UPDATED: Court sentences Orji Kalu to 12 years in prison for fraud
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Justice Muhammed Idris on Thursday sentenced a former Abia State governor, Orji Kalu, to 12 years in prison for stealing public funds while in office.
Mr Kalu, a serving senator, was jailed alongside Udeh Udeogu, his Director of Finance and Accounts at the Abia State Government House during Mr Kalu’s tenure. Mr Udeogu was sentenced to 10 years in prison.
A third defendant, Mr Kalu’s company, Slok Nigeria Limited, was ordered to be wound up and its assets forfeited to the Nigerian government.
Mr Kalu’s prosecution started 12 years ago, in 2007 after he left office as governor.
The defendants were eventually faced with an amended 39-count charge for conspiring and diverting N7.65 billion from the coffers of the state.
The defendants pleaded not guilty to the charges brought against them by the EFCC, thereby leading to their full trial.
Delivering his judgment today, Justice Idris found the defendants guilty on all counts.
Mr Idris held that the prosecution had established its case against the defendants.
The judge further held that “the case was conclusively investigated, as the prosecution conducted thorough investigations.
“No gaps were left unfilled; this is the acceptable practice.
“The first defendant failed in his obligations under the law.
“He acted contrary to his codes of conduct and will be dealt with accordingly.
“No evil deed will go unpunished.
“The offences are anti-human; it is condemned worldwide because it is a crime against humanity.”
In his statement to the court before sentencing, the counsel to Mr Kalu said his client “is a first-time offender and has no criminal record.
“He has thousands of employees depending on him for survival.
“He also has health issues.
“We, therefore, want the court to take this into consideration in giving out the sentence.”
Counsel to the second convict also asked the court to temper justice with mercy, saying his client “has no criminal record.”
“He was a public servant who diligently served Abia State.
“He acted in the moment of indiscretion and this should not be the only basis to adjudge his career.”
In his response, the prosecution counsel, Mr Jacobs, said: “Though there is no record to show any criminal records involving the defendants, the court has sent a message to the world not to allow their personal interests to conflict with the interests of Nigerians, because no matter how long it takes, they will not escape the wrath of the law.
“This case started in 2007 and the convicts filed series of applications to stall this case.
“For 12 years, the people of Abia have waited for this day and it is here, when they can reclaim all that was taken from them.”
Mr Jacobs also urged the court to wind up the company as provided by the Law and all its assets forfeited to the federal government.
Justice Idris, therefore, convicted and sentenced the first defendant, Kalu to five years imprisonment on counts 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 and 11; three years on counts 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33; 12 years on counts 34, 35, 36, 37 and 38 and five years on count 39.
The second defendant was convicted and sentenced to three years imprisonment on counts 24, 25, 27, 28, 30, 31, 32 and 10 years on counts 34, 37, 38 and 39.
The sentences will run concurrently meaning Mr Kalu would serve 12 years while Mr Udeogu would serve 10 years.
Justice Idris further held that Mr Kalu’s company, Slok Nigeria Limited, the third defendant, be wounded up and all assets forfeited to the federal government.
The defendants were taken to prison from the court. They will remain in prison unless they appeal the judgement and win at the appeal or supreme court.