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Alleged N3.1bn fraud: Court defers Suswam’s trial till Sept 28

By Ikechukwu Nnochiri

ABUJA- The Federal High Court in Abuja, on Wednesday, fixed September 28 to resume hearing on the nine-count money laundering charge the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, entered against former governor of Benue State, Mr. Gabriel Suswam.

Suswam

Suswam who piloted the affairs of Benue State from 2007 to 2015,‎ is facing trial alongside his erstwhile Commissioner for Finance, Mr. Omodachi Okolobia.

The duo were alleged to have looted about N3.1billion, being proceeds of shares owned by the Benue State government and Benue Investment and Property Company Ltd.

Trial Justice Ahmed Mohammed adjourned the case owing to absence of the 2nd defendant, Omadachi, who was remanded in prison custody over another criminal charge.

The Federal Government had on Monday, docked Suswam, Omadachi and former Accountant of Benue State Government House Administration, Mrs. Janet Aluga, before Justice Gabriel Kolawole of the same high court on a 32-count charge relating to another alleged N9.79billion fraud.

Though Justice Kolawole granted the defendants bail to the tune of N250million each with one surety in like sum, he said they should be remanded in Kuje prison pending perfection of the bail term.

Meanwhile, at the resumed sitting on the second case before Justice Mohammed on Wednesday, Omadachi’s counsel, Mr. Samson Igede, told the court that his client was yet to fulfil the bail conditions.

He prayed the court for an adjournment to enable the 2nd defendant to secure his release from prison.

The request was not opposed by Suswam’s lawyer, Mr. Taiwo Kawo, SAN, and the prosecution lawyer, Mr. Oluwaleke Atolagbe.

By consent of all the lawyers, Justice Mohammed deferred the matter till September 28.

A Bureau De Change operator, Abubakar Umar, had earlier narrated before the court how he helped the former governor to convert N3.111billion into dollars between August and October 2014.

Umar said he converted the money which he said amounted to $15.8million, and took same to Suswam at the government house in Benue.

The witness, who spoke through a Hausa interpreter, told the court that Suswam requested for the account number of his company -Fanffash Resources- through which he wired funds from the Benue state treasury on six separate occasions.

He told the court that though he started buying and selling of currency since 1990, he opened his own company in 2014 with Suswam as one of his major clients.

“I know the 1st defendant. In 2014, he brought so many businesses to me involving the change of money. In August 2014, I was in my office when i was called by the former governor. He asked me to meet him in his house at Maitama in Abuja.

“He called me with his number 08180505050 through my own line 08062666661. When I got to his house, the governor said I should give my account number to one fair lady. He told me that they will deposit money into the account. I was asked to use the money that will be deposited inside the account to buy and convert US dollars and bring it to government house.

“It was the former governor that gave me the instruction. The first amount that was paid into the account was N413m. He asked me to convert the money to dollars. The money was paid on August 8, 2014.

“When I converted the money I took it to the government house. I remember that I made a statement to the EFCC. Money was transferred into my account six times. On September 12, 2014, two payments were made into my account. The first one was N363m and then N637m. The payments amounted to N1billion.

“I was asked to convert the money into dollars by the former governor. On October 14, 2014, N630m was paid into my account. After two hours, N818m was also paid into my account. I converted them to dollars and sent to the governor.

“On October 17, 2014, N1.68bn was paid into my account. The total amount paid into my account was N3.111bn. as at that time, dollar rate was N197. In total, I took $15.8m to the government house in Benue state”, the witness added.

He however told the court that Suswam did not personally collect the money from him each of the times he went to the government house.


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