The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission on Monday re-arraigned a former Commander of the military Joint Task Force, Operation Pulo Shield, in the Niger Delta, Maj. Gen. Emmanuel Atewe (retd.), for an alleged fraud of N8, 537,586,798.58.
The retired military officer was re-arraigned on 22 counts of money laundering alongside a former Director-General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, Patrick Akpobolokemi.
Standing trial with Atewe and Akpobolokemi before Justice Saliu Saidu of a Federal High Court in Lagos are Kime Engozu and Josephine Otuaga.
The defendants were first arraigned on May 27 on 11 counts but the EFCC amended the charges to 22, leading to their re-arraignment on Monday.
Atewe, Akpobolokemi and the others were accused of siphoning N8.5bn from NIMASA sometime in 2014 using six companies.
The companies allegedly used by them to divert the money were listed as Jagan Trading Company Ltd., Jagan Global Services Ltd., Al-Nald Ltd., Paper Warehouse Ltd., Eastpoint Integrated Services Ltd. and De-Newlink Integrated Services Ltd.
In one of the counts, the EFCC claimed that Atewe diverted N170.3m out of the funds earmarked for Operation Polo Shield in the Niger Delta to acquire 30,000 units of shares titled ‘MTN Linked Units’.
The retired military officer was also accused of using part of the operation’s funds to acquire properties measuring 50 hectares at Kuje, another measuring 13.032.10 square metres along Kubwa, and another in Plot MF62 outer Northern Expressway, Cadastral Zone, Abuja, in the name of his company E.J-Joe Ltd.
The EFCC further alleged that Atewe acquired properties worth N763.3m in Lugbe, Kuje, among others, between 2014 and last year, using stolen funds from Operation Polo Shield.
The EFCC, in the charge, alleged that Engozu and Otuaga made cash transactions in excess of the threshold stipulated by the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act), without going through any financial institution.
According to the prosecution, Engozu received a cash payment of $22.5m on November 7, 2014, while Otuaga received $527,500 on October 31, 2014.
The defendants were said to have violated Section 18(c) of the Money Laundering Act 2012, for which the EFCC said they were liable to be punished under Section 13(3) of the same Act.
The defendants, however, pleaded not guilty when the charges were read to them.
Justice Saidu adjourned their trial till February 3 and 20, 2017 for trial.