How Rivers officials withdrew N118b in cash – EFCC

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Our Reporter


The  Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) is requesting, for its interrogation, the release of three officials of the Rivers State Government, who are implicated in the alleged illegal withdrawal of N118billion public funds.

Their action is said to be a contravention of the Money Laundering Act.

The cash was allegedly withdrawn by the Director of Finance, Government House, Fubara Siminalayei, Tonye Uranta, and Harisonba Princewill over the counter in suspicious manner.

One of the officials allegedly withdrew over N70billion in cash, about 129 times over a period of three years.

The Rivers State Government is alleged to be shielding them from reporting to the EFCC for interrogation.

The state government cites a perpetual injunction obtained in 2007 barring the EFCC from probing its accounts.

It was gathered that the cash withdrawals were made between 2015 and 2018 with Siminalayei alone allegedly collecting over N70billion over the counter about 35 times in 2016 and 94 times in 2017.

The same suspect allegedly withdrew N16.297billion from the bank in cash in 2015.

Some of the withdrawals from the counter include the following cash payments by Siminalayei: N750m((9/1/16); N830m(11/4/16); N930m(11/7/16); N980m(10/11/16); N850m(7/11/2016); N980m(10/11/16); N550m(11/11/16); N700m (13/1/17); N680m(7/3/2017); N630m (12/5/17); N800m (2/1/2018);N500m(15/5/17); N750m(18/1/18); N760m(22/1/18); and N925m(3/2/2018) among others.

Suspicious withdrawals linked to Uranta are: N522m on May 9, 2016; N1.3b (9/6.16); N500m (20/9/16); and N600m (22/9/16).

About N150million cash withdrawal was traced to Princewill on May 31, 2017.

A source said all the withdrawals were beyond the threshold set for cash transactions in the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act 2011.

The source said the huge cash payments were made from the Government House account and the Federation Account Allocation remittances account domiciled in Zenith Bank.

Investigation revealed that Fubara Siminalayei was the Director of Finance in Government House when all these transactions took place.

The EFCC had requested for the accounts of the state government and profiled all those involved.

A top official of the EFCC, who spoke with our correspondent, said: “We went to the houses of these three officials to serve them invitation letters but they refused to collect it. The security guards in their personal residences said they were under instructions not to collect any letter from EFCC.

“Our team has been searching for them but we are yet to locate them.”

Asked why the officers have not reported for interrogation, the source added: “The state government has been referring to the March 23, 2007 ruling by Justice Ibrahim Nyaure Buba who granted all declarative and injunctive reliefs sought by the State Government.

“Rivers State claimed that the court order was explicit that the EFCC cannot probe the accounts of Rivers State Government and its officials. The state has remained adamant in its decision not to release the three suspects. It also claimed that it has filed a suit in court against the EFCC over the ongoing investigation.

“So far, our investigation continues. But we have interacted with some officials of Zenith Bank. We are probing whether or not the bank made Suspicious Transaction Report in line with Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act 2011.

The Act reads in part: “Special surveillance on certain transactions.

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