EDITOR’S NOTE: This piece was originally published in November 2015.
After months of evading summons by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, Abdulrasheed Maina, whistle-blower and pension reform advocate, has been declared wanted for allegedly stealing over N1billion of pension funds.
The irony of the situation could not have been lost on anyone who had followed the saga of the monumental plundering of pension funds in Nigeria by corrupt civil servants.
On Tuesday, but for a last-minute adjournment, Maina, former Chairman of the Pension Reform Task Team, PRTT, who blew the lid on the looting of more than N100billion pension funds at the pension offices of the Head of Service and Police Pension Office, along with his front companies, would have been arraigned before the Federal High Court, Abuja.
The EFCC had earlier on Monday declared Maina wanted after he repeatedly refused to appear before it to respond to allegations of stealing and money laundering.
Recall that on March 8, 2012, in the same court building where Maina is likely to face trial, another trial took place involving top civil servants that Maina and his task team had accused of stealing about N60 billion of pension funds from the Office of the Head of Civil Service of the Federation, HOSF
Arraigned for trial were Teidi Shuaibu, former Director (Pensions) in the office of the Head of Service, Phina Ukamaka Chidi, Deputy Director in the same office and 30 others on a 134 count charge of conspiracy, fraud, stealing and misappropriation of public funds.
Months later, on May 28, 2012, at the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) High Court in Gudu, another set of senior civil servants, including two former directors at the Police Pension Office, Esias Dangaba and Abubakar Kigo, (later Permanent Secretary) along with others, was arraigned for stealing more than N32 billion police officers pension funds.
However, today, the table has turned as Maina himself has been slammed with a 35-count charge bothering on stealing, Advance Fee Fraud (419) and money laundering, along with Steve Oronsaye, former HOSF, Osarenkhoe Afe, a consultant to the PRTT, and four companies.
Earlier, on July 10, 2015, Oronsaye, Maina, Afe and a company, Fredrick Hamilton Global Services, were arraigned before the Federal High Court, Abuja, on a 24-count charge bordering on stealing, fraud and misappropriation of public funds.
However, on Tuesday, the companies allegedly used by Maina to launder the money he is accused of stealing were added to the charges. The companies are Cluster Logistics Limited, Kangolo Dynamic Cleaning Limited and Drew Investment & Construction Company.
An earlier report by the ICIR, N1 Billion Pension Fraud: The Case Against Oronsaye, Abdulrasheed Maina, detailed how Oronsaye and Maina allegedly masterminded the stealing of over N1 billion from pension funds at the office of the Head of Service using bogus biometric enrollment contracts given to companies controlled by their friends, cronies and associates.
However, after the initial arraignment, amendments made to the charges showed in detail how Maina allegedly laundered his loot to foreign jurisdictions, mostly to Dubai, where he has been resident for nearly two years, using companies and accounts controlled by him but opened and run by his family members, including his brother and sister.
The alleged coordinator of Maina’s laundering activities was his junior brother, Khalid Aliyu Biu, who worked in Fidelity Bank until the last quarter of 2012. Khalid facilitated the opening of several company and personal accounts for Maina with a total turnover of nearly over N1 billion between 2009 and 2015.
Apart from the above mentioned companies, Khalid opened two other personal accounts in the name of Nafisatu Aliyu, believed to be his sister, and Abdullahi Faisal. (Maina’s son is named Faisal).
Khalid opened an account in Fidelity Bank in the name of Cluster Logistics while he worked there. A search at the Corporate Affairs Commission, CAC, shows that the company had three directors – Khalid Aliyi Biu, Hassan Dahiru and Sani Musa. The company registration papers also had Maina’s Kado Estate residence as office address. The sole signatory to the company was Abubakar Mustapha who is believed to be Maina.
Khalid was the account officer to the Cluster Logistics account until he left Fidelity Bank when he handed over to Toyin Meseke who has since managed the account. Meseke and his bosses confirmed to EFCC investigators that Maina operated the Cluster Logistics account.
The account officer said he usually got instructions from Maina through the phone or e-mails to authorize transactions on the account and that such “debit note” transactions were regularized later by Maina providing a cheque. He said he had had to go to Maina’s home in Abuja to collect such cheques. He provided investigators with the phone number and email address with which Maina passed instructions to him.
