EFCC arraigns Bright Echefu, TStv CEO for money laundering

EFCC arraigns Bright Echefu, TStv CEO for money laundering

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, on Thursday, arraigned the Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Telecom Satellites Lim

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The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, on Thursday, arraigned the Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Telecom Satellites Limited, TStv, Bright Echefu, and three others on nine-count money laundering charge.

Others arraigned alongside Echefu before Justice Inyang Ekwo of a Federal High Court, Abuja, include the Executive Director of TStv, Felix Igboanuga; TStv and Briechberg Investment Ltd as 2nd to 4th defendants respectively.

They, however, pleaded not guilty to all the counts.

Upon their non-guilty plea, EFCC’s counsel, Tahir Sylvanus, prayed for an order remanding Messrs Echefu and Igboanuga in a correctional centre pending the hearing and determination of the case.

Sylvanus hinged his application on the grounds that it took almost a year after filing the charge before the defendants could be arraigned.

The lawyer, who said Messrs Echefu and Igboanuga were a flight risk, alleged that the duo refused to turn up for arraignment after being admitted to administrative bail and the charge filed on 9 June 2023.

He, therefore, asked for a speedy trial of the matter.

But Eyitayo Fatogun, who appeared for the defendants, informed the court that a bail application had been filed on his clients’ behalf in October 2023.

He urged the court to admit them to bail, pledging that the defendants were ready to stand trial.

But Sylvanus disagreed with Fatogun.

The prosecution lawyer said a counter affidavit was filed on 16 October 2023 in opposition to their bail plea.

He said though the court had a discretionary power to grant bail, the antecedent of the defendants had proven that they were a flight risk.

Justice Ekwo asked if the defendants were earlier granted administrative bail and Mr Sylvanus responded in the affirmative.

The judge consequently admitted Messrs Echefu and Igboanuga on the terms of the administrative bail earlier granted by the anti-graft agency.

He ordered the defendants to deposit their international passports with the court registrar and not to travel outside the court’s jurisdiction without prior leave of the court.

Justice Ekwo, however, threatened to revoke their bail if they failed to show up in court for their trial.

The judge adjourned the matter until 15, 16 and 17 June for trial commencement. He threatened that Messrs Echefu and Igboanuga would remain in remand until their trial lasted if their bail was revoked.

The defendants were alleged to have, on or about 18 May 2020, committed the money laundering offence, including tax evasion, unremitted Value Added Tax (VAT) and Company Income Tax and Pay As You Earn (PAYE) deducted from the salaries of 165 staff.

The offence is said to be contrary to the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2011 (as amended in 2012) and punishable under Section 15(3) and (4) of the same Act.

In count five, Mr Echefu, being the MD of Briechberg Investment Ltd on or about 18 May 2020 in Abuja, with intent to defraud, was alleged to have obtained the sum of N150 million from Turaki Kabiru Tanimu, MD of Kalsiyam Farm.

In count six, Mr Echefu was also alleged to have defrauded Mr Tanimu, MD of Kalsiyam Global and former Minister of Special Duties and Inter-Governmental Affairs, the sum of N380 million.

The monies were said to have been paid into Briechberg Investment Lid unt number: 1015561485 domiciled with Zenith Bank Pic under the false pretence of representing loan advance to Telcom Satellite for the purpose of enhancing the acquisition of modern technology.

Echefu was alleged to have misappropriated and converted the said monies to his personal use.

The offence is contrary to Section 1 (1) (a) (b) of the Advance Fee Fraud and other Fraud Related Offences, Act, 2006 and punishable under Section 1(3) of the same Act.