- Ex-governor of Abia state, Orji Kalu, and his co-defendants, have been re-arraigned before a Federal High Court in Lagos
- The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission re-arraigned them on Tuesday, July 17
- The defendants' charges were also amended from 34 to 39
A former governor of Abia state, Orji Kalu, has been re-arraigned by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) over alleged fraud of N7.65 billion.
Kalu was on Tuesday, July 17, arraigned before a Federal High Court in Lagos alongside his company, Slok Nigeria Limited, and his former director of finance and account when he was governor of the state.
The re-arraignment of the defendants followed an amendment to the charges filed against them 11 years ago, Punch reports.
NAIJ.com gathers that with the amendment, the number of charges against the defendants were increased from 34 to 39 and the amount quoted in the alleged fraud was increased from 2.9 billion to N7.65 billion.
According to the prosecuting counsel for the EFCC, Rotimi Jacobs, the charges were amended after new facts emerged from 19 witnesses who had testified against the defendants.
Justice Mohammed Idris on Tuesday, July 17, dismissed the objection raised by the defence counsel to the amended charge sheet, paving the way for the re-arraignment of Kalu and his co-defendants.
One of the charge stated that Kalu “did procure Slok Nigeria Limited - a company solely owned by you and members of your family - to retain in its account, domiciled with the then Inland Bank Plc, Apapa branch, Lagos, an aggregate sum of N7,197,871,208.7 on your behalf.”
According to the prosecution, the N7.1bn “formed part of the funds illegally derived from the treasury of the Abia state government and which was converted into several bank drafts before they were paid into the said company’s account.”
Kalu and his co-defendants also allegedly stole a total of N460m from the Abia state government treasury between July and December 2002.
Udeogu, Slok Nigeria Limited, one Emeka Abone, said to be on the run, and Michael Udo, who is also on the run, were accused of collaborating with Kalu to conceal the “genuine origin” of allegedly stolen funds.
Kalu, Udeogu and Slok Nigeria Limited, however, pleaded not guilty when the charges were read to them.
Granting the request of their counsel, Justice Idris allowed the defendants to continue with the bail granted them 11 years ago when they were first arraigned.
The defendants' lawyers prayed the court to adjourn the case so as to enable them to file a reply to the 126-page document written to them by the prosecutor in response to the no-case submission they had filed on behalf of their clients.
Recall that the no-case submission was filed since May, 2018 when the prosecution closed its case after calling a total of 19 witnesses to prove the charges. The prayer was granted by the trial judge, who then adjourned the case till July 25, 2018 for further proceedings.
Meanwhile, NAIJ.com previously reported that Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa, the president of the Court of Appeal, had directed that the alleged N2.9 billion fraud case of former Abia state governor, Orji Kalu, must be concluded before the end of September 2018.
The trial judge, Justice Mohammed Idris, said this on Monday, July 16, at the resumed proceedings in the case at the Federal High Court in Lagos.
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