‘N7.65bn fraud’: Kalu knows fate Thursday

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The Federal High Court in Lagos on Monday fixed Thursday (December 5) for judgment in the 12-year trial of a former Abia State Governor, Orji Uzor Kalu, and two others for alleged N7.65bn fraud.
The judgment, which was originally scheduled for Monday, could not be delivered following Justice Mohammed Idris’ absence.
Kalu’s co-defendants are his firm, Slok Nigeria Limited; and Udeh Udeogu, who was Director of Finance and Accounts at the Abia State Government House during Kalu’s tenure as governor.
The case has been on since 2007, when they were first arraigned for the offences, but before a different judge.
In an amended 39 counts, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) accused them of conspiring and diverting N7.65bn from the coffers of the state.
The EFCC alleged that Kalu, who was Governor between 1999 and 2007, “did procure Slok Nigeria Limited – a company solely owned by you and members of your family – to retain in its account, domiciled with the then Inland Bank Plc, Apapa branch, Lagos, an aggregate sum of N7,197,871,208.7 on your behalf.”
It claimed further that the N7.1bn “formed part of the funds illegally derived from the treasury of the Abia State Government and which was converted into several bank drafts before they were paid into the said company’s account.”
Prosecuting counsel, Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), said the ex-governor violated Section 17(c) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2004, and was liable to be punished under Section 16 of the same Act.
Apart from the N7.1bn, which he was accused of laundering, the ex-governor and the other defendants were also accused of receiving a total of N460m allegedly stolen from the Abia State Government treasury between July and December 2002.
The prosecutor said they breached Section 427 of the Criminal Code Act, Cap 77, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 1990.
19 witnesses also testified on the government’s behalf.
But the defendants pleaded not guilty.
At the last sitting of the court on October 22, 2019, Jacobs urged the judge to jail the defendants as the prosecution had proved the allegations against them.
Jacobs said the 2nd defendant had already admitted to the offence both in his extrajudicial statement and under cross-examination.
“The admission is binding on all the defendants,” the prosecutor said.
He added that contrary to Kalu’s statement that Abia State did not have as much as N7bn during his administration, information from the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation showed total allocation to Abia State under Kalu was N137bn.
However, the defence urged the court to dismiss the charges, acquit and discharge their clients.