A retired detective with the Metropolitan Police in London, Mr. Peter Clerk, on Monday, narrated to a High Court of the Federal Capital Territory in Gudu, Abuja, the operations that led to the arrest of a former Governor of Plateau State, Mr. Joshua Dariye, in September 2004. Clerk was testifying before Justice Adebukola Banjoko as the ninth prosecution witness in the trial of the former governor on charges of alleged diversion of about N1.162bn Ecological Fund meant for Plateau State in 2004.
He gave details of Dariye’s alleged extravagant spending, including the purchase of a pen for £7,000 in London, before the former governor was arrested.
He said, “From the examination of Mr. Dariye’s account, he travelled all over the world. From his passport, we saw stamps of several countries.
“We found seven pairs of shoes which cost £700 per pair. He paid £7,000 for a pen. He purchased a lot of things in high luxurious stores.”
Dariye was Governor of Plateau State between 1999 and 2007, though his tenure was interrupted by an impeachment in November, 2006, which lasted for months until he was reinstated by the Supreme Court in April, 2007.
The former governor, who is being prosecuted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, is now the Senator representing Plateau Central in the National Assembly.
Led in evidence by the lead prosecution counsel, Mr. Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), Clerk said he was also involved in the investigation of the former Governor of Bayelsa State, the late Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, for money laundering in London before he (Alamieyeseigha) jumped bail.
The witness, who indicated that he started investigating Dariye in January 2004, said the former governor Plateau State was arrested in his hotel room on September 28, 2004, while on a visit to London.
He said, “On September 28, 2004, we were informed that Joshua Dariye was in London in a hotel. I went there with two other officers who also identified themselves as police officers.
“I informed him (Dariye) that we were investigating his accounts and we arrested and informed him under caution that we believed that the money was stolen and proceeds of money laundering. He said nothing.”
He stated that on September 28, 2004, when Dariye was arrested, £43,000 was found in the former governor’s hotel room.
He said on the same day, £50,000, out of which £40,000 belonged to Dariye, was found with a lady, Christabel Bentu, who was said to have claimed to be a Personal Assistant to the former governor, in another room in the same hotel.
Clerk added, “In September 2004, £43,000 in cash was found in Dariye’s room when it was searched. There were various denominations and currencies including Scottish notes, dollars, euros.
“The cash seized was packed into a container, for which he signed. It was photographed. I have copies of the photograph. Dariye and Christopher Bentu were taken to the police.”
He said his colleague searched a property belonging to Dariye and found £11,995.
Clerk stated that Dariye was later released on bail and was expected to return to London in December 2004, but never did.
The witness said a valid arrest warrant was, till date, still pending against the former governor after jumping bail to Nigeria.
Clerk added, “Dariye was informed that if he attempted to move any money, he would be charged for further money laundering.
“In September 2004, I looked at Joshua Dariye in the eyes and said to him, ‘I know you are a religious man’, I asked him if he would come back on December 14, 2004. He said ‘yes’, he would, but he failed to show up. Bentu also failed to show up.
“My colleague searched his property and found £11,995 on the premises and some flyers. They also found three Barclays cheques. They were all seized immediately we made an application for his arrest in London. The arrest warrant is still valid till today. It was circulated in all computers that Dariye was wanted.”
He said the Metropolitan Police deliberately did not ask for Dariye’s extradition to London because he was under immunity as a serving governor, but that soon after he completed his tenure in 2007, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission filed charges against him.
He said, “He (Dariye) failed to return for his bail. I immediately applied for a warrant of arrest, which was granted by a Magistrate in London. That is still valid. He is wanted in London as of today.”
Clerk confirmed that the evidence he gave before an impeachment panel led to Dariye’s removal from office as governor in November 2006, though he was later reinstated by the Supreme Court.
He, however, said he didn’t complete his evidence before the investigating panel in Jos “because the defence was playing games” and he was already scheduled to fly back to London.
He said Dariye operated nine accounts with Barclays Bank.
Under cross-examination by the defence counsel, Mr. Garba Pwul (SAN), Clerk said the former governor opened the accounts in 1995 but were not active until 1999.
“From 1995, when the accounts were opened in Barclays Bank, there were very little activities on the account until May 1999 when he became the governor of Plateau State. I have six boxes of materials on this case,” the witness said.
The witness said that a lot of huge cash funds found in Dariye’s home in London, in his accounts in Barclays Bank of London and some with his cronies were seized and repatriated to Nigeria.
The witness, who was of the Proceeds of Corruption Unit of the London Metropolitan Police, said £11,500, kept in a brief case, was seized from one Christopher Mcquiney, who said the money belonged to Dariye in January 2004.
He stated that there was one Joyce Oyebanjo, who was helping Dariye to pay utility bills in London and routinely receiving funds from Dariye for the maintenance of the former governor’s three children and his property.
Clerk said the woman was later arrested, prosecuted and sentenced to three and a half years imprisonment for money laundering.
He explained that a property in London worth £395,000 was seized from Dariye by the UK government and the proceeds repatriated to Nigeria.
According to him, the purchase of the property was funded by one Lucky Omohuwa of Pinnacle Communication.
He added, “When I suspected that the money came from Nigeria. I met the Nigerian ambassador and informed him of the proceedings and that if he was interested, he might join the proceedings. He did and wrote that the money be forfeited to the Attorney General.
“The properties that were frozen were then ordered to be sold and the money or proceeds be sent back to Nigeria.”
Some Barclays Bank account statements and cheques were tendered and admitted as exhibits on Monday.
Justice Banjoko adjourned trial till June 6.