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Court Frees Jonathan’s Cousin, Azibaola Of $40m Contract Scam Charge Against Him

Valentine Chinyem

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Justice Nnamdi Dimgba of a Federal High Court in Abuja on Monday discharged and acquitted Robert Azibaola, a cousin to former President Goodluck Jonathan in the money laundering charge preferred against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, (EFCC).

The Judge, in a judgement in the matter, held that the EFCC was unable to prove the corruption allegations against Azibaola and the therefore discharged and acquitted him.

He said: “When reasonable doubt is raised in a case it is bound to be resolved in favour of the defendant. I found him not guilty as charged.”

Dimgba said the anti-graft agency failed to provide the ingredients of corruption allegations against the Azibaola and his company.

He held in the judgment that, the anti-graft agency failed to prove the charge preferred against Azibaola along with his company, One Plus Holdings Nigeria Limited on a two-count charge, for allegedly receiving $40 million from the detained former National Security Adviser (NSA), Col Sambo Mohammed Dasuki (rtd) without any contract agreement.

On March 30, 2018, Justice Dimgba, ruling on a no case submission by the defendants, had ordered Azibaola and his company, One Plus Holdings Nigeria Limited, to enter their defence in respect of two counts.

He, however, struck out the name of Azibaola’s wife, Stella, from the two charges.

In striking out the seven counts, the court ruled that there was no sufficient evidence to warrant defendants to enter their defence.

However, the court ruled that while the EFCC had led sufficient evidence linking Azibaola and the company to counts 2 and 3, it failed to connect the wife, Stella to the two charges.

In yesterday’s judgment, the court held that despite the overwhelming evidence that Azibaola and his company collected the said money from the Office of the National Adviser (ONSA) for the purpose of supply “tactical communication equipment” which obviously were not supplied, the EFCC failed to interview or investigate the then National Security Adviser, Col. Dasuki (rtd), whose office gave out the money.

Dingba said EFCC’s failure to hear from the “horse’s mouth” or arraign Dasuki alongside Azibaola and One Plus Holdings, was fatal to its case.

He said though the EFCC anchored its argument on the non-supply of the communications equipment as stated in the contractual agreement with ONSA, “the defendants said it was security assignment and that because of the sensitive nature of security management, it was disguised as that, the prosecution did prove otherwise.

“The EFCC did not prove the alibi wrong. When a defendant raises an alibi and it is not challenged by the prosecution, it is resolved in favour of the defendant.

“The burden is on the prosecution to interview, investigate the case by interviewing Dasuki, which it failed to do.”

Dimgba said “the EFCC was right to have raised the ‘red flag’ with the payment of such money especially when the said equipment were not supplied but when the defendant provided an alternative, the EFCC failed to prove otherwise.”

The prosecution had on January 23, 2017, closed its case against the defendants after it has called ten witnesses that testified before the court.

Azibaola, who denied all the charges against him had, through their lead counsel, Chief Chris Uche (SAN), closed his case on February 6.

EFCC had in the charge marked FHC/ABJ/CR/ 113/2016, alleged that Aziboala had, while being the Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer (MD/CEO) and a signatory to the Zenith Bank account of One Plus Holdings Nig Ltd, on or about September 8, 2014, took possession and converted the sum of $39,999, 958 out of $40 million, and transferred same to the domiciliary account of One Plus Holdings Nig Ltd with Zenith Bank Plc Account No. 5070365750.

The agency maintained that the defendants reasonably ought to have known that the fund was part of the proceeds of an unlawful activity by Dasuki, adding that they had, by their action, 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) and (4) of the same Act.

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