Monday, October 25, 2021

Court bars EFCC from retrying Uzor Kalu’s alleged N7.1bn fraud

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The Federal High Court has prohibited the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission from retrying former Abia Governor, Orji Uzor Kalu.

The trial judge, Justice Inyang Ekwo gave the order while delivering judgment in an application filed by the former governor seeking an order of court prohibiting the Federal Government through the EFCC from retrying him on a charge for which he had already been tried and convicted.

“An order is hereby made prohibiting the Federal Government through the EFCC, her agents, officers, servants, other agents and any other person or bodies deriving athourity from the Federal Government from retrying the applicant (Kalu) on charge no. FHC/ABJ/CR/56/2007 FRN vs Kalu and two others on or any other charge based on the same facts, the said applicant having been tried, convicted and sentenced by the judgment of this court dated Dec. 5, 2019 by Justice M.B Idris.”

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Justice Ekwo held that since Kalu was not mentioned in the judgment of the Supreme Court, which voided his earlier conviction and sentencing and ordered a retrial, the judgment did not apply to him.

Justice Ekwo ruled  that it was only the former Commissioner of Finance in Abia  Government House, Jones Udeogu, that could be re-tried as only his name was mentioned in the Supreme Court judgment.

The judge rejected the argument of the prosecution that having benefited from the judgment of the Supreme Court, Kalu and his firm could not claim the order for retrial would not apply to them.

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Kalu’s counsel, Prof. Awa Kalu, SAN,  while adopting his processes had informed the court that Kalu stood for trial for 12 years and got the judgment that convicted and jailed him for 10 years.

The senior lawyer cited Section 36 (9) of the 1999 Constitution which provides that no Nigerian shall be subjected to double jeopardy to support his arguments.

The lawyer insisted that the former governor, having served time in prison, would be made to suffer double jeopardy if the court ordered the EFCC to retry him.

In an interview with newsmen, Awa Kalu said that the judgment was a victory for the law.

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For his part, the EFCC counsel, Oluwaleke Atolagbe wondered why Kalu would benefit from the Supreme Court judgment while Udeogu would not benefit from it.

Mr Atolagbe said that he would consult with his employer to know the next cause of action, he, however, added that an appeal was not off the table.

Mr Kalu was earlier found guilty of an alleged N7.1 billion money laundering charge against him and was thereafter handed a 12-year jail term by the Lagos Division of the High Court.

But the Supreme Court, in its judgment on May 8, quashed the conviction and ordered a retrial of the defendants by the EFCC.

NAN

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