Kalu’s N3.2bn fraud trial: Witness reels off transactions from Abia Govt House accounts

Kalu’s N3.2bn fraud trial: Witness reels off transactions from Abia Govt House accounts

Wednesday, March 28, 2018 6:11 pm

Orji Uzor Kalu and Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Mike Ozekhome in court

A prosecution witness, Mr Bassey Ekeng, on Wednesday narrated how series of debit transactions were made from the account of the Abia Government House in 2002.

The witness, who was subpoenaed for the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), gave the evidence in the ongoing trial of Orji Uzor Kalu, former Abia governor before a Federal High Court in Lagos.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the 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 along with them is Kalu’s company, Slok Nigeria Ltd.

The accused had pleaded not guilty to the charges and were granted bails.

When the trial resumed on Wednesday, the prosecutor, Mr Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), called on the 13th witness, Mr Omamurieme Ekeng, an Assistant Manager at Nigerian Deposit Insurance Corporation (NDIC).

In his lead evidence, the witness told the court that he worked as a member of Claims Resolution in the NDIC, especially where banks are liquidated and their licences were withdrawn by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).

When prompted by the prosecutor on whether he remembered the name, “Hallmark Bank” the witness told the court that he remembered it in liquidation.

Jacobs : You were subpoena to produce documents before this court, can you list them?

Witness :  I was subpoenaed to produce the statement of account of the Government House of Abia domiciled with the defunct Hallmark Bank.

He explained that it was the duty of the NDIC, as a liquidation outlet, for banks whose licences were withdrawn to get all details in relation to such banks and keep them in a warehouse.

On the manner of its operations, the witness told the court that the corporation employs the use of a database in a large computer that provides storage for the information.

He said the NDIC was able to extract information relating to Hallmark Bank, warehoused in its server.

According to him, on request from the EFCC, he called up details of the bank, printed the statement of account, and made same available to the commission.

Demonstrating evidence on the debit transactions from the said account, the witness told the court that on Feb 6, 2002, there were three debit transactions by one M. A. Udoh to the tune of N12.7 million, N3 million and N2.9 million respectively.

He said that on the same day, there was another debit transaction by Udoh and U.D. Udeogo in the sums of N5.7 million and N6.9 million respectively.

He added that Udoh also made a debit transaction of N40.3million on March 5, 2002.

The witness further told the court that on April 2, 2002, there was a debit transaction by Udoh to the tune of N41 million, while on April 3 and April 16, 2002, Udeogo made debit transactions of N16.3 million and N14.6 million respectively.

According to him, on May 1, May 3, and May 30, 2002, there were also debit transactions by Udeogo for N7.7 million, N600,000 and N12.5 million respectively.

In the charge, the accused were alleged to have committed the offences between August 2001 and October 2005.

Kalu was alleged to have utilised his company, Slok Nigeri Ltd, to retain in the account of a First Inland Bank, now FCMB, containing N200 million.

The sum is alleged to be part of funds illegally derived from the coffers of the Abia Government.

Slok and one Emeka Abone, who is said to be at large, were also alleged to have retained in the company’s account on behalf of Kalu.

They were alleged to have utilised Manny Bank, Spring Bank Plc, the defunct Standard Trust Bank and Finland Bank.

Also, the accused allegedly retained about N2.5 billion in different accounts belonging to the Abia Government.

Cumulatively, in all the counts, 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 (Prohibition) Act, 2005, 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.

Justice Muhammed Idris adjourned the case until March 29 for continuation of trial.

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