- Empowers EFCC to investigate Diezani, President Jonathan and wife, others foreign accounts
The coast may now be clear for the federal government to commence the scrutiny of alleged foreign accounts of designated government officials who served under former President Goodluck Jonathan. The scrutiny would also be extended to any bank accounts belong to President Jonathan and his wife, Mrs Patience Jonathan.
The foreign accounts of the designated former top officials of the Jonathan’s administration are being ferreted by the Federal government in connection with the latter’s determination to ascertain allegations that P &ID firm which was awarded a controversial sum of $9.6bn (estimated to be N3,7tn) as arbitration claims against the federal government, may have put its hands in the public till and allegedly compromised some public officials during the Jonathan administration.
P & ID is an engineering firm which has its parent company in the British Virgin Island.
This is as a United States’ district judge in New York, Lorna Schofield on Monday acceded to Nigeria’s request and ordered 10 US banks to allow the Nigerian government access the account details of former president Jonathan, his wife Patience, former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke and other accused persons in the contentious P & ID deal.
Those familiar with the case disclosed that the Federal government’s decision to subpoena 10 United States banks is to enable Nigeria examine those suspected foreign accounts with a view to establishing or otherwise that the $9.6bn arbitration was fraudulently obtained by the Engineering firm — Process and Industrial Development (P&ID), and is consequently not qualified in Law to demand for the said payment.
Recall The New Diplomat recently reported that the Federal government of Nigeria was requesting bank documents from 10 United States banks including Citigroup Inc and JPMorgan Chase & Co, in what appeared to be a legal move to countermand the contentious subject matter of $9.6 billion P&ID arbitration award. In rough estimates, this translates to about N3.7tn, according to Universal Currency Converter data.
Also, among the concerned banks are New York branches of Deutsche Bank AG and United Bank for Africa Plc. The award which came in form of a penalty against Nigeria was reportedly linked to business transactions and deals that may have implicated those involved in the contentious transaction.
Also, two weeks ago Bloomberg reported that the Nigerian government had asked a court in New York for appropriate and legal approval and authorization to subpoena information relating to transactions concerning officials of the Jonathan government, including Jonathan and his wife.
This according to the report bears the imprint of authorities ferreting bank documentations involving government officials when the P & ID deal was sealed, and this deal was said to have taken place during the Jonathan administration.
The US court ruling on Monday is crucial to the investigation of the fraud as alleged, as it now empowers the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to subpoena the 10 designated banks for financial records to help prove the allegations against the suspected individuals just as it might also help establish their innocence if nothing incriminating are found in the bank records including those of the Jonathans and Alison-Madueke.
The court documents noted that there is no “direct evidence” that Jonathan and other co-accused persons took funds from P&ID and its subsidiaries, however, the 10 banks are “likely to have processed US dollar transactions connected to P&ID’s operations as either correspondent banks or the New York branches of foreign lenders,” which will either reveal their involvement or establish their innocence.
Meanwhile, the former President while reacting to the request made by the Nigerian government to enable it subpoena the 10 US banks for financial records had reiterated that he doesn’t have a bank account or a property outside the shores of Nigeria. In fact, former President Jonathan has consistently restated his position that he doesn’t have a house nor a bank account outside the shores of Nigeria.
In a statement issued a fortnight ago, signed by Jonathan’s spokesman, Ikechukwu Eze, the former President said: “Our attention has been drawn to international media reports to the effect that the Federal Government of Nigeria has subpoenaed bank records for former President Goodluck Jonathan and his wife, Dame Patience Jonathan in the United States of America.
“We aver that the Federal Government of Nigeria did not contact Dr. Jonathan or his wife before issuing these subpoenas. If they had, we would have advised them of the fact that you cannot subpoena what does not exist. We also remind the public that on March 5, 2014, during the swearing in of new ministers, then President Jonathan said “I am loyal to Nigeria’s economy. I don’t have accounts or property abroad.”