Mr. Mauro Zanin
Ike Abonyiand Damilola Ayodele
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) yesterday announced the death of a 52-year-old Italian suspected fraudster, Mr. Mauro Zanin, in its custody.
He was scheduled to be taken to court today but was reportedly found motionless in the bathroom of the commission’s detention facility in Abuja at about 4.50a.m.
A statement by its spokesman, Wilson Uwujaren, said the Italian might have committed suicide using his bed sheet.
According to the Commission all efforts by the duty officers and a team of EFCC medical personnel led by Dr. Gideon Osi of the Commission’s Medical Unit, to revive him with cardiopulmonary resuscitation proved futile. He was subsequently certified dead at about 5.45a.m.
Notwithstanding that all clues pointed to suicide, the commission said the matter had been reported to the Nigeria Police station, Maitama for investigation.
The deceased was arrested by officials of the Nigerian Immigration Service following a complaint by one Ahamefula Chibuzor Ewuzie that he fraudulently obtained the sum of $111,000 from Gladwaters Nigeria Limited, and transferred to the Commission on May 30, for further investigation.
The Commission had filed a five count charge against him in court and got today as hearing date. He was served the court papers to prepare his defence Tuesday.
His arrest was officially communicated to the Italian Embassy on May 31, 2012. The same day, the suspect was granted provisional bail, but he could not get a surety to take him on bail.
While in detention, Zanin was visited on May 30, by Mr. Nicola Bazzani, First Secretary and Deputy Head of Mission at the Italian Embassy, and regularly by his lawyer, Mr.Ugochukwu Onyejiuto.
“It is important to say that I took this matter pro bono, with the hope that he will pay my fees when he is free. I was spending my money feeding him… to my amazement; he refused to let his family know what was going on. He has a 30 year-old son who is a lawyer in Italy but he was always telling them all was well,” Onyejiuto said.
Zanin allegedly took his own life a day to his scheduled arraignment. He was supposed to be arraigned before the Federal High Court (5) in Abuja on Wednesday, June 20, 2012.
Dr. Mma Wokocha, the complainant, expressed shock at the news of the death of the suspect, wondering how she would recover the huge sums of money obtained from her by the deceased.
However, she absolved the Commission of any blame in the death of the suspect. ”Nobody should blame the EFCC. The Commission has done what it has to do, you cannot blame the EFCC...there was total human care for this guy,” she said.
The deceased was alleged to have obtained the money from Wokocha under the guise of selling used Dredger Italgraghe SGT 200 to them, to execute some dredging contract in the Niger Delta.
The suspect sent them a Bill of Laden but their long wait for the ship, MSC Trinidad to berth was futile. Unknown to the complainant the Bill of Laden was forged as the ship indicated had ceased to exist long before they ever met the deceased three years ago.
The remains of the suspect have been deposited at the mortuary awaiting an autopsy.
Meanwhile THISDAY attempt to get the reaction of the Italian embassy in Abuja was not successful as the Ambassador; Mr. Roberto Colamine is currently away on his annual vacation and would return at the end of the month.
The Deputy, Mr. Nicola Bazzani was said to be “out of town and cannot be reached on his mobile number”.
An official of the embassy who asked not to be name however confirmed that the embassy is aware of the unfortunate incident. “But only the Ambassador or his Deputy can make an official statement on this,” the official said.