THE Italian Embassy in Nigeria yesterday expressed shock at the death of the country’s national, Mr. Mauro Zanin in the custody of the Economy and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). Zanin, 52, died 20 days after the Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS) arrested him on May 30, 2012 and handed him over to the EFCC. He was accused of defrauding a Nigerian firm of the sum of N17.76 million ($111,000).
THE Italian Embassy in Nigeria yesterday expressed shock at the death of the country’s national, Mr. Mauro Zanin in the custody of the Economy and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
Zanin, 52, died 20 days after the Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS) arrested him on May 30, 2012 and handed him over to the EFCC.
He was accused of defrauding a Nigerian firm of the sum of N17.76 million ($111,000).
The EFCC in a statement hinted that Zanin died yesterday morning in its cell and linked the incident to suicide.
When contacted yesterday on Zanin’s death, officials of the Italian embassy claimed ignorance of the development. They said the embassy was yet to be informed of the death of Zanin.
The officials told The Guardian that they were shocked by the news of the passage, adding that they would liaise with the EFCC before making an official pronouncement on the matter.
The embassy said it would conduct its investigation into the circumstances surrounding Zanin’s death.
But for his sudden death, the suspect would have been arraigned today before the Federal High Court 5 in Abuja.
EFCC’s spokesman, Mr. Wilson Uwajaren, said Zanin was found motionless in the bathroom of the agency’s detention facility in Abuja at 4.50 a.m. on Tuesday, June 19, 2012.
“He apparently committed suicide using his bedsheet. All efforts by the officers on duty and a team of EFCC medical personnel led by Dr. Gideon Osi to revive him with cardiopulmonary resuscitation proved futile. He was subsequently certified dead at 5.45 a.m.,” Uwajaren said.
The EFCC’s spokesman said the incident had been reported at the Maitama Police Station for investigation.
The deceased was arrested by NIS officers following complaints by one Ahamefula Chibuzor Ewuzie that Zanin fraudulently obtained $111,000 from Gladwaters Nigeria Limited. He was transferred to the EFCC on May 30, 2012 for further investigation.
The EFCC had filed a five-count charge against the Italian and got today as hearing date. The deceased was served the court papers on Monday to prepare his defence, Uwajaren said.
“His arrest was officially communicated to the Italian Embassy on May 31, 2012. The same day, the suspect was granted provisional bail, but he could not get a surety to take him on bail.
“While in detention, Mr. Zanin was visited by Mr. Nicola Bazzani, First Secretary and Deputy Head of Mission at the Italian Embassy; and everyday by his lawyer, Mr. Ugochukwu Onyejiuto.”
Uwajaren quoted Onyejiuto as saying that
“it is important to say that I took this matter pro bono, with the hope that he will pay my fees when he is free.”
I was spending my money to feed him… to my amazement; he refused to let his family know what was going on. He has a 30-year-old son who is a lawyer in Italy but he was always telling them all was well.”
Explaining the how the deceased got into EFCC custody, Uwajaren said: “Zanin a confirmed fraudster, allegedly obtained the money from Dr. Mma Wokocha under the guise of selling used Dredger Italgraghe SGT 200 to her to execute some dredging contracts in the Niger Delta.
“The suspect sent them a bill of laden but their long wait for the ship, MSC Trinidad to berth was futile. Unknown to the complainant, the bill of laden was forged as the ship indicated was no longer in existence before she met the deceased three years ago. The remains of the suspect have been deposited at the mortuary awaiting an autopsy.”