The fraud and money laundering charges against Peter Nwaoboshi, a senator representing Delta North, was dismissed Friday by Justice Chukwujekwu Aneke, who said the EFCC failed to prove the elements of the offences for which it charged the lawmaker.
The lawmaker and his two companies were subsequently discharged and acquitted.
Mr Nwaoboshi was arraigned alongside Golden Touch Construction Project Ltd and Suiming Electrical Ltd before a Lagos Division of the Federal High Court in 2018 over N322 million fraud and money laundering charges.
The EFCC in suit number FHC/L/117C/18 arraigned the three defendants for acquiring a property named Guinea House, Marine Road, in Apapa, Lagos, for N805 million and that N322 million out of the N805 million, which Mr Nwaoboshi and the firm paid for the property, which it said was part of proceeds of fraud.
Delivering his judgment on Friday, Mr Aneke said the ingredients of the offence the defendants were charged with in counts 1 and 2 were not proved and they could not be found guilty of the crime.
Mr Aneke began reading his judgment in a courtroom packed with lawyers and journalists at 9 a.m. and it lasted just under an hour.
According to the judgment, in his final address, the second defendant, Mr Nwaoboshi, through his counsel, Emmanuel Kachukwu (SAN), maintained that the prosecution, based on the evidence produced before the court, had not proven their case beyond a reasonable doubt.
“The prosecution did not demonstrate that the second defendant or any other defendant acquired the property known as Guinea House or that Guinea House was acquired with proceeds of unlawful act because documents are not in evidence.
“The evidence of prosecution witness did not reveal that there was a transfer of the sum of N322m from the third defendant to the vendor of Guinea House or that the said sum of N322m was a proceed of unlawful act,” the written address read.
The second defendant further said the evidence of PW1 (first prosecution witness), which the prosecution heavily relied on, is hearsay and lacking in evidential value and was derived from an anonymous person who was not called as a witness.
He submitted that the evidence is lacking in credibility and that the elements of the charges had not been proved. He urged the court to reject the evidence.
In his judgment, Mr Aneke said the only “full evidence offered by the complainant or prosecution is the evidence of PW2 from Zenith Bank.”
“The evidence proved that the third defendant obtained a loan of N1.2 billion from Zenith Bank for purchase of additional equipment and as provision of working capital.
“It also proved that the loan of N1.2 billion together with interest of N24 million was properly granted to the third. Nothing else was proved by the complainant or prosecutor in this case,” the judge said.
He further said the financial statement of the defendant is not evident before the court and none of its content evident of any relevance in the case.
“They need to tender an agreement between the owners of the land and the first and second defendants in sections 128 of the evidence act. The admissible evidence, in this case, does not even show the owners of the said Guinea House.
“Apart from the first element of defence charged which has not proved that the first and second defendant acquired Guniea House, none of the other evidence as stated above have been proved.
“How could they have been proved when the statement of account of the third defendant of Sterling Bank was tendered and rejected in evidence?
“The rejection of the same statement of account means that any facts concerning or relating to the N322 million paid by the third defendant to the Lagos government cannot be proved. Coupled with this is the fact that Sterling Bank officials were not called to testify and probably tender exhibits F and F10. The prosecution’s case collapsed,” the judge said.
Mr Aneke further said that it is the statement of account of the third defendant of Zenith Bank that could show that apart from the loan of N1. 2 billion from Zenith Bank, there is no other money or sufficient money in the account of the third defendant to pay the N322 million.
He said that proved that the N322 million was paid from N1.2 billion and not from any other money belonging to the third defendant.
“The result is that none of the evidence or elements on count 1 has been proved. On count 2, the ingredients of the offence charged with count 1 have to be proved before the third defendant will be found guilty or the first and second defendants taken for the offence charged.
“That is to say the offence in count 2 has not been committed, while the primary or principal offence as contained in count 1 has not been proved.
“The result is the prosecution’s case against the defendants are accordingly discharged and acquainted,” Mr Aneke said.
Mr Nwaoboshi, alongside his two companies, was then freed from the charges against them by the EFCC.
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