Alleged N3.2bn Fraud: Court admits Heritage bank documents against Orji Kalu, others

Posted by Factnews | 5 years ago | 2,383 times

A federal High Court sitting in Ikoyi, Lagos, presided over by Justice Mohammed Idris, on Wednesday admitted in evidence, a set of documents brought by a Compliance Officer with Heritage Bank Plc, Adeniyi David Tunde, against the former governor of Abia state, Orji Uzor Kalu alongside the state's former finance commissioner,  Udeh Udeogu, and Slok Nigeria Limited over allegation of fraud to the tune of N3.2bn fraud.

The Compliance Officer, who is the third witness brought by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had revealed to Justice Idris that he got into the employment of Heritage Bank from the now defunct Spring bank, which was acquired by Heritage Bank Plc.

While being led in evidence by  counsel to the anti-graft agency, Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), the witness tendered documents which included; account opening packages, statement of account, and schedule of payments.

But moves by the Commission to tender another set of documents which emanated from the dead Citizen Bank, which happened to be another bank acquired by Heritage bank were opposed to by the legal team of the defendants.

The defence team which included Goddy Uche, Solo Akuma, and Chief K. C. Nwofo, all Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SAN), in opposition contended that the documents sought to be tendered by the EFCC were not served on their clients. 

The senior lawyers further argued that the said documents were not attached alongside the proof of evidence already before the court.

The defence lawyers who made reference to the provision of section 379(1)(a)(ii) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA), apparently to back up their opposition to the admissibility of the said documents, asked the judge to reject the documents and  mark same as 'rejected'.

Responding to the defence opposition to the tendering of the documents, lawyer to the Commission, Jacobs (SAN) insisted that the court should admit the documents, with an addition that what guides the admissibility of documents is the Evidence Act and not the ACJA as argued by the defence team.

In a short ruling, Justice Idris held that going by the provisions of section 379 of the ACJA, it is mandatory for the prosecution to supply the defence all the materials needed to defend themselves.

The court then ordered the anti-graft agency to make available copies of the documents and serve the defendants same.

Justice Idris adjourned the case until April 13, 2017 for continuation of trial.

Kalu alongside his former aide, Udeh Udeogu, and his company, Slok Nigeria Limited, are facing trial before the court on an amended 34 count-charge of alleged N3.2 billion fraud.

In the amended charge marked FHC/L/56C/08, Kalu and other accused persons were alleged to have allegedly diverted about N3.2 billions from Abia State Government's treasury between 2001 and 2005.

They were also alleged to have used the following banks to perpetrate the alleged fraud, Manny Bank, Spring Bank Plc, (now Heritage Bank), the defunct Standard Trust Bank, now United Bank for Africa Plc (UBA) and Fin Land Bank, now First City Monument Bank (FCMB).

The alleged offences according to the EFCC are contrary to sections 17(c) 16, 14(1)(b)17(a) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act 2003, and sections 427 of the same Act.

The former governor was arraigned before Justice Idris alongside his company, Slok Nigeria Ltd., and the state's former Commissioner for Finance, Jones Ude, on a 34 counts that touches on money laundering.

According to the charge, the defendants committed the offence between August 2001 and October 2005.
Specifically, the former governor was accused of using his company to retain in the account of a First Inland Bank, now FCMB the sum of N200 million.

The said amount was alleged to have formed part of funds illegally derived from the coffers of the Abia state government when he held sway.

In another breath, the former governor's company, Slok Nigeria Limited alongside one Emeka Abone who the EFCC said is now at large was alleged to have retained in the company’s account N200 million on behalf of the first accused.

They were alleged to have utilised Manny Bank, Spring Bank Plc, the defunct Standard Trust Bank and Finland Bank, now First City Monument Bank (FCMB) to carryout the alleged crime.

The defendants were equally alleged to have retained about N2.5 billion in different accounts which funds were said to belong to the Abia State Government.

In totality, the defendants were alleged to have diverted over N3.2 billion from the Abia state government’s treasury when Kalu held sway as governor.

The offence according to the EFCC offends the provisions of sections 15(6), 16, and 21 of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2005.

The offence equally wrongs the provisions of the Money Laundering Act of 1995 as amended by the amendment Act No. 9 of 2002 and section 477 of the Criminal Code Act, Laws of the Federation, 1990.

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