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$40m Alleged Fraud: Court Adjourns Ruling On Jonathan’s Cousin No-Case Submission

  The Federal High Court in Abuja on Friday adjourned ruling on the no-case submission filed by a cousin to former President Goodluck Jonathan, Robert … Continue reading $40m Alleged Fraud: Court Adjourns Ruling On Jonathan’s Cousin No-Case Submission


A file photo of a court gavel.
A court gavel.
$40m Alleged Fraud: Court Adjourns Ruling On Jonathan's Cousin No-Case Submission
File Photo

 

The Federal High Court in Abuja on Friday adjourned ruling on the no-case submission filed by a cousin to former President Goodluck Jonathan, Robert Azibaola.

Justice Nnamdi Dimgba has fixed March 29 decide whether or not Azibaola has a case to answer in the seven counts of money laundering and criminal breach of trust preferred against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

According to a statement by the spokesman for the anti-graft agency Wilson Uwujaren, Azibaola is standing trial alongside his wife, Stella Azibaola, and their company, One Plus Holdings Nigeria Limited.

The defendants were alleged to have diverted $40million, money purportedly meant for the supply of tactical communication kits for Special Forces.

The fund was said to have been transferred from the account of the Office of the National Security Adviser with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to the domiciliary account of their company, One Plus Holdings.

The prosecution has so far called 10 witnesses and tendered documents before closing its case on Tuesday, January 23, 2017, setting the stage for the defendants to open their defence.

“Rather than open defence, Azibaola through his counsel, Chris Uche, approached the court with a no-case submission in an application dated March 15, 2018, and filed March 19, 2018, urging the court to dismiss the charge in its entirety and acquit the defendants,” the statement said.

Uche argued that “the prosecution had failed woefully to establish a prima-facie case against the defendants as the evidence presented shows no nexus with the defendants”.

On the money laundering charge, the learned silk argued that “there has to be proof of its illicit or illegitimate origin”.

He noted further that in the case at hand, there was no such proof of illegitimacy or dirtiness of the origin, rather what the prosecution showed are two funds ($40million and N650million) whose source were derived from an offspring of a “legitimate paternity”.

Azibaola’s counsel believed that the trial was more of a “political witch-hunt” and urged the court to hold that the prosecution had failed to establish a prima facie case against the defendants.

In his response, counsel to the EFCC Francis Jirbo urged the court to discountenance the arguments of the defence.

He argued that the prosecution had proved the essential ingredients of the offence to warrant explanations by the defendants.

“The prosecution has established a prima facie case as there is a document which talked about a contract for the supply of communication kits for special forces with nothing to show in ‘Exhibit 5’ (third defendant’s statement of account) that the kits were provided and supplied,” Jirbo said.

He added that there was no contract document showing any award of contact to the defendants and no evidence of competitive bidding for such a contract.

The EFCC counsel submitted that having established a prima facie case of money laundering, it is only logical that the defendants step into the witness box to explain how $40million was spent on the supply of tactical communication kits for Special Forces.

“It is trite that when a court is giving consideration to a submission of no-case, it is not necessary at that stage of the trial for the court to determine if the evidence is sufficient to justify conviction.

“The trial court only has to be satisfied that there is a prima facie case requiring some explanation from the defendant,” Jirbo said.