By Gbenga Ogunbufunmi
The scheduled trial of Mr. Gbenga Makanjuola, a Deputy Chief of Staff to the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, alongside two others over alleged N3.5 billion Paris Clubs Loan Scam, before a Federal High Court, Lagos, has been adjourned till January 10, 2019.
The two others in the alleged scam are; Mr. Obiora Amobi and Kolawole Shittu, a Cashier in the Senate President’s office and a company said to have been used as conduit pipe in the alleged scam, Melrose General Services Limited.
When the matter came up today, both the prosecution represented by Mr. Ekene Iheanacho and defence team led by Mr. Paul Erokoro (SAN), were informed of the non-sitting of the court due to an ongoing workshop for the judges in Abuja.
Consequently, at the consent of both parties, January 10, 2019, was picked for the trial of the defendants.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had on October 7, arraigned the defendants before the court on charges bordering on conspiracy, payment of some monies without going through financial institutions.
At their arraignment, the EFCC’s lawyer, Mr. Iheanacho, had told the court that the three defendants, 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 with Access Bank Plc.
Iheanacho also told the court that the third accused, Obiora Amobi, who is the Operation Manager of Melrose General Services 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 Saraki’s Deputy Chief of Staff, Makanjuola, and the Cashier in the Senate President’s office, Shittu, had 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 EFCC 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 charges and admitted to bail in the sum of N250 million each with two sureties in the same sum.