The Federal Government tendered three bags of naira and other different types of foreign currencies as evidence in the money laundering trial of a former top officer of the Nigerian Air Force, Umar Mohammed, at the Federal High Court in Abuja on Thursday.
Mr Mohammed, a retired air commodore, was a member of the defunct presidential investigative committee on procurement of arms and equipment in the Armed Forces, set up by President Muhammadu Buhari shortly after assuming office as President in 2015.
The currency notes tendered against Mr Mohammed on Thursday comprised different denominations of naira, U.S. dollars, CFA francs, Barbados dollars, Caribbean dollars, and Trinidad and Tobago dollars.
Testifying as the first and only prosecution witness in the case, a State Security Service (SSS) official, Stephen Olatubosun, who produced the currencies in court, said the monies were recovered from Mr Mohammed’s residence.
Mr Olatunbosun was led in evidence by the lawyer prosecuting the case on behalf of the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF), Magaji Labaran.
News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the trial judge, Inyang Ekwo, had on Wednesday, ordered that the currencies be counted with a counting machine at the office of the Deputy Chief Registrar (Litigation) in the presence of all the parties to ascertain the total amount before being tendered as exhibits.
At the resumed trial on Thursday, the prosecution counsel, Mr Labaran, told the court that the parties to the case had complied with the court order.
“My lord, we have done the needful at the office of the Chief Deputy Registrar (Litigation). The currencies were counted and are in three bags labelled Bag A, Bag B and Bag C,” Mr Labaran said.
Also, the defence lawyer, Hassan Liman, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, confirmed that the parties to the case were duly represented during the counting of the money.
Breakdown of currencies
The prosecution witness, Mr Olatubosun, an official of the State Security Service (SSS), identified the three bags of currencies in his evidence-in-chief.
“There are three bags – two black and one brown. They are labelled as Bag A, Bag B and Bag C, respectively with the currencies sum attached to them,” he said.
Giving a breakdown of the amounts in each of the bags, the witness said Bag A contained 529, 400 dollars and Bag B had 499, 800 dollars.
Mr Olatubosun added that Bag C contained different currencies of dollars including naira notes.
According to him, Bag C contained N1,200,000 in N1000 notes; N100,000 in N500 note; 957 US dollars; 2, 570, 000CFA and another rap of 5, 000CFA.
He also said Bag C also had 46, 500CFA; 20, 000CFA; 4, 000CFA, 50 Barbados dollars; another 70 Barbados dollars containing 10 bundles; five pieces of Caribbean dollars; seven pieces of Trinidad and Tobago dollars, five pieces of Trinidad and Tobago dollars and another 60 Trinidad and Tobago dollars in a wrap.
CBN for safekeeping
Mr Ekwo, after admitting the three bags of currencies in evidence, ordered the Chief Registrar of the court to keep the bags at the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) pending further order of the court.
During cross-examination by defence lawyer, the witness said he was not part of the teams that either visited the retired officer’s residence or took his statement.
He, however, said based on the report of the SSS officers who carried out the operation, “the source of the currency is from the defendant.”
Mr Olatubosun said although he did not personally investigate the defendant, to the best of his knowledge, Mr Mohammed “is a businessman.”
Prosecution’s case closed, defence to file no-case submission
After the cross-examination, the prosecution announced that it would be closing its case with Mr Olatubosun as its only witness.
Mr Liman, the defence lawyer, then informed the court that the defendant would be applying for a no-case submission.
The judge, Mr Ekwo then granted the defence’s application to enter a no-case submission.
He gave the defence 21 days to file the no-case submission and seven days to the prosecution from the day of being served by the defence to file its counter-submission.
The judge also gave two days to the defence from the day it is served with the prosecution’s counter-submission to further respond should it have any need for it.
The judge adjourned the matter April 27 for adoption of the no-case submission addresses.
The News agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Mr Mohammed and his company, Easy Jet Integrated Service Ltd, are being prosecuted on three counts of money laundering, illegal possession of firearms and possession of classified documents without lawful authority.
He and his company were accused of accepting $1,030,000 in cash from a firm, Worldwide Consortium PTY Ltd “as payment for flight services” without going through a financial institution as required by the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act.
The government also accused him of having in his possession, at his No: 4 Lungi Close, Mississippi, Maitama, Abuja home, “classified/official documents without lawful authority and thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 1(1)(b) of the Official Secret Act and punishable under Section 7(1)(a) of the same law.
Mr Mohammed was also accused of being in illegal possession of two pump action guns (marked: SBSG Magnum 397 and SBGS Interpress 09-1573) between June 1, 2011 and June 19, 2016 without valid licences thereby committing an offence contrary to Section 4 of the Firearms Act 2004 and punishable under Section 27(1)(b)(i) of the Act.”
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