TSTV Executives Arraigned For Alleged Tax Evasion, Money Laundering

TSTV Executives Arraigned For Alleged Tax Evasion, Money Laundering

Two Chief Executives of the Telecom Satellites Limited (TSTV) have been arraigned by the Federal Government at the Federal High Court in Abuja over alleged tax invasion, money laundering and advanced fee fraud offences.

The accused persons are the Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of TSTV, Dr Bright Ikechukwu Echefu, and the firm’s Executive Director, Dr. Felix Nnamdi Ignoanuga.

They were arraigned alongside TSTV and another company, Briechberg Investment Limited by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on 9-count criminal charges.

Part of the charges are that the two men on May 18, 2020 committed money laundering, bordering on tax invasion, unremitted VAT, Company income tax and Pay As You Earn (PAYE) deducted from the salaries of 165 workers which are punishable under Section 15 of the Money Laundering Prohibition Act 2011 as amended in 2012.

The defendants were also alleged to have on May 18, 2020 diverted to their personal use N33. 9 million, N13. 5million and N19. 4 million tax money payable to the Federal Government in breach of Section 15 of the Money Laundering Prohibition Act.

On his part alone, Dr Bright Ikechukwu Echefu, who is the first accused person was alleged to have defrauded a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN, Turaki Kabir Tanimu of N960million under false pretences.

The charge indicated that Echefu while acting as the Managing Director of Briechberg Investment Limited on May 18, 2020 with the intent to defraud, obtained the sum of N150million from Tanimu who is the Managing Director of Kalsiyam Farm as loan to acquire modern equipment for his telecom company.

The EFCC said that the money was paid into Briechberg Investment Limited account number 1015561485 domicile at Zenith Bank.

On the same day, the accused person was said to have obtained another N380million paid into the same account for the same purpose while another N400million was also allegedly secured by the accused the same day and for the same purpose from Tanimu who is also the Managing Director of BYI General and paid into the same account.

Still on the same May 18, 2020, Turaki SAN, while acting as Managing Director of K. T Turake made two payments of N15 million each into the Briechberg Investment Limited bank account belonging to Dr Bright Ikechukwu Echefu for the same purpose.

It will be recalled that Turaki was at a time, a minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, and was physically present in court during Thursday’s arraignment of the defendants.

When the charges were read to them, the two accused persons pleaded not guilty to the alleged fraud charges.

A Senior Advocate of Nigeria who led the prosecution team, Sylvanus Tahir vehemently objected to bail application made by Eyitayo Fatigun, SAN, on behalf of the two defendants.

While Tahir insisted that the accused persons are flight risk having allegedly been evading arrest, Fatigun disagreed, and insisted that EFCC itself granted them administrative bail.

In a short ruling, Justice Inyang Edem Ekwo adopted the EFCC bail conditions to allow the two men go home.

The court has also fixed July 15, 16 and 17 for the commencement of trial.

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