Politics

How Convicted Drug Baron Laundered N400m Using Illicit Trade –NDLEA Official Tells Court

NDLEA uncovers large farm of marijuana in Kano e1637501727420

An official of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, Uduo Achu, on Wednesday, narrated to the Federal High Court in Lagos how a convicted drug baron, Steve Adigwe, also known as Isioma Obobo, received huge sums of money from the illicit trade and laundered the same.

Achu said that the convict attempted to disguise the origin of the said money which is over N400m.

The convicted drug baron, Adigwe, is being prosecuted by the NDLEA, for the alleged illegal importation of 75.75 Kilograms of Cannabis Indica, which he hid in two vehicles, a Lincoln Navigator and a Toyota Yaris, both concealed in a 40ft container number MSCUS33668-0.

He was on March 3, 2023, convicted and sentenced to three years imprisonment by the same court, for trafficking in cocaine.

Adigwe was however ordered to pay a fine option of N500,000, instead of the jail term.

However, the convict was re-arraigned before the court in a fresh charge marked FHC/L/108c/2023.

The NDLEA  told the court that on June 29, 2023, Adigwe trafficked 75.75 kilogrammes of Cannabis Indica, a prohibited substance similar to cocaine, heroin and other hard drugs.

At the resumed trial of the convict, on Wednesday, the Prosecution Witness Achu,  who was led in evidence by the NDLEA’s counsel, Mrs O .I. Iwuchukwu, told Justice Akintayo Aluko that the convicted drug baron made an additional statement on May 24, 2023, to the extent that he was a spare parts seller at the Tin Can Island Port, Lagos.

Achu told the court that based on the information given by the convict, he went to the port to investigate the claim and was informed that the only business done at the Tin Can Island Port is the importation and exportation of goods and that with the different security agencies, there was no way an individual could carry out the business of buying and selling there.

The witness added that on the basis of the information obtained from Tin Can Island, he decided to look at  Adigwe’s statement of accounts to have an idea of the type of business he was into.

Achu said: “While analysing his four statements of account, Access Bank, Zenith Bank, GTbank and Fidelity Bank, I discovered a pattern of lodgement and transactions that is consistent with money laundering.

“I found out that the lodgement has no legitimate origin”.

The witness further told the court that between  August 4, 2021, and December 14, 2022, the defendant received and retained a gross total sum of N143m, from one  Emmanuel Chika’s Guaranty Trust Bank into his Guaranty Trust Bank Account, in several transactions.

Achu also stated that in the course of his investigation, he discovered that  Adigwe between September 2, 2021 and December 15, 2022, transferred a gross total of about N137,530m, from his bank into his Isinobong Nig. Limited’s corporate bank account with several transactions, to conceal or disguise the origin of the funds.

The witness told Justice Aluko that his investigation revealed that the ‘defendant’ accounts are linked to companies without verifiable addresses. “They transact businesses and receive funds without invoices or receipts or known suppliers.

“I also conducted what is called Transaction Tracing on the accounts and discovered that payments were made for drug purchases into Isinobong Nigeria Limited account.

“The analysis of his phone shows that they were negotiating for price and payments were made, the receipt of the payment was screen shut. I traced the transaction and discovered it was in Calabar, but we couldn’t get the intended target as he was not in the address.”

Achu also added that the frequency of transfer from the defendant’s accounts raised questions as to the purpose of the transfer.

Based on the witness evidence before the court, the prosecutor, Iwuchukwu, tendered the statement of accounts of the four banks the witness said he analysed as well as the additional statement made by the witness.

However, counsel for the convicted drug baron, Benson Ndakara, asked for an adjournment to cross-examine the witness.

Consequently, Justice Aluko adjourned the matter till June 10 and 11, 2024, for continuation of trial.