A Federal High Court, Lagos, has adjourned continuation of trial until March 6 in the N3.2 billion fraud charge slammed on former governor of Abia State, Orji Uzor Kalu, by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
The EFCC had on October 31, 2016 preferred a 34-count charge bordering on N3.2 billion fraud against Mr. Kalu and his former Commissioner for Finance, Ude Udeogu and Kalu’s company — Slok Nigeria Ltd.
All the accused had pleaded not guilty to the charges.
At the resumed trial of the case on Monday, the EFCC Prosecutor, Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), commenced the cross-examination of the second prosecution witness, an officer in First City Monument Bank.
The witness, Olusegun Adesomoju, swore with the Holy Bible.
Jacobs: What is your occupation?
Witness: I am a compliance officer in FCMB. I received a subpoena to appear in court and produce the statement of account of the third defendant (Slok) in his bank.
Mr. Jacob tendered the statement of account and the certificate of identification from the bank attached to it. The document was labeled Exhibit N to N50.
Counsel to the first defendant, Awa Kalu (SAN), told the court that he did not object to the document, but that it was his first time of seeing it.
Joseph Ochu (SAN), counsel for the second defendant and Mr Kingsley Nwofo, counsel for the third defendant, both agreed to the submissions of Kalu.
As Mr. Jacobs continued the examination-in-chief, the witness identified 95 cheques deposited in the bank account of the third defendant between August 16, 2001 and August 10, 2005.
Jacobs: Where were you in 2005?
Witness: I was doing my National Youth Service Corps.
Jacobs: So why are you giving evidence for the bank?
Witness: It is part of my duties as a compliance officer.
Jacobs: Which department of the bank has records of customers’ accounts?
Witness: Both the compliance department and the IT department.
After the conclusion of the examination-in-chief, Mr. Kalu addressed the court that it was the first time the defence was seeing the document and they needed a “stand down” to go through it.
In response, Mr. Jacobs told the court: “We have tendered this document since 2007, it is not a new document and I object to the stand down”.
Justice Idris, in his ruling, said “in the interest of justice, let us come back tomorrow for cross-examination.”
The court adjourned until March 6 for continuation of trial.
Mr. 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 State Government.
Slok Nigeria Ltd and a man, Emeka Abone, who is still at large, were also alleged to have retained in the company’s account the sum of N200 million on behalf of the first accused (Kalu).
They allegedly used Manny Bank, (now Fidelity Bank Plc), Spring Bank Plc, the defunct Standard Trust Bank and Fin Land Bank, now First City Monument Bank (FCMB).
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, the accused were alleged to have diverted over N3.2 billion from the state government’s treasury during Kalu’s tenure as governor.
The offences contravened the provisions of Sections 15(6), 16, and 21 of the Money Laundering (Prohibitions) Act, 2005.
The offences also violated the Money Laundering Act of 1995 (as amended) Act No.9 of 2002 and Section 477 of the Criminal Code, Laws of the Federation, 1990.