The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has arraigned Malabu Oil and Gas Limited, six other firms and an Abuja-based businessman, Mr. Aliyu Abubakar before a Federal High Court in Abuja.
They were accused of money laundering in a 48-count charge over their alleged fraudulent dealings in relation to the controversial oil block, OPL 245.
The EFCC claimed about $1billion and N673million are involved in the alleged money laundering offences.
Other defendants in the case are: A-Group Construction Company Limited, Rocky Top Resources Limited, Mega Tech Engineering Limited, Novel Properties and Development Company Limited, and Carlin International Nigeria Limited.
The defendants pleaded not guilty when an official of the court read out the charges to them.
Dressed in white native attire, Abubakar, who is the only natural person among the defendants, was the only one in the dock when the while the proceedings lasted. After the defendants pleaded to the charge, the prosecutor, Mr. Bala Sanga said he was not averse to the court granting bail to Abubakar.
Abubakar's lawyer, Mr. Akin Olujinmi (SAN), commended Sanga for showing understanding and urged the court to adopt the conditions adopted in an earlier bail granted his client in this case.
Abubakar is being tried before the court in a separate charge involving him and a former Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), Mr. Mohammed Adoke (SAN).
Justice Inyang Ekwo acceded to Olujinmi's request and adjourned till September 7 for trial.
The EFCC, in a count in the charge, claimed that Malabu Oil, and two of its directors (said to be on the run - Seidougha Munamuna and a former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mr. Dan Etete, "directly or indirectly converted" the sum of $401,540,000 paid from the Federal Government of Nigeria Escrow Account with JP Morgan Chase Bank in London into Malabu Oil's account with First Bank of Nigeria Limited.
It claimed that they converted the money knowing that the funds formed part of an unlawful activity, adding that in the "negotiation and signing of oil block 245 Resolution Agreement with Shell Nigeria Ultra Deep Limited, Nigeria Agip Exploration Limited, Shell Nigeria Exploration and Production Company Limited, taxes due to the federal government was waived".
The EFCC alleged that the same set of persons took control of the said sum of $401,540,000 in violation of section 9(a) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, an act punishable under section 15(3) of the same law.