Nigeria – Claim: Both social and traditional media were recently awash with claims that a 53-page certified document released by a US court indicated that the presidential candidate of the All Progressive Congress, APC, Bola Ahmed Tinubu was a drug lord convicted in the US.
Full-Text: The post of the claimer reads: “US Court Releases Certified True Copy Of Judgment For The Forfeiture of $460,000 Belonging To Bola Ahmed Tinubu For Narcotics Trafficking And Money Laundering.
“It is no longer news that on October 4, 1993, Bola Ahmed Tinubu forfeited $460,000 to the United States Government for his involvement in narcotics trafficking and financial transactions in violation of the U.S laws. This 59-page attested court judgment confirms this.
“In the cause of the investigations, representatives from Mobil Oil were interviewed regarding Tinubu’s employment status. The representatives confirmed that Tinubu was indeed employed by Mobil Oil Nigeria Ltd as a Treasurer.
“This position, however, does not involve the transfer of large amounts of money between banking institutions. Mobil Oil representatives stated that under no circumstances would Tinubu be permitted to retain money belonging to Mobil Oil in accounts bearing Tinubu’s name. Finally, Mobil Oil confirmed that the corporation never had any accounts in banks in the southern suburbs of Chicago.
“Consequently, the U.S Court ordered that the funds in the amount of $460,000 in the name of Bola Tinubu in account 263226700 held by First Heritage Bank represent proceeds of narcotics trafficking and was involved in financial transactions in violation of U.S laws.
“The Court also ordered that First Heritage Bank shall issue a $460,000 cheque payable to Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago and be forfeited to the United States Government.”
Verification: In a letter dated February 4th 2003 which emanated from the US Consulate in Lagos, addressed to the then Inspector General of Police, Tafa Balogun with reference SR.3000/IGPSEC/ABJ/VOL.24/287 and obtained by PRNigeria, the United States clarified that a record check on then Governor Bola Ahmed Tinubu returned negative for any criminal arrest records, wants, or warrants for Mr Tinubu “(DOB 29 March 1952).”
It further clarified that its check was based on the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)’s National Crime Information Center (NCIC) – a centralised information center that maintains the records of every criminal arrest and conviction within the United States and its territories.
PRNigeria fact-check, therefore, queried the database of the FBI’s NCIC, and results returned negative on the search terms.
However, recent reports from the PeoplesGazette, Moneycentral, and ICIR Nigeria among other credible media outlets revealed that the US has released a certified copy of the alleged Tinubu’s drug dealing and money laundering.
Part of the report reads, “latest certified copies of the court case, obtained on August 10, showed Mr Tinubu and two others named K.O. Tinubu and Alhaji Mogati were involved in banking proceeds of illicit drugs and money laundering with Heritage Bank and Citibank.”
The document upon which the report was based and was even shown on National TV was said to have been released by the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois however, there was no direct attribution to the source who released the document from the said court.
PRNigeria, therefore, visited the official website of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois and went to the “Federal Record Lookup page” of the website, entered the “location”, “year,” “case type,” and “case no,” as seen and reflected on the alleged document but there was no document of such nature associated with the said court according to findings from its official website.
PRNigeria‘s further investigations to independently verify if Mr Tinubu actually entered a plea bargain in 1993 which made him forfeit the sum of $460,000 led it to reach out to the clerk who attested to the release of the true copy on 10th August 2022.
Substantiation by US Court Official
PRNigeria tracked and contacted Johny Khuu, one of the signatories on the Court’s document with necessary enquiries on the matter.
Mr Khuu after checking the court records confirmed the existence of the document.
“After reviewing our records, I have indeed certified and attested those case files. Kind Regards,” Mr Khuu said.
When asked further why the document was not accessible from the federal record lookup, he replied as follows.
“The federal record lookup is for seeking the location information of the physical documents for the case. In most cases, where the age of the case is before 1999, the case documents are most likely within the records of the Federal Records Center (FRC) and National Archives and Records Administration (NARA).
“For members of the public to view case documents digitally, they must access them through the Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER) system. Please note that many old case documents are in the process of being digitized, so should the documents be inaccessible in PACER, that is when the federal case lookup would be of use as the location information can be used by the FRC and NARA to determine whether it is within their records or within the records of another court,” Khuu concluded.
However, further investigations by PRNigeria revealed that the Judge assigned to the case as far back as 1993, Judge John Albert Nordberg had died on 12th March 2021.
Meanwhile, Mr Tinubu’s spokespersons have admitted to such forfeiture in 1993.
The spokesman of the APC presidential campaign, Bayo Onanuga said that the forfeiture arose out of an investigation by FBI agent Kevin Moss of Tinubu and Compass Investment and Finance accounts at First Heritage Bank and Citi- Bank in the U.S.
He further narrated as follows, “On January 10, 1992, Mr Kevin Moss requested and obtained a court order to freeze the accounts.
“On January 13, 1992, Mr Moss telephoned Tinubu in Nigeria to justify the amounts in the accounts, running into $1.4 million. Part of the money was said to have been deposited by two Nigerians, being investigated for drug offences.
“After the telephone conversation, Tinubu instructed his lawyer in the US to file a lawsuit against the order freezing his accounts.
“This dragged on till 15 September 1993, when an agreement was reached for an out-of-court settlement. Judge John A Nordberg, of the US district court for the Northern District of Illinois, read out the agreement reached by the two parties. Part of the funds, $460,000 was seized by the government.”
Speaking to PRNigeria on the development, an Abuja based criminal litigation lawyer, Bar. Fatihu AbdulRaheem said the case is more of an indictment than a conviction.
Citing the case of Umana vs. Attah (2004), the court held that an indictment is not evidence that an offence has been committed. “Technically speaking, an indictment is merely a charge or information. It is only when it is accepted by the court that the prosecution will be called upon to prove its case beyond reasonable doubt.
“Conviction has been simply defined by the court in Mohammed V Olawunmi (1990) as a finding of guilt and a sentence
“Therefore, under our criminal jurisprudence, conviction and indictment are distinguishable both in substance and nomenclature.
“Even in the United State when a person is indicted, it only means they will be given formal notice that they are believed to have committed a crime and therefrom, an explanation will be required by way of defense,” the lawyer concluded.
Conclusion: Investigations by PRNigeria on Mr Tinubu’s case in the United States did not involve criminal arrest and conviction based on facts from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)’s National Crime Information Center (NCIC) however the released court documents are VALID.
The case is a possible indictment from the accusations and allegations and not a conviction where one is found guilty and sentenced by a court of competent jurisdiction
PRNigeria, therefore, concludes that while it is TRUE that Mr Tinubu forfeited the sum of $460,000 according to attested court records, the claim that he was convicted of criminal charges is FALSE.