The Federal High Court, Abuja, on Tuesday, discharged and acquitted Jide Omokore, chairman of Atlantic Energy Drilling Concepts Nigeria Limited, of alleged fraud and money laundering.
Mr Omokore and his co-defendants were arraigned in 2016 by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on nine charges of criminal diversion of about $1.6 billion in proceeds of petroleum products belonging to the Nigerian government.
They were also accused of underhand dealings in connection to the Strategic Alliance Agreement (SAA) existing between his companies and the Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC) Limited.
Mr Omokore is the first defendant in the matter while his companies, Atlantic Energy Brass Development Limited and Atlantic Energy Drilling Concept Limited, are the second and third defendants, respectively.
The EFCC accused Mr Omokore of allegedly purchasing houses for a former minister of petroleum resources, Diezani-Alison-Madueke. He was equally accused of purchasing cars for some staff of the NNPC and some politicians.
The defendant, however, denied all the allegations, noting that the business deals he had with federal government agencies were legal and never a contravention of relevant laws.
Delivering judgment in the suit on Tuesday, Justice Nnamdi Dimgba held that the EFCC failed to prove its case against the first, second and third defendants.
ThisDay newspaper reports that on the first three counts, the anti-graft commission had alleged that the first three defendants made false representations to get into an agreement to carry out a project for NNPC Limited and the Nigerian Petroleum Development Company (NPDC).
However, the judge held that the EFCC failed to prove that the three defendants falsely represented themselves as possessing the required technical and financial competence to carry out the project.
On financial capacity, the judge held that the EFCC ought to have shown that the three defendants had bad creditworthiness as opposed to concluding their account balance.
The judge also agreed with the testimony given by the first prosecution witness, Andrew Yakubu, former group managing director of the NNPC.
Mr Yakubu had earlier testified that the defendants were awarded the project because NNPC had previously recorded “remarkable success and value addition” while working with them.
On the counts relating to “fraudulent intent,” the judge held that “the 1st-3rd defendants do not strike me as persons with fraudulent intents”.
The court also acquitted the defendants of the charges bordering on money laundering and conversion.
“The sale of crude oil by the 1st-3rd defendants was done legally as contained in the agreement.
“They did not sell any crude that was not allocated by lawful authority,” the court held.
The court also held that there is no evidence of a conspiracy between the defendants as alleged by the prosecution. Similarly, charges bordering on procurement fraud were not proven by the prosecution, it held.
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