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The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) today re-arraigned the former Abia State Governor, Orji Uzor Kalu, before the Federal High Court in Lagos on a 34-count charge of money laundering.
Arraigned alongside the former governor was one Udeh Jones Udeogu, as well as Kalu’s company, SlokNigeria Limited.
In the amended charge marked FHC/ABJ/CR/56/07, the EFCC alleged that between August 2001 and December 2005, during Kalu’s governorship, the accused persons used the said money to procure Slok Nigeria Limited, a company the EFCC claims to be solely owed by Kalu and his family.
The accused persons and one Emeka Abone, said to be at large, were also alleged to have between May 2002 and December 2005, conspired to launder funds illegally derived from the Treasury of Abia State government.
They were also alleged to have aggregated several millions of naira amounting to N3.2 billion, property of Abia State government, knowing that the said amount had been stolen from the Treasury of Abia State government.
To perpetrate the alleged fraud, the accused persons were alleged to use Manny Bank, now Fidelity Bank Plc; Spring Bank Plc; the defunct Standard Trust Bank; and Fin Land Bank, now First City Monument Bank (FCMB).
In the first 10 counts, Kalu was alleged, during his governorship, to have procured Slok Nigeria Limited; retained in his account domiciled with the Apapa branch of First Inland Bank Plc, the total sum of N2.5bn, being funds illegally derived from the treasury of Abia State government, through Manny Bank, converting the money into several bank drafts before payment into the account of Slok Nigeria Limited.
In counts 11 to 20, Slok Nigeria Limited and one Emeka Abone, were also alleged to have, between April 29, 2003 and August 10, 2005, retained in their various accounts domiciled with the Apapa branch of First Inland Bank, the total sum of N2.493 billion, on behalf of Kalu during his governorship, the money being part of funds illegally derived from the treasury of the state government, through Manny Bank.
Kalu, Udeogu, Slok Nigeria Limited and Abone, are also alleged to have collaborated and concealed the genuine origin of the total sum of N2.1bn, being funds illegally derived from the treasury of Abia State government, through Manny Bank, converting and paying the money into the account of Slok Nigeria Limited with the Apapa branch of First Inland Bank Plc.
In count 34, Kalu, Udeogu, Slok Nigeria Limited and Abone are further alleged to have conspired to commit the offence of money laundering of funds Illegally derived from the treasury of Abia State government.
All the offences, prosecutor Adeniyi Adebisi said, are contrary to sections 17(c) 16, 14(1)(b)17(a) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act 2003, and sections 427 of the Criminal Code Act Cap. 77, Laws of the Federation, 1990, and punishable under section 16 of the same Act.
All the accused persons pleaded not guilty, and their lawyers, Mike Ozekhome and Solo Akuma, urged the court to allow their clients to continue with the bail earlier granted them.
Ozekhome told the court that their clients had earlier been arraigned before Justices Binta Murtala Nyako, Adamu Bello, and and Justice Uweh of the Abuja Federal High Courts, and granted bail before they were re-arraigned again today.
Mr. Adebisi did not oppose the submission of the defence lawyers, saying the EFCC is only interested in their being tried.
Judge Mohammed Idris, presiding, adjourned until December 12 and 13 for trial, while the accused persons were permitted to continue to enjoy the bail previously granted them.
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