A prosecution witness, Mr. Shehu Shuaibu, has told a Federal High Court in Lagos that the sum of N800 million was paid from the Ministry of External Affairs into the account of a company, Jointrust Dimension Ltd.
The witness, an investigator with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), gave the testimony on Tuesday at the resumed trial of a former Minister of Aviation, Mr. Femi Fani-Kayode, and others facing N4.6 billion money laundering charge.
Also charged are a former Minister of State for Finance, Nenandi Usman, and a former Chairman of the Association of Local Governments of Nigeria (ALGON), Yusuf Danjuma.
Jointrust Dimension Ltd is the fourth defendant.
EFCC preferred a 17-count of money laundering against the defendants but all pleaded not guilty to the charges and were granted bail.
The anti-graft agency has since opened its case and the third prosecution witness, Shuaibu, was examined in chief.
The prosecutor, Mr. Rotimi Oyedepo, continued the examination of the witness after the court had earlier rejected an objection to the admissibility of two documents tendered by the witness.
At the last adjourned date, the defense had objected to the admissibility of bank documents tendered through the witness on the ground that they were not legible and also not public documents.
Justice Rilwan Aikawa, however, rejected the objection on the ground that even if the witness was not the maker of the said document, they were gotten in the course of his investigation and therefore, admissible.
The court accordingly admitted and marked the documents as exhibits 15 and 16 respectively.
In continuation of his evidence, Oyedepo asked the witness to tell the court his findings during investigations.
The witness who first confirmed that exhibit E8 was the statement of account of Jointrust Dimension Ltd, told the court that investigations revealed that on January 16, 2015, the sum of N800million was paid into the account of the company.
He added that the money came from the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) with the signatories to the account identified as two persons – Darbisu and Benjamin.
Shuaibu noted that the said signatories were former staff members of the MEA and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, respectively, now working with the National Intelligence Agency (NIA).
He told the court that on January 13, 2015, the sum of N400 million was paid from the MEA into the same account of Jointrust.
The witness explained that these monies were paid, whereas investigations revealed that there were no contracts between the ministry and the company to warrant such payment.
Under cross-examination, the defense counsel, Mr. Ferdinard Orbih, asked the witness who was the author of the entries in Exhibit Eight and the witness replied that it was the MEA.
Orbih asked: “So you agree that neither of the defendants had any input in making the entries in Exhibit Eight” and the witness replied, “No, they don’t.”
When further quizzed to confirm if there exists in the said exhibit, words like the Ministry of External Affairs and Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the witness said no but explained that the words were abbreviated to read MEA and MFA.
The witness also told the court that he had no knowledge if any of the defendants were employees of any investigation agency of the government.
Mr. Orbih also asked the witness if the commission obtained statements from the signatories to Exhibit 16 and the witness’ response was, “Yes, they were invited to our office and their statements were taken.”
On whether the said statements were frontloaded or made available to the defense, the witness replied, “I don’t know.”
The defense counsel then said, “I put it to you that the purported statements were not frontloaded to the defendants and not before this court?”
“I don’t know, I am not a lawyer and I am not the one that drafted the charges,” the witness responded.
After listening to the testimony and comments from both counsels, the judge adjourned until Thursday for the continuation of the trial.
In the charge, the defendants were alleged to have committed the offenses between January and March 2015.
In counts one to seven, they were said to have unlawfully retained over N3.8 billion which they reasonably ought to have known formed part of the proceeds of unlawful acts 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.
Similarly, in counts 15 to17, Mr. Fani-Kayode and one Olubode Oke said to be at large were alleged to have made cash payments of about N30 million in excess of the amount allowed by law, without going through a financial institution.
Besides, the former minister was alleged to have made payments to one Paste Poster Co (PPC) of No 125 Lewis St., Lagos, in excess of amounts allowed by law.
All offenses, according to EFCC, contravene the provisions of Sections 15 (3) (4), 16 (2) (b), and 16 (5) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) (Amendment) Act, 2012.