Witness’ absence stalls Tompolo’s trial

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A Federal High Court in Lagos has fixed Dec. 13 and Dec. 14 for continuation of trial of an ex-Niger Delta militant, Government Ekpemupolo, alias Tompolo, over N47 million fraud.

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The court fixed the date following a letter from the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) Counsel, Mr Festus Keyamo, for adjournment.

Keyamo stated in the letter that the key prosecution witness was unavailable, and prayed that a new date be given to enable the witness to attend court.

Meanwhile, some members of staff of Global West Vessel Specialist Ltd., a company linked with Tompolo, stormed the court’s premises, protesting nonpayment of their salaries.

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The protesters carried placards with inscriptions indicating that their salaries have not been paid for months due to the prosecution of the company and the freezing of its accounts.

The EFCC had arraigned Tompolo in absentia on April 18, on a 22-count charge of fraud.

Also arraigned in absentia in connection with the alleged fraud are six brothers of a former Director-General of the Nigerian Maritime and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Patrick Akpobolokemi.

The bothers are: Igo, Julius, Victor, Norbert, Emmanuel and Clement Akpobolokemi.

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Patrick Akpobolokemi, two females – Josephine Otuaga and Rita Uruakpa – and one Kime Engozu are also joined in the suit as accused.

Tompolo and the six others were declared to be at large when the charges were read before Justice Ibrahim Buba on April 18.

Following Tompolo’s absence, Buba had issued a bench warrant for his arrest, and subsequently, an order for freezing of his assets.

In the charge, the EFCC alleged that the accused conspired to defraud the Federal Government between Dec. 2, 2014 and April 10, 2015.

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According to the EFCC, the accused falsely represented that a parcel of land situated at Mieka Dive Training Institute Warri, had been acquired by NIMASA for the temporary campus of the Nigerian Maritime University.

The EFCC submitted that the alleged offences contravened the provisions of Section 18 (a) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) (Amendment) Act, 2012 and Section 1 (b) of the Advance Fee Fraud and other Fraud Related Offences Act, 2006.

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