Panic Grips the Embassy of Nigeria as the American Authorities Investigate Embassy Bank Account Allegedly used for Money Laundering
- Category: GENERAL
- Published on Monday, 18 June 2012 21:24
- Written by Elombah.com
The quiet diplomacy and behind-the-scene efforts to quell the investigation by the U.S. authorities into the Nigerian Embassy bank accounts seems to have suffered some setback. From the two Embassy accounts in Bank of America and Wells Fargo, the Americans have extended their investigation to the third and last account used
by the Embassy, which is with the M & T Bank. The extension of the probe to the M & T Bank account is a sign of a troubling escalation because investigation shows that was the account where the Embassy of Nigeria placed over 25 million dollars realized from the sale of the Nigerian Government real estate properties. Our investigation also shows this is not the operating account used by the Embassy, but they contained significant amount of funds, which have been apparently drawn down so fast between 2007 and 2012.
The current problem started with the other two bank accounts regularly used as operating accounts by the Embassy of Nigeria. These are the accounts with Bank of America and Wells Fargo Bank.
These accounts attracted the attention of US authorities when it became apparent that over 3.6 million dollars were irregularly moved into and out of these accounts within a relatively short time. The U.S. Treasury Department through the State Department in a letter to the Embassy of Nigeria demanded an explanation for such unusual and irregular movements of funds. Despite reminders from State Department, Nigerian Embassy never provided any explanation. Instead, funds continue to move into and out of these accounts in manners that deepened the concerns of the US authorities, causing them to direct the banks to freeze those accounts.
According to the investigation, Ambassador Adefuye and his family had been withdrawing large sums of cash from these accounts, including the $50,000 cash drawn recently by the Ambassador. Many have wondered why the Ambassador would have need for such huge sum in cash.
An online report last week suggested Nigeria and the United States of America government might be heading for a diplomatic row over the decision of the latter to freeze some of the accounts of the country's embassy in Washington, DC.
Bank of America, M&T Bank and Wells Fargo was said to have received directive from the US government to close the accounts of the Nigerian embassy in Washington and its consulate in New York on suspicion of money laundering after traffic on the various accounts raised a red flag.
The decision is sequel to intelligence report generated by a panel comprising representatives of the US Department of Justice, the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) and the Department of Treasury, unknown to Nigerian embassy officials, to monitor wires and traffic in all the accounts operated by the embassy.
However, sources say what troubles the Nigerian Embassy, particularly Ambassador Adefuye, the most at the moment is the discovery last week that Emeka Ugwuonye might be assisting in the investigation of these accounts. Around 11:30pm on Friday, June 15, 2012, the lawyers representing the Nigerian Embassy filed papers in court seeking to block Emeka Ugwuonye from giving information against the Embassy of Nigeria in any such investigation, claiming that such information will be privileged. According to the paper filed in court, a copy of which Elombah.com has obtained from the court record through the pacer services, the Embassy lawyers stated:
“The Embassy represents that Defendant Ugwuonye has engaged in an extensive campaign to impugn the Embassy and the Federal Republic of Nigeria by providing media interviews and writing blogs on the Internet, and he has even gone so far as to post on the Internet at least one deposition transcript from a separate court action he brought against a reporter that addresses matters relating to the Embassy’s claims. Accordingly, the Embassy requests a protective order prohibiting all parties from publicly discussing this case prior to the issuance of a final judgment.”
By the above statement, the lawyers for the Embassy of Nigeria are seeking to conceal the proceedings in the case from the public. Curiously, the Embassy lawyers referred to the posting by Elombah.com’s the transcripts of Sowore’s deposition.
On his own part, Ugwuonye is outraged by any effort by the Embassy to conceal the proceedings from the public. He believes the case is now in the public interest. He believes that the Embassy, EFCC and their cronies have spent the past 3 years publishing all kinds of falsehood against him. And now that the ugly truth about the Nigerian Embassy is coming to light, they want protection from the court. “They want a seal of secrecy. But that is too late”, he said. They are the once who have skeletons in their cupboards and naturally, they want to hide from the public. But I don’t think the court will let them,” he continued. “Look at all the nonsense their friends have been putting out against me. I can’t believe that the Embassy and its lawyers which their friends in the media tried to smear me, would turn around and accuse me of being the one publishing the proceedings of this case. They got to be out of their minds”, he concluded.
As for cooperating in any investigation on the Embassy accounts, Ugwuonye said he would be happy to sing songs. He knows a lot about the M & T Bank account. He negotiated the bridge loan for the purchase of the Ambassador’s residence in Potomac and that was with M & T Bank. The loan was actually not a real loan because the Embassy had in its account with M & T Bank more funds than the loan amount. Yet it had to borrow because of stupidity from Abuja. Also, it was in the M & T Bank that the Embassy placed over 25 million dollars it realized from the sales of the properties. By end of 2007, there was about 25 million dollars in that account, all of which passed through Ugwuonye’s law offices to the Embassy. But by February of 2011, the balance of the account was drawn down to 15 million dollars without any explanation. Indeed, Ugwuonye realized the rapid drawdown when Ambassador Adefuye informed the EFCC that only 15 million was realized from the sale of the properties. Ugwuonye tried to alert the EFCC to the shortfall of 10 million dollars, which was not accounted for by the Ambassador. But Mrs. Farida Waziri and the Ambassador suppressed that information. The written statement in which Ugwuonye explained to the EFCC the entire amount in the account was destroyed on the instruction of Mrs. Farida Waziri and that document was not among the Ugwuonye’s statements which were filed in court as proof of evidence in the case against him in Abuja. All information about how the 25 million dollars suddenly became 10 million dollars was suppressed by Adefuye and Waziri.
Apparently, there has been a massive cover-up right from Washington, through the EFCC on what actually happened. How much money was realized from the sale of the properties in the United States, where were the funds kept, how the funds were spent, etc. And now, the Embassy is seeking the help of the court to continue the cover-up.
According to Ugwuonye, “I will respect whatever order the court may deem fit to make on the matter. But I doubt that any court will stop me from cooperating with the American investigators. On the question of attorney-client confidentiality, all bets are off when the same client lies against you and complain that you stole money. Also, this is a government. Some of the things I knew are not covered by confidentiality rules. This not about some nuclear science deals. There is a crime or fraud exception to confidentiality. A client who continues to commit a crime after he retained a lawyer cannot expect the lawyer to cover-up his continued criminality. I know quite a lot. I know that Nigerian government officials stole more money between 1999 and the present than was stolen throughout the period of military rule. You must know that over 80% of what was recovered by Nigeria as the Abacha’s loot was in turn stolen by Nigerian government officials under Obasanjo. I will tell the Americans all that I know. Every secret account I know to belong to Nigerian officials is open to disclosure”. This position by Ugwuonye is what is giving the Ambassador and the Attorney General of Nigeria sleepless nights.
Elombah.com shall continue it investigation into the progress of this case and the investigations over the Nigerian Embassy accounts.