The Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, on Friday, fixed February 6 to rule on an application a former Governor of Imo State, Rochas Okorocha, filed to quash the 17-count money laundering charge the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, preferred against him.
Okorocha, who piloted affairs of Imo state from 2011 to 2019, is facing trial alongside a chieftain of the ruling All Progressive Congress, APC, in the state, Mr. Anyim Nyerere Chinenye and five companies, Naphtali International Limited, Perfect Finish Multi Projects Limited, Consolid Projects Consulting Limited, Pramif International Limited, and Legend World Concepts Limited.
EFCC alleged that the defendants conspired and diverted funds belonging to Imo state.
It told the court that the defendants sequentially siphoned funds from the Imo State Government House account and Imo State Joint Local Government Project account, and diverted same into accounts of private firms for their personal use.
According to the prosecution, the alleged offence was committed between October 2014 and February 2016.
However, the defendants pleaded not guilty to the charge, even as they persuaded the court to release them on bail pending the determination of the charge against them.
Okorocha, who is currently the Senator representing Imo West, through his team of lawyers led by Chief Wole Olanipekun, SAN, subsequently filed a preliminary objection to challenge the competence of the charge against him.
The former governor prayed the court to quash all the allegations the EFCC levelled against him in the charge marked: FHC/ABJ/CR/28/22.
Describing the charge against him as “unlawful, baseless, oppressive and a gross abuse of the process of the court”, Okorocha, further applied to be discharged and acquitted.
He contended that EFCC’s investigation that precipitated the charge against him, was the subject matter of an earlier suit that was marked: FCH/PH/FHR/165/2021.
According to him, another court of competent jurisdiction had declared EFCC’s action against him as unlawful and issued an order that prohibited the agency from proceeding with its investigations on the subject matter.
He told the court that the EFCC, in disobedience to the subsisting judgement, proceeded to arrest and arraign him on money laundering allegations that bordered on issues that were already determined by another court.
However, EFCC urged tge court to dismiss Okorocha’s objection, insisting that it adduced sufficient evidence to nail the defendant to the charge against him.
It said that preliminary findings showed that between 2014 and 2018, the aggregate sum of N1billion and over N8million, were transferred from the local government account of the state.
EFCC told the court that the transfer was done under the guise of mobilisation for the building of 28 hospitals across every local government in the state through different companies, including Bureau De Change operators, to a company which provided a lease of Learjet 45XR Aircraft for the personal use of the former governor.
The commission alleged that between January and April 2019, over N6billion was transferred to different companies from the Imo State Joint State Local Government Project Account domiciled in Zenith Bank based on Okorocha’s directives without contract documentation or evidence of contract execution.
It also further alleged that over N50bn was moved from the treasury of the Imo government under the guise of execution of projects through proxy companies and nominees during Okorocha’s administration.
The prosecution told the court that the charge filed against the defendants has three voluminous and comprehensive proof of evidence that established the nexus between the defendants and allegations against them.