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Alleged $9.6bn fraud: Absence of counsel stalls trial of P&ID director

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The absence of defence counsel on Wednesday stalled the trial of a Commercial Director of the Process and Industrial Development (P&ID) Limited, Mr. Muhammed Kuchazi, at the Federal High Court, Abuja.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) counsel, Bala Sanga, told Justice Zainab Abubakar at the resumed hearing that the defence counsel, Eric Ifere, was indisposed.

Kuchazi was arraigned by the commission on February 1, 2021, over his alleged involvement in alleged multiple frauds by the P&ID.

He was arraigned alongside his company, Kore Holdings Limited, on an eight-count charge of fraud.

The commission alleged that the defendant failed to comply with regulations of the Special Control Unit against Money Laundering (SCUML) as required by the Money Laundering Prohibition Act in the alleged $9.6 billion fraud involving the P&ID.

The company had in 2019 asked a British court to compel the Nigerian government to pay compensation for the alleged breach of a gas supply agreement signed in 2010.

The government had contracted P&ID to build gas processing facilities around Calabar, Cross River State.

According to the contract, the government was required to supply wet gas of up to 400 million cubic feet daily.

READ ALSO: $9.6bn P&ID scam: Court orders arrest of another foreigner, Fantoli

The court initially granted the firm an arbitral award of $6.6 billion.

But the figure rose to about $9 billion with an additional $2.3 billion in accumulated interest at a seven percent rate, after Nigeria refused to enter an appeal for more than five years after the original ruling.

When the matter was called on Wednesday, Kuchazi, who was the 2nd defendant in the case was in court, his counsel was conspicuously absent.

Sanga then told Justice Abubakar that Ifere called him on the phone that he was indisposed.

The prosecutor, who said another counsel in Ifere’s chamber would have appeared on his behalf, said the action was an attempt to delay the trial.

He, therefore, urged the court to grant an order vacating the motion for the release of the defendant’s travel documents filed on his behalf by the counsel.

The judge adjourned the matter till March 2 for the continuation of the trial continuation.

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