• Sunday, June 16, 2024
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Masari faces fresh 22 charges for alleged N119m money laundering

Alhaji-Bature-Umar-Masari

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has re-arraigned Bature Umar Masari, the former Director General of the Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency of Nigeria (SMEDAN), on 22 new charges of alleged money laundering.

Masari is accused of laundering N119 million and receiving illegal gratifications.

The arraignment took place before Justice O.A. Egwuatu at the Federal High Court in Maitama, Abuja.

The EFCC’s statement, signed by its Head of Media and Publicity, Dele Oyewale, disclosed that Masari is accused of laundering N119,507,080 and receiving gratifications.

During the court session, prosecution counsel Ekele Iheanacho presented the amended charges, originally dated May 13, 2013, and filed on May 17, 2019. Iheanacho requested the charges be read to Masari, who then pleaded “not guilty” to all counts.

Notably, Count 19 accuses Masari of using N10,000,000 received in his Diamond Bank account from Rahuse Ventures Limited between June 27, 2014, and July 17, 2014, knowing the funds were proceeds of unlawful activities. Count 20 alleges a similar offense involving another N10,000,000 received between July 14, 2014, and July 21, 2014. Both counts cite violations of the Money Laundering Prohibition Act of 2011, as amended in 2012.

Following Masari’s plea, Iheanacho applied for a trial date. Defense counsel Okechukwu Edeze requested that Masari continue on bail granted by Justice Okong Abang in May 2019. Iheanacho did not oppose but urged the court to confirm the sureties’ availability.

Justice Egwuatu allowed Masari to remain on bail under his counsel’s supervision and adjourned the case to July 16, 2024, for trial commencement.

It could be recalled that the EFCC had re-arraigned Masari, former SMEDAN boss on an amended 22-count charge.

Masari, accused of money laundering and gratification, first appeared before Okon Abang, Justice at the Federal High Court in Abuja in May 2019 on similar charges.

Initially arraigned on April 10, 2019, on a 17-count charge, Masari’s case was expanded due to additional evidence brought forward by the EFCC.

The allegations against him pertained to violations of Section 15(2)(b) of the Money Laundering Prohibition Act 2011, as amended in 2012.

In an earlier separate case, the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) arraigned Masari in September 2018 before an FCT High Court in Apo, Abuja.

He faced 27 counts related to money laundering and embezzlement, including the fraudulent award of constituency project contracts worth N184.5 million without due process.

Additionally, Masari was accused of receiving N50 million from a contractor on November 27, 2014, and distributing part of the sum to others, contravening Section 10 of the Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act 2000.