EFCC arraigns TStv CEO Bright Echefu, others for alleged money laundering

TStv CEO Bright Echefu

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on Thursday arraigned the managing director and chief executive of Telecom Satellite Television (TStv) Bright Echefu on a nine-count charge of tax evasion, money laundering and advanced fee fraud before the Federal High Court in Abuja.

Also arraigned was the company’s executive director Felix Igboanuga.

Echefu, Igboanuga, TSTV and another company, Briechberg Investment Limited, were listed as the first to fourth defendants, respectively.

Echefu and Igboanuga were said to have on May 18, 2020, committed money laundering bordering on tax evasion, unremitted VAT, company income tax and Pay As You Earn (PAYE) deducted from the salaries of 165 workers punishable under Section 15 of the Money Laundering Prohibition Act 2011 as amended in 2012.

They were alleged to have on May 18, 2020, diverted to their personal use N33. 9m, N13. 5m and N19. 4m tax money payable to the federal government in breach of section 15 of the Money Laundering Prohibition Act.

The EFCC alleges that Echefu defrauded Turaki Tanimu of N969 million under false pretence.

Tanimu is a former minister and was present in court to witness the arraignment of the defendants.

The charges further stated that Echefu, while acting as the managing director of Briechberg Investment Limited on May 18, 2020, with intent to defraud, obtained the sum of N150m from Tanimu, who is the managing director of Kalsiyam Farm, as a loan to acquire modern equipment for his telecom company.

The money was said to have been paid into Briechberg Investment Limited with account number 1015561485 domiciled at Zenith Bank.

On the same day, Echefu was said to have obtained another N380m paid into the same account for the same purpose, while another N400m was also allegedly received by him on the same day and for the same purpose from Tanimu who is also the MD of BYI General and paid into the same account.

On May 18, 2020, Turaki, while acting as managing director of K. T Turake, made two payments of N15 million each into the Briechberg Investment Limited bank account belonging to Echefu for the same purpose.

The defendants pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Justice Inyang Ekwo granted the duo bail adopting EFCC’s administrative bail conditions as granted to them previously.

The judge, however, stated that the defendants are not allowed to travel out of the country without the permission of the court while immigration must be notified of the seizure of their international passports.

“The defendants shall not leave or travel out of the jurisdiction of this court without prior knowledge of the court,” Justice Ekwo said.

The case was adjourned till July 15, 16 and 17 for trial.