Dariye diverted N204m to own company, witness tells court

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The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on Tuesday presented more evidence against a former governor of Plateau State, Joshua Dariye.

Mr. Dariye is facing trial on a 23-count charge bordering on money laundering and diversion of funds, before Justice Adebukola Banjoko, of the Federal Capital Territory High Court, Gudu, Abuja.

Mr. Dariye, in addition to being accused of siphoning about N1.2 billion Ecological Fund meant for the state, had also allegedly diverted about N204 million meant for the state treasury, to Ebenezer Ratnen Ventures, ERV – a company owned by him.

Led in evidence by prosecuting counsel, Rotimi Jacobs, SAN, the EFCC witness, Musa Sunday, a detective with the EFCC, gave details of how money meant for the Plateau State Government account was diverted to ERV.

Mr. Sunday told the court that in the course of investigations into several cheque slips recovered from the then Lion Bank (now Diamond Bank), it was discovered that there were several questionable inflows into the account of ERV.

Further probe into the account, according to Mr. Sunday, revealed that the source of the funds came from the Plateau State government, but for no services rendered.

Presenting the certified photocopies of various bank drafts in court to prove the fraudulent transfers, Sunday, said: “In the course of our investigations we found out that the origin of the various money credited to Ebenezer Ratnen Ventures with Diamond Bank (then Lion Bank), was from the office of the state’s Accountant General.”

Counsel to Mr. Dariye, G.S. Pwul, SAN, raised an objection to the admissibility of the photocopies of the bank drafts raised from the cheques, but his objection was overruled by Justice Banjoko, and the documents were accepted as exhibits.

Specifically, Mr. Sunday said the office of the state’s Accountant General issued Lion Bank cheques to All States Trust Bank, which were cleared into the account of ERV.

He further noted that investigations showed that there were no services rendered by ERV to warrant the payment of the said money, adding that investigations at the Corporate Affairs Commission, CAC, showed that the company was not registered.

“A Lion Bank cheque of N53, 600,643.05 was traced to All States Trust Bank, and it was found to have been cleared in the account of Ebenezer Retnan Ventures, with the source being the state’s Accountant General’s account domiciled in Lion Bank,” he said.

Several of such fraudulent transactions, he said, included a cheque of N15 million payable to All States Trust Bank, credited to ERV; another cheque of N8 million dated January 17, 2001 payable to All States Trust Bank, was also credited to ERV; another Lion Bank cheque of N10 million payable to All States Trust Bank, was also credited to ERV.

According to him, a number of such transactions totalling about N204 million, involved Lion Bank cheques converted to drafts and paid into All States Trust Bank, afterwards credited to the account of ERV.

He added that a further probe into the account of ERV with the bank showed Dariye used money from the account to purchase properties.

“Our investigations showed that money from the account of Ebenezer Retnan Ventures was also moved abroad, to a bank in the UK, the fraudulent transaction subsequently becoming the basis of the request for assistance by the UK Met Police to investigate Dariye,” he said.

He told the court that some of the evidence gathered by the EFCC in the course of the investigation was also sent to the UK Police to assist in their investigation.

“We probed further at the state’s Accountant General’s office to know what services were rendered by Ebenezer Retnan Ventures, but they couldn’t produce or show any contract documents necessitating the payment of N204 million,” he said.

The voluntary statements made by Dariye on June 12, 2007; June 13, 2007 and; June 15, 2007 during interrogation, were also presented in court.

The statements were therefore given to Mr. Dariye, who, after pausing to go through the pages, acknowledged that they were statements made by him in the course of the investigations into the alleged crime.

Dariye’s counsel therefore remarked: “I have no objection to the admissibility of the statement as exhibit, as my client confirmed it to be his own statement”.

While accepting Dariye’s statement as part of exhibits to be used in prosecuting him, Justice Banjoko adjourned till February 2, 2016 for continuation of trial.

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