A FEDERAL High Court in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, presided by Justice P. I. Ajoku on Wednesday, February 1, remanded a director of an oil company, Charles Rudolf Epelle, in the custody of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) over an alleged N157m fraud.
Epelle was remanded pending the determination of his bail application.
According to a statement by the EFCC’s Head of Media and Publicity, Wilson Uwujaren, the defendant was arraigned on a six-count charge bordering on conspiracy, obtaining money by false pretence and issuance of dud cheques by the Port Harcourt Zonal Command of the EFCC.
The alleged offence is contrary to sections 1(1) (a) and (b) of the Advance Fee Fraud and Other Fraud Related Offences Act, 2006.
One of the counts reads: “That you, Charles Rudolf Epelle, Enene Esther Irabor (at large), on or about the 2nd of August, 2021 at Port Harcourt, within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court did obtain the sum of Twenty-two Million, Eighty Thousand Naira (N22,080,000.00) from one Jeremiah Jumbo by false pretence under the guise of rendering catering services to International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Abuja, which pretext you knew to be false and thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 1(1)(a) & (b) of the Advance Fee Fraud and Other Fraud Related Offences Act, 2006 and punishable under Section 1(3) of the same Act.”
The defendant pleaded “not guilty” to all the charges preferred against him.
Given his plea, prosecution counsel, K. W. Chukwuma-Eneh, prayed the court to remand the defendant to a Correctional Facility and fix a date for the commencement of the trial.
Justice Ajoku consequently ordered that the defendant be remanded in the prosecution’s custody pending the hearing and determination of his bail application.
The matter was adjourned till February 6, 2023, for a hearing of bail application and April 26, 2023, for trial.
According to the statement, Epelle ran into trouble when the EFCC received a petition alleging extortion under pretences against him.
The petitioner alleged that, sometime in 2021, the defendant and his cohort, Managing Director of Ehinomen Noble Links Limited Enene Esther Irabor, now at large, approached him that her company was awarded a contract by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and needed a financier.
“They promised to return the money on or before August 30, 2021. In order to convince the victim, they both issued him Cheques worth Eighty-seven Million, Five Hundred Thousand Naira (N87, 500,000.00),” the statement added.
EFCC said that based on their agreement, the victim transferred a total sum of N192 million to Epelle’s account in tranches.
However, efforts by the victim to recover the said sum were futile.