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Why we’re holding Dalhatu, by EFCC

Posted by By Sun News Publishing on 2006/02/28 | Views: 672 |

Why we’re holding Dalhatu, by EFCC


The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has explained why it is holding former Minister of Power and Steel, Alhaji Bashir Dalhatu.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has explained why it is holding former Minister of Power and Steel, Alhaji Bashir Dalhatu.

In a statement signed by Osita Nwajah, Head, Media and Publicly, released on Sunday, the EFCC said the former minister is being held in connection with investigation into some transactions bordering on corruption, obtaining and fraudulent conversion to private use of money belonging to the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

Below is text of the release by EFCC:
It has become imperative to shed some light on the circumstances surrounding the arrest of Alhaji Bashir Dalhatu. The former minister of Power and Steel is being held in connection with investigation into some transactions bordering on corruption, obtaining and fraudulent conversion to private use of money belonging to the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

Specifically, the ex-minister is alleged to have conspired with a foreign ship owner, Mr. Joseph Lopez-Tapia of Spain to defraud the Federal Government to the tune $15 million. Dalhatu is unable to account for the money which was fraudulently obtained during the regime of former military president, General Ibrahim Badamosi Babandida.

The genesis of the alleged scam is traced to June 20, 1984 when a ship, MV Izarra belonging to Tapia was arrested off the Nigerian coast for alleged illegal oil bunkering. The vessel’s owner however, claimed that the ship was arrested outside Nigeria’s territorial waters and proceeded to institute a court action against Nigeria in Spain, asking for $59 million compensation from the Nigerian government.

For reasons which are unclear, the then Attorney General and Minister of Justice Mr. Clement Akpamgbo, through a letter with reference no. FMJ/12/92/1, and dated August 8, 1992 advised President Babangida to seek a negotiated settlement with Mr. Tapia. The proposal was accepted and the federal government agreed to pay $15 million as compensation to the ship owner.

Alhaji Dalhatu who acted as Attorney to Tapia in the negotiation has however failed to remit the money to the Spaniard. Tapia, in a petition to the EFCC, claimed that only $6,409,613 was paid to him by Dalhatu, leaving a balance of $8,590,383.

In July 2004 when EFCC first invited Dalhatu over this matter, he claimed that he had made full payment to Tapia and backed his claims with documents. Among the documents that he tendered was a notarized document sworn to by Tapia in Bilbao, Spain to the effect that he has been paid his money in full by Dalhatu. The only snag was that there was evidence that Tapia recanted the same day.

However after scrutinizing documents submitted by both parties, EFCC established that Dalhatu only effected the payment of $9,591,613, leaving a balance of $5,408,387. But the former minister continued insisting that he had paid in full and promised to supply documents from the defunct Group Merchant Bank of which he was chairman to prove his claim. Unfortunately he never kept his word. EFCC however pressed on with its investigation, contacting the Nigerian Deposit Insurance Corporation, NDIC to verify payments made through Dalhatu’s account at Group Merchant Bank.

The agency wrote to inform the Commission that there was no evidence of any account held by Dalhatu in the bank.
Apart from the issue of part-payment or non-remittance of the compensation sum by Dalhatu to his client, EFCC wants to determine how $15million was illegally drawn from the nation’s coffers to service a seemingly bogus agreement even when there is no record of any court judgment entered against Nigeria to warrant such. The entire transaction followed a pattern of scam where certain individuals, both Nigerians and foreign collude with government officials to design phoney means of diverting public funds into private pockets.

Alhaji Dalhatu is also to explain how certain monies which sources are suspicious found their ways into foreign bank accounts of his companies. Specifically he is to account for the thirty two million Duesche Marks (DM 32m) that was found in the bank account of Agricommerce International Inc, a company that is wholly owned by the former minister.

The process of transfer of the said sum into the company’s account (no.675-0613285-38) in Byblos Bank Europe SA in Brussels, Belgium is anything but straight.
Part of the money, ($5m), was paid into the account by Morgan Procurement Corporation. This company belongs to the family of late Head of state, General Sani Abacha. Most of the remaining sums of money were transferred into Agricommerce’s Belgium account by Ferrostaal Nigeria Limited, through Marine Services and Technical Incorporated, one of the many companies belonging to Alhaji Dalhatu.

So far, Alhaji Dalhatu has failed to explain the transaction or service which he rendered to Ferrostaal Nigeria Limited that necessitated the payment of millions of Duesche Marks to his account by the company. However, investigation has revealed that the company which has a German link was quite active in contract execution during the construction of the Aluminum Smelter Company, Ikot Abasi, Akwa Ibom state. The multi million naira project was among several handled by Dalhatu as Minister of Power and Steel.

Curiously, why questions remained about the illegal payments, Dalhatu merely offered to return the $5m he received from the Abacha family which he claims was an unsolicited gift. Even the veracity of that claim is subject to investigation. But beyond that, and perhaps more profound, is the fact that the former Power and Steel minister started to dictate to government the amount of the unexplained funds that he was willing to turn over to the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Apart from the $5m from the Abacha family, he has offered to return only DM11million and keep the balance.

Alhaji Dalhatu has refused to answer the most logical questions: What qualifies him to keep the balance of DM 21million? What service did he render for which he is insisting on getting payment? Ferrostaal too must explain why it paid monies into Dalhatu’s account. EFCC is already taking steps to get the German authorities to investigate the company, which at no time disclosed the payment to Marine Services and Technical Inc.

The position of the EFCC is that the entire transaction was fraudulent ab initio. The matter of Alhaji Bashir Dalhatu is a clear case of corruption and money laundering and the law is clear on the punishment for culprits that is the reason for his arrest.

The attention of EFCC has however been drawn to statements made by family, friends and associates of the former Minister of Power and Steel, which has received orchestrated attention in the news media. The allegations that his investigation and arrest and indeed, that of anybody have something to do with political affiliations are very far from the truth.

EFCC wishes to restate that it will not be drawn by subterfuge into the politics of affiliations and alliances. The Commission is a law enforcement agency charged with the coordination and enforcement of all economic and financial crime laws in Nigeria and is resolved to do just that, not caring whatever the colouration of any suspected criminal’s socio-political alliances, viewpoints or aspirations. EFCC will not be distracted from this assignment by ill-digested understanding of the mandate and resolve of the Commission or plain mischief of professional trouble makers, fraudsters, crooks and their associates. No one is above the law.

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Fay(Katy, Texas, US)says...

Actually translates to bravehearted.