FORMER GOVERNOR, ORJI UZOR KALU RE-ARRAIGNED ON MONEY LAUNDERING CHARGES

Former governor of Abia State, Orji Uzor Kalu today, the 31st of October 2016 was re-arraigned on money laundering charges before Hon. Justice Idris of the Lagos Division of the Federal High Court. The charge which has been pending since 2007 and which has passed between three judges of the Federal High Court is against the former governor, one Udeh Jones Udeogu and a company – Slok Nigeria Limited said to belong to Mr. Kalu. When the charge was called, Mr. Adebisi who appeared for the prosecution applied that the 34 counts in the further amended charge dated the 16th of May 2016 be read to Mr. Kalu and Mr. Udeogu who were present in court and that their plea should be taken. Mike Ozekhome SAN who appeared for Mr. Kalu informed the court that the plea of the defendants had been taken before Hon. Justice Chikere sitting at the Abuja Division of the court and the case adjourned to the 6th to 8th of December 2016 for trial. He stated that rather curiously they got information from blogs and then the national dailies that the charge had been transferred to Lagos. He added that he had been prepared to protest this transfer without a formal application by any party to the proceedings but he was quite satisfied with the current judge the case has been assigned to. Adding that he was sure that his client would get justice before the Judge, he stated that he had no objections to the case proceeding. Solo Akuma SAN who appeared for the 2nd Defendant, Mr. Udeogu, mentioned that there was indeed an application challenging the transfer of the charge from Abuja but that he would not object to the case proceeding. The 34-count charge was thus read in open court to the defendants.

In the first ten counts, Mr. Orji Uzor Kalu is accused of procuring Slok Nigeria Limited (a company solely owned by him and members of his family), during his tenure as governor of Abia State, to retain various sums of money which were illegally obtained from the treasury of the Abia State Government. In the next 10 counts, the company, Slok Nigeria Limited and one Emeka Abone (said to be at large) are accused of retaining sums illegally obtained from the treasury of the Abia State Government on behalf of Mr. Orji Uzor Kalu. In counts 21 to 29, the three defendants and Emeka Abone (said to be at large) are accused of collaborating to conceal the genuine origin of sums, which were illegally obtained from the treasury of the Abia State Government while in counts 30 to 33, they are accused of receiving monies which they knew were stolen from the treasury of the Abia State Government. In the last count, they are accused of conspiring to commit the offence of money laundering of sums from the treasury of the Abia State Government.

Both Mr. Kalu and Mr. Udeogu pleaded not guilty to the charges against them. On the application of Mr. Akuma SAN, a plea of not guilty was recorded for the company, which was not represented at the proceedings. Both counsel applied for their clients to be granted bail on the same terms granted by the previous judges. Mr. Adebisi representing the prosecution did not object to the defendants continuing on bail. The court held that in the light of the record of the defendants in attending court since the inception of the charge, they would be granted bail on the same terms and conditions as that granted by Justice Chikere. The charge was subsequently adjourned to the 12th and 13th of December 2016 for commencement of trial.

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