By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
Trial of erstwhile Chairman of the defunct Pension Reform Task Team, Abdulrasheed Maina, resumed before the Federal High Court in Abuja on Thursday, with his younger brother, Khalid Aliyu, revealing that the defendant, paid N150milion in cash to acquire a choice property in Abuja.
Aliyu, who is Maina’s third relative to appear as a witness against him, told the court that the property which his brother purchased from one Alhaji Ali Sani, is located at the Life Camp area of the Federal Capital Territory.
He gave evidence as the 5th prosecution witness in the money laundering charge the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, preferred against the former pension reform boss.
Maina is answering to a 12-count criminal charge alongside his firm, Common Input Property & Investment Limited.
His son, Faisal, is equally facing a separate 3-count money laundering charge before the court.
The prosecution earlier produced Maina’s late brother’s wife, Mrs. Mairo Mohammed, who is a staff of the United Bank for Africa, UBA, as its star witness in the matter.
Aside from revealing that the 1st defendant deposited N3billion in the bank in 2011, the PW-1 told the court that she opened 12 different bank accounts for the ex-pension reform boss and his family members, which she said included both Naira and Dollar accounts.
Similarly, EFCC brought Maina’s younger sister, Mrs Nafisat Aliyu, to testify against him as the PW-4.
Nafisat told the court that she was not aware that her brother used her details to operate a bank account, insisting that she only got to know about it after her sister, Fatima, was arrested by the EFCC in Kaduna State.
Meanwhile, at the resumed proceeding on Thursday, Maina’s younger brother, Aliyu, who hitherto worked as a banker, confirmed to the court that her sister was indeed unaware that an account was operated in her name.
Led in evidence by the prosecution counsel, Mr. Mohammed Abubakar, Aliyu, who said he is presently a civil servant, explained that his elder brother, Maina, used him and his colleague he identified as Oluwatoyin Maseke, to open the account with his sister’s details.
He said: “I know the 1st defendant, he is my brother, Abdulrasheed Maina. We are from the same father and same mother.
“At some point, my brother requested me and my colleague Toyin Meseke, to open a savings account for my sister, Nafisat Aliyu, although she was not aware of the transaction.
“We proceeded to her house at Wuse 2 to collect her utility bill as part of the requirement to open an account.
“Later, Oluwatoyin Meseke collected a copy of her international passport from my brother to complete her account registration. This was because at that time, she was supposed to accompany our mother to the hospital. Her passport and that of my mother was with my brother for Visa processing.
“We particularly requested for the utility bill, but she was unaware of the account opening.
“After we collected the documents for the purpose of the account opening, Oluwatoyin completed the account opening form and the account began transaction.
“Later my sister complained to me that she was receiving debit alert messages on her phone. I asked her to show the messages to me and later advised her to see my colleague Toyin to have her details excluded.
“Toyin Meseke was the one that was single-handedly managing the account. He is aware of most of the inflows and outflows from the account. Although the account after it was opened, was placed under my balance-sheet in order to boost my balance sheet”.
Continuing his Evidence-in-Chief, the witness said: “There is an account that my friend called Sani Musa who registered a company with the C.A.C. opened. The company is called Cluster Logistics.
“Though I wasn’t part of the registration, he sought my consent to add me as a Director in the firm. He initiated the idea of both of us as friends, to start a small scale business. My brother was aware of our intention to start the small scale business.
“Afterwards, the 1st defendant requested to use the company for verification exercise, which we agreed to. But he directed that one Abubakar Mustapha should be the sole signatory.
“Even though Abubakar Mustapha was the identification on the account opening form, the 1st defendant was the signatory.
“There is a third account by Dr. Faisal Abdullahi. The 1st defendant also requested an account by Dr. Faisal Abdullahi be opened as part of investment account for his farm proceeds.
“A man by the name Abdullahi, with a drivers licence as his identification card, provided me with documents for the account opening. The signatory to the account was also the 1st defendant”, the witness added.
On how the former pension boss bought the choice property, the witness said: “The 1st defendant sent me on errand to one Alhaji Ali Sani for payment of a property located at Life Camp. The property was of the value of N150m.
“The 1st defendant gave me the money in cash to deliver to Alhaji Sani. He gave me the money at his residence in Kado Estate, Abuja.
“It was in Dollar currency. After he gave me the money, I delivered it to Alhaji Sani at his residence. He collected it, confirmed it with his people, and handed over the documents to the property to be delivered to the 1st defendant”.
While being cross-examined by Maina’s lawyer, Mr. Afam Osigwe, denied being involved in money laundering or fraudulently scheme while he worked as a banker between 2008 and 2012.
He insisted that though his name was listed as a Director with shares in Cluster Logistics, the firm his brother used its account to conduct transactions, he told the court that he never personally signed the account documents.
“As a director in Cluster Logistics, I am the lowest shareholder in the company and as at the time my friend registered the company with my consent, he wrote my name and signed it.
“In the same way, he was the person that signed the resolution with one Abubakar Mohammed who signed as the secretary.
“When I was informed that I was given shares and made a director in the company, I accepted it.
“I accepted the resolution that authorized the account opening, even though it was my friend that signed and wrote my name on it”.
However, he admitted that standard banking practice required that identify and particulars of any signatory to an account must be ascertained and verified.
“We have to also visit the contact address to confirm that the individual lives there and that the address actually exist. This is why as part of the Know Your Customer, KYC, we have to write a verification report.
“An account will not be authorised in the banking data base, unless the details are authenticated through the verification process.
“Besides being a civil servant, my brother was also involved in farming. He has a farm along Keffi Road, Nasarawa State.
“I am an experienced banker. I underwent so many trainings that included anti-money laundering trainings.
“I am aware that under the Money Laundering Prohibition Act, no individual can make a cash payment of N500, 000 or its equivalent in foreign exchange”.
He admitted that it is not an acceptable practice in banking for a person who is not a signatory to an account to sign instruments for transaction in the account.
The witness said he could not confirm if it was Maina’s phone number that was attached to the account opening package.
“This is because it has been many years since I left the bank.
“I did not fill the account opening package, although I viewed and verified the identity card which was driver’s licence of the account holder. But the completion and filling of the form, which is KYC, was done by my colleague, Toyin Meseke”.
Trial Justice Okon Abang adjourned the case till Friday for further cross-examination of the witness.
Aside allegation that the former PRTT boss who is on trial for alleged fraud totalling about N2bn, used fictitious names to open and operate various bank accounts, EFCC, in the charge marked FHC/ABJ/CR/256/2019, alleged that he used the 2nd defendant to launder funds, part of which was used to acquire landed properties in Abuja.
It alleged that Maina recruited his relatives that were staff of both the United Bank for Africa, UBA, and Fidelity Bank Plc, to operate fake bank accounts through which illicit funds were channelled.
The prosecution told the court that contrary to financial regulations, the two banks, opened phony accounts for the defendant, without conducting due diligence to ascertain the true identities of the owners.
It told the court that some of the bogus names Maina used to operate the accounts in a bid to conceal his true identity, included Aliyu Nafisatu and Dr. Abdullahi A. Fisal.
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