. Forfeits N375m to FG
.Court orders Dextrra Investment closed
Justice Okon Abang of the Federal High Court, Abuja on Tuesday, convicted the former National Publicity Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Chief Olisa Metuh, on all the seven-count criminal charge levelled against him by the Federal Government.
In a judgment that lasted over seven hours, consequently, the trial Judge sentenced Metuh to seven years imprisonment.
Justice Abang, who jailed Metuh on counts 1, 2, 4 and 7, five years on count 3, and three years in respect of counts 5 and 6, said the jail terms s would run concurrently.
The court also ordered him to pay N25million to the Federal Government just as it ordered that the accounts of Dextra in Diamond Bank and Asset Resource Management be closed and proceeds forfeited to the Federal Government.
Metuh was arraigned on January 15, 2016 by the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC) over allegation that he took possession of the sum of N400million he received from the former National Security Adviser, Col. Sambo Dasuki (rtd).
Consequently, the EFCC preferred a seven-count criminal charge bordering on money laundering and misappropriation of State fund in the build- up of 2015 general election.
The fund, according to the EFCC prosecution counsel was part of the $2.1billion allegedly earmarked by the Federal Government for procurement of arms to fight the war against insurgency.
In the course of the trial, the prosecution called eight witnesses to prove why Metuh should be be sent to prison.
Metuh on his part, called 15 witnesses to prove his innocence of the money laundering charges brought against him by the prosecution agency.
However, delivering judgment, the court said Metuh had “actual and constructive” knowledge of the N400millon that was transferred to his company (Dextra Investment Nig Ltd) from Office of the National Security Adviser.
The court stated that the crux of the matter in the judgment was whether Metuh had “actual or constructive knowledge” of inflow of N400m from Office of the National Security Adviser.
“I have my doubts if the 1st defendant (Metuh) is telling the court the truth in this matter.
“It is my firm view, as at November 24, 2014, that the 1st defendant had actual knowledge of inflow of N400m into his company’s account.
Having supplied telephone number and email addresses in his bank account opening package, I believe it was intended to get communication from Diamond bank, where the N400m was transferred to from ONSA.
According to the court, Metuh’s main concern was to start dissipating the N400m without caring about its origin was lawful or not.
More so, the court noted that Metuh made attempts to link former President Goodluck Jonathan with the offence by saying he gave him the said sum.
Justice Abang said he did not know why Metuh decided not to call Jonathan and the former National Security Adviser, Col. Sambo Dasuki to give evidence.
“Evidence of former President Jonathan and Dasuki would have been crucial to corroborate Metuh’s claim that Jonathan gave him the said money, the court said.
Justice Abang wondered why Metuh abandoned that move in the trial.
On November 1, 2017, the court recollected that Dasuki was in court to testify.
“After answering several questions, in the middle of the trial, the witness (Dasuki) said he would not answer any other questions because he had lost memory and needed time to regain his memory, the court said.
Justice Abang held that Dasuki, being a principal staff in the presidency, was in a better position to speak on Metuh’s claim on whether or not Jonathan gave him the N400million.
The court observed that even when Dasuki was responding to questions initially, Metuh’s counsel, Emeka Etiaba SAN, could not ask him relevant questions as to whether or not it was Jonathan that released the money in issue.
“Rather than ask relevant and vital questions, Etiaba was busy writing petition against the court, Justice Abang said.
The court said evidence of Metuh needed corroboration, stressing that there was no evidence before the court to show the approval of Jonathan except that it was verbal.
“I have my doubts that President Jonathan would make an oral approval for N400m to be released to the 1st defendant.
“Where oral evidence is in conflict with documentary evidence, the court will rely on documentary evidence, Abang held.
“Having established that 1st defendant had actual knowledge of the inflow of the N400m into the 2nd defendant’s account (Dextra) and coupled with the evidence that showed there was no contractual agreement between the company and ONSA; and same (Dextra) not being a charity organization, upon becoming aware of the inflow into Dextra account, the 1st defendant took no step to find out from Dasuki what the money was meant for.
