EFCC begins trial of Iwu over alleged N1.23b fraud
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) yesterday arraigned the former Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Maurice Iwu, before the Federal High Court in Lagos on an alleged N1.23 billion fraud.
In the four-count charge, the EFCC alleged that Iwu committed the offense in the build-up to the 2015 general elections in which President Muhammadu Buhari defeated the then incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan.
According to the anti-graft agency, Iwu, between December 2014 and March 27, 2015, “aided the concealment of N1.23 billion in the account of Bioresources Institute of Nigeria Limited with number 1018603119, domiciled in the United Bank for Africa (UBA).”
The EFCC said Iwu “ought to have reasonably known that the N1.23 billion formed part of proceeds of an unlawful act, to wit: fraud.”
The prosecuting counsel for the EFCC, Mr. Rotimi Oyedepo, told the court that the INEC’s ex-chairman acted contrary to sections 18 (a) and 15 (2) (a) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act 2011 and was liable to be punished under Section 15(3) of the same Act .
When the charges were read to Iwu, he pleaded not guilty. Consequently, the prosecutor prayed the court for a trial date and an order to remand him in prison.
Iwu’s counsel, Mr. Ahmed Raji (SAN), however, told Justice Chuka Obiozor that he had filed a bail application on behalf of his client, which had been served on the prosecution.
But Oyedepo, who said he only got a copy of the bail application in court yesterday morning, told the judge that he intended to oppose it and, therefore, needed time to study it.
Following an agreement by the parties, Justice Obiozor adjourned till Friday to take arguments on the bail application.
When Raji urged the judge to order that Iwu is either returned to the custody of the EFCC or released to him to produce him in court on his (Raji’s) honour and integrity, Oyedepo opposed both options, arguing that having been arraigned, the proper place to remand Iwu was the prison custody.
Raji insisted that having been kept in the EFCC custody in the last five days, “heaven will not fall if he is kept there for another one day.”
Earlier, while saying that Iwu’s freedom was important to him, Raji told the court that though he was billed to travel to Saudi Arabia on Friday, “I am stepping down my journey for his liberty.” He urged the judge to note Iwu’s “age and pedigree.”
In a short ruling, Justice Obiozor directed that Iwu be returned to the EFCC custody and should be produced before him on Friday for his bail application.