Investigators found out that funds were later systematically moved out from the Cluster Logistics exaccount and transferred to Bureau de Change operators who converted the money into dollars and wired to Maina in Dubai.
EFCC’s examination of the account’s statements showed several huge withdrawals which ended up wired to Maina in such a manner. For instance, on May 2, 2014, the account officer said that Maina sent an instruction through e-mail authorising a withdrawal and transfer of N33.8 million to a Bureau de Change, which converted the money into dollars and delivered to the former pension task team boss.
A few days later, on May 6, he allegedly authorized another transfer of N42.5 million to the same Bureau de Change, which delivered the equivalent to him in dollars. Other withdrawals authorized by him include N16.1 million on October 3, 2014 and another N15.8 million on the same day.
Perhaps, the most curious transaction in the Cluster Logistics account was an inflow of N61,8555,858 on March 16, 2011 from the Department of State Services, DSS. It could not be determined what the money is meant for but Maina actually also helped the security agency to reform its pension administration system.
Meseko said he was told by Maina many times to withdraw money from the Cluster Logistics account and hand over to specific persons. In one instance, he said that Maina authorized the withdrawal of N6.5 million and asked him to bring it to Oronsaye’s home. However, according to Meseke, the cash unit of the bank had closed so he could not withdraw the money until the next day. When he took the cash to Maina’s house the next day, he was told that it was meant to pay for a car he had bought from Oronsaye.
Meseke also told investigators that Khalid handed over the two other accounts, which he had opened in the name of Nafisatu Aliyu and Abdullahi Faisal to him. He said that Khalid told him that the two accounts were also controlled by Maina, although his name does not appear in the account documentation. The account officer said he was told to honour all instructions on the accounts from Maina; and he did exactly that.
The Drew Investment and Kangolo Dynamic Cleaning Limited accounts too were operated in the same manner by the former pension task force boss. A CAC search indicated that the Kangolo Dynamic Cleaning Limited was registered by Hajiya Fatima Abunakar, believed to be Maina’s sister, while Drew Investment was registered by one Maimuna Idris.
Apart from the company and personal accounts that Maina is accused of using to launder money, he is also alleged to have a safe deposit box (no 489) with Fidelity Bank in Abuja, which he opened in the name of Nafisatu Aliyu.
There were speculations last week that Maina might have sneaked into the country before he was declared wanted by the EFCC on Monday, but he did not appear at the Federal High Court, Abuja on Tuesday where the case against him was supposed to be heard.
In the new charges brought against the accused persons, Maina alone is accused of laundering over N700 million using his front companies.
That you Cluster Logistics Limited, Kangolo Dynamic Cleaning Limited and Abdulrasheed Maina, (alias Abdullahi Faizal now at large) between 3rd March, 2012 and 31st May 2012 in Abuja within the jurisdiction of this honourable court did collaborate in concealing the genuine nature of the sum of N219,000,000.00 (Two hundred and nineteen million naira) by depositing the said amount in cash into the account of Abdullahi Faizal, maintained by Abdulrasheed Maina (alias Abdullhi Faizal, and when you knew that the said sum form part of the proceed of an unlawful act, to wit; corrupt acts of Abdulrasheed Maina and you thereby committed an offence punishable under Section15 (1) (b) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2011.
Count 26 of the charges reads: That you Cluster Logistics Limited, Kangolo Dynamic Cleaning Limited and Abdulrasheed Maina (alias Abdullahi Faizal now at large) on or about 4th of June, 2012 in Abuja within the jurisdiction ofthis honourable court, did collaborate in concealing the genuine nature of the sum of N210,000,000.00 (Two hundred and ten million naira~) by placing on a fixed deposit the said amount into the account of Abdullahi A.Faizal maintained by Abdulrasheed Maina (alias Abdullahi Faizal) and when you knew that the said sum form part of the proceed of an unlawful act, to wit; corrupt acts of Abdulrasheed Maina and you thereby committed an offence punishable under Section 15 (1) (b) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2011.
The case has been adjourned to November 25.