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Alleged N18bn Money Laundering: Trial Of Internet Celebrity, Ismaila Mustapha (Mompha) Begins


  • As Court Grants Him N100m Bail

BY FRANCIS IWUCHUKWU 

IKOYI, LAGOS STATE, NIGERIA - The trial of internet Celebrity, Ismaila Mustapha (Mompha) today (Friday) began before Justice Mohammed Liman of  Federal High Court sitting in Ikoyi, Lagos State, Nigeria, with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) calling three of its witness. 

The witnesses include Nnenna Ezekannegha, Senior Manager Customers Services, Trade and Exchange Department of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), a banker, Peter Ademola Adegoke and Okafor Ikenna Ignatius.

Testifying before Justice Mohammed Liman, the Senior Manager with CBN, Mrs. Nnenna Ezekannagha, confirmed that the apex bank does not have in its record as per the licensing of Ismalob Global Investment Limited as a Bureau de Change operator.

Mrs. Nnenna Ezekannagha equally explained that for the CBN to licence a firm as a BDC operator, such firm must show evidence of incorporation as a limited liability company by the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC). 

Mrs. Nnenna Ezekannagha further explained that all licensed BDCs have a transaction limit of $5,000.

Upon being queried by Gboyega Oyewole (SAN), 
counsel to Mompha, as to whether it was unlawful for an individual who has foreign currency in his domiciliary account to give foreign currency to a friend in exchange for naira, the Senior Manager with the CBN, insisted that it would be unlawful if it was not a commercial transaction.

Mrs. Nnenna Ezekannagha explained that it becomes a commercial transaction if it involves making profit and it would be illegal.

Another witness, who is also a Compliance Officer with a new generation bank, Peter Ademola Adegoke informed Justice Mohammed Liman that Ismalob Global Investment Limited has a bank account domiciled in his bank, which Mompha was the sole signatory to the naira account.

Reading from the firm’s statement of account, Peter Ademola Adegoke, who was led in evidence by the EFCC lawyer, Mr Rotimi Oyedepo, told the court that between 2015 and October 2019, there was a total inflow of N18.5bn into the account, while a total of about N18bn moved out within the same period.

He said the account had a balance of N598,000.

Whilsts being cross-examined by Oyewole (SAN), Peter Ademola Adegoke affirmed that his bank would not involve itself in anything unlawful.

When asked as to whether the bank at anytime reported transactions in the firm’s account as being suspicious, Peter Ademola Adegoke said, “Yes, we reported to the NFIU (Nigeria Financial Intelligence Unit).”

Asked what the NFIU’s response was, Peter Ademola Adegoke said: “They (NFIU) don’t need to respond to us.”

Asked if there was any sanction following the report to the NFIU, Peter Ademola Adegokesaid he would not know.

When Oyewole (SAN) insisted that as a Compliance Officer, who is responsible for the freezing of bank accounts at the requests of anti-graft agency, he should know if there was a sanction, Adegoke explained that the Bank has a desk that handles reports to the NFIU and “I can’t say I know about all sanctions".

Also, a Benin City-based BDC operator, Ikenna Okafor, who testified as the third prosecution witness, told the court that he did business with Ismalob Global Investment Limited through “one of its directors, Alhaji Ahmadu Mohammed.”

Ikenna Okafor said Alhaji Ahmadu Mohammed used to come to his base in Benin, Edo State, to buy Euro in the name of Ismalob Global Investment Limited.

“After negotiation with Ismalob Global Investment Limited through Alhaji Mohammed, he usually makes payment into my account through Ismalob,” Ikenna Okafor said.

Under cross-examination by Oyewole (SAN), Ikenna Okafor explained that he met Mompha for the first time three days ago at the EFCC office in Ikoyi.

The BDC operator said he was himself detained for seven days by the EFCC before being released on an administrative bail during the week.

Justice Liman adjourned further proceedings till January 8, 2020.

Justice Mohammed Liman had granted bail to Mompha in the sum of N100 million with one surety.

The surety according to Justice Mohammed Liman, must have landed property within the jurisdiction of the court and which its title documents must be verified by relevant Lands authority, while the surety is to be verified by the Court's Deputy Chief Registrar (DCR).

Justice Mohammed Liman also ordered Morpha to deposit his international travel passport with the Court's DCR and always visit the EFCC every 14 days, In order to ensure that he did not travel out of the country till the determination of the charge against him.

Justice Mohammed Liman arrived at the decision after entertaining  arguments from the counsel to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) led by Mr. Rotimi Oyedepo and the defence team led by Gboyega Oyewole (SAN). 

