Thursday, August 01, 2013

Rupiah got money from govt oil deal
By Mwala Kalaluka and Joseph Mweenda
Tue 16 July 2013, 14:01 CAT

SARB Energy managing director Akpan Ekpene yesterday disclosed that Rupiah Banda asked SARB Energy officials to quickly pay him US$1 million out of the money that Zambia anticipated to realise from the Nigerian crude oil contract to finance his 2011 election bid.
But Banda said outside court that Ekpene, who is testifying in his abuse of office case, is doing so to recover his money.

This is a matter where Banda, 75, of plot number 2758, off Leopards Hill Road in Lusaka is facing abuse of authority of office charges in relation to the alleged illegal procurement of oil from Nigeria to the tune of US$2.5 million, whose proceeds were alleged to have gone into an offshore account.

During his continued evidence-in-chief before Lusaka chief resident magistrate Joshua Banda in Lusaka, Ekpene, who is based in Abuja, Nigeria, said Banda personally delegated his son Henry to deal with them over the financial request following a meeting at State House.

Ekpene said that his company paid the US$2.5 million to Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation, which they were required to deposit as part of their agency role on behalf of the Zambian government over the government-to-government Nigerian crude oil deal.

"NNPC confirmed that they received $2.5 million deposit and they informed me that Major Kachingwe can come back and sign the contract on behalf of the Republic of Zambia," Ekpene said. "He said that once he gets back to his station, he would discuss with the president so that we can come to Lusaka and meet the president. He called me and we flew into Lusaka."

He said he was accompanied to Lusaka by his colleague General Silva and that Maj Kachingwe picked them up from the airport to their hotel.

"The following day was Saturday. He said the president will see us. He picked us at our hotel and took us to State House," Ekpene said. "It was my first time to State House. We passed a few gates and we drove up and parked by a building which Maj Kachingwe said is the residence of the president."

Ekpene said earlier that he met Banda at Government House when he was the acting president and that he also came for his presidential inauguration albeit belatedly but that they still had a meeting at the same place, which was now more secured than before.

He said that during his 2011 meeting with president Banda at State House, Banda again expressed happiness over the work done over the oil deal across a period of three years.

"His Excellency the president walked in. His Excellency greeted us warmly. He thanked us for the work that we have done over a period of three years thereabout. He said that he was very impressed that we didn't give up. Then he said that we should also be assured that he didn't give up on us. He believed in us," Ekpene said.

"He said many people came from Nigeria and other countries on this same proposal but that it was right to stick with us because we are the people that tabled the proposal originally."

He said Banda then turned to Maj Kachingwe, who was also present, and said he was very happy with him.

"He said most people sent to Nigeria come back with stories but that when he was sent to Nigeria, he came back with something good for the country. His Excellency asked me 'what is the next step?' I told him that the contract had been signed and we had paid the deposit on behalf of the country as promised," Ekpene said.

Ekpene said he told Banda that SARB Energy would start lifting the oil in three to five months and that Zambia was expected to be making US$300,000 in income of savings on each of the eight projected cargoes that were to be lifted from Nigeria.

He said he concurred with Banda's projection and the lifting of oil would start around August or September.

"His Excellency mentioned that he was starting an election campaign and any resources from the anticipated revenue to the country that could be made available immediately would be extremely useful. He asked me, 'what amount can be made available?' I was a bit hesitant to commit myself at that point," he said.

"Then the door opened and a young man looked into the room and His Excellency motioned him to come into the room. His Excellency introduced the young man as his junior son Henry. The man sat down. His Excellence then continued. He said 'please support us with a minimum of US$1 million'."

Ekpene said he told Banda that they would do their best and that he told them to deal with Henry and he would tell them what to do.
Ekpene said when he asked Henry during a meeting they had in another section of the presidential residence what his government designation was, he said he was just a private businessman but that he later said he was a development consultant.

He said he told Henry that things would be a little bit difficult after the latter told him that the money requested for by Banda would not go into a Zambian government account but a private one.

Ekpene said the US$1million would have been sent without any difficulties if the money was going to a Zambian government account.
He said after agreeing with Henry, Banda invited them for dinner at a Chinese restaurant in Lusaka.

He said he ultimately transferred US$500,000 to Barclays Bank Singapore-domiciled account that Henry had provided on the pretext that he had undertaken feasibility study services to SARB Energy for a power plant to be located in Nigeria's Akwaibon State.

"He told me that he had been able to set up a company in Hong Kong that would sign the agreement for the transfer," Ekpene said.

"His Excellency had requested us that we make US$1 million available immediately…they wanted to procure materials for the campaign."

Ekpene said he knew they were taking a great risk to pay the money that Banda had requested but that at the same time they wanted to show him that they were going to fulfil what they had promised.

"About four to five days before the election with a lot of pressure from Henry, I went back to my bank and I transferred about US$50,000 to that account," he said.

"That money didn't arrive in the account until a day or two after the election. By the time the money arrived, the account had been closed and that is how the money was returned."

He said that was the last he heard of Henry but that Banda called him whilst he was in Boston and just asked him how Nigeria was.

"I didn't hear from His Excellency again until August ending 2012. I was in Paris and His Excellency called me with a South African number to ask how I was and that he was in Ndjamena, Chad and that he was going home through South Africa," said Ekpene.

"I didn't hear from His Excellency again until the day that he was taken to court here. His Excellency told me that the man that he used to send to Nigeria had turned against him and he asked me whether I was still communicating with that man…I told him I wasn't in communication with him. His response was 'don't talk to him'."

Hearing continues.
But when leaving court alongside Edwin Sakala, the leader of opposition Zambia Direct Democracy Movement (ZDDM), Banda dismissed Ekpene's evidence.
"Now I understand why he agreed to come, because he wants the money that was paid back… So he is hoping to work with them (government) so that he can recover his money," Banda said as Sakala nodded in agreement.

Banda earlier greeted the Nigerian witness during a 10-minute break and looked more sombre than he was last week before Ekpene started his testimony.

Banda also reached out to greet the Director of Public Prosecutions DPP Mutembo Nchito twice yesterday, in the morning before opening the case and during the 10-minute break.

The former president went further and introduced the DPP to some of his relatives who were in court. (Also see verbatim on page 14)

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