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Alleged money laundering: Appeal Court says Metuh has case to answer

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Alleged money laundering: Appeal Court says Metuh has case to answer

Alleged money laundering: Appeal Court says Metuh has case to answer
May 26
06:47 2016

The Court of Appeal sitting in Abuja has held that Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) spokesman Olisa Metuh and his company, Destra Investment Limited, must answer charges of money laundering brought against them by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

The appellate court, in a judgment yesterday, upheld the March 9 ruling by Justice Okon Abang of the Federal High Court, Abuja that the prosecution has established a prima facie case against Metuh and his company, requiring them to enter defence.

A three-man bench of the Court of Appeal, which upheld the objections raised by the prosecution against two appeals by Metuh and his company, dismissed the appeals having also considered them on merit.

Justice Abdul Aboki, who led the three-man panel, read the lead judgments in both appeals, which Justices T. Y. Hassan and M. Mustapher (other members of the panel) agreed with.

Metuh and his company are being tried on seven-count before the Federal High Court, Abuja on charges of money laundering.

At the completion of the prosecution’s case earlier this year, having called eight witnesses, the court called on the defence to open its case.

Rather than conducting their defence, Metuh and Destra elected to make a no-case submission, which Justice Abang rejected in the March 9 ruling.

Justice Abang was of the view that the prosecution has provided sufficient evidence to establish a prima facie case against the defendants to warrant the court to call on them to enter defence.

Metuh’s lawyer Onyechi Ikpeazu (SAN) and lawyer to his company, Tochukwu Onwugbufor (SAN), in both their appeals, faulted Justice Abang’s reasons for rejecting their clients’ no-case submissions.

They urged the appellate court to set aside Justice Abang’s decision, uphold their clients’ no-case submissions and quash the charges against them.

In both judgments yesterday, the Court of Appeal upheld the preliminary objection raised by the prosecution (listed as the 1st respondent) to the effect that the appeals by Metuh and Destra were incompetent.

The court held that they failed to comply with the requirement in Section 242(1) that an appellant, who is appealing interlocutory decision, on either grounds of facts or mixed law and facts, must first obtain the leave of either the trial or appellate court before filing a notice of appeal.

After upholding the preliminary objection, the court still proceeded to decide the appeals on merits.

It held, after examining the submissions of parties that the appeals were without merit and dismissed them.

In the first judgment on the appeal by Metuh, Justice Aboki identified one issue for determination, which was whether or not the prosecution has establish a prima facie case against Metuh to require him to defend himself.

Justice Aboki, after analysing the argument of parties, resolved the sole issue against Metuh.

“I have carefully examined the seven-count charge against the appellant in the instant case. It was evident from the case made out against the appellant that the witness led by the 1st respondent testified to facts in respect of the charge on which the appellant was arraigned.

“The evidence led by the 1st respondent’s witness was not discredited in cross-examination. The trial remains on-going. It is my view that there is the need for the appellant to either deny or offer explanation.

“The trial court was, therefore, right to hold that evidence on record as it relates to the circumstances of this case has raised a number of issues, which the appellants is required to address,” he said.

On the questions raised by Justice Abang regarding the issues he (the judge) felt the appellant (Metuh) must address, the appellate court said the questions were in order and did not amount to the judge descending into the arena of conflict, as argued by the appellant.

“It is my view that the questions posed by the trial court were not meant to shift the burden of proof to the appellant and not a breach of the appellant’s right to fair hearing as contended by the appellant.

“They are rhetoric questions as rightly observed by counsel to the 1st respondent.

“The justice of the case demands that where a prima facie case is established against the appellant in a no-case submission, as in the instant case, the appellant is entitled to give its explanation as to what transpired. That is what the trial judge is saying.

“Also, on the appellant’s contention that the trial court descended into the arena of conflict to pre-determine matters before him, is misconceived.

“This lone issue is resolved in favour of the 1std respondent. There is no merit in this appeal. The appeal is hereby dismissed,” Justice Aboki said.

The court entered similar decision in the appeal filed by Onwugbufor for Destra.

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Mujeeb

Mujeeb

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