By Akinwale Akintunde
A former governor of Abia State, Orji Uzor Kalu, who had been standing trial for an alleged fraud of the sum of N7.65 billion was on Thursday found guilty of the offence and sentenced to 12years in prison.
Kalu had been standing trial alongsde his firm, Slok Nigeria Limited, and Udeh Udeogu, who was director of Finance and Accounts at the Abia State Government House during Kalu’s tenure as governor.
Justice Mohammed Idris in his judgment on the matter, Thursday found Kalu and his co-defendants guilty of the said offence and was sentenced to a concurrent jail term of 12 years imprisonment.
Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had on October 31, 2016, preferred a 34-count charge bordering on N3.2 billion fraud against the accused.
EFCC however amended the charges on July 16, 2018 to 39 counts with the sum increased to N7.65 billion.
In one of the counts, the EFCC alleged that Kalu, who was Abia State governor between 1999 and 2007, “did procure Slok Nigeria Limited – a company solely owned by you and members of your family – to retain in its account , domiciled with the then Inland Bank Plc , Apapa branch , Lagos , an aggregate sum of N7,197,871,208 .7 on your behalf. ”
The prosecution claimed that the N7.1bn “formed part of the funds illegally derived from the treasury of the Abia State Government and which was converted into several bank drafts before they were paid into the said company’s account .”
The prosecuting counsel, Rotimi Jacobs ( SAN), said the ex -governor violated Section 17 (c) of the Money Laundering ( Prohibition ) Act , 2004, and was liable to be punished under Section 16 of the same Act .
Apart from the N7 .1bn , which he was accused of laundering , the ex-governor and the other defendants were also accused of receiving a total of N460m allegedly stolen from the Abia State Government treasury between July and December 2002.
The prosecutor said they breached Section 427 of the Criminal Code Act, Cap 77, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 1990.
The convicts had each pleaded not guilty to the charges, and were granted bail.
Delivering a 288-pages judgment Thursday, Justice Idris who came into the court at excatly 9.10a.m. first chronicled all counts of the charge, and found Kalu and his company guilty of all counts of the 39-count charge.
The court found the second defendant (Udeogo) guilty of 34 counts.
Idris sentenced Kalu as follows:
On counts one, two, three, and four, he sentenced the convict to five years imprisonment on each count, while on counts six to 11, he sentenced him to three years imprisonment each.
On counts 23 to 33 he sentenced the first defendant to three years imprisonment on each count, while on counts 34 to 38, he sentenced him to 12 years imprisonment each.
On the count 39, he sentenced him to five years imprisonment.
For the second defendant, (Udeogo) the court sentenced him to three years imprisonment on counts 23 to 33, and sentenced him to 10 years imprisonment on counts 34 to 38, while he sentenced him to five years imprisonment on coun 39.
For the Company, Slok Nigeria Ltd, the court ordered that it be wound up and all its assets forfeited to the federal government.
The court held that the terms of imprisonment shall run concurrently.