By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA–The Federal High Court in Abuja, on Monday, deferred further proceedings on the 25-count money laundering charge the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, entered against former Minister of Aviation, Senator Stella Oduah, till April 19.
The adjournment followed the failure of the anti-graft agency to serve two companies listed as Defendants in the case, with copies of the charge.
Oduah, who served as Aviation Minister from 2011 to 2014, and later represented Anambra North in the Senate, is facing trial alongside eight other Defendants.
The other Defendants in the charge marked FHC/ABJ/CR/316/20, are Gloria Odita, Nwosu Emmanuel Nnamdi, Chukwuma Irene Chinyere, Global Offshore and Marine Ltd, Tip Top Global Resources Ltd, Crystal Television Ltd, Sobora International Ltd and China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC) Nigeria Ltd.
The charge against them bordered on conspiracy, money laundering and allegation that they maintained anonymous bank accounts with First Bank Plc.
Trial Justice Inyang Ekwo had on February 9, adjourned the case over the absence of both the former Minister and her co-Defendants.
However, at the resumed sitting on Monday, though Oduah was in court, EFCC’s lawyer, Mr. Hassan Liman, SAN, notified the court that the Prosecution had yet to serve the 5th and 6th Defendants, which are corporate bodies, with the charge.
He therefore prayed for leave of the court to serve them at their respective addresses.
While granting the request, Justice Ekwo directed that the two companies should be served with 14 days, even as he adjourned the case for arraignment of all the Defendants.
EFCC had in the charge, alleged that Oduah and Odita who was identified as her aid and the Company Secretary to Sea Petroleum & Gas Company Ltd (SPGC), in February 2014, used their positions to transfer the sum of N1,629,250,000.00 from I-Sec Security Nig. Ltd account No. 2021756955 with First Bank Plc, to Global Offshore and Marine Ltd account No. 2022977296 also domiciled with First Bank Plc, which money they reasonably ought to have known that it formed part of the proceeds of an unlawful act.
EFCC alleged that between March and May 2014, the Defendants, took control of the sum of N1,225,347,254.00 transferred from China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC) Nigeria Ltd bank account with Zenith Bank Plc to Private Banking Nominee account No. 2024414450 domiciled with First Bank Plc, which money they reasonably ought to have known formed part of the proceeds of an unlawful act to wit: Fraud, and thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 15(2) (d) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act 2011 (As Amended) and punishable under Section 15(3) of the same Act.
Oduah and Odita were in count 24, accused of opening a naira “anonymous Private Banking Nominee Account No. 2024414450 with First Bank Plc and thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 11(1) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act 2011 (As Amended) and punishable under Section 11(4) (a) of the same Act.”
They were, equally accused of opening a United State dollar “anonymous Private Banking Nominee account No. 2024414498 with First Bank Plc and thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 11(1) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act 2011 (As Amended) and punishable under Section 1 1(4) (a) of the same Act.”
It will be recalled that the high court had last year, made an interim forfeiture order against the assets of some companies that were allegedly traced to the former Minister.
However, the interim forfeiture order was vacated on June 8, 2020, after the court held that the EFCC failed to establish any nexus between the former Minister and the companies.