A Federal High Court in Abuja has freed Mr. Robert Azibaola, a cousin of former President Goodluck Jonathan, of laundering $40 million.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) charged Azibaola and his firm, One Plus Holdings Nigeria Limited, with receiving $40 million from the Office of the then National Security Adviser (ONSA), Col. Sambo Dasuki, in September 2014 for the “supply of tactical communication equipment”.
The prosecution alleged that the job was not done.
In a judgment on Monday, Justice Nnamdi Dimgba discharged and acquitted the defendants on the grounds that the prosecution failed to prove its case against them.
But the judge held that the prosecution failed to contradict the explanation given by the defendants on how the funds were expended.
He said the prosecution failed to fault the explanation by the defendants that the actual purpose for which the ONSA paid the $40 million was concealed as “supply of tactical communication equipment” as was the practice in security management.
Justice Dimgba also held that the defendants, at trial, led oral and documentary evidence to the effect that the money was actually meant to be paid to Niger Delta militants, who were into oil bunkering to achieve peace in the region and boost oil revenue in the country.
The judge said the defendants also provided evidence in support of their claim that the militants were paid, and they called one of them to testify that he received payment from the defendants, after stopping oil bunkering.
He added that the defendants tendered vouchers to show that they equally paid other militant groups from the funds provided by the ONSA.
Justice Dimgba said the defendants alos tendered bank account statements and lists of accounts of affiliated firms – Kakatar CE Limited and Oneplus Holdings Nigeria Limited – to prove the financial capacity and capability of the firms to execute the contract.
The judge noted that the first defendant, (Aziboala) also gave evidence to, among others, establish his capacity to carry out the assignments for which the funds were provided.
He added: “I keenly watched the countenance of DW1 (Azibaola) during his testimony and must state that as fantastic and as incredulous as the claims might sound, I had a sense that he was speaking truthfully and I had no real reasons to disbelieve him.
“To prove execution, the defence gave evidence of performance of the assignment, tendering Exhibit ASO 33 (A-G), being cash disbursement vouchers, and Exhibit ASO 36, being sample signature of DW 2 acknowledging receipt of disbursement.
“All these were necessary to show that the assignment allegedly given to the defendants by the former NSA was not just a flash in the pan.”
The judge noted that the accounts of Kakatar CE “showed where withdrawals were made in naira, representing the equivalent of the Unted States dollars (USD) sums said to have been transferred to Kakatar, a sister company, by One Plus, the second defendant, and allegedly applied to the assignment.
“The defence argued that these various huge withdrawals in naira from the Kakatar CE account, running through the period of September 2014 through early 2015, coincide with the duration of the assignment.”
Justice Dimgba faulted the prosecution for not calling either Dasuki or officials of ONSA as its witness. He also wondered why Dasuki was not charged in the case.
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