The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), on Friday, arraigned a woman, Rabbi Okpara, before a Federal Capital Territory (FCT) High Court in Maitama for allegedly issuing fake international passports to people.
Ms Okpara was arraigned on a four-count charge of using her travel agency, Green Valley Concept Limited, to lure unsuspecting members of the public to participate in a scam.
She pleaded not guilty to the charges when read to her.
Count one of the charges reads: “That you Rabbi Okpara and Jude Ugbaja(at large) sometime in August 2019, within the jurisdiction of this honourable court conspired between yourselves to do an illegal act, to wit; causing to be used as genuine forged documents, thereby committed an offence contrary to section 3(6) of the Miscellaneous Offences Act, CAP, MI7 laws of Federation Nigeria, 2004 and punishable under the same act.”
Count two reads: “That you Rabbi Okpara, Jude Ugbaja ( at large), Green Valley Concept Ltd and Palmary Travels and Tours Ltd, sometimes in August 2019 in Abuja within the jurisdiction of this honourable court forged a maltase passport with the name Nasiru Haladu Danu with number 9647443 dated 27 April/AVR 2018 with intent that it be used as genuine; thereby committed an offence contrary to 320(a) of the Penal Code, Law of the Federation 1990 and punishable under section 322 of the same law.”
After Ms Okpara took her plea, the prosecution lawyer, Fadeelah Yusuf, asked the court to remand her in Suleja prison in Niger State, pending trial.
Responding, the defendant’s lawyer, Akinyemi Aremu, in an oral application, asked for bail. In his argument, he said the major reason to admit one to bail is to ensure their presence in court during the trial.
But the EFCC opposed the bail application.
In a short ruling, the judge, Othman Musa, said, “I have carefully considered the oral application made by the defendant to grant the woman to bail which was strongly opposed by the prosecution, the reason being that the application should have come in writing.
“Be as it may, usually an issue of bail is at the discretion of the court, which shall be exercised judicially and judiciously. From the record of the court, coupled with the submission of the learned counsel to the defendant, that she has been in detention for a period of not less than three months, for that reason, he urged the court to admit the defendant to bail on liberal terms.
“Having said this, I think to look at the charge which the defendant had pleaded not guilty to, the charges are bailable.
“In the spirit of a fair trial, I believe the defendant deserves to be allowed bail and the bail is hereby granted,” he ruled.
According to the judge, the bail terms include N1 million with one surety in like sum.
“The surety must be an immediate relation who lives in FCT with a clear place as the address of residence.”
Mr Uthman said the surety shall produce a clear passport photograph to be attached to the bail bond and also a National Identity Card or an international passport, which shall be photocopied and placed for ease of reference.
The judge held that “the surety shall make sure that the defendant attends the trial at when due and finally if the defendant fails to attend trial without cogent reason, the court shall revoke the bail and also make the surety forfeit the bail bond.”
Mr Uthman said that the chief judge of the court shall reassign the case as he is a vacation judge.
The anti-graft agency had in its proof of evidence stated that its preliminary investigation revealed that Ms Okpara is the owner of Green Valley Concept Limited, a purported travelling agency.
It said Ms Okpara used her travel agency to lure unsuspecting members of the public to participate in a scam travel/residency arrangement in Malta.
The EFCC said that Ms Okpara in her statement with the agency admitted to liaising with a third party, Mr Ugbaja, in obtaining these fake travel document for her clients.
According to the anti-graft agency, Ms Okpara claimed that she has a valid agreement with Mr Ugbaja’s company – Palmory Travel and Tours Limited – to obtain travel documents for her clients.
EFCC stated that “a Nigerian citizen (Nasiru Haladu Danu) was arrested and detained at the Heathrow Airport in the United Kingdom for being in possession of a fake Republic of Malta passport.
“Thereupon repatriation of Nasiru Danu to Nigeria, he stated that he received the documents from the applicant’s agency.
It was reported that the said Mr Danu was detained and issued a Notice of cancellation of leave to enter the United Kingdom for being in possession of a fake Maltase passport allegedly procured for him by Ms Okpara.
The EFCC also stated that the said Mr Danu, who was a victim of Ms Okpara’s atrocities, invited two persons, Babatunde Adeboye and Akarolo Ovundah, whose names were mentioned at various times during investigation for an interview.
The anti-graft agency said Messrs Adeboye and Ovumdah both claimed they were issued with Maltese passport by Ms Okpara, who claimed to be working with others at large to obtain a passport from the Malta government.
“That these Maltese passports given to Mr Babatunde Adeboye and Mr Akarolo Ovundah were forwarded to the forensic unit of the commission for analysis and the report revealed that they are also fake documents.”
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