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EFCC Arraigns Lawyer Over N6.8M Fraud

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SAN FRANCISCO, Jan 17, (THEWILL) - The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, has, arraigned an Abuja-based legal practitioner, Barrister Amobi Nzelu, over a three count-charge bordering on impersonation and criminal misappropriation of the sum of N6. 8 million before Justice Gabriel Kolawole of the Federal High Court, Abuja

Nzelu who was docked today will be returning to the court on January 26, 2011, for the determination of his bail application.

This followed his plea of not guilty to the three-count-charge necessitating his counsel, Barrister E. Ona, to pray the court to grant his client bail on liberal terms owing to the fact that the accused person has 31 years post call to bar experience.

But EFCC prosecution counsel, Wahab Shittu, filed a 19-paragraph counter affidavit

opposing the bail application. He said the availability of the accused person presenting himself to stand trial is in doubt. “The state has deposed to the fact that the suspect, given the amount of money he has admitted collecting as shown in the proof of evidence and the length of the punishment for the offence, if convicted and the seriousness of such offence for which the accused is standing trial, he is prone to jump bail, if granted,” Shittu added.

Shittu, while also countering the argument of the bail application on the ground of ill-health, said the applicant must show that his state of health needs special medical attention which the authorities may not be able to provide. He therefore urged the court to discountenance the application for bail of the accused.

The presiding judge, Justice Kolawole however adjourned the case till January 26, 2011 to determine the issue of bail as canvassed by both counsel.

Nzelu’s ordeal followed a two- page petition, authored by the Managing Director of Range Multi Universal Limited, Omulu Charles Chimweuba, dated June 14, 2010 and addressed to the Chairman of the EFCC. It is entitled: “Petition against Barrister Amobi Nzelu for Impersonation and fraudulently obtaining the sum of N6. 850 million By False Pretences in the Name of the Nigerian Customs Service.”

The petitioner had alleged that sometime in February 2010, he was introduced to the accused who claimed to be an agent of the Nigerian Customs, with the understanding that he was in a position to assist in their business relationship with the Nigeria Customs Service. “Thereafter, we intimated the suspect of our intention to buy/acquire some containers of goods which he convinced us that he was in a position to help us. Our negotiations progressed smoothly and he eventually demanded that we should give him the sum of N6.850 million being the cost of 2 times 40 ft containers”, the petitioner alleged.

According to the petition, “So far, we have parted with the above sum of money to Amobi Nzelu but the suspect has not been able to deliver his promise to us and has refused to return our money. He has continued to sweet tongue us [sic] with different unbelievable stories. He eventually came up with the story that the supposed containers were no more available for sale, that we should go for and indicate interest in another item. We then informed him of our interest in acquiring trucks which he promised at the same cost of N6.850”.

Count one of the three counts against the accused reads: “That you Barrister Amobi Nzelu while falsely impersonating and representing yourself as an agent of the Nigerian Customs Service, sometimes in February 2010, in Abuja within the jurisdiction of the Federal High Court, acting under the said false pretences of being in a position, as Custom Agent, to influence the purchase and acquisition of 2 x 40 ft container in favour of Messrs Omulu Charles Chimweuba and range Multi Universal Limited, with intent to defraud, fraudulently obtained the sum of N6, 850, 000.00 ( Six million, Eight hundred and fifty thousand Naira only), belonging to Range Multi Universal Limited, being proceeds of an illegal act to wit: Criminal misappropriation with the aim of concealing its illicit origin and thereby committed an offence contrary to section 14(a) of the Money Laundering Act 2004 and punishable under Section 14 (1) of the same Act”.