EFCC arraigns ‘Batch C’ fuel subsidy fraud suspects

by Stanley Azuakola

Concerning this issue of fuel subsidy fraud, the EFCC bared its fangs again, yesterday. And in its grip this time were two persons and an oil marketing firm, who were charged before a Lagos High Court sitting in Ikeja for allegedly conspiring and obtaining N976 million under false pretense.

This is the third batch of accused persons arraigned before Lagos High Courts since the EFCC began to act on the fuel subsidy fraud issue.

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Those charged are Oluwaseun Ogunbambo, Habila Theck, and Fargo Petroleum and Gas Limited. As expected they all pleaded not guilty to the six-count charges brought against them by the commission before Justice Adeniyi Onigbanjo.

According to a report by the Guardian:

EFCC told the court that the accused on or about February 10, 2012 in Lagos within Ikeja Judicial Division with intent to defraud, obtained N976.653 million from the Federal Government by falsely representing that the said money was for subsidy accruing to them for the importation of 13,627,084 litres of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS), which they bought from Seatac Petroleum Limited.

The products were allegedly imported into Nigeria through MT Diplomat Ex and MT Milleura, which were false.

The commission said the offences breached Sections 8,1 (3), 363, 364 and punishable under Section 1(1) (2) of the Advance Fee Fraud and Other Fraud Related Offences Act, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria.

But counsel to the first defendant, Mr. Babajide Koku (SAN), told the court that he had filed a fresh application for bail to substitute the earlier one filed by his clients on July 25, 2012.

Koku continued that he would need to react to the counter-affidavit of the prosecution, which opposed the bail application of his client.

Counsel to the EFCC, Mr. Rotimi Jacobs, told court that he needed time to react to the issues raised in the new application by the defence, which was served on him yesterday morning. He therefore urged the court to remand the defendants in the EFCC custody pending when their bail application would be argued.

Meanwhile, the EFCC case against the alleged fuel subsidy thieves is already shaping up to be like the usual EFCC cases characterised by delays, adjournments, and dodgy applications with the not-so-subtle intent to make the case drag on indefinitely.

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On Monday, Mr. Tony Pinhero (SAN), the counsel to Mamman Ali, the son of a former PDP boss asked the court to grant a variation to the bail granted his client and the third defendant, Christian Taylor last week.

Ali, Taylor and Nasaman Oil Service are alleged to have conspired to fraudulently obtain N4.461 billion from the government as payment under Petroleum Support Fund (PSF) as subsidy for fuel importation. The judge granted them bail.

“I have filed a new application for variation of bail terms granted the defendants at the last hearing. So, there are two applications before the court now,” Pinhero said.

The EFCC, through its counsel Rotimi Jacobs,  said it would look at Pinhero’s application and respond accordingly.

The EFCC counsel gave a sneak preview of what he might be arguing when the bail application is argued in court. He said one of the defendants Taylor, who earlier in the proof of evidence, claimed to be an indigene of Edo State, had suddenly turned round and now claims to be a citizen of Sierra Leone.

“We want the court to look into these issues before deciding on a date to argue the issue of bail.”

After listening to their submission, Justice Onigbanjo adjourned the matter till tomorrow for argument of application for bail variation.

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