The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) Tuesday re-arraigned former Abia State Governor Orji Uzor Kalu for allegedly laundering N7.65billion state funds.
He pleaded not guilty to an amended 39-count charge that was read to him before Justice Mohammed Idris of the Federal High Court in Lagos.
EFCC said Kalu, whist being governor between 2001 and September 2006, procured Slok Nigeria Ltd, a company owned by him and members of his family, to retain N7.2billion in its Inland Bank Plc account, on his behalf.
The commission said the money “formed part of the funds illegally derived from the treasury of Abia State government and which was converted into several bank drafts before they were paid into the said company’s account”.
Kalu was accused of collaborating with Udeh Jones Udeogu Slok Nigeria and Emeka Abone (at large) “in concealing the genuine origin of an aggregate sum of N7, 197,871,208.70…”
The alleged offence violates Section 17(c) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2004, and was liable to be punished under Section 16.
Kalu and Udeogu, a former Director of Finance in Abia State Government House, pleaded not guilty to the charge. They were initially arraigned on a 34-count charge to which five fresh counts were added.
Prosecuting counsel Rotimi Jacobs (SAN) said the amendment was needed because of new evidence provided by the 19 witnesses who testified in the trial. He said he would not call additional witnesses despite the amendment having closed the prosecution’s case on May 11.
Beside the N7.2billion, the defendants were also accused of receiving N460million allegedly stolen from the Abia State Government treasury between July and December 2002.
EFCC said they breached Section 427 of the Criminal Code Act, Cap 77, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 1990.
Udeogu, Slok Nigeria, Abone and Michael Udo, also at large, were accused of collaborating with Kalu to conceal the “genuine origin” of allegedly stolen funds.
Justice Idris, who was elevated to the Court of Appeal but was permitted to conclude the case, allowed the defendants to continue on the bail granted them 11 years ago when they were first arraigned.
Defence counsel Gordy Uche, Solo Akuma and K.C. Nwofor, all Senior Advocates of Nigeria, said they had pending no-case submissions, and that they needed time to respond to EFCC’s written address opposing their applications.
Justice Idris adjourned until July 25