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Sam Sodje opens up on fraud case, jail term, says family being witch-hunted

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The Sodje brothers made headlines a few days ago when it became known that they were found guilty and jailed for fraud in 2017.

The brothers — Efe Sodje, 46, Stephen Sodje, 43, and Bright Sodje, 52 — were said to have siphoned off cash from their charity, Sodje Sports Foundation (SSF).

They were alleged to have pocketed money raised at black-tie dinners, auctions, and charity football matches.

The case was kept under wraps due to a clause preventing it from being publicised until the conclusion of a separate trial involving Sam, who was on Monday cleared of money laundering.

Speaking with TheCable, Sam, a former Super Eagles central defender, described the match fixing and fraud charges brought against him and his brothers as a witch-hunt.

Sam, 39, spoke about the allegations levelled against him and his brothers.

‘Highest witch hunt ever’

All these talks and crime they brought against my brothers are all lies. They are not really the ones they targeted but me – Sam Sodje. This is the highest witch hunt ever. It is all cooked up because the journalist that set me up on the match fixing/money laundering scandal was jailed for fake news. The one we called ‘fake sheikh’. Mazher Mahmoud is a well known journalist always setting up top people. He has been in this business for over 30 years. If it was true, why is it that it was the journalist that went to prison and not me?

On the part played by Bright Sodje

The £60,000 they claimed the Sodjes embezzled, Bright alone is worth 10 times more of that. He has a house in Tunisia, Morocco and Spain. Why will he go and do that kind of fraud? Bright is not like me. He is typical English. A proper English man and he is a magistrate. Can you imagine that? A magistrate. It is because they could not believe that Mahmoud will go to prison for lying and peddling fake news.

Two of our board of trustees/directors are Clive Betts (MP) and Ashley Carson. My brother Bright Sodje is the third person on the board. The three of them are the signatories to the foundation’s account. The three of them are the ones who sign cheques. I have never seen the cheques before. Efe has never seen the cheques too before.

If you say the foundation is a fraud, arrest everybody… but who are the first set of people to be arrested? Is it not the board of trustees/directors? And the accountant?

You know one funny thing? Betts and Carson left the foundation at the same time. When the investigators went to court, they included Bright because he is a Sodje but left both Betts and Carson out. Just think about that. You claimed to be investigating the foundation, why not bring in all the three people that do sign the cheques?

The question to ask is why is it that Betts and Carson that were part of board of directors was not included in the trial of the foundation’s fraud charges? Why just Bright alone? After all, three of them were the signatories to every cheque?

Why Sam was not convicted

They found me not guilty because I didn’t do anything. Where the judge became baffled was when he saw where they said I took £300 out of £80, 000 and also gave out £20,000 to charity in 2012. That made the judge to ask if I could give £20,000 of my personal money to charity, so, its only £300 money laundering he’ll go and get involved in?

I’ll tell you that it’s ‘operation bring the Sodjes down’ that’s going on in England. Let’s say the fraud issue is really correct, everyone is suppose to be in prison by now. It is lies.

The match fixing allegation didn’t go well as they expected that’s why they came up with the fraud thing with my brothers involved. I was also included in the fraud thing concerning the Sodje foundation. When I won that, they now brought money laundering charges against me again. It was not even my case but some other people.

The question my lawyer asked in court was ‘are you telling me that Sam took £80, 000, he gave £79,700 to the people involved and he took just £300 out of it? How stupid does that sound?’

The Sodjes hobnob with the MPs and most of our meetings were held in the parliament. For a black man to be doing that, we’ve gone too far and they don’t like that. You see me and my family, we don’t care about what they are saying in the media. You see, assuming we are not British, they would have told us to go back home. But because they can’t do that, they are left with tarnishing the Sodje name.

