Former governor of Benue State, Gabriel Suswam, yesterday, was yesterday admitted to N100 million bail over his alleged complicity in N3.1 billion fraud.
During his arraignment on Tuesday, Suswam and his ex-Commissioner for Finance, Omadachi Okolobia, denied complicity in the nine-count criminal charge preferred against them by the Federal Government before the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had arraigned the duo on a nine-count charge of money laundering to the tune N3.1 billion. When the charge was read to them, the accused persons pleaded not guilty to all the counts. Defense counsel, Ahmed Raji (SAN) prayed the court to admit the accused persons to bail on liberal terms.
The court has, however, fixed December 8 and 9 for trial after granting the two defendants bail in the sum of N100 million and one surety. In the charge, the prosecution alleged that between August 8 and October 30, 2014, in Abuja, the defendants used a company, Elixir Securities Ltd., to divert total sum of N3,111,008,018.51 allegedly stolen from proceeds of the sale of shares owned by Benue State Government and Benue Investment and Property Company Limited.
The defendants were also accused of diverting the money which formed part of the sum of N9,411,708,009.51 realised from the sale of the shares of the state, thereby committing an offence contrary to section 15(2)(b) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2011 as amended in 2012 and punishable under section 15(3) of the same Act.
In addition, Suswam and Okolobia were accused of conspiracy and “criminal breach of trust” by diverting the sum of N3.1 billion into the account of Fanffash Resources World-Wide Limited, a bureau de change company to enable them receive dollar equivalent, thereby committing an offence contrary to sections 97 and 315 of the Penal Code Act, Cap 532, Vol. 4, LFN 2007. According to the prosecution, the defendants used Elixir Securities Limited to transfer the total sum of N3.1 billion to Fanffash Resources World- Wide Limited in four tranches – N413,000,000 on August 8, 2014; N1 billion on September 12, 2014; N638,018,000.51 on October 13, 2014 and N1,068,000,000 on October 17, 2014.
Prosecution counsel, Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), who earlier informed the court that the charges were filed on November 2, did not oppose the defendants’ bail applications after their arraignment. Jacobs had urged the court to only impose conditions that would ensure they were always present in court for their trial.
The trial judge, Justice A.R Mohammed, subsequently granted the defendants bail in the sum of N100 million with one surety each. The court also held that each of the sureties to be produced by the defendants must be an employee of any agency or any establishment of the state or federal government who must not be less than Grade Level 12.
The court, however, ruled that in the absence of a civil servant, the defendants could produce Nigerians who had been conferred with national honours. But the judge added that any sureties to be produced by the defendants must swear to affidavits of means while also ordering them (the defendants) to deposit their passports with the registrar of the court.