By Owolola Adebola
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, on June 24, 2019, arraigned Senator, Albert Bassey, popularly known as OBA, before Justice A. A. Okeke of the Federal High Court, sitting in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, on a six-count charge bordering on money laundering.
The Senator appeared in court today, following a bench warrant issued on him by the same court on June 17, 2019, for breaching the terms of bail granted him by the Commission.
The case against the Senator is hinged on the allegation that he took possession of six vehicles worth N204million, at the instance of one Olajide Omokore, whose companies had contracts with the State Government, at the time.
Investigations revealed that the said vehicles were proceeds of crime and that he committed the offence while he doubled as the Commissioner for Finance, Akwa Ibom State and Chairman of Akwa Ibom State Inter-Ministerial Direct Labour Coordinating Committee, in December 2012. It is an offence which contravenes Section 15 (2) (d) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2011 (as amended) and punishable under Section 15 (3) of the same Act.
The vehicles are, Infinity QX 56 BP, valued at N45million; Toyota Land Cruiser V8 BP, valued at N40million; Range Rover, valued at N40million; Toyota Hiace, High Roof, valued at N27million; Toyota Hiace High Roof, valued at N16million and Toyota Hilux 4×4, valued at N36million.
One of the counts against him reads: “That you, Albert Bassey, whilst being the Commissioner for Finance, Akwa Ibom State and Chairman of Akwa Ibom State Inter-Ministerial Direct Labour Coordinating Committee, IMDLCC sometime in December 2012, within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court, indirectly took possession of a vehicle (Infinity QX 56 BP) valued at N45,000,000.00 at the instance of one Olajide Jones Omokore (whose companies had contracts with Akwa Ibom State Government at that material time), when you reasonably ought to have known that the said vehicle formed part of proceed of unlawful activity (to wit: corruption) and you thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 15 (2) (d) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2011 (as amended) and punishable under Section 15 (3) of the same Act.”
He pleaded “not guilty” to the counts.
In view of his plea, prosecuting counsel, Mohammed Abubakar, prayed the court for a trial date, to enable the prosecution prove its case against him.
Defence counsel, Solomon Umoh, SAN, informed the court of his client’s bail application and moved same, praying the court to grant the defendant bail.
Umoh said: “The applicant in his application regretted the issuance of the bench warrant and explained his absence. The respondent has not disputed the fact that the applicant is on bail, granted him by the EFCC even as we speak.”
Responding, Abubakar strongly objected to the application on the ground that the terms of the bail application earlier granted the defendant by the Commission, were breached, hence the issuance of the bench warrant.
He further urged the court to discountenance the submissions of Umoh and refuse the application.
But after listening to the arguments canvassed by both counsels, the court discharged the bench warrant issued against the Senator and granted him bail.
While adjourning to July 2 and 3, 2019 for trial, Justice Okeke held that: “The defendant is hereby granted bail in the sum of N20million and one surety in like sum. The surety must have a landed property within the jurisdiction of this Court which will be verified by the court registrar, and the court registrar shall file the report of verification.”
The trial judge further ordered that the Senator should be held in EFCC custody, pending the fulfilment of the bail conditions.