The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) yesterday arraigned a former Niger Delta militant leader, Government Ekpemupolo (aka Tompolo) at the Federal High Court in Lagos in Lagos in absentia over N34billion alleged fraud.
He was charged along with a former Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) Director-General Patrick Akpobolokemi; Global West Vessel Specialist Limited, Odimiri Electricals Limited and Kemi Engozu.
Others are Boloboere Property and Estate Limited, Rex Elem, Destre Consult Limited, Gregory Mbonu and Captain Warredi Enisuoh.
EFCC, in the 40-count charge before Justice Ibrahim Buba, said the suspects allegedly diverted N34 billion for personal use.
It alleged the money accrued from the public private partnership agreement between NIMASA and Global West Vessel Specialist, said to be owned by Tompolo.
The alleged offence contravenes Section 15 (1) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) (Amendment) Act 2012 and punishable under Section 15(3) of the same Act.
Count one reads: “That you, Government Ekpemupolo (alias Tompolo) now at large, Patrick Akpobolokemi, Global West Vessel Specialist Ltd, in 2012 in Lagos, within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court, did conspire amongst yourselves to commit an offence to wit: Conversion of the sums of N601,516.13 and $1,766,428.62, property of NIMASA, knowing that the said sums were proceeds of stealing, and thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 18(a) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) (Amendment) Act, 2012 and punishable under Section 15(3) of the same Act.”
The defendants, who were all present except Tompolo, pleaded not guilty to all the counts.
Tompolo will be arraigned on another 22-count charge also pending before Justice Buba, who adjourned it until April 18. It borders on stealing, advanced fee fraud and money laundering involving about N22.7billion.
In the pending charge, Tompolo will face trial along with Akpobolokemi, whose four brothers – Victor, Nobert, Emmanuel and Clement – said to be at large, were said to have aided the suspects to commit the fraud.
They were accused of converting various sums running into over N22.7billion stolen from NIMASA to their personal use between December 12, 2014 and April 10, 2015.
Justice Ibrahim Buba had, on February 8, directed security agencies to arrest Tompolo and held that the warrant of arrest issued for his arrest still subsists.
Tompolo’s lead counsel, Tayo Oyetibo (SAN), had sought to set aside the warrant of arrest, but the judge dismissed the application and re-issued a fresh warrant for Tompolo’s arrest.
The judge subsequently granted EFCC’s application empowering it to seize all Tompolo’s traceable assets pending his arrest or appearance in court for arraignment. The properties will be auctioned after three months beginning from February 19 when the order was made should Tompolo refuse to turn up, the judge ordered.
Tompolo appealed the order for his arrest and prayed the appellate court to order the transfer of his case from Justice Buba to another judge.
His lawyers are urging the Court of Appeal to set aside the warrant of arrest on the basis that Justice Buba erred in law in refusing to nullify it.
EFCC lawyer Festus Keyamo told reporters yesterday that Tompolo would stand trial whenever he is arrested. He said security agencies are on his trail.
“It is the duty of the security forces and they are still making efforts to get him. He’s on the run and he cannot continue to be on the run for ever. We will get him,” Keyamo said.
The other defendants’ lawyers urged Justice Buba to grant them bail in the most liberal terms. Keyamo said since some of the accused persons were already on bail in another charge before the court, they should be granted bail on conditions that would ensure their attendance in court.
Justice Buba, therefore, granted the defendants N50 million bail with one reliable surety in like sum. Enisuoh was granted bail for N10million with one surety.
“The defendants who are already on bail are to perfect their bail conditions within 24 hours or be remanded in prison. Those appearing before me for the first time should perfect their bail conditions today or be remanded in prison,” Justice Buba ruled.
He adjourned until May 23, 24, 25, and 26 for trial.
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