An Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC)’s witness, Mrs. Jane Asuquo, yesterday, told a Federal High Court sitting in Abuja that Haruna Momoh, former Managing Director, Pipelines and Products Marketing Company (PPMC), used his wife, Ochuko, to launder the agency’s $700 million. Asuquo, while testifying as 1st prosecution witness before Justice Taiwo Taiwo, said the act was perpetrated between 2012 and 2015 when Haruna was the MD. Ochuko was, on March 9, arraigned before Justice Taiwo by the ICPC. She was arraigned alongside Blessing Azuka-Ngozi, Stanbic-IBTC Bank Plc., Energopol Nigeria Limited, Blaid Construction Limited and Blaid Farms Limited on a 22-count charge, but later reduced to 13 counts.
However, the 1st defendant in the new charge, Haruna Momoh, is said to be at large. Asuquo, while giving her evidence-in-chief during examination by the ICPC lawyer, Osuobeni Akponimisingha, said: “Sometime in 2015, ICPC received a petition against Haruna Momoh fleecing PPMC about $700 million.”
The witness, who is also an Assistant Chief Investigative Officer with the commission, said her team discovered that Mrs. Haruna had a number of companies which she used in connivance with her husband to defraud PPMC. “After we went through the file, we sent letters of invitation to 1st and 2nd defendants and requested for documents from financial institutions used, the Bureau de Change (BDC) operators, Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC), FCTA and other companies registered under the Companies and Allied Matters Act, etc. “We received responses to letters sent out such as statements of account, account opening documents and other relevant documents,” she said. She said letters were written to banks. Asuquo, however, said three letters were written to Ochuko, inviting her to the office, but she failed to honour them.
She narrated how money was moved out of PPMC in tranches in the name of award of contracts. The witness said investigation by the commission revealed that Ochuko and her children had over 50 accounts domiciled in different banks. “There were lots of cash flows in these accounts running into billions in naira and in dollars.
“The investigation also revealed that the accounts were opened between 2012 and 2015 when Momoh was head of PPMC. “We had course to invite some banks like Stanbic- IBTC because when we went through the bank statements of Stanbic-IBTC, we discovered lots of abnormal inflows; a situation of somebody making a deposit of about N10 million in one day. “We drew the attention of the bank to these and invited them if such transactions were normal and if they report this to NFIU and CBN,” she remarked. The witness said that the bank, in a response letter, admitted that such act was “abnormal.”
She said in the course of the investigation, it was discovered that Energopol Nigeria Limited had no office in Port Harcourt as claimed in their documents. “The company address only exists on paper,” she said. She said further investigation showed that the bank statements of Blaid Construction Limited, though duly registered with CAC, did not indicate how salaries of staff were paid contrary to the claim that they have over 10 employees working in the company. On the Blaid Farm, she wrote that it was yet to take off.
“We requested for contract documents from PPMC and they obliged us. When we analysed it, we discovered that in 2013, when Momoh was still the MD, he awarded a contract of N250 million to Blaid Construction Company, owned by his wife. “We sought to invite the former PPMC MD, but they responded that he could not be traced through his last address,” she said. Justice Taiwo later adjourned the matter until October 28 and 29 for trial continuation.