‘All Nigerians are fraudsters’

I know how this country works. The only thing they can do is scandalise the Sodje family name. They can’t do us anything. In court, they were telling me to my face that all Nigerians are fraudsters. Majority of the people here in prison for rape are all whites. How can you take a professional footballer to court for £300? As at 2013, I was worth £1.2 million. How can I go and do money laundering for people I don’t even know for £300? Does that make sense? My mobile phone bill then alone was £550. How come they came up with that publication when I won my case on Monday that my brothers were jailed?

Are the Sodje brothers in jail?

How can they be in jail when we just returned from Nigeria? We all just came back from Nigeria from burying our mother. My brothers never went to prison for one day. When the jail terms were read out in court, they appealed it and that’s what’s going on right now. They never were in prison.

On Akpo Sodje being on the run

Akpo is on social media, he phones them everyday. And he has a very good job in Delta state. His address is on his social media pages. How can someone on the run do that?

‘We are fighting the system’

And guess who we are fighting again? It’s the British media. And all these is because of the journalist that is jailed for giving fake news in the case. Just because I won the case on Monday and they were ordered to pay my expenses for the duration of the court case, the next thing, the media went crazy.

There’s so much to this case that the world out there doesn’t know. Can you imagine how many copies of papers Sun UK sold that morning that the scandal broke with my pictures on their front page? I’ll tell you, they sold 1.7 million copies just within two hours.

Look at what they did to Sam Allardyce? They always set up people while claiming to investigate a none existing allegation. They could not even bring any indicting document to support their case against me in court. I have never even bet in my life before. How can a judge say every Nigerian is a fraudster? He has no right to say that.

The bone of contention against the Sodjes is that we are fighting the system back. As the case was going on, I went ahead to buy a 350 Benz SUV hero and that got them infuriated the more. Saying I was not suppose to buy the car as the case was ongoing in court. That my account should be frozen.

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Poor tax collection: Fowler replies Buhari’s query

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The Chairman of the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), Babatunde Fowler, has responded to a memo from Abba Kyari, the chief of staff to the president, who said there were significant variances between the tax budgeted collections and actual collections for the period 2015 to 2018.

However, Fowler in his response explained that the recession experienced by the Nigerian economy in 2016 as well as lower oil prices affected the revenue collected by the FIRS.

See Fowler’s response: “I refer to your letter dated 8th August, 2019 on the above subject matter and hereby submit a comprehensive variance analysis between budgeted and actual collections for each main tax item for the period 2012-2018 as requested (see appendix 1).

“Your letter stated that actual collections for a 3-year period were significantly worse than what was collected between 2012 and 2014. Total actual collection for the said period wasN14,527.85 trillion, while total actual collection between 2016 to 2018 was N12,656.30 trillion.

The highlight of these collection figures was that during the period 2012 to 2014, out of the N14,527.85 trillion, oil revenue accounted for N8,321.64 trillion or 57.28% while non-oil accounted for N6,206.22 trillion or 42.72% and during the later period of 2016 to 2018, out of the N12,656.30 trillion, oil revenue accounted for N5,145.87 trillionor 40.65% and non-oil revenue accounted N7,510.42 trillion or 59.35%.

FIRS management has control of non-oil revenue collection figures while oil revenue collection figures are subject to more external forces.” He wrote: “The non-oil revenue collection grew by N1,304.20 trillion or 21% within the period 2016 to 2018.

“Kindly note that the total budget collection figure during 2012 to 2014 stood at N12,190.52 trillion compared to N16,771.78 trillion for the period 2016 to 2018, which represent an increase of 37.58%.

“Please note that the variance in the budgeted and actual revenue collection performance of the Service for the period 2016 to 2018 was main attributed to the following reasons:

“1. The low inflow of oil revenues for the period especially Petroleum Profit Tax (PPT) was due to fall in price of crude oil and reduction of crude oil production. Notwithstanding government efforts to diversify the economy, oil revenues remains (remain) an important component of total revenues accruable to the Federation. The price of crude oil fell from an average of $113.72, $110.98 and $100.40 per barrel in 2012, 2013 and 2014 to $ 52.65, $43.80 and $54.08 per barrel in 2015, 2016 and 2017. There was also a reduction in crude oil production from 2.31mbpd, 2.18mbpd and 2.20mbpd in 2012, 2013 and 2014 to 2.12mbpd, 1.81mbpd and 1.88mbpd in 2015, 2016 and 2017 respectively.

