Court admits N136m recovered from Justice Ngwuta

The Federal High Court sitting in Abuja yesterday admitted in evidence about N136 million recovered from the house of Justice Sylvester Ngwuta of the Supreme Court in October 2016. Also admitted were nine bags in which the monies were contained.

The breakdown of the money is: N35,358,000, £25,915; $319,596; R50 (South African rands); €280; 380 (dirhams); and 420 Gambian dalasis. Ngwuta is standing trial on a13-count charge bothering on passport fraud, money laundering, retention and concealment of origin of the various sums of money contained in the nine bags and boxes.

Prosecution Witness 5, John Utazi, a Staff Officer of the Department of State Services (DSS), had, while opening his testimony on May 16, narrated how he led a team of other operatives to search Justice Ngwuta’s official residence in Abuja on October 7, 2016. He further narrated to the court how the search was carried out in the presence of Justice Ngwuta and huge sums of money in naira and foreign currencies contained in bags and boxes were recovered at the end of the operation.

At the resumed trial yesterday, Utazi said the bags and boxes contained naira, United States dollars, British pounds sterling, euro, South African rands, United Arab Emirates dirham and Gambian dalasis. The nine bags were opened in court and the said sums were brought out and tendered as exhibits before the court. Out of the nine items, eight of them contained naira notes, which Utazi said totalled N35,358,000.

He said the ninth bag contained £25,915; $319,596 (USD); R50 (South African rands); €280 (euros); 380 (dirhams); and 420 dalasis. Prosecution counsel, Olufemi Fatunde, prayed the court that the money identified by PW 5 having been recovered for the defendant’s house is admitted as evidence and collectively marked exhibit 12. She, however, applied that the money be returned to the DSS for onward transmission to CBN for safe custody pending the determination of the trial.

The court ordered that a representative of the court, prosecution and defendant should count and confirm the money. Counsel to the defendant, Kanu Agabi (SAN), however, opposed the submission that the money be returned to the DSS for onward transmission to the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), but argued that the court should be the one to deposit the money at the CBN since the money is now in the custody of the court. The trial judge, Justice John Tsoho, however, adjourned till today for cross examination.

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