Nigeria: Obiano Pleads Not Guilty to N4bn Money Laundering Charge

A former Governor of Anambra State, Willie Obiano, on Wednesday pleaded not guilty to the nine-count charge of money laundering preferred against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

He was arraigned before Justice Inyang Ekwo of the Federal High Court in Abuja.

According to the charge, the former governor was said to have moved the total sum of N4,008,573,350, from the state’s security votes into different private bank accounts.

The offences were said to have been committed between March 2014 and March 2022.

When the charges were read to him upon his arraignment on Wednesday, the former governor pleaded not guilty to all the nine-count criminal charge.

Responding, the counsel to the prosecution, Mr Slyvanus Tahir (SAN), prayed the court to remand the governor in custody pending the commencement of trial.

However, Obiano’s lawyer, Onyechi Ikpeazu (SAN), objected to the remand request on the grounds that he had filed an application for the bail of his client which had been served on the prosecution.

Confirming service of the bail application, Tahir also admitted that the defendant has been on administration bail, granted by the commission.

Subsequently, Justice Ekwo adopted all the conditions of the administrative bail that the anti-graft agency had granted the former governor.

The conditions, as enumerated by the prosecution, included that the defendant provides two sureties who are directors in the civil service with landed property.

The judge asked the EFCC to transfer Obiano’s international passport to the court within seven days of making the order and that he was not to travel outside the country without the permission of the court.

The judge also asked the registrar of the court to inform the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) that Obiano’s international passport was now with the court.

Following concerns from the prosecuting counsel, the court also said that it would verify the residential addresses of Obiano’s sureties.

Justice Ekwo adjourned the matter until March 4, 5, 6 and 7 for trial.

Some of the counts read: “That you, Chief Willie Maduabuchi Obiano, whilst being the executive governor of Anambra State of Nigeria between March 2014 – March 2022, sometime between 7th February, 2018 to 18th February, 2019 in Abuja, within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court, indirectly transferred through Mr Willie Nwokoye, your then principal private secretary, the sum of N156,800.00 only from the Anambra State Government Security Vote Account into an belonging to C.I. Patty Ventures Nigeria Limited (an entity that had no business relationship with the Anambra State Government), which funds were dissipated for purposes unrelated / unconnected with the security affairs of Anambra State, which you reasonably ought to have known that such funds formed part of the proceeds of your unlawful act, to wit: (Stealing and Corruption) and you thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 15 (2) (b) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2011 (as amended) in 2012 and punishable under Section 15 (3) of the same Act.

“That you, Chief Willie Maduabuchi Obiano, whilst being the executive governor of Anambra State of Nigeria between March 2014 — March 2022, sometime between 9th August, 2017 to 4th March, 2020 in Abuja, within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court, indirectly transferred through Mr Willie Nwokoye, your then principal private secretary, the sum of N261,268,585.00 only from the Anambra State Government Security Vote to another country belonging to Easy Diamond Integrated Link (an entity that had no business relationship with the Anambra State Government), which funds were dissipated for purposes unrelated / unconnected with the security affairs of Anambra State, which you reasonably ought to have known that such funds formed part of the proceeds of your unlawful act, to wit: (Stealing and Corruption) and you thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 15 (2) (b) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2011 (as amended) in 2012 and punishable under Section 15 (3) of the same Act.”

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