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Saraki: I was extremely rich before becoming governor

Saraki: I was extremely rich before becoming governor
May 11
05:36 2016

• Witness insists Senate President made anticipatory asset declaration

Senate President Bukola Saraki said yesterday that he was “extremely rich” before he became Kwara State governor in 2003.

He said he had $22million, about £12million, 2.6m Euro and about N4billion in cash in his various accounts.

Aside the liquid asset, Saraki said he also possessed landed property estimated at N2billion and 15 vehicles valued at about N263.4m.

He gave details of the vehicles he acquired as at 2003 to include: Mercedes X320, valued at N16m; Mercedes X500 worth N20m; Mercedes G500, valued at N6m; Mercedes V220 worth 2m and Ferrari456GT, valued at N25m.

Others are: Navigator, N15m, MN240 worth N8.5m; Peugeot 406, valued at N2.9m; Mercedes CLK 320 worth N9m; Mercedes E320 valued at N11m; Mercedes G500 bullet proof worth N45m; Mercedes X500 worth N300m; Lexus jeep bullet proof valued at N30m and Lincoln Navigator bullet proof worth N25m.

Saraki’s lawyer, Paul Erokoro (SAN), made these public yesterday at the resumption of the Senate President’s trial for alleged false asset declaration before the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) in Abuja.

Erokoro, who was cross-examining the first prosecution witness, Michael Wetkas, identified the assets as claimed by Saraki in the asset declaration form he submitted to the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) in 2003.

Erokoro said he needed to point out that his client was very rich before he became Kwara State governor to erase the wrong impression created by the prosecution that he could not have acquired the property he claimed to have without obtaining loans from banks

The lawyer was, however, silent on the source of his client’s wealth and how he came about all the property and cash he claimed to have possessed before he became governor in 2003.

Saraki’s profile, in “Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia,” indicated that he was born on December, 19 1962 and studied at the London Hospital Medical College of the University of London from 1982 to 1987, when he obtained his M.B.B.S (London).

He worked as a medical officer at Rush Green Hospital, Essex, from 1988 to 1989 and was a director of Société Générale Bank (Nig) Ltd from 1990 to 2000. The bank founded by his now late father, Dr. Olusola Saraki, had its operating licence withdrawn in January 2006 by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).

In 2000, President Olusegun Obasanjo appointed Saraki as Special Assistant, a position he held until he became governor.

When asked if it was possible for Saraki to have made anticipatory declaration of asset, Wetkas insisted it was not about whether or not such practice was possible, but that investigation and evidence showed that the Senate President actually engaged in anticipatory asset declaration.

The witness pointed out that, in the asset declaration form submitted to the CCB by Saraki in 2003, he claimed to have acquired houses Nos 15A and 15B Macdonald Street, Ikoyi, Lagos when, in actual fact, such property did not exist.

Wetkas, a detective with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), said the only property with a similar description was No15 and Block 15 Flat 1 to 4 Mcdonald Street, Ikoyi, Lagos.

“In the course of our investigation, when we came across this No.15 A and B, Ikoyi, Lagos, we wrote to the Presidential Implementation Committee on the disposal of Federal Government Landed Property. We also wrote to the Lagos Land Registry.

“The Lagos Land Registry said they do not have records of No.15A and B, McDonald. The Presidential Committee said the record they have on their system is No.15 Mcdonald, which was sold to the company, TinyTee Ltd, and Block 15, Flat 1 to 4 Mcdonald Ikoyi, which was sold to another company, Bitti Oil Ltd.

“The evidence I gave was that No: 15 Mcdonald was sold to TinyTee Ltd, belonging to the defendant, which we did not see declared as part of his assets in all the declaration forms, about six in all.

“In my testimony on 5th April 2016, I had said the defendant declared in his asset declaration form – Exhibit 1, in appendix 3, that he bought No: 15A and B, McDonald, Ikoyi, Lagos sometime in 2000 through his company called Calile Properties Ltd, whereas our findings revealed that No:15 was actually purchased by his company, TinyTee, not Calile, sometime in 2006.

“We also found that the second property: Block 15 Flat 1 -4 was sold to Bitti Oil Ltd. Investigation is yet to link the defendant with that company,” Wetkas said.

As Wetkas testified, Saraki, who wore a white agbada and a cap, sat quietly in the “accused box”.

At a point, Erokoro attempted to discredit the form submitted by Saraki in 2003, which he signed on September 16, 2003, by claiming that it must have been tampered with.

Erokoro hinged his suspicion on his belief that it was impossible for Saraki to have contemplated as at 2003 buying the Ikoyi property in 2006 and thereby include it in his 2003 asset declaration form.

Reacting to Erokoro’s position, Wetkas said only Saraki, who signed the document, admitting his claims on it, could explain the reason for what Erokoro thought to be impossible.

“The Exhibit 1 (the 2003 form) was signed and dated by Saraki on September 16, 2003. As far as I am concerned, Exhibit 1 was duly signed and dated by the defendant on September 16, 2003.

“I did not insert the properties in the form. Asset declaration form is not just any document. The person declaring his assets is expected to go before a high court judge to swear an oath. They swear to affidavit, so it is believed that all he swore to, and appended his signature to is the truth. I do not need to see him in person or confront him to believe that his declaration in the form is true,” Wetkas said.

Earlier, the witness, who was handed an electric calculator by Erokoro to calculate the value of Saraki’s asset, as stated in the 2003 form, said an inquiry into some of his bank accounts and those of some members of his immediate family revealed that Saraki was worth more than N1.5billion as at 2003.

“By Appendix 7A of Exhibit 1, the defendant’s wife’s account in Ecobank, showed N1,500,000 as cash balance.

“At page 6 of Exhibit 1: Cash at bank in Nigeria added up to N1,100,000 in Société General Bank, in the name of Tosin and Seni Saraki (his children below 18 years as at 2003).

At 3.30 pm, lead defence lawyer Kanu Agabi (SAN) sought an adjournment, which the tribunal Chairman, Justice Danladi Umar, reluctantly agreed to.

Justice Umar reminded Agabi that parties had agreed at the commencement of proceedings, that the tribunal will only rise at 4pm.

The tribunal chairman, however, changed his mind when other defence lawyers, including Paul Usoro (SAN), supported Agabi’s request.

Only about three senators were identified at yesterday’s proceedings as against the practice in the past when up to 20 were always attending every sitting.

The regulars: Dino Melaye (who occasionally served food and drinks to other senators when they attend proceedings), Samuel Anyawu and Tayo Alasoadura were absent at yesterday’s proceedings.

Ajibola Oluyede, the lawyer, who suddenly appeared in the defence team at the previous proceedings to move a motion seeking Umar’s disqualification, was also absent yesterday.

Further hearing resumes today.

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