The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, yesterday arraigned the trio of Helyn Aninye, Chizobam Ben-Okafor and Pon-Specialised Services Limited before an Abuja High Court on an 18-count charge of conspiracy to defraud the Federal Government of a whopping N1.4 billion.
They had attempted to defraud the government by falsely claiming that the sum represented subsidy accruing to Pon-Specialised Services Limited under the Petroleum Support Fund for the importation of 15,000 MT of Premium Motor Spirit Their counsel, Lagos lawyer, Mr Olisa Agbakoba (SAN), had made spirited move to stop their arraignment.
The accused persons however pleaded not guilty to the charge when it was eventually read to them yesterday. But moment after their plea was taken; Agbakoba (SAN) asked the court to grant them bail. He told the court that the accused persons had been granted administrative bail by the EFCC and that they would be available to face their trial. Justice Goodluck granted the accused persons bail in the sum of N5 million each and two sureties in like sum.
The judge directed that the sureties should be directors in a Federal Government ministry/parastatal or in a company established to the satisfaction of the court with a verifiable registered office within the Federal Capital Territory. The sureties must possess landed property and be resident within the jurisdiction of the court. They are also to deposit their international passport with the court registrar.
Saturday Mirror reports that before yesterday, Agbakoba (SAN) had aborted on several occasions, through various applications, their arraignment. For instance, in November 2012, when the EFCC first sought to arraign the accused persons, Agbakoba, a human right lawyer and activist, told the court that there was no prima facie case against the accused persons and so they could not be arraigned. He argued that the proof of evidence failed to disclose any offence against the accused persons.
His words: “My lord, assuming there are offences to be disclosed, they have not in any way been linked to the applicants, and these links must have a prima facie element to the accused persons,” he told the court.
Adebola Sobowale, who also held brief for Agbakoba, engaged the court with series of applications and motions, praying the court not to entertain the charge against the accused. On the April 30, the defence counsel filed a motion praying the court to decline the prosecution leave to prefer charge against the accused persons and to strike out the 18 count charge on the grounds that the charge were incompetent. Also, on May 13, the defendants filed another application praying the court to stay further proceedings on the matter and to quash the charge against them.