It would be recalled that the EFCC had last Monday notified Justice Muhammed Liman Ismaila Mustapha, popularly called Mompha, allegedly procured his company, Ismalob Global Investment Limited, to retain the aggregate sum of N18, 059,353,413 billion between 2015 and 2019.

The anti-graft agency stated this through its lawyer, Rotimi Oyedepo during the arraignment of Ismaila Mustapha, popularly called Mompha before the court. 

The Commission had accused Mompha of alleged involvement in money laundering to the tune of N33bn, 

Specifically, Ismaila Mustapha (Mompha) who was arraigned on a 14 counts charge that had to do with the alleged offense.

In the charge signed by Rotimi Oyedepo, the EFCC alleged that Ismaila Mustapha (Mompha) laundered the funds through a firm, Ismalob Global Investment Ltd, between 2015 and 2018, which is the second defendant in the charge.

The Commission particularly claimed that  the funds, domiciled in a new generation bank (name withheld), were moved in tranches of N18,059,353,413 billion and N14,946,773,393.00 billion. 

The anti-graft agency equally alleged that both defendants, not being a financial institution, or an authorized foreign exchange dealer, negotiated a foreign exchange transaction in the sum of N9.416million, N20 million, N10,437,400.00, N10miillion, N2.46million, N10miillion, N100million, N61million, N100million, N40.7million and N42million. 

The EFCC insisted that the funds were domiciled in the defendants' account with the new generation bank. 

It was equally the allegation of the EFCC, that Ismaila Mustapha (Mompha), between 2015 and 2018, procured Ismalob Global Investment Ltd to retain the aggregate sum of N18,059,353,413 in its account No. 5260000846 domiciled in the new generation bank, "which sum you reasonably ought to have known formed part of the proceeds of unlawful act to wit: fraud. 

Ismaila Mustapha (Mompha) was alleged to have between 2015 and 2017, aided the company to retain the aggregate sum of N 14,946,773,393.00 in its account No. 5260000846 domiciled in the new generation bank, from Pitacalize Ltd. 

According to the EFCC, both actions offend Sections 18(3) and 15(2)(d) of the Money Laundering Prohibition Act. 2011 as amended and punishable under section 15 (3) of the same Act. 

Other part of the charge reads: "That you Ismaila Mustapha and lsrnalob Global Investments Limited, on or about the 17th day of December, 2015, not being an authorized seller appointed by the Central Bank of Nigeria, negotiated a foreign exchange transaction in the sum of N9,416.700.00 
(Nine Million Four Hundred and Sixteen Thousand Seven Hundred Naira) with Mr. lkechukwu Kingsley Onuzulike. 

"That you Ismaila Mustapha and lsmalob Global Investments Limited, on or about the 17th of December, 2015, not being an authorized seller appointed by the Central Bank of Nigeria pursuant to Section 5(1) of Foreign Exchange Monitoring and Miscellaneous (Provisions) Act CAP F34 LFN 2004 negotiated a foreign exchange transaction in the sum of N 20 million.

"That you Ismaila Mustapha and lsmalob Global Investments Limited, on or about the 21st December, 2015,  negotiated a foreign exchange transaction in the sum of N10,437,400.00 with Mr. lkechukwu Kingsley Onuzulike. 

"That you Ismaila Mustapha and lsmalob Global Investments Limited, on or about the 23rd day of December, 2015, not being an authorized seller appointed by the Central Bank of Nigeria, negotiated a foreign exchange transaction in the sum of N10,000,000.00 with Mr. lkechukwu Kingsley Onuzulike."

According to the EFCC, "The defendants also on or about the 4th day of January, 2016, without authorisation, negotiated a foreign exchange transaction in the sum of N2,463,800.00."

Ismaila Mustapha (Mompha) and the other defendant were further alleged to have negotiated a foreign exchange transaction in the sum of N10,000,000.00, with Mr. Ojei Osemeke contrary to the law. 

In another instance, they were said to have negotiated a foreign exchange transaction in the sum of N100,000,000.00 (One Hundred Million Naira) and N61,080,000.00 (Sixty One Million, Eighty Thousand Naira) with Mr. Okafor lkenna contrary to the law. 

The defendants were equally alleged to have did the same with the sums of N40,700.000.00 (Forty Million Seven Hundred Thousand Naira) and N42,100.000.00 (Forty Two Million, One Hundred Thousand Naira) with IK Tony Global Communications. 

But Ismaila Mustapha (Mompha) and the company pleaded not guilty to the charge as slammed against them. 

Consequent upon their not guilty plea position, the Commission asked the court to remand the defendant in prison custody while asking the court for a date for trial.

In responding, Mompha's lawyer, Gboyega Oyewole (SAN), informed the court that he will not be opposing the prosecution's request for trial date, but said the defendant's bail application has been filed and same has been served on the prosecution.

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