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Court Alleges Shortfall in Amount Declared by DSS from Justice Ngwuta
By Alex Enumah in Abuja
The Abuja division of the Federal High Court, has alleged that there was a shortfall in the amount declared by the Department of State Service (DSS), and the actual amount tendered as evidence in the ongoing trial of Supreme Court judge, Justice Sylvester Ngwuta..Â
The money in question is said to have been recovered from the residence of Ngwuta during a search carried out by operatives of the DSS on Oct. 7, 2016.
Â At the resumed trial yesterday, trial Judge, Justice John Tsoho stated that he was informed that the Naira denomination in the court’s custody was different from the amount declared by the witness in his evidence on Thursday.Â
“I am just receiving the information that there was a problem with the exhibit because the amount announced by the prosecution in respect to exhibit 11h should have been N35,358,000 million but when counted, it was N35,335, 840 million.
Â ” So it doesn’t agree with what the witness said as there appears to be a shortfall.”Â
However, during cross-examination by the defence counsel, Mr. Kanu Agabi (SAN), the witness, Mr. John Utazi, an operative of the DSS insisted that the amount was N35, 358,000 million. Â
“I am not aware of any discrepancy between the money I recovered and the money tendered in court.Â
“My Lord, I stand by what I delivered to the court on Thursday because I meticulously counted the money before bringing it forward to the court.”
Â Utazi also told the court that his team left some insignificant amount of monies at Ngwuta’s residence after searching the place because they got tired of counting the money they found.
“There were pieces of monies that we left behind because we could not take all the money, after counting and counting, we were tired but what we left behind cannot be matched with what was taken away.”Â
When Agabi sought to know who the money they recovered belonged to, the witness said that ownership of the money was for the court to determine.
Â Utazi also told the court that he did not know the origin of the money contained in the charge against Ngwuta.Â
The prosecuting counsel, Mrs. Olufemi Fatunde prayed the court for an adjournment since there was no need to re-examine the witness.
Â Fatunde,Â further told court that the next witness the prosecution had planned to call was absent in court because he was bereaved .
Â Moreover, Fatunde said that an adjournment was necessary to enable the appropriate officers move the money to the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) as was ordered by the court.
“When they finished counting the money on Thursday, it was late to convey it to the CBN since the bank had closed,Â and to avoid that, we want to close early since the exhibit was kept in court pending the end of today’s proceedings.”Â
Responding, Justice Tsoho, adjourned till July 3 for continuation of trial. It will be recalled that the court had on Thursday, admitted in evidence, nine bags containing money said to be recovered from Ngwuta’s residence by the DSS.Â
The fifth prosecution witness who was being led in evidence, told the court that he led a team of DSS operatives to conduct a search on Ngwuta’s residence in 2016.
Â He said they recovered various sums of money in both local and foreign currency including N35, 385 million, Â£35, 915, $319,096, 50 South Africa rands, â‚¬280, 000, 380 Dirhams and 420 Dalases.
The court had ordered that the money recoveredÂ be deposited with the CBN.
Ngwuta is facing a 12-count charge bordering on money laundering, retention and concealment of various sums of money in local and foreign currencies.
Ngwuta is also charged with giving various sums of money above the statutory threshold to his building contractor for the building of various houses without going through a financial institution.Â