High Chief Raymond Dokpesi by all standards is a very popular man. With no fewer than seven wives and many girlfriends, he is also the darling of many ladies. His media company, DAAR Communications, is also a household name. With its Raypower and AIT, radio and television stations, DAAR has revolutionised the broadcast media industry with quality content and programming.
But just as the saying goes ‘that behind every successful business, there is a tale’ Dokpesi’s case is not an exception. The tales of this Ezomo of Weppa Wanno Kingdom are however not all about hard work and perseverance but also of fraud and deceit. Dokpesi’s numerous fraudulent schemes reached the summit in 2009 when Nigeria hosted the Under 17 Junior World Cup. Daar Communications was granted the broadcast right for the tournament by the Federation of International Football Associations. But in an intriguing plot, Dokpesi approached then President Umaru Yar’Adua demanding payment for broadcasting the football tournament. In an invoice sent to the central government entitled, DAAR-FIFA HOST BROADCASTER BUDGET, Dokpesi demanded N5billion to defray the company’s cost.
•Dokpesi: Has many secret deals
Since the Federal Government did not enter into any contract with Dokpesi and DAAR on the tournament, a perplexed Yar’Adua asked for briefing from his aides. According to a report by Saharareporters in August 2010, the director-general of the Nigerian Broadcasting Commission advised government not to accede to the ‘bogus request’, more because the technical facilities DAAR was going to use for the broadcast, belonged to the Nigerian Television Authority, NTA, owned by the Federal Government. There were also reports by several committees, which recommended the non-payment of the bill.
Yar’Adua thus stoutly declined payment, despite the intervention of his vice-president, Goodluck Jonathan, who then chaired the Local Organising Committee (LOC) for the tournament. Even when AIT blackmailed the LOC that it would not broadcast the final of the game and demanded a reduced amount of N3.5billion, to enable it pay creditors such as MTN that provided some Internet links, government refused to budge. The reduced amount followed the advice of a presidential committee on Harmonisation and Negotiation headed by Patrick Ekeji, the director-general of the National Sports Commission. It was set up by Jonathan’s LOC. But Yar’Adua stuck to his guns, as he saw no sense in paying for a service the government did not ask for in the first instance.
Yar’Adua died in April 2010 and Dokpesi wormed his way into the heart of Goodluck Jonathan, his successor. This chummy relationship did not come easy. Dokpesi was part of the Pastor Bakare’s inspired Save Nigeria Group that mobilised public support for Jonathan, in the succession crisis that came in the wake of Yar’Adua’s grave illness and eventual death. But after Jonathan became the president and he still did not pay AIT’s N3.5 billion bill, Dokpesi abandoned Jonathan and embraced former military president, Ibrahim Babangida, to work as the director-general of his campaign. Babangida wanted to challenge Jonathan for the ticket of the Peoples Democratic Party.
•Ya’Ardua: Did not pay DAAR Communications for a job not executed
When Babangida’s campaign collapsed, Dokpesi ran back again to Jonathan, using the platform of the South-South Leadership Forum. He was desperate at this time to curry Jonathan’s affection, not just for money but his survival. When bombs were detonated at the Eagle Square, Abuja, during the 1 October, 2010 independence anniversary, killing and wounding scores of people, Dokpesi was indicted and arrested by security agencies. They accused him of having links with the leader of MEND, Henry Okah who is currently serving a jail term in a South African prison.
A rattled Dokpesi quickly retraced his steps and began series of reconciliatory moves with President Jonathan. This medium learnt that as part of the peace deal, Dokpesi pledged to make his station available for the pursuit of Jonathan’s political goals, making his stations available as the publicity arm of the Jonathan presidency, doing it with even greater fervour than the NTA and Radio Nigeria. As he wormed his way back into Jonathan’s heart, he presented again in 2011, the bill government had rejected to honour in the past. Inexplicably, the pruned down N3.5billion bogus bill, had ballooned to N8.047 billion.
