Alex Enumah in Abuja
Barring any last minute changes, Justice Okon Abang of the Abuja Division of the Federal High Court will on Tuesday February 25, 2020 deliver his judgment in the alleged N400 million fraud charges brought against the former spokesman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Chief Olisa Metuh.
Justice Abang had on November 26, 2019, fixed judgment for Tuesday after the counsel to parties in the suit adopted and argued their final written addresses.
The judgment, if delivered, will put an end to four years of fierce legal battle which started in January 2016.
While Metuh and his team of lawyers would be expecting a discharge and acquittal from the charges, the prosecution on the other hand is praying the court to find Metuh guilty and sentence him accordingly.
Metuh and his company, Dextra Investment Nigeria Limited, were in 2016 arraigned on a seven-count criminal charge by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) specifically on the accusation of receiving the sum of N400 million from the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA) without any contract.
They were also accused of laundering the sum of $2 billion and conversion of public funds into private usage.
They however pleaded not guilty to the charges.
At the last proceedings of November 26, the prosecution counsel, Sylvanus Tahir, urged the court to convict Metuh on the grounds that he had led credible evidence against the defendants.
The prosecution before closing its case against the defendants, called eight witnesses and tendered several documents to support its case against Metuh and his company. Among the documents is a bank document, which captured the details of the transactions carried out by Metuh and his company, Destra Investment Limited.
However, the defendants led by Abel Ozioko and Tochukwu Onwugbufo (SAN), for the first and second defendants respectively, urged the court to discharge and acquit them on the grounds that the prosecution has failed woefully in establishing any case against the defendants.
Metuh on his part, called 15 witnesses to prove his innocence of the money laundering charges brought against him by the federal government.
The former spokesman of the PDP in his evidence maintained that the sum of N400 million received from the former National Security Adviser (NSA), Col. Sambo Dasuki (rtd) was for a national assignment as directed by the then President, Dr Goodluck Jonathan.
In arguing his case, Metuh’s lawyer, Ozioko, submitted that a total of 11 witnesses including a prosecution witness have testified as receiving various sums of money from Metuh both in cash and cheques as contained in exhibit G20, which has remained an unchallenged evidence.
He further submitted that the testimony of Metuh was collaborated by witnesses to the fact that former President Jonathan gave him an assignment on security issues, which was not challenged by the prosecution.
Ozioko further urged the court to note that the document, which is the e-payment mandate with certification, showed that all payments with regards to the N400 million complied with the statutory requirement.
The defence lawyer further submitted that the prosecution failed to establish that the source of the money was illicit to warrant a charge of money laundering to be file against Metuh.
He urged the court to hold that having failed to establish any case against Metuh, the only inescapable conclusion is to discharge and acquit him.
Also arguing, the counsel to Dextra Investment Limited, Tochukwu Onwugbufor (SAN), challenged the jurisdiction of the court to hear matters bordering on simple contract.
He submitted that the issue of the source of money should first be determined by the court in order to establish a case of money laundering.
According to Onwugbufor, the N400 million was legitimately provided and transferred to the second defendant.
He said the non calling of former President Jonathan to give evidence was fatal to the case of the prosecution, because only his evidence would have shown whether he authorised the money or not.
The senior lawyer argued that throughout trial, the prosecution never responded to the origin of the money, adding that: “The failure of the prosecution to respond to this issue which is highlighted in our addresses is deemed to have accepted and admitted all the points and issues raised therein.
“Having conceded same, the court is urged to hold that the origin of the money is legitimate and if that is so, the entire charge of money laundering must fail.”
But the prosecution on his part, urged the court to convict the defendants as the prosecution has proved his case beyond reasonable doubt.
He submitted that money laundering is a global offence and that section 15(6) of the Money Laundering Prohibition Act. 2011 catalogued the list of predicate offence that can give rise to money laundering including criminal breach of trust.
The EFCC is prosecuting Metuh alongside his company, Destra Investment Limited, on seven-count charges bordering on money laundering to the tune of N400 million, which he received from the Office of the National Security Adviser in the build up to the 2015 general election.