Wednesday, March 9, 2016 11:36 am
By Ayorinde Oluokun/Abuja
Mr Olisa Metuh, publicity secretary of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party has his no-case submission thrown out by an Abuja Federal High Court today.
Justice Okon Abang ruled that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission has made a prima facie case of money laundering against him and that it’s left for him now to defend himself.
Consequently he asked the spokesperson of former Nigeria ruling party to open his defence on 17 March.
The Judge ruled that the prosecution has established a prima facie case against Metuh on counts 1 to 4 of the charges which bordered on allegations that the PDP spokesperson received the sum on N400 million from the office of National Security Adviser.
Also, the Judge ruled that a prima facie case has been proved aginst Metuh on count 5 and 6 which bordered on his receipt of $2 million from the office of NSA and money laundering.
Justice Abang said what the Court is expected to do in the no case submission is to determine if a prima facie case has been established against the accused and that the evidence, exhibits and testimonies of the prosecution witnesses have proved that Metuh has a case to answer related to the charges.
The Judge noted that the PDP Publicity Secretary agreed that N400 million was transferred to the account of Destra Investments in Diamond Bank which he was the sole signatory to.
He added that the defence counsel argued that his client could not have known that the funds was from corrupt dealings of former NSA, Sambo Dasuki.
The Judge said with the contention of the prosecution, it is incumbent of Metuh to defend himself that he did not know whether the fund is from corrupt dealings of the office of the NSA.
According to him, Metuh must also open his defence to tell the Court what he did when he discovered that N400 million has been transferred to his account.
He added that the PDP Publicity Secretary would need to answer questions like: When he knew that the sum of N400 million has been transferred into the Diamond Bank account of his company, did he enquire from the Bank the source of the money? If he enquired, what did the bank tell him? If he did not, did he report to the Police? If he did, what was the Police findings and if he did not, why?
The Judge also said Metuh will have to explain why he went ahead to disburse the money to some PDP chieftains when he did not know the source.
“If he answered these questions, then his response will show whether he knew the funds were from the unlawful activities of the NSA,” said Justice Abang.
“I have no doubt in my mind that the defendants have some explanations to make as to why he disbursed the funds without knowing the source,” he added.
On the money laundering charge, Justice Abang said the defendant will have to prove to the court that contrary to the claims of the prosecution, he properly went through the banking system to exchange the $2 million to naira since the first prosecution who helped him to convert the funds to the local currency is a staff of Diamond Bank.
The Judge added that in tune with the provisions of the Money Laundering Act, examination of sources of funds are also important.
Accordingly, he said Metuh will in his defence, tell the Court whether he actually gave the $2 million to the prosecution witness and as well as prove the source- whether the funds were legitimately or legally sourced.
“The no case submission is dismissed. The defendant should enter his defence,” Justice Abang ruled.
EFCC had arraigned Metuh on seven-count charge of receiving N400 million from the immediate past NSA, Sambo Dasuki who is also standing trial for allegedly laundering $2.1 billion early January.
He was also accused of receiving the sum of $2 million which he converted to naira using a Bureau de change based in Lagos and Abuja from the same office of NSA. The charges against Metuh was later slightly amended.
One of the counts reads:
“That you Olisa Metuh and Destra Investments Limited on or before the 24th November, 2014 in Abuja within the Jurisdiction of this Honourable court took possession of the sum N400,000,000 (Four Hundred Million Naira) only, paid into the account of DESTRA INVESTMENTS LIMITED with DIAMOND BANK Plc. Account No. 0040437573 from the account of the National Security Adviser with the Central Bank of Nigeria without contract award when you reasonably ought to have known that the said sum formed part of the proceeds of an unlawful activity of Col. Mohammed Sambo Dasuki (rtd) the then National Security Adviser (To Wit; criminal breach of trust and corruption) and thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 15(2), (d) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2011 as amended in 2012 and punishable under Section 15(3) of the same Act.”
The PDP spokesperson pleaded not guilty to the amended charges.
During the trial, the prosecution presented eight witnesses made up of an official of Diamond Bank, two Bureau de change operators, officials of EFCC and a public relations consultant to prove its case.
But the defence made a no case submission which was dismissed by the Judge on Wednesday.
Metuh’s Fundamental Rights Enforcement suit also dismissed
The Judge had earlier dismissed a fundamental rights enforcement suit filed by Metuh against the EFCC challenging his detention after he was arrested by operatives of the Commission.
Metuh had in the suit asked the Court to declare that his arrest and detention by the EFCC without being charged to court violated his rights and to restrain the Commission from arresting and detaining him in the future.
The PDP publicity Secretary said he was arrested by the EFCC on January 5 without an arrest warrant, and was held in detention for 10 days without being charged to court.
EFCC however said in its defence that the PDP spokesman was held by an order of remand issued by a chief magistrate court.
The anti graft agency also affirmed that Metuh was held for serious criminal offences, and was needed in the process of investigation.
In his ruling, Justice Abang held that the EFCC has constitutional powers to arrest and to detain Metuh and that the PDP spokesperson was held by an order of a court. Hence, Justice Abang said he would not make an pronouncement on the detention.
According to the Judge, Metuh should have approached the magistrate court for it to vacate its remand order.
He, thereafter, dismissed the suit for lacking in merit.
He also awarded a cost of N15, 000 against Metuh.