Alleged N1.6bn Laundering: Court Reserves Judgment against Owei-Dudafa

Former President Goodluck Jonathan’s presidential aide, Waripamo Owei-Dudafa, will know his fate soon in the N1.6bn money laundering charge against him.
This is a Federal High Court Lagos on Wednesday reserved judgment to later day after parties presented their addresses.
Dudafa is charged by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) along with one Joseph Iwejuo, a staff of Heritage Bank, on a 23-count charge bordering on money laundering.
EFCC arraigned them before Justice Mohammed Idris on counts of conspiracy to conceal proceeds of crime amounting to over N1.6bn on June 11, 2013
The prosecution closed its case on March 16, 2018, after calling seven witnesses and tendering several exhibits.
The defence had initially filed and argued a no-case submission in its defence and had urged the court to dismiss the case, on the grounds that the prosecution failed to establish any case against them.
Justice Idris had in a ruling delivered in August 2018, dismissed the no case submission of defence, on the grounds that they had some explanations to make on the exhibits and evidence already adduced by the prosecution
The defence had consequently entered its defence, calling two witnesses and tendering exhibits.
It closed its case in November 2018 after which the court adjourned for the adoption of final addresses.
In adopting his final address on Wednesday, the prosecutor, Rotimi Oyedepo said it was dated February 19 and he adopted the same as his argument in urging the court to convict the defendant.
Oyedepo argued that the prosecution had been able to lead sufficient evidence in establishing a case of money laundering, conspiracy as well as concealment of proceeds of an unlawful act against the defendants.
According to him, the prosecutor presented to the court two defendants, one in the employment of the federal government and the second in the employment of a bank.
He argued that from the evidences before the court, it is clear that the various monies traced to the account of some companies such as Avalon Global Property Development Company Ltd, Seagate Property Development and Investment Ltd, were not the legitimate salary of the first defendant.
He said that the first defendant in his statement admitted collecting bags of money which he said were kept in the official quarters of the President.
According to him, the offence of money laundering does not have its root in Nigeria as it is an international jurisprudence, adding that its application in Nigeria is seeking to prohibit reckless movement of funds.
He argued that the defendant employed the best form of concealment of proceeds of unlawful act, by keeping same in an account without his identity and engaging the second defendant to operate same.
“From the manner in which these transactions were consummated, the court can see clearly a meeting of minds to commit same.
“The second defendant was running an account under different identity so as to conceal the offence.
“If it was a legitimate transaction, the first defendant will not procure the second defendant to run the account and receive funds in same.
“All that the prosecution is enjoined to know is the reasonability of their knowledge that same constitutes an offence, ” he said.
The prosecutor argued that it is an offence for a public officer to confer undue advantage to himself, adding that it is wrong for any official of government to receive gratification or gifts in the course of performing his duty.
Besides, Oyedepo argued that the claim by the defendant that the monies were donated to a church, was only an afterthought which the court is not expected to act upon.
He urged the court to hold that the prosecution is not expected to prove its case beyond every shadow of a doubt but only beyond a reasonable doubt, and called on the court to uphold his argument and convict the defendants.
On his part, defence counsel, Gboyega Oyewole (SAN) in adopting his final address, urged the court to discharge and acquit the defendant, as the prosecution had failed to establish any ingredient of the offence against the defendant.
According to him, the defendant had pleaded not guilty to three phases of counts in the charge, and the onus remained constant with the prosecution to establish the sources of the funds as alleged.
He argued that the prosecution called seven witnesses which included three bankers, two shop owners at Okota, one Bureau De change operator and an EFCC investigator.
According to him, none of these witnesses led any evidence or tendered any exhibits to establish essential elements of the charge against the defendant.
For instance, he argued that the purported owner of the account in which monies were paid was never called as a witness and one Festus Iyoha to whom monies were allegedly handed to, was also not called as a witness.
He said that this failure to call the desired witnesses was fatal to the case of the prosecution, adding that the charge against the defendant must fail consequently.
“Of all the assertions made by the defendant in relation to the source of the funds, no further investigations were made by prosecution; they did not call the people mentioned by the defendant or take their evidences.
“If you allege that the source of a fund is illegal then you ought to discharge that burden of proof and call witnesses to establish same,”
According to him, the defendant merely acted on instruction to” pay”, adding that before a court can safely convict it ought to look at the provisions of the law and the charges.
He argued that it was not a strict liability offence and urged the court to discharge and acquit the defendant.
Second defence counsel, Ige Asemudara, also adopted his final address in urging the court to discharge and acquit the defendant.
After listening to the respective submissions of counsel, Justice Idris reserved his judgment to a later date which will be communicated to parties.
He thanked respective counsel as well as the media for seeing through the end of the trial and informed everyone that the case marked the end of his sitting over trials at the lower court, as all his fiat totalling 19 had been executed.
During the trial, the prosecution called seven witnesses and tendered exhibits A to Q before the court.
The defence called two witnesses and tendered several exhibits.
The offence for which the defendants are charged contravenes the provisions of sections 17(a), 18 (c), and 27 (3) (c) of the EFCC Establishment Act 2004.
Uu

Author: News Editor

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