How Obasanjo’s in-law, Abebe perpetrated $4m fraud – Witness

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Mr Paul Piche, a Norwegian and Ms Charlene Cross, a Briton, revealed how Mr John Abebe, the brother of the late Stella Obasanjo, a former First Lady of Nigeria, allegedly forged documents to perpetrate a four million dollars fraud.

Abebe is facing a four-count charge of forgery, fabricating evidence, using fabricated evidence and attempt to pervert the cause of justice at an Ikeja Special Offences Court in Lagos.

He, however, denied the charges which were proffered against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

During Tuesday’s proceedings which started at 9.23 am and ended at 3.48 pm, Piche who was led on evidence by Mr Rotimi Oyedepo, the lead prosecuting counsel for the EFCC, at the start of his testimony, provided a background of his career.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Piche, describing himself as the Country Manager of Equinor, Turkey revealed that he was the Managing Director of Statoil Nigeria Ltd from 2016 to 2017.

“Equinor is an international oil and gas company, formerly known as Statoil, it currently engages in activities in 36 countries of the world.

“I was responsible for the overall activities of Statoil in Nigeria. I know the defendant in this case and I know BP Exploration Ltd.”

Explaining Statoil’s business dealings in Nigeria, he said: ”In 1991, Statoil Nigeria entered into a consultancy agreement with Inducon Nigeria Ltd (Abebe’s company) that continued till 1997 when the agreement was terminated.

“During the same period, specifically in 1993, Statoil entered into a Net Profit Interest Agreement (NPIA) and in 1995, the agreement ended.

“Statoil had further dealings with Inducon and in 2010, Inducon took out claims against Statoil at the Federal High Court.

“When I became Managing Director of Statoil Nigeria, my knowledge of Inducon was related to the ongoing court case.”

The Norwegian revealed to the court how the alleged forgery of the NPIA by Abebe was unravelled by Statoil.

“In 2010, Dr Abebe tendered a copy of the amendment letter between themselves (Inducon) and BP Exploration dated 1995.

“At that point, Statoil made enquiries from BP Exploration about the original amendment letter from 1995, such amendment letter was provided to Statoil from BP Exploration.

“When we made comparisons of the letter we received and the one that was tendered at the Federal High Court by Inducon and Dr Abebe we saw that there were a number of inconsistencies between the two versions,” he said.

Piche who was presented with the original and the allegedly forged NPIA revealed the discrepancies in the two documents.

“Annexure Two is the forged amendment letter tendered by Inducon and Annexure Three is the genuine version of the amendment letter that we received.

“In Annexure Three, the paragraph for the $4Million dollar buyout for production of oil does not exist but it exists in Annexure two.”

He said: “In Annexure Two the address of the National Westminster Bank which is in 2A Charing Cross Road is all on one line whereas if you look at Annexure Three, the same address is in two lines.

“The postcode of the address of the of National Westminster is WCTUH0PE with a Zero while on the Annexure Two the postcode is WCTHUHOPE with the letter `O’ which is a wrong postcode.

“In Annexure Two at the parenthesis, instead of i.e, capital L and a lower case e whereas in Annexure Three, in the parenthesis you will see a lowercase i and a lower case.”

Piche also pointed out to the court that the paragraphs of page two of the forged document were not justified compared to the original where all the paragraphs were justified.

He informed the court that following the discovery, Statoil petitioned the EFCC and laid a complaint at the office of Vice President Yemi Osinbajo.

“On Dec. 14, 2016 we laid a complaint at the State House office of the Vice President because it was obvious to us that the amendment letter has been forged.

“The fabrication of the letter at the Federal High Court to pervert the course of justice and we had no option but to petition the EFCC and ask the to investigate the matter.

“We sent copies of the letter to the Honourable Office of the Vice President as well as the Honourable Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation,” he said.

While being cross-examined by Mr E.D, Onyeke, a member of Abebe’s defence team, Piche admitted having no knowledge of forensics.

“I have a B.Sc. in Economics from the University of Warwick and a Masters degree in Economics from the London School of Economics.

“I’m not a forensic document examiner, I cannot tell the type of font used in the document,” he said.

He admitted to the court that his company did not take any legal action on the alleged forgery until 2016 after judgments were given at Federal High Court and Court of Appeal in favour of Inducon, Abebe’s company against Statoil.

“I’m aware of the judgment against my company at the Court of Appeal on June 5, 2012 and I’m aware of my company’s appeal at the Supreme Court,” Piche said.

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