Former Abia State Governor, Chief Orji Uzor Kalu, has been re-arraigned by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) before a Federal High Court, Lagos for alleged fraud of N2.7 billion.
Kalu was re-arraigned along with two others on a 34-count charge of money laundering before Justice Mohammed Idris. His co-defendants are Udeh Udeogu and Slok Nigeria Limited.
The re-arraignment of the accused on Monday followed the transfer of their case from the Abuja Division of the Federal High Court to the Lagos Division – a move which Kalu had vigorously protested.
The accused had earlier been arraigned on September 27, 2016 before Justice Anwuri Chikere of the Abuja division of the same court.
Royal news reports that he Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Justice Ibrahim Auta had , transferred the case to Lagos, leading to the re-arraignment of the accused yesterday.
The EFCC alleged that while he was governor of Abia State, Kalu siphoned funds running to over N2.7 billion from the state’s treasury.
The ex-governor was also accused of diverting state funds into the accounts of Slok Nigeria Limited, a company which the anti-graft agency claimed was owned by Kalu and his family members.
Kalu was particularly accused of diverting the funds in tranches of N200 million, N50 million, N200 million, N300.8 million, N545 million, N429 million, N288.4 million, N190 million, N157 million, N152.8 million, N100 million, N84 million and N50 million between August 13, 2003 and January 12, 2005.
The EFCC said that the offence contravened Section 17 (C) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act 2003 and was punishable under Section 16 of the same Act.
The EFCC accused Slok Nigeria Limited of conniving with one Emeka Abone, now at large, to help Kalu retain the stolen funds in its accounts, “when the company knew, or at least suspected the said Orji Uzor Kalu to have engaged in a criminal conduct.”
The EFCC said the company is liable to punishment under Section 16 of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act 2004.
The 2nd defendant, Udeogu, was accused of helping Kalu to pay part of the stolen funds into the accounts of Slok Nigeria Limited with the defunct FinBank Plc.
The EFCC said that the offence is contrary to Section 427 of the Criminal Code Cap 77, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 1990.
The accused pleaded not guilty when the charges were read to them.
Consequently, EFCC counsel, Mr. Adebisi Adeniyi, asked the court to fix a date for the trial.
However, Kalu’s lawyer, Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN), informed the court that his client had earlier been arraigned and granted bail and urged Justice Idris to allow him continue on the existing bail.
Ozekhome said: “We are seeking the court’s discretion for the first defendant to continue on the existing bail granted to him on April 20, 2008 by Justice Adamu Bello.
“Since this matter has started, he has not jumped bail. He is an employer of labour; therefore, he will not undermine this court.”
On his part, counsel for the 2nd defendant, Mr. Solo Akuma (SAN), urged Justice Idris to allow his client to continue on the existing bail granted to him and assured the court that his client would make himself available for trial.
In response, Adeniyi said he was not opposed to the applications to allow the defendants to continue on their existing bail.
Consequently, Justice Idris ordered the defendants to continue on their existing bail. He adjourned the case till December 12 and 13, 2016, for trial.
Kalu had earlier opposed the transfer of his case from Abuja to Lagos.
In an ex-parte motion filed through his lawyer, Chief Awa Kalu (SAN), he had sought the leave of court to apply for an order of mandamus to compel the Federal High Court Chief Judge to remit the case to Abuja from Lagos where it had been transferred.
The EFCC, the Attorney-General of the Federation, Mr. Abubakar Malami (SAN), and Justice Auta were the respondents to the suit.