The trial in absentia of Abdulrasheed Maina, former Chairman, Pension Reform Task Force Team, (PRTFT) continued on Wednesday before Justice Okong Abang of the Federal High Court, Abuja.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) is prosecuting Maina, alongside his firm, Common Input Property and Investment Limited on a 12-count charge of operating fictitious bank accounts, corruption, and money laundering to the tune of N2 billion.
At Wednesday’s trial, counsel to Common Input Property and Investment Ltd (the second defendant), Adeola Adegbite told the court of his intention to disengage as the company’s counsel, but even though Prosecution counsel, M.S. Abubakar, acknowledged the receipt of the defence counsel’s disengagement application, dated November 25, 2020, and made no objection to it. Justice Abang, ruled that Adegbite remained counsel to the second defendant by the court records.
The testimonies against Maina, continued with that of the ninth prosecution witness, (PW9), Rouqayyah Ibrahim, a principal investigation officer with the EFCC in Anti Money Laundering and Combating Terrorism Financing (AML CFT) unit of the Commission and member, Pension Fraud Team, who stated that he knew Maina and Input Property Investment Ltd, following the invitation of the EFCC in 2010, to join in the pension verification exercise.
According to him, a payment mandate, bearing the names of several individuals, totaling N94 million was discovered during the cause of the verification, and that some of the pensioners’ names on the list were fake, for which a report was made to the EFCC by the team, leading eventually to the creation of the Pension Fraud Team.
The Pension Fraud Team, he said, wrote to about 30 banks, requesting the bank accounts of Steven Oransanya as the Head of Service, in which it turned out that Oransanya at that time, operated 66 illegal bank accounts, unknown to the Accountant General.
“Our investigation revealed that there were five modus operandi that the suspect whom we were investigating at that time was using to steal money from the pension account. In total we were able to deduce that N14 billion was stolen from the pension account. In the five modus operandi was payment to fake pensioners, non-existing contracts, illegal payment to National Union of Pension, NUP and illegal payment to another association called Association of Retired Federal Civil Servants.
“We discovered that the suspect will often pay companies for non-existing biometric contract and once the payment is made, they withdraw cash and hand it over and likewise payment to the two association of NUP and Association of Retired Federal Civil Servants. They will withdraw the money cash and hand it over to the person who asked them to supply the account.
“Once we concluded the investigation of those who were indicted, they were charged to court, and some have been convicted,” the witness said.
According to him, Abdulrasheed Maina was part of those indicted and charged before Justice I. Ekwo of the Federal High Court, Abuja, but that he ran away for six years. And was arrested and charged before the present court.
The PW9 revealed that Maina as chairman, PRTT was deeply involved in stealing pension funds.
One of the things discovered was the payment of N133 million for a non-existing contract to Xanjhi Technology, a company he appointed to computerize the pension payroll.
The money was withdrawn in cash, converted to dollars and handed over to Khalid Biu (PW5), a staff of Fidelity Bank and handed over to Maina’s secretary, Ann Igwe Oluchi, who is now standing trial at FCT High Court Gwagwalada.
Xanjhi Technology and its owner, Ahmed Mazangari are also standing trial for inserting about 15 fake persons into the pension payroll which they were engaged to computerize.
According to the witness, “We also discovered that Frederick Hamilton Ltd, owned by Osa Afe, presently standing trial with Steven Oransanya who received payment for a non-existing biometric contract handed over about N250 million to Maina.
“Our investigation further revealed the existence of six accounts with Fidelity Bank, out of the six, five were linked to Abdurrasheed Maina. We discovered that there was nowhere in the accounts opening packages of these accounts where the name, birthday or signatures of Abdurrasheed Maina appeared. These account are: Nafisatu Aliyu Yeldu (PW4) Drew Construction, also an account Kangolo Dynamic Cleaning Services Ltd, Cluster Logistics Ltd, Fatima Aliyu, he also had a personal account in his own name with Fidelity Bank, and also in the name of Dr. Abdullahi Faizal.
“For example Nafisatu Aliyu Yeldu’s account bears the name of Abdurrasheed Maina’s sister. It also bears her passport, photograph. On the face of it, it appears the account belonged to her, but when we invited her for investigation, we discovered she didn’t know anything about the account, even though it contains her name and children but it was not her signature. She informed us that she remembers at one point that Toyin Meseke (PW2), who is a Fidelity Bank staff requested for her PHCN (power utility) bill but she wasn’t sure what he wanted it for and that was one of the document that was used in opening the account. She also informed us that when she started receiving alerts, she contacted Toyin Meseke and he promised to deal with the issue.”
The turnover in Yeldu’s account, the witness said, was over N300 million .
The analysis of the identity used in the opening of Abdullahi Faizal’s account, (one of the many variants of the name Maina used for his son and himself) showed that it was forged, even as Meseke, the account officer, confirmed that Maina had complete control over the account, though his name, signature and photograph did not appear anywhere in the account opening packages. The account had a turnover of about N1.5 billion within nine months from mostly cash deposits from unknown sources.
“We called for the statement of Drew Construction and of his Fidelity Bank, and discovered the same modus by Maina, concealing and stealing the identity of his family members, registering companies in their names, opening corporate bank account without their knowledge.
“In the case of Drew Construction, it was the name of his other sister, Fatima Abdullahi Aliyu. When she was confronted, it showed that she had no knowledge of the account, even though it bore her name and other similar information that belonged to her. The turnover was about N55 million all from cash deposits within a few months.
“We also discovered from Common Input, a company registered by Maina and his wife, using the details of his sister (PW2), taking advantage of his sister-in-law, Mairo Bashir (PW1), who deliberately allowed Maina to conceal his identity without doing the ‘Know Your Customer’ and allowing him to operate the accounts as Fatima Abdullahi. When Fatima was invited, we confronted her that her BVN was linked to Common Input and Kongolo Dynamic Cleaning Services Ltd and she confirmed that she did not know about the existence of the company and that Maina requested her to give her BVN so that she will be removed as a signatory from the company and she wasn’t aware of being a signatory of any company but innocently gave them the BVN, believing that will make her stop being a signatory of the said company.
Justice Abang adjourned the matter till December 3, 2020 for continuation of trial.