N2bn Fraud: Oronsaye's Trial Begins October 28, Court Orders Release From Custody
SAN FRANCISCO, July 13, (THEWILL) – Justice Gabriel Kolawole of the Federal High Court, Abuja, Monday fixed the trial of a former Head of Service, HoS, Mr. Stephen Oronsaye, and two others who were brought before it by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, on a 24-count charge bordering on stealing and obtaining money by false pretence for October 28, 29; November 3, 5 and December 2, 2015 respectively.
Oronsaye, who is alleged to have been complicit in several contract awards during his tenure as HoS is being charged along with Osarenkhoe Afe. They are alleged to have committed the fraudulent transactions between 2010 and 2011, using two companies – Fredrick Hamilton Global Services Limited, and Xangee Technologies Limited, for shady biometrics enrolment deals to the tune of N2 billion.
A third accused person, Abdulrasheed Maina, former Chairman of the Pension Task Team is currently on the run.
One of the counts reads in part: “That you Stephen Oronsaye, Abdulrasheed Abdullahi Maina (now at large) Osarenkhoe Afe and Fredrick Hamilton Global Services Limited on or about 2nd July, 2010 in Abuja, within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court collaborated in disguising genuine nature of the sum of N161,472,000 derived from an illegal act wit, conducting procurement fraud by means of fraudulent and corrupt action the contract extension of biometric enrolment purportedly awarded to Innovative Solutions Limited by the Office of the Head of Service of the Federation without following due process and you thereby committed an offence punishable under Section 14 (1) (b) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2004.”
Another count reads: “That you Stephen Oronsaye, Abdulrasheed Abdullahi Maina (now at large) and Xangee Technologies Limited (now facing another charge) between July and December 2011 in Abuja, within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court, collaborated in disguising genuine nature of the sum of N153,146,719.99 derived from an illegal act to wit; conducting procurement fraud by means of fraudulent and corrupt action the contract of biometric enrolment purportedly awarded to Xangee Technologies Limited by the Office of the Head of Service of the Federation without following due process and you thereby committed an offence punishable under Section 14 (1) (b) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2004.”
They both pleaded not guilty when the charges were read to them.
Following their plea, counsel to EFCC, Aliyu Yusuf, asked the court for a date for commencement of trial, and to remand the accused persons in prison custody. He also notified the court that the prosecution had 18 witnesses it intended to present during the trial.
However, Kanu Agabi, SAN, counsel to Oronsaye, while expressing readiness for the trial to commence, gave an oral application for bail noting that the defence wanted “a speedy end to the matter.”
He further argued that constitutionally, his client was presumed “innocent until proven guilty”. He told that court that he had also filed a formal bail application with the court.
Oluwole Aladedoye, counsel to Afe, who also represented the third accused, Fredrick Hamilton Global Services Limited, also gave an oral application for bail, aligning himself with the argument of Agabi. He informed the court that he had also filed a formal bail application.
Yusuf, however, told the court that he received the application late and needed to file a counter-affidavit. He further stressed that the EFCC would not be able to accommodate the accused persons, urging the court to order that they be remanded in prison custody.
Justice Kolawole, thereafter, fixed July 21, 2015 for hearing on the bail applications filed by counsel to the accused persons. In his ruling, the judge said, “I hereby decline oral bail application and it shall be formal to provide a level playing ground, as it must be based on the materials placed before the court.” He urged Yusuf to avail the court of his counter-affidavit on or before Wednesday, July 15, 2015.
The judge, thereafter, released the accused persons on “the strength of their counsel, who must sign an undertaking within the next 48 hours, that the accused persons shall return to court on the said date fixed for the hearing of the bail applications.”
He added that: “I have no doubt that the primary place of remand is the prison, but this is not the case in all instances.”