EFCC arraigns TSTV executives for alleged Tax evasion, money laundering

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The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has arraigned two chief executives of Telecom Satellites Limited (TSTV) before the Federal High Court in Abuja on charges of tax evasion, money laundering, and advanced fee fraud.

The defendants, Dr. Bright Ikechukwu Echefu, Managing Director and CEO of TSTV, and Dr. Felix Nnamdi Igboanuga, Executive Director of TSTV, were arraigned alongside TSTV and Briechberg Investment Limited on nine criminal counts.

The charges include allegations that on May 18, 2020, the defendants committed money laundering related to tax evasion, unremitted VAT, company income tax, and Pay As You Earn (PAYE) deductions from the salaries of 165 employees, punishable under Section 15 of the Money Laundering Prohibition Act 2011, as amended in 2012.

Additionally, the defendants are accused of diverting N33.9 million, N13.5 million, and N19.4 million of tax money payable to the federal government for personal use on the same date, also in breach of Section 15 of the Money Laundering Prohibition Act.

Dr. Bright Ikechukwu Echefu is further accused of defrauding Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) Turaki Kabir Tanimu of N960 million under false pretenses. Allegedly, while acting as the Managing Director of Briechberg Investment Limited, Echefu obtained N150 million from Tanimu, who is the Managing Director of Kalsiyam Farm, under the pretext of acquiring modern equipment for his telecom company. This money was deposited into Briechberg Investment Limited’s Zenith Bank account. On the same day, Echefu allegedly secured another N380 million and N400 million from Tanimu for the same purpose, deposited into the same account. Additionally, Tanimu made two payments of N15 million each into the same account.

Turaki Kabir Tanimu (SAN), a former Minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, was present in court during the arraignment. The defendants pleaded not guilty to all charges.

Sylvanus Tahir (SAN), leading the prosecution, opposed the bail application made by defense counsel Eyitayo Fatigun (SAN), arguing that the defendants are flight risks due to their alleged evasion of arrest. Fatigun countered, noting that the EFCC had granted them administrative bail.

Justice Inyang Ekwo ruled to adopt the EFCC’s bail conditions, allowing the defendants to remain free but restricting them from traveling abroad without court permission. Their international passports were ordered to be seized, and any breach of bail conditions would result in revocation and custody throughout the trial.

The judge directed the EFCC to submit the administrative bail records to the court within seven days and adjourned the trial to July 15, 16, and 17, 2024.