Ade Adesomoju, Abuja
A Federal High Court in Abuja has fixed April 3 for the arraignment of some of the defendants named in the $1.1bn Malabu oil scam.
Two of the three cases filed by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission in relation to the scam have been assigned to Justice John Tsoho of the Federal High Court in Abuja.
The third case was filed before the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory in Abuja.
But our correspondent learnt on Sunday that the April 3 arraignment of the defendants before the Federal High Court would not go on as scheduled because of the unavailability of many of the defendants.
“With what is on the ground today, the cases may only be mentioned that day. There can’t be an arraignment of the defendants,” an EFCC source told our correspondent on Sunday.
Another source at the EFCC had confided in our correspondent on Saturday that the prosecution might apply for arrest warrants against some of the defendants who were suspected to be in Nigeria.
It was also learnt that after mentioning the case for the first time in court, the anti-graft agency would commence the process of extraditing other suspects, who are abroad, by liaising with the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice.
On Sunday, another EFCC official confirmed to our correspondent that Justice Tsoho had fixed March 23 for the arraignment of the defendants named in the two sets of charges marked, FHC/ABJ/CR/268/2016 and FHC/ABJ/CR/39/2017.
In fact, the two cases were said to have been listed among those heard by the judge on March 23.
The source explained that the EFCC had, before the date, written to the court asking for a postponement due to the difficulty in bringing the suspects to court.
“So, the commission’s lawyers did not bother to go to court on March 23 but have since discovered that the court fixed April 3 for the arraignment of the defendants,” the source said.
The EFCC had alleged that over $1.1bn fraudulently exchanged hands in alleged shady transactions over the highly lucrative Nigerian oil well, Oil Prospecting Licence 245, said to have been originally offered to Malabu Oil and Gas Ltd by the General Sani Abacha junta under controversial circumstances in 1998.
The EFCC, on December 21, 2016, charged nine suspects, including the immediate-past former Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Mr. Bello Adoke (SAN), and others before the Federal High Court in Abuja with respect to the $1.1bn scam.
Other accused persons named in the case were a former Minister of Petroleum, Dan Etete; Aliyu Abubakar, Malabu Oil & Gas Ltd, Rocky Top Resource Ltd, Imperial Union Ltd, Novel Properties & Dev. Co. Ltd, Group Construction Ltd and Megatech Engineering Ltd.
The anti-graft agency, in the case with charge number FHC/ABJ/CR/268/2016, accused Adoke of illegally transferring over $800m purportedly meant for the purchase of the OPL 245 to Etete, Malabu Oil & Gas Limited from a Federal Government account.
The EFCC also accused Aliyu, a businessman, who is the Chairman of A. A. Group and Rocky Top Services, of receiving $336,456,906.78.
Another case, FHC/ABJ/CR/39/2017, instituted before the Federal High Court in Abuja on March 2, 2017 has Adoke and Abubakar (of AA Oil) as defendants.
The two defendants were accused of engaging in money laundering involving $2,267,400 in September 2013.
The third case filed before the FCT High Court with charge number CR/124/2017 has 11 defendants, including Adoke, Etete, Shell, Agip and Eni.
Others are Aliyu Abubakar (of AA Oil Ltd), Malabu Oil and Gas Ltd, a director of Shell, Ralph Wetzels and three Italian directors of Agip Exploration Ltd – Casula Roberto, Putatti Stefeno and Burrafato Sebastiano.
Specifically, the defendants were charged with conspiracy and official corruption in relation to their alleged acceptance of $801m from the oil companies with regard to the grant of OPL 245.
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