EFCC presents first witness in corruption trial of ex-NHIS chief

EFCC operatives
EFCC operatives

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on Wednesday recalled its first witness before a Federal High Court, Lagos, in the trial of a former Executive Secretary of the National Health Insurance Scheme, Femi Thomas, charged with $2.2 million fraud.

The EFCC had applied to recall the witness before Justice Ayokunle Faji, through a motion, following a third amendment to the charge.

Mr Thomas was re-arraigned on January 17, alongside a bureau de change operator, Kabiru Sidi, on an amended seven-count charge bordering on money laundering.

They were alleged to have carried out cash transactions to the tune of $2.2 million without going through any financial institution, contrary to legal provisions.

They, however, had pleaded not guilty to the charge and were allowed to continue with bail earlier granted them.

On Wednesday, the prosecutor, Ekene Iheanacho, informed the court of a motion seeking to recall the first prosecution witness, Mr John Bamidele, who had testified before the court.

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He argued that by the provisions of Sections 219 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, the court could allow recall of a witness even where the trial had commenced, in as much as there was an amended charge.

In his ruling, the court found the prosecution’s application meritorious and granted it.

The witness, led in evidence by the prosecutor, testified that he had earlier told the court that he bought dollars for the first defendant (Thomas).

He also testified that he had told the court that $2.1 million he carried to Abuja was given to him so as to give the first defendant the Naira equivalent,

The witness equally said he had testified that he agreed to buy a dollar for N227, bringing the total Naira equivalent to N498.9 million.

When the prosecution sought to ask the witness the nature of the transaction, and his relationship with the first accused, the defence objected on the grounds that those facts had already been dealt with in the witness’s earlier evidence.

The court sustained the objection.

The prosecutor then asked the witness if the money handed to him was for charity.

“No,” he replied.

The court adjourned the trial until February 20.

The EFCC accused the duo of committing the offences on July 15, 2015.

The anti-graft agency alleged that the accused conspired to make cash payments of $2.2 million to one Bamidele without going through any financial institution.

The second accused was alleged to have lied to an operative of the EFCC that he was the owner of the money.

According to the prosecution, the offences contravene the Sections 1 (a) , 18(2)(b) and 39(2)(b) of the EFCC Act, 2004. (NAN)

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