Capt. Everest Nnaji
Capt. Everest Nnaji, a Nigerian pilot, has said he is innocent of the three counts bordering on obtaining by false pretences over $5 million (about N2 billion) preferred against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
The EFCC had accused Nnaji and one Victor Uadiale of defrauding international businessmen seeking investment opportunities in Nigeria.
Uadiale was said to have invited an investor from the Middle East, to invest in the flourishing oil sector in Nigeria. Using a pseudo name: Victor Emeka, he made the investor visit Nigeria and received him at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja and thereafter flew him in a helicopter to a destination where he reportedly met a certain Mr. Grant, a member of the syndicate, who assured him of the credibility of the business arrangement.
Convinced that Uadiale was real and the business promising, the investor started paying money in foreign currency into Uadiale's offshore accounts, where they were laundered into various bank accounts around the globe.
The EFCC alleged the sum of $1,292,000 was traced to a Barclay's Bank (United Kingdom) account of Captain Nnaji Everest.
The duo were subsequently arraigned on Friday, December 14, 2018, before Justice Mojisola Dada of the Special Offences Court sitting in Ikeja, Lagos.
At the resumed sitting on Monday, July 21, 2021, the prosecuting counsel, Rotimi Oyedepo, who led the third prosecution witness, Danladi Daniel, an EFCC operative, in evidence, presented more documents to prove the case against them.
The documents include photos taken in the course of the investigation; Certified True Copies (CTC) of a letter written to MTN and MTN's reply; CTC of EFCC's letter to the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU) and NFIU's response; CTC of EFCC's letter to the US Consulate-General and the response; CTC of EFCC's letter to NNPC and the response; EFCC's letter to the Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA); EFCC's letter to the victim and the response and EFCC's letter to Keystone Bank and the response.
The documents were all admitted against the defendants by the court as Exhibits P38 to P53.
In his examination-in-chief, Daniel, who identified all the documents, further narrated how the EFCC had worked on a petition from the complainant.
He said: "We confronted the second defendant with our findings, but he said he could not recall because of the length of time; so, he asked for time to contact his bank.
"He later came back that he had written to the bank and was waiting for their reply. However, he came back with an email that the bank declined giving the statement of account on the grounds that the bank had since closed the account."
According to the witness, he and another operative, Abdulkarim Chukkol, took it upon themselves to visit the Country Representative of Barclays Bank in Nigeria.
He added: "She was able to view the account in our presence with her laptop computer and confirmed that the account had since been closed and that she did not have any clearance to give third party details of the account. So, she advised us to either approach the second defendant to approach the bank to release the details or go by the Legal Mutual Assistance to be able to recover the details."
He also told the court that the EFCC, thereafter, engaged SOCA and the FBI "to facilitate the speedy process and we followed up with the Nigerian authorities, by writing to the NFIU and the Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation, AGF.
"The NFIU confirmed that the transaction actually occurred.”
He further told the court that in order to establish the fraud case against the defendants, the EFCC contacted MTN for the call logs of two numbers, which were identified as the phone numbers used to communicate with the victim.
Reacting in a statement by his lawyer, Chris Ekemezie, Captain Nnaji claimed the reports making rounds are not true but concocted by mischief-makers.
He said, “He told the Commission he once operated a licenced Bureau De Change Company and that in those days, Black Market Dealers (a.k.a Mallams) would collect Bureau De Change operators foreign bank account details and later come with payment slips of wired transfers that their customers made into the account and once it is confirmed that the money was in the foreign bank account, the Black Marketer will be paid the agreed naira equivalent and they would, in turn, go back and pay their customers after taking their commission.
“He told the Commission that the Bureau De Change Operator does not have the opportunity of meeting or seeing the Black Marketer’s customer since he is not part of their transaction. Captain Nnaji also told the Commission that he cannot confirm whether the figures in the wired transfers they presented entered his account in the first place since there was nothing in it to show that it came from his bank. After the explanations by our client, he was advised to contact his former bank and demand the details of wired transfers into his account within the period of 1998 to 2000.
“Based on the Commission’s advice, Captain Nnaji sent a demand letter to Barclays Bank, England, requesting them to furnish details of wired transfers made into his account within the period 1998 to 2000 and confirm if the payment as listed was cleared into his account. The Bank in its response to his request via email informed him that the said account was closed since 2002 and that their system does not keep information beyond seven years after the closure of a customer's account and expressed the regrets of their inability to help him.
“When Captain Everest presented his letter to Barclays Bank and the response he received that he was informed by the Commission that they had made the same request to the Bank and received the same response even before he was invited by the Commission and they had thought it would make a difference if he made such request himself being the account owner.
“Since there was no evidence against Captain Nnaji, his case was referred to the former chairman of the Commission, Rtd. DIG Ibrahim Lamorde who reviewed the case and found that there was no shred of evidence against him. One of the things DIG Lamorde demanded from the Investigating officers was the telex advice of the transfers, proof of international money transfer generated once the money hits the receiving bank which was not provided and has never been provided till date in the case against him. In the absence of any evidence linking our client to the alleged crime, Rtd. DIG Lamorde directed that the case against our client be closed and anything taken from him be returned to him forthwith and he was asked to go.
“Surprisingly, in December 2018, four years later, without any fresh or additional evidence, Captain Nnaji was again invited by the Commission and this time around arraigned before the Special Offences Court in Ikeja, Lagos State as a 2nd defendant.”
“The only thing alleged against Captain Nnaji is that his account with Barclays Bank in the Isles of Man UK was supplied to the alleged victim as one of the accounts to pay money by the syndicate and that about $1,200,000 (One Million Two Hundred Thousand Dollars) allegedly passed through his account, an allegation our client not only denied and there is no proof that any such money was paid into our client’s account. It must be stated at this stage that our client was originally invited to stand as a witness for the Commission but when he declined to bear false testimony against persons he did not know and has never met, he was then roped in and charged with the suspect and he is presently facing persecution before the Special Offences Court at the High Court of Lagos State.
“The alleged victim and his manager have testified as Prosecution Witnesses in the matter and both in their testimonies before the court exonerated our client. They testified that they never met him, never had any interaction with him even before our client was charged. The only evidence against our client is that the alleged victim said he was asked by the syndicate to pay about $1,200,000 (One Million, Two Hundred Thousand Dollars) out of the alleged about $7,000,000 he claimed was lost to the syndicate through our client’s account and for which no evidence was provided. In addition, one Mohammed Lawal who confessed to the crime but was not charged by the Commission told the Commission he does not know our client – Captain Everest Nnaji.
“The pertinent question any reasonable jury must ask before conviction is, 'whether the money alleged to have passed through Captain Everest Nnaji’s account indeed passed through his account?' The obvious answer is in the negative. The prosecution must therefore prove that Captain Everest Nnaji indeed received the money in his account. The proof will come mainly from the TELEX COPY or the statement of account of the defendant (in this case Captain Everest. We state without fear of contradiction, that there is no telex advice in this matter showing that the money ever got into our client’s account and the bank has stated clearly that they do not have records of the transaction.
“Investigations by the Operatives of the Commission also show that no such money got into our club account. In addition, the victim of the alleged fraud together with his manager stated that they were in Nigeria several times during the time the offences were committed. They swore by the Holy Koran that they never met with our client nor know him (in the open court). The records are there for anyone to verify. They are public documents. The reports making rounds are not true but are concocted by mischief makers.”