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Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev has appointed his wife as first vice president, the latest move seen as tightening the family’s grip on the oil-rich Caspian nation.

Tuesday’s appointment of Mehriban Aliyeva follows constitutional changes made after a tightly-managed referendum last year that introduced the powerful position of first vice president, the second most senior official in the country.

Aliyeva, 52, has been an MP for the ruling Yeni Azerbaijan party since 2005 and head of the influential Heydar Aliyev Foundation - named after her father-in-law and former president.

Born into the powerful Pashayev family, Aliyeva has sometimes been seen as a possible successor to her husband, who took over in 2003 after the death of his father Heydar, a former KGB officer and Communist-era boss.

Azerbaijan’s embattled opposition angrily criticised Aliyeva’s elevation as undemocratic and called it a ploy to cement the Aliyev family’s dynastic rule.

An operative of the Department of State Services (DSS) yesterday told an FCT High Court that a lawyer representing President Muhammadu Buhari gave Justice Adeniyi Ademola N500, 000 as gift when the judge was hearing the certificate suit against the president. 

Babatunde Adepoju, under cross examination by Barrister Jeph Njikonye as the sixteenth prosecution witness, told the court that while he was interviewing Joe Agi (SAN) (the 3rd defendant in the trial), he was told that Buhari’s lawyer, Kola Awodein (SAN) also passed a gift of N500,000 to Justice Ademola during the wedding of his daughter.

He said Agi submitted that the gift of N30million his client gave him to give Justice Ademola was not the only wedding gift the judge received. 

Adepoju said Agi told him that the time Awodehin gave the gift to Justice Ademola, Buhari’s certificate suit was pending before the judge. He said he however did not investigate this assertion further.

The certified true copy of the record of proceedings in the suit between Chukwu Okafor vs General Muhammad Buhari (rtd), tendered by Njikonye was admitted in evidence as Exhibit FFF. From this document, the witness confirmed that the third counsel for Buhari in the suit was Kola Awodein. He also confirmed the suit was before Justice Ademola.

When asked if he is of the opinion that President Buhari’s lawyer was bribing the judge to win his case by presenting a wedding gift to the judge, the witness said “No. In my opinion, it would be speculative to say the gift by President Buhari’s lawyer was a bribe to Justice Ademola. It is not a bribe.”

He added that it will also be speculative that the gift by common friends passed through Joe Agi to Justice Ademola was a bribe.

After calling three additional witnesses (bankers from UBA, Diamond and Skye banks) to bring the total prosecution witness to 19, the prosecution closed its case against the defendant. Thereafter, counsels to the three defendants informed the court they intended to file no-case submissions.

The trial judge, Justice Jude Okeke adjourned the matter to March 15 and gave the defense four days to file their applications and the prosecution nine days to file its reply to the defense’s no-case submission.

Source: Daily Trust

A prosecution witness yesterday narrated how the sum of $1million and land documents were recovered from former Chief of Defence Staff, Air Chief Marshal Alex Badeh.

Badeh is standing trial on a 10-count charge of criminal breach of trust and money laundering of over N3billion alongside Iyalikam Nigeria Ltd, a company believed to be owned by him.

Goji Mohammed, an operative of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) testified that in February 2016, Badeh was released from detention after he was arrested for corruption charges, and taken to his residence at No 2 Nelson Mandela Street, Asokoro, Abuja where documents for landed properties were recovered.

Led in evidence by EFCC counsel, Rotimi Jacobs (SAN) he said based on intelligence report, the operatives swooped on Badeh’s second house at No 6 Ogun River Street, Maitama, Abuja where in the bedroom upstairs, EFCC operatives discovered a pack of kettle filled with 16 bundles of $50, 000 each, and another two sealed bundles of $100, 000 each making a total of $1 million.

He also stated that the investigating team recovered a red box containing a knife which had an encrypted name and two way bills of furniture supplied to the building. When the EFCC counsel sought to tender the exhibits from the second search, defence counsel Lasun Sanusi (SAN) objected to their admissibility on the grounds that since Badeh was not present during the search, the recoveries are a nullity.

Jacobs asked the court to admit the exhibits based on sections 149 and 150 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2016 because the warrant was signed by two witnesses. Justice Okon Abang adjourned the case to February 23 for hearing.

Who owns an account in which N8.4billion has been found?

This is the puzzle that detectives are battling to resolve, following the discovery of the bank account which has no signatories.

The huge deposit has been traced to a bank which is believed to have assisted the money launderers to convert the cash to dollars.

There was suspicion last night that the cash may have been wired into some foreign accounts, but the government has filed an ex parte motion to place it under temporary assets forfeiture.

A telecommunications company has gone to court, claiming ownership of the money,It was learnt.

A whistle-blower alerted the government to strange deposits into the ECOBANK account by some suspected government officials.

Of the many deposits, about N8.4billion was singled out for investigation in the interim.

A source involved in the investigation said: “A whistle-blower alerted the Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation, leading to the involvement of the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission ( EFCC) in the investigation.

“The probe of the account by detectives showed that the funds were routed through the account of a telecoms giant but there was no disclosure of the signatories to the account.

“Also, the list of depositors into the account was unknown but the sequence of deposits was tracked by detectives.”

The source confirmed that an ex -parte application had been filed at the Federal High Court 11 in Lagos, presided over by Justice Abdulazeez Anka, to recover the cash under temporary forfeiture.
The matter is coming up on March 3 for hearing.

The Federal Government has hired two lawyers, Mr. John Samuel Opeyemi and Mr. Oluwafemi O. Aweda, to recover the funds.

Another source also privy to the investigation said the probe so far indicated that the cash paid into the account could be over N10billlion.

The source added: “Detectives stumbled on separate deposit of N5billion and N4billion. But investigation is at present concentrated on the recovery of N8.4billion, which was changed to dollars and probably wired into some accounts abroad.

“A telecommunications giant has approached the court to claim the ownership of the cash.

“We have been demanding for the list of signatories to this account but it is yet to be provided.

The Minister of Information, Alh. Lai Mohammed, on February 12 said the whistle-blower policy had started yielding fruits, with the recovery of US$151 million and N8billion.

The Minister said: “The looted funds, which do not include the $9.2 million in cash allegedly owned by a former Group Managing Director of the NNPC (which was also a dividend of the whistle-blower policy), were recovered from just three sources through whistle-blowers who gave actionable information to the office of the Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of the Federation.

“The biggest amount of $136,676,600.51 was recovered from an account in a commercial bank, where the money was kept under an apparently fake account name, followed by

N7billion  and $15million from another person and  N1billion  from yet another.

‘’When we told Nigerians that there was a primitive and mindless looting of the national treasury under the last administration, some people called us liars.

“Well, the whistle-blower policy is barely two months old and Nigerians have started feeling its impact, seeing how a few people squirrelled away public funds.

“It is doubtful if any economy in the world will not feel the impact of such mind-boggling looting of the treasury as was experienced in Nigeria.

‘’Yet whatever has been recovered so far, including the $9.8million by the EFCC, is just a tip of the iceberg.”

Source: The Nation



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