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PDP Senator acquitted of N322m money laundering charges

Justice Chukwujekwu Aneke of a Federal High Court in Lagos on Friday discharged and acquitted Senator Peter Nwaoboshi, who was charged with laundering the sum N322 million.

Aneke held that the case of the prosecution collapsed when it failed to call vital witnesses and lead concrete evidence to establish its allegations.

Nwaoboshi, who represents Delta North on the platform of Peoples Democratic Party, was arraigned in 2018, by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on two counts of money laundering.

Charged along with the senator were two companies  – Golden Touch Construction Project Ltd. and Suiming Electrical Ltd.

He had pleaded not guilty to the charge and was granted bail.

Trial commenced before Justice Mohammed Idris on April 25, 2015, but following the elevation of Idris to the Court of Appeal in June 2018, the case began afresh on Oct. 5, 2018 before Aneke.

The EFCC said that Nwaoboshi committed the offences in May and June 2014, in Lagos State.

He was alleged  to have acquired a property described as Guinea House on Marine Road in Apapa, Lagos, for the sum of N805 million.

The prosecution said  that N322 million of the purchase sum formed part of proceeds of an unlawful act.

It said that the sum was transferred to vendors by order of Suiming Electrical Ltd.

The prosecution filed its written addresses on Jan. 21, 2021, while the defendants respectively filed their written addresses on Feb. 3 and Feb. 9, 2021.

Delivering judgement on Friday, Aneke first read out counts of the charge for which the defendants were charged, and then reviewed evidence as tendered by witnesses, as well as evaluated essential ingredients of the counts.

He held that the evidence led by the First Prosecution Witness (PW1), Prince Kpokpogri, was based on a call from an anonymous person, adding that he did not tender the documents supplied to him by the said anonymous person who was not called as a witness to testify.

The judge held that the evidence of the first prosecution witness could therefore only qualify as hearsay.

“Pw 2 , Abubakar, works with Nexim Bank and the summary of his evidence was that the sum of N1.2 billon was granted to the third defendant on his application for a period of five years with interest.

“That the capital which is N1.2 billion has been repayed, while over N700 million interest payed and only about N24 million is outstanding on the said loan.

“He said that at the time of his testimony, the tenure of the loan had not expired.

“The conclusion of his evidence was that the loan was regularly and properly granted to the defendant; he tendered Exhibit A1 to A 27,” the judge said.

He held that the evidence of PW2 had high probative value.

Aneke held that a computer-generated statement of account sought to be tendered in evidence by PW3, Eyitayo Moigbemtere, was rejected on grounds that it did not comply with Section 84 of the Evidence Act.

He noted that the court also rejected the admissibility of an account opening document of the third defendant which was sought to be tendered by PW3.

“The court held that although the evidence of PW3 was not controverted, the inadmissibility of the account opening document made it impossible for the charge to be proved.

“PW4, Mc Davies Stanley, an investigating officer with the EFCC, investigated the case on receipt of a petition written by PW1.

“All he did was to write letters to several organisations and agencies, and on getting their responses, he analysed them and wrote a report which he submitted to the Legal Department of the EFCC.

“He tendered some of the responses he received as Exhibits E, E1, F, F1, G and H,” the judge  said.

He held that Exhibit G, an extra-judicial statement of the first defendant, was useless and could not be tendered  before the court.

“In criminal law, an extra-judicial statement of a person charged with a crime can be used as a confession if he agrees that he committed the crime.

“An extra-judicial statement which does not amount to a confession can never be regarded as evidence of a person charged with a crime,” he said.

He said that none of the ingredients of the counts of the charge  was proved by prosecution.

“How can they be proved when the statement of account of the third defendant was tendered and rejected in evidence?” he asked.

The court held that rejection of the said statement of account meant that the said N322 million could not be proved.

He added that the bank in question was not called as a witness.

The judge held that it was the statement of account of the third defendant that would show that, apart from the loan of N1.2 billion from Nexim Bank, there was no other money or sufficient money in the account of third defendant to pay the sum of N322 million to prove that the N322 million was paid from N1.2 billion and not from any other money belonging to third defendant.

Aneke consequently held that none of the elements of count one had been proved.

He said that this failure collapsed the case of the prosecution.

“In count two, the ingredients of count one must first be proved before the defendant can be found guilty.

“The result is that the prosecution’s case is dismissed and all the defendant are discharged and acquitted,” he held.

NAN reports that during trial, the prosecution called four witnesses while defence called no witnesses but rested its case on the ability of prosecution to establish the allegations.

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