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Why EFCC aborted Ibori’s trial

ASABA—Barely 24 hours after the counsel to former Delta State governor, Chief James Ibori, applied for the 170 charges against his client to be “quashed and terminating the criminal proceedings,” our correspondent has