The first prosecution witness in the ongoing trial of the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, before the Code of Conduct Tribunal, Mr. Michael Wetkas, continued his testimony on Wednesday, giving details of how his investigative team uncovered a property in London owned by Saraki.
Wetkas, who said he led a team which investigated intelligence reports leading to the charges preferred against Saraki, is a detective with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.
He said under cross-examination by the defence lawyer, Mr. Paul Usoro (SAN), on Wednesday, that the London property was acquired by Saraki in 2010 but was not declared in his asset declaration form which he submitted to the Code of Conduct Bureau after completing his second term as the governor of Kwara State in 2011.
He said Saraki obtained N375m loan from the Guaranty Trust Bank Plc in 2010 and used it to pay for the London property through a mortgage redemption payment system.
He said there was a debit entry of $1.2m on the dollar account in favour of the pounds sterling account on February 10, 2010, and $1m on February 15, 2010.
He alleged that as contained in Count 11 in the charges preferred against the Senate President, the defendant failed to declare in his asset declaration form which he submitted to the CCB in 2011, the N375m loan as his liability and the property which he allegedly used the proceeds of the loan to buy.
Wetkas, who was led by Usoro to read from Saraki’s statements of account with GTB, traced the movement of the loan disbursed in Saraki’s naira account with its dollar equivalent transferred to his dollar account and finally its pounds sterling equivalent transferred to Saraki’s pounds sterling account.
He said foreign investigative partners “unofficially” disclosed the address of the property as No 8 Whittaker Street, London and that it had a title number NGN802235.
He said the foreign partners also disclosed “unofficially” that Saraki acquired another property with title number NGN 802661at No 7 of the same street in London in 2015.
According to him, his team of investigators discovered Saraki’s reason for obtaining the loan in the letter by the GTB offering the N370m loan to the Senate President.
He also said the telex message also revealed that the transfer was for the purchase of property.
He said, “From the loan document attached to Exhibit 7, you will see the offer letter. It was stated in the offer letter that the loan was for the purchase of property in London.
“We got to be convinced when we saw the telex showing that the money was wired for the property; the mortgage redemption was for the property. We were convinced based on the offer letter and the remittances shown on the telex.”
He confirmed that the three telexes showing the actual transfer from the pounds sterling account of the Senate President were prepared by the GTB.
He also confirmed that the telex messages only talked about mortgage redemption.
Responding to further questions put to him by Usoro, Wetkas confirmed that “mortgage redemption means money is being refunded for a facility that would have been provided for the property.”
He confirmed that he had “little knowledge” about mortgage issues, but he said he knew that mortgage agreement “usually have their terms, the property involved and the person who has the property.”
On why he did not get details and the mortgage agreement on the London property, Wetkas said GTB officials claimed that Saraki did not disclose the details to the bank.
He also said he did not have the title document for the property.
The witness said apart from the telex messages and the offer letter for the loan; he did not have any other document linking Saraki to the said property.
He also said he did not question Saraki on the details of the property during the investigation and did not see the mortgage agreement.
He added, “We contacted our foreign partners to help us find out about the properties the defendant bought in London between 2010 and 2015.
“They confirmed to us that the defendant bought two properties – one in 2011 and the other in 2015.
“They told us No 8 Whittaker Street, London, with title number NGN802235 was purchased in 2011 and that the second one with title number NGN 802661 which was at No. 7 of the same street was bought in 2015.
“This information was sent to us unofficially. And they promised to send it to us officially soon so that we can tender it.”
He explained that given the international dimension to the case, they needed to go through the governments of the relevant nations before information could be officially obtained from foreign partners.
Usoro also questioned Wetkas on Count 5, in which Saraki was accused of failing to declare his property at 37 A Glover Road, Ikoyi, Lagos and the alleged annual income of N5.5m on the asset.
He said his team discovered that the property was acquired by Saraki through his company, Carlisle Properties Limited while executing a search warrant on the company’s office.
The trial was adjourned until May 25 for further cross-examination of the witness.