A prosecution witness, Seun Shuaibu, on Wednesday told a Federal High Court in Lagos that a former Minister of State for Finance, Nenadi Usman, and others transferred N350 million to former Governor Achike Udenwa of Imo in 2015.
The witness, an investigator with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), gave evidence at the resumed trial of Mr Usman, Joint Trust Dimension Ltd. and others facing N4.6 billion money laundering charge.
Also charged with Mrs Usman is a former Minister of Aviation, Femi Fani-Kayode, and Yusuf Danjum, a former Chairman of the Association of Local Governments of Nigeria (ALGON).
All the defendants, however, pleaded not guilty to the 17-count charge of money laundering preferred against them by the EFCC.
They were granted bail.
At Wednesday’s proceedings, Mr Shuaibu, the third prosecution witness, told the court that, on January 13, 2015, N400 million was transferred to the account of Joint Trust Dimension Ltd. from the Ministry of External Affairs.
Prosecution counsel, Rotimi Oyedepo, who led the witness in evidence, asked the investigator to give a synopsis of his findings of Exhibit Eight, a statement of account of the company, and the funds paid into the account on January 13, 2015.
In his response, the witness said that on the same date, January 13, 2015, N120 million was transferred to Mr Udenwa, and also to one Biola.
He said that the commission had invited Mr Udenwa to its office about the transfer, adding that his statement was taken.
According to the witness, the former governor admitted receiving the fund and claimed it was for a political campaign for former President Goodluck Jonathan.
The prosecutor then asked: “From your investigation, was that the only time Udenwa received fund from Joint Trust?”
The witness replied in the negative.
He further testified that the former governor received the sum in instalments.
He said on January 15, 2015, N30 million was paid into his account, while N200 million was paid into his account on January 28, 2015.
He said that all remittances were said to be for the same purpose of the political campaign.
The prosecutor asked, “Still on your findings about Joint Trust, can you confirm if you had any contact with a company called “Friendship Express?”
The witness replied, “Yes”, and told the court that on January 13, 2015, N80 million was paid to the Friendship Express company from Joint Trust.
He said that the director of the company was invited to the commission’s office, and his statement was taken. He admitted to receiving the fund.
At this stage, counsel to the first defendant, Ferdinard Orbih, raised an objection to the evidence on the grounds that the witness should not give evidence as to the content of a document not ‘frontloaded’.
Mr Orbih described such evidence as hearsay, and urged the court to expunge it.
However, Mr Oyedepo argued that the evidence of a witness as to what a suspect under his investigation told him, could not amount to hearsay.
Citing the authority of Olaoye versus State, he described the evidence as direct, and urged the court to accept it.
The judge, Mohammed Aikawa overruled the objection of defence counsel and ordered the witness to proceed with his evidence.
The witness told the court that during investigations, N40 million was recovered out of the N80 million paid to the company.
When asked by the prosecution counsel to confirm if he came across one Musa Mohammed Sada, the witness said, “Yes”.
“From Exhibit Eight, particularly on January 16, 2016, tell the court your findings as to the entry on that date?” Mr Oyedepo asked.
The witness said on January 16, 2015, an investigation revealed that N800 million was transferred from the Ministry of External Affairs to the account of Joint Trust Dimension Ltd., without execution of any contract.
M Oyedepo asked, “How did you meet Musa Mohammed Sada?”
The witness said, “On January 19, 2015, the sum of N80 million was transferred from Joint Trust to Musa Sada’s account; we invited him, and his statement was taken.”
According to the witness, Mr Musa then refunded N25 million.
“At the last adjourned date, you identified Exhibit Nine as the instrument for the transaction which are the cheques of Joint Trust. Can you remember?” Mr Oyedepo asked.
The witness replied, “Yes”.
When shown the original copies of the cheques to identify, the witness said they were same cheques.
The prosecution tendered the 21 cheques before the court in evidence.
There was no objection from defence counsel, and the court admitted them in evidence as Exhibits 10 (i-xx).
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the trial will continue on Thursday.
The EFCC accused the defendants of committing 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 know formed part of the proceeds 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.
Also, in counts 15 to 17 Mr Fani-Kayode and one Olubode Oke, who is said to be at large, were alleged to have made cash payments of about N30 million, which is more than the maximum amount allowed by law, without going through a financial institution.
Besides, Mr Fani-Kayode was alleged to have made payments to one Paste Poster Co. of No. 125, Lewis St., Lagos, more than the maximum amount allowed by law.
The alleged offences contravene the Sections 15 (3) (4), 16 (2) (b), and 16 (5) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) (Amendment) Act, 2012. (NAN)