By Alex Enumah
The federal government on Monday arraigned a Commercial Director of the Process and Industrial Development (P&ID) Limited, Mr Muhammed Kuchazi on money laundering charges.
Kuchazi alongside his company, Kore Holdings Limited, were arraigned before the Abuja Division of the Federal High Court.
He however pleaded not guilty to the eight-count charge filed against him.
Counsel to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mr Bala Sanga, then prayed the court to remand Kuchazi in custody of the Correctional Service pending the commencement of his trial.
Kuchazi’s lawyer, Aniah Ikwen however attempted to make an oral application for his bail, stating that Kuchazi is seriously ill and in urgent need of medical attention.
Although Sanga did not oppose the bail application because of the health condition of the defendant, trial judge, Justice Folashade Giwa-Ogunbanjo however declined to take oral argument on the bail application.
Giwa-Ogunbanjo subsequently adjourned till February 4 for hearing in the bail application and April 27 for commencement of trial.
The judge in the meantime ordered that Kuchazi be remanded in the custody of the EFCC.
The anti-graft agency in the charge specifically accused the defendants of concealing facts concerning the activities of the firm.
Count one reads, “that you Kore Holdings Limited, being a designated non-financial institution; Muhammed Kuchazi, being a director of and signatory to the bank account of Kore Holdings Limited, sometime in May 2014, in Abuja, within the Abuja judicial division of the Federal High Court, failed to comply with the requirements of submitting to the federal ministry of industry, trade and investment, a declaration of the activities of Kore Holdings Limited contrary to section 16 (1) (f) read together with section 5(1) (a) (ii) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2011 (as amended) and you thereby committed an offence punishable under section 16 (2)(b) of the same Act.”
P&ID, an Irish firm, is currently locked in legal battle with Nigeria in a London Court where it is demanding the sum of $10 billion judgment debt against Nigeria.
The said sum was awarded in favour of the Irish company in a failed contract deal.
According to the deal entered in 2010, P&ID was to build a gas processing facility in Calabar, Cross River State, for the processing of gas to be supplied by Nigeria. In addition Nigeria was expected to provide land as well as construct pipelines that would supply wet gas to the plant to be built by P&ID.
The deal according to the agreement was for a 20-year period, however by 2013, the Irish firm sued Nigeria for allegedly reneging on the gas processing deal, leading to a whopping $9.6 billion award in 2019 against Nigeria by a London Court.
Nigeria however appealed the judgment, claiming that the entire deal was built on fraud from inception, stressing that the firm was not entitled to any form of compensation because it fabricated the deals with some persons with the intent of defrauding Nigeria.
To prove its claim, the EFCC in 2019, filed charges bordering on economic sabotage and money laundering against P&ID and its local subsidiary.
Among those arraigned then included Kuchazi and Adamu Usman, who had answered to charges of corruption, economic sabotage and others on behalf of the P&ID
The court found them guilty and ordered the seizure of all assets linked to the Irish firm in Nigeria.
Speaking with journalists outside the court, prosecution counsel, disclosed that Kuchazi had entered into an agreement with P&ID that 3% of the proceeds of the project to be executed would be remitted to him and his company.
“It means that if the judgment against Nigeria stands Kuchazi would get about $300 million,” Sanga said.