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Olejeme: Court remands ex-chairman NSITF in EFCC custody, over Alleged public funds diversion

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2 in court for alleged unlawful possession of hemp

An FCT High Court sitting in Jabi on Thursday ordered that the former board chairman of Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF), Ngozi Olejeme, be remanded in the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission’s ( EFCC) custody, until Friday.

The judge, Justice Maryam Hassan gave the order after listening to both counsel submissions on the defendant’s bail application.

She, therefore, directed that the defendant should be in the EFCC’s custody pending the ruling on the application for bail on Friday.

Olejeme is standing trial over an alleged case of criminal conspiracy, abuse of office, diversion of public funds and money laundering.

The offence it was alleged she committed between 2012 and 2015 when she was the board chairman of the NSITF.

The few-count charge bordering on mismanagement, giving false statements, taking a kickback from contracts and diversion of NSITF funds into personal accounts and companies she had an interest in, formed the basis for the defendant’s arraignment.

One of the charges alleged that the funds were diverted through the award of suspicious contracts to proxy companies.

The offence according to prosecution contravened the provisions of sections 8,19 (1) (b) (1), punishable under the Corrupt Practice & other Related Offence Act 2000 and Section 17, (1) (2), 39 of EFCC (Establishment) Act, 2004 and punishable under the same section.

The defendant, however, pleaded not guilty to the charge preferred against her.

With the defendant pleading not guilty, the prosecution counsel, Steve Odiase prayed for a date for hearing to enable the prosecution to prove her case against the defendant.

The defendant counsel, Paul Erokoro, SAN, therefore, informed the court of the bail application dated and filed on Oct.18 before it.

Erokoro submitted that the application was supported by a 20-paragraphs affidavit attached with six Exhibits.

He also informed the court that his client was not a flight risk, as she voluntarily returned to Nigeria when she heard that the prosecution wanted to question her.

Erokoro further stated that his client had been reporting to the Commission’s office as she was questioned and released on bail in 2017.

The counsel equally urged the court to grant his client bail on self-recognisance or in the alternative, in the most liberal terms.

He said the bail application was predicated on medical grounds as the defendant has been diabetic and hypertensive for 30 years.

In addition, the counsel said that the defendant has had four major surgeries in the U.S and South Africa.

He further stated that the defendant four months ago suffered a heart failure and got infected with Covid-19 virus in Sept.

He submitted in addition that the defendant had been scheduled for another follow-up surgery for Nov. in South Africa.

Erokoro said the defendant’s recent medical report from a medical facility stated that she required close medical monitoring as her medical status can lead to a medical emergency.

Odiase, on his part, responded that he was not opposing the bail application, but however, opposed to the granting of bail on self-recognizance as submitted by the defence counsel.

He said that there was no consideration for bail on self-recognizance in Section 165 (1) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act ( ACJA),2015.

He urged the court to grant the defendant bail with reasonable surety.

The court, therefore, adjourned until Friday to rule on the bail application.

 

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Alleged Money Laundering: Court Rejects Binance Executive’s Bail Plea

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Alleged Money Laundering: Court Rejects Binance Executive’s Bail Plea

…As FIRS files amended charge against Binance, Gambary over alleged tax evasion :

A Federal High Court, Abuja, on Friday dismissed a bail application filed by the detained Binance executive, Tigran Gambaryan.

Justice Emeka Nwite, in a ruling, held that based on the affidavit evidence before him, Gambaryan would jump bail if the application was granted.

“I have carefully considered the affidavit evidence before me and I am of the view that the applicant will jump bail if granted bail,” Justice Nwite declared.

However, the judge ordered an accelerated hearing in the trial.

 Justice Nwite had, on April 23, fixed today for the ruling after counsel for the EFCC, Ekele Iheanacho, and Gambaryan’s lawyer, Mark Mordi, SAN, adopted their processes and argued their case against and for the bail plea.

Justice Nwite had ordered the remand of Gambaryan in Kuje Correctional Centre after he pleaded not guilty to the money laundering charges preferred against him by the EFCC.

The EFCC had accused Binance Holdings Limited, Gambaryan and Nadeem Anjarwalla, another agent of the company, of allegedly conspiring amongst themselves to conceal the origin of the financial proceeds of their alleged unlawful activities in Nigeria including $35, 400, 000.

