The trial of Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, for alleged false declaration of assets at the Code of Conduct Tribunal, Abuja, has been adjourned till Wednesday, June 15, 2016.
The tribunal adjourned hearing to give Dr. Saraki’s lead counsel, Kanu Agabi, time to see his physician for routine medical examination.
The prosecution had objected Mr Kanu Agabi’s request for an adjournment to allow him see his doctor.
Lead Prosecution Counsel, Mr Rotimi Jacobs, said that the court should finish with the cross-examination of its witness Mr. Wetkas this week as planned but the court resolved to give Mr Agabi one week to attend to his health.
“This matter had to be adjourned because of the prevailing exigencies.
“I will let the counsel see his doctors, take his medication and have some rest,” the CCT Chairman, Danladi Umar said.
Prior to the adjournment, hearing had resumed with the prosecution witness, Mr Micheal Wetkas still under cross-examination.
The focus of the trial was on count 6, which relates to the ownership of a property which is in the Maitama area of Abuja.
During cross-examination on May 25, Mr Wetkas agreed that the property was acquired in 1993 and was transferred to Carlisle Properties and Investment Limited in 2003 but later retracted his statement, saying he did not know when the property was transferred.
As the cross-examination continued on Tuesday, he was asked if he ascertained the owner of number 1 Targus Street, Maitama, he said that what he was interested in was the ownership of the property which turned out to belong to Carlisle Properties and Investment Limited and that the beneficiary of the property was the Senate President.
He was asked to explain what he meant by beneficial ownership and Wetkas said that he was not a lawyer but that what he knew was that it is the person who benefits from the financial activities of a corporation.
Asked if Government is a beneficiary, Mr Wetkas initially said no and later said yes.
He was then told to read the content of page 129 of exhibit 21 and he read that it was an acknowledgement receipt of ground levy paid by Carlisle Properties and Investment Limited.
He was then told to define his job as an EFCC operative, and he said it is to investigate and establish financial crimes committed.
Explaining his role in the Senate President’s case, he said he had earlier stated that his investigation started with financial misconduct and then dovetailed into non-declaration of assets.
When asked if he looked out for any financial crimes in this situation, his counsel interjected that this was not a relevant question.
However, defence counsel, Paul Usoro, said that Section 7 and 8 of Evidence Act says that when an issue is stated as fact in the case it has to be established if there is an economic crime the company has committed.
The prosecutor insisted that the questions were irrelevant and that they have been so for the past 12 days of sitting.
The defence counsel Mr Usoro took exception but Mr Rotimi Jacobs said the questioning was going in a manner that suggests Carlisle was being charged.
Nevertheless, cross-examination continued and the witness was again asked if they investigated Carlisle for fraud.
He said Carlisle was used to find the ownership of the property but that his investigation was basically on the ownership of the property and not whether there was fraud.
Next he was taken to count 7 and was asked to read but the Chairman refused him reading it.
Mr Usoro read it instead, “By your failure to declare number 3 Targus Street which you acquired through your company Carlisle properties and investment you have committed a crimes against the Code of Conduct Act.”
Wetkas was asked if the defendant acquired the said property, the witness said yes but through his company Carlisle Properties and Investment Limited.
He was also asked if the charge said he failed to declare it in 2003, the witness said yes.
When also asked if count 8 is identical with count 7, he said yes but that the date of declaration was different because count 8 talks about 2007 while count 9 is also similar but talks about the non-declaration of the property in 2011.
Mr Wetkas was then asked to go to exhibit 21 which is the letter from FCDA to EFCC on the properties in 1 and 3 Targus Street. He was also asked to identify the power of attorney.
He said it was made ten years before the defendant became Governor of Kwara and ten years before he made exhibit 1 which was his asset in 2003.
Mr Wetkas maintained his position that Carlisle was used to purchase the property and the defendant is the owner of Carlisle.
When asked if all the answers he gave on count 6 with regards to Carlisle Properties and Investment Limited applies to count 7, 8 and 9 the witness said yes.
He, however, said that the two properties are residential properties that is number 1 and 3 Targus Street and that loans were taken by Skyview from a commercial bank to guarantee the properties – one was 1.8 billion Naira and the other was over 700 million Naira.
“When we interviewed the MD of Skyview company, he said that the transactions were at the instance of the defendant, and that is what formed our position on the ownership of the property,” Wetkas said.
Usoro asked the witness if he was there when the defendant purportedly gave the directive, he said no.
When asked if he contacted the defendant on count 7, 8, and 9, the witness said no.