To re-file suit on Halliburton scandal
THE Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) may this week move to seize property of 31 other accused persons standing trial alongside former Director of Pension Administration in the Office of the Head of Civil Service of the Federation, Sani Teidi Shuaibu, over the N4.56 billion pensions fraud.
The development is coming as the Commission summoned the Commissioner for Finance in Ondo State, Mr. Yele Ogundipe, to appear before it in connection with the alleged N100 billion fraud allegation for which the Chairman of the Ondo State Oil Producing Area Development Commission (OSOPADEC), Mr. Debo Ajimuda, was recently arrested and interrogated.
The Commissioner, according to an EFCC source, was summoned along with three others. They are the Secretary and Accountant to OSOPADEC as well as Deputy Director for Accounts at the state Ministry of Works.
OSOPADEC Chairman, Ajimuda was arrested on Tuesday, March 20, over alleged criminal diversion and embezzlement of project funds.
Meanwhile, the anti-graft agency has said that Monday’s court dismissal of the case on Halliburton bribery scandal is certainly not the end of the case, giving indication of plan to re-file the suit.
A top operative of the EFCC disclosed to The Guardian in Abuja yesterday that with the successful seizure of some property belonging to Shuaibu, the commission will move to seize the property of the other accused persons joined in the alleged N4.56 billion scam.
The EFCC operative, referring to the powers granted by court, said that the commission had permitted the Executive Chairman of EFCC to seize and retain custody of all the properties or assets of persons connected with the transaction or allegation. He said that the court verdict, also empowered the EFCC to confiscate the assets of the 31 co-accused persons. “And more assets will be recovered,” he said.
The EFCC, at the weekend, seized the property of Shuaibu, which include two choice houses and four filling stations.
The EFCC had informed the media on Monday, that it would, in carrying out the powers granted it by the court in July 2011, moved in at the weekend to seize the property of Shuaibu.
The Commission had quoted the court verdict which states that: “the Executive Chairman of EFCC is permitted to seize and retain custody of all the property or assets of persons (as listed in the attached schedules) though not yet charged but found to be connected with the transaction or allegation contained in charge No. FHC/ABJ/CR/28/2011’.
“The Executive Chairman of Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, is hereby permitted to seize and retain custody of all such properties or assets of persons listed in the schedules attached to this Motion, which assets are suspected proceeds of crime or the value thereof until the final determination of Charge no. FHC/ABJ/CR/28/2011.”
The EFCC spokesman, Wilson Uwajaren, declined comment on the planned move.
On the Halliburton bribery scandal, a top management official of the anti-graft commission, told The Guardian yesterday that the EFCC might soon re-file the case before the court. The official, who did not want his name in print, said the EFCC was incapacitated to pursue the case because it had no power to compel the accused persons to appear in court to take their pleas.
According to him, since the case was already in court, it was the responsibility of the court to compel the accused persons to appear in court to take their pleas. The EFCC source added that the court had also not considered the commission’s application for a bench warrant to compel the accused to appear in court.
Further explaining why the EFCC could not pursue the case, he said, “the Prosecution filed an application before the court for a bench warrant to compel the accused persons to appear before the court but his Lordship in his wisdom, did not consider the application even though counsel to the accused were in court.
“The EFCC could not effect an arrest because the matter was already before the court. It was the duty of the court to compel their appearance since the case had been fully charged before it”, he said.
He also stated that the problem with the case was not the charges, but the fact that the accused persons failed to appear in court; and according to him, it was the duty of the court to compel them to appear before it.
“The judge created an impression that we are not serious and that is not correct. The case is an inter-agency investigation even though it was the EFCC that charged it to court. The problem is that each time the case is called, all accused were not in court to take their plea, and by court principle, they must all be present for prosecution to begin”.
“The case was dismissed after a few adjournments but it’s not an acquittal; they were never arraigned. All the accused were never available together”, he said.
When contacted, on the next line of action, EFCC’s spokesman, Uwajaren, simply said the judge’s decision would be reviewed before the next step is taken.