The Federal High Court in Abuja on Monday dismissed money laundering charges involving the sum of $40m preferred against a cousin of former President Goodluck Jonathan, Mr. Robert Azibaola.
Azibaola and his company, One Plus Holdings Nigeria Limited were charged by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission with money laundering offences for allegedly receiving the sum of $40m from the Office of the then National Security Adviser, Col. Sambo Dasuki, in September 2014 for the “supply of tactical communication equipment”, a job the prosecution alleged was not done.
But delivering judgment on Monday, Justice Nnamdi Dimgba discharged and acquitted Azibaola and his company, as he held that there were many doubts raised in the prosecution’s case which were not investigated and cleared.
“The doubts are bound to be resolved in favour of the defendants,” the judge held.
Dismissing the remaining two counts after seven of the nine counts originally filed by the prosecution were struck out by the court in March last year, the judge held on Monday that the prosecution failed to prove the case beyond reasonable doubt.
The judge held that the prosecution failed to debunk the explanation offered by the defence.
The court held that the prosecution failed to puncture the defence’s explanation that the description of the payment of the $40m by the ONSA as “supply of tactical communication equipment” was a disguise for the real purpose of the money as it was the usual practice in security management.
According to the judge, the defence in the course of the trial adduced oral and documentary evidence that the money was actually meant to be paid to Niger Delta militants who were in the business of oil bunkering in other to achieve peace in the region and boost oil revenue in the country.
The judge noted that the defence, not only provided evidence that the defendants actually paid the militants, one of whom testified that he received payment from the defendants, and had since left the oil bunkering business, vouchers were also tendered to show that other groups were paid.
He held that the prosecution failed to call material witness such as Dasuki, who is publicly known to be in “the custody of the state”, or officials of ONSA while Dasuki held sway, to debunk the claim by the defence.
He noted that neither was Dasuki interviewed nor charged alongside the defendants.
Earlier on March 29, 2018, Justice Dimgba had upheld the defendants’ no-case submission, by striking out the name of Azibaola’s wife, Stella, along with seven out of the nine counts originally filed by the prosecution.
The judge, in exonerating Azibaola, and striking out the seven counts, held that there no sufficient evidence to sustain the seven counts.