Former Governor Abdulaziz Yari of Zamfara State is billed to face another round of interrogation by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) again.
This is coming barely two months after he faced several hours of questioning by the agency’s operatives over corruption allegation in February.
PREMIUM TIMES reported in February that Mr Yari faced a long interrogation session with detectives at the Lagos office of the EFCC over an alleged attempt to illegally move N300 billion from a corporate account in a new generation bank.
Although details of the transaction was sketchy, sources told this newspaper that Mr Yari gave a lengthy statement to the commission’s operatives before he was released late in the evening of February 3.
PREMIUM TIMES was reliably informed that Mr Yari, a former Chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF), might be asked to return for further interrogation.
Our reporter, late Tuesday, obtained a copy of a fresh invitation letter dated April 6, 2021 which was reportedly served on the former governor, asking him to appear at the Sokoto office of the EFCC on Thursday.
PREMIUM TIMES cannot immediately confirm if Mr Yari, who has been previously accused by the EFCC of diverting proceeds of Paris Club refund, is being invited over the same allegations he was questioned for at the Lagos office of the commission in February.
But the fresh invitation letter signed by the EFCC’s Director of Operations, Abdulkarim Chukkol, indicated that Mr Yari’s interrogation would centre on allegations of “conspiracy, diversion of public funds and money laundering”.
The letter with reference number CR: 3000/EFCC/SKS/DOPS/VOL.1/87 appealed to Mr Yari for his cooperation over the invitation.
The invitation letter titled, ‘INVESTIGATION ACTIVITIES: LETTER OF INVITATION’, reads, “The commission is investigating an alleged case of conspiracy, diversion of public funds and money laundering in which the need to obtain certain clarifications from you has become imperative.
“In view of the above, we kindly request your presence for an interview with Zonal Head of Sokoto as follows:
“Venue 7, Super Quarters, off Sama Road, off Tsafe Road, Sokoto.
“Date: Thursday, 8 April 2021.
“Time: 1100hrs prompt.
“Your cooperation in this regard is highly solicited, please.”
Yari, Paris Club refund crisis
PREMIUM TIMES recalls that Mr Yari has been under EFCC’s searchlight over his handling of proceeds of Paris Club refunds, since at least 2017, two years before losing his immunity on completing his second term tenure as governor in May 2019.
A court document filed by the commission in 2017 sheds light on the suspicious nature of payments by Mr Yari-led NGF to consultants who were said to have helped the forum to recover funds that were over-deducted from the allocations of the 36 state governments in connection with the London and Paris clubs loan between 1995 and 2002.
PREMIUM TIMES recently exposed how six of the “consultants” and “contractors” have been scrambling to be paid about N159 billion awarded in their favour in various court judgments affirming their claims to shares of the Paris Club refunds.
Mr Yari, shortly before his exit as the NGF chairman in May 2019, had issued a letter of “Indemnity and No Objection” approving the deduction of the humongous amount of funds from the allocations of the states.
His successor as the NGF chairman, Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State, is against the payment and has been battling to stop it, PREMIUM TIMES report shows.
Yari and EFCC investigation on Paris Club refund
In a court document filed in 2017, EFCC stated that it received an intelligence in January 2017 alleging “conspiracy, criminal misappropriation of public funds involving the sum of N19,439,225,871.11 out of the Paris Club refunds made by the Federal Government in favour of the 36 states of the federation”.
The commission had in the court filing, sought an order of forfeiture of N500 million and $500,000 allegedly recovered from Mr Yari.
The anti-corruption agency said the funds were found in the accounts of First Generation Mortgage Bank Ltd and Gosh Projects Limited.
It said the sums of money were part of N2.2billion “fraudulently transferred by the NGF to BINA Consults and Integrated Services Ltd on December 23, 2016.”
Following the ex parte application filed by EFCC, the Federal High Court in Abuja, on June 30, 2017, issued an interim order of forfeiture of the N500 million and $500,000.
But, in November 17, 2017, the judge, Nnamdi Dimgba, rejected the commission’s further request for a permanent forfeiture of the funds, and went ahead to set aside the earlier interim forfeiture order.
The judge said it could not grant the forfeiture order since different entities had come forward to lay claim to the funds.
He added that should the EFCC feel “strongly about the illicit origin of the funds”, it should take steps “to discharge the requisite burdens of proof, rather than resorting to the easy route of a forfeiture afforded by the Section 17 of the Advance Fee Fraud Act.”
Forfeiture order obtained by ICPC
But another judge of the Federal High Court, Abuja, Ijeoma Ojukwu, on January 26, 2021, ordered the final forfeiture of funds suspected to be proceeds of corruption found in bank accounts linked to Mr Yari.
The judge gave the order following an application by Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission (ICPC).
While $56, 056.75 was lodged in Polaris Bank account, the sums of N12.9 million, N11.2 million, $301, 319.99; N217, 388.04 and $311, 872.15 were kept in different Zenith Bank accounts, all in the name of Mr Yari and his companies.
The judge held that the former governor did not show good cause why the order sought by the ICPC should not be granted.
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