N75bn Scam: EFCC re-arraigns Hassan Lawal, 13 Others
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, on June 13th , 2011, re-arraigned a former Minister of Works, Hassan Muhammed Lawal and 13 others on a fresh 37 count charge. They were docked at a Federal High Court sitting in Abuja before Justice Adamu Bello. The 14 accused persons are being prosecuted over a N75 billion fraud.
The EFCC had on May 11th , 2011, arraigned the former Minister alongside 14 others on a 24-count charge bordering on fraudulent award of contracts, money laundering and embezzlement amounting to N75.7billion.
Other accused persons re-arraigned with Lawal are : Adeogba Godwin Ademola, Digital Toll Company Ltd; Swede Control Interlink Ltd; Proman Vital Ventures Ltd; Nairda Ltd; Siraj Nigeria Ltd and Wise Health services Ltd. Others are : Dave Enejoh, Okala Philip Yakubu, Thahal Paul, George Elzogbi, Abbey Ayodele, and GIS transport Limited. Lawal and Adesanya Adewole are also been arraigned on another nine count charge of N71 million fraud before the same Justice Bello.
The re-arraignment of the accused persons followed a petition by all his defence counsels in his initial arraignment before Justice Bilikisu Aliyu , asking the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court to withdraw the case from her over alleged bias. The defence counsels therefore moved for a stay of proceedings pending the determination of their petition by the CJ.
As a result, the trial judge adjourned the case to Monday 13th June to allow the CJ take a decision on the petition while she ordered all the eight accused persons remanded in Kuje prison. At the resumed hearing of the case before a new Judge on June 13th, all the 14 accused persons who were in court took a fresh plea as they pleaded not guilty.
A consolidated bail application was thereafter made by lead counsel, Ibrahim Ishaku, SAN, seeking bail on liberal terms. Prosecution counsel, Wahab Shittu opposed the application, praying the court to take into consideration that a similar application was made before a sister court and denied. He therefore urged the court to discountenance the application for bail and remand the accused persons in prison custody.
In response to the arguments canvassed by both parties, Justice Bello adjourned the case till Tuesday, June 14th , 2011, for ruling on the applications . He however said that all the accused persons be remanded in EFCC custody.
Lawal and his co-travellers are being tried over charges bordering on awarding contracts to non-existing companies; award of contracts to companies without financial and infrastructural muscles to deliver; contract splitting, contracts duplication to same companies and fraudulent crediting of his personal account with government monies not earned.
Count one of the 37 count charge reads: “That you, Dr. Adeogba Godwin Ademola, 'M', while being the Managing Director of Swede Control Interlink limited, sometimes between 2006 and 2009, in Abuja within the jurisdiction of the Federal High Court, conspired to fraudulently obtain, with intent to convert, the sum of N24, 360,000, 000.00 (Twenty-Four Billion, Three Hundred and Sixty Million Naira) being proceeds of an illegal act to wit: with aim of concealing its illicit origin and thereby ommitted an offence contrary to Section 17 (1) (a) of the Money laundering (Prohibition Act) 2004 and also punishable under Section 14 (1) of the same Act.
Count three reads that “You, Dr. Hassan Lawal, 'M', while being the Minister of Works of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Okala Philip Yakubu, 'M' Thahal Paul, 'M', Dr. Adeogha Godwin Ademola 'M', Digital Toll Company Limited, Swedes Control Interlink Limited, Proman Vital Ventures Ltd, between 2006 and 2009, in Abuja within the jurisdiction of the Federal High Court, conspired among yourselves to defraud the Federal Government of Nigeria of the sum of N3, 000, 000,000.00 (Three Billion naira), being an illegal act, with the aim of concealing the illicit origin of the said sum and thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 17 (A) of the money Laundering (Prohibition) Act 2004 and punishable under Section 14 of the same Act.”