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Nnamani’s lawyer stalls N4.5bn money laundering trial

The trial of former governor of Enugu State, Chimaroke Nnamani, for alleged money laundering charges involving about N4.5bn, was on Wednesday stalled before a Federal High Court, Lagos.

The matter, which is before Justice Mohammed Yinusa, was adjourned till June 17, 2014, because Nnamani’s lawyer, Mr. Abubakar Shamshudeen, objected to the commencement of the trial.

Nnamani is being prosecuted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission alongside seven others on 105 counts of money laundering.

The offences were allegedly committed while Nnamani was the governor of the state between 1999 and 2007.

The accused allegedly drew part of the money from the funds meant for some local government areas of the state. Part of the funds were allegedly kept in Nnamani’s account in the United States.

The other accused are, Sunday Anyaogu, Rainbownet (Nig) Ltd, Hillgate (Nig) Ltd, Cosmos Fm, Capital City Automobile (Nig) Ltd, Renaissance University Teaching Hospital and Mea Mater Elizabeth High School.

Shamshudeen insisted on Wednesday that the matter was adjourned till Wednesday for mention and not for trial to commence.

Counsel for the EFCC, Mr. Kevin Uzozie, who had urged the court to allow the prosecution to open trial, maintained that criminal cases were never adjourned for mention.

“With my little understanding, criminal cases are never for mention,” he said.

The judge acceded to the request of the defence counsel and subsequently adjourned till June 17.

Yinusa had on April 17, 2013 granted Nnamani permission to travel to the United States on health grounds.

The April 17 permission was the fifth granted to the former governor in a case instituted by the EFCC in 2007.

On May 16, 2013, Nnamani was absent from court despite expiration of the leave to travel.

The permission was further extended till May 28, 2013, and the matter subsequently adjourned till September 25, 2013. The accused was absent from court on both occasions.

On December 12, 2013, the proceedings did not go on as the judge was said to be attending a conference elsewhere.

Shamsudeen told the court on Wednesday that the agreement he had with the prosecuting counsel on December 12, when the judge was absent from court, was for the matter to be adjourned for mention.

Three judges had previously handled the matter before Yinusa.

EFCC alleged that Nnamani conspired with the other accused persons to commit money laundering offences involving various statutory allocations of some local government areas of Enugu State.

The local government areas  were said to be, Aninri, Enugu South, Agwu, Igbo Etiti and Isi Uzor.

He was also accused of stealing N1.4bn from the Excess Crude Oil Funds allocated to local governments in the state.

EFCC also alleged that the former governor, through the help of one Chinero Nwigwe, who is now at large, fraudulently transferred millions of dollars of Enugu State funds, to his personal accounts in the United States.

The alleged offences were said to have contravened the provisions of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2004.

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