The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on Monday re-arraigned a former governor of Bayelsa State, Mr. Timipre Sylva, before a Federal High Court in Abuja for fraud involving about N2.45bn.
The accused allegedly committed the offence between October 2009 and February 2010 as governor of Bayelsa State.
He pleaded not guilty to all the six counts when he was re-arraigned before Justice Evoh Chukwu on Monday.
The former governor also has similar charges pending against him before Justice Ahmed Mohammed of the Federal High Court in Abuja.
Sylva had earlier pleaded not guilty to the Monday’s six counts when he was first arraigned for the offences before Justice Adamu Bello (retd) on June 5, 2012.
The matter had to start de novo (afresh) following the retirement of Justice Bello, a development which prompted Sylva’s re-arraignment before Justice Chukwu on Monday.
The prosecuting counsel, Mr. Festus Keyamo, who signed the charges, accused Sylva of offences, including conversion of various sums of money belonging to the state with the aim of concealing their illicit origins.
He was also accused of inducing Union Bank Plc to fraudulently grant him a N2bn overdraft facility under the pretext of using the money to augment workers’ salary.
He allegedly committed the offences in conspiracy with other unnamed persons said to be at large.
In the first count, the EFCC alleged that between October 2009 and February 2010, the former governor conspired with other unnamed persons to convert “property and resources amounting to N2bn belonging to Bayelsa State Government derived from an illegal act, with the aim of concealing the illicit origin of the said amount.”
In the second count, the EFCC alleged that on January 22, 2010, Sylva converted the sum of N380m, property of Bayelsa State Government, “through the account of one Habibu Sani Maigidia, a Bureau De Change Operator with Account No. 221433478108, in Fin Bank Plc, which sum you knew represented the proceeds of an illegal act with the aim of concealing the nature of the proceeds of the said illegal act.”
Count 3 accused the former governor of converting N50m belonging to his state “through the account of one Enson Benmer Limited with Account No. 6152030001946, in First Bank Plc, which sum you knew represented the proceeds of an illegal act with the aim of concealing the nature of the proceeds of the said illegal act.”
Count 4 alleges that the accused, on January 5, 2010, converted the sum of N20m belonging to Bayelsa State, “through the account of one John Daukoru with Account No. 04800250000418, in United Bank of Africa Plc, which sum you knew represented the proceeds of an illegal act with the aim of concealing the nature of the proceeds of the said illegal act.”
EFCC said the offence in Count 1 is contrary to provisions of Section 17(a) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition Act), 2004 and the offences in Counts 2 to 4 are said to be contrary to and punishable under Section 14(1) of the same Act.
In counts 5 and 6, the former governor was accused of conspiring with others to induce Union Bank Plc and actually inducing the bank “with the intent to defraud, to grant an overdraft facility of the sum of N2bn under the false pretence of using the amount to augment salaries of the Bayelsa State Government workers.”
The conspiracy offence in count 5 is said to be contrary to provisions of section 8(a) of the Advanced Fee Fraud and other Fraud Related Offences Act 2004 and punishable under section 1(3) of the same Act.
After the arraignment on Monday, Justice Chukwu granted bail to Sylva in the conditions and terms previously granted by the former trial judge.
The oral bail application by Sylva’s lawyer, Israel Olorundare (SAN), was not opposed by the prosecuting counsel from Keyamo’s law firm, Mr. John Ainetor.
Ainetor had only urged the court to grant the bail if it was willing to do so in terms that would secure the availability of the accused person in court.
The court fixed May 25 for commencement of trial.