N3.2bn Fraud: Court dismisses Kalu’s objection to document
A Federal High Court in Lagos on Wednesday dismissed an objection to the admissibility of a document raised by a former Governor of Abia State, Orji Uzor kalu facing charges of fraud.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had on Oct. 31, 2016, preferred a 34 count-charge bordering on N3.2 billion fraud against Kalu and his former Commissioner for Finance Ude Udeogo.
Also charged is a company, Slok Nig. Ltd. The accused had pleaded not guilty to the charges and were admitted to bail.
At the last adjourned date on March 7 (Tuesday), the prosecution had begun examination of its first witness, Mr Onovah Ogonevoh and had sought to tender a document from Manny Bank (now defunct) in evidence.
The move by EFCC was opposed by the defence team, Messrs Mike Ozekhome (SAN), Mr Solo Akuma (SAN) and Mr K.C Nwofo (SAN) on grounds of certification.
The trial judge, Justice Mohammed Idris had then adjourned the case for ruling on the admissibility of the said document. In his ruling on Wednesday, Idris held that the letter was original and needed no certification. He ruled: “the letter dated Oct. 17, 2006, is admissible.’’
Citing Appeal Court decision on Orizu Vs Onyegbuna, Idria also held: “it is a settled law that a document with its attachment has to be admitted with the attachment’’.
“The letter and it’s attachments have the same weight; in the circumstance, the letter and it’s attachments are admissible in evidence.’’ The judge consequently, admitted and marked the letter and the document as exhibits A and A1-A38.
In continuation of his evidence in chief, the first prosecution witness, Oghenevo) informed the court that all bank instruments used by the accused, were issued by the Umuahia branch of the defunct Mammy Bank.
He added that 23 drafts paid to different people were drawn at Government House, Umuahia, Abia.
The witness said cheque leaflets were issued on April 7, 2005, by one Imagah Okoro, M. A. Udoh, Romanus Madu, and James at the Government House, Umuahia.
Under cross examination by a defence counsel (Ozekhome), the witness informed the court that none of the names of the accused were written in the drafts or cheque. He also told the court that the accused did not issue instructions on the drafts.
The witness informed the court that about N2.5 million paid in favour of Slok was issued for the campaign fund of the first accused (Kalu), adding that the draft was not issued from the Government House in Umuahia.
Also, in her testimony, a second prosecution witness, Mrs Christiana Ohiri, a manager with the Umuahia branch of UBA, told the court that her bank was contacted by the EFCC in relation to some transactions in 2006.
She also informed the court that she was invited by the commission for questioning in relation to some documents obtained from her bank by the EFCC.
The prosecution had then sought to tender some statements of account before the court, but the move was again opposed by defence counsel, (Ozekhome), who challenged same on grounds of non certification.
He argued that certification was a legal requirement for such document and urged the court not to admit same in evidence. Justice Idris has fixed March 9 for ruling on the issue.
In the charge, the accused were alleged to have committed the offence between Aug. 2001 and Oct. 2005. Kalu was alleged to have utilised his company to retain in the account of a First Inland bank, (now FCMB), the sum of N200 million.
The sum is alleged to have formed part of funds illegally derived from the coffers of the Abia government.
In one of the counts, his company (Slok Nig Ltd) and one Emeka Abone said to be at large, were also alleged to have retained in the company’s account the sum of N200 million on behalf of the first accused.
They were alleged to have utilised Manny Bank, (now Fidelity Bank Plc), Spring Bank Plc, the defunct Standard Trust Bank and Fin Land Bank, now First City Monument Bank (FCMB).
In counts one to 10, the accused were alleged to have retained about N2.5 billion in different accounts, which funds were said to belong to the Abia state government.
Cumulatively, in all the counts, the accused were alleged to have diverted more than N3.2 billion from the Abia government’s treasury during Kalu’s tenure as governor.
The offence is said to have contravened the provisions of Sections 15(6), 16, and 21 of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2005.
It is also said to have contravened the provisions of the Money Laundering Act of 1995 as amended by the amendment Act No.9 of 2002 and section 477 of the Criminal Code Act, Laws of the Federation, 1990.