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N1.23 bn Fraud: Court grants ex-INEC boss N1bn bail, warns him not to intimidate EFCC witnesses

A former Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Maurice Iwu, who was alleged of money laundering totalling N1.23 bn has been granted bail in the sum of N1 billion with two sureties in like sum.

Iwu, a professor of  Pharmacognosy was arraigned by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on four counts charges bordering on concealment, fraud and money laundering of N1,203,000 between December 2014 and March 2015.

He was the INEC chairman from June 2005 till April 2010 when he was removed from the office due to issues of integrity in the electoral processes.

Giving the ruling on Friday, Justice Chuka Obiozor at the Federal High Court Ikeja, Lagos ordered that Iwu be remanded at the Ikoyi prison pending the fulfilments of the bail conditions, according to Punch.

His bail conditions were to provide N1 billion, together with two sureties. He said one of the sureties must own a landed property in Lagos while the other must be a professor or a civil servant not below Grade Level 16.

The EFCC had fingered Iwu among the ‘beneficiary’ of the N23.29 bn slush funds allegedly shared by former Petroleum Minister, Diezani Allison-Madueke to influence the result of the 2015 presidential election.  The 2015 election saw to the emerging of President Muhammadu Buhari unseating the ruling president Goodluck Jonathan.

The over 1.2 billion Iwu had received was said to be domiciled in a bank account of the  Bioresources Institute of Nigeria Limited, a company he currently heads as the Executive Director.

During the hearing of the bail application on Friday, Iwu’s counsel, Ahmad Raji, prayed the court to grant him bail.

The prosecution lawyer, Rotimi Oyedepo, rather opposed. He urged the court to use its discretion not to grant the bail. The EFCC counsel added that there was evidence of the possibility of the defendant intimidating or interfering with the witnesses if he was granted bail, adding the witnesses were mostly INEC officials with whom he had worked closely.

He told the court that the former INEC boss “ought to have reasonably known that the N1.23bn formed part of proceeds of an unlawful act, to wit: fraud.”

He noted his action was in contrary to sections 18(a) and 15 (2) (a) of the Money Laundering ((Prohibition) Act 2011 and was liable to be punished under Section 15(3) of the same Act.

After hearing both the defendant and prosecution arguments, the judge, however, granted him bail, insisting that Iwu should not communicate with any of the witnesses.

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