*Ex-PDP spokesman begs for leniency
By Alex Enumah
Justice Okon Abang of the Federal High Court, Abuja on Tuesday convicted former Publicity Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Chief Olisa Metuh and his company, Dextra Investment Limited, on all seven-count charge against him and his company.
Metuh is standing trial in a seven-count criminal charge bordering on money laundering to the tune of N400 million allegedly received from the former National Security Adviser, Colonel Sambo Dasuki (Rtd).
Metuh and his company in count one were accused of receiving the said amount from Dasuki having knowledge that the said amount formed part of the unlawful activities of the former NSA.
Delivering judgment in count one, Justice Abang held that from the evidence before him, the first defendant, Metuh, was not telling the court the truth.
According to the judge, if the defendants knew of the inflow of the sum of N400 million from the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA) where he had earlier claimed in his statement that he never had any contract with, he (Metuh) ought to have questioned the source of the money and not have gone ahead to spend it.
Moreso, the court held that the only person who could have corroborated Metuh’s claim that the money was authorised by former President Goodluck Jonathan was the then president himself, whom the defendants planned to call but later abandoned.
The court further noted that even when it was subpoenaed to call Dasuki, who was a principal officer to Jonathan, was subpoenaed relevant questions were not put before Dasuki to affirm or deny that President Jonathan directed that the sum of N400 million be paid to Metuh for a national assignment.
“Having established that the money came from ONSA and there was no contractual evidence and ONSA not being a charitable organisation, the first defendant took no steps whatsoever to know why the N400 million was paid to the account of the second defendant.
“I agree with the prosecution that it was unlawful that the former National Security Adviser to have misappropriated public funds in favour of the first and second defendants.
“Prosecution have proved the ingredients as regards count one”, Justice Abang held, adding that the defendant turned a blind eye to the actual source of the inflow without a contract for which the sum of N400 million was paid.
“I found the first defendant guilty in respect of count one and accordingly convicted.
“The second defendant is also guilty in respect of count one and accordingly convicted”, Abang held.
While count two borders on conversion of the sum of N400 million received from the office of the former National Security Adviser, count three borders on retention and concealment of the said funds.
Delivering judgment in the two counts, Justice Abang held that evidence tendered by the prosecution proved that Metuh disbursed the funds received from Dasuki for the political activities of the PDP as well as for his personal use.
“Metuh has not explained how N50 million was transferred to a joint account of his wife and himself”, the court held.
The Judge further stated that all documentary evidence presented to the court failed to show any security services for which the sum of N400 million was paid to the defendants, but rather flow of funds into PDP’s campaign activities as well as Metuh’s personal use.
In count four the court also found the defendants guilty on the grounds that they failed to place material before the court to show that then President Jonathan engaged the first defendant on a national assignment for national security.
Justice Abang further held that there was no way former President Jonathan would have given a verbal approval for the release of N400 million.
The court also found the defendants guilty on counts five and six which borders on making cash deposits beyond the maximum threshold which is N5 million for individual and N10 million for an organisation.
The EFCC in counts five and six had accused Metuh of handing over the sum of $2 million cash to one Nneka Ararume, who in turn handed over the monies to two bureau de change agents for conversion to cash and was then deposited in Metuh’s Diamond Bank account.
According to the judge, findings show that although Ararume was a staff of ARM, she was not in Metuh’s Abuja residents on behalf of ARM.
The court further held that the two bureau de change operators are not financial institutions and violated section one of the money laundering Act, by making cash deposits into Metuh’s Diamond Bank account well above N5 million.
The court held that the $2 million formed part of the N400 million received illegally from Colonel Dasuki.
In count 7 which borders on the transfer of the sum of N21.7 million to former PDP chieftain, late Chief Anthony Anenih, the judge held that the prosecution was able to prove that the said funds transferred to the late Anenih was part of the unlawful activities of Colonel Dasuki.
Justice Abang in the judgment held that in all there were evidence that the first defendant ought to have known that the money received from Dasuki were proceeds of an unlawful act.
Justice Abang accordingly found Metuh and his company guilty on all the seven-count charge.
Meanwhile, counsel to Metuh, Mr Abel Oziokor, thanked the court for its verdict noting that whether a judgment favours a litigant or not, it is befitting to appreciate the court for the efforts in delivering the judgment.
Oziokor however begged the court to temper justice with mercy.