Senator Rochas Okorocha, representing Imo West in the Senate, was governor between 2011 and 2019 was arrested and grilled at the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) about 4pm on Tuesday for “suspected multiple cases of fraud and money laundering during his tenure as governor”.
Okorocha, according to a source in the anti-graft agency to answer questions on various allegations levelled against him including alleged N7.9 billion fraud.
The ex-governor is also being probed for another N1.5 billion hospital linked to one of his former aides.
The EFCC had secured a final forfeiture order on the hospital in the court of Justice T G Ringim of the Federal High Court in Owerri.
The state-of-the-art 200-bed Dews of Hope Hospital, Owerri, was suspected to have been built with Imo State funds when Okorocha held the forte as governor.
An EFCC source said: “The ex-governor has been on the EFCC radar in the last three years over alleged N7. 9 billion money laundering. One of our investigators appeared in court and declared why he was wanted.
“He also has questions to answer on a separate N1.5 billion hospital built with funds from the Imo State accounts and traced to one of his former aides.
“On July 25, 2019, we invoked Section 17 of the Advance Fee Fraud, and Other Related Offences Act 2006 to seize the hospital which ex-aide disowned.
“Okorocha has to explain the mystery behind the hospital. His former aide and members of the board of directors of the hospital said they did not know how it was built.
“The managing director of the hospital, on invitation, could not also explain how the hospital project was funded.
“But, the preliminary investigation confirmed that a former permanent secretary during Okorocha’s administration was a signatory to the hospital’s accounts.”
The source added: “There may be other multiple cases as uncovered by the past and present administrations in the state. He is undergoing interrogation as I speak with you.”
It was unclear if Okorocha will be quizzed over N112.8 billion “dubious debts” owed the state by nine commercial banks.
A Commission of Inquiry had recommended that Okorocha should account for the debts.
The Head of Media and Publicity of EFCC, Mr Wilson Uwujaren, said: “It is true that Okorocha has been arrested. It is about a case some of you are familiar with.”
Okorocha’s arrest was the climax of his attempt to stop his investigation by the EFCC in the last one year.
On May 18, last year, the former governor filed a suit to stop the EFCC from probing him.
He prayed the court to “direct the 1st defendant (EFCC) and the 3rd to the 10th defendants (the Imo state attorney-general (AG) and the Justice Iheaka-led probe panel on contract awards) to stay all further actions and proceedings until the 2nd defendant (the state AG) decides who should carry out the investigation.”
But on July 8, a Federal High Court in Abuja refused his application to restrain the EFCC from investigating him for alleged financial violations while in office.
Okorocha has also been having a running battle with Imo State Governor Hope Uzodimma over the alleged acquisition of public assets, including a university.
The state government also linked him to the recent attacks on Owerri by gunmen who invaded the state police headquarters and the Correctional Centre where they freed almost 2,000 prisoners.