Thursday, July 18, 2024

Alleged N1.6 Billion Fraud: Ex-accountant general seeks adjournment to make refund

Mr Onyeaka told the court that his client had taken steps toward settling the matter.

• July 10, 2024
Courtroom
Courtroom (Credit: Nigerian Guardian)

A former acting Accountant-General of the Federation, Anamekwe Nwabuoku, on Wednesday, begged a Federal High Court, Abuja to give him more time to conclude the refund of the public funds allegedly siphoned.

Mr Nwabuoku and his co-defendant, Felix Nweke, in the 11-count money laundering charge preferred against them by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, prayed Justice James Omotosho to halt their arraignment until another date to perfect the refund.

Nwabuoku and Nweke, a former Deputy Director in the Ministry of Defence, are being prosecuted for alleged money laundering offences to the tune of N1.6 billion.

While Nwabuoku is the 1st defendant in the charge marked: FHC/ABJ/CR/240/24 dated May 20 and filed May 27 by Ekele Iheanacho, Nweke is the 2nd defendant.

They were alleged to have perpetrated the act while Nwabuoku served as the Director of Finance and Accounts in the Ministry of Defence between 2019 and 2021.

Nwabuoku was appointed acting AGF on May 20, 2022 under ex-President Muhammadu Buhari after Ahmed Idris was suspended as AGF over alleged N80 billion fraud.

He was, however, removed in July 2022, a few weeks after he assumed office.

Sylva Okolieaboh, a Director at the Treasury Single Account (TSA) Department, replaced Nwabuoku as acting AGF.

Okolieaboh’s appointment followed after report that Nwabuoku was under the radar of EFCC over corruption allegations.

When the matter was called on Wednesday for the defendants to take their plea, Nwabuoku and Nweke stepped into the dock.

However, Nweke’s lawyer, Emeka Onyeaka, informed the court that there was a new development in the case.

Onyeaka notified the court that his client had taken steps toward settling the matter.

The lawyer said Nweke had made substantial refunds of the money traced to him by the anti-graft agency.

“The 2nd defendant has taken steps, as there is a communication to the commission vis-a-vis the alleged offences on making refund.

“The commission is in receipt of the money and promised to communicate to us,” he said.

Onyeaka said, “Upon being served with the charge on Monday, we communicated with the commission and we were asked to tarry for their administrative procedure.”

He said since a substantial amount had been refunded, if his client is arraigned, such action would affect the trial.

He, therefore, prayed the court to grant them an adjournment in order to take further steps on the administrative procedure.

Maduakolam Igwe, who appeared for Nwabuoku, aligned with Onyeaka’s submission.

Igwe said his client had equally taken the same step and that substantial amount had been refunded.

“We have written to the commission on this. The 1st defendant has also made some refunds. May I adopt the submission of my learner friend to tidy up the administrative procedure,” he corroborated.

Responding, counsel who appeared for the EFCC, Ogechi Ujam, acknowledged that though the commission was in receipt of a proposal letter, she said: “However, no negotiation has been made, no settlement has been done and no agreement has been reached by parties.”

According to her, in the circumstance, we urge this honourable court to allow us to arraign the defendants.

“Take a date for arraignment,” Justice Omotosho responded.

After counsel agreed, the matter was adjourned until October 14 for arraignment.

The EFCC alleged that Nwabuoku, Nweke, Temeeo Synergy Concept Limited (at large), Turge Global Investment Limited (at large), Laptev Bridge Limited (at large), Arafura Transnational Afro Limited (at large) and other persons (at large) converted funds which are proceeds of unlawful activities to personal use.

The offence is contrary to Section 18 of the Money Laundering Prohibition Act, 2011 as (amended by Act No. 1 of 2012) and punishable under Section 15(2) (b) and (3) of the same Act.

In count two, Nwabuoku, Felix, Temeeo Synergy Concept Limited (at large), between September 2019 and October, 2020 in Abuja, indirectly converted the sum of N262, 602,897.27 (Two Hundred and Sixty Two Million, Six Hundred and Two Thousand, Eight Hundred and Ninety Seven Naira Twenty Seven Kobo).

The money was alleged to have been paid into the Zenith Bank account of Temeeo Synergy Concept Limited (at large), with account number: 1016901286, knowing that the funds constituted proceeds of unlawful activity.

The offence, the EFCC said, is contrary to Section 15(2) (b) and punishable under Section 15(3) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2011 (as amended by Act No. 1 of 2012), among other counts.

(NAN)

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