Speaking on the issue in an interview granted to Kayode Ogundamisi and published in Sahara Reporters on October 18, 2010, Chief Edwin Clark branded Dokpesi as a cheat and dishonest person. Chief Clark was quoted in the interview: “They (federal government) are not owing him any money. He is a cheat. The Federal Government has set up a committee; they’ve looked into that case. It was NTA that covered the event”. The presidency simply ignored the observation of Chief Clark and decided to pay the fraudulent claim.
Jonathan: Paid Dokpesi for job not well done
That was, however, the beginning of an intricate web of illicit financial transactions involving Dokpesi, the Presidency, the Federal Ministry of Finance and some private sector bankers. On the strength of the president’s promise, Dokpesi approached First Bank to open an account in the name of DAAR Communications at the Asokoro branch in Abuja. Contrary to the law, Dokpesi was and remains the sole signatory to the account even though as a company quoted on the Nigerian Stock Exchange, its accounts should be operated through the Director of Finance and one or two other signatories. The Asokoro account was later closed, but a new one also in the name of DAAR Communication was opened at the Maitama branch.
Precisely on the 27 January 2012, the fraudulent fund of N8, 047,275, 290. 99 (eight billion, forty seven million, two hundred and seventy five thousand, two hundred and ninety naira, ninety nine kobo) was paid into the account with number 2017679134. In a letter dated 28 January 2012 and signed by both the Business and Relationship officers of the bank, Susan Abuh and Bukola Adeojo, the Maitama First Bank branch management acknowledged the payment. The acknowledgment letter reads: “ We write to inform you that we received the sum of Eight Billion Forty Seven Million Two Hundred and Seventy Five Thousand and Ninety Nine kobo only, (N8, 047, 275, 290, 99) into the above stated account domiciled with us in Maitama office on 27 January, 2012. This letter serves to bring to your knowledge that the said amount has been credited into DAAR Communications Plc account…” With the connivance of the bank, Dokpesi continued to run the account alone, contrary to extant financial regulations for quoted companies.
Surprisingly, even after receiving such a humongous amount of money purportedly on behalf of DAAR Communications, Dokpesi never thought of paying dividends to shareholders, who have not been paid any dividends since the company became PLC about seven years ago. Rather, the money was drawn down almost to zero, within three months. Payments were made into Dokpesi’s personal domiciliary account with number 2017451925. At a point, this account contained over a million dollars. Part of the money also went in form of thousands of dollars into Dokpesi’s VISA Gold Account number 3071078978.
Fidelity Bank that had taken DAAR to court and had gotten judgement to take over the company’s assets for debt calculated at N7.5 billion was paid N4.2 billion on 14 February. Part of the money was also used to open Letters of Credit (LCs) for DAAR, ostensibly to buy equipment for the broadcasting outfit. All his wives and mistresses were also well accommodated on the account, with amounts ranging from N2.5 million to N5 million. The National Broadcasting Commission was also paid N400 million from the account on 31 January. On 1 February, the construction company, Dantata Sawoe also got N400 million, possibly in connection with the multi-billion mansion of the media mogul, now completed in Abuja. By 3 April 2012, the balance on the account was below N60, 000.
Chief Dokpesi however longed for new funds to swell the account all over again. Relying on the same documents used to fraudulently collect the N8.04 billion as authorised by President Jonathan, he mischievously tried to dupe the Federal Government by collecting the same money twice. This medium learnt that Dokpesi’s attempt to collect double payment for the same project involved an intricate web of bribes to unscrupulous officials in the Federal Ministry of Finance, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the office of the Accountant General and even the presidential villa.
Anticipating that the attempt to collect the second fraudulent payment for a ‘phantom job’ he had already been paid for would succeed, Dokpesi even agreed on a sharing formula with some people in the Villa, Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Justice and the CBN. His banker friend and confidante was to handle the distribution via series of blank First Bank transfer forms already signed down by Dokpesi. For instance, the sum of N2 billion was to have been transferred to an account of B.T OIL & GAS NIG. LTD with account number 2020605922 domiciled in the First Bank, Aminu Kano branch, Abuja.
