N8.5bn Fraud: Why trial of Atewe, Akpobolokemi over N8.5b alleged fraud begins afresh

Patrick AkpobolokemiThe Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on Friday began afresh the trial of Maj-Gen. Emmanuel Atewe and three others before a Federal High Court, Lagos over N8.5 billion alleged fraud.

Atewe, it would be recalled, was charged alongside the former director general of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Patrick Akpobolokemi, and two other staff, Kime Engonzu and Josephine Otuaga.

They were re-arraigned Friday owing to transfer of the trial judge in the matter, Justice Saliu Saidu from the Lagos division of the Federal high court to its Port-Harcourt division.

The quartet are standing trial on an amended 22-count charge bordering on the offence.

A new Judge, Justice A.O. Faji, took their pleas on Friday.

After their re-arraignment, defence counsel had prayed the court to allow the accused to continue on the earlier bail granted by the previous Judge.

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Based on the applications of defence counsel, the Judge allowed them to continue on the earlier bail granted.

On the agreement of counsel, the court fixed February 13 and 17 for commencement of trial.

At the last adjourned date, the EFCC had examined a prosecution witness, Adamu Yusuf, who told the court how the accused converted about N4.9 billion into United States (US) dollars.

Yusuf had told the court that the accused used different companies and accounts to launder billions of naira from the account of the Joint Task Force Operation.

The witness further testified that during investigation, letters of request were sent to GT Bank, Heritage Bank, Diamond Bank, Stanbic IBTC bank and First City Monument Bank (FCMB), demanding for account statements of beneficiaries of that account.

In the charge, the anti-graft agency alleged that the accused conspired to defraud NIMASA of N8.5 billion, using six companies- Jagan Ltd; Jagan Trading Company Ltd; Jagan Global Services Ltd; Al-Nald Ltd; Paper Warehouse Ltd; Eastpoint Integrated Services Ltd and De-Newlink Integrated Services Ltd.

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The EFCC claimed that the accused committed the alleged fraud between September 5, 2014 and May 20, 2015.

The offence is said to have contravened the provisions of Section 18 (a) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) (Amendment) Act, 2012, as well as Section 390 of the Criminal Code Act Cap C. 38, Laws of the Federation, 2004.