They were alleged to have committed an offence contrary to Section 21 (a) and punishable under Section 18(3) of the Money Laundering (Prevention and Prohibition) Act, 2022, among others.

However, Anjarwalla escaped from lawful custody on March 22 and fled Nigeria for Kenya.

Mordi, on Gambaryan’s behalf, had filed an application seeking an order from the court, to release his client on bail pending the hearing and determination of the substantive case.

Mordi, in the last adjourned date, had argued that the EFCC had failed to produce any credible evidence to oppose his application.

According to him, the complainant’s allegation that Gambaryan was arranging to escape from custody like his colleague was false.

“No exhibit or document is displaying EFCC’s credible intelligence.

But EFCC’s lawyer disagreed with Mordi.

Iheanacho argued that the court would have taken a grave risk by granting the Binance agent bail because he had no attachment to any community in Nigeria or competent person to stand as his surety.

He contended that Gambaryan attempted to apply for a new United States passport while in detention knowing fully well his International passport was seized by the Nigerian state.

The lawyer said he was a flight risk and that if granted bail, he would jump bail like his colleague.

He disagreed with Mordi that the commission had not provided credible evidence that Gambaryan was planning to escape.

He said going by the deposition in their counter affidavit, the deponent was one of the investigative teams that investigated the case.

He urged the court to dismiss the bail application.

In the alternative, he advised the court to return the applicant to EFCC custody if the judge decided to grant him bail.

In another development, the  Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) has filed an amended four-count charge against Binance Holdings Limited and its executive, Tigran Gambaryan, on alleged tax evasion.

FIRS lawyer, Moses Ideho, made this known on Friday before Justice Emeka Nwite of a Federal High Court, Abuja.

Ideho informed the court that following the escape of Nadeem Anjarwalla from lawful custody, the agency deemed it necessary to amend the charge to properly reflect Anjarwalla’s position in the instant charge, as being at large.

“We apply to substitute our charge dated 22nd of March, 2024 with an amended charge dated 17th of May, 2024.

“We apply that the charge be read to the 1st and 2nd defendants (Binance and Gambaryan) to take their plea,” he prayed

But counsel for Binance, Chukwuka Ikwuazo, SAN, who also appeared for Gambaryan, opposed to Ideho’s application that the fresh charge be read to his clients.

Ikwuazo argued that the charge was just being filed this morning and he was yet to see it to consult with his clients to prepare for their defence.

Justice Nwite subsequently adjourned the matter until May 22 for arraignment.

Earlier, the judge, in a ruling, ordered that the FIRS serve the company (1st defendant) through Gambaryan (2nd defendant) the charge in the matter.

Justice Nwite held that Gambaryan, being the Binance Chief Financial Compliant Officer, ought to be served with the charge as the company’s representative in Nigeria in accordance with the law.

He discounted the argument of Ikwuazo that Gambaryan was neither a director, secretary or chief agent of the crypto-currency firm.

It was reported that the court had fixed their arraignment for April 4.

However, the arraignment could not proceed due to the inability of FIRS to effect service of the charge on the defendants.

The defendants are being charged on four counts bordering on alleged tax evasion in the charge marked: FHC/ABJ/CR/115/2024.

In the charge dated and filed March 22 by the FIRS, the defendants were alleged to have committed the offence on or about Feb. 1.

Count one alleged that while involved in carrying and offering services to subscribers on their platform, known as Binance, failed to register with the FIRS, to pay all relevant taxes administered by the service.

The offences are said to be punishable under Sections 8 and 29 of the VAT Act of 1993 (as Amended), Section 40 of the FIRS Establishment Act, 2007 (as amended) and under provisions of Section 94 of the Companies Income Tax Act 

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Trader Docked For Allegedly Cheating Friend Of N42,000

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Trader Docked For Allegedly Cheating Friend Of N42,000

The lesson of honesty as the best policy came to the fore on Friday, as a 35-year-old trader, Auwalu Nura was docked in a Kano Sharia Court, for allegedly cheating his friend of just N42,000.

The police charged Nura who lives in Rimin Kebe Quarters, Kano with criminal breach of trust, cheating and mischief.

The prosecutor, Insp Abdullahi Wada told the court that the complainant, Muhammed Abba, who also resides in Rimin Kebe Quarters, reported the matter at the Fagge Police Station in Kano, on May 10.

