By JACOB KUBEKA
Justice Gabriel Kolawole of the Federal High Court in Abuja yesterday fixed November 25 for the re-arraignment of the former Head of Service to the Federation, HoS, Mr. Stephen Oronsaye and others.
Kolawole fixed the date after the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, filed fresh money laundering case against Oronsaye and other defendants.
On July 13, the anti-graft agency arraigned the former Head of Service to the Federation and one Fredrick Hamilton Global Services Limited and its Managing Director, Osarenkhoe Afe, on 24 counts of money laundering involving about N1.2bn.
Kolawole had on July 21 granted bail to Oronsaye on self-recognition and to the co-defendant, Afe, in the sum of N50m with two sureties among other conditions.
Orasanye and the other accused persons allegedly conspired to defraud the Federal Government to the tune of N118,992,201.6 under the pretext of money paid in installment for the contract of biometric data capture project between March 2010 and December 2011.
The defendants were said to have committed the fraud by awarding and payment for phoney contracts to nine companies, including Innovative Solutions, Fredrick Hamilton Global Serices, Xangee Technologies Limited, Fatideck Ventures, Obalando Nigeria Enterprises, Moshfad Enterprises and Fesbee Global Resources Limited.
Other companies through which the accused persons allegedly siphoned the money from the Federal Government are Jolance Integrated Concept Limited and M.OF Investment Limited, while of those involved in the fraud, Abdulrasheed Maina, was said to be on the run.
The defendants were charged under section 14 of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2004 and section 1(1) of the Advance Fee Fraud and Other Fraud Related Offences Act, 2006.
The fraud offences were said to be punishable under section 1(3) of the Advance Fee Fraud and Other Fraud Related Offences Act, 2006.
However when trial was due to commence on Tuesday, the prosecuting counsel, Adebisi Adeniyi told the judge that the prosecution had amended the earlier 24 counts dated July 10, 2015.
The prosecution filed 11 additional counts making a total of 35 counts with three additional defendants in the new charges dated November 2.
In addition to Oronsaye, Afe and Fredrick Hamilton Global Services Limited, the new defendants in the newly filed charges are corporate organisations who had not been served with the fresh charges, they include, Global Services Limited, Cluster Logistic Limited, Kangolo Dynamic Cleaning Limited, Crew Investment & Construction Company Limited.
Ruling on the matter, Justice Kolawole, who dismissed the objection by Oronsaye’s lawyer, Ade Okeaya-Inneh’s argument that the leave of the court was not sought by the prosecution before filing the amended charges, stressed that the charges were properly filed.
However Afe’s lawyer, Oluwole Aladedoye, did not object to the filing of the fresh charges.
Justice Kolawole however, noted that the filing of the fresh charges less than 24 hours to the trial date was an untidy manner of prosecution, adding that the fresh charges appeared to be products of belated investigation carried out after the original defendants were arrested and charged to court.
“I am only concerned that the state only realized in less than 24 hours to the date of hearing that it needed to bring an amended charge by not only increasing the counts from 24 in the original charge to 35 in the amended charge and to increase the number of counts from three to six.
“This is, in my view, a rather untidy manner in handling criminal prosecution. I daresay that it is in force with opinion expressed by the honourable Chief Justice of Nigeria that prosecution of corruption cases are often delayed because the investigation is often driven by arrest-led investigation rather than investigation-led arrest.
“By this, it seems that it was after the defendants herein were arrested and charged to court that investigation carried out showed that the state needs to bring charges against three other defendants and increase the number of counts,” Justice Kolawole stated.