A prosecution witness on Tuesday told a Federal High Court in Lagos in the ongoing trial of former Governor of Abia, Orji Uzor Kalu, for a N3.2 billion fraud, that a search report had linked Slok Nigeria Ltd to Kalu as the owner.
Mr. Oladipo Ayoola, an EFCC witness, told the court that he was a compliance officer in Guaranty Trust Bank (GTB).
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had on Oct. 31, 2016, preferred a 34-count charge against Kalu, his former Commissioner for Finance, Ude Udeogu and Kalu’s company — Slok Nigeria Ltd.
All the accused had pleaded not guilty to the charges.
The witness told the court that the EFCC requested some documents from the bank which the bank produced.
EFCC prosecutor, Mr. Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), tendered the account statements of Neya Nigeria Ltd, Zerok Construction Nigeria Ltd and Slok Nigeria Ltd in evidence.
Jacobs asked the witness if he knew the persons that conducted the transactions and the witness responded in the negative.
Jacobs: Look at Exhibit P 33, the search report done on the third defendant (Slok) on July 25, 2001. Who is the major shareholder?
Witness: Orji Uzor Kalu is.
Counsel to the first defendant (Kalu), Mr. Gordy Uche (SAN),cross-examined the witness, who told the court that he had been working with GTB since 2004.
He said he did not make the entries in the statements of accounts or open the account as the account officer.
When asked if he knew that the companies were sister companies, he replied: I got to know about that during my conciliation of the accounts.
The commission had earlier called its second witness, Mr. Olusegun Adesomoju, and while being led in examination-in-chief, told the court that he was a compliance officer in First City Monument Bank (FCMB).
The prosecution tendered the statement and certificate of identification of the third defendant’s (SLOK) account in FCMB.
The court had adjourned until today to enable the defendants to go through the tendered exhibits and commence their cross-examination.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the court at 1.02 p.m., the prosecutor, Mr. Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), informed the court that the prosecution witness was still on his way to the court.
Jacobs asked the court for a 15-minute “stand down” to enable the witness to get to the court.
The court rose and resumed sitting about 1:45 p.m. with the witness arriving and mounting the witness box.
Counsel for the first defendant, Mr. Gordy Uche (SAN) commenced cross-examination of the witness and asked if he had ever worked for First Inland bank to which responded “No sir”.
The witness told the court that other than the narrations of the third defendant’s statement of account, he knew nothing about the account.
Adesomoju further said that he was not the account officer of the account and that he merely read out what he saw in the documents.
When asked if he made any statement to the EFCC in relation to the matter, the witness responded in the negative.
Uche asked: ”Go through the statement, from the first page to the last, can you see the name Orji Uzor Kalu, on any of the entries? ”
Witness: No sir
Counsel for the second defendant, Mr. Joseph Ochu, in his cross-examination asked the witness: Tell the court if you saw the name of the second defendant, Mr. Ude Udeogu in any of the entries?
Witness: It is not there.
Mr. Kingsley Nwofo (SAN), counsel to the third defendant also began his cross-examination and asked: “From the exhibit, is there any credit entry from your state government?”
Witness: No there isn’t.
Nwofo: Did you see the printer that printed this exhibit while it was printing?
Witness: It was printed from my computer in the office this year.
Nwofo: What date is written on the document?
Witness: Feb 10, 2006.
Nwofo: Do you realize this document has been front-loaded to this court since 2007?
Witness: They were stored electronically but printed this year, even if you print it out tomorrow, it would still have the same date.
Nwofo: Do you see from the entries in the statement that the account was an active and trading account?
Witness: Yes sir, within that period.
During re-examination by EFCC prosecutor, Rotimi, the witness told the court: I was not the one that entered the records or processed the transactions.
Justice Idris adjourned the case until March 7 for the continuation of trial.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the trial which started at about 1.45 p.m. ended at 4.15 p.m.
Orji Uzor Kalu was alleged to have utilized his company to retain in the account of a First Inland bank, now FCMB, the sum of N200 million.
The sum is alleged to have formed part of funds illegally derived from the coffers of the Abia State Government.
Slok Nigeria Ltd and a man, Emeka Abone, who is still at large, were also alleged to have retained in the company’s account the sum of N200 million on behalf of the first accused (Kalu).
They allegedly used Many Bank, (now Fidelity Bank Plc), Spring Bank Plc, the defunct Standard Trust Bank and Fin Land Bank, now First City Monument Bank (FCMB).
The accused were alleged to have retained about N2.5 billion in different accounts which funds were said to belong to the Abia Government.
Cumulatively, the accused were alleged to have diverted over N3.2 billion from the state government’s treasury during Kalu’s tenure as governor.
The offenses contravened the provisions of Sections 15(6), 16, and 21 of the Money Laundering (Prohibitions) Act, 2005.
The offenses also violated the Money Laundering Act of 1995 (as amended) Act No.9 of 2002 and Section 477 of the Criminal Code, Law of the Federation, 1990.