“We recovered N75m from Tanimu Turaki’s wife”, EFCC tells court

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An operative with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mr Bello Hamma-Adama, on Wednesday, told a Federal High Court in Abuja that a sum of N75 million was recovered from Halima Tanimu Turaki, wife of a former Minister for Special Duties and Inter Governmental Affairs.

Tanimu Turaki was a Minister in the President Goodluck Jonathan-led government between 2013 and 2015.

He also served as supervising Minister for Federal Ministry of Labour between 2014 and 2015.

Hamma-Adama, the 5th prosecution witness (PW5) in the ongoing trial of Turaki, made the disclosure before Justice Inyang Ekwo of the Federal High Court, Abuja.

The EFCC had arraigned the former Minister (1st defendant) alongside his former Special Assistant, Sampson Okpetu (2nd defendant), and two firms; Samtee Essentials Ltd. and Pasco Investment Ltd. on 16 counts of money laundering.

Although the duo pleaded not guilty to the charges, the anti-graft agency alleged that the defendants used the companies to launder fund totalling about N845 million allegedly stolen from the two ministries where the minister held sway under the then administration.

While being led in evidence-in-chief by counsel to the EFCC, Mohammed Abubakar, the witness said about N359 million was moved from the Ministry of Special Duties for a sensitisation project for the government.

Hamma-Adama, who was the lead investigator in the agency, however, said the money was later transferred in tranches into private individuals’ accounts.

Giving the breakdown, he said N45 million was transferred to the Minister’s brother, Abdullahi Maigwandu, through his Zenith Bank account.

Out of the N45 million, he said Maigwandu transfered N20 million to the Guarantee Trust Bank account of Halima Tanimu Turaki, the ex-minister’s wife.

According to the PW5, the sum of N20 million was transferred to O-Pec Nig Ltd.

He said the remaining N5 million was withdrawn in China using the ATM of Maigwandu by Halima to procure furniture items.

“N30 million was transfered to Abubakar Sani Gude’s Zenith Bank account from the ministry’s account and the N30 million was sent to the wife of the 1st defendant (Turaki),” he said.

Hamma-Adama said when Maigwandu was invited for interrogation, he confessed that the money came from the ministry and he neither had any business with the ministry nor engaged in any sensitisation exercise.

The witness said Maigwandu, who is a civil servant in Kebbi with monthly salary of N33, 000, also told the EFCC that the N45 million was received by the Minister’s wife.

“We called for the Maigwandu’s account statement in Zenith Bank. We discovered he is a civil servant in Kebbi on salary of about N33, 000.

“We suspected a case of money laundering and we did a network analysis and we discovered that he could not have owned that money because he is on N33, 000 salary,” the PW5 said.

He said Maigwandu told the investigators that every money in that account belonged to Turaki, except his salary.

“He said he is a brother to the former minister and that the money was transferred on his instruction,” the EFCC operative added.

Hamma-Adama hinted that as of the time the N45 million was transferred to Maigwandu, he was having about N7, 300 in his account.

He said with all the information gathered, Halima was invited to their office.

“She came alongside the 1st defendant (her husband) and a lawyer.

“On video, she mentioned that the transaction was done at her instance. She said she is a house wife.

“She said she was not a contractor with the Ministry of Special Duties. She said she did not carry out any sensitisation exercise for the ministry.

“We asked if she knew Gode and Gwandu and she said she did.

“She said the transaction was her transaction and it was done on her instructions,” the witness said.

Hamma-Adama, who told the court that Halima, through her lawyer, Abdulaziz Ibrahim, who is presently representing the 3rd defendant in the ongoing trial, refunded the sum of N75 million to the EFCC.

The PW5 also said that the sum of N50 million was transferred to Abdulrahman Yusuf, a bureau de change operator, who is a friend and business associate of Turaki.

He said Yusuf did some transfers to the former Minister and also transferred N20 million to the 2nd defendant’s company, Samtee Essentials Ltd.

The witness said Yusuf, who had several bank accounts, also confessed that he did not carry out any sensitisation programme for the ministry because he was not in line of such business.

Justice Ekwo adjourned the matter until Feb. 9 and 10 for trial continuation of hearing.

Turaki, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), also served as Minister of Labour from 2014 to 2015 under former President Goodluck Jonathan.

One of the counts reads, “That you Kabiru Tanimu Turaki (while serving as minister of Special Duties and Inter-Governmental Affairs) in January 2015 within the jurisdiction of this court, did use N159m from the N359m released to the ministry for sensitisation and enlightenment of Muslim youths.

“That you spent the money, knowing that it is proceed of criminal misappropriation and thereby committed an offense contrary to section 15(2)(d) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2011 (as amended) and punishable under section (15(3).”

The defendant pleaded not guilty to all 16-count charge brought against him, while Okpetu pleaded not guilty to counts 10 to 12, just as the two firms also entered a “not guilty” plea.

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