Saraki Failed To Declare N375m London Property – Witness
The first prosecution witness in the ongoing trial of the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, Mr. Michael Wetkas, told the Code of Conduct Tribunal on Tuesday that Saraki bought a property worth N375m in London in 2010 which he did not declare.
Saraki is being prosecuted on 16 counts, including false and anticipatory asset declaration which he allegedly made when he was the governor of Kwara State between 2003 and 2007.
Wetkas said under cross-examination by defence counsel, Mr. Paul Usoro (SAN), that the Senate President neither declared the London property nor the liability of the loan in his asset declaration form submitted to the Code of Conduct Bureau at the end of his second term as governor in 2011.
Usoro disputed Count 11 of the charges, in which Saraki was accused of failing to declare his liability of N375m loan and the London property.
Usoro said the Senate President was not bound to declare the N375m as his liability because as of the time he made his end of tenure asset declaration as governor on June 3, 2011 his debit balance was about N36m.
But Wetkas said while it was true that that the debit balance on the account was N36m as of May 31, 2011, Saraki failed to declare the property he allegedly acquired in London with the loan.
The witness said, “There are two issues. The issue of the loan and the issue of property he used the loan to buy in London.
“Our position is that we are aware that the outstanding balance was not N375m but N36,042,202.04 as at that date.
“But if that loan was taken for something else apart from property, we would not have made an issue out of it. But it was taken to buy a property. Our position is that, that property should have been declared in this asset declaration form of 2011. And if it was declared in the asset declaration form, the source of how the property was acquired would have been declared that the money was sourced through loan.”
While fielding questions on the alleged anticipatory asset declaration by Saraki, the witness maintained that 5A and B McDonald Road , Ikoyi, Lagos, on assuming office as the Kwara State governor in 2003 was the same as 15 McDonald Road Ikoyi, Lagos.
He said the Presidential Implementation Committee on the Sale of Federal Government’s Properties confirmed that it sold 15 McDonald Road, Ikoyi, to Saraki through the Senate President’s company, Tiny-Tee Limited, in 2006.
But, the witness said Saraki claimed in his asset declaration form submitted to the Code of Conduct Bureau on assumption of office in 2003 that he acquired 15A and B McDonald Ikoyi, Lagos, through Carlisle Properties Limited in 2006.
He added, “I have always said it in my evidence about 15 McDonald Road, Ikoyi. We maintain our position that that property was one and the same property that the implementation committee wrote to us about.
“The implementation committee did not tell us that there existed15 A and B separately.
“The Managing Director of Carlisle Property, Mr. Izuagbe, also talked about 15 McDonald as the property belonging to the defendant (Saraki) and the defendant in the asset declaration which he made in 2011 and 2015, delcared the property as 15 McDonald Road, Ikoyi; he no longer said 15A and B.
“That is why we maintained the same position that it is the same property. The nomenclature is just at convenience of the defendant.”
The witness confirmed that the Certificate of Occupancy for the property at 15 McDonald Road, Ikoyi, was issued in the name of Tiny Tee Limited and not in Saraki’s name.
On why he concluded that the property belonged to Saraki, Wetkas said that the asset at 15 McDonald Road, Ikoyi, Lagos, was paid for by Saraki through the bank accounts of two other companies which Saraki had declared its interest in.
He also said the Managing Director of two of Saraki’s companies; Carlisle Properties and Investment Limited and Sky View Properties, Mr. Sule Izuagbe, confirmed that the payment for the property was made on the instruction given by the Senate President.
But Saraki’s lawyer, Usoro, said the defendant being an ordinary shareholder in the companies, he could not have been said to be the owner of the assets acquired by the firms.
Usoro said Carlisle and Skyview were both limited liability companies and thus had separate personalities different from that of Saraki.
In response, the lead prosecuting counsel, Mr. Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), said the issue of ownership of the property was clear as Saraki himself had declared the property as his in his asset declaration form.
Earlier on Tuesday, the Chairman of the Code of Conduct Tribunal, Danladi Umar, revealed that there were attempts to influence the tribunal to rule in a particular way during the trial of a former Governor of Lagos State, and the National Leader of the All Progressives Congress, Bola Tinubu.
Umar said at the opening of the trial of Saraki on charges of false and anticipatory asset declaration, among others, on Tuesday, that despite the pressure mounted on the panel members during Tinubu’s trial, the tribunal ruled on what was put before it.
The CCT chairman said this while allaying the fears of Saraki and his lawyers that the tribunal was being controlled by external influence.
He assured the defence team of the determination of the tribunal to do justice in the case as he and his co-panel member would give account to God.
He said, “I want to say that during Bola Tinubu’s case we were under serious influence. But you saw what happened. We did what we needed to do and discharged based on what was before us.
“So we must be fair to ourselves not to delay this trial.”