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EFCC arraigns TStv MD, executive director on money laundering charge

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), on Thursday, arraigned Bright Echefu, Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer (MD/CEO) of Telecom Satellites Limited (TStv) and three others on nine-count money laundering charge.

Others arraigned alongside Echefu before Justice Inyang Ekwo of a Federal High Court, Abuja include the Executive Director of TStv, Felix Igboanuga; TStv and Briechberg Investment Ltd as 2nd to 4th defendants respectively.

They, however, pleaded not guilty to all the counts.

Upon their non-guilty plea, EFCC’s counsel, Tahir Sylvanus, SAN, prayed for an order remanding Echefu and Igboanuga in a correctional centre pending the hearing and determination of the case.

Sylvanus hinged his application on the grounds that it took almost a year after filing the charge before the defendants could be arraigned.

The lawyer, who said Echefu and Igboanuga were flight risk, alleged that the duo refused to turn up for arraignment after being admitted to adminstrative bail and the charge filed on June 9, 2023.

He, therefore, asked for a speedy trial of the matter.

But Eyitayo Fatogun, SAN, who appeared for the defendants, informed the court that bail application had been filed on his clients’ behalf in October 2023.

He urged the court to admit them to bail, pledging that the defendants were ready to stand their trial.

But Sylvanus disagreed with Fatogun.

The prosecution lawyer said a counter affidavit was filed on Oct. 16, 2023 in opposition to their bail plea.

He said though the court had a discretionary power to grant bail, the antecedent of the defendants had proven that they were flight risk.

Justice Ekwo then asked if the defendants were earlier granted administrative bail and Sylvanus responded in affirmative.

The judge consequently admitted Echefu and Igboanuga on the terms of the administrative bail earlier granted by the anti-graft agency.

He ordered the defendants to deposit their international passports with the court registrar and not to travel outside the court jurisdcition without the prior leave of the court.

Justice Ekwo, however, threatened to revoke their bail if they failed to show up in court for their trial.

The judge, who adjourned the matter until June 15, June 16 and June 17 for trial commencement, threatened that Echefu and Igboanuga would remain in remand until their trial lasted if their bail is revoked.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the defendants were alleged to have, on or about May 18, 2020, committed the money laundering offence, including tax evasion, unremitted Value Added Tax (VAT) and Company Income Tax and Pay As You Eam (PAYE) deducted from the salaries of 165 staff.

The offence is said to be contrary to the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2011 (as amended in 2012) and punishable under Section 15(3) and (4) of the same Act.

In count five, Echefu, being the MD of Briechberg Investment Ltd on or about May 18, 2020 in Abuja, with intent to defraud, was alleged to have obtained the sum of N150 million from Mr Turaki Kabiru Tanimu, SAN, MD of Kalsiyam Farm.

In count six, Echefu was also alleged to have defrauded Mr Tanimu, MD of Kalsiyam Global and also former Minister of Special Duties and Inter-Governmental Affairs, the sum of N380 million.

The monies were said to have been paid into Briechberg Investment Lid account number: 1015561485 domiciled with Zenith Bank Pic under the false pretence of representing loan advance to Telcom Satellite for the purpose of enhancing the acquisition of modern technology.

Echefu was alleged to have misappropriated and converted the said monies to his personal use, among other counts.

The offence is contrary to Section 1 (1) (a) (b) of the Advance Fee Fraud and other Fraud Related Offences, Act, 2006 and punishable under Section 1(3) of the same Act.

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