The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), on Friday, filed an appeal against the judgment of Mohammed Idris who on Thursday freed Warimapo-Owei Dudafa and Iwuejo Joseph of corruption charges.
Mr Dudafa, a cousin of ex-President Goodluck Jonathan, and Mr Joseph were charged with laundering N1.6 billion by the EFCC.
In his judgement, Mr Idris said the EFCC failed to do a thorough investigation before charging the defendants to court. The judge also ruled that the EFCC had failed to call material and essential witnesses that would have shed more light on the alleged charge.
In its appeal signed by EFCC counsel, Rotimi Oyedepo, the commission mentioned nine grounds for challenging the ruling.
It asked the appellate court to upturn the decision of Mr Idris and find the defendants guilty.
According to the appeal, “The learned trial Judge erred in law when in discharging and acquitting the Respondents on count of conspiracy held at page 100 of the judgement as follows “The 1st and 2nd Defendants both in their respective defence stated that they did not know each other until the time of their arrests.”
The EFCC in its first ground of appeal claims this decision by the judge is contrary to “the principle of law which states that a person may be convicted for conspiracy by his mere assent to and encouraging the design although nothing may have been assigned or intended that the conspirators should take part in the crime as principals in the first or second degree. See ERIM VS STATE (1994)5 NWLR (PT.346)522 .”
“The learned trial Judge erred in law when his Lordship held at pages 107-108 of its judgment thus: “the prosecution has relied on Exhibits H8, H9,H11,H13 and H14 which are the extrajudicial statements of the 2nd Defendant and Exhibits 68, 69,611,612,613 and G14 which are also extra judicial statements of the 1st Defendant without proffering further evidence to corroborate same.”
“The learned trial Judge erred in law when his Lordship in discharging and acquitting the Respondents on counts 2-9 failed to consider, rely on and or ascribe any probative value to the evidence adduced by the Appellant showing that the Respondents concealed proceeds of an unlawful act,” the EFCC said.
“The learned trial Judge erred in law when after agreeing with the Appellant that the burden of proving the predicate offence in modern times lie on the Defendants to show the source of the money which has been said to be disproportionate to his known source of income, his Lordship turned around in discharging and acquitting the Respondents on counts 2-9 of the charge and held at page 111 of the judgment as follows: “However, the 1“ Defendant has sufficiently proved where the money lodged in the various account Exhibit A, B, B1, 82, B3 and F were proceeds of funds raising held for the Anglican Church Otuoke of which the former President Goodiuck Jonathan was holding in trust. The Prosecution made no attempt to rebut this assertion made in defence. The prosecution refused to call the vital witness that would have helped their case. The 1“ and 2″‘1 Defendant are hereby discharged and acquitted of counts 2-9 of this charge as the Prosecution have failed to prove some beyond reasonable doubt”
The EFCC also said the trial judge “erred in law when his Lordship held that the Appellant failed to call vital witnesses.”
The commission argued that “the prosecution need not call any number of witnesses or hordes of witnesses or even call all material witness since in law a sole credible witness Is sufficient to prove a charge, not requiring corroboration in law.”
It also said the witnesses the trial judge considered material and essential were at best “participis criminls to the scheme of fraud contained in the charge, they are not vital and material witnesses to the prosecution.”
It said the prosecution was not under any obligation to “prove facts already admitted by the Respondents.”
Further faulting the judgment, the EFCC said, “The learned trial Judge erred in law when his Lordship in discharging and acquitting the 1st Respondent on counts 10 and 11 held at page 115 of the judgment as follows: “now from counts 10 and 11 it seems the prosecution expects this court to convict the 1st Defendant for the act of giving one Mr Festus iyoha the various sums of money to deliver to Mr Murtala Bashir the Bureau de change operator. Here, the question I have for the prosecution is: does the prosecution actually expect the Court to believe that the act of giving money by the 1st Defendant to Mr Festus lyoha who was a servant at the State House Abuja to deliver to Mr Murtala Bashir the Bureau de change Operator count as the “payment” envisage by section 1 of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act,2011 as amended? Certainly, this is not the mischief that the act set out to curb.
“The mischief the Money Laundering Prohibition Act, 2011 as amended came to curb is to prevent the making and acceptance of cash transactions. The purpose for which the money was given is not an ingredient of the offence of making and accepting cash payment.”
The EFCC accused the judge of failing to properly evaluate the evidence before acquitting the 1st defendant.
“The learned trial Judge erred in law and occasioned miscarriage of justice when his Lordship in discharging and acquitting the 1st Respondent on counts 12-13, 14-15, 16-22, failed to properly evaluate the evidence before him.”
In its request of reliefs from the appellate court, the EFCC said it hoped the court would issue “an order allowing the appeal, an order convicting the respondents as charged, an order sentencing the respondents as prescribed by the Money Laundering Prohibition Act, 2011 as amended and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission Establishment Act,2004, and any other order the Court may deem fit to make in the circumstance under Section 15 of the Court of Appeal Act 0; C36, LFN.”
Messrs Dudafa and Iwuejo have been on trial since 2016.