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N3.5bn Paris Club Loan Scam: Judge’s transfer stalls trial of Saraki’s aide

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By Innocent Anaba

The trial of Mr. Gbenga Makanjuola, a Deputy Chief of Staff to the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, alongside two others over alleged N3.5 billion Paris Clubs loan scam, before a Federal High Court sitting in Lagos, has been stalled due to the transfer of the trial judge, Justice Bab Kuewumi.

Gbenga Makanjuola

At the resumed trial of Makanjuola alongside Obiora Amobi, Kolawole Shitu and a company allegedly used as conduit pipe in the said fraud, Melrose General Services Limited, Justice Kuewumi told the parties that he was not ready to commence the trial as he had been transfered to Sokoto jurisdiction of the court.

The judge urged the parties to take a new date for the incoming judge to handle the matter.

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“The court is not ready on the ground that I have been transferred to Sokoto and I will  not like to start what I can’t conclude. We have to adjourn the matter for incoming judge,” Justice Kuewumi said.

Following the judge’s pronouncement, both the prosecution and the deference team agreed on March 13, for commencement of trial.

At the resumed hearing of the matter yesterday, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, lawyer, Mr. Ekene Iheanacho and defence teams which comprises of K. T. Alowomi, Mr. Paul Erokoro, SAN, and Omeoga Chukwu, informed the court of their readiness to go on with the trial.

Though, Mr. Erokoro, SAN, informed the court that he had just been served with additional prove-of-evidence, he still told the court that he was ready to go on with the trial.

EFCC had on October 7, arraigned the defendants before the court on charges of conspiracy, payment of some monies without going through financial institutions.

At their arraignment, the EFCC’s lawyer, Mr. Iheanacho, had told the court that the three defendants, a limited company, Melrose General Services Limited, and one Robert Chidozie Mbonu (now at large), have sometimes in December 2016, conspired among themselves to disguise the origin of the sum of  N3.5 billion, which was paid into Melrose General Services Limited account with Access Bank Plc.

Iheanacho also told the court that the third accused, Obiora Amobi, who is the operation manager of Melrose General Services between December 15 and 17, 2016, made a cash payment of N300 million to Robert Mbonu  (now at large. ) from the said N3.5 billion, without going through financial institution.

It was also alleged that Saraki’s Deputy Chief of Staff, Makanjuola, and the Cashier in the Senate President’s office,  Shittu, had in December 2016, made cash payment of a total of $1.5 million USD, of $500, 000, on three tranches, between themselves without going through a financial institution.

The offences according to the EFCC are contrary to 18, 15(2)(d), 15(2)(b) 1(a) and 16(2)(b) of Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2011, and punishable under Sections 15(3) and 16 (2)(b) of the same act.

All the accused had pleaded not guilty to all the counts of the charge and admitted to bail in the sum of N250 million each with two sureties in the same sum.

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