A member of the AVM Jon Ode-led Presidential Arms Probe Panel on $2.1bn arms procurement fund, who was caught with $1m cash in his house, Air Commodore Umar Mohammed (rtd)has been re-arraigned before a Federal High Court in Abuja.
Umar, 54, was re-arraigned together with his firm, Easy Jet Integrated Services Limited, before Justice John Tsoho last week on a four-count amended charge marked: FHC/ABJ/CR/145/16, on money laundering, illegal possession of firearms and violation of Official Secret Act.
The Department of State Service (DSS) arrested Umar in June 2016 for allegedly fronting for other members of the Presidential Arms Panel in receiving large sums of money from certain individuals and companies in order to evade prosecution.
The President Panel is chaired by a retired Air Vice Marshal Jon Ode, who was a former Adviser to Defence Minister under President Goodluck Jonathan. Members of the panel include serving and retired officers from different security agencies and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
The EFCC had publicly distanced itself and its chairman, Ibrahim Magu, from the alleged fraud involving the arrested panel member who has been in the custody of DSS.
It was alleged that over $1 million cash and luxury state-of-the-art cars, including a Rolls Royce, Ferrari and Buggati, among others were recovered from him during the raid on his residence.
Umar was earlier arraigned in July before Justice Nnamdi Dimgba, who granted him bail at N100m. The DSS re-arraigned him last week with an amended charge and the case was transferred to Justice John Tsoho for the prosecution.
He was accused of conspiracy and accepting $1,030,000 in cash from a firm, Worldwide Consortium PTY Ltd “as payment for flight services without going through a financial institution as required by law” contrary to sections 18 (a) and 16(1)(d) of the Money Laundering Act 2011.
He was further accused of being in illegal possession of two pump action guns (marked: SBSG Magnum 397 and SBGS Interpress 09-1573) between June 1, 2011 and June 19, 2016 without valid licenses and thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 4 of the Firearms Act 2004 and punishable under Section 27(1)(b)(i) of the act.
The Presidential Panel member was also accused of having in his possession at his No: 4 Lungi Close, Mississippi, Maitama, Abuja home, “classified/official documents without lawful authority and thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 1(1)(b) of the Official Secret Act and punishable under Section 7(1)(a) of the same Act.”
However, Umar pleaded not guilty to the charge when it was read to him, following which his lawyer, Hassan Liman (SAN), who led Ibrahim Bawa (SAN), urged the court to grant Umar bail on the terms and conditions attached to the bail earlier granted him by Justice Dimgba.
Liman told the court that his client had been held incommunicado by DSS since June 19, 2016 when he was arrested. The lawyer accused the DSS of refusing to obey the order by Justice Dimgba, directing that Umar be remanded in prison pending when he was able to meet the bail conditions.
Although prosecution lawyer, Mr. Magaji Labaran opposed Liman’s application, Justice Tsoho, in a ruling, upheld the defence lawyer’s argument and granted Umar bail on the terms and conditions earlier set by Justice Dimgba.
Justice Tsoho ordered that Umar, be remanded in Kuje Prison in Abuja pending when he is able to perfect the bail, as the case was adjourned to November 7, 2016 for trial.