… Defendants deny N1.5b fraud charge of FG
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) failed at the federal high court in Abuja in its bid to stop the court from granting bails to an aide of the former National Security Adviser (NSA) Col. Mohammad Sambo Dasuki and security consultants who were accused of corruption by the federal government.
The EFCC lawyer Mr. Ofem Uket had made frantic moves to stop Justice Gabriel Kolawole from admitting the defendants on bails on the ground that they would escape justice by refusing to appear for trial in the charges against them.
The main defendants are Colonel Nicholas Ashinze, a former Aide in the Office of National Security Adviser; an Austrian and Security Consultant Mr. Wolfgang Reinl; a retired military intelligent officer Sagir Mohammed and a legal practitioner Mr. Edidiong Idiong.
Uket told the court that although the defendants were granted administrative bail, but that the bail however terminated at the point the anti-graft agency filed charges against them.
“We are aware that the defendants are enjoying administrative bail. Their counsels understand that any administrative bail granted ends as soon as the matter is brought to court and bail applications are filed”.
“Such bail cannot be extended since the charges have now been preferred to the defendants. We therefore urge the court to deny the bail application”, he submitted.
He then urged Justice Kolawole not to admit them on bail on the ground that they may escape.
But, Ashinze’s counsel, Ernest Nwoye told the court that he had a pending application for the bail of his client.
He urged the court to grant the defendant bail on self recognizance having earlier been admitted to bail by an FCT High Court.
Afam Osigwe, counsel representing the second and fifth defendants, also prayed the court to admit Reinl to bail.
He stated that he has been enjoying administrative bail from the EFCC since February.
He said that his travel documents are in the possession of the Commission and that the defendant had lived in Nigeria for over 23 years and is married to a Nigerian.
In his argument, counsel to the third defendant, Mr. Paul Erokoro, SAN, said his client, Idiong, being a legal practitioner knows what it means to jump bail.
He stated that, aside the fact that he had earlier been granted bail by an FCT High Court, he had always made himself available to the EFCC.
In a similar vein, counsel representing the fourth defendant, Nureni Jimoh, while praying the court to grant his client bail presented 6 exhibits marked exhibits A-F respectively, to the effect that the accused had a health challenge which he had been managing for close to forty years.
However in his ruling, Justice Kolawole said that the claim by the EFCC lawyer that the defendants will escape justice was speculative because there was no evidence to that effect.
The Judge said that it is established beyond reasonable doubt that the EFCC granted the defendants administrative bail and that there was no evidence that any of them jumped bail or tampered with witnesses or evidence.
In the circumstances, Justice Kolawole adopted the EFCC administrative bail and admitted all the defendants bail with the conditions.
Justice Kolawole held that the charges are all bailable adding that, “since each of the defendants has been on one administrative bail or the other, my sixth judicial sense informs me that I adopt the terms and conditions of the bail granted to the defendants by the EFCC and my learned brothers in the FCT High Courts.
The judge added that the case would be granted accelerated hearing and urged the prosecution to pick five days in the new year for trial.
Consequently, the case was adjourned to January 23, February 1 and14; and March 7 and 21, 2017.
The EFCC, had arraigned the quartet of Colonel Nicholas Ashinze, a Former Special Assistant to the former National Security Adviser, an Austrian, Wolfgang Reinl; Edidiong Idiong and Sagir D. Mohammed before Justice Gabriel Kolawole of the Federal High Court, Abuja on a 13-count charge of corruption and money laundering to the tune of N1.5b.
The defendants however denied the charges preferred against them.
Ashinze and other defendants were arraigned alongside five companies accused of allegedly diverting huge sums from the office of the former NSA.
The companies are: Geonel Integrated Services Limited, Unity Continental Nigeria Limited, Helpline Organization, Vibrant Resource Limited and Sologic Integrated Services Limited.
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