FG goes af­ter Petro Union Oil as direc­tors remanded over £2.6bn fraud

P&id-type case sought to scam Cbn/union Bank

Business Day (Nigeria) - - FRONT PAGE - SEGUN ADAMS & FIKAYO OWOEYE

Jus­tice Mo­hammed Liman of a Fed­eral High Court in Lagos on Thurs­day or­dered the re­mand of four direc­tors of Petro Union Oil and Gas

Limited in the cus­tody of the Eco­nomic and Fi­nan­cial Crimes Com­mis­sion (EFCC) over an al­leged £2.6 bil­lion fraud. The order was se­quel to the ar­raign­ment of the direc­tors along­side the firm, Petro Union Oil and Gas Limited, on a 7-count charge bor­der­ing on the al­leged of­fence by the anti-graft agency. The four direc­tors are Abay­omi Kukoyi (trad­ing un­der the name and style of Glad­stone Kukoyi & As­so­ciates), Prince Kings­ley Ok­pala, Prince Chidi Ok­palaeze and Prince Em­manuel Ok­palaeze. The EFCC, in a charge marked FHC/L/46C/2020 brought against the four direc­tors along­side the oil com­pany and one Prince Isaac Ok­pala (now de­ceased), al­leged that they com­mit­ted the of­fences be­tween 1994 and 2007. They were al­leged to have fraud­u­lently pro­cured a cheque from a for­eign bank in the sum of £2.556 bil­lion, un­der the pre­text that it was meant to con­struct three petro­chem­i­cal re­fin­ery com­plexes in Nige­ria. They were also al­leged to have some­time in April 2007 forged a state­ment of ac­count in the name of Gold­matic Limited, which was used to ob­tain the sum of £2.159 bil­lion. The four direc­tors were also ac­cused of al­ter­ing a bank cheque dated De­cem­ber 29, 1994, in the sum of £2.556 bil­lion, made payable to Glad­stone Kukoyi & As­so­ciates for the pur­pose of con­struct­ing three petro­chem­i­cal re­finer­ies in Nige­ria. Other charges in­clude felony based on trick­ery to ob­tain money un­der false pre­tence, forgery of a state­ment of ac­count, in­tent to de­fraud, al­ter­ing a doc­u­ment, among oth­ers. The de­fen­dants will re­main in cus­tody of the EFCC fol­low­ing the re­quest of Ro­timi Ja­cobs (SAN), EFCC prose­cu­tor, to re­mand the sus­pects ahead of trial. Jus­tice Liman fixed February 19 for the trial and hear­ing of the bail applicatio­ns for the four direc­tors. The case be­tween Petro Union, on one hand, and mid-tier lender Union Bank of Nige­ria and the Cen­tral Bank of Nige­ria (CBN), on the other hand, can be traced to around June 1994, when Glad­stone Kukoyi As­so­ciates sub­mit­ted an ap­pli­ca­tion dated June 3, 1994 for ap­proval to im­port for­eign cap­i­tal for Petro Union. Doc­u­ments later pro­vided to sup­port the ap­pli­ca­tion in­cluded, among oth­ers, a bill of ex­change pur­port­edly is­sued by Bar­clays Bank plc dated 29 De­cem­ber, 1994 for the sum of £2.556bn. Union Bank of Nige­ria then sub­mit­ted the Glad­stone ap­pli­ca­tion to the CBN for con­sid­er­a­tion but by a let­ter dated 2 Novem­ber, 1994, the CBN ad­vised Union Bank to with­hold ac­tion pend­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tion and fur­ther di­rec­tives. The CBN by a let­ter dated 21 March, 2002 ad­vised PU that Union Bank’s Lon­don Branch had been con­tacted and it con­firmed that the bank never ac­cepted the bill of ex­change for clear­ing. The CBN sim­i­larly af­firmed that Bar­clays Bank plc in the United King­dom had con­firmed that the ac­count on which the bill was drawn was closed on 21 Septem­ber, 1989 whereas the bill was is­sued on 29 De­cem­ber, 1994 – five years af­ter the ac­count was closed. Bar­clays Bank also con­firmed to the CBN that no ac­count was main­tained in the name of the draw­ers of the bill (Gazeaft Limited). Gazeaft Limited was also con­firmed by Bar­clays not to be on the list of reg­is­tered com­pa­nies in the UK by the Com­pa­nies Registry in the UK. A se­nior gov­ern­ment source told Busi­ness­day that the al­leged scam is sim­i­lar to the Process and In­dus­trial De­vel­op­ment Ltd. (P&ID) bo­gus judg­ment against Nige­ria. “There are so many of such cases going on and it is frankly a threat to the sys­tem. That is why the Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment has de­cided to go af­ter them hard,” the source said. Ac­cord­ing to the EFCC prose­cu­tor, Ro­timi Ja­cobs (SAN), the of­fences are con­trary to, and pun­ish­able un­der sec­tions 1(2), 1(2)(a) of the Mis­cel­la­neous Of­fences Act, Law of the fed­er­a­tion of Nige­ria, 1990. The of­fences are also said to be con­trary to and pun­ish­able un­der sec­tions 509, 467(2)(I) and 468 of the Crim­i­nal Code Act, Laws of the Fed­er­a­tion of Nige­ria, 2004. The four direc­tors pleaded not guilty to the charges. Some of the counts against the de­fen­dants read thus: “That you Petro Union Oil and Gas Limited, Prince Isaac Ok­pala ( now de­ceased), Abay­omi Kukoyi, Prince Kings­ley Ok­pala, Prince Chidi Ok­palaeze, Prince Em­manuel Ok­palaeze and Princess Gla­dys Ok­palaeze (now at large) on or about 29th De­cem­ber, 1994 within the ju­ris­dic­tion of this Honourable Court fraud­u­lently pro­cured a Bar­clays Bank cheque dated 29th De­cem­ber, 1994 in the sum of £2,556,000,000.00 made payable to Glad­stone Kukoyi and As­so­ciates, pur­port­ing the said cheque to be meant for for­eign in­vest­ment in the con­struc­tion of 3 re­finer­ies and petro­chem­i­cal com­plex in Nige­ria, when you knew that the said cheque to be false and you thereby com­mit­ted an of­fence con­trary to Sec­tion 1(2) (a) of the Mis­cel­la­neous Of­fences Act, Laws of the Fed­er­a­tion of Nige­ria, 1990 and pun­ish­able un­der same Sec­tion. “That you Petro Union Oil and Gas Limited, Prince Isaac Ok­pala ( now de­ceased), Abay­omi Kukoyi, Prince Kings­ley Ok­pala, Prince Chidi Ok­palaeze, Prince Em­manuel Ok­palaeze and Princess Gla­dys Ok­palaeze (now at large) on or about the 10th April, 2007 within the ju­ris­dic­tion of this Honourable Court with in­tent to de­fraud, forged a cer­tain doc­u­ment to wit: state­ment of ac­count in the name of Gold­matic Limited pur­port­edly is­sued by the Cen­tral Bank of Nige­ria with Ac­count Num­ber: 10382175 wherein you falsely claimed that the Cen­tral Bank had in its cus­tody, the sum of £2,159, 221, 313. 54 in favour of Gold­matic Limited and you thereby com­mit­ted an of­fence con­trary to Sec­tion 467 (2) (I) of the Crim­i­nal Code Act, Laws of the Fed­er­a­tion of Nige­ria, 2004 and pun­ish­able un­der the same Sec­tion.”

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