British lawyers won’t speak on ex-governors’ loot

Dariye Accused the British of looting his loot. 

Despite the allegations against it, a British law firm yesterday snubbed enquiries on its handling of the monies recovered from former Governors Diepreye Alamieyeseigha (Bayelsa) and Joshua Dariye (Plateau).

Kendall Freeman and Company confirmed acting for the Federal Government on various cases, including the one against Dariye, but declined to give the details.

It said it did not have the government’s consent to release such details to the media.

“We confirm that Kendall Freeman act for the Federal Government of Nigeria on various matters, including proceedings against Chief Dariye. However, we have no authority from the government to discuss these cases with the media” an e-mail from Mr James Maton, the counsel handling the cases, said.

The e-mail was in response to enquiries by The Nation.

It took Freeman about 18 hours to respond to the enquiries following the allegations levelled against his company by the Attorney-General of the Federation and Justice Minister, Mr Michael Aondoakaa (SAN), on Tuesday.

The minister accused the lawyers of tampering with the monies which they assisted the government to recover in Britain.

Aondoakaa spoke in Abuja when he handed over a cheque of £300,000 (about N76.5 million), which was part of the money recovered from Dariye, to officials of the Plateau State Government.

Before Aondoakaa’s allegation, Dariye had made the same claim.

In a petition to the President, the former governor alleged that part of the money recovered from him was not returned to the Federal Government.

He claimed that part of the money realized from the sale of his properties in Britain was not declared.

Dariye asked President Umaru Yar’Adua to probe the allegation – in line with his administration’s anti-corruption crusade.

Aondoakaa claimed that Kendall Freeman did not remit the money recovered from Dariye to the government.

He alleged that the law firm illegally deducted its legal fees from the loot.

The law firm, he said, also handled the recovery of money from Alamieyeseigha.

“The Plateau State Government is not at loggerheads with the Attorney-General. A law firm was engaged in London to recover money from Dariye. The Kendall Freeman firm collected money for the Plateau State Government but did not remit the money to the state government. They also paid themselves out of the money.

“The state government complained to the past. Attorney-General, Chief Bayo Ojo (SAN). Before the law firm could be asked why they paid themselves, the tenure of the Attorney-General had lapsed.

“I invited Freeman and told him that the money did not belong to the Federal Government and that Plateau State did not engage the lawyers. I told the law firm that they have to refund the money and seek approval for the money to be paid.

“I had a meeting with them and I told them that part of the money must be paid back to me. The President has directed me to hand over the money to the state government. The money is £300,000.”

The minister said Kendall Freeman claimed that it informed the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) about the alleged illegal transaction.

Aondoakaa said he was yet to see any document signed by the EFCC chairman Mallam Nuhu Ribadu in respect of the deal.

On Alamieyeseigha, he said £985,567 (about N251.3 million) recovered from the former governor which is to be returned to the Bayelas state Government remained unclaimed in London.

Throughout Tuesday, the London law firm rebuffed entreaties to talk to The Nation on the matter.

Maton, who confirmed that he was in charge of the cases, asked that an e-mail detailing The Nation’s enquiries be sent to him. The e-mail was sent but he did not reply as promised.

When The Nation called London later the night, he was said to have closed.

Yesterday, it took another call to London before he responded to the enquiries.

 

– The Nation

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