Federal High Court Dismisses Salary Padding Case against Charity Ukonu, Others

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The Federal High Court sitting in Umuahia has dismissed the salary padding and money laundering case filed against Mrs Charity Ukonu, Uche Udeachara and Idika Kalu by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commision (EFCC) for lack of evidence and diligent prosecution.

The suspects were arraigned on an 11-count charge bordering on money laundering, stealing and diversion of funds to the tune of N6, 260,321.08( (Six Million, Two Hundred and Sixty Thousand, Three Hundred and Twenty One Naira, Eight Kobo only), contrary to Section 18(a) and punishable under Section 15 of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2012 (as amended).

The three who are employees of Abia State Government and members of Abia State Salary Verification Committee, were accused of defrauding and stealing money from the funds designated for salaries by the State Government to the tune of N6,260,321.08( Six Million, Two Hundred And Sixty Thousand, Three Hundred and Twenty One Naira, Eight Kobo only).

Recall that the EFCC had invited some staff of the Ministry of Finance to answer to the allegations of salary padding and money laundering following a petition by one Barr Guy Okite who is a Board member of the State Civil Service Commission. Among those invited by the EFCC was a former Commissioner for Finance in the State, Mr Obinna Oriaku, who was detained but later released. The anti-graft agency was said to have later exempted Oriaku from the alleged crime.

Counts one and eight of the charges preferred against the defendants, read: “That you Charity Nneoma Ukonu, Udeachara Uche, Idika Kalu and others, sometime in the year 2015 at Umuahia within the jurisdiction of this Court conspired amongst yourselves to do unlawful act to wit: money laundering and thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 15(a) and punishable under Section 15 of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2012 (as amended).

“That you Udeachara Uche, whilst a member of the Abia State Salary Enhancement and Audit Committee between July and December 2017 at Umuahia within the jurisdiction of this Court, indirectly took possession of the cumulative sum of N1,667,892.43 (One Million Six Hundred and Sixty Seven Thousand, Eight Hundred and Ninety Two Naira, Forty Three Kobo) transferred from the account of the Abia State Government into the account of your son, Chidiebere Udeachara, a minor and which sum you knew or reasonably ought to have known forms part of the proceeds of your unlawful act, to wit: stealing and thereby committed an offence contrary to and punishable under Section 15(2)(d) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2011 (as amended).”

The defendants, however, pleaded not guilty to the charges preferred against them and were subsequently remanded in Afara Correctional Center, Umuahia.

When the case came up on Monday, January 13, the prosecution counsel was absent from the court after due service of notice. After reviewing the matter, the Presiding Judge, Justice Evelyn Anyadike, dismissed the case for lack of evidence and diligent prosecution.

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