Friday, October 30, 2020

Nigeria: EFCC re-arraigns Justice Ajumogobia, Obla in alleged money laundering case

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The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission on Wednesday re-arraigned a Judge of the Federal High Court, Rita Ofili-Ajumogobia, and a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Godwin Obla, over alleged money laundering charges.

EFCC charged Ofili-Ajumogobia and Obla on 18 counts bordering on conspiracy, unlawful enrichment, retention of crime proceeds and money laundering.

The defendants are standing trial before Justice Rilwan Aikawa.

Both defendants pleaded not guilty to all counts of the charge.

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The News Agency of Nigeria reports that the defendants were first charged before an Ikeja Division of the High Court, which struck out the charge on jurisdictional grounds.

Consequent upon the dismissal of the charge, the prosecution preferred same charges against the defendants, before the Federal High Court.

While Ofili-Ajumogobia took her plea to the charge on April 18, the second defendant (Obla) was absent from court.

Ajumogobia had pleaded not guilty to the charges and was granted a bail of N10 million with two sureties in like sum.

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The court had, consequently, ordered Obla’s appearance in court to answer to the charges.

On Wednesday, Obla showed up in court and was re-arraigned alongside Ajumogobia.

They each denied complicity in the criminal charge marked FHC/L/139C/19.

Messrs Robert Clarke, SAN, and Ferdinand Orbih, SAN, announced appearance for the first and second defendants respectively.

After their pleas, the Prosecutor, Mr Rotimi Oyedepo, urged the court to give a trial date, while the defendants are remanded in custody.

But defence counsel, (Orbih) informed the court of a bail application filed on behalf of Obla since April 24, adding that same had been served on the prosecution.

In response, Oyedepo described the bail application as “strange” on the grounds that the charge had not even been served on the defendant before his bail application was filed.

According to prosecution, the charge was only served on Obla in court this morning and so, he could not have filed an application for bail while the charge had not been served on him.

Responding, Orbih informed the court that he got wind of the proceedings on the pages of newspapers, following which he approached the court to get a copy of the charge even before receiving same from prosecution.

He told the court that the defendant was desirous of attending court and defending the allegations against him, rather than evading.

He urged the court to hear and allow bail.

In his decision, Justice Aikawa also granted Obla a bail of N10 million with two sureties in like sum, who must be landed property owners in Lagos State, or grade level 16 in the Federal Civil Service.

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The court adjourned the case until May 23 for trial.

EFCC alleged that the duo conspired on May 21, 2014 to indirectly conceal different sums of money in the Diamond Bank account of Nigel & Colive Ltd, a company alleged to be operated by Ajumogobia.

They were alleged to have conspired to retain in the same account, the sum of N500 million, which they both reasonably ought to have known formed part of proceeds of unlawful acts of unlawful enrichment.

For instance, Ajumogobia was alleged to have on different dates in 2014, retained sums of monies like N5 million; $150,000; $20,000; $30,000; $50,000, and $55,000 in the Diamond Bank account of Nigel and Colive.

The EFCC also accused Ajumogobia of indirectly concealing N12 million in the same account, and making a false statement to the EFCC that the money was payment for the sale of landed property.

The alleged offences contravene the provisions of Sections 15 (2) (a) and 18 (a) of the Money Laundering Prohibition Act, 2011.

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