Wada said that the complainant entrusted the defendant with N42,000 to help him buy a cellphone.

The police said that the defendant dishonestly converted the money to his personal use.

The prosecutor further told the court that when the complainant asked the defendant about his money, the defendant could not give a satisfactory answer and efforts made to get the money, failed.

The prosecutor said the offence contravened the provisions of Sections 202 and  206 of the Penal Code.

The defendant, however, pleaded not guilty to the charge.

The Judge, Malam Ismai’l Muhammad-Ahmed, admitted the defendant to bail in the sum of N20,000 with one surety.

Muhammed-Ahmed adjourned the matter until June 4, for further mention.

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Court Remands Ex-Oyo PMS Chairman, Auxiliary, Over Alleged Murder

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Court Remands Ex-Oyo PMS Chairman, Auxiliary, Over Alleged Murder

…parade ex-Oyo PMS Chairman, Auxiliary, over armed robbery

An Iyaganku Chief Magistrates’ Court, Ibadan, has remanded the former Chairman, Park Management System (PMS) in Oyo State, Mukaila Lamidi, (a.k.a Auxiliary) at Agodi Correctional Centre over alleged murder.

Chief Magistrate Olabisi Ogunkanmi ordered the remand of the 63-year-old defendant due to lack of jurisdiction.

Ogunkanmi said the remand was pending the issuance of legal advice from the state Director of Public Prosecution (DPP).

She, thereafter, adjourned the matter till July 11, for mention.

The defendant, who was represented by Mr Tope Olayinka, was charged with a four-count charge bordering on conspiracy, causing death and stealing.

CSP Funke Fawole, Officer-in-Charge, Legal Department of the Police, Oyo State Command, had earlier told the court that Lamidi and others now at large allegedly conspired to commit the offences.

Fawole said, “On June 16, 2021, at about 3.30 p.m., Lamidi and others now at large allegedly caused the death of one Azeez Rahman Abiodun, 36, by stabbing him with a knife in the chest.

“On June 16, 2021, the defendant and others allegedly conspired and stole assorted phones valued at N150 million, property of Azeez Hammed Adebayo”.

The offences, she said, were committed at Baba-Onilu Shopping Complex, Iwo Road area of Ibadan.

She said the offence was contrary to Sections 383 and 316 and punishable under Sections 319, l1l, 390 (9), 324 and 516 of the Criminal Code Laws of Oyo State 2000.

In the meantime, the Police Command in Oyo State, on Thursday, paraded the former Oyo State Park Management System (PMS), Mukaila Lamidi, popularly known as Auxiliary, over alleged murder, armed robbery and kidnapping.

The Commissioner of Police, Adebola Hamzat, while briefing newsmen at the command’s headquarters in Ibadan, said that the command had, on June 2, 2023, declared Lamidi wanted.

Hamzat listed the offences committed by the former PMS chairman to include: murder, attempted murder, arms dealing, armed robbery and kidnapping.

He said that the suspect was declared wanted in furtherance of a well-coordinated intelligence-led raid by the police on May 30 and May 31, 2023, on the suspect’s Diamond Hotel residence at Alakia, where 78 suspects were arrested and weapons recovered.

According to him, the exhibits recovered from the suspect’s residence and hotel include two SMG riffles with two magazines, one AK-47 rifle, One Pump action riffle, nine locally-made pistols and two English pistols with magazines.

Others were: 70 rounds of AK-47 ammunition, 338 pieces of live cartridges, 62 expended, 13 pieces of 9-mm ammunition, nine jack knives, three axes and 400 pieces of long cutlasses, among others.

Hamzat said that the suspect was recently arrested due to the collaborative efforts of the police and other sister security agencies in the state.

“Furtherance of these, discreet intelligence-led search commenced for the sacked PMS chieftain, with the help of technology, collaborative efforts with sister services and community policing.

“Many locations were identified, traced and combed for months until his recent arrest in a concerted effort with our sister services,” he said.

Hamzat said the suspect would be charged in court for the offences committed.
He thanked the public for providing credible information to curb crime in the state.

Hamzat pledged the command’s commitment to dealing with any criminally motivated individual or group intending to flip the state retrogressively into the historical dark ages of the “Wild Wild West”. 

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