A federal high court, Lagos heard on Tuesday how a three-man syndicate who specialized in defrauding foreigners by using the name of Nigeria first lady, Mrs. Aisha Buhari were arrested while enjoying sumptuous food and drinks.
The revelation was made on Tuesday by a police detective, Mr. Musa Naneri, a Superintendent of Police, while giving evidence before Justice Nicholas Oweibo.
The alleged members of the syndicate are Uche Anyanwu Julius, Kenneth Chikwado Ezeonu and Agu Ifeanyi.
Led in evidence by the prosecutor, Tijjani Williams, at the resumed proceedings yesterday, Supol. Musa, attached to Force Criminal Intelligence and Investigation Department (ForceCIID) Annex, Alagbon, Ikoyi, Lagos, told the court how the leader of the gang, Uche was arrested at a food and drinks joint.
He said: “after conclusion of our investigation and he had opened up on the fraud we are able to detect the location of Uche. We moved down to the place and he was called to join us at a joint for ‘item seven’, because he has love for Guilder and when he showed up, we arrested him.
“He made confessional statement that he was into financial fraud. He stated in his statement how he defrauded white men whom he called ‘Mugu”.
The witness who is the first to be called in the matter further told the court that Uche’s arrest led to the arrest of Agu on October 21, 2018.
He said that on October 21, they moved Uche to his residence at Aguda, Surulere, to execute a search warrant adding that the search was witnessed by his wife and three sons.
He said that at Uche’s Surulere residence, the investigating team stumbled on a piece of paper with inscription ‘Aisha Buhari gmail’ and underneath, it has ‘Her Excellence’.
He said the defendant was probed on the discoveryof the paper, he said he had used the name to swindle many white men from Italy, Germany and many others of Dollars.
“When we wanted to take him (Uche) back to Alagbon, but Uche said he can’t go down alone with this case. He said he has many syndicates and he pointed to a storey building, where the third defendant, Agu was living and he took us there.
“Upon reaching there, we met Agu, his wife and their daughter, then I introduced myself and my team and we told him that we wanted to meet him. As we were going, Uche (Ifeanyi) jumped the fence with his laptop and I saw the second defendant, Kenneth, dropping something in the waste bin, it was his laptop.
“Kenneth, the second defendant was taken back to Agu (third defendant) and Agu wife identified Kenneth as Agu’s friend. That was how we arrested all of them”, he told the court.
Supol Musa also told the court that though, he is not all that computer literate, but that a suspect, named Ifeanyi Lakatai, who is a computer guru, assisted in opening Kenneth’s laptop and Uche’s phone and that they discovered series of documentary evidence.
The witness also informed the court that two weeks after, Uche alongside his counsel, reported at the office and his laptop was also opened and another series of fraud committed was discovered.
Musa told the court that the syndicate do not use their real names, but that they have Muslim’s names they used in defrauding their victims.
He said, the gang leader, Uche, told the investigating team that he used part of the fraud proceeds to build a 3-bedroom bungalow in Owerri, Imo State capital, and bought a Sienna car for N1.1 million.
He also told the court that his team discovered series of United Bank PLC (UBA) pay-in-slips (teller) which are used in withdrawing the proceeds of fraud by Uche’s wife.
He said the fraud victims usually pay the money into Uche’s wife’s account with UBA.
When asked of the whereabouts of the exhibits including laptops, phone, cars and the documentary evidence, the witness said they are with the exhibits keeper who was unable to make it to the court.
Following the inability to produce the exhibits, the prosecutor, Mr. Tijjani, asked court for a short adjournment.
Consequently, Justice Oweibo adjourned the matter until March 31 for continuation of trial.
Uche, Kenneth and Agu who also goes by the name of Musa Muhammad; Abdul Karim and Dr. Lima Norman respectively are standing trial before the court on a 17 count-charge bordering on conspiracy, forgery, cybercrime and alleged fraud of $34. 325, 500 million fraud.
Police in the charge marked FHC/L/392c/18, alleged that the three men committed the offences between August 2015 and October 2018. The police alleged that Uche, resident at 10, Hassan Idowu Street, Aguda, Surulere, Lagos and his team members conspired among themselves to commit the act.
While Uche was alleged to have defrauded his victim of total sum of $20.5 million, Kenneth and Agu were said to have swindled their victims of the sum of $324.800, 00.
They were also accused of forging electronic messages which they claimed to have emanated from Nigeria’s first lady, Hajia Aisha Buhari, for the formalization and revocation of the United States Financial impropriety, among others, which they used in defrauding their victims.
The offences according to the prosecutor, Tijjani Williams, are contrary to Sections 8(a) and punishable under Section 1(3), 22 (2) (h) of the Advance Fee Fraud and Other Fraud Related Offences Act, 2006.
All the defendants had pleaded not guilty to the charge and admitted to bail in various terms and conditions.