The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) said it has traced N400 million allegedly meant for paying bribe during the 2015 elections to some companies and a charity organisation linked to the Governor of Ebonyi State, David Umahi.
The accounts where the money was kept belong to Osborn La-Palm Royal Resort Ltd and Brass Engineering & Construction Nig. Ltd and David Umahi Faith Foundation.
The EFCC also claimed that the deputy governor of the state, Kelechi Igwe, Fidelis Nwankwo, and a former minister, Ambassador Frank N. Ogbuewu, have admitted collecting the cash following instructions from the governor.
There were indications last night that the EFCC might seal off all the companies implicated in the bribery scandal, The Nation reports.
The EFCC said the N400m is Ebonyi state’s share of the N23.2 billion alleged slush funds provided by the immediate past Minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani Alison-Madueke.
“In the state, Kelechi Igwe, Fidelis Nwanwko and Ambassador Frank N. Ogbuewu collected the money to prosecute the 2015 general election.
“Fidelis Nwankwo and Ambassador Frank N. Ogbuewu were invited and they disclosed that they collected the N400 million from Fidelity Bank and handed it over to Access Bank on the directive of the then Deputy Governor, Engr David Umahi, who is now the incumbent governor.
“The Operations Manager of Access Bank Abakaliki was invited, and he revealed that the money was paid into the accounts of Osborn La-Palm Royal Resort Ltd and Brass Engineering & Construction Nig. Ltd. domiciled in Abakaliki,” an unnamed EFCC source said.
An analysis of the accounts shows that while N300 million was paid into the account of Osborn La-Palm Royal Resort Ltd, N100 million was remitted into the account of Brass Engineering & Construction Nig. Ltd.
The N100 million in the account of Brass Engineering & Construction Nig. Ltd was later transferred to David Umahi Faith Foundation.
The detectives also uncovered how the funds were subsequently withdrawn by one Chinyere Egwuche in tranches of N50 million.
“The movement of the fund from one account to another and the subsequent cash withdrawal of N300 million in tranches of N50 million are clear features of money laundering,” another source said.
“Consequently, letters of invitation were written to the Managing Directors of the companies where the money was paid but the letters were returned undelivered as the addressees refused to collect them.
“Thereafter, Austin Umahi, Maxwell Umahi, Chinyere Egwuche and Mabel Dikibo were arrested. The investigation revealed that Chinyere Egwuchu and Mabel Dikibo were the signatories to the accounts of the companies.
“It was also discovered that one of the suspects, Chinyere, withdrew the N300 million paid into the account of Osborn La-Palm which, according to her, was used to further the construction of Osborn La-Palm hotels in Abakaliki, Uburu and Port Harcourt.”