The absence of one of the defendants stalled the trial of some top officials of the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FRIS) and two former directors for alleged fraud at the Federal High Court, Abuja, on Tuesday.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had in March arraigned the ex-Coordinating Director of FIRS, Peter Hena, former Director of Finance, Mohammed Bello Auta, and seven other staff of the agency on a 42-count charge of corruption, fraud, and criminal misappropriation of funds running into several millions of naira.
Other defendants are – Aminu Sidi, Umar Aliyu Aduku, Mbura Mustapha, Obi Okeke Malachy, Obaje Napoleon Adofu, Udo-Inyang Effiong Alfred, and Benjamin Jiya.
The offence, according to the EFCC, was punishable under the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2011 (as amended in 2012).
They were granted bail by Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu in the sum of N100 million each with a surety in the like sum.
The defendants were re-arraigned before Justice Bolaji Olajuwon on June 23 following the transfer of Justice Ojukwu to the court’s Calabar division.
They pleaded not guilty to the charges and prayed the court to allow them to continue to enjoy the earlier bail granted them by Ojukwu since none of the defendants had breached any of the bail terms.
The new trial judge admitted them bail on the previous terms put together by the former judge.
She adjourned the matter till September 28 for the commencement of trial.
However, when the matter was called on Tuesday, Jiya, who was the 9th defendant, was conspicuously absent in court.
Justice Olajuwon asked his counsel, N.A. Ikoro, his whereabouts.
Ikoro told the court that his client contracted COVID-19 and had been in the isolation centre.
The judge adjourned the matter till December 1 for the commencement of trial.