By Vivian Okejeme, Abuja
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) yesterday, arraigned Malabu Oil and Gas Limited, six other firms before a Federal High Court in Abuja.
They were charged with money laundering in a 48-count charge over their alleged fraudulent dealings in relation to the controversial oil block, OPL 245.
The EFCC claimed about $1bn and N673m are involved in the alleged money laundering offences.
Other defendants in the case are: Aliyu Abubakar, kA-Group Construction Company Limited, Rocky Top Resources Limited, Mega Tech Engineering Limited, Novel Properties and Development Company Limited, and Carlin International Nigeria Limited.
The defendants pleaded not guilty when an official of the court read the charges to them.
Following the not guilty plea, the prosecutor, Bala Sanga said he was not averse to the court granting bail to Abubakar.
Abubakar’s lawyer, Akin Olujinmi (SAN), commended Sanga for showing understanding and urged the court to adopt the conditions adopted associated with an earlier bail granted his client in this case.
Abubakar is being tried before the court in a separate charge involving him and a former Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), Mohammed Adoke (SAN).
Justice Inyang Ekwo adjourned till September 7 for trial.
The EFCC, in a count in the charge, claimed that Malabu Oil, and two of its directors (said to be on the run – Seidougha Munamuna and a former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Dauzia Etete, who is widely known as Dan Etete) – “directly or indirectly converted” the sum of $401,540,000 paid from the Federal Government of Nigeria Escrow Account with JP Morgan Chase Bank in London into Malabu Oil’s account with a bank in the country.
It claimed that they converted the money “knowing that the funds formed part of an unlawful activity, that is, “negotiation and signing of oil block 245 Resolution Agreement with Shell Nigeria Ultra Deep Limited, Nigeria Agip Exploration Limited, Shell Nigeria Exploration and Production Company Limited whereby taxes due to the Federal Government was waived”.
The prosecution alleged that the same set of persons took control of the said sum of $401,540,000 in violation of section 9(a) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, an act punishable under section 15(3) of the same law.
It claimed that in September 2011, Abubakar and Rocky Top Resources Limited took control of the of $336,456,906.78 which was said to be part of proceeds of unlawful activity in the Malabu Oil deal.
Also, the anti graft agency alleged that in August 2011, Abubakar and Imperial Union Limited also took control of the sum of $34,540,00 received from Malabu Oil and Gas. The fund was also said to be part of the proceeds unlawful activity in the OPL 245 deal.
Abubakar, whose name appeared in 43 counts, was alleged to have neglected to report in writing to the EFCC certain single-fund transactions involving the bank accounts of his separate companies between 2011 and 2014.