Thursday, May 19, 2011
Ex-Works Minister in Fresh N44 Million Scam
Abuja — The Federal High Court sitting in Abuja yesterday ordered the former Minister of Works and Housing, Dr. Hassan Lawal who was arraigned before it by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, (EFCC), on a fresh nine count criminal charges bordering on alleged embezzlement and money laundering to the tune of N44million to be remanded in prison custody.
Presiding judge, Justice Bilkisu Aliyu said the ex minister should remain in prison custody pending when the bail application will be heard. The EFCC had last week arraigned the same minister for allegedly misappropriating, embezzling, siphoning of public money, award of phony contracts and other financial crimes to the tune of about N75.7Billion.
The former Minister of Works and Housing who was later appointed Minister of Labour and Productivity allegedly conspired with one Aisha Okuboye who is now at large between November 3, 2008 and March 29, 2010 in Abuja within the jurisdiction of the Federal High Court, to launder the sum of N44 million belonging to the Federal Government of Nigeria.
Okuboye said to be at large was not in court for the arraignment but was represented by her counsel, Charity Ogumu who addressed the court. Both the ex minister and Okuboye's counsel pleaded not guilty to the nine count charges read to them.
According to the statement, since the former Minister was around and pleaded not guilty, his counsel, Yahaya
Mahmud, filed a formal bail application urging the court to grant bail to the accused person.
But prosecution counsel, Wahab Shittu while opposing the application, said since some of the accused persons are already at large and all efforts to bring them to justice had proved abortive; he feared that Lawal, if admitted to bail, may frustrate trial, in view of the huge amount involved.
Presiding judge, Justice Aliyu, while refusing to grant the accused bail, said "I am not going to grant this bail application. The accused should be remanded in prison custody till the next adjourned date of 8th, 9th and 10th of June 2011." He however promised accelerated hearing of the case. She further directed that all parties to the case must tidy up their cases for the substantive suit.
The charges against the accused read:" That you, Dr. Hassan Muhammad Lawal "M" and Aisha Okuboye, "F", on 9th October 2009 in Abuja, within the jurisdiction of the federal High Court, did commit an offence to wit: transfer the sum of N15,000,000.00(Fifteen Million Naira), being proceed of an illicit act, and thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 14 of the Money Laundering (Prohibition Act) 2004, and also punishable under Section 14 (1) of the same Act."
It would be recalled that the EFCC had on May 11, 2011, arraigned former Minister Lawal and 7 others before Justice Aliyu on a 24-count criminal charge bordering on fraudulent award of contracts, money laundering and embezzlement amounting to N75.7billion.