By Enyichukwu Enemanna
Former Governor of of Enugu State, Chimaroke Nnamani may lose $1 million from suspected illegally acquired funds during his tenure as helmsman in coal city state following an order by a US court, directing FBI to seize the said funds, documents recently obtained by Peoples Gazette has indicated.
Nnamani now a member of the Nigerian Senate, was elected governor and sworn in as Nigeria returned to civil rule in May 1999. He was accused of embarking on massive looting of public funds days before leaving office as Enugu governor in 2007.
According to FBI in a recent document, Nnamani started siphoning public funds shortly after he came on board as governor. Although the FBI and Nigerian anti-graft office EFCC seized property and cash assets laundered by Mr Nnamani in separate proceedings in the U.S. and Nigeria, respectively, both law enforcement authorities said they have yet to determine how much the Nigerian politician actually plundered.
Mr Nnamani, representing Enugu East Senatorial District, is alleged to have used proxies to wire-transfer them from Nigerian banks to bank accounts he fraudulently opened with AmSouth Bank in Orlando, Florida, according to forfeiture affidavits submitted by special agents of the FBI.
The previously unreported fraud cases were instituted against Mr Nnamani before the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama barely days after he left office in May 2007 and wound up two years later in May 2009.
While the FBI was only able to trace about $41.8 million in allegedly stolen funds laundered abroad, the EFCC had previously confiscated billions of naira from the Nigerian senator, who also carries American citizenship, including the N5.3 billion seized via a federal court order in July 2015.
US authorities said Mr Nnamani moved $961,184.27 in 21 tranches in the course of four days leading to his departure from Enugu State Government House as he concluded his two-term mandate due on May 29, 2007, documents obtained by The Gazette indicates.
The online newspaper reports that on March 15, 16, 21, and 30, 2007, Mr Nnamani pilfered the illicit funds through eight Nigerian banks, including Standard Chartered Bank, Fidelity Bank, Sterling Bank and since-defunct Platinum Habib Bank (PHB), to the U.S. AmSouth Bank (now Regions Bank), where Mr Nnamani had previously opened 20 accounts with Chinero Nwigwe, his sister and alleged co-conspirator.
Some of the 21 suspicious transactions listed in the FBI complaint filed in October 2007 included $63,964 on March 15 from Platinum Habib Bank in Nigeria to AmSouth Bank account number 7966914620; $64,964 on March 15 from Platinum Habib Bank to AmSouth Bank account number 7966914620; $56,189 from Platinum Habib Bank to AmSouth Bank account number 7966914647 on March 15; $25,772 from Fidelity Bank to AmSouth Bank account 7966914655 on March 15; and $21,975 wired on March 21 from Sterling Bank to AmSouth Bank account 7966914728.
The FBI said nearly two dozen companies linked to Mr Nnamani were used to move the stolen funds, including Jasmine Group, Rock City Group, Hill Gate LLC, Parmon Oil and Gas Ltd, Boskel Nigeria Ltd, Rainbow Assoc. LLC, Tollman Allied Services, Capital Index Ltd, Universal-Sodexho Nigeria Ltd, Intecon Partnership Ltd, The Ferguson Group LLC, Elizabeth Group LLC.
“It is unlikely that Chimaroke Nnamani possesses an adequate source of legitimate income to account for the acquisition of the defendant funds,” the FBI said, adding that “additional investigation has failed to identify a legitimate source of income for Chinero Nwigwe to account for the transfer of funds alleged herein.”
“The defendant funds held on deposit in the twenty named bank accounts are the subjects of, or otherwise were involved in numerous financial transactions conducted by, or at the direction of Chimaroke Nnamani for the purpose of concealing or disguising the nature, the location, the source, the ownership or the control of the proceeds of “specified unlawful activity” in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1956(a)(1)(B)1(1).
“Therefore, the defendant funds are subject to forfeiture to the United States of America pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 981(a)(1)(A),” the FBI further stated in its affidavit.
When it became apparent that the Nigerian politician’s legitimate earnings could not account for the millions of dollars in his possession after a drawn forfeiture proceeding that spanned about two years, Judge William Acker issued a consolidated ruling ordering the seizure of the illicit funds as well as forfeitures of Mr Nnamani’s assets to the U.S. government on May 13, 2009.
According to a Tuesday report by The Gazette, the forfeiture of the Nigerian politician’s lush Heathrow, Florida, residence, which he purchased with $1.8 million cash after stealing and laundering $41.8 million from the southeast Nigeria state’s coffers.
The Gazette had sent a request to the former governor for comments regarding his unreported U.S. corruption case, which came days after he was named a senior member of Bola Tinubu’s presidential campaign council, but no response was received.
Despite the fact that his criminal records were preserved in the records of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Alabama, Mr Nnamani on Tuesday sponsored a statement across several Nigerian newspapers, claiming no such case existed and that the report came from “political foes and professional blackmailer” The Gazette reports.
Despite failing to show any evidence of his claims, Mr Nnamani managed to induce at least a dozen Nigerian reporters with cash bribes to promptly circulate his falsehood across their media outlets, marking yet another manifestation of the brown envelope menace that has plagued the country’s media space for decades.
A spokesman for Attorney-General Abubakar Malami, whose office chases return of stolen funds stashed abroad, did not return a request seeking comments, according to The Gazette