Slok Nigeria Limited, the family company of former Abia State governor, Orji Uzor Kalu has been granted permission to challenge the validity of the 32-count money laundering criminal charges billed to be slammed on it by the federal government.
The federal government through the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has filed a money laundering case involving Kalu, Slok Limited and an ex-Finance Director in the state, Ude Jones Udeogu.
The trio was ordered to be put on fresh trial by the Supreme Court following their indictment in the alleged N7.1B fraud.
Kalu is currently a Senator representing Abia North in the Senate.
Justice Inyang Ekwo granted the permission on Monday while ruling on an ex-parte motion argued by Slok’s lawyer, Marvel Akpoyibo.
Justice Ekwo ordered the company to, within seven days, serve the respondents in the case marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/475/2021 – the Federal Republic of Nigeria (FRN), Kalu and Udeogu.
The judge, however, adjourned till July 13 for hearing.
Slok was tried and convicted with Kalu and Undeogu in the N7.1 billion money laundering case, which trial was later set aside by the Supreme Court in a judgment on May 8, 2020, on the grounds that the trial judge, having been elevated to Court of Appeal ought not to have continued to hear the case.
In the judgment given in an appeal, marked: SC/62C/2019 filed by Udeogu, the Supreme Court ordered a retrial in the case.
But Slok in the ex-parte is seeking to prevent its fresh retrial which the court, on Monday, granted it permission to prosecute.
In the new suit, Slok is seeking to prohibit the Federal Government and its agents, including the EFCC from retrying it based on the same case on which it was earlier convicted and sentenced, arguing that it would amount to being subjected to double jeopardy.
Slok also argued that such a retrial was unnecessary because there was “no order of a superior court in Nigeria mandating the same.”
It is also seeking a perpetual injunction restraining the FG, through the EFCC, from “further retrying, harassing and/or intimidating the applicant with respect to charge No: FHC/ABJ/CR/56/07 FRN v. Orji Uzor Kalu and 2 others or any matter connected thereto or therewith, or any other charge based on the same facts or having the same ingredients.”
Slok argued that having already been tried and convicted, it is protected from double jeopardy by the Constitution and by the law.
“That there is no order of a superior court in Nigeria mandating the retrial or trial de novo of the applicant.
“The applicant has received a hearing notice at the instance of the first respondent (FRN), dated 18th January 2021 for the retrial of this same charge.
“The trial of the applicant, having been pronounced a nullity by the Supreme Court in its judgment of 8th May 2020 the first respondent cannot institute or relist the same charge against the applicant.
“The Federal High Court has jurisdiction to intervene to grant a preventive remedy for the protection of the rights of the applicant.”
Kalu had also filed a similar application in which he made the same arguments to query the decision of the EFCC to retry him.
The case, which is also before Justice Ekwo, is yet to be decided.