Shehu Shuaibu, a prosecution witness on Tuesday, October 29th told a Federal High Court in Lagos that N800 million was paid from the Ministry of External Affairs into the account of a company Jointrust Dimension Ltd.
The witness, an investigator with the EFCC gave evidence at the resumed trial of a former Minister of Aviation, Femi Fani-Kayode, and some others facing N4.6 billion money laundering charge. Also charged are a former Minister of Finance, Nenadi Usman, a former Chairman of the Association of Local Governments of Nigeria, Yusuf Danjuma.
The Company Jointrust Dimension Ltd. is the fourth defendant in the case. The EFCC preferred a 17-count charge of money laundering against the defendants, but they all pleaded not guilty to the charges and were granted bail. On Tuesday, the prosecutor, Mr Rotimi Oyedepo, continued the examination of the third prosecution witness, Shuaibu, after the court rejected an objection to the admissibility of two documents tendered through the witness.
At the last adjourned date, the defence objected to the admissibility of bank documents tendered through the witness, on the grounds that they were not legible and public documents. Justice Rilwan Aikawa, however, rejected the objection on the grounds that even if the witness was not the maker of the said documents, they were got in the course of his investigation and, therefore, admissible.
The court accordingly, admitted and marked the documents as Exhibits 15 and 16. Oyedepo on Tuesday asked the witness to tell the court his findings from investigations into the matter. The witness who first confirmed that Exhibit E8 was the statement of account of Jointrust Dimension Ltd., further told the court that investigations revealed that on Jan. 16, 2015, N800 million was paid into the account of the company. He told the court that the money came from the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), adding that the signatories to the account were one Darbisu and one Benjamin.
According to him, the said signatories were former staff of the MEA and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, respectively. He told the court that on Jan. 13, 2015, N400 million was paid from the MEA into the same account of Jointrust. The witness told the court that the money was paid whereas investigations revealed that there were no contracts between the Ministry and the company to warrant such payment.
During cross-examination, defence counsel, Ferdinard Orbih (SAN), asked the witness who was the author of the entries in Exhibit 8, and the witness replied that it was the MEA. Orbih asked: “So you agree that neither of the defendants had any input in making the entries in Exhibit 8” and the witness replied, “No, they don’t.”
When further asked to confirm if there existed in the said exhibit, words such as Ministry of External Affairs and Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the witness replied,” No” but explained that the words were abbreviated as MEA and MFA.
The witness also told the court that he had no knowledge if any of the defendants were employees of any investigation agency of government.
Defence counsel also asked the witness if the commission obtained statements from the signatories to Exhibit 16, and the witness replied, “Yes, they were invited to our office and their statements were taken.” On whether the said statements were frontloaded or made available to the defendants, the witness replied, “I don’t know.”
The defence counsel said, “I put it to you that the purported statements were not frontloaded to the defendants and are not before this court.” The witness replied, “I don’t know, I am not a lawyer and I am not the one that drafted the charges. The trial will continue on Oct. 31. In the charge, the defendants were alleged to have committed the offences from January 2015 to March 2015.
In counts one to seven, they were alleged to have unlawfully retained over N3.8 billion which they reasonably ought to have known formed part of the proceeds of an unlawful act of stealing and corruption.
In counts eight to 14, they were alleged to have unlawfully used over N970 million which they reasonably ought to have known formed part of an unlawful act of corruption.
Meanwhile, in counts 15 to 17 Fani-Kayode and one Olubode Oke said to be at large, were alleged to have made cash payments of about N30 million, in excess of the amount allowed by law, without going through a financial institution. Besides, Fani-Kayode was alleged to have made payments to one Paste Poster Co. (PPC) of No 125 Lewis St., Lagos, in excess of amounts allowed by law.
The alleged offences contravene the provisions of Sections 15 (3) (4), 16 (2) (b), and 16 (5) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) (Amendment) Act, 2012.