THE Economic and Financial Crimes Commission has urged a Federal High Court in Lagos to decline granting permission for overseas medical trip to one of the seven officials of the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency being tried for an alleged fraud of N2.8bn in the agency.
The EFCC had on April 12, 2016 arraigned the Managing Director of NAMA, Ibrahim Abdusalam, and six other officials of the agency for an alleged fraud of N2.8bn perpetrated within NAMA between August 2013 and January 2016.
Those arraigned with Abdusalam before Justice Babs Kuewumi are Adegorite Olumuyiwa, Agbolade Segun, Clara Aliche, Joy Adegorite, Bola Akinribido and Sesebor Abiodun.
Also joined as defendants are five companies, namely: Randville Investment Limited; Multeng Travels and Tours Limited; Delosa Limited; Airsea Delivery Limited and Sea Schedule System Limited.
The 21 counts pressed against the accused persons bordered on conspiracy, advanced fee fraud and money laundering.
Among other things, they were accused of inducing NAMA to deliver part of the N2.8bn in several tranches to three companies – Delosa Ltd, Air Sea Delivery Ltd and Sea Schedules Systems Ltd – under the pretense that the money was the cost of clearing some consignments belonging to NAMA.
They were also accused of fraudulently converting part of the money to their private own.
According to the EFCC, the accused persons acted contrary to Section 8 (a) of the Advance Fee Fraud and other Fraud Related Offences Act, 2006 and were liable to punishment under Section 1 (3) of the same Act.
They were also accused of violating Section 18(a) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) (Amendment) Act, 2012 and liable to punishment under Section 15(3) of the same Act.
But upon reading the charges to them, they pleaded not guilty following which the court admitted them to a N20m bail each with one surety in like sum.
They were also ordered to deposit their passports in the custody of the court pending the conclusion of the trial.
On Tuesday, however, the fifth defendant, Adegorite, appeared in court with her lawyer, Mr. A.B. Onifade, with an application seeking the release of her passport to enable her travel to Dubai for medical treatment.
Onifade told Justice Kuewumi that his client was suffering from acute sinusitis and hypertensive heart disease.
He said his client, who was hypertensive and had a history of asthma, had earlier scheduled a medical appointment with her doctor at the Saudi German Hospital Group and had already purchased air ticket before she was arrested in April.
Onifade said his client’s health had since suffered a decline and urged Justice Kuewumi to order the EFCC to release her passport to he to enable her travel abroad, assuring that she would not jump bail or abscond.
“The fifth defendant will be away just for maximum of four weeks. We urge Your Lordship to exercise discretion in favour of the fifth defendant,” Onifade said.
But the prosecuting counsel for the EFCC, Ibrahim Mohammed, opposed the application, describing it as a ploy to frustrate the trial.
“There are indications that the fifth defendant will jump bail and frustrate this honourable court from hearing this case.
“The step taken by the fifth defendant to buy ticket without the permission of the EFCC or an order of this honourable court has clearly demonstrated her intention to jump bail,” Mohammed argued.
He said it was trite law that the court could not conduct trial in the absence of an accused person, adding that the kind of ailment which the fifth defendant was suffering from could be treated in a Nigerian hospital.
He described the defendant’s application as frivolous and one aimed at misleading the court.
But the defence counsel, Onifade, assured the judge that his client would not jump bail, pointing out the fact that she is wife to the 2nd defendant in the case.
He also said the EFCC was aware of his client’s ill health, recalling that the commission earlier granted her an administrative bail on that basis.
He said even in the most unlikely event that his client jumped bail, Section 352 of the administration of Criminal Act 2015, had empowered the court to proceed with trial, the outcome of which would be binding on the absentee accused person.
After hearing the two parties out Justice Kuewumi fixed July 15, 2016 for ruling.