Top Nigerian Lawmaker Pleads Not Guilty in Graft Case

Posted June 8th, 2011 at 8:50 am (UTC-5)
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A top political figure in Nigeria has pleaded not guilty to charges that he misappropriated millions of dollars of parliamentary funds.

Former parliament speaker Dimeji Bankole appeared in a federal court in the capital Abuja Wednesday to answer to 16 charges of fraud. Prosecutors say they are preparing more charges against him.

The court ordered Bankole to remain in prison pending a bail hearing on Friday.

Nigeria's Economic and Financial Crimes Commission accuses Bankole of inflating the cost of computers, printers and televisions and of rigging a bid to purchase luxury cars.

The anti-graft body says it suspects Bankole misappropriated at least $60 million.

Authorities detained the former speaker at his Abuja home on Sunday after a four-hour standoff.

Bankole had told the agency he would turn himself in, but authorities say they decided to detain him after intelligence reports suggested he planned to flee the country.

Bankole lost a re-election bid in April and served as speaker until Friday, when the outgoing House of Representatives held its final meeting.