Rickey Tarfa

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) Thursdauy alleged that a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Chief Rickey Tarfa, bribed Justice Mohammed Yunusa of the Federal High Court with N225,000.

It alleged that Tarfa, on January 7, 2014, transferred the money to Justice Yunusa, and that the judge acknowledged the “bribe” with the words: “Thank you my senior advocate.”

This allegation was contained in a counter-affidavit filed yesterday in opposition to Tarfa’s fundamental rights suit against EFCC and others.

The counter-affidavit, along with exhibits, including MTN call logs, were filed by EFCC’s lawyer Wahab Shittu.

Tarfa filed a N2.5billion suit against the EFCC on February 9 following his arrest by the commission.

EFCC arraigned Tarfa on Tuesday on a two-count charge bordering on obstruction of justice and attempting to pervert the course of justice by communicating with a Federal High Court judge that was handling a suit filed by him against the commission.

The commission alleged that on February 5,  Tarfa hid two suspects, Nazaire Sorou Gnanhoue and Modeste Finagnon, both Beninoise, in his Mercedes Benz Sports Utility (SUV) vehicle, thereby shielding them from arrest and willfully obstructing the course of justice.

The Beninoise were alleged to have fraudulently converted some sophisticated manufacturing equipment belonging to Rana Prestige Nigeria Limited to their use. They are also being investigated for alleged tax evasion running into millions of naira.

Following his arrest, Tarfa sued EFCC, its chairman Ibrahim Magu, the operative that arrested him, Moses Awolusi and Deputy Director Operations, EFCC, Lagos office, Iliyasu Kwarbai, demanding N2.5billion.

But the EFCC, in the counter-affidavit sworn to by Awolusi, denied violating Tarfa’s rights.
The operative said EFCC received an intelligence report of fresh criminal allegations against Nazaire and Modeste not covered by the pending criminal proceedings.

Based on the report, he and his fellow operative were directed to by Kwarbai to invite Nazaire and Modeste for further interrogation and undertaking that they would not escape from justice.

Awolusi said they were asked to wait outside the court premises for the suspects and to also brief Tarfa on the new developments.
He said the suspects were sighted outside the court at about 11.30am. “We explained our mission politely and courteously,” he said.
According to him, Tarfa kept the suspects in his vehicles between 12noon and 5p.m. He said they were forced out of the vehicle when the engine had to be turned off having run out of fuel.

It was when they disembarked that the suspects along with Tarfa were arrested.
Among items seized from Tarfa were his phones, which Awolusi said was due to intelligence report that the SAN communicated with Justice “in a desperate bid to pervert the cause of justice in an earlier proceedings involving the suspects.”

The operative said when data on Tarfa’s mobile phones were analysed, “startling revelations about secret , unhealthy communications between the applicant and judicial officers emerged.”

Awolusi said EFCC’s investigation of Tarfa’s Access Bank account number 0000964760 “shows that before the institution of the above proceeding, particularly on 7th January 2014, the applicant bribed His Lordship, Honourable Justice M. N. Yunusa with the sum of N225,000, a copy of the applicant’s firm account details showing the transfer of the sum of N225,000 from the applicant’s firm to Honourable Justice M. N. Yunusa is hereby shown to me and marked Exhibit ‘O’.”

The operative added: “I know from facts revealed during investigation that the said bribe of N225,000 was accepted and acknowledged by Justice Yunusa in a text message to the applicant wherein he said ‘Thank you my senior advocate’.

“I also know that investigations has revealed that the applicant’s law firm was in the habit of asking the Chief Registrar of the Lagos Judicial Division of the Federal High Court to assign his cases before His Lordship Honourable M. N. Yunusa in furtherance of the understanding between the applicant and the particular judge.”

The EFCC operative alleged that even a junior lawyer in Tarfa’s law firm “also engaged in the corrupt practices of their boss” by manipulating the court’s registry to fix and assign cases by them to particular judges.
According to Awolusi, there is evidence that Tarfa gave other instruction to bank officials to transfer funds to other public officers through his mobile phone.

The operative said the details of such instructions “are being kept to prevent the applicant from tampering with evidence concerning allegation of corrupt practices against the applicant.”
EFCC said Tarfa’s prayer for aggravated damages in the sum of N2.5billion “is provocative, annoying, self-serving and groundless in the circumstances.”

The commission said it cannot release Tarfa’s phones and vehicle to him because he could destroy evidence on them as they are “necessary and vital” evidence.

EFCC alleged that sometime in 2005, Tarfa collected $500,000 from one of his clients “under the pretext that he was going to bribe some officials of EFCC.”

The commission recalled that on April 29, 2015, Tarfa’s law firm represented Michael Igbinedion, who was standing trial for laundering N25billion.

On April 30, Tarfa attended a book launch in honour of the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Justice Ibrahim Auta, in company of Chief Gabriel Igbinedion, who was the chief launcher, and who donated N8million.  EFCC said Tarfa did not advise Igbinedion not to donate the money since Igbinedion’s son, who was later convicted, was standing trial.

The commission said Tarfa and his brother silks donated N7million at the launch despite having cases before the Chief Judge.  According to the agency, Tarfa obtained $500,000 from one Prince Akinruntan in 2006, who later stated that it was by “false pretence.”
EFCC quoted Akinruntan as saying: “He (Tarfa) told me that the money is not for him alone, that he is going to settle the court, EFCC and many other people.”

Besides, the commission said the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) has refused to discipline the Tarfa as recommended by a former judge of the Lagos State High Court, Justice Joseph Oyewole.

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Chris Kehinde Nwandu is the Editor In Chief of CKNNEWS || He is a Law graduate and an Alumnus of Lagos State University, Lead City University Ibadan and Nigerian Institute Of Journalism || With over 2 decades practice in Journalism, PR and Advertising, he is a member of several Professional bodies within and outside Nigeria || Member: Institute Of Chartered Arbitrators ( UK ) || Member : Institute of Chartered Mediators And Conciliation || Member : Nigerian Institute Of Public Relations || Member : Advertising Practitioners Council of Nigeria || Fellow : Institute of Personality Development And Customer Relationship Management || Member and Chairman Board Of Trustees: Guild Of Professional Bloggers of Nigeria

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