By Harrison Arubu
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on Wednesday arraigned Col. Nicholas Ashinze, a former Special Assistant to the embattled ex-National Security Adviser, Col. Sambo Dasuki, for money laundering.
Ashinze was docked along with an Austrian, Wolfgang Reinl, and two others, Edidiong Idiong and Sagir Mohammed, in a Federal High Court, Abuja.
A statement by EFCC’s spokesman, Mr Wilson Uwujaren, said the accused were arraigned on a 13-count charge of corruption and money laundering to the tune of N36.8 billion.
The defendants are standing trial alongside five companies accused of diverting huge sums from the office of the NSA under Dasuki.
“The companies are Geonel Integrated Services Limited, Unity Continental Nigeria Limited, Helpline Organization, Vibrant Resource Limited and Sologic Integrated Services Limited.
“In one of the charges, the EFCC alleges that Ashinze and Reinl, who is the Managing Director of Geonel Integrated Services Limited, transferred N550 million to Edidiong Idiong, a lawyer.
“The transfer was made on April 22, 2014 in violation of Section 15 (2) (b) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act 2011.”
The defendants pleaded not guilty to all the charges preferred against them, the statement said.
Counsel to EFCC, I. O. Uket, expressed the commission’s readiness to immediately begin prosecution of the accused, saying that he had the witnesses present in court.
“If the court is ready, we are also ready to produce our first witness as we have our witnesses in court,’’ he reportedly told the court.
But Ashinze’s counsel, Ernest Nwoye, told the court that he had a pending application for the bail of his client.
He urged the court to grant the defendant bail on self recognition having earlier been admitted to bail by an FCT High Court.
Afam Osigwe, counsel representing the second and fifth defendants, also prayed the court to admit Reinl to bail.
He stated that Reinl had been enjoying administrative bail from the EFCC since February, adding that his travel documents were with the commission.
Counsel to Idiong, Paul Erokoro SAN said his client being a legal practitioner knew what it meant to jump bail.
Erokoro stated that besides being granted bail earlier by an FCT High Court, his client had always made himself available to the EFCC.
Similarly, counsel to Mohammed, N. Jimoh, prayed the court to grant his client bail, saying he had a health challenge which he had been managing for close to 40 years.
Responding, Uket argued that the defendants lost their administrative bail the moment their matter was charged to court.
Ruling on the applications, Justice Gabriel Kolawole held that the charges were all “bailable’’.
The judge said that the case would be granted accelerated hearing and urged the prosecution to pick five days in the New Year for trial.
Consequently, the case was adjourned till Jan. 23, Feb. 1 and Feb.14, March 7 and March 21,Uwujaren quoted the statement as saying. (