A Federal High Court, sitting in Abuja, heard yesterday how former Imo State Governor Ikedi Ohakim allegedly bought a property in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) with $2.29 million cash concealed in Ghana-Must-Go bag, reports The Nation.
A prosecution witness, Abu Sule, who was cross-examined by Ohakim’s lawyer, Awa Kalu (SAN), said he collected $2.29 million cash in a Ghana-Must-Go bag from Ohakim to buy a property for the former governor in highbrow Asokoro, Abuja.
Sule said Ohakim handed the dollars (an equivalent of N270 million) to him in $100 bills at night sometime in November, 2008, for onward transfer to the then owner of the property, Alhaji Isah Maidabino, the next day.
Sule, an architect and Managing Director of Tweenex Consociates H. D. Limited, said he kept the money in the boot of his car overnight before handing it over to Maidabino, now a director in the Office of the Head of Service of the Federation (HOSF).
The witness said he did not count the $2.29 million when the former governor handed it to him because Ohakim trusted him.
He said: “The money ($2.29 million) was given to me by the defendant. It was given to me in a Ghana-Must-Go bag and that was how I transported it. It was in $100 bills. I didn’t count the money and he (Ohakim) didn’t request for counting because we trusted each other. But I counted it along with Alhaji Maidabino.
“I did not issue a receipt because a receipt was not demanded. I was sent an errand and I delivered it.
“I carried the money to Unity Bank in Maitama. I handed over the money to Alhaji Maidabino at Unity Bank. Alhaji Maidabino issued a deed of assignment and a sales agreement to me. He did not acknowledge the receipt of the sum in writing.
“I didn’t pay the money into any account. I didn’t see Alhaji Maidabino pay that sum into any account. I did not witness any transaction. What Alhaji did with the money, I don’t know. But he handed over the title documents of the property to me.”
On whether or not he had a security arrangement while moving the money, the witness said: “I had no security. I trusted in God. I left the money in my car boot and I went home and I slept. I was not accompanied to the bank by any security; I went alone.”
Sule said his dealings with Ohakim were always documented, adding that he issued a receipt for N20 million transaction to the defendant.
The witness said he did not issue any receipt for the $2.29 million the former governor gave him and did not collect any receipt from the Maidabino because the title documents, which he collected from him (Maidabino), were sufficient as proof of payment.
He said: “I gave the money to him (Maidabino) and he gave me the title documents. He signed the sales agreement and I believe that was a good receipt.”
Sule said the sales agreement was between Tweenex and Maidabino, adding that till date, Tweenex remained the registered owner of the property at 60, Kwame Nkrumah Street, Plot No 1098, Cadastral Zone A04, Asokoro District in Abuja.
The witness said he could not confirm the details of the use of the property as collateral by Maidabino for certain loans.
He said up till October 6, 2009, the transfer of the ownership of the property was still “encumbered” by Unity Bank.
Ohakim, who served as Imo State governor between 2007 and 2011, is being prosecuted on a three-count charge of money laundering and false asset declaration.
He is accused of purchasing a property at 60, Kwame Nkrumah Street, Plot No 1098, Cadastral Zone A04, Asokoro District, Abuja, with a cash payment of $2.29 million, which was said to be the dollar equivalent of N270 million, in November, 2008.
The former governor was also accused of failing to declare the property as part of his assets when the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) asked him to do so.
Sule, who testified as the second prosecution witness, told the court how he allegedly helped Ohakim to buy and conceal the ownership of the property.
He said the former governor instructed him to use his (Sule’s) company, Tweenex Consociates H. D. Limited, to buy the property.
The witness said Ohakim subsequently put pressure on him to prepare a tenancy agreement with Tweenex, as the landlord, to make it look as if he (Ohakim) was a tenant in the property.
Also yesterday, the prosecution called Maidabino as its third witness.
Led in evidence by prosecution lawyer, Festus Keyamo, Maidabino admitted selling the property to Tweenex through Sule in November, 2008.
The witness said he finished building the house in 1997 while he was a deputy director in the Presidential Villa.
Maidabino, who said he would be 60 years on June 6, confirmed that he collected the $2.29 million cash at Unity Bankin Maitama, Abuja, from Sule for the sale of the house.
He said: “It was in November 2008. He (Sule) paid me in dollars once; he brought the money once. The amount was about $2.3 million.
“The money was brought to me at Unity Bank in Maitama. He brought a prepared deed of assignment and power of attorney in the name of a company, Tweenex, which we signed.”
During cross-examination by Kalu, Maidabino admitted that he did not know Ohakim until recently when he met the former governor in court after the a day’s proceedings in the ongoing trial.
Asked what he salary was, the witness said he was earning N6,000 monthly as a deputy director in the Presidential Villa at the time he finished building the house in 1997.
When asked how he was able to build the house, the witness said he built the house from the money he inherited from his late father and not from his monthly earnings.
Maidabino said he was out of service for 15 years after he was “roped in” in the failed coup led by the late Gen. Sani Abacha’s regime, allegedly by the then Chief of General Staff in the regime, Lt.-Gen. Oladipo Diya (retd.).
Justice Adeniyi Ademola adjourned further proceedings till today.