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Firms, others on trial over Yellow Estate project

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Further hearing on the fraud case brought by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) against a former staff of MTN, Primavera Engineering and Construction Limited and Mabo Dredging Limited on the N1.4 billion Yellow Estate project continues on June 1 at a Lagos High Court, Igbosere.

The trial judge, Justice Lateef Lawal-Akapo, has fixed the date for continuation of trial after taking the evidence of the prosecution witness, Cyril Ilok.

The defendants, namely; Victor Akintunde, Gani Mustapha, Mutairu Babatunde, Primavera Engineering and Construction Limited and Mabo Dredging Limited are being prosecuted on a 18 count charge by the anti-graft agency for defrauding MTN Employees Co-Operative Society (MEMCOM) members of the sum of N1.4Billion in the process of buying 39 hectares of land located at Okun Ajah, Lagos.

Ilok, the General Manager with the Business Risk Management Unit in MTN Nigeria narrated how the defendants stole the money meant to buy landed property and build the proposed “Yellow Estate” for members of the Co-Operative.

The witness told the court that the 1st defendant, Victor Akintunde was the president of MEMCOS and the 2nd defendant, Gani Mustapha; a treasurer conspired to steal the money contributed by members of the Co-Operative.

According to him, “the 1st and 2nd defendants signed a memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the land owner and the total of 26.5 hectares was signed as N1, 501,902,666.00 but the cost was discovered to be N963.3, 000,000.00, leaving a difference of N373, 500,000.
 
“MEMCOS through the 1st and 2nd defendants acquired 39 hectares of land for real estate development but they did not pay for the said numbers of hectares.
 
“The defendants only paid for 13 hectares. Later part paid for the 26 hectares of the land located in Okun Ajah, Lagos. We discovered that the 1st and 2nd defendants mismanaged the sum of N1, 357,764,414.”

Ilok continued that the 1st and 2nd defendants were former staff of MTN while the 3rd defendant is the owner of the 4th defendant, Primavera Engineering and Construction Limited.
 
“It was discovered that there were a lot of irregularities in the expenses. The total sum of N3.2billion had been collected by the executive of the Corporative led by Akintunde and Mustapha for the purpose of building houses for members of the cooperatives.
 
“When these irregularities were realised, the new management appointed KPMG, a professional auditing and accounting firm to investigate the account of the cooperative for the period of 2008-2011 executive led by the defendants before they handed over to new executive.
 
“During this period, I worked with KPMG on the investigation and I was also interfacing between the firm and the defendant after which the report of KPMG was submitted to me to help summarised. Thereafter, a petition was written to the EFCC.
 
Ilok further told the court that the report of the firm shows that there were monies that were not paid.
 
“There were 13 hectares of land and 5 hectares were encumbered and the sum of N427, 114,414,00 was to be refunded by Primavera Engineering to MEMCOS and a cheque was written by Primavera but it was returned unpaid.

 
“The company however issued another cheque of N300million to MEMCOS and it was cleared. The difference between the amount that was cleared and the one, which was returned and was N127, 114,414.

The amount said to have been mismanaged is N1,357,764,414.00.
 
“It was also discovered that there were un-receipted payments, excess payment documents on five hectares of land was also defective among the hectares bought.”
 
Under cross-examination by the defence counsel, the witness stated that MEMCOS had insisted that the 1st and 2nd defendants refund the defective 5 hectares of land.
 
He further said that the defendants did not account for what they did with N50million from the money given to them, adding that he was not aware that the 4th defendant was engaged to do other things which includes perfection of documents, layout and building approval but money was paid to the company through the 1st and 2nd defendants.

He continued that the registration of the land is in contention and ineffective.

“The grouse of the MEMCOS is the failure of the defendants to have the money paid for 5 hectares refunded. The titled document was used by MEMCOS to obtained loan from Federal Mortgage Bank in respect of Yellow Estate project. 

“ I did not know the amount of loan MEMCOS got from the bank. I was not present at the negotiation between owners of 39 hectares of land and MEMCOS acting through the 1st and 2nd defendant.

They did not account for what they did with the money. But MEMCOS insisted that the over payment should be refunded”, he added.


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