A forensic expert and witness of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, on April 5, 2016, told a Federal Capital Territory, FCT, High Court, sitting in Gudu, that the signatures on the bank mandate card of Ebenezer Retnan Ventures, and other opening account packages with then All States Trust Bank, ASTB, belong to Joshua Dariye.
The former Plateau State governor who is being prosecuted by the EFCC on a 23-count charge bordering on money laundering and diversion of funds, before Justice Adebukola Banjoko, is alleged to have diverted about N204million meant for the state treasury to Ebenezer Retnan Ventures. He is also alleged to have siphoned the state’s Ecological Fund to the tune of N1.162billion.
Investigations into the alleged fraud had revealed that the mandate card and account opening packages, though had a signature but no passport photograph, while the name on it was, Haruna Dariye – apparently to conceal the real identity of the bank account’s owner. The forensic document examiner, Dabi Dashong, of the EFCC’s forensic unit, told the court that the team of investigators probing Dariye, had requested the unit to analyse the signatures on the card and other account opening packages, with the aim of identifying its “author”.
“There were two sets of documents, which included the account opening package of All States Trust Bank in respect of Ebenezer Retnan Ventures, and a specimen, which is the signature on the statement Dariye made,” he said. Dachong, while being led in evidence by prosecution counsel, Adebisi Adeniyi, explained that three methodologies were employed, before arriving at the conclusion that the signature actually belonged to the former governor. The methodologies, according to him, included visual analysis, stereo microscopy to allow for fine detail analysis of the handwriting in Dariye’s statement (the specimen), and video spectral comparator, used to lay both the disputed and specimen signatures side by side for comparison and demonstrative chart.
He said, “In forensic analysis, no two writers can share the same combination of handwriting characteristics, natural variations exist for every writer and no writer can exceed their skill level. “The conclusion of the analyses confirmed that the author of the known specimen’s signature on the statement of Dariye, is also the owner of the disputed signature on the bank documents.” Dachong, under cross-examination by G. S. Pwul, SAN, counsel to Dariye, stressed that the signatures were thoroughly analysed. The prosecution also presented its eight witness, Mohammed Kwairanga, a police officer on secondment to the EFCC, who was part of the investigation team that visited Plateau State in 2008. “Investigations were carried out on several properties allegedly owned by Dariye and we found out that some of them actually belonged to him, and the case file was handed over to the forfeiture unit and the legal and prosecution unit,” he said. Justice Banjoko, thereafter, adjourned till April 19, 2016 for continuation of trial.