In what appears a fresh trouble for Senate President Bukola Saraki, his Deputy Chief of Staff, Mr. Gbenga Makanjuola, and one Obiorah Amobi were yesterday, remanded in prison over a N3.5 billion fraud related charges.
The duo were docked alongside Melrose General Services Limited on an 11-count charge bordering on fraud by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) before Justice Babs Kuewumi, of the Lagos Division of the Federal High Court.
Also joined as a defendant in the suit is Kolawole Shittu a cashier in the Senate President’s office.
EFCC prosecutor, Ekene Iheanacho, said the defendants and one Robert Mbonu (now at large), had sometime in December 2016 conspired among themselves to disguise the origin of N3.5 billion which was paid into Melrose General Services Limited account with Access Bank Plc.
The anti-graft body also alleged that Amobi, the third accused, who is the Operation Manager of Melrose General Services between December 15 and 17, 2016, made a cash payment of N300 million to Mbonu from the said N3.5 billion, without going through a financial institution.
Similarly, the Commission accused Messrs Makanjuola and Shittu of making cash payments, in December 2016, totaling $1.5 million of $500, 000 in three tranches, between themselves without going through a financial institution.
The offences, according to the prosecutor, are contrary to 18, 15(2) (d), 15(2)(b) 1(a) and 16(2)(b) of Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2011, and punishable under Sections 15(3) and 16 (2)(b) of the same act.
Though they pleaded not guilty to the charges, the EFCC prosecutor however prayed the court to remand the defendants in prison while also seeking for a trial date.
Responding, Makanjuola’s counsel, Paul Erokoro, SAN, drew the court’s attention to his client’s bail application.
He said the application had been served on the prosecution and sought the court’s permission to move it.
A similar request was also made by Amobi’s lawyer, Omeoga Chukwu.
The court granted the two lawyers the permission to move their bail applications.
In his argument, Mr Erokoro said his client was a former member of the House of Representatives and as such he is prepared to face his trial.
“My client is a full-time staff at the Senate and is not a flight risk.
He was a member of the House of Representatives.
I urge the court to grant him bail to prepare for his trial,” he said.
Chukwu also pleaded with the court to admit his client to bail on liberal terms.
However, in his response, EFCC’s lawyer, Mr. Iheanacho, urged the court to dismiss the application, saying the defendants constitute a flight risk.
“One of the defendants has absconded.
The chances that the other defendants will abscond are now higher with their arraignment.
We urge the court to refuse the defiance’s requests”, he said.
After listening to the submissions of parties in the matter, the judge adjourned till October 9 for ruling on