Ujima suspects deny knowingly handling stolen money
Two people accused of money laundering at failed housing association Ujima have denied they knew they were handling stolen money.
Rose Avwunu, 53, of Purley, Surrey and consultant Paul Campagne, 46, of Coulsdon, Surrey, are standing trial on nine counts of money laundering at Isleworth Crown Court. Both have pleaded not guilty.
The court heard this morning that Ms Avwunu’s husband, George Avwunu, transferred a total of £208,000 to Dr Campagne while working as finance director at Ujima in 2007.
Mr Avwunu was arrested at the same time as his wife and Dr Campagne, but absconded from his bail, and has not been seen since, Richard Milne speaking for the prosecution told the court.
Mr Milne said Ms Avwunu and Dr Campagne had handled £160,000 of the money transferred from Ujima. The pair are accused of authorising transfers of the money while knowing or suspecting that it was the proceeds of crime.
Dr Campagne carried out a number of assignments for Ujima and was paid by Mr Avwunu. One project included exploring whether the housing association could expand into the hotel business.
But Mr Milne told the court: ‘The board knew nothing about any expansion into the hotel business or indeed about Paul Campagne.’
Dr Campagne was then asked to transfer some of the payment into Ms Avwunu’s personal bank account.
In a defendant statement, Dr Campagne said he understood the payments to Ms Avwunu’s account were to cover researchers working on a report about expanding Ujima’s business.
He admitted that it was an unusual situation, but said Mr Avwunu had claimed he wanted to keep personal control over the project.
When police arrested Dr Campagne on 19 March 2008 his wife ran into the room and shouted: ‘This has nothing to do with my husband: it’s George, he’s a Nigerian fraudster.’
At her arrest, Ms Avwunu told the police that she had no idea why the money had been transferred into her account.
The trial continues.