General News of Tuesday, 10 June 2014
The Financial Division of the Fast Track High Court on June 5, began taking oral evidence to determine the actual owner of the US$391,250 which has been paid into the coffers of the Judicial Service by UT Bank.
An official of the Economic and Organised Crime Office (EOCO), Mr Patrick Kofi Awoonor, said his outfit had received a complaint from Mr Prince Adeleke Oyinlola that two of the defendants in the case had planned to take away his vessel.
The said defendants are Auxesia Energy Limited, from whose account the money was withdrawn, and MT Soleushing UK, a vessel operating company.
According to the witness, the complainant also levelled money laundering and financing of terrorism activity allegations against Auxesia Energy. Mr Awoonor said his outfit received the complaint in June 2013, for which reason EOCO froze Auxesia Energy’s account in July 2013 in order to complete investigations.
Led by Mr Edward Cudjoe, counsel for EOCO, to give his evidence-in-chief, the witness said Oyinlola told EOCO that one Christopher Isiboi had contracted him (complainant) to transport low pour fuel oil (LPFO) to Saltpond in the Central Region, but two of the crew members were held hostage in Nigeria until payment was effected by Auxesia Energy.
He said Auxesia Energy issued a cheque for $391,250 to Isiboi as charter fee after the LPFO had been offloaded in Saltpond.
According to the witness, MT Soleushing UK later claimed ownership of the vessel, resulting in the matter ending up in the courts and the subsequent lodgement of the cash into the coffers of the Judicial Service.
Answering questions under cross-examination from counsel for Auxesia Energy, Mr Godfred Yeboah Dame, the witness told the court that Oyinlola’s complaint bordered on the loading of the LPFO and source of the product.
Asked how the loading of the LPFO constituted a terrorist activity, the witness said the owner of the product was still under investigations, with assistance from the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC) of Nigeria.
Asked to indicate the nature of the terrorism activity on the part of any of the parties to the court, Mr Awoonor said, “We are not saying we are investigating terrorism.”
At that moment, counsel read out Paragraph 22 of EOCO’s statement of case which the witness said he was well aware of. Mr Dame read out the said paragraph, where EOCO indicated that the account of Auxesia Energy had been frozen due to terrorism allegations and then queried the witness if he meant to say Auxesia Energy was not under investigations. Mr Awoonor then explained that MT Soleushing UK was also under investigations. The following transpired between Mr Dame and Mr Awoonor: Mr Dame: Is it your case that the ownership of the vessel constituted terrorism? Mr Awoonor: I did not say that the ownership of the vessel is what we are investigating. Counsel asked the witness how possible it was to finance a terrorism activity without it taking place, to which Mr Awoonor said Auxesia Energy made payments to people it did not know. Mr Dame then asked the witness if he meant to say it constituted terrorism to pay business partners one did not know in other countries. The witness answered, “No, my Lord.”
Auxesia is not source of LPFO
Mr Dame then asked Mr Awoonor if the source of the LPFO had come up during the investigations, to which the witness said Isiboi was assisting the EFCC of Nigeria.
Queried if Auxesia Energy was the source of the LPFO, the witness answered, “No, my Lord.”
In defining terrorism, Mr Awoonor said it meant engaging in activities that posed a threat and danger to others.
Mr Dame is expected to continue his cross-examination on June 12, 2014.
No to consolidation
Earlier, the court, presided over by Mr Justice John Ajet-Nasam, had refused to consolidate the case, as requested by counsel for MT Soleushing UK, Mr Dubik Yakubu Mahama.