N1.4bn subsidy scam: You have a case to answer, court tells suspects

By IKECHUKWU NNOCHIRI

ABUJA—Justice Olasumbo Goodluck of an Abuja High Court, Tuesday, okayed three accused persons, Helyn Aninye, Chizobam Ben-Okafor and Pon-Specialized Services Limited, for trial following their alleged complicity in an N1.4billion subsidy scam.

Consequently, the court struck out an application that was filed by the accused persons, urging it not to grant the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, leave to prosecute them on allegations bothering on fraud, forgery and conspiracy to obtain the sum of N1.413, 507,951.50 from the Federal Government by false pretence as subsidy under the Petroleum Support Fund.

In a ruling, Justice Goodluck, maintained that the accused persons have a case to answer.

According to the judge, “at this stage there is no requirement to consider facts before the court; what is needed is to determine if a prima facie case against the accused persons is established.

“I am of the view that the proof of evidence suggests elements of forgery and obtaining by false pretences and I therefore overrule the objection of the accused persons and hereby grant leave to prosecution to prefer charge against them.”

EFCC alleged that the accused persons had “on or about 3rd day of March, 2011 at Abuja within the Jurisdiction of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja with intent to defraud, conspired to obtain money under false pretence from the Federal Government of Nigeria under the Petroleum Support Fund.”

The offence was said to be contrary to Section 8(a) and punishable under Section 1 (3) of the Advance Fee Fraud and Other Related Offences Act No 14 of 2006.

The accused persons could not be arraigned on November 26, 2012 owing to an application they filed through their counsel Chief Olisa Agbakoba, SAN, who challenged the application of the prosecution for leave of court to prefer charge against them.

It was their contention that the proof of evidence did not disclose any offence against them, an argument that was countered by the EFCC which told the court that it has prepared an 18-count criminal charge against them.

Meantime, the case has been adjourned to May 30, 2013 for arraignment and June 11 and 12, 2013 for trial.

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