$1.6bn fraud trial: Court admits evidence against Omokore

$1.6bn fraud trial: Court admits evidence against Omokore

Wednesday, November 27, 2019 7:09 pm

Jide Omokore:

The trial of the Chairman of Atlantic Energy Brass Development, Jide Omokore, continued  on Wednesday, November, 27, 2019 with the trial judge, Justice Nnamdi Dimgba of Federal High Court, Abuja, ruling in favour of the prosecution in a trial-within-trial to determine the admissibility  of the statements of the fourth and fifth defendants.

Standing trial with Omokore in the nine-count amended charge of criminal diversion to the tune of about $1.6billion, pressed by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission EFCC are former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani Alison-Madueke, former Managing Director, Nigerian Petroleum Development Company, NPDC, Mr Victor Briggs, former Group Executive Director, Exploration and Production, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC Abiye Membere, and former Manager, Planning and Commercial, NNPC, David Mbanefo (deceased).

Also, involved in the suit are two companies: Atlantic Energy Brass Development Limited and Atlantic Energy Drilling Concepts Limited, said to belong to Omokore, the first defendant, which the defendants allegedly used to commit the alleged procurement fraud and money laundering.

It would be recalled that the defence team had opposed the admissibility of the statements of fourth and fifth defendants on the ground that they were taken in the absence of a legal representative, without a video recorder, in a question and answer format and were not given voluntarily.

Justice Dimgba while delivering ruling on the matter, noted that “The prosecution has elaborated in court that the defendant never requested for his counsel to be present while writing the statement.”

He further observed that “On August 12, 2016, the defendant went to EFCC for the second statement to be taken. He was administered a “word of caution” and his defence counsel, Musa Mohammed, never showed up during the making of the statement to support his claims. There is no support document to back up the claims that EFCC denied him food or water during the two hour interval he wrote the statement. The defendant did not complain that the EFCC operatives mishandled him in any matter and I do not see any grounds why EFCC will torture any person in the premises just because they came to make statement in an on-going investigation.

“From the position of Section 17 (2), 15 (4) of Administration of Criminal Justice Act, ACJA 2015, in reference to having a lawyer and video recorder present, this is optional and not mandatory by law enforcement agencies.

“Accordingly, Section 15(4) ACJA, states that the presence of a legal counsel shall be available provided the lawyer does not intervene with the proceedings but the contention here is that the statement was not voluntarily. Moreover, the defendant did not request for the legal counsel and there is no evidence to support any of his claims.

“The statements dated July 23, 2015 and February 12, 2016 are hereby admitted and marked in evidence.”

He adjourned the matter until January 27 and 28, 2020 for continuation of trial.

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