A former Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mohammed Bello Adoke, told Swiss investigators former Nigerian officials accused of bribery did no wrong and could not be prosecuted, a claim that shocked authorities of that European country, PREMIUM TIMES can authoritatively report.
The officials were public officers when part of the alleged bribe was paid to them and, by Nigerian law, barred from engaging in private business.
But Mr. Adoke, responding to a mutual legal assistance request from Switzerland, claimed the officials were only paid legitimate fees for their consultancies.
“The documents on further findings of the executing competent authority of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission revealed that the money were (sic) paid as consultancy fee to the various recipients,” Mr. Adoke told Switzerland in a 2012 letter.
Swiss authorities had in May 2012 wrote the Nigerian government to request support of the country’s anti-graft agency in unearthing further crucial details that could strengthen their investigation, which was already underway at the time.
Switzerland was probing suspicious transactions to the tune of $20 million between Nigerian officials and a firm in Europe.
A former Managing Director of the NPA, Adebayo Sarumi; a former Managing Director of NPA’s Eastern Ports, Felix Ovbude; a former Executive Director of Finance at the NPA, Abba Murtala Mohammed; and Sullivan Nwankpo, ex-President Goodluck Jonathan’s special adviser on technical matters, were said to have participated in the illicit scheme.
Swiss authorities believe Daniel Afam-Obi, a former executive assistant to Mr. Nwankwo, stood in as front for his principal.
Mr. Adoke subsequently requested the EFCC, under its erstwhile chairman, Ibrahim Lamorde, to investigate the Nigerian aspect of the multinational bribery scandal.
But after the EFCC forwarded its report to him, Mr. Adoke wrote to European investigators saying the agency found no acts of wrongdoings on the part of the Nigerians named in the scam.
But in May 2017, Switzerland prosecutors indicted Messrs Sarumi, Ovbude and Mohammed alongside Dredging International Services (Cyprus) Ltd, which was sentenced to a fine of one million Swiss Francs and asked to refund 36 million Swiss Francs in illegal profits for allegedly making illicit payments to the Nigerian officials.
Mr. Afam-Obi was said to have been paid $157,000 for unknown reasons.
In his letter to Swiss authorities, Mr. Adoke said he attached documents containing EFCC investigators’ findings in Nigeria, which allegedly uncovered no fraudulent activities on the part of the targeted Nigerians.
The former Attorney-General was yet to respond to PREMIUM TIMES’ request that he forwards the documents he claimed to have attached to his letter to Swiss authorities.
Nonetheless, an EFCC source familiar with the investigation told PREMIUM TIMES there was no truth in Mr. Adoke’s claim that the anti-graft agency did not implicate the Nigerian officials in its findings.
“These were public officers and there is no way we could have told the minister they received legitimate consultancy fees,” the source said. “We only sent him our findings. Sad that he drew inaccurate conclusion.”
The official, who pleaded strict anonymity because of the sensitivity of his new post outside the EFCC, said there was no way they would have cleared the officials of wrongdoings.
“The former AGF obviously wrote his own personal opinion to Switzerland,” the source said.