How foreign oil firm Trafigura defrauded Fed Govt of $1.6b tax, by witness

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AN Ikeja Special Offences Court heard yesterday how two foreign oil companies, Travigura Beheer BV and Travigura PTE Limited, allegedly defrauded the country of about $1.6 billion in tax payments.

A witness, Emefo Etudo, stated this while under cross-examination by lead counsel to third defendant, Prof. Taiwo Oshinpitan.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) is prosecuting the oil companies for alleged theft of Automotive Gas Oil (AGO) worth $8.4 million belonging to Nadabo Energy Limited.

Other defendants charged alongside the oil firms are Yusuf Yahaya Kwande, Mettle Energy and Gas, Rendbrandt, Osahon Asemota and Jil Engineering and Oil Services Limited.

They are facing three-count charge bordering on conspiracy and receiving stolen property before a Special Offences Court, sitting in Ikeja, Lagos.

Etudo said Trafigura claimed not have office in Nigeria and was designed to evade tax due to the Federal Government.

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He said when the National Assembly invited the company, he sat with the defendants when they lied that Trafigura did not have any office in Nigeria to cover up their alleged tax fraud.

The witness added that Trafigura has operation office in Sinari Daranijo Street, Victoria Island, Lagos, “known to everybody”.

He said Kwande admittedly said in his ‘deposition that he and some people were responsible for the operation’ of the company.

“I know so many things about these people. Trafigura will never register in Nigeria. They lied to Nigeria because they don’t want to pay $1.6 billion in tax due to Nigeria government.

“I was there when Trafigura was invited to the National Assembly. They said they don’t have operating office in Nigeria.

“The third defendant lied to Nigeria. Their office is at Sinari Daranijo Street, Victoria Island. If Nigeria has problems, they are one of them,” Etudo insisted.

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Etudo, under further cross-examination by Prof. Oshinpitan, affirmed that all the proforma invoice of Trafigura in Nigeria has inscription Y. Y. K, which according to the witness is the initial name of the third defendant.

He said the Kwande never deny this fact when confronted by the Police and the EFCC.

The witness said it was Kwande, who issued the controversial proforma invoice of MT Ozay6 in favour of Jil Engineering.

“Every proforma invoice has his initials of Y. Y. K. Another name of him is Babs. He wrote and admitted the proforma invoice dated November 21, 2008. He admitted this before the police and the EFCC.

“He has admitted the missing cargo and listed the invoice number. He admitted that they brought Jil to purchase the cargo at agreed price. He issued the proforma invoice. Ozay 6 was bought by Jil. The captain prepared the bill of lading that took away the vessel from Apapa,” the witness said.

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Earlier under cross-examination from counsel to first and second defendants, Bode Olanipekun (SAN), Etudo maintained that contract number three marked 17904 was not entered among Rendbrandt, Mettle Energy and Trafigura, but affirmed the contract between Rendbrandt and Trafigura on behalf of Nadabo Energy Limited as genuine.

He stated that the defendants instructed him to go after Jil Engineering and Oil Services Limited to cover their tracks in the alleged fraud.

“The contract number 179041 is not among Rendbrandt, Mettle Energy and Trafigura, but it is a contract between Rendbrandt and Trafigura on behalf of Nadabo Energy Limited, which they did and took away the cargo. I discovered this in the course of the investigation,” Etudo said.

Justice Mojisola Dada has adjourned the matter to January 7 and 11 for the continuation of the trial.

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