Undoubtedly she is the self-confessed "Queen" of the largest Advance Fee Fraud (419) in the world having conspired with others to commit a scam to the tune of over $242 million in far away Brazil.
By her confession before Justice Olubunmi Oyewole of the Lagos High Court, Ikeja, Mrs. Amaka Martina Anejemba, mother of four, becomes the undisputed Queen of the scam that continues to wreck havoc to our international image and integrity.
By her conviction two Fridays ago, he has also earned a presidential recognition as for the first time President Obasanjo wrote a letter of commendation to the EFCC boss, Nuhu Ribadu, for the successful prosecution. Though she only bagged two and a half years prison term, Amaka Martina Anajemba (also known in the 419 world as Mrs. Rasheed Gomwalk, Rossy Ford, Olisa Agbakoba), has forfeited to the Federal Government property worth N3, 185 Billion in Nigeria, Switzerland, United Kingdom and the United States.
According to the court, the value of the property forfeited is in the region of $48,500,000. In terms of liquid cash, her two company accounts, Goodax Ventures Nigeria Limited, Natwest England holding about $2,422,507.06 and Amaka Anajemba (Martigay), Switzerland having a balance of about CHF 87,000 were blocked.
She pleaded guilty to counts 88, 89, 90 and 91 on money laundering and refusal to make full disclosure of her assets and liabilities. She was thus convicted on charges of "knowingly conducting a financial transaction to wit: depositing $2.5 million with Banque La Rosche, Basle, Switzerland, with proceeds of funds obtained by false pretence; laundering of funds obtained through unlawful activity; failure to make full disclosure of assets and liabilities".
Others were "Amaka Matina Anajemba (a.k.a. Mrs Rasheed Gomwalk, Rossy Ford, Olisa Agbakoba) on November 6, 2003, in Lagos, knowingly failed to make full disclosure of your assets and liabilities in the declaration and asset form issued to you by Umar Sanda, the CSP attached to the EFCC".
Thus, in his judgment on Friday, July 15, 2005, Justice J.O.K Oyewole, ruled that "I have considered the submissions of learned counsel for the prosecution and defence and I must say that I was touched by the passionate plea of legal defence councel whose conduct since the inception of this case had been quite exemplary. I have also noted the demeanor and general comportment of the 2nd accused person since the inception of this case, which shows sobriety and penitence. However, the message must still be sounded that no one must be permitted to profit from criminality. I therefore sentence the accused persons...".
The journey to this high profile case and conviction began on January 30, 2004 when Anajemba along with Chief Emmanuel Nwude and Chief Nzeribe Edeh Okoli were arraigned at an Abuja High Court on a 50-count charge of conspiracy and allegedly swindling a Brazilian Bank of $242 million on a non-existent contract, to wit: obtaining money by false pretence contrary to section 1 (1)(a), 3,7(1)(b), 2 and 8(a) of the Advance Fee Fraud and Other Related Offences Act of 1995 as amended by Act 62 of 1999.
The trio was alleged to have used their companies, Fynbaz Nigeria Limited, Emrus Auto Nig. Ltd, Oceanic Oil Marketing Co. and African Shelter Bureau de Change to perpetrate the scam in connivance with 20 Nigerian banks. However, five months after their arraignment, the Abuja High Court surprisingly threw out the case for lack of jurisdiction. The case was then transferred to Lagos by the EFCC increasing the charges from 50 to 97 after they were amended.
According to EFCC, the trio, Anajemba, Nwude and Okoli allegedly conspired between April 21, 1995 and January 20, 1998 to swindle the Brazilian Bank of $242 million through its Director, Nelson Sakaguchi and Stanton Development Corporation by false pretences. The money belongs to Banco Noroeste S.A of Sao Paulo, Brazil that was obtained under false pretence to secure a contract for the construction of Abuja International Airport from Sakaguchi, who is currently serving a jail term in Brazil for trading away depositors' money.
Though the other two co-accused have consistently denied the charges, her sudden confession and conviction is likely to have tremendous effects on the others. Apparently, Amaka got fed up of the antics of Nwude, the principal accused who in the last ten months has been in a hospital claiming to be sick and therefore incapable of standing trial. In fact, she had tried her own legal antics by challenging the legality of EFCC through the late legal luminary, Chief Rotimi Williams.
She also got one faceless women organization to campaign for her release claiming she was just punished for her late husband's crimes. At that time last year, she cried to high heavens claiming innocence and total ignorance about the crime. But now that the "come has come to become," as late Dr Ozumba Kinsley Mbadiwe would have said, Anajemba suddenly remembered that she was in deed involved. It is a pity that her husband died not long after the ‘419' was committed in a rather suspicious circumstance.
His death has certainly deprived the nation further insight into the making of the largest ‘419' scam in the world. It would also be interesting to learn how her husband was killed and by whom. The armed robbery theory has just refused to stick. The Amaka Anajemba story has all the characteristics of a successful movie: thrill, drama, sex, power, greed, suspense, tragedy and you name it. I therefore recommend to our Nollywood to produce a movie to end all movies that will scatter the box office.
The Amaka Anajemba conviction is a great achievement for the EFCC that deservedly attracted the attention and commendation of the president in a letter of commendation to the anti-graft agency chairman Nuhu Ribadu.
It is undoubtedly successes like this that send strong messages to the international community of Nigeria's anti-corruption war. Also it is convictions like this that could improve our international image as it portrays us positively. Also coming barely a few weeks after obtaining debt relief from the Paris Club, the elated Obasanjo wrote in his letter inter alia: ". This singular conviction in addition to eleven others secured by EFCC in the last two years is very much likely to strengthen Nigeria's position in its negotiations with the Paris Club in September.
The president went further "I write to commend you and your team of lawyers on the successful conviction of Mrs. Amaka Martina Anajemba for what has been described as the country largest advance fee fraud (419). I am particularly pleased to note that the painstaking investigation and presentation of evidence before the Lagos High Court secured for you not only just jail term but the seizure by the court of all her assets. It is evidence of quality work, dedication to duty, focused deployment of skills and quality leadership. I want to urge you and your team not to rest on your oars.
If anything, this victory should energize you to work harder and to attain greater heights and more convictions. This administration will continue to provide you with undiluted support as part of our determined efforts to rid the country of all forms of corruption. In its few years of existence, the EFCC has already made an indelible mark in the fight against corruption. Our goal is to continue with this fight in the interest of our present and future".
I can already visualize Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala arguing with the Paris Club sharks next September that Nigeria is changing, business is no longer as usual and corruption is being frontally attacked. If they have any doubt, she would tell them, they could ask Brazil on the $242 million scam that already the victims are being repaid from the monies recovered from the criminals. Another significance of this conviction is that it makes the long arm of the law more effective as it shows that no matter how long a crime is committed, the offenders can still be prosecuted. The Anajemba crime was committed over twelve years ago and the perpetrators were arraigned ten years after.
This conviction makes it one of the 12 EFCC's convictions in barely two years of its existence. This without doubt is a record and no mean achievement in the annals of the nation's history. This conviction is also a victory for Nigeria' judiciary that used to play around with 419 cases. Many similar cases were dismissed in the past for lack of diligent prosecution, or whatever that meant. We therefore salute Justice Oyewole for his courage. We also salute Nuhu Ribadu for his courage in refusing to receive 40 million Naira bribe offered over this case. In fact, the elderly lawyer that offered the bribe to kill the case on behalf of one of the co-accused is currently facing the music. Who says Nigeria is not changing?