EFCC re-arraigns Sylva over alleged N2.45b fraud
AFTER stalling twice on his re-arraignment, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) yesterday re-arraigned a former governor of Bayelsa State, Timipre Sylva, at the Federal High Court, Abuja, over an alleged N2.45 billion fraud committed between October 2009 and February 2010 while he was governor.
Sylva, who also has similar charges pending before Justice Ahmed Mohammed of the same court division, pleaded not guilty to the six-count charge before Justice Evoh Chukwu.
On June 5, 2012 when he was first arraigned on substantially the same charge, he had pleaded not guilty, but following the retirement of Justice Bello, the trial had to start afresh before a new judge, Chukwu.
The charge, signed by EFCC counsel, Festus Keyamo, accused Sylva of offences including the conversion of various sums of money belonging to the state, with the aim of concealing their illicit origins.
It also accused him of inducing Union Bank Plc to fraudulently grant him a N2 billion overdraft facility under the pretext of using the money to augment workers’ salary. Sylva allegedly committed the offences in conspiracy with other unnamed persons said to be at large.
The second allegation was that on January 22, 2010, he converted N380 million belonging to the state government “through the account of one Habibu Sani Maigidia, a Bureau De Change operator,” which he knew represented the proceeds of an illegal act with the aim of concealing the nature of the proceeds.
In the third count, he was accused of converting N50 million belonging to his state “through the account of one Enson Benmer Limited” in First Bank Plc, while in count four, he was alleged, on January 5, 2010, to have converted N20 million belonging to the state “through the account of one John Daukoru” in United Bank of Africa Plc.
EFCC said the offence in count one is contrary to the provisions of Section 17(a) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition Act), 2004 while offences two to four are contrary to and punishable under Section 14(1) of the same Act.
In counts five and six, he was accused of conspiring with others to induce Union Bank Plc and actually induced the bank “with the intent to defraud, to grant an overdraft facility of N2 billion under the pretence of using the amount to augment salaries state government workers.”
This is contrary to the provisions of section 8(a) of the Advanced Fee Fraud and other Fraud Related Offences Act 2004 and punishable under Section 1(3) of the same Act.
After Sylva’s arraignment yesterday, Justice Chukwu granted him bail in the conditions and terms previously granted by the former trial judge, as the oral bail application by his lawyer, Israel Olorundare (SAN), was not opposed by John Ainetor of Keyamo’s chambers.
The court has fixed May 25 for commencement of trial.