Alex Enumah in Abuja
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) yesterday at the Federal High Court in Abuja raised a strong objection to the admission of the statement of its own witness in the trial of a British citizen, James Nolan, allegedly linked to the Process and Industrial Development (P&ID) contract scam.
Nolan was on October 21 arraigned along with another Briton, Adam Quinn (at large), over their alleged complicity in the activities of P&ID, which recently won a $9.6 billion judgment against Nigeria.
The defendants, both directors of Goidel Resources Limited, a Designated Non-Financial Institution (DNFI) and ICIL Limited, were arraigned on a 16-count charge bordering on money laundering.
The federal government last Wednesday opened trial of the Briton by calling its first witness, Adewale Adeseye, an official of the Guaranteed Trust Bank (GTB), who gave an oral evidence of what he knew about the defendants.
The trial Judge, Justice Okon Abang, at end of last Wednesday’s proceedings had adjourned to yesterday for the cross examination of the witness.
Before the oral evidence at the Federal High Court in Abuja, the witness had made a written statement at the EFCC wherein he chronicled how about eight accounts linked with the controversial oil and gas supply contract were opened in 2006 and operated till date before the sponsors of the company were arrested in connection with the failed oil and gas deal.
Adeseye, who was led in evidence by a lawyer to the EFCC, Iheanacho Ekele, had told the court how huge amount in dollars were transferred from P&ID accounts overseas to its subsidiaries’ accounts in Nigeria through the GTB.
The witness also told the court how huge sums running into millions of naira were also transferred from one of the subsidiaries to another, especially Goidel Resources Nigeria Limited and ICIL Nigeria Limited.
At the resumed trial yesterday, counsel to the defendants, Paul Erokoro (SAN), midway into his cross examination of the witness, sought to tender the said written statement made at the EFCC so as to assist the court to arrive at a just conclusion.
The move was however challenged by the prosecution counsel on the grounds that the defence counsel did not lay foundation for the admission of the statement.
Adeseye, during a cross examination, admitted that there was nothing unusual in foreign companies transferring money to their subsidiaries in Nigeria legally.
The witness further told the court that his bank, GTB, would not have accepted the transfer of funds from abroad if it were not for legitimate purposes.
But, Ekele, while opposing the tendering of the witness’s written statement, insisted that the statement can only be tendered if it was for the purpose of discrediting the oral testimony of the witness.
While responding, Erokoro expressed worry on why the EFCC objected to admit its own statement, adding that the witness was accurate in the statement he made to the anti-graft agency.
Justice Abang, however, fixed December 6 for the ruling on the admissibility or otherwise of the statement and for the continuation of the trial.
Earlier, the EFCC had brought a 32-count amended charge and amended proof of evidence against the Briton and the two companies, who, however, denied the entire charges.
In the 32 amended count charges, the defendants were accused of money laundering, tax evasion and failure to disclose their activities to the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment in line with the Money Laundering Act.
A British commercial court had in August this year awarded judgment in favour of P&ID, which had dragged Nigeria to the International Court of Arbitration over alleged non-execution of a 20-year gas and supply processing agreement (GSPA).
Nigeria had appealed the decision, insisting that the contract was built on fraud from the outset.
Only a few months ago, the country also secured a judgment which ordered the folding up of the P&ID in Nigeria as well as the forfeiture of all their assets to the federal government.