By G9ija

A prosecution witness, Mr Temitope Erinomo, told the Federal High Court in Abuja on Thursday how Malabu Oil and Gas Limited and six other companies charged with fraud in the Oil Prospecting Lease 245 transactions, had allegedly violated the money laundering law.

Erinomo is the Principal Compliance Officer at the Special Control Unit Against Money Laundering in the Federal Ministry of Trade and Investments.

He appeared in court on Thursday as the first prosecution witness in the case of 67 counts of money laundering involving about $800m instituted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission against Malabu Oil, the six other companies, and a businessman, Aliyu Abubakar.

Aside Malabu Oil and Abubakar, the rest of the defendants are A-Group Construction Company Limited, Rocky Top Resources Limited, Mega Tech Engineering Limited, Novel Properties, and Development Company Limited, imperial Union Limited and Carlin International Nigeria Limited.

All the defendants had pleaded not guilty to the 67 charges.

Led in evidence by EFCC’s prosecuting counsel, Bala Sanga, Erinomo said while Malabu Oil was registered as a consultancy firm, the rest of the companies allegedly with link to Abubakar, were registered to carry out construction activities.

Erinomo said in his evidence-in-chief that considering the status of the seven firms as construction and consultancy firms they were designated by the Ministry of Trade and Investments as Designated Non-Financial Institutions.

According to him, such firms were designated as DNFI in 2013 because of their high tendency of being used for money laundering.

Erinomo explained that the DNFI firms were mandated by the Money Laundering Prohibition Act to, among others, be registered with the ministry, submit statutory reports of their activities, and declare qualified transactions to the ministry and the EFCC.

He added that the firms were also required by law to put in place anti-money laundering measures, set up an internal audit to measure the effectiveness of the measures and appoint a compliance officer from among the members of the management staff.

He said the from the companies’ charters of organisation, they did not comply with the provisions of the money laundering law.

He said, “We searched through our registration database and report database.

“We find out that these companies have not made any declaration to the ministry in compliance with the Act.

“We also found out that they do not submit their statutory reports to the ministry and the EFCC.

“They have not made the declaration of their activities to the ministry.

“They do not have a record of measures they have taken to combat money laundering.

“They do not have an internal audit unit to measure the effectiveness of the measures they have taken to combat money laundering.

“They do not appoint a compliance officer from among the management staff to ensure compliance.

“They also do not carry out training for their staff on anti-money laundering measures.

“We also uncovered several transactions that were not reported to EFCC.”

The witness also tendered reports of his findings, through the prosecuting counsel, and was admitted as exhibits.

Under cross-examination by Malabu Oil’s lawyer, Mr J. A Achimugu, Erinomo said he carried out an off-site inspection ascertain the alleged violations by the firm.

He said he did not visit Malabu’s office or invite its staff, before arriving at his findings, because he did not have to.

He also said he was sure that the bank statements he analysed belonged to Malabu without the need of confronting the firm’s staff with the documents.

The judge deferred the cross-examination of the witness by other defence lawyers, Mr Olalekan Ojo (SAN) and Chief Akin Olujinmi (SAN), till October 27.