The Federal High Court in Lagos yesterday admitted the first set of exhibits in the trial of a former Governor of Abia State, Orji Kalu, who was accused of N2.9bn fraud.
The trial judge, Justice Mohammed Idris, admitted as the first exhibit a letter dated October 30, 2006, written by Fidelity Bank Plc in response to an enquiry by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.
The development is coming barely 24 hours after the court threw out an objection filled by him, challenging the competence of the first prosecution witness to testify in the money laundering charge filed against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
The business mogul is facing a 34 count- charge of laundering N3.2billion, to which he had pleaded not guilty.
The letter was admitted along with a bundle of attachments, which were essentially customers’ information in respect of 23 bank drafts issued by the defunct Manny Bank, Umuhia branch.
The documents were admitted as exhibits on Wednesday after Justice Idris delivered a ruling dismissing the objection by the defence counsel, Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN) and Chief Solo Akuma (SAN), challenging the admissibility of the documents.
At the Wednesday’s proceedings, the first prosecution witness, Mr. Onovoe Oghenovo, while being led in evidence by the prosecutor, Mr. Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), told the judge that the 23 bank drafts were issued in favour of Inland Bank Plc from the Fidelity Bank account of the Abia State Government House.
He listed the individuals who gave instructions for the issuance of the drafts to include E.I. Okoro, Romanus Madu, Jones Egbuegbu and M.A. Udoh.
Under cross-examination by the defence counsel, the witness affirmed that there was nowhere in the exhibits where the names of Kalu, Udeogu and Slok appeared as the persons who gave instructions for the issuance of the drafts.
The matter was, however, adjourned till Thursday for the court to rule on the objection by the defence counsel to Ohiri’s competence to testify.
Kalu was said to have allegedly diverted the funds in tranches of N200m, N50m, N200m, N300.8m, N545m, N429m, N288.4m, N190m, N157m, N152.8m, N100m, N84m and N50m between August 13, 2003 and January 12, 2005. But the defendants pleaded not guilty to the offences.