Senate President, Bukola Saraki operated foreign between 2009 and 2012 while serving as a public officer, a witness said on Tuesday at his resumed trial before the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) in Abuja.
Saraki was Kwara State Governor between 2003 and 2011 and has since 2011 been member of the Senate.
Among the 16 counts on which he is being tried for false assets declaration is that he operated foreign accounts and failed to declare them, acts which offend public service rules.
At the resumption of proceedings before the CCT, the Head of Funds Transfer Unit, Guaranty Trust Bank, Amazi Nwachuckwu confirmed that the Senate President did operate and fund foreign accounts as a public officer.
Nwanchukwu, who was led in evidence by lead prosecution lawyer, Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), said Saraki kept dollar, pounds sterling and naira accounts domiciled in the Ilorin, Kwara State branch of the GTB.
The witness, who was asked to read the documents including Saraki’s bank statements, said Saraki transferred over $3m from his dollar account to his foreign account between 2009 and 2012.
The witness said Saraki transferred $73,223.28 to America Express Services Europe Limited, New York, through the America Express Bank, New York card account.
“Dr Saraki filled the transfer request form in Kwara State Government House, Ilorin.
“He gave the instruction to transfer the sum of $73,223.28 to the beneficiary, the America Express Services Europe Limited, New York, through the America Express Bank, New York’s account number 730580 maintained by America Express Service Europe Limited.
“The purpose of the payment was funding for amounts utilised on AMEX (American Express) cards issued to the customer (dollar credit card no. 374588216836009).
“For his dollar account number 441/441953/2/1/0, the customer (Saraki) signed the fund transfer form. The form was received from the account officer in Ilorin branch.
“We then processed it and transferred it to our corresponding bank abroad. The corresponding bank then transferred it to America Express Bank Limited,” the witness said.
The witness said Saraki authorised the transfer of a total of £1,526,194.53 from his pounds sterling account to his Fortis Bank, London, account in three instalments within two days on February 15 and 16, 2010.
He added that his bank – GTB – offered a N375m loan to Saraki through a letter dated February 10, 2010.
Nwanchukwu said Saraki instructed GTB to transfer the pounds sterling equivalent of the loan to fund his mortgage on a London property.
“Exhibit 7 is a letter dated February 10, 2010. -t is a letter of offer of facility. From the letter, the borrower was Dr. Bukola Saraki. The sum of N375m was offered to him.
“The purpose of the offer was for the purchase of the property in London. From Exhibit 9 (bank statement), there was part payment of mortgage redemption.
“On February 15, 2010, there was second part payment for mortgage redemption. (The amount remaining to be paid was £1,394, 415.53).
“On February 16, 2010, there was full and final payment for mortgage redemption. Total amount payment was £1,516,194.53. The transfers were done within two days on February 15 and 16, 2010,” Nwanchukwu said.
He admitted lacking full knowledge of the procedure of fund transfer in London, but insisted that by his experience with GTB, “a customer can only give instruction to transfer money to another account in another bank, that customer must be maintaining an account in that another bank.”
The witness said a “telex” was usually generated and sent to the customer who gave the transfer instruction as confirmation for the transfer of funds to foreign accounts.
Nwanchukwu, who testified as the 2nd prosecution witness, said the “telexes” with respect to Saraki’s pounds sterling transfer were burnt in a fire incident that engulfed the Funds Transfer Unit at the GTB headquarters.
“As I explained, when you debit a customer, he receives a debit alert. When the transaction is consummated by transfer of the money abroad, a telex confirmation is generated and sent to the account officer who will now forward it to the customer.
“The three telexes “with respect to the Saraki’s transactions) were destroyed by fire incident that happened in the unit. I am not aware of any complaint that the (Saraki’s) London account did not receive the money,” he said.
During cross-examination, the defence lawyer, Paul Usoro (SAN), tendered the statement made by Nwachukwu to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on September 10, 2015.
Nwanchukwu said as at when the telexes of February 15 and 16, 2010, were generated, he was not working at the Funds Transfer Unit of the GTB.
The witness said between 2009 and 2012 he was working at the Central Clearing and the Foreign Operations unit of the bank.
He said he played no role in the documentation relating to Saraki’s transactions.
“I did not see the documents. But I know the existence of the documents because the process is standardised. I am here to testify based on the bank’s record, he said.
The witness said he did not mention anything about the burnt telexes in his statement because he made the statement based on the questions asked by the EFCC interrogator, whom he said did not raise any question concerning the fire incident.
He said the “mortgage redemption” for which Saraki transferred the £1.5m to a foreign account meant payment for house purchase.
He admitted not having deep knowledge on mortgages.
Nwanchukwu said he did not have knowledge of the relationship between Saraki and Fortis Bank as well as the American Express Europe Limited and American Express Europe Bank.