ICPC ordered to unfreeze Pinnacle’s account in alleged N2.5b fraud
Justice Nnamdi Dimgba of the Federal High Court, Abuja, has ordered the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) to unfreeze the account of Pinnacle Communications Ltd domiciled with Zenith Bank.
The judge gave the order at the weekend while delivering ruling on the motion on notice file by Pinacle against the ICPC.
The motion sought lifting of the post-no-debit order placed on its accounts over the allegation that Pinnacle was fraudulently recommended to the minister of information and culture for the release of N2.5 billion against the guidelines contained in the white paper.
The ICPC had also alleged that the fund was diverted into private hands, which informed its investigation of the company and subsequent placing of a post-no-debit restriction on Pinacle’s account with the bank.
In its ruling, however, the court noted that although the anti-graft agency has the statutory power to temporarily freeze a suspicious account in accordance with the provisions of sections 44(2)(k) and 43(1) of ICPC Act, such freezing “should not last forever.”
“It was the court’s reasoning that the essence of temporarily freezing an account is to avail an anti-graft agency the needed time to launch investigations and possibly file charges against the account owner. It is not for the ICPC to freeze an account when it has not commenced investigation on any suspicious account or act,” Justice Dimgba stated.
The court further observed that since June 14 when the account was frozen, no charge has been filed against the plaintiff. According to Dimgba, the word “temporary” as contained in the relevant statute books should be within “a reasonable time” of which six months is.
“I make bold to say that if there is a prima facie case against Pinacle, I am at a loss why the ICPC has not filed a criminal charge against it. This court had shifted this matter several times to give room for the ICPC to file charges but no such step was taken.
“The first defendant and in deed, other anti-graft agencies should be expedient in their investigation as freezing one’s account indefinitely is like an act of killing a fly with a sledge hammer,” the judge added.