The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has made a breakthrough in the ongoing probe of the missing N13.5billion Halliburton fines.
The agency has located the agent alleged to have opened the controversial escrow account in the United States.
The EFCC is also considering seeking the assistance of the US in tracking down the signatories to the private account entitled FGN JP Morgan Chase New York Swift BIC Code CHASUS 33, Account No. 000742501406865.
The private account was fraudulently opened in the name of the Federal Government.
A Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Mr. D.D. Dodo, one of the lawyers behind the $200million Halliburton Settlement Agreement has told the EFCC that he gave no bribe to a former Attorney-General of the Federation, Mr. Bello Adoke (SAN), or any Federal Government official.
However, the EFCC asked Dodo to explain why he withdrew about $4 million cash from his account in three tranches and for what purpose.
Dodo, in his response, said the cash was for private purposes.
The EFCC had uncovered how $32.5million (N13, 585,000, 000) of about $200million fines from Halliburton Energy Services was allegedly paid into a private account.
The cash was said to be missing at press time after the anti-graft agency could not ascertain whether or not it was remitted into Federal Government’s account.
A top shot at the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Mr. Roland Ewubare was one of the lawyers involved in the Settlement Agreement with Halliburton.
He has been given up to September 15 to submit a letter authorizing him by the Federal Government to open the private escrow account.
Investigation by our correspondent revealed that the search for the missing N13.5billion has shifted to the United States as the EFCC moves to locate the whereabouts of the fines.
Although Ewubare claimed that $20million of the $32.5million had been remitted into a Federal Government account, the EFCC could not locate the said account at press time.
A top source said: “We have information that the agent behind the private escrow account is based in the United States. We have located his whereabouts, but we are waiting for the outcome of Ewubare’s trip.
“If necessary, we are likely to solicit the help of anti-graft and intelligence agencies in the United States to track down all the signatories and transactions in the account before it was closed.
“There is more to how this private account was opened and the purpose it was used for because the former Minister of Finance, the ex-AGF and four of the five lawyers involved in the Settlement Agreement had no knowledge of how the account came about.
“The lawyers who facilitated the agreement are a former President of the Nigerian Bar Association, J.B Daudu (SAN), Mr. E.C Ukala (SAN), Chief Godwin Obla (SAN), Mr. Roland Ewubare and D.D. Dodo (SAN).”
Another source familiar with the case said Ewubare might have received a Letter of Authority to open the account in a private name from a former National Security Adviser, the late Gen. Owoye Azazi.
The source said: “The step was taken in order to save the FGN accounts from attachment and garnishee over judgments in excess of $504 million in the United States.
“Since more than $200million was recovered from the TSKJ and others, the $32.5million would have been lost to the garnishee order.
“I think the ex-NSA took a decision to avert losing the Halliburton fines.
“The escrow arrangement was largely responsible for the protection of Nigeria’s assets. Ewubare did not divert the account into private use.
“In fact, in his statement to the EFCC, he admitted that he even returned about $500,000 to the Federal Government.”
But the EFCC source said: “This investigation is not personal.
“We have asked Ewubare to produce all relevant documents and the Letter of Authority to open a private account for the FGN’s funds.
“We will, however, subject all the documents to forensic analysis once they are made available.
“The relevant agencies in the US will also investigate the private account and all documents used to open it.”
Meanwhile, one of the lawyers involved in the Settlement Agreement is Mr. D.D. Dodo (SAN).
He told the EFCC interrogation team that he did not give ex-AGF Mohammed Bello Adoke (SAN) or any government official bribe.
The five lawyers legally benefited from $12.5million professional fees after the agreement was concluded.
The EFCC was probing clues on whether part of the $32.5m or the professional fees was given to top officials of ex-President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration as bribes.
The curious withdrawal of $4million in cash by Dodo fuelled the EFCC’s investigation.
Dodo’s account details, obtained by EFCC, are as follows UBA: Swift Code UNAFNGLA through Deutsche Bankers Trust Co. America, New York Swift Code BKTRYUS33, Routing No. 021001033 Account No. 04010011.
In his statement on oath, Dodo said: “I collected cash from my domiciliary account in various sums and at different times.
“I collected $1m in cash for my private purposes on 11th April 2011.
“I also withdrew $1million on 25/1/2013 for my private purposes which I am not willing to disclose.
“I also withdrew $2million cash on 23/11/ 12 for my private purposes which I am not willing to disclose. I did not give ex-AGF Mr. Adoke or any government official any money.
“The allegation is totally baseless, false, wicked and malicious.
“I affirm that the fees paid to the legal team, comprising J.B. Daudu (SAN), E.C. Ukala (SAN), Godwin Obla(SAN), Roland Ewubare and myself, were legitimate fees for all the work and negotiations that helped the Federal Government to recover over $180million from the Halliburton companies.
“No bribe was offered and no bribe was demanded by anybody.”
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