Alleged N2.5bn fraud: Court orders ICPC to unfreeze Pinnacle’s account

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The Federal High Court, Abuja, has ordered the Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission, (ICPC) to unfreeze the account of Pinnacle Communications Ltd domiciled with Zenith Bank plc.

Justice Nnamdi Dimgba made the order on Friday while delivering ruling in a suit filed by Pinnacle.

The Commission had alleged that Pinnacle was fraudulently recommended to the Minister of Information and Culture for the release of N2.5 billion against laid down guidelines.

The anti-corruption agency alleged that the fund was diverted into private hands, which informed its investigation of the company and subsequent placing of a post-no-debit restriction on its Zenith Bank account.

As a result, Pinnacle filed a motion on notice seeking the lifting of the post-no-debit order placed on its accounts.

Dimgba stated that it was not without any doubt that the suit was filed based on the post-no-debit order placed on the account of Pinnacle.

The court noted that ICPC had statutory powers to temporarily freeze a suspicious account in accordance with the provisions of Sections 44(2)(k) and 43(1) of ICPC Act.

The court held that the question begging for an answer was “whether such freezing of an account lasts forever.”

It was the court’s reasoning that the essence of temporarily freezing an account was to avail an anti- graft agency the needed time to launch investigations and possibly file charges against an account owner.

“It is not for the ICPC to freeze an account when it has not concluded investigation on any suspicious account or act,” the judge said.

He observed that six months had elapsed since the account was frozen and no charge had been filed against Pinnacle.

According to the judge, the word temporary as contained in the relevant statute book should be within a reasonable time of which six months is.

“I make bold to say that if there is a prima facie case against the plaintiff I am at loss why the ICPC has not filed a criminal charge against the plaintiff.

“This court has shifted this matter severally to give room for the ICPC to file charges but no such step was taken,’’ Dimgba said.

The court held that the ICPC and other anti- graft agencies should be expedient in their investigation, adding that freezing one’s account indefinitely was like an act of killing a fly with a sledge hammer.

The judge maintained that ICPC was at liberty to file a charge against Pinnacle if it had reasonable grounds based on the outcome of investigations.

Newsmen reports that Pinnacle is a private licensed signal distributor for the Federal Government’s approved implementation of transition from analogue to digital terrestrial television broadcasting in Nigeria.

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