The trial of Senate President, Bukola Saraki, resumed on Monday with the first prosecution witness declaring that the accused didn’t declare houses in the United Kingdom, Lagos and Abuja.
The witness, Mr. Michael Wetkas, an operative of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, finished his three-day testimony on Monday in the trial of Saraki on 13 counts of false asset declaration the CCT.
The witness, who was led in evidence by the lead prosecuting counsel, Mr. Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), also reeled off the names of various companies operated by the Senate President while he was the governor of Kwara State between 2003 and 2011.
Wetkas revealed to the CCT alleged falsehood in the details of the assets Saraki had declared to the Code of Conduct Bureau when he was the governor.
He said Saraki bought three landed assets from the Presidential Implementation Committee on Sale of Federal Government Properties, which he did not declare in the forms submitted to the CCB.
He stated that the defendant acquired the three landed assets from the presidential committee against the policy that no one should acquire more than one.
He said, “We invited the members of the Presidential Implementation Committee on Sale of Federal Government Properties. From our findings, one person is only allowed to acquire one property under the scheme. But the first defendant got three properties using his personal name and the name of his company.
“No15 Mcdonald Street, Ikoyi, was got in the name of the defendant’s company, Tiny Tee Limited and 17, 17A and 17B were got in his personal name.
“Exhibit P21 relates to Plot 2481 and 2482, Cadastrial Zone A06, Maitama, Abuja, otherwise known as 1 and 3 Targus Street, Maitama, Abuja. From Exhibit 21, they were acquired in 1993.
“From Exhibit 1, under Appendix 3 (details of landed property in Nigeria), I did not see the property.
“The defendant did not declare Plot 2481 and 2482, Cadastrial Zone A06, Maitama, Abuja, on assumption of office in 2003. Neither did I see No 1 and 3 Targus Street, Maitama, Abuja, in the asset declaration form.
“Exhibit 3 is the asset declaration form in 2007. In 2007, the defendant declared 1 Targus Street, Maitama, Abuja. Number 3 was not declared.
“In the asset declaration form of 2011, No. 1 Targus, Musa Yar’ Adua was declared. He did not declare No 3 Targus Street, Maitama.
Wetkas also revealed how Saraki obtained N375m loan from the Guaranty Trust Bank on February 11, 2010, which he allegedly used to purchase a property in London.
The Senate President was said to have failed to declare the London property.
He said, “Sometimes in February 11, 2010, a loan of N375m was availed to the defendant by GTB.
“Exhibit 7 is the offer letter for the loan for him to borrow N375m. The offer letter was dated February 10, 2010, but was disbursed to the account on February 11, 2010 for the purchase of the property in London. I did not see anywhere it was declared in the asset declaration form dated June 3, 2011.”
Wetkas also listed some landed assets, which his investigative team discovered to be owned by Saraki but were allegedly not declared by him.
The witness added, “Exhibit 19 is the search warrant executed on the premises of Carlie Limited in Lagos.
“A list of some of the properties belonging to the defendant was obtained from the office of Carlie Properties in Lagos. On the list we have:
“Ruston Garden, Ikoyi, Lagos, divided into nine sub-units of properties. Each of them is yielding a total of N14m. The total income from that property alone is N126m per annum.
“The property at 37 Glover Road, by the record, was yielding N5,500,000 per annum.
“Exhibit 4 (asset declaration form made in July, 2015) there is column for farm, ranches, orchards, factory. But nothing was declared.
“In exhibit Exhibit 5, he said, ‘I do not have’.”
The lead prosecuting counsel, Jacobs, through the witness, tendered cheques allegedly drawn from Saraki’s personal account and the account of his firm, Carlie Properties and Investments Limited, for payment for the property.
The various tranches totalled N522,060,000.
According to Wetkas, the property was bought in the name of Tiny Tee Limited from the Presidential Implementation Committee on the Sale of Federal Government Properties between 2006 and 2007.
He said, “The part payment was from GTB account of Carlie Properties and Investment Ltd.
“There is a draft before me for N256,300,000, which was a part payment for 17, Mcdonald Street, Ikoyi, Lagos.
“There is another draft before me of N12,815,000, which was a part payment for 17, Mcdonald, Ikoyi.
“There is another draft of a total of N24,090,000. That total is broken down into. – N20m from Zenith Bank and N4,090,000 from GTB. The total of the two are part payments for 17 Mcdonald, Ikoyi.”
He said Saraki featured the name of his wife, Oluwatoyin, as a director in two of the companies – Carlie Properties and Investments Limited and Sky View Limited.
But he explained that on inviting the Senate President’s wife, she denied participating in the running of the companies.
He said, “From our findings, the Managing Director of Carlie Properties Investments Limited, Mr. Kenedy Sule Izuabe, managed the company on behalf of the defendant.
“The defendant is the beneficiary of the rent paid for these properties.
“From Exhibit 25, our findings, one company, Babs Trading and Manufacturing Limited, and Ojora Oluwatoyin were directors in Carlie Properties and Investments Limited and later on Mr. Keneth Izuabe was also added as a director in the company. The people mentioned are both directors and shareholders.
“Babs Trading and Manufacturing Limited is also linked to the defendant.
“Ojora Oluwatoyin is the wife of the defendant. We invited her in the course of the investigation. The reason was because, from the statement of account of Carlie Properties and Investments Limited, and Sky View, her name featured as a signatory to the accounts of the companies. We called her to clarify some transactions and she said she did not participate in the activities and disbursements from the accounts of Carlie and Sky View.”
Wetkas had, in his testimony of March 18, 2016, alleged that the Senate President declared that he acquired the property in 2003, whereas, he only purchased it from the Presidential Implementation Committee on Sale of Federal Government Property in 2006.
Earlier in the trial, the Chairman of the CCT had declared that he would not suspend the trial of Saraki to allow the Senate to continue sitting.
Umar said it was not the Senate that was on trial before the tribunal, arguing that the business of the red chamber ought not to be affected by the CCT’s proceedings.
He said this in the presence of about 13 senators, who accompanied Saraki to the Monday’s proceedings.
Some of the senators, who attended the proceedings in solidarity with Saraki, included the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, Kabir Gaya, Shabah Lafiaji, Samuel Anyanwu, Stella Oduah, Danjuma Goje, Dino Melaye, Ali Ndume and Tayo Alasoadura.
A handful of protesters, comprising youth and women, brandishing banners with pro-Saraki’s inscriptions, were stopped by policemen from moving close to the CCT premises on Monday.
Umar had earlier said at the commencement of the proceedings that the trial would henceforth run from 10am to 6pm every day.
He said his decision to conduct the trial on daily basis was anchored on the provisions of Section 396(3) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015.
While adjourning the trial at about 5pm on Monday, Umar rejected a request by Saraki’s lawyer, Chief Kanu Agabi (SAN), for the tribunal to skip Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, which are the days of the week when the Senate sits.
The request was opposed by the lead prosecuting counsel, Jacobs, who warned that the Senate should not be brought into the case.