Alleged €29m Fraud: Witness narrates how FG was short-changed
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, on Wednesday, presented two prosecution witnesses, Van Tichelan Freddy and Stefan Somogyi, against a businessman, Jean Codo and his company, Transport and Port Management System Limited, TPMS.
One of them narrated how monies meant for the Federal Government was cornered.
The defendants were arraigned on Friday, December 13, 2019 before Justice Mojisola Dada of the Special Offences Court sitting in Ikeja, Lagos, on a seven-count charge bordering on stealing to the tune of €29,000,000.00 (Twenty-Nine Million Euros), property of the Federal Government of Nigeria.
One of the counts reads: “That you, Jean Codo and Transport and Port Management Systems Ltd, sometime in 2010 in Lagos, within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court, conspired to commit felony, to wit; stealing of about €29,000,000.00 (Twenty-Nine Million Euros), property of the Federal Government of Nigeria.”
The defendants pleaded not guilty to the charges preferred against them by the Commission.
At Wednesday’s sitting, going by details in a statement by Mr.Wilson Uwujaren, the EFCC’s
Head, Media & Publicity, the first prosecution witness, PW1, Freddy, revealed to the court how Codo had approached him in 2007 regarding a contract he got from the Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA.
Led by the prosecution counsel, Rotimi Oyedepo, Freddy, a Belgian and General Manager of Antasa International Group, also told the court how the contract was executed and how monies were paid to Codo’s company.
In his testimony, Freddy said: “Mr. Jean Codo approached me that he had a contract from NPA, but he did not have the resources, personnel, platform or agency network to fulfil the obligations and commitments regarding the contract.
“He told me to help him fulfil the requirements and we had a written agreement.
“So, Antasa decided to help him to actualise the contract.”
The witness further told the court that the first defendant was expected to provide logistics and transfer money derived from the contract to appropriate quarters as agreed by the NPA and the defendant’s company, TPMS.
“The obligations expected from Jean Codo as agreed were to provide logistics and transfer money collected from all exporters.
“He was expected to transfer sixty percent to the Nigerian Government and forty percent for other parties involved”, the witness said.
Giving further evidence, Freddy also told the court that Antasa International Group executed the contract for the defendant and that the contract was scheduled for a long-term basis.
According to the witness, “ a sum of money totalling €42million was sent to Jean Codo between 2010 and 2011 and he was expected to transfer sixty percent of the money to Federal Government of Nigeria.”
The PW1, however, said Antasa decided to stop working for TPMS in 2011 due to some management decisions.
He further told the court that he was surprised when the EFCC invited him last year based on some discrepancies in the transfer of money to the state regarding the contract between TPMS and NPA.
He said all monies were paid to the defendant and was expected to transfer the funds to the agreed quarters.
While being cross-examined by Bolaji Ayorinde, SAN, counsel to the first defendant and Femi Pedro, SAN, counsel to TMPS, the witness admitted that there was an agreement between Antasa and TMPS.
The witness told the court that his company never had any contract with the NPA and he was not shown any contract by the defendant.
He, however, admitted that Antasa was an agent to Codo, who was principal to Antasa.
The defence team asked the prosecution to provide the court with the “agreement” between Antasa and TMPS.
Upon presentation of the agreement written in French by the prosecution counsel, the defense counsel sought an order of the court for the translation of the agreement to English language.
In his evidence, the second prosecution witness, Stefan Somogyi, an accountant with Antasa International Group, also told the court that he carried out accounting job for the defendant regarding the contract and also provided the bank account of the defendant for payment to be made.
When the prosecution sought to tender some financial documents, the defence objected on the grounds that it was served the documents a few days ago and would, therefore, need time to peruse them.
Consequently, Justice Dada adjourned the case till January 13, 2020 for continuation of trial.