The Federal Government on Tuesday arraigned the suspended Director-General of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Mounir Gwarzo, on three count charge of alleged N114million fraud before an Abuja High Court in Maitama.
Gwarzo, who was suspended by the Minister of Finance, Mrs Kemi Adeosun, in November 2017 for alleged financial impropriety, was arraigned alongside SEC Executive Commissioner, Corporate Services, Zakwanu Garuba,who is facing a separate two-count charge for allegedly conniving with Gwarzo in the fraud.
But when the charges were read to Gwarzo and Garuba, the duo pleaded not guilty to the offence.
After they pleaded not guilty to the charge, lawyer to Gwarzo, Abdulhakeem Mustapha (SAN) and A. A Malik , lawyer to Garuba, urged the court to grant bail to their clients.
They submitted, separately, that their clients have been on administrative bail by the ICPC and they have not defaulted.
The prosecuting lawyer, Mr Henry Emore, did not oppose the bail applications but urged the court to give stringent bail conditions to ensure that the defendants come to court to stand trial.
In a short ruling on the bail applications, Justice Yusuf held that as the prosecution did not object , granting bail to the defendants was sacrosanct, as it was not for punishment but to ensure they come to court to face their trial.
Justice Baba Yusuf thereafter granted bail to Gwarzo and Garuba in the sum of N25m each with one surety in like sum.
The judge ordered them to deposit their passports with the court’s registry, saying that they can formally apply for their passports whenever they have cause to travel abroad.
Justice Yusuf added that sureties must be civil servants in the employment of federal government and must not below the rank of deputy director with landed properties within the jurisdiction of the court.
In the charge with suit no CR/185/18, the Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission (ICPC ) accused Gwarzo of receivingn over N104m as severance benefit between May and June 2015 when he has not retired, resigned or disengaged from service.
He was also accused of collecting N10,983,488.88 in excess of car grant” in the same period contrary to Section 19 of the ICPC Act, 2000.
The three charges read in part: “That you, Mounir Gwarzo, on or about June 2015, while being the Director-General of the SEC received N104,851,154.94 as severance benefits when you had yet to retire, resign or disengage from the service of SEC; conferred a corrupt advantage upon yourself and committed an offence under Section 19 of ICPC Act, 2000.
“That you committed a criminal breach of trust to wit: dishonestly misappropriated N104,851,154.94 as your severance benefit contrary to Section 311 and punishable under Section 312 of the Penal Code Cap 532 Vol 4 of FCT Abuja 2007.
“That you conferred a corrupt advantage upon yourself when you received N10,983,488.88 in excess of car grant payable to you and thereby committed an offence contrary to and punishable under Section 19 of the ICPC Act.”
Garuba, a former Speaker, Edo House of Assembly, and an Executive Commissioner, Corporate Services of SEC, was accused of conferring a corrupt advantage on another public officer in the person of Gwarzo by approving the payments to the suspended SEC boss.
He was accused in the two-count charge of aiding and abetting the fraud.
The case has been adjourned to June 28 and 29 for trial.