“On account of this, I agree with the prosecution that it was unlawful for Dasuki to breach public trust reposed in him by releasing public fund to the tune of N400million to Metuh without execution of any contract.
“With the evidence before me, the 1st defendant knew about the inflow of the N400million into his company account, and if he didn’t receive an alert from his bank, why didn’t he call his account officer to ask questions on the source of the money?
“There was no contract for security job for which ONSA paid Metuh the sum of N400million and I disagree completely with Metuh that Dasuki having not been found guilty of criminal breach of trust, that the charge against him was defective.
“I agree with the prosecution counsel that predicate offence and money laundering offence are mutually exclusive. Once it is clear that the act giving rise to a predicate offence has been proven, money laundering charge can take effect, the court held.
“It is my view that the prosecution having proven the said transfer of N400m to Metuh without execution of any job, I convict the 1st defendant on count one”, Abang said.
Similarly, after making findings on count two, “My lord, the prosecution counsel has advanced credible evidence that the 1st defendant converted the sum of N400m for use by a political party and for his personal usage.
The court held that going by evidence before it, the disbursement of N400m by Metuh were inconsistent of the purpose for which it was meant.
“I have my doubts that former President Jonathan engaged Metuh to execute a national assignment on security when there are institutions and agencies that can do the assignment.
“I am inclined to believe the prosecution witness that Metuh tore the third sheart of his extrajudicial statement before the EFCC wherein he admitted that the N400million was used for PDP media campaign activities and for his personal use.
Having destroyed page three of that confessional statement, the court observed that Metuh “is not a witness of truth”.
The court agreed with Metuh that he was called by President Jonathan to a meeting to make presentation on challenges of his duty and not to carry out any national security assignment.
“I agree with the prosecution that the disbursement of N400million was meant for the campaign of the PDP, as no Service Chief, government official, except PDP too notchers were in attendance in the said meeting.
“The 1st defendant is not a witness of truth” Justice Abang held.
Furthermore, Justice Abang said that Metuh did not make any reasonable explanation as to why the sum of N50m was transferred from the N400m into an account he jointly owned with his wife, Kanayo.
“It is manifestly clear and beyond doubt that Metuh converted the N400m for usage on the PDP campaign activities prior to the 2015 general election and for personal usage.
“I therefore convict the 1st defendant on count two of the charge bordering on conversion of the N400m.
Similarly, Metuh was convicted on counts 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7.
The court held further that the prosecution was able to prove that Metuh exceeded the $2m or N5m statutory threshold for currency exchange and transfer by an individual.
By handing over the sum of $2m to his agent, the court held that Metuh made an attempt to hide an illicit fund, adding that the transaction was in excess of statutory threshold.
Meanwhile, the court held that “It is my humble but firm view that it is not mandatory for the prosecution to produce evidence of criminal breach of trust and corruption against Dasuki before a money laundering charge is levelled against Metuh; doing so, is to “command the impossible”.
The court stated that contrary to the submission of counsel to Metuh, “A predicate offence cannot be established before the defendant is charged for money laundering.
“The prosecution needs not produce evidence of conviction of Dasuki before charging the defendant to court, Justice Abang said.
The court also recalled that Abba Dabo, a defence witness said on December 16, 2016, upon cross examination, that Metuh gave him N25m but that when he noticed it was part of the money for the botched procurement of arms deal, he returned it.
Returning the N25million by Dabo, whom the court described as an independent witness, showed that the N400m came from an unlawful source.
The court said the evidence of Sambo Dasuki was not helpful in the trial as “he did not even say whether or not the former President Jonathan gave the 1st defendant the N400m.
“It is my view that it is the defence that would have called the former President to testify and not the prosecution, Justice Abang said.
The court held that there was no contractual relationship between office of ONSA and the defendants that could warrant the transfer of N400m to them.
Abang said Metuh ought to have known that the money emanated from an unlawful source before disbursement.
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