Alleged N1.2bn Fraud: Fromer INEC Chairman Wants Trial Move To Abuja

A Former Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, Prof Maurice Iwu on Thursday urged a Federal High Court in Lagos to transfer his trial on alleged fraud of N1.2 billion to the Abuja division of the court.

Iwu, who is facing a four-count charge of concealment, fraud and money laundering before Justice Nicholas Oweibo, claimed that the transfer is necessary so as not to subject him to great hardship.

The money is believed to be part of the N23.29b slush fund allegedly shared by former petroleum minister, Diezani Allison-Madueke, to influence the outcome of the 2015 presidential elections.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) further claimed that the accused person had between December 2015 and March 27, 2015, used his company, Bioresources Institute of Nigeria (BION) Limited, whose account with number 1018603119 domiciled in Untied Bank of Africa (UBA) Plc to laundered the money.

The EFCC also alleged that Professor Iwu and a lawyer, Victor Chukwuani retained the sum of N407 million, said to be proceed of unlawful act, in Bioresources Institute of Nigeria (BION) Limited’s Account No. 1018603119 domiciled in the United Bank for Africa Plc,

The offences according to the EFCC counsel, Rotimi Oyedepo are contrary to sections 18(a),15(2) (a) of the Money Laundering Prohibition Act, 2011 as amended and punishable under Section 15 ( 3) of the same Act.

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The former INEC boss, however pleaded not guilty to all the counts.

At the resumedhearing of the case on Thursday, Counsel to the former INEC boss, Ahmed Raji, SAN told Justice Oweibo that his client resides in Abuja but always travels to Lagos whenever the case is coming up.

Raji said, “my Lord, this defendant is over 70 years of age, and he always travels down to Lagos whenever, the case is coming up.

“Then he books a hotel. It will amount to great agony for him to continue with this trial in Lagos,” he stated.

The lawyer also submitted that since the transaction which led to this charge was done in Abuja, the case should be heard in Abuja.

However, counsel to the EFCC, Rotimi Oyedepo urged the court to dismissed the application because all the witnesses listed in the proof of evidence including the bank officials reside in Lagos and Ibadan.

Oyedepo also argued that it was the Lagos Zonal office of the EFCC that investigated the case.

He further maintained that the offence for which the defendant was charged touched on the economic well-being of Nigeria, and such offences can be tried anywhere in Nigeria.

Oyedepo cited the provision of Section 98 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, which states that only the Chief Judge of the Court has the power to transfer any matter.

After listening to both parties, Justice Nicholas Oweibo adjourned the case to 6th of March for ruling.

7th February 2023
Nigerian Pantagraph
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