Law News
Fresh N22.7bn charges: EFCC lines up 25 witnesses against Tompolo, others

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission has filed fresh 22 charges against an ex-Niger Delta militant leader, Government Ekpemupolo, popularly known as Tompolo, and 12 others.

The charges, which were filed on Friday at a Federal High Court in Lagos, bordered on stealing, advanced fee fraud and money laundering to the tune of N22,765,900,000.

The fresh charges were filed eight days after Justice Ibrahim Buba ordered the arrest of Tompolo for his failure to appear on January 14, 2016 to take his plea on a separate 40 counts of alleged N34bn fraud earlier filed against him and nine others by the EFCC.

In the fresh charges, which had yet to be assigned to any judge, the EFCC listed 25 witnesses that will testify against Tompolo and his 12 co-suspects when the trial begins.

Among the witnesses are seven EFCC investigators, officials of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, officials of the Ministry of Transport, Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development, and officials of the Bureau of Public Procurement.

Also to testify against the suspects are officials of four commercial banks including Access Bank, First Bank, Zenith Bank Plc and United Bank for Africa Plc.

Those to be arraigned alongside Tompolo in the fresh 22 counts is a former Director-General of NIMASA, Patrick Akpobolokemi, whose four brothers – Victor, Nobert, Emmanuel and Clement – who are still at large, were alleged to have aided the suspects to commit the fraud.

The other suspects are Kime Engozu, Josephine Otuaga, Rita Uruakpa and Pondi Kestin.

Also joined as defendants in the charges are seven companies – Mieka Dive Training Institute Ltd/GTE, Oyeinteke Global Network Ltd, Wabod Global Resources Ltd, Boloboere Properties Estate Ltd, Gokaid Marine Oil and Gas Ltd, Muhaabix Global Services Ltd and Watershed Associated Resources.

The suspects were said to have fraudulently converted various sums, running into over N22.7bn, stolen from NIMASA, to their personal use between December 12, 2014 and April 10, 2015.

They were also accused of defrauding the Federal Government by making false representations, which they knew to be untrue, in order to obtain money from the government.

The offences are said to be contrary to Section 8(a) of the Advance Fee Fraud and other Fraud Related Offences Act, 2006 and punishable under Section 1 (3)of the same Act.

The charge sheet, signed by Festus Keyamo, also indicated that the suspects violated various sections of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) (Amendment) Act, 2012 including its sections 15(3) and 18(a) and were liable to punishment under Section 15(3) of the same Act.

The suspects were also said to be liable to punishment under Section 1 (2) (c) of the Miscellaneous Offences Act, Cap. M17, Laws of the Federation, 2004.

In count two, the EFCC alleged that the suspects “between the December 2, 2014 and April 10, 2015 in Lagos, within the jurisdiction of this court, with intent to defraud, induced the Federal Government of Nigeria to deliver to you, the aggregate sum of N11, 900,000,000.00 by falsely pretending to the Federal Government of Nigeria that all that land and its appurtenances lying, being and situate at the Mieka Dive Training Institute, Kurutie, Warri South-West Local Government Area of Delta State, to be acquired by NIMASA for the temporary Campus of the Nigerian Maritime University, Okerenkoko, Warri South-West Local Government Area, is free from any encumbrances, which representation you knew to be false, and you thereby committed an offence contrary to Section (1) (b) of the Advance Fee Fraud and other Fraud Related Offences Act, 2006 and punishable under Section 1 (3)of the same Act.”

Akpobolokemi is scheduled to appear on Friday before Justice Saliu Saidu of a Federal High Court in Lagos, where he was first arraigned on December 3, 2015 alongside nine others on 30 counts of stealing and money laundering to the tune of N3.4bn.

His trial before Justice Buba, where he was arraigned along with five others on December 4, 2015 on 22 counts of alleged N2.6bn fraud, commenced last week with the EFCC calling three witnesses.

The case was adjourned till February 2, 2016.

Akpobolokemi is also scheduled to appear before Justice Buba on February 8, 2016 alongside nine others, including Tompolo, who was ordered to be arrested and produced in court on the hearing date.

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