“2. The Nigerian economy also went into recession in the second quarter of 2016 which slowed down general economic activities. Tax revenue collection (CIT and VAT) being a function of economic activities were negatively affected but actual collection of the above two taxes were still higher in 2016 to 2018 than in 2012 to 2014. During the years 2012, 2013 and 2014, GDP grew by 4.3%, 5.4% and 6.3% while in 2015, 2016 and 2017 there was a decline in growth to 2.7%, -1.6% and 1.9% respectively. The tax revenue grew as the economy recovered in the second quarter of 2017.

“3. It is worthy of note that strategies and initiatives adopted in collection of VAT during the period 2015-2017 led to approximately 40% increase over 2012-2014 collections. In 2014 the VAT collected was N802billion, compared to N1.1 trillion in 2018. This increase is attributable to various initiatives such as ICT innovations, continuous taxpayer education, taxpayer enlightenment, etc embarked upon by the Service.

“4. Furthermore, it is pertinent to note that when this administration came on board in August 2015, the target the target for the two major non-oil taxes were increased by 52% for VAT and 45% for CIT. Notwithstanding the increase, FIRS has in line with the Federal government’s revenue base diversification strategy has grown the non-oil tax collection by over N1.304 trillion (21%) when the total non-oil tax collection for 2016-2018 is compared to that of 2012-2014.

“I am confident that our current strategies and initiatives will improve revenue collection and meet the expectations of government.

“Please accept the assurance of my highest regards.”

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We’re not aware of Oyo-Ita’s purported retirement – Presidency

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The Presidency on Monday declared that it was not aware of the purported move of the Head of Service of the Federation, Mrs. Winifred Oyo-Ita, to retire from service.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had last week Tuesday grilled Oyo-Ita over alleged N3bn scam. The Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu, in a text message said that the Presidency was not in possession of any letter of intent from Oyo-Ita to retire from service. “Thanks.

We have no such letter here, in the event that such a letter exists. This is our position,” he stated

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Alleged N3bn Contract Scam: Winifred Oyo-Ita sends retirement letter to Buhari

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Winifred Oyo-Ita, the head of service of the federation, has offered to immediately proceed on retirement in a letter to President Muhammadu Buhari.

The widow had been under pressure from her immediate family to retire after news reports emerged that she was being probed over an alleged N3 billion contract scam.

Although she has vehemently denied involvement in any scam, she bowed to family pressures and sent in a letter on Sunday offering to proceed on retirement, we can report.

Buhari is yet to take a final decision on it but reports say he is favourably disposed to the option.

“Mrs Oyo-Ita has sent in her letter of retirement,” a family member, who asked not to be named, said on Monday morning.

She was absent at the presidential retreat for ministers-designate, federal permanent secretaries and top government functionaries held at the state house conference centre in Abuja.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) recently questioned Oyo-Ita over allegations that she used front companies to get contracts when she was a permanent secretary before her appointment as head of service by Buhari in 2015.

There were insinuations that she was being “punished” for “falling out” with Abba Kyari but it was learnt that the president’s chief of staff was unaware of the EFCC probe until it was leaked to the media.

Oyo-Ita has also told her associates not to drag Kyari into the matter because “it is not true”, according to a family member.

The EFCC said the petition against her was written in 2014 when President Goodluck Jonathan was still in office. It was however, learnt that Oyo-Ita was not the subject of the probe.

It was also reported that N600 million was traced to the account of one of her aides who has been quizzed by the anti-graft agency and released.

However, Oyo-Ita also denied the allegation, saying the money was meant for the death benefits of staff and was meant to be kept in a designated account for that purpose by the project accountant.

“She denied knowing anything about where the money was kept and said there was no fraud involved, at least not from her end,” the family member said.

The Cable

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