As part of the ongoing probe of the laundering of over $200billion loot in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) by former political office holders, operatives of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission ( EFCC) yesterday stormed the office of a Dubai property firm, The First Group Company, in Abuja. The company is also being investigated for allegedly defrauding unsuspecting Nigerians by luring them to invest in real estate in Dubai.
A prominent Nigerian lost about $402, 000 (N136.6m) in a phony real estate transaction with the company, it was learnt. Two officials of the company were arrested. They were undergoing interrogation at the anti-graft agency’s office last night.
Some documents and a Central Processing Unit (CPU) containing a list of high profile patrons were retrieved by the EFCC. The EFCC team raided the company’s seventh floor office at the Bank of Industry building in the Central Business District of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) after obtaining a search warrant.
An EFCC source said: “Our operatives searched the office as a result of a plethora of complaints received through petitions from concerned Nigerians about the activities of The First Group Company, a real estate outfit incorporated in Dubai (UAE).
“We executed a duly endorsed search warrant and vital documents as well as CPU relevant to the facts in issue were recovered.
“They specialise in aiding and abetting money laundering and foreign exchange malpractices by top civil servants and Politically Exposed Persons (PEPs).”
The EFCC is working on clues that some former governors, ministers and top civil servants laundered money through the company to buy choice properties in Dubai, using such proxies, including their children and relations.
“Two employees of the company (an accountant and the senior client service/ legal executive) were arrested and are being interrogated,” the source said.
The investigation of the company is said to be in line with the agreement between the Federal Government and the UAE to trace about $200billion loot stashed away in the Emirate by ex-governors and ministers.
The source said the First Group Company was also being probed for allegedly swindling some Nigerians. “So many unsuspecting Nigerians have fallen victims of their antics by parting with their hard-earned money running into millions of dollars. Iinvestigations into the allegations are ongoing,” the source added.
Under searchlight for stashing funds or acquiring properties in Dubai are seven ex-governors, six former ministers, a former presidential aide implicated in the $2.1billion arms deals, ex-military chiefs under probe, agents / fronts of some of these public officers and about five chieftains of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), who are undergoing interrogation.
A Federal Government team, comprising the Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of the Federation, Mr. Abubakar Malami, EFCC Chairman Ibrahim Magu and detectives from the anti-graft agency some months ago met with their UAE counterparts to collate intelligence notes on the PEPs.
President Muhammadu Buhari in January signed a “Judicial Agreement on Extradition, Transfer of Sentenced Persons, Mutual Legal Assistance on Criminal Matters, and Mutual Legal Assistance on Criminal and Commercial Matters, which includes the recovery and repatriation of stolen wealth with UAE.”
Calls were made to both the Abuja office and Dubai Headquarters of the affected office last night but these did not how through. While Dubai line +97144550100 was on automatic answering machine, the Abuja lines of +2349903600 and +23494611454 did not connect.Although some of the cases involving The First Group were handled by Barrister Ismail Muftau from Jackdon, Etti and Edu, it was difficult to get the counsel when this newspaper went to bed.