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N42m fraud: Court denies ex-minister bail again, sends him to prison

For the second time in less than two weeks, Justice Bilikisu Aliyu of the Federal High Court, Abuja has turned down the bail application of former minister of works, Dr Hassan Muhammad Lawal. The embattled former minister was on Tuesday arraigned on a nine-count charge of money laundering, amounting to N42 million.

Aliyu had only last week turned down a similar bail application when he was arraigned on a 24-count charge of fraud and money laundering prefered against him and 14 others by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
Rather than allow his bail application, the court ordered an accelerated hearing of the case and directed that the ex-minister be remanded in prison custody pending his trial.

Lawal who entered a plea of not guilty to the nine-count charge was meant to be arraigned alongside Adesanya Adewale ( now at large) on a 10-count charge. But Prosecuting counsel, Wahab Shittu asked the court to strike out count one. He also asked the court to remand the accused person in prison pending his trial.
Efforts by counsel to Lawal, Yahaya Mahmood to secure his bail failed after his formal application was vehemently opposed by the prosecution counsel.

Mahmood had prayed the court to admit his client to bail especially as the prosecution was yet to file a proof of evidence before the court. He told the court that his client, whose health had deteriorated since his arrest, suffered from a kidney ailment which required constant medical attention.
In addition, he said since the accused person was presumed innocent until proven guilty, he was entitled to his liberty as long as the court put in place, necessary conditions that would guarantee his appearance for trial.

But in opposing the application for bail , Shittu asked the court to consider the weight of the offence committed by the accused person, saying such offence must be treated with seriousness as it affects the image of the country at the local and international level.
He said since proceedings in such criminal matters were meant to be tried summarily, failure of the prosecution to file any proof of evidence was not a ground for seeking bail.

He said it would be risky to grant the accused person bail, particularly as the other accused person was at large, as there was the likelihood of him absconding given the enormity of the money involved.
While stating that there were no sufficient materials before the court to justify the bail, he added it was not enough to say the accused person suffered a medical condition without producing a medical report as well as credible evidence by an expert to the effect.
In denying the application, Justice Bilikisu Aliyu said even though it had been refused at that stage; the case would be given accelerated hearing until it was concluded. The case has been adjourned till June 8, 9 and 10 for trial.

In the sister case, the EFCC also filed a 25-count charge against the accused namely, Lawal, Dr. Adeogba Ademola, Digital Toll Coy Ltd., Okala Philip Yakubu, Thahal Paul, Swede Control Intertex Ltd., Proman Vital ventures Ltd., PEB 04 Nig. Ltd., and Lassa Ltd as co-accused.
The commision said Lawal conspired with other accused persons using some firms as fronts to appropriate the public fund while serving as minister of works between 2006 and 2009.
The commission said the accused persons were standing trial for conspiring to defraud the Federal Government to the tune of N24.4 billion thereby committing an offence contrary to Section 17 1(a) of the money laundering (Prohibition Act) 2004 and punishable under section 14(1) of the same Act.

Others are Odomac Nig. Ltd., Nairda Ltd, Hillel Gilboa, Siraj Nig. Ltd., Geographical Information System (GIS), Wise Health Services Ltd. And Dave Enejoh as 1st to 16th co-accused respectively.
However, the 4th , 5th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 12th, 14th and 16th were said to be at large by the EFCC and consequently asked the court to strike their names from the charges to enable those present take their pleas.
While Lawal was arraigned for his direct involvement, Dr. Adeogba Ademola, Engr. George ELzogbhi, Pelar Guy were docked yesterday as a result of their companies named in the charges.
The presiding judge, Justice Bilkisu Aliyu refused oral bail application made by Lawal’s lawyer, Mahmud Magaji because of the gravity of allegation brought against Lawal by the EFCC.

Justice Aliyu said Lawal be remanded in prison till May 17, 2011 when he would be docked again for another 10-count charges which could not be taken yesterday due to time constraint.
The court ordered the other three accused persons to be set free on condition that they must deposit their travelling documents with the court registrar.
The court however adjourned till June 6 and 7, 2011 to commence the trial of the accused.
The EFCC who disclosed that it had completed its investigation into the matter said made the proof of evidence ready in support of the charges against the suspects.
The commission’s lawyer Mr. Wahab Shittu said would amend the charges to make it more tidy in view of the 8 accused whose names were struck out from the current charges.


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Posted by on May 17 2011. Filed under Judiciary, Latest Politics, Ministries. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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