Alleged N1.2bn laundering: Former INEC chair Iwu granted N1bn bail

Alleged N1.2bn laundering: Former INEC chair Iwu granted N1bn bailThe Federal High Court in Lagos on Friday granted a former Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Chairman, Prof Maurice Iwu, bail for N1billion with two sureties in like sum.

Justice Chuka Obiozor ordered the sureties to submit their bank statements and two passport photographs each.

Each of the sureties must provide three-year tax clearance evidence, the judge ruled.

Justice Obiozor ordered Iwu to deposit his passport with the court’s Deputy Chief Registrar.

He remanded the former INEC chairman in prison custody until he fulfils the bail terms.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) arraigned Iwu on Thursday on a four-count charge of laundering N1.2billion.

The agency said Iwu, between December 2014 and March 27, 2015, aided the concealment of N1,203,000,000.00 in Bioresources Institute of Nigeria (BION) Limited’s account.

The account, numbered 1018603119, is domiciled in United Bank for Africa Plc, EFCC said.

The commission alleged that Iwu “reasonably ought to have known” that the money “forms part of proceeds of unlawful act to wit: fraud.”

The alleged offence is contrary to sections 18 (a) and 15 (2) (a) of the Money Laundering Prohibition Act, 2011 and punishable under Section 15 (3).

Iwu’s counsel, Ahmed Raji (SAN), urged the court to grant his client bail on liberal terms and to disregard EFCC’s claim that the defendant could run away or interfere with witnesses.

Opposing the bail application, prosecuting counsel, Rotimi Oyedepo, said some of those who will testify in the trial worked closely with Iwu.

“If granted bail, he will intimidate and interfere with our witnesses.

“In the unlikely event that the bail is granted, I urge your lordship to impose such conditions that will compel him to come to court and conditions that will make sure our witnesses are not tampered with.

“I also urge the court to impose conditions that will ensure that if he absconds, we would be able to lay hands on something that is equivalent to the N1.2billion,” Oyedepo said.

Ruling, Justice Obiozor added that the first surety must be a Lagos resident and a property owner.

“The defendant shall cease all manner of communication either directly or by proxy with any of the witness the prosecution might call in this matter,” Justice Obiozor said.

The second surety, he said, must be a civil servant in Lagos on Grade Level 16 or a professor in any Nigerian university.

The judge said the sureties, who must provide proof of three-year tax payment, must live in Lagos and as proof of address, shall provide statements of account to which their passport photographs will be attached, “which the bank shall depose as the true identity of the account holder”.

He said Iwu must not travel outside the country without the court’s approval.

“Deputy Registrar of the Lagos Division shall verify all documents submitted by the defendant and sureties.

“Pending the perfection of bail, the defendant shall be remanded in prison custody at Ikoyi Prison,” Justice Obiozor ruled.

Iwu was accused of procuring BION Ltd “to retain the aggregate sum of N1,203,000,000.00 ” in the UBA account, contrary to sections 18 (c) and 15 (2) (c) of the Money Laundering Act.

The prosecution, in the third count, said the defendant “used” the money when he ought to know that it was reasonably suspected to form part of proceeds of fraud.

EFCC said Iwu and a lawyer, Victor Chukwuani, between December 23 and 29, 2014, procured BION Ltd “to retain the aggregate sum of N407,000,000.00” in the same account.

Iwu pleaded not guilty to the charge.

His trial will begin when the court resumes from its ongoing annual long vacation.

Justice Obiozor is sitting as a vacation judge and is attending to only urgent cases.

The case may be assigned to a different trial judge.

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