TRIAL OF SERIAL FRAUDSTER FRED AJUDUA: WITNESS TELLS COURT HOW HE WAS DUPED OVER $1 MILLION
The trial of Lagos socialite and businessman, Fred Ajudua, continued Thursday with the prosecution’s second witness explaining how he met the defendant. He also said he discovered he had been dealing with fraudster through a BBC documentary that filmed him in the middle of another fraud.
Zaid Abu Zalif, while being led in evidence by the prosecuting counsel, Seidu Atteh, said he met those who first introduced him to a business deal situated in Lagos while he was living in Germany.
Mr Ajudua is facing a 12-count amended charge of conspiracy to obtain money by false pretences, obtaining money by false pretences, issuing forged documents, and forgery.
“The face of the defendant is one I will never forget,” Mr Zalif, a Palestinian, began in his evidence.
“I met two people in Stuttgart, Germany, who introduced me to a business proposal in Lagos Nigeria. During the meeting, they called a man who said I should come to Lagos.
I arrived Lagos and he picked me up in company of two other guys and I can remember one was named Jerry. We were escorted with a military jeep and a white limousine with siren blaring all the way to the hotel with no regard for traffic signs.
“When we got to the hotel, I checked in and they asked for the room number and said they would pick me up the next morning at 9 a.m, this was in March 1993.”
Mr Zalif said he was taken to Mr Ajudua’s office the next day and the defendant introduced himself as a lawyer, solicitor, and legal practitioner.
He told me the man had already explained to him what everything was about.
“I lobbied for a lawyer and he said he would represent me and the fees would be paid from the contract that I shouldn’t worry about that. I gave him the contract number with me, he made a phone call and took me to CBN and I recall we took a lift to one of the high floors.”
At the Central Bank of Nigeria office, Mr Zalif said they met an official from the bank who took them to his office where there was a file about 10 inches thick, the supposed contract.
Ajudua took the file and said he would go and study it closely and we left the office.
“The bank officer explained that there is a fee of two per cent to be paid for the contract I presumed to be tax fee. Ajudua said he has done it a few times and usually there is no problem so we should make preparation for the funds to be paid and I said I had no problem if everything is correct.
“At Ajudua’s office, he called in a man named Joseph to get the bank details to give me because I was travelling back to Germany; so when I reach Germany and Ajudua has checked the contract and he is satisfied, he would call me to transfer the money.
Joseph brought a paper with bank details on it. I looked at the paper and saw it was Joseph’ s name with a commercial bank and I asked why not Ajudua’s name or that of the office’s. Ajudua said Joseph takes care of all international transfers and he is going to help out of his legal fees.”
Mr Zalif said he left for Germany early April 1993, and he got a call from Mr Ajudua that everything is fine and that he should transfer the money, which he did on April 2.
“I got a payment confirmation around 7/8 April and I got a faxed receipt of the $268,000 I transferred from his office.”
Mr Zalaf also said the defendant later called him demanding for $375,000 which he said was for a certificate of completion.
The witness said he went to Mr Ajudua’s office and told him he didn’t like the way things were going but the defendant told him he had been able to help him beat down the price to $225,000 dollars which he gave to Mr Joseph for payment. He said he was given a CBN deposit receipt with the amount paid on it.
Mr Zalif said he was, again, told that he needed to make a payment of $550,000 for the contract to be released with a promise that this would be the last payment on the contract.
I borrowed the money from Michael Kreamer and we came down to Nigeria together to pay the money.
“After the payment, I didn’t get any feedback, I came down to Nigeria without informing him (Mr Ajudua) and he didn’t entertain me and when I forced an audience with him, he tried intimidating me and asked his boys on uniform to bundle me out.
“I was battered at the car park by them.”
According to Mr Zalaf, he became aware he had been duped when he saw a BBC documentary on Mr Ajudua and started looking for ways to get his money back before he was informed of the creation of EFCC in 2004.
Mr Atteh requested for an adjournment to enable him to compile the evidence he wants to tender in court through the witness.
The case was adjourned to June 13 for the continuation of trial.
On June 5, the prosecution opened its case with the evidence of Micahel Kreamer, a business associate of Mr Zalaf.
Mr Ajudua is yet to testify but has denied any wrongdoing.
Culled from Premium Times