Alleged N2.9bn Fraud: I’m not guilty — Okorocha tells court
Rochas Okorocha, the former governor of Imo state, has pleaded not guilty to a 17-count money laundering charge brought by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) against him and six others.
Okorocha appeared in court at 9:35 a.m. with Anyim Nyerere Chinenye, a senior member of the All Progressives Congress (APC), and five companies: Naphtali International Limited, Perfect Finish Multi Projects Limited, Consolid Projects Consulting Limited, Pramif International Limited, and Legend World Concepts Limited.
“I understand the charge against me, but I am not guilty my lord,” Justice Inyang Ekwo, the former governor, said when the charge was read to him before the trial.
All of the other defendants pleaded not guilty to the charge filed on January 24.
Okorocha, who led Imo state from 2011 to 2019, was accused of misappropriating N2.9 billion in state funds.
The charges against him were a mix of conspiracy and theft.
The defendants allegedly syphoned funds from the Imo State Government House account and the Imo State Joint Local Government Project account and diverted them to private firms’ accounts, according to the EFCC.
The defendants allegedly committed the alleged crime between October 2014 and February 2016, according to the anti-graft agency.
Okorocha, who currently represents Imo West in the Senate, had previously stated his intention to run for president in the 2023 general elections.
However, he was apprehended by operatives of the agency just hours before his political party, the ruling All Progressive Congress, APC, was set to screen its presidential candidates.
Following the former governor’s alleged refusal to make himself available for trial, he was arrested.
The EFCC accused him of avoiding service of the charge on purpose.
Meanwhile, Okorocha’s lawyer, Mr. Okey Amaechi, SAN, requested that the court release him on bail pending the outcome of the case against him, following the defendants’ Monday plea.
Amaechi also drew the court’s attention to the fact that his client had been arrested without cause prior to the APC’s screening.
“My lord, they went into the defendant’s house, broke into it, and arrested him in a gestapo manner without a warrant of arrest from this court,” he added.
However, the EFCC told the court through its lawyer, Mr. Gbolahan Latona, that Okorocha raised some issues in his bail application that required a response from the EFCC.
While adjourning the case until Tuesday to hear the defendants’ bail applications, Justice Ekwo ordered that they be held in EFCC custody pending the outcome of their bail request.
Trial dates have been set for November 7, 8, 9, 10, and 11.
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