N3.5bn Paris Club Scam: Saraki’s Aides Get N250m Bail

Bukola Sarak

By Akinwale Akintunde

Justice Babs Kuewumi of the Federal High Court sitting in Lagos has granted bail to Mr Gbenga Makanjuola, Deputy Chief of Staff to the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, and two others, in the sum of N250 million with two sureties each.

Ruling on the bail applications, the judge also granted bail to Kolawole Shittu, Cashier in the Senate President’s Office and Obiora Amobi, an Operation Manager in a company allegedly used as conduit pipe in laundering parts of Paris Club refunds from the Governors’ Forum Account. 

The court ordered that each of the sureties must be resident in Lagos with landed properties. And that the sureties must submit the landed properties’ Certificate of Occupancy (C of O), four recent passport photographs, evidence of three years tax payment and letter of identification from their banks.

While ordering the defendants to submit to court four passport photographs, the judge also ordered that all bail conditions should be verified by the Court’s Registrar.

Justice Kuewumi also rejected an application made by Mr. Paul Erokoro (SAN), counsel to Makanjuola, that the accused persons be released to him pending the perfection of their bail conditions.

Consequently, the judge ordered that the accused be returned in prison custody, pending the fulfilment of their  bail conditions.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had last Tuesday, arraigned Makanjuola, Shittu and Obiora, alongside one Chidozie Mbonu, who is said to be at large, and a company, Melrose General Services Limited, on an 11 count-charge, bordering on conspiracy, fraud, forgery in respect to N3.8 billion Paris Club Fund.

The defendants and Mbonu were alleged to have laundered the said Paris Club Refund through Melrose General Service Limited account, domiciled at Access Bank Plc.

EFCC’s prosecutor, Mr. Ekene Iheanacho, told the court that the three accused, Melrose General Services Limited, and one Robert Chidozie Mbonu (now at large), have sometimes in December 2016, conspired among themselves to disguise the origin of the sum of  N3.5 billion, which was paid into Melrose General Services Limited account with Access Bank Plc.

The Commission also told the court that the third accused, Obiora Amobi, who is the Operation Manager of Melrose General Services between December 15 and 17, 2016, made a cash payment of N300 million to Robert Mbonu  (now at large.) from the said N3.5 billion, without going through financial institution.

It was also alleged that the former Deputy Chief of Staff to Saraki, Gbenga Makanjuola, and the Cashier in the Senate President’s office, Kolawole Shittu, in December 2016, made cash payment of a total of $1.5 million USD, of $500, 000, on three tranches, between themselves without going through a financial institution.

According to EFCC, the alleged offences are contrary to 18, 15(2)(d), 15(2)(b) 1(a) and 16(2)(b) of Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2011, and punishable under Sections 15(3) and 16 (2)(b) of the same act.

All the accused had pleaded not guilty to all the counts of the charge.