In December 2019, a federal judge passed a guilty verdict against members of an Internet fraud syndicate in Warri. But the suspected leader of the ring was unavailable for sentencing in the case involving $390,952 fraud, EFCC said in a statement. There have been no updates on his whereabouts ever since.
How Julius Oluwafunmisho Okedele managed to evade anti-graft detectives through the months-long trial and nearly a year after his co-conspirators were convicted remained unclear. But his business activities uncovered by Peoples Gazette suggested a clue as to why he might be amongst the Nigerian untouchables.
Mr. Okedele’s influence is attributable, at least in part, to his multi-billion naira arcane commercial exploits tucked away in the 2014 bank statement of Alpha-Beta Consulting, a professional services firm long linked to Omobola Tinubu, the Gazette can report.
Mr. Okedele and his associates, according to CAC registration documents seen by the Gazette, registered three companies to move unexplained funds, including what the EFCC described as proceeds of Internet fraud. Glorious Fortune Nigeria Ltd., Sought After International Synergy Ltd. and Feranmi Ventures are all run by Mr. Okedele.
December 29, 2014, Glorious Ventures transferred a sum of 90,610,469.25 to Alpha-Beta Consulting U.S. dollar account 5070392516 domiciled with Zenith Bank.
On December 30, 2014, Glorious Ventures transferred another 182,005,449.75 to the same Alpha-Beta account, which now appeared to have been deactivated when the Gazette checked its status on Monday morning.
Sought After International Synergy Ltd made a transfer of 90,612,281.55 on December 29, 2014 and 41,127,444.90 on December 31, 2014, to Alpha-Beta’s Zenith Bank account.
Alpha-Beta then transferred N118,692,000 to Feranmi Ventures in two tranches of N68,692,000 and N50,000,000, all on December 8, 2014.
On December 18, 2014, Alpha-Beta transferred N1,060,000,000 to Feranmi Ventures in two tranches of N550 million and N510 million from its 1012656447 naira account with Zenith Bank.
A week later on December 22, 2014, N490,000,000 was transferred to Feranmi Ventures from Alpha-Beta’s naira account with Zenith Bank.
Mr. Okedele’s companies were not registered as bureau de change, and it is against money laundering regulations to move money from one firm and disguise its payout through another firm.
Alpha-Beta did not answer an email and telephone calls seeking comments from the Gazette. In an interview, Mr. Okelede told the Gazette he was not at large, saying he had clarified his role in the 2019 fraud convictions.
“I only did dollar transactions with the people that EFCC convicted in Warri,” Mr. Okedele said. “I was not found guilty.”
He, however, did not say whether or not he was acquitted and why the EFCC would describe him as being at large.
He also said that he transferred about $4 million to Alpha-Beta to receive the equivalent in naira.
“I transferred only about $4 million to Alpha-Beta and they paid back in naira and it will look like the money is a lot because the exchange rate is over N300 to a dollar,” he said.
But when reminded that the transactions were in December 2014 when the dollar hovered around N180 against the naira, Mr. Okedele said he could not remember full details of the transactions he conducted with Alpha-Beta.
Mr. Okelede also justified his use of different companies to conduct the same string of transactions.
“We own all the companies you mentioned, we can use any of our companies to put money in and take money out,” he said about his use of Glorious Venture and Sought After to pay in money to Alpha-Beta while using Feranmi Ventures to receive from Alpha-Beta.
He admitted that his transactions might be perceived as money laundering, but strongly denied that they had anything to do with laundering.
“All our transactions with Alpha-Beta were legitimate,” Mr. Okedele said. “We kept records of everything we did with them.”
N890 million moved five times on same day
Elsewhere in Alpha-Beta’s 2014 bank statement, there were yet-unclear movements of large funds from Lagos State to the tax contractor’s account.
On December 1, 2014, Alpha-Beta received N890 million five times from Lagos government account. The deposits were inconsistent with the regular payments the tax contractor had been receiving from Lagos State.
Documents showed Alpha-Beta received N890 million monthly from Lagos government account since at least 2013.
Over many months, the N890 million deposit was not explained in bank transaction descriptions, but in other months, the deposits were marked as ISPO, i.e.: irrevocable standing payment order.
An ISPO allows a business to deduct scheduled payment at source from a state government. The CBN described an instance of ISPO as a mandate given to the federal accountant-general by a state government to allow deductions from its monthly federal allocations.
A spokesman for Lagos government did not return a request seeking comments on Monday morning.
Alpha-Beta has consulted for Lagos on tax matters since Mr. Tinubu was governor, according to court filings by Dapo Apara, former CEO of the company who recently fell out with the ruling party chief.
The company’s dealings with Lagos have long been shrouded in secrecy in defiance of public complaints. Multiple FoI requests seeking how much the firm makes from claiming taxes on behalf of Lagos were rejected by the state government.
Mr. Apara also said under oath that ousted EFCC chief Ibrahim Magu offered maximum protection to Mr. Tinubu on corruption matters.
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