From Godwin Tsa, Abuja
For the second consecutive time, the planned arraignment of former Minister of Aviation, Senator Stella Oduah and others on alleged money laundering charges by the Economicancial Crimes Commission (EFCC) was stalled at the Abuja division of the Federal High Court.
The prosecution agency on Monday, blamed the development to the non service of the charges on the fifth and sixth defendants who are coporate bodies at their respective addresses.
Recalled that an initial attempt to arraign the former minister, now a Senator representing Anambra North Senatorial district at the Senate on February 9, 2021, equally failed due to non service of the charge on her.
Although the defendant was in court for the arraignment exercise, however, the prosecution counsel, Hassan Liman (SAN) informed the court that the fifth and sixth defendants were yet to be served with the charges.
Meanwhile, Justice Inyang Ekwo, has granted the EFCC leave to serve the fith and sixth defendants within 14 days.
The court has therefore shift the arraignment of the defendants to April 19, 2021.
Oduah, is to be arraigned alongside eight others in a charge number: FHC/ABJ/CR/316/20 wherein the prosecution alleged that she misappropriated public funds while serving as a minister.
Ms Oduah was removed as the Minister of Aviation by then President Goodluck Jonathan on February 12, 2014, following a scandal over N255million armoured cars which she made the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), an agency under her supervision as Minister of Aviation, buy for her at inflated prices.
The EFCC had on December 17, 2020, filed a total of 25 counts against her, CCECC Nigeria Limited and seven others comprising persons and firms.
One of the other defendants in the case, Gloria Odita (2nd defendant), is said to be an aide to Ms Oduah when she was Minister of Aviation. She is said to be the company secretary of Sea Petroleum & Gas Company (SPGC) Limited, a firm founded by the former minister.
The rest of the defendants are an employee of SPCG and aide to Ms Oduah, Nwobu Nnamdi (3rd defendant), Chukwuma Chinyere (4th defendant), Global Offshore and Marine Ltd (5th defendant), Tip Top Global Resources Limited (6th defendant), Crystal Television Limited (7th defendant), and Sobora International Limited (8th defendant).
According to the 25 -count charge, the prosecution alleged that the defendants conspired to commit money laundering, transferring, taking control and taking possession of proceeds of fraud, aiding and abetting money laundering and opening anonymous bank accounts.
The prosecution further alleged in two of the 25 counts that Ms Oduah and Ms Odita opened anonymous “Private Banking Nominee” dollar and naira accounts with First Bank, thereby committing an offence contrary to section 11(1) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act 2011 (as amended) and punishable under section 11(4) (a) of the same Act.
Meanwhile, the charge showed that CCECC Nigeria Limited allegedly transferred over N2.5billion into the naira account of Private Banking Nominee between March 31 and June 6, 2014.
The company was also accused of conspiring with Oduah and Odita to commit money laundering, and directly transferring to Private Banking Nominee account various sums of money totalling N2,583,385,246 which it “reasonably ought to have known forms part of the proceeds of an unlawful activity to wit: fraud…”
It alleged that CCECC Nigeria, “on various dates between March 5, 2014, and May 30, 2014” in Abuja “directly transferred the sum of N868409,349.00 from your account with Zenith Bank Place to Private Banking Nominee Account 2024414450 domiciled with First Bank Plc, which money you reasonably ought to have known forms part of the proceeds of an unlawful act to wit: fraud…”
The commission alleged that Ms Oduah and Ms Odita, on various dates between March and May 2014, “took control of the sum of N1,225,347,524 transferred from China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC) Nigeria Ltd bank account with Zenith Bank Plc to Private Banking Nominee Account No 2024414450 domiciled with First Bank Plc, which money you reasonably ought to have known forms part of the proceeds of an unlawful act to wit: fraud…”
also alleged that under similar circumstances, Ms Oduah and Ms Odita, between March 31 and April 1, 2014 in Abuja “did take control of N500,000,000 directly transferred from the GTB account number 0033880295 account” belonging to CCECC to “Private Banking Nominee account number 2024414450 domiciled with First Bank Plc.”
Many other counts centred on transactions involving over N2.4billion which flowed out from I-See Security’s bank account but with nothing to do with CCECC.
Ms Oduah and Ms Odita, were said to have, on February 26, 2014, used their “positions to transfer the sum of N838,000,000 from Broadwaters Resources Limited account number 2023201064 with Frist Bank to Sobora International Ltd account number 2022354121 also domiciled with Frist Bank Plc” when they reasonably ought to know that the money was part of proceeds of fraud.
The women were similarly accused of using their “positions” to transfer “the sum of N1,629,250 from I-See Security Nig. Ltd account number 2021756955 with First Bank Plc to Global Offshore and Marine Ltd account number 2022977296 also domiciled with First Bank Plc” on February 12, 2014.
The anti-graft agency further alleged that Tip Top Global Resources Ltd on April 17, 2014 “took possession of N780,000,000 transferred from account number 0042101097 with Diamond Bank Plc from Global Offshore and Marine Ltd account number 2022977296 domiciled with First Bank” under fraudulent circumstances.
That Nwobu Nnamdi, Chukwuma Chinyere and Crystal Television Limited on April 28, 2014 “did take control of the sum of N840,613,092.28 transferred to the account of Crystal Television Ltd number 2022332068 with First Bank Plc from Global Offshore and Marine Ltd No. 202977296 with First Bank Plc.”
It also accused Ms Odita of aiding and abetting Ms Oduah to transfer N780,000,000 from Global Offshore and Marine Ltd account to Tip Top Global Resources account on April 16, 2014, and to transfer N840,613,092.28 from Global Offshore and Marine Ltd account to Tip Top Global Resources Ltd Account on April 24.
Specifically, the prosecution alleged that Ms Oduah, whilst being the Minister of Aviation; Gloria Odita, whilst being the Company Secretary to SPGC and an aide to Ms Oduah; Nwobu Nnamdi, whilst being an employee of SPGC and an aide to the ex-minster; Chukwuwumba Chinyere, Global Offshore And Marine Ltd, Tip Top Global resources Ltd, Crustal Television Ltd, and Sobora International Ltd, between January and April 2014 in Abuja “did conspire among yourselves to commit an offence to wit: money laundering.”
It said the offence of conspiracy to commit money laundering was contrary to section 18(a), and punishable under section 15(3) and (4) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act 2011 (as amended).
The EFCC said transferring of funds which the defendant ought to know to be part of the proceeds of unlawful activities, violated section 15(2)(b) and punishable under 15(3) of the same Act.
It alleged that taking control of such funds is contrary to section 18(a) and punishable under 15(3) of the same Act, and that taking possession of such proceeds of fraud violated section 15(2)(d) and is punishable under section 15(4) of Act.
Prosecution said the alleged offences of aiding and abetting the transfer of proceeds of fraud levelled against Ms Odita violated section 15(2)(b) and is punishable under section 15(3) of the Act.