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N40bn Fraud: EFCC accuses Willie Obiano of evading court as trial stalls

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Obiano pleaded not guilty to the money laundering charges

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, on Thursday at the Federal High Court in Abuja accused former governor of Anambra State, Willie Obiano, of evading court process in the N40 billion alleged fraud charges against him.

Lead counsel to the anti-graft agency and Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN, Sylvanus Tahir, made the accusation at the resumption of the trial of the former governor in the corruption charges against him.

Tahir informed Justice Inyang Edem Ekwo that, in compliance with the order of the Court made on Monday, he filed a counter affidavit to oppose the bid by Obiano to challenge the territorial jurisdiction of the Court to prosecute him.

However, the senior lawyer regretted that, despite his best efforts, he was unable to serve the counter affidavit on the former governor on Wednesday as the court had directed.

He informed the Court that his team was on Wednesday at the Chamber of Dr. Onyechi Ikpeazu, SAN, lead counsel to Obiano, but that the gate to the office was firmly locked.

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Tahir said he personally called two of the defendant lawyers, but he was told they were at a Governorship Election Petitions Tribunal.

The lawyer claimed that due to the circumstances, he was only able to serve the counter affidavit on the defendant inside the courtroom on Thursday.

He asked the court to proceed to hear the motion of the former governor challenging the territorial jurisdiction of the court along with the counter affidavit.

However, Patrick Ikweto, SAN, who represented Obiano at Thursday’s proceedings, confirmed being served and pleaded for an adjournment to enable him to respond to the EFCC’s counter affidavit.

Justice Ekwo granted the request and fixed March 13 for the hearing of Obiano’s motion on territorial jurisdiction.

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The former governor, who served two terms in Anambra State, was arraigned before the court over alleged embezzlement of state funds amounting to N40 billion.

Part of the charge reads, “that Chief Willie Obiano, whilst being the executive governor of Anambra State 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 Account into the account 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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