse into the complex web of illicit deals and network of relationships that saw hundreds of millions of pension funds allegedly ending up in the private pockets of Mr. Maina, Mr. Oronsaye and other persons complicit in the pension fraud.
The chart showed how monies travelled from pension accounts through front companies and ghost pensioners, and through banks and Bureau De Change into the pockets of alleged pension thieves.
Mr. Maina, investigators found, operated the accounts of Cluster Logistics Limited, Kangolo Dynamic Cleaning Limited and Drew Investment and Construction Company Limited, using an assumed name of Abdulahi Faizal.
Oluwatoyin Meseke, an assistant banking executive in the marketing unit of Fidelity Bank is the account officer to Mr. Maina. He was picked up in the course of the investigation by the anti-graft agency.
In the statement he gave to the EFCC on October 7, Mr. Meseke stated that he became the account officer for Cluster Logistics when the former account officer, Kalid Aliyu Biu, incidentally the younger brother to mr. Maina, resigned sometime in 2012.
He claimed that he did not know the real owner of the account until he started receiving instructions from Mr. Maina.
“Cluster Logistics account usually has inflows into it by cash payments, but transactions are done by telephone calls from the brother of my colleague, Khalid Aliyu Biu ( Abdulrasheed Maina). I usually receive calls from his brother( Abdulrasheed Maina) to make payment on his account,” he said.
He went on to give specific instances when payments were made solely on the strength of telephone calls or scanned messages from Mr. Maina.
“The transaction of N33, 800,000, transferred to West Waves Bureau De Change ( BDC) was by email sent by Abdulrashed Maina (using Abdullahi Faizal, not real name) via his email, [email protected], to carry out the transaction, for onward delivery to him in Dollars.
“Also, the transfer of N42, 500,000 to West Waves BDC was done on June 5, 2014 by email message sent by Abdulrasheed Maina via his [email protected], to carry out the transaction for onward delivery to him.
“Also on May 6, 2015, he sent another instruction, scanned and sent to me, to also debit Cluster Logistics with the sum of N47,400,000 and credit West Waves BDC, who converts the naira to Dollars and sent to him,” he said.
Danjuma Zubairu, Mr. Meseke’s boss who oversees private banking at the branch, and who was also guest of the EFCC, could not explain the sources of the massive cash flow into the account of the three companies linked to Mr. Maina.
He told investigators that he believed that some of the lodgements were not proportionate to the income of Maina, who was an Assistant Director in the Ministry of Interior.
“In my opinion, some of the lodgements into the account are not commensurate with his legitimate income. That is salaries and wages,” he said.
Mr. Danjuma explained that all the three accounts operated in the bank by Mr. Maina were opened by his younger brother, Aliyu Biu, while he was in the employment of the bank. It was when he resigned that the accounts were ceded to Mr. Meseke.
Investigators described Aliyu Biu a major beneficiary of the incestuous relationship between Mr. Maina and Fidelity bank.
“While it seems he was planted in the bank to facilitate his elder brother’s money laundering schemes, his employment would not have been possible but for Maina’s coup in helping to move the N8billion Police Pension account from First Bank to Fidelity Bank,” one investigator said. “Based on this, he requested and got his younger brother employed by Fidelity Bank.”