Saraki, Witness Disagree Over Asset Forms

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THE Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, was worth $22m, £12m, €2.6m and N4bn in cash, movable and landed assets before he became the Governor of Kwara State in 2003, his lawyer, Mr. Paul Erokoro (SAN), told the Code of Conduct Tribunal on Tuesday.

Erokoro said this while cross-examining the first prosecution witness, Mr. Michael Wetkas, in the ongoing trial of the Senate President before the CCT in Abuja.

Wetkas is an operative of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, who led the team that investigated the allegations from which the charges preferred against Saraki emanated.

Saraki is being prosecuted before the Danladi Umar-led CCT on 16 counts, including false and anticipatory asset declarations, operation and maintenance of foreign accounts and other asset-related infractions which he allegedly committed when he was governor between 2003 and 2011.

Wetkas also faulted the argument of Saraki that his (Saraki) asset declaration forms had been tampered with.

Two asset declaration forms, which Saraki had submitted to the CCB since he became a Senator in 2011 along with the four others, which he had submitted as governor, had been tendered by the lead prosecuting counsel, Mr. Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), and admitted by the tribunal as exhibits.

Erokoro, on Tuesday, led Wetkas in reading from the asset declaration form which Saraki submitted to the Code of Conduct Bureau on assumption of office as governor in 2003.

The lawyer said he needed to take Wetkas through the asset declaration form to debunk the impression created by the witness earlier in his evidence-in-chief that Saraki would not have been able to buy certain landed assets without obtaining a bank loan.

“The defendant was very rich before he became governor in 2003,” he said.

Jacobs said in response, “The fact that somebody is rich does not mean that he will not steal. That is not a defence. In fact, experience has shown that it is the richer ones that will desire to have more.

“It is when somebody is rich that he even has the capacity to steal more.”

During the cross-examination, Wetkas confirmed that there were 16 vehicles, which cumulatively worth N263,400,000, declared by Saraki in 2003 on assumption of office in his first term as governor.

The vehicles are Mercedes Benz S320 valued at N16m; Mercedes S500 valued at N20m; Mercedes G500 valued at N6m; Mercedes V220 valued at N2m; Ferrari 456GT valued at N25m; Navigator valued at N15m; Mercedes MN240 valued at N8.5m and Peugeot 405 valued at N2.9m.

Other vehicles include Mercedes CLK 320 valued at N9m; Mercedes E320 valued at N11m; Mercedes G500 bulletproof valued at N45m; Mercedes S500 valued at N30m; Lexus jeep bulletproof valued at N30m; Linclon Navigator bulletproof valued at N25m.

“By my calculation, the total worth is N263,400,000,” Wetkas said.

He added that Saraki’s landed property was worth between N2.5bn and N3.5bn cumulatively.

He confirmed that Saraki’s cash was worth about N50m.

He also confirmed that the total assets declared by Saraki, including that of his wife and his two children under 18 years in 2003, was worth $22m, £12m, €2.6m and N4bn.

Saraki obtained his M.B.B.S at London Hospital Medical College of the University of London in 1987 and had only worked as a medical officer at Rush Green Hospital, Essex, from1988 to 1989, before he became a director of Société Générale Bank (Nig) Ltd from 1990 to 2000.

He was appointed by the then President Olusegun Obasanjo as Special Assistant to the President on Budget in 2000 before he later became Governor of Kwara State in 2003.

Meanwhile, the Senate President on Tuesday revealed one of his lines of defence in his ongoing trial before the CCT by claiming that his asset declaration form submitted to the Code of Conduct Bureau in 2003 had been doctored.

Erokoro made this claim while cross-examining Wetkas on the charge of anticipatory asset declaration of the property at No.15 Mcdonald Street, Ikoyi, Lagos.

He was cross-examining Wetkas with respect to the prosecution’s allegation that the Senate President had, on assumption of office as Governor of Kwara State in 2003, declared the property at 15 Mcdonald Street, Ikoyi, Lagos, as part of his assets, which he (Saraki) only acquired in 2006.

Wetkas maintained on Tuesday that Saraki bought the property from the Presidential Implementation Committee on the Sale of Federal Government Properties sometime in 2006, but had declared it as part of his assets on September 16, 2003.

He maintained that Saraki declared that he acquired the property named, 15A and B, Mcdonald Street, Ikoyi, Lagos, sometime in 2000 through his company, Carlisle Properties, “whereas our findings revealed that he acquired it through Tiny Tee Limited sometime in 2006”.

He added that the property only appeared on the records of the Presidential Committee on Sales of Federal Government Properties as No. 15 and Block 15, Flat 1 to 4, Mcdonald Street, Ikoyi, and not as 15A and B Mcdonald Street, Ikoyi, Lagos, as represented by Saraki in his asset declaration form in 2003.

But Erokoro said it was impossible for his client to have declared the property earlier in 2003, when it was only offered for sale and keenly contested by various parties in 2006.

He said, “Exhibit 1 (the 2003 form) has been tampered with. Who inserted the property? Was that why you never confronted him with Exhibit 1?

“Your team did not invite the defendant because you were afraid that he would challenge the document.”

In his response, Wetkas denied the allegation that the document was tampered with, pointing out that each page of the document bore the signature of Saraki and the date it was signed on September 16, 2003.

He said he could not doubt the genuineness of the document because it was backed by an affidavit sworn to before a judge.

Wetkas added, “I did not sign it; it was signed by the defendant. As far as I am concerned, from the document, it was signed by the defendant on September 16, 2003. No, I did not insert the property. There has never been any case of complaint of insertion. This Code of Conduct Bureau is a responsible agency of government; it could not have inserted it.

“He swore to an affidavit before a judge. Whether I see him or not is immaterial. Since it was sworn to before a judge, I believe the content to be correct.”

He maintained that as of the time Saraki declared the property in 2003, it had not been sold by the Federal Government.

He said, “As of the time this document (the defendant’s asset declaration form made on assumption of office in 2003) was prepared, this property had not been sold.

“What I found out, which was what I said in my evidence-in-chief, was that in the course of our investigation, we came across 15A and B Mcdonald Street, Ikoyi.

“We wrote to the Presidential Implementation Committee. We also wrote to Lagos State Land Registry. The Lagos State Land Registry said they didn’t have record of 15 Mcdonald Street, Ikoyi.

“But the Presidential Implementation Committee stated that the record they had was 15 Mcdonald Street, Ikoyi, which was sold to the company, Tiny Tee Ltd, and Block 15, 1 to 4 Mcdonald Street, Ikoyi, which was sold to another company, Bitti Oil Company.

“In the case of the prosecution and the evidence I gave was that 15 Mcdonald was sold to Tiny Tee belonging to the defendant (Saraki) which we did not see in any of the asset declaration forms.”

The CCT adjourned further trial till Wednesday (today).

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