Plea bargain by serial, fuel subsidy fraudster “laughable”, EFCC says

Oluwaseun Ogunbambo

The accused is being arraigned for involvement in multiple scams

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, has described the plea bargain terms of Seun Ogunbambo, who is facing prosecution for multiple cases of fraud, as “laughable.”

Mr. Ogunbambo is allegedly involved in a series of fuel subsidy frauds as well as a bank scam running into several billions of naira.

The counsel to the EFCC, Francis Usani, told an Ikeja High Court, on Monday, that out of the more than N4 billion involved in all the scams, Mr. Ogunbambo, in his plea bargain, agreed to pay N100 million upfront.

The suspect also agreed to spread the balance of the remaining sum, paying N50 million every three months, EFCC says.

“The proposal is laughable,” Mr. Usani insisted.

‘He deserves bail’

In his bail application on Monday, Adebayo Adenipekun, Mr. Ogunbambo’s counsel, argued that his client deserves bail just as his co-accused.

Mr. Ogunbambo; Mamman Ali, son of former chairman of Peoples’ Democratic Party; Christian Taylor; and Nasaman Oil Services are facing a 14-count charge of subsidy fraud.

Messrs Ali and Taylor had been granted bail by Adeniyi Onigbanjo, the trial judge.

“The only issue that is relevant from all the processes is whether the applicant will attend trial. I’m aware that the others are out on bail,” Mr. Adenipekun, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, said.

Mr. Adenipekun stated that since his client was granted bail – by a different judge – on August 22, he had been appearing before the court.

He also said that his client had been attending meetings with the EFCC as well as Stanbic IBTC bank to negotiate an effective out-of-court settlement.

“Since he had been granted bail on the 22nd of August, 2012, all the steps that he has been taking in this matter and other matters are steps showing that he has no intention of running away.

“But either to attend his trial or settle this matter out of court,” said Mr. Adenipekun.

Mr. Ogunbambo’s counsel also sought to dispel his client’s multiple identity tag by the anti graft commission.

“This issue was raised in 2009 and he was confronted with it and he denied it. They investigated it and dropped it,” Mr. Adenipekun said.

While opposing Mr. Ogunbambo’s bail request, the EFCC counsel noted that the multiple identity claims were not “controverted” by the suspect.

The commission also said that the suspect failed to appear in court on three different dates last October.

Mr. Usani added that Mr. Ogunbambo’s claims of being involved in out of court settlement should not be a ground for the grant of bail; but an admittance of guilt.

“On the issue of passports, it is clear that he has multiple identities. He is either Benson Adebowale or Seun Ogunbambo. We don’t know who he is as long as the passports exist,” said Mr. Usani.

The EFCC said that in addition to a letter from Ireland informing them that the suspect has been arrested for money laundering; there are also allegations that his British passport was a fake.

“These are matters that have international dimensions and investigations are not as quick as the ones here in Nigeria,” said Mr. Usani.

“There are two or three matters of petroleum subsidy fraud still pending. We are still going to bring charges, investigations are still ongoing,” Mr. Usani added.

Mr. Onigbanjo fixed December 6 for ruling on the bail application.

Another fraud allegation

Also on Monday, the EFCC amended an earlier charge brought against Mr. Ogunbambo, Habila Theck, and their firm, Fargo Petroleum and Gas Limited.

The six-count charge, brought when the suspects were arraigned last July, was amended to a ten-count charge of N976.6 million including conspiracy, document forgery, and obtaining money by false pretense.

The suspects pleaded not guilty to all the charges.

Trial would continue on December 5.

Mr. Ogunbambo, along with Olamide Ogunbambo, David Ayodele and their company Adeline Investment Ltd., is also facing a N1.2 credit facility scam carried out at Stanbic IBTC bank in 2009.

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