Supreme Court Judge, Justice Sylvester Ngwuta, who was arraigned before Justice John Tsoho of an Abuja Federal High Court on Monday, has been granted bail.
He was granted bail Monday afternoon with a bond of N100m
Federal Government arraigned Ngwuta in the amended charge marked FHC/ABJ/C/232, and signed by a Principal State Counsel, Hajara H. Yusuf, on the allegations that Ngwuta, among other offences, stashed foreign currencies in his Abuja home.
The Federal Government alleged that the Department of State had searched his home on November 8 and at the end of the search operation recovered several sums of cash, including the sum of N35.358m and $319,596.
Also said to have been found in his official residence wsd 25,915 pounds sterling and Euro 280.
It said the search also revealed that he has in his pissession four diplomatic passports, one official and two standard Nigerian passports all in the name of the defendant.
The Federal Government told the court that the DSS executed a search warrant at Justice Ngwuta’s home following series of allegations of corruption that were levelled against him.
Justice Ngwuta had pleaded not guilty to the 16-count charge of money laundering, breach of professional ethics and forgery filed against him.
The bail application, which was stood time twice for the arguments of bail motion and for ruling , was later resolved in favour of the defendant.
Earlier, Ngwuta through his lead counsel, Chief Kanu Agabi (SAN), begged the court to release him on bail pending the hearing and determination of the case against him.
Agabi, who is a former Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, contended that the charge against his client contained bailable offences.
He predicated the bail request on section 35 and 36 of the 1999 constitution, as amended, as well as section 162 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act,
However, the prosecution counsel, Charles Adeogun-Philips, had kicked against the application.
He said the accused was capable of interfering with witnesses and concealing documents that could incriminate him.
Adeogun-Philips said: “Barely 20 minutes after he was granted administrative bail, one of the witnesses received a call from the defendant. During that call a number of instructions were given to the witness: ‘get rid of those cards. Go into my bathroom, in my residence where you will find three bags,’. Those bags contained N27m each; they were moved from the residence and completely concealed.
“That same witness came back to the house, removed three luxury cars and concealed them. Days before his residence was raided on October 8, the defendant had four valid passports,” added Adeogun-Philips .
He said the allegations of interference were so apparent that they were contained in counts 3,10 to 16 of the charge against the defendant.
The prosecution counsel submitted that he was cautiously making his objection; considering the status of the defendant, but also taking note of the alleged offences.
“My Lord it is in recognition to these offences committed when the administrative bail were granted, that we cautiously object to the application.
In a short ruling, Justice Tsoho said the application was allowed based on self recognizance, since the defendant was in court and given his status as a Supreme Court Justice.
Tsoho said although allegations of culpability in impeding cause of justice have been made against the defendant, his court was not aware of any official document revoking his administrative bail, based on the alleged offences.
He added that it was important for the prosecution to maintain the honour of consistency.
Tsoho urged the prosecution to give the defendant the benefit of doubt on any material inconsistencies.
The trial Judge said although the circumstances alluded to may have made the bail application cumbersome, the essence of justice would be defeated if his court sets aside the presumption of innocence.
“It is my view that it will defeat the essence of justice to prevent the accused from attaining to his bail, with regards to the allegations. I hold the respective view that the offences are bailable,” Tsoho said
The case, however, was adjourned to December 7 for hearing.
Ngwuta was one of the judges arrested on October 8 when operatives of the DSS raided the homes of High Court and Supreme Court Judges across the country.
Ngwuta had maintained innocence, accusing the Minister of Transport, Rotimi Amaechi of being behind his travails.
He claimed that Amaechi appealed to him to influence the ruling of the last governorship election in Rivers state in favour of the All Progressives Congress, an allegation the Minister denied.
He also said the money found in his home was from transaction from rice and palm oil businesses he was engaged in.