Alleged $2m Fraud: You Have A Case To Answer Court Tells Ex-NHIS Boss, Femi Thomas
Justice Ayokunle Faji of the Federal High Court sitting in Ikoyi, Lagos, on March 13, 2020, dismissed the no-case submission filed by a former Executive Secretary, National Health Insurance Scheme, NHIS, Dr. Olufemi Martins Thomas, to stop his criminal trial for alleged money laundering to the tune of $2,198,900.
Thomas is standing trial alongside Kabiru Sidi, a Bureau De Change operator, on an amended seven-count charge bordering on money laundering brought against them by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC.
They are alleged to have conspired with the wife of the first defendant, Funmi, to make a cash payment of $2,198,900 to one Ibitoye Bamidele at their residence at No. 20, Lagos University Teaching Hospital Road, Idi-Araba, Lagos.
At the last sitting, Thomas filed a preliminary objection of no-case submission that the court did not have jurisdiction in view of the earlier judgment in a fundamental case before the Court of Appeal.
Through his counsel, he argued that the charges filed against him were not known to the law and that the prosecution had not made out a case against him.
Counsel for the EFCC, Ekene Iheanacho, in his response, submitted that the defendant had not been tried before “as the offences for which he is facing trial are created by the Money Laundering Prohibition Act.”
He had urged the court to dismiss the no-case submission and allow the defendants to open their case.
At the resumed sitting, Justice Faji, in a short ruling, dismissed all the grounds of preliminary objections by the defendant.
The Judge held that: “The concept of res-judicata operates in both criminal and civil matter. But with respect to criminal matter, the applicable principle is that of double jeopardy, which does not allow a person to be tried twice.
“In this case, the defendant has not been shown to have been tried before, as the facts before the court are not the same as the one at the Court of Appeal. Therefore, the first defendant’s plea of res-judicata fails.”
With respect to the offences in the charge, the Judge held that the charges re-instated the element of the offences as created under Section 15 of the Money Laundering Prohibition Act and, is, therefore, valid.
“The testimonies of the first prosecution witness (PW1) suggest that the first defendant gave the sum of Two Million, One Hundred and Ninety- eight Million Dollars to him to change into Naira through his wife, as the evidence shows that the transactions in counts four and five of the charge did not pass through a financial institution.
“More so, the amount involved is beyond N5m obtainable by law; and I, therefore, hold that the defendant has a case to answer.
“Furthermore, on counts one, two and three bordering on disguising and concealing the origin of the money, the court considered the testimonies of the first, second, third, fourth, fifth and sixth prosecution witnesses, which showed that the first defendant was a public officer who had only N4m (Four Million Naira), when he assumed office and had a total income of N63m (Sixty-three Million Naira).
“Also, the total income from his poultry business was N50m (Fifty Million Naira) and all these are far less than the amount of money the first defendant is being charged with.”
Consequently, Justice Faji ordered the defendants to open their case and dismissed the no-case submission.
Justice Faji adjourned the matter until March 30, 2020, for mention to enable counsel to the second defendant be in court to pick a subsequent trial date.
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