The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, Wednesday November 23rd 2016 arraigned the quartet of Colonel Nicholas Ashinze, a former special assistant to the embattled former National Security Adviser, Col. Sambo Dasuki; an Austrian, Wolfgang Reinl; Edidiong Idiong and Sagir D. Mohammed before Justice Gabriel Kolawole of the Federal High Court, Abuja on a 13-count charge of corruption and money laundering to the tune of N36.8billion. Ashinze and his co-accused were arraigned alongside five companies accused of allegedly diverting huge sums from the office of the former NSA.
The companies are: Geonel Integrated Services Limited, Unity Continental Nigeria Limited, Helpline Organization, Vibrant Resource Limited and Sologic Integrated Services Limited.
Count three of the charge reads:
“That you, Col. Nicholas Ashinze, being a serving officer of the Nigerian Army and a former Special Assistant (SA) to the immediate past National security Adviser, Wolfgang Reinl, being an Austrian national and managing director of Geonel Integrated Services Limited and Geonel Integrated Services Limited on or about 22nd April, 2014 at Abuja, in the Judicial Division of the Federal High Court did transfer the sum of Five Hundred and Fifty Million Naira (N550,000,000.00) to Edidiong Idiong, being a lawyer practicing in the name of Law Partners & Associates, knowing that the said sum forms part of the proceeds of an unlawful act to wit :
‘corruption’ and thereby committed an offense contrary to Section 15 (2) (b) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act 2011 (as amended) and punishable under Section 15 (3) and (4) of the same Money Laundering (Prohibition), Act 2011 (as amended).”The defendants pleaded not guilty to all the charges preferred against them.
In view of their plea, counsel to EFCC, I. O Uket expressed readiness for trial to commence immediately saying he had the witnesses present in court.
“If the court is ready, we are also ready to produce our first witness as we have our witnesses in court”, he said.But, Ashinze’s counsel, Ernest Nwoye told the court that he had a pending application for the bail of his client. He urged the court to grant the defendant bail on self recognizance having earlier been admitted to bail by an FCT High Court.
Afam Osigwe, counsel representing the second and fifth defendants, also prayed the court to admit Reinl to bail. He stated that he has been enjoying administrative bail from the EFCC since February. He said that his travel documents are in the possession of the Commission. He added that the accused has lived in Nigeria for over 23 years and is married to a Nigerian. In his argument, counsel to the third defendant, Paul Erokoro, SAN, said his client, Idiong, being a legal practitioner knows what it means to jump bail. He stated that, aside the fact that he had earlier been grated bail by an FCT High Court, he had always made himself available to the EFCC.
In a similar vein, counsel representing the fourth defendant, N. Jimoh, while praying the court to grant his client bail presented 6 exhibits marked exhibits A-F respectively, to the effect that the accused had a health challenge which he had been managing for close to forty years.
Responding, Uket argued that the defendants had lost their administrative bail the moment their matter was charged to court and their counsels filed applications for their bail. “We are aware that the defendants are enjoying administrative bail. Their counsels understand that any administrative bail granted ends as soon as the matter is brought to court and bail applications are filed. Such bail cannot be extended since the charges have now been preferred to the defendants. We therefore urge the court to deny the bail application”, he submitted.
Ruling on the applications, Justice Kolawole held that the charges are all bailable adding that, “since each of the defendants has been on one administrative bail or the other, my sixth judicial sense informs me that I adopt the terms and conditions of the bail granted to the defendants by the EFCC and my learned brothers in the FCT High Courts.
The judge added that the case would be granted accelerated hearing and urged the prosecution to pick five days in the new year for trial. Consequently, the case was adjourned to January 23, February 1 and14; and March 7 and 21, 2017.
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