EFCC arraigns TStv CEO, executive director for money laundering

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The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) arraigned Bright Echefu, CEO of Telecom Satellites Limited (TStv), and three others on a nine-count money laundering charge on Thursday.

They were arraigned before the Abuja Division of the Federal High Court.

The other accused were Felix Igboanuga, executive director of TStv, TStv and Briechberg Investment Ltd, the second to fourth defendants, respectively.

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

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

Mr Sylvanus based his application on the fact that the defendants were arraigned almost a year after the suit was filed.

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

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

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

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

But Mr Sylvanus disagreed with Mr Fatogun.

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

He said that though the court had the discretionary power to grant bail, the defendants’ antecedents had proven that they were flight risks.

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The judge, Justice Inyang Ekwo, then asked if the defendants had earlier been granted administrative bail, and Sylvanus responded in the affirmative.

The judge consequently admitted Mr 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 jurisdiction without prior leave of the court.

The judge, however, threatened to revoke their bail if they failed to show up in court for their trial and adjourned the matter until June 15, 16 and 17 for trial commencement, threatened that Messrs Echefu and Igboanuga would remain in remand until their trial lasted if their bail is revoked.

The defendants were alleged to have committed the money laundering offence on or about May 18, 2020, including tax evasion, unremitted Value Added Tax (VAT), Company Income Tax, and Pay As You Earn (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, Mr Echefu, the MD of Briechberg Investment Ltd, was alleged to have obtained the sum of N150 million from Turaki Kabiru Tanimu, the MD of Kalsiyam Farm, with intent to defraud on or about May 18, 2020, in Abuja.

In count six, Mr Echefu was also alleged to have defrauded Mr Tanimu, MD of Kalsiyam Global and former minister of special duties and Intergovernmental Affairs, of N380 million.

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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 a loan advance to Telcom Satellite to enhance the acquisition of modern technology.

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

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.

(NAN)


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