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Alleged N1.4bn Fraud:  EFCC Re-arraigns Professor, Firms for Defrauding Farmers

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The Lagos Zonal Command of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, has re-arraigned  Prof. Uche Chigozie Edwin before Justice Dehinde Dipeolu of the Federal High Court sitting in Ikoyi, Lagos for allegedly defrauding maize farmers to the tune of N1,473,367,046.04 (One Billion, Four Hundred and Seventy-three Million, Three Hundred and Sixty-seven Thousand, Forty-six Naira, Four Kobo only).

Edwin was on Thursday, February 15, 2024 re-arraigned alongside his companies, Visionary Integrated Consulting Limited, NEMAD Associates Limited and Revamp Global Enterprise, on 11-count charges bordering on conspiracy, retention and conversion of funds to the tune of N1,473,367,046.04 (One Billion, Four Hundred and Seventy-three Million, Three Hundred and Sixty-seven Thousand, Forty-six Naira, Four Kobo).

He was first arraigned on March 16, 2023, before Justice Nicholas Oweibo, and had pleaded not guilty to the charges.

However, Justice Oweibo has been transferred out of the Lagos Division, necessitating the re-assignment of the case file to a new trial judge.

One of the counts reads: “That you, Professor Uche Chigozie Edwin, Visionary Integrated Consulting Limited, Nemad Associates Limited and Revamp Global Enterprise, sometime in 2021, in Lagos, within the jurisdiction of this Court conspired amongst yourselves to use the sum of N1,473,367,046.04 (One Billion, Four Hundred and Seventy Three Million, Three Hundred and Sixty Seven Thousand, forty six Naira, Four Kobo), property of the Maize Growers, Processors, and Marketers Association of Nigeria (MAGPAMAN), which sum you reasonably ought to have known forms part of the proceeds of your unlawful activity to wit: fraud and you thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 18(a) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) (Amendment) Act, 2012 and punishable under Section 15(3) of the same Act.”

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Another count reads: “That you, Professor Uche Chigozie Edwin, on the 15th of June 2020, in Lagos, within the jurisdiction of this Court retained in your account Visionary Integrated Consulting Limited with account number- 1022228719 domiciled with United Bank for Africa Pic the sum of N197,170,041.04 (One Hundred and Ninety Seven Million, One hundred and Seventy Thousand, Forty-one Naira Four Kobo), which sum you reasonably ought to have known forms part of the proceeds of your unlawful activity to wit: gratification and you thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 15(2) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) (Amendment) Act, 2012 and punishable under Section 15(3) of the same Act.”

In view of his plea, the defence counsel, Emefo Etudo, urged the court to allow the defendant to continue on the earlier bail granted by Justice Oweibo on August 7, 2023.

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However, counsel to the EFCC, C.C. Okezie, urged the court to only allow the defendant to continue on the previous bail if his counsel would undertake to ensure his attendance in court.

“The defendant had been absent on certain occasions, which had caused some issues,” she said.

In his response, Emefo told the court that when the defendant was first granted bail, his sureties included his biological father as well as a legal practitioner.  He told the court that he was willing to add to the number, and thus undertook to ensure attendance of the defendant in court.

Justice Dipeolu, thereafter, adjourned the case till March 13, 2024 for trial and ordered the defendant to continue to enjoy the bail earlier granted him by Justice Oweibo.

Justice Oweibo had previously admitted the defendant to bail in the sum of N1m (One Million Naira) and two sureties in like sum. The sureties were to possess landed property within the jurisdiction of the court, show a tax clearance certificate of three months as well as their passport photographs. The defendant was also ordered to deposit his international passport with the court.

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