A Federal High Court sitting in Abuja has granted bail to Ali Bello, nephew to Yahaya Bello, governor of Kogi and three others standing trial for alleged N3bn fraud.
The court, in a ruling that was delivered by Justice Obiora Egwuatu, admitted Bello’s three alleged accomplices- Abba Adauda, Yakubu Siyaka Adabenege and Iyada Sadat- to bail, pending the determination of the case against them.
The defendants were granted bail to the sum of N500 million each with two sureties in the like sum.
The court stressed that the sureties must be Abuja residents with a verifiable address and who must own landed properties with the Federal Capital Territory worth N500m.
It held that original title deeds of the properties must be deposited with the Registrar of the Court, even as it mandated the sureties to adduce their evidence of tax payment for three years spanning from 2020 to 2022.
Justice Egwuatu also directed the defendants to surrender their international passports to the court, warning that they should not travel out of the country without permission.
The trial judge noted that all allegations in the 18-count charge the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, preferred against the defendants, contained bailable offences.
While dismissing a counter-affidavit the prosecution filed to challenge the defendant’s request for bail, Justice Egwuatu held that the grant of bail was at the discretion of the court.
Consequently, he adjourned the matter till April 16 for the commencement of trial.
It will be recalled that the court had on February 8, remanded the four defendants in prison custody, after they pleaded not guilty to the charge against them.
Counsel to the defendants, Mr Ahmed Raji, SAN, had earlier begged the court to grant his clients bail on liberal terms.
Raji, SAN, said he would ensure the availability of the defendants for their trial.
He told the court that the defendants were subject to an investigation by the EFCC for over a year, saying they neither hindered nor interfered with the process.
The senior lawyer further drew the attention of the court to the fact that the anti-graft agency had earlier granted administrative bail to the defendants, adding that one of them was even permitted to travel to Saudi Arabia.
He said they would not escape from the country if released from detention.
However, the EFCC, through its lawyer, Mr M.K. Hussein, opposed the defendant’s application for bail, insisting that they posed a flight risk.
EFCC told the court that the defendants have the means and capacity to interfere with its proposed witnesses if granted bail.
It urged the court to refuse their bail application and order an accelerated hearing of the case.
The charge against the defendants borders on conspiracy, fraud criminal misappropriation and money laundering to the tune of N3,081,804,654.00.
EFCC alleged that they committed offences contrary to Sections 15(2)(d) and 18(a) of the Money Laundering Prohibition Act, 2011 as amended and punishable under Section 15 (3) of the same Act.