The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on Wednesday re-arraigned four directors of Petrol Union Oil and Gas Company Ltd. charged with £2.55 billion fraud.
The defendants are Abayomi Kukoyi (said to be trading under the name and style of Gladstone Kukoyi and Associates), Prince Kingsley Okpala, Prince Chidi Okpalaeze and Prince Emmanuel Okpalaeze.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the defendants were charged before a Federal High Court in Lagos.
They are facing trial along with Petro Union Oil and Gas Company Ltd.
They were alleged to have committed the fraud between 1994 and 2007.
The EFCC alleged that the defendants fraudulently procured a cheque from a Barclays Bank in London for £2.55 billion on the pretext that it was meant to construct three petrochemical refinery complexes in Nigeria.
They were also alleged to have, sometime in April 2007, forged a statement of account in the name of Goldmatic Ltd., meant for obtaining the alleged fraudulent sum.
The defendants were first arraigned before Justice Mohammed Liman on Feb. 13, 2020, on seven counts, in a suit marked FHC/L/46C/2020.
They, however, pleaded not guilty to the counts and were granted bail.
Their re-arraignment on Wednesday followed an amendment of the charge by the EFCC.
The defendants equally pleaded not guilty to the 13-count amended charge.
After their pleas, trial continued in the case, and the prosecutor, Mr Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), called the fifth prosecution witness, Mrs Nenandi Usman, a former Minister of Finance.
Usman entered the witness box and swear to oath.
She introduced herself as a businesswoman, testifying that between 2003 to 2007 she worked at the Federal Ministry of Finance, first as a Minister of State and later as the Minister of Finance.
Usman said that her duty then included sending and receiving mails on behalf of the ministry and representing the ministry.
When asked what she remembers about the case, she told the court that in February 2007, a letter signed by one Prince Isaac came to the Office of the Minister of Finance.
The former minister said that the writer requested for a mandate to be issued to him to enable him to collect money from the Central Bank of Nigeria.
She said that the letter was then directed to the permanent secretary in the ministry who also directed it to the appropriate office.
According to her, the ministry’s position on the letter was to remind the party that in 1995 there was an amendment to the Foreign Exchange Act, in which such mandate was no longer required.
The prosecutor thereafter laid a foundation for tendering of documents in that regard before the court.
After some objections by defence counsel, the court admitted and marked the documents as Exhibit AA and AB.
Under cross-examination, Usman agreed with defence counsel that all transactions relating to the charge pre-dated her assumption of office.
She also told the court that she did not know any of the defendants in the charge.
Trial in the case will resume on Feb. 3.
The four directors were accused of altering a Barclays Bank cheque dated Dec. 29, 1994, for £2.55 billion, made payable to the Union Bank account of Gladstone Kukoyi and Associates, for purposes of constructing three petrochemical refineries in Nigeria.
They were alleged to have attempted to obtain money by false pretences by demanding 2.55 billion pounds from the Union Bank of Nigeria as well as the Central Bank of Nigeria as proceeds of the Barclays Bank cheque.
According to the EFCC, the offences contravene the provisions of Sections 1(2), 1(2)(a) of the Miscellaneous Offences Act of 1990.
The EFCC also said that the alleged offences contravened the provisions of Sections 467(2)(I), 468 and 501of the Criminal Code Act, 2004. (NAN)