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Alleged N2.2bn Oil Subsidy Fraud: Court Admits More Evidence Against Mamman Ali, One Other In Lagos

JUSTICE Mojisola Dada of the Special Offences Court sitting in Ikeja, Lagos, on Thursday, November 9, 2023, admitted, in evidence, more documents tendered by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, against Mamman Nasir Ali and Christian Taylor, who are being prosecuted for an alleged N2.2bn oil subsidy fraud.

They were arraigned alongside Nasaman Oil Services Limited on amended 49-count charges  bordering on conspiracy to obtain money by false pretense ,contrary to Section 8 and 1(3) of the Advance Fee Fraud and Other Fraud Related Offences Act 2006; obtaining money by false pretenses, contrary to Section 1(3) of the Advance Fee Fraud and Other Fraud Related Offences Act 2006; forgery, contrary to Section 363 (3)(j) of the Criminal Law of Lagos State 2011; and use of false documents contrary to Section 364 of the Criminal Law of Lagos State 2011.

One of the counts reads: “Nasaman Oil Services Ltd, Mamman Nasir Ali, Christian Taylor, Oluwaseun Ogunbambo (now at large) and Olabisi Abdul-Afeez (still at large), on or about the 9th day of November 2011 at Lagos, within the Ikeja Judicial Division, with intent to defraud ,conspired to obtain the sum of N749,991,273.36 (Seven Hundred and Forty-Nine Million, Nine Hundred and Ninety-One Thousand, Two Hundred and Seventy-Three Naira Thirty-six Kobo) from the Federal Government of Nigeria by falsely claiming that the sum of N749,991,273.36 represented subsidy accruing to Nasaman Oil Services Ltd under the Petroleum Support Fund for the importation of 10,031,986 litres of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS), which Nasaman Oil Services Ltd purported to have purchased from SEATAC Petroleum Ltd of British Virgin Islands and imported into Nigeria through MT Liquid Fortune Ltd of British Virgin Islands and imported into Nigeria through MT Liquid Fortune Ltd Ex MT Overseas Lima, which representation you knew to be false.”

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Another count reads: “Nasaman Oil Services Ltd, Mamman Nasir Ali, Christian Taylor, Oluwaseun Ogunbambo (now at large) and Olabisi Abdul-Afeez (still at large),on or about the 11th day of April 2011 at Lagos, within the Ikeja Judicial Division, with intent to defraud, obtained the sum of N1,480,074,125.61 (One Billion Four Hundred and Eighty Million, Seventy-Four Thousand, One Hundred and Twenty-Five Naira Sixty-One Kobo) from the Federal Government of Nigeria by claiming that the sum represented subsidy accruing to Nasaman Oil Services Ltd under the Petroleum Support Fund for the importation of 20,492,982.50 litres of Premium Motor Spirit  (PMS),which Nasaman Oil Services Ltd purported to have purchased from SEATAC Petroleum Ltd of British Virgin Islands and imported into Nigeria through MT Liquid Fortune Ex Mt. Hellenic Blue and Ex MT. Milleura, which representation you knew to be false.”

They pleaded “not guilty” to all the charges preferred against them.

They were initially standing trial before Justice Adeniyi Onigbanjo of the Lagos State High Court sitting in Ikeja.  However, Justice Onigbanjo withdrew from the case,  prompting the re-assignment  of the case to Justice Dada.

At  Thursday’s proceedings, a prosecution witness, Tolulola Tola-Ukabam, an investigative officer with the EFCC and a member of the Special Team on Petroleum Subsidy, STPS, set up in 2012 by the EFCC to  probe the alleged fraud in the fuel subsidy regime, told the court that “The Special Team on Petroleum Subsidy was tasked to investigate payment of subsidies to importers of Premium Motor Spirit, PMS.  As a member of the team, I was given the sole responsibility of investigating the vessels that were used by the marketers to import PMS.”   Led in evidence by the prosecution counsel, S.K. Atteh,  she told the court that her task was to confirm that vessels were active as well as the locations of the vessels on some particular dates – that is, the date they loaded PMS at the port of origin and also the date they had ship-to-ship, STS transfer with smaller vessels.  “I carried out my investigation, using the Lloyd’s List of Intelligence database,” she said.

According to her, the Lloyd’s List of Intelligence is a subscription -based online platform, which provides real time and historical maritime data.   “It tracks the location and movement of vessels, and you can also find details of each vessel such as the type of vessel, the history of the ownership and the status of the vessel, whether inactive or active.  The EFCC subscribed to this platform by paying a fee, and an account was created for the Commission in the name of the then Director of Operations.  I was selected as the Desk Officer to access the platform”, she said.

She further testified  that she began her vessel’s  search on the website of the Lloyd’s List of Intelligence, using the name of the vessel and its International Maritime Organization (IMO) number, which is unique to each vessel.  According to her, “Once it displays the result, I then download the copy of the report on the vessel.  Nasaman Oil Services Limited was one of the marketers I was investigating. In quarter two, 2011, they had a transaction in which they claimed to have imported PMS, using a vessel called MT Overseas Lima loaded at Belgium on the 9th of September 2011, and they also claimed that it had a ship-to-ship transfer with a daughter vessel called MT Liquid Fortune on the 1st of October 2011 offshore Lome.  From my search on the Lloyd’s List of Intelligence, I discovered that the mother vessel was at Chile on that 9th September 2011; and on the 1st of October 2011, the vessel was at China, not offshore Lome, as claimed.”

The witness further told the court that  Nasaman Oil Services Limited also had two transactions for quarter three, 2011.  “First, they claimed to have imported PMS, using the vessel called MT Milleura loaded at Belgium on the 14th of October 2011; they also claimed it had a ship-to-ship transfer on 23rd November 2011, with MT Liquid Fortune offshore Lome.  From my search on Lloyd’s List Intelligence database, MT Milleura was around Dover, UK, during the period of loading, while on the 23rd of November 2011, it was in Russia, not offshore Lome as claimed”, she said.

“For the second transaction, they claimed to have used a vessel called MT Hellenic Blue, which loaded from Amsterdam on the 14th of November 2011; they claimed it had ship-to-ship transfer on the 20th of December 2011 with MT Liquid Fortune.  My search further revealed that the vessel, MT Hellenic Blue, had its name changed to MT Nireus on 26th January 2010 and its last position was in India on February 17, 2010. So, the vessel was long broken up and dead before this second transaction”, she said.

She stated that she subsequently downloaded copies of the report and also printed the Certificate of Identification, which was also endorsed by her.  Thereafter, Atteh applied to tender the bundle of documents.

There was no objection by the defence.  In view of this, the documents were admitted in evidence by the court and marked Exhibit P20.

Testifying further, she told the court that she obtained the port of loading from the bill of laden. She identified the bills of laden for the vessels, which were already before the court as Exhibit P18.

Under cross-examination by the defense, she told the court that the bills of laden were the ones submitted by the defendants to the then Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency, PPPRA, to claim subsidy funds. She also confirmed that she interviewed Christian Taylor, the third defendant, in the course of the investigation.

After listening to all the submissions by the prosecution witness, Justice Dada adjourned the matter till December 15 and 20, 2023 for continuation of trial.

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