The Federal Government has amended the charges it preferred against a Justice of the Supreme Court, Justice Sylvester Ngwuta, raising fresh allegations of money laundering charges involving N505m against him.
The amended charges with case number FHC/ABJ/CR/232/2016, filed before the Federal High Court in Abuja, raised the number of counts from 10 to 14, alleging that the sum of N505m was part of the proceeds of Ngwuta’s “unlawful” activities.
The Justice of the Supreme Court was accused of transferring the total sum of N505m “denominated in naira and US dollars” to a building contractor between January and May 2016. The Office of the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation which filed the amended charges on Wednesday, alleged that the offences contained in the first four counts of the amended charges were contrary to Section 15 (2) (d) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act 2012 (as amended).
The offences were said to be punishable under Section 15 (3) of the same Act.
The prosecution alleged that the Justice of the Supreme Court transferred the total sum of N130m to Nwamba Linus Chukwuebuka, a building contractor, on January 4, 2016.
Ngwuta was also accused of transferring the sum of N165m to Chukwuebuka “on or about April 2016”.
He was further accused of transferring another sum of N100m to Chukwuebuka “on or about April 2016”.
He was also charged with transferring the sum of N110m to the same person “on or about May, 2016”.
As alleged in the old set of charges, Ngwuta was accused in the amended charges of retaining N35,358,000; $319,596 and £25,915 during the raid on his house by the operatives of the Department of State Services between October 7 and 8.
The various sums of money were also described as proceeds of “an unlawful activity”.
The offences were said to be contrary to Section 15 (2) (d) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act 2011 (as amended) and punishable under section 15(3) of the same Act.
Apart from the money laundering charges, Ngwuta was accused of passport offences in counts eight to 14 of the amended charges.
He was accused of being in possession of two valid diplomatic passports and another two valid Nigerian passports when his house was raided by the DSS operatives on October 8, 2016.
The offences were said to be contrary to section 10 (1) (a) and (d) of the Immigration Act 2015 and punishable under section 10(1) of the Act.
The justice of the apex court was also accused of “knowingly making a false statement to the Passport Office concerning his date of birth for the purpose of procuring an additional diplomatic passport” for himself in violation of Section 10 (1) (c) of the Immigration Act.
He was also accused of submitting multiple application forms to one or more passport offices “with the intention of obtaining multiple diplomatic passports” for himself in violation of Section 10 (1) (d) of the Immigration Act 2015 and punishable under Section 10 (1) of the same Act.
The Justice of the Supreme Court was also accused of knowingly making a false statement to “passport office concerning the loss” of his diplomatic passport with number D50000087 on April 5, 2016.
In another count, he was accused of committing a similar offence concerning the loss of his Nigerian passport with number A04389985 on the same date of April 5, 2016.
According to the proof of evidence accompanying the charges, the prosecution has lined up five witnesses against the Justice of the Supreme Court.
They are Aminu N. Ibrahim, Ngo Awoikiega, Tanko Nuhu Kutana, Ogudu Nwadire and Nwamba Chukwuebuka.
Ibrahim is “to testify on the search conducted on the defendant’s residence on or about 7/8 October 2016”.
Awoikiega is “to testify on the investigation/interrogation of the defendant”.
Kutana, an immigration officer, “is to testify on the multiple diplomatic and Nigerian Passports obtained by the defendant”.
Nwadire is “to testify on how as an architect to the defendant between 2014 and 2016, he handled several projects for which he received cash payments totalling $100,000”.
Chukwuebuka is “to testify on how as a building contractor to the defendant between 2014 and 2016, he handled several projects for which he received cash payments from the defendant totalling $1,000,000”.
Justice Ngwuta was among the judges, whose houses were raided by the operatives of the Department of State Services between October 7 and 8.
The DSS alleged that it discovered large sums of money in foreign and local currencies from the raid.
Our correspondent confirmed on Tuesday that charges had not been filed against the other judges even as the AGF had said that there was prima facie evidence against them.
Meanwhile, the Federal Government has proposed three witnesses to testify against Justice Adeniyi Ademola of the Federal High Court in Abuja, and his wife, Olabowale, who is the Head of Service of Lagos State.
The Office of the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation had on Monday filed 15 counts of gratification against the couple before the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.
In the suit with number FCT/CR/21/2016, Justice Ademola and his wife were accused of “corruptly” receiving a total sum of N248,101,300 and $520,000 as gratification from some law firms and others in the discharge of Ademola’s judicial duties between 2013 an 2016.
The proof of evidence accompanying the charges sighted by our correspondent on Wednesday showed that the prosecution had listed as prosecution witnesses, Babatunde Adepoju, George Inyang, and an unnamed employee of Guaranty Trust Bank Plc.
Ademola and his wife allegedly received the gratification through the judge’s GTB account.
According to the proof of evidence, Adepoju will testify on “the defendants’ voluntary statement”, Inyang is to testify on “video CDs of the defendants’ interview”, while the bank employee is “to testify on Link Chart Analysis of monies received and transferred by the defendants.”
Meanwhile, a lawyer in Justice Ademola’s defence team, Mr. Jeph Njikonye, had said on Tuesday that the charges were bogus and trumped-up.
Njikonye, who spoke with our correspondent in Abuja, said that the judge was eager to defend himself in court.
He added that the prosecutors went so “low” to impute that that the judge received gratification from his uncle’s law firm, G.T.J Ademola & Co., mentioned in the charges.
The lawyer said the Federal Government only filed the charges to play to the gallery and to justify the “unconstitutional” raid of the houses of the judges arrested by the Department of State Services.
Justice Ademola was among the judges, including two justices of the Supreme Court – Justices Sylvester Ngwuta and Inyang Okoro – arrested by the operatives of the Department of State Services between October 7 and 8 on allegations of corruption.
The Federal Government had on November 8, 2016 charged Justice Ngwuta before the Federal High Court, Abuja, for money laundering and passport infraction relating to age falsification and obtaining multiple passports.
Justice Okoro has, however, not been charged.