- Says freezing of suspects bank accounts backed by law
Senator Iroegbu in Abuja and Christopher Isiguzo in Enugu
For the second time in a week, the former Governor of Enugu State, Sullivan Chime, yesterday kept an appointment with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in continuation of the ongoing investigations into the $115million (N23billion) allegedly disbursed by a former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani Alison-Madueke, during in the course of the 2015 presidential election.
Chime had been questioned by officials of the anti-graft agency at its South-east zonal office in Enugu last week Wednesday.
The questioning was reportedly centred on how he handled the N450 million that he received.
Apart from the former governor who was sighted at the commission’s office located at the Independence Layout, Enugu, other notable chieftains of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) including former party chairman, Ikeje Asogwa, the chairman of the party’s 2015 campaign organisation, Chief Charles Egumgbe were also seen coming out of the EFCC’s office.
The party leaders were linked to the said N450 million.
The Secretary of the 2015 Campaign organisation and Commissioner under Chime, Rita Mbah, was however not sighted at the commission’s office.
Chime had arrived the EFCC zonal office in a black Ford sports utility vehicle with Enugu registration number, CV 950 ENU, at about 10:58 am, and left about 13 minutes afterwards.
In the same way, his other colleagues, Asogwa and Egumgbe left separately later.
Neither Chime nor Asogwa spoke with journalists, but Egumgbe who managed to crack some jokes with some journalists around, congratulated him for “coming out of the place without being detained” simply said “I’m happy to be out” and left in his black sport utility vehicle (SUV).
Efforts to get an official of the commission to speak with the media on what transpired while Chime and the two other PDP leaders who were with him failed as none elected to speak.
However, sources told THISDAY that Chime and others had already been granted administrative bail during their earlier interrogation but only kept to the terms of their bail to maintain constant contact with the commission by coming to the commission’s office from time to time.
THISDAY checks revealed that Chime had during his earlier interrogation, reportedly denied personally disbursing the N450million.
Meanwhile, the anti-graft agency yesterday defended the recent freezing of the bank accounts of suspects under investigation, saying the action was backed by law.
The Head, Media and Public Relations of the commission, Wilson Uwujaren, stated this while responding to the interest generated by the action of the commission in freezing the accounts of suspects that were investigated or are currently being investigated.
Uwujaren said some commentators had tended to ascribe vindictive motives to the action, adding that the clarification was needed to prevent misinformation, and explain the reason behind the commission’s actions in this regard.
According to him, “Freezing of accounts suspected to have been used for perpetration of financial crimes is a mandatory investigative step backed by law.”
Indeed, he said, Section 34 (1) of the EFCC Act 2004 empowers the commission to free any account suspected of being used for financial crimes.”
The EFCC spokesman said the “section stipulates that the chairman of the commission or any officer authorised by him may, if satisfied that the money in the account of a person is made through the commission of an offence under this Act or any enactment specified under Section 6(2) (a)-(f) of this Act, apply to the Court ex-parte for power to issue or instruct a bank examiner or such other appropriate authority to freeze the account.”
Also, he said a provision in the Money Laundering Prohibition Act 2012 (as amended) also empowers the EFCC Chairman or his representatives to place a stop order on any account or transaction suspected to be involved in any crime.
Uwujaren stated that the intendment of these provisions is to ensure that the commission safeguards suspected proceeds of crime pending the completion of its investigation.
According to him, it is without prejudice to the social standing of the holder of such accounts or whether they are individual, corporate or government accounts.
He insisted that the freezing orders are incidental to investigation and doing otherwise will jeopardise the prospects of recovering stolen assets.