Friday, July 10, 2015

Alleged $2.3million fraud : Ohakim secures N270million bail

ABUJA—Former Governor of Imo State, Mr. Ikedi Ohakim, who was on Wednesday, remanded in the custody of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, after he was arraigned before the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja over money laundering charge, yesterday, regained his freedom.

Trial Justice Ademola Adeniyi granted Ohakim bail to the tune of N270million.

Ohakim who was Imo state governor between May 2007 and May 2011 is answering to a three-count criminal charge bordering on money laundering, abuse of office and misappropriation of public funds.

He was alleged to have looted the sum of $2.290m from the state treasury and used same to acquire a mansion at  the Asokoro District of Abuja.

Shortly after he pleaded not guilty to the charge on Wednesday, his lawyer, Chief Chris Uche, SAN, made an oral application for his release on bail, a prayer that was turned down by the court.

Justice Adeniyi directed the accused person to file a formal bail application, even as the matter was adjourned till yesterday.

At the resumed sitting on the case yesterday, Ohakim, via a 10-paragraphed affidavit that was deposed to by his wife, Chioma, begged the court to allow him to go home, saying he would be available to face his trial.

His bail request was not opposed by the prosecuting counsel Mr. Festus Keyamo, who however urged the court to okay accelerated hearing on the matter.

Ruling on the application, Justice Adeniyi placed reliance on the decided case laws in Abiola vs FRN, Asari Dokubo vs FRN, as well as that of Uwazuruike vs FRN, and held that the offence against Ohakim is bailable.

According to Justice Adeniyi, in granting bail to an accused person, the court must consider the nature of the charge, strength of the evidence, gravity of punishment in event of conviction, previous criminal record of the accused, the possibility of the accused not submitting himself for trial, likelihood that he will interfere with witnesses or evidence as well as the likelihood that he will commit another offence.

“This court has perused all the processes and exhibits filed by the parties. The essence of bail is for an accused to attend his trial. Secondly, under section 35 of the constitution, an accused is presumed innocent until proven guilty.

“The offences concerned are bailable. I further refer to affidavit of completion of investigation sworn to by the EFCC.

“Therefore, this court will exercise its discretion in favour of the accused. Accordingly, the accused is granted bail in the sum of N270million with one surety who must be resident within the jurisdiction of the court”.

According to the court, the surety must be an owner of a landed property within the jurisdiction of the high court and must tender the title deed of such property to the Deputy Chief Registrar, DCR, of the court for verification.

In the alternative, Justice Adeniyi held that such surety could depose to an affidavit of means before the  DCR of the court in charge of litigation.

More so, Ohakim was ordered to surrender his international passport to the court,  pending the hearing and determination of the charge against him.

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