Still in anticipation of receiving this money, Dokpesi, through DAAR Investment and Holding Company, applied to First Bank, Maitama Branch, for a facility of N160 million. The bank refused the request on the grounds that it had no information on the receivable to be discounted which is said to be related to the contract executed since 2009. “Parent Company has a bad loan which N95 million was written off the bank’s books. The rule is that such amount should be paid back if customer is to enjoy another facility with the bank; Not a fair risk and no easily available fall back position for the bank”, the bank said.
Dokpesi’s long expectation was however dashed when a vigilant official at the CBN revealed that the money being demanded had been paid before and the whole process was terminated.
Another alleged audacious fraudulent venture by Dokpesi was his alleged plot to hack into account number 60959146 with SORT CODE 201334, belonging to one Dr Haggai I. Ali with Barclays Bank, Queens Road Branch, and Bristol, UK. Papers stumbled upon by TheNEWS, showed that it was an elaborate scheme to defraud the bank as well as Barclays Bank of UK to the tune of 800,000,000 Euro. The transaction was to have been conducted through Deutsche Frankfurt, Dubai and the money to be received through DAAR Investment and Holding Company with account number 1000086988.
•Chief Clark, Condemned Dokpesi
A letter to First Bank personally signed by Dokpesi and dated 15 April, 2013, had requested the bank to “issue a letter in favour of Messrs CIGALE FINANCE SA, 5 RUE AUNIR, NOGENT SUR MARINE 94130, FRANCE”. The letter claimed that DAAR Investment and Holding Company was arranging funds to the tune of 800,000,000 Euro in two tranches of 300,000,000 Euro and 500,000,000 Euro “for the funding of DAAR Communications Plc expansion programme as well as other investment projects in the Nigerian economy”. He concluded the letter thus: “Messrs Cigale Finance SA have requested us to obtain a letter from our bank confirming its willingness to receive the funds into our account and disburse same in accordance with provisions of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) which is attached for your perusal”.
On 30 April 2013, First Bank wrote Cigale Finance SA accepting the offer and confirming that DAAR Investment and Holding Company Limited was one of its well-known customers. Part of the letter reads: “We further pledge that we will abide strictly by the terms of the MOU duly executed by both parties,” First Bank wrote.
It was, however, discovered that all the documents cited by DAAR Investment as regards the purported 500,000,000 Euro investment were fake. The Memorandum of Understanding between DAAR Investment and Cigale Finance SA was a complete ruse. One of those who signed the MOU on behalf of DAAR Investment, Godfrey Usifoh, was also discovered to have falsely claimed to be a banker. Usifoh was indeed a staff of DAAR Communications and an aide of Dokpesi. Upon further enquiries by First Bank, Deutsche Bank confirmed that there was no transaction of that magnitude which was to come in two tranches of 300,000,000 Euro and 500,000,000 Euro in their coffers. The bank also called its Maitama branch to warn that it was an attempted fraud.
But life goes on for the Agenebode-born media chief. At the moment, his media organs remain the biggest megaphones for the Goodluck Jonathan campaign; turning them to mount baseless muckraking, hate campaigns against leaders of the opposition. The AIT, oblivious of its middle name as ‘independent’, has become the willing tool of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, showing libelous and hate documentaries against General Muhammadu Buhari, the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress, APC, and the party’s national leader, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu.
Some media stakeholders said Dokpesi’s media empire is only performing a service to President Jonathan and the PDP, having been paid close to $50 million by the President’s campaign.
However, when contacted Dokpesi for his reaction, he asked his aides to handle the matter. They asked that we wait till the following day. We delayed production for almost 16 hours, after which they asked us to go ahead that they would respond this week.