Court fixes April 20 to hear Kalu’s suit against EFCC over money laundering charges

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A Federal High Court, Abuja, has fixed April 20 to hear the suit by former Abia State Governor and Senate Chief Whip, Orji Uzor Kalu seeking to stop his retrial by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on alleged money laundering charges.

When proceedings resumed on Tuesday, Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), drew the attention of the court to the fact that the originating summons was served on his chambers instead of the EFCC.

He told Justice Inyang Ekwo that he had yet to be briefed by the EFCC as its counsel and it would amount to professional misconduct to accept processes on the matter.

Responding, Prof. Awa Kalu (SAN), who appeared for Senator Kalu, said he had no problem serving the EFCC with the originating summons.

Both Chief Chris Uche (SAN) and George Ukeagbu who appeared for third and second defendants said they were properly served.

However, Justice Ekwo observed that both the first and third defendants had yet to file their reply briefs in the suit.

He accordingly adjourned the case to April 20 for hearing and directed the applicant to serve the EFCC within seven days.

The court had, on February 8, 2021, granted leave to Senator Kalu to challenge his retrial by the EFCC on the same charges upon which he was sentenced and convicted.

Justice Inyang Ekwo thereafter ordered that the planned re-arraignment of the politician in the alleged N7.1bn money laundering charges be put on hold until the resolution of the legal questions raised against his retrial.

In a motion ex-parte which was moved and argued by his counsel, Prof. Awa Kalu (SAN), Senator Kalu asked for an order of court prohibiting the EFCC from retrying him on the same alleged money laundering charges for which he was earlier convicted.

He contented that having been tried, convicted and sentenced on the same charges FHC/ABJ/CR/56/ 2007, by Justice M.B. Idris, it will amount to double jeopardy if he is subjected to a fresh trial on same charge.

Justice Ekwo, in his ruling, granted leave to Kalu to seek an order prohibiting the Federal Republic of Nigeria, through the EFCC (her agent), her officers, servants, others, agents, privies and any other person or bodies deriving authority from the Federal Republic of Nigeria, from retrying him on charge No. FHC/ABJ/CR/56/2007 between FRN vs Orji Kalu & 2 others or any other charge based on the same facts de novo, there being no extant judgment and ruling of a competent court in Nigeria mandating the same.

An order prohibiting the Federal Republic of Nigeria, through the EFCC (her agent), her officers, servants, others, agents, privies and any other person or bodies deriving authority from the Federal Republic of Nigeria, from retrying, harrassing and intimidating him with respect to the charge as container in charge No: FHC/ABJ/CR/56/2007 between FRN vs Orji Kalu & 2 ors or any other charge based on the same facts as he needed not suffer double jeopardy.

Recall that in his judgment on December 5, 2019, Justice Idris had convicted and sentenced Kalu and others to 12 years’ imprisonment with respect to the extant charge.

Following his conviction and sentence, he was incarcerated at the Kuje Correctional Centre where he served part of his term.

However on May 8, 2020, the Supreme Court in judgment in appeal No: SC.62C/2019, filed by Udeh Jones Udeogu, who was the second defendant, held that the trial of the appellant at the trial court was conducted without jurisdiction and thereby ordered the retrial of the appellant (Udeh Jones Udeogu) without reference to him.

Kalu was a beneficiary of the judgment being that he was the first defendant at the lower court.

But Kalu is now arguing that there is no extant ruling or judgment of a competent court in Nigeria ordering his trial, having regard to the fact that the Supreme Court excluded him from the explicit order for retrial arising from charge No: FHC/ABJ/56/2007.

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