Operatives of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) have begun investigating the N117 billion described as “suspicious transactions’’ carried out by the Rivers state government.
According to the Nation, the monies represent over the counter withdrawals in the last three years.
It quoted EFCC sources alleging that there were indications that the withdrawals from the state accounts were laundered by some state officials.
But the state government has described the investigation as “political witch-hunt” and that it would not be intimidated as the state was covered by 2007 court ruling which forbids probe of the state.
The EFCC had so far listed four suspects for interrogation in connection with the massive withdrawals, including an official in-charge of Finance and Accounts at the Government House and also a cashier.
According to the sources, the withdrawals were made in tranches of N10 million with as many as 50 cheques cashed in a day.
The sources said it was a case of “gross violation” of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act of 2011.
One of the sources said: “Based on intelligence report, the EFCC swung into action.
“Our findings indicated that the withdrawals were made in cash from the state accounts mostly by one person. There are no records of what the cash was used for. We are working on clues that it was diverted.
“The EFCC team has obtained all the records of the withdrawals, including date and time. For instance, on June 8, 2015 barely few days in government, about 45 cheques amounting to N450million were cashed over the counter for no justifiable purpose.
“Also, on June 9, 2015 about 50 cheques amounting to N500million were withdrawn. We will soon release the details of findings by our team.”
Meanwhile, One of Nigeria’s top lenders, Zenith Bank Plc. is under fire for allegedly helping Rivers State Governor, Mr. Nyesom Wike, to launder the money from the state’s treasury.
Zenith’s Group Managing Director, GMD, Mr. Peter Amangbo, was weekend taken into custody by the EFCC for failing to properly document the suspicious transactions and report them to authorities as required by the Money Laundering Act 2011.
THEWILL gathered that Amangbo has been in EFCC custody in Abuja since Friday.
Details of the investigation leaked to the press by sources in the EFCC said that Zenith made N5.2 billion from fees and finance charges.
Apart from Amangbo, the EFCC is seeking an official in charge of Finance and Accounts at the Government House, Similari Fubara and a cashier amongst others to grill.
Nigerian financial institutions are notorious for aiding officials and corrupt persons launder illicit funds due to institutional weaknesses.
Zenith and EFCC are yet to officially react to the development but Wike in a statement Sunday warned the agency to stay off Rivers finances warning that it would frustrate the investigation.
“We are not afraid of their probe and they have no power to probe us.
“No government official will appear before the EFCC until they set aside the court judgment of Rivers State Government against them in 2007. We cannot be intimidated.
“They filed for leave to appeal the judgment at the Court of Appeal. Until they set aside the judgment, we will not come,” Wike said.
(The Nation/The Will)