Trial in $15 billion Petro Union case resumes November 15
A Federal High Court, Lagos, will on Monday, November 15, 2021, resume hearing in the $15 billion alleged fraud case filed by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) against Petro Union Oil and Gas Limited (Petro Union), its financial consultant and four of its directors.
The other defendants are Abayomi Kukoyi (trading under the name of Gladstone Kukoyi & Associates), Prince Kingsley Okpala, Prince Chidi Okpalaeze and Prince Emmanuel Okpalaeze.
The defendants, alongside the firm, are facing a 13-count sundry criminal charge bordering on conspiracy, obtaining by false pretences, forgery, and fraud levelled against them by the anti-graft agency on behalf of the Federal Government.
So far, eight witnesses have testified before the court, including a former Minister of Finance, a senior officer of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and an ex-Union Bank UK official.
In her testimony, former Minister of Finance, Nenadu Usman, said a letter came to the Office of the Minister of Finance from Petro Union in February 2007 requesting the mandate of the ministry for the CBN to approve the investment of funds into Nigeria.
Subsequently, the letter, she said, went to the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Finance, who in turn, sent it to the Home Finance Department for advice.
She concluded her testimony by saying that the ministry was not in a position to, and neither did it confirm the existence of the funds referred to in Petro Union’s letter.
Another witness, who works with CBN Abuja as a Principal Manager responsible for domiciliary accounts and management of inflows into the Revenue Account, Mr. Olugbemileke Akinwunmi, informed the court that he was mandated to compile the series of records relating to correspondence between the CBN and Petro Union.
When explaining international transfers, he stated that all outflows from the CBN go through a platform called SWIFT and that all processes must pass through this platform, adding that for payments to be processed, there must be a correspondent bank for the inflow.
He further explained to the court that the CBN services two categories of clients – Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) in one category, and banks and other financial institutions in the second category.
He stated that beyond these two types of customers, the CBN does not maintain accounts for individuals and is not involved in the receipt of funds into Nigeria for private transactions.
He said he saw a copy of a statement allegedly presented by Petro Union as the statement of account of a company called Goldmatic Limited.
Former employee of Union Bank, who worked from October 1971 to March 2009, during which he had the opportunity to work at Union Bank London Branch between 2000 and 2001, Mr. Walter Mbah, informed the court that Union Bank, London branch, received a request from the bank’s head office in Lagos to confirm a cheque for GBP2, 556,000,000 in 2001.
“As is the usual practice, the London Branch wrote to Barclays Bank for confirmation of the cheque. Barclays Bank responded via its own letter stating that the account against which the cheque was drawn had been closed since 1989,” he testified.
Mbah testified that while Union Bank could not trace the copy of the letter written to Barclays Bank, the Bank still had a copy of the response from Barclays Bank.
The response from Barclays Bank was tendered and admitted by the court in evidence.
It is expected that when the trial resumes on Monday, November 15, 2021, the prosecution will conclude its case and the defence will open its case either immediately or at the next adjourned date.