N3.5B Paris Club Refund Scam : Court Remands Saraki’s Aides, Other In Prison Custody

* Pix source: Shouse Law Group

 

 

A Federal High Court , Lagos presided over by Justice Babs Kuewumi today ordered that  Mr Gbenga Makanjuola, a former Deputy Chief Of Staff to the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, alongside two others be remanded in prison custody till Tuesday next week, when their bail applications would be decided.

Other persons ordered to be remanded in prison custody alongside Makanjuola are: Obiora Amobi and Kolawole Shittu, a Cashier in the Senate President’s office.

Justice Kuewumi made the remand order after taking the defendants’ pleas in an 11 count-criminal charges bothering on the Paris Club Refund fraud leveled against them by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

At their arraignment today, EFCC’s Prosecutor, Mr. Ekene Iheanacho, said the three accused persons, a limited company, Melrose General Services Limited, and one Robert Chidozie Mbonu (now at large), have sometimes in December 2016, conspired among themselves to disguise the origin of the sum of N3.5 billion, which was paid into Melrose General Services Limited account number 0005892453 with Access Bank Plc.

The Commission also told the court that the third accused, Obiora Amobi, who is the operation manager of Melrose General Services Limited between December 15 and 17, 2016, made a cash payment of N300 million to Robert Mbonu (now at large. ) from the said N3.5 billion, without going through financial institution.

It was also alleged that the former Deputy Chief of Staff to Saraki, Gbenga Makanjuola, and the Cashier in the Senate President’s office, Kolawole Shittu, in December 2016, made cash payment of a total of $1.5 million, of $500, 000, on three tranches, between themselves without going through a financial institution.

The offences according to the prosecutor, Ekene Iheanacho, are contrary to 18, 15(2)(d), 15(2)(b) 1(a) and 16(2)(b) of Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2011, and punishable under Sections 15(3) and 16 (2)(b) of the same act.

All the accused had pleaded not guilty to all the counts of the charge.

Following their plea of not guilty, the prosecutor, Iheanacho, asked the court for a trial date, while urging the court to remand the defendants in prison custody pending the trial.

However, counsel to Makanjuola and Shitu ,   Mr  Paul Erekoro (SAN)  and counsel representing Amobi ,  Mr Chukwu,  told the court that they have filed their clients’ bail applications, and that same has been served on the prosecutor, who have equally filed a counter.

In moving the bail applications, the two lawyers told the court that the prosecution have not been able to controvert all the depositions in their applications, adding that since their clients were granted administrative bail, they have been reporting at the EFCC’s office without default.

Erekoro (SAN) particularly told the court that Makanjuola is a lawyer of 20 years, and a former member of House of Representatives, while the 4th accused is a Cashier  in the Senate President’s office.

He therefore urged the court to grant them bail

Responding, the prosecutor, Ekene Iheanachor urged the court to dismiss the accused persons’ bail applications on the ground that they started reporting at the commission’s office when the commission threatened to revoke their administrative bail, adding that one of them has already jumped bail after he was granted administrative bail.

Iheanachor also  urged the court to remand them in prison custody pending the conclusion of the trial.

After listened to submissions of all the parties, Justice Kuewumi, ordered that all the accused be remanded in prison custody till Tuesday, October 9, for ruling on the bail applications.

The N3.5 billion is said to be part of the Paris Club refund to state government through the Governor’s Forum which was illegally diverted into private purse using Melrose General Services Limited, a private company, as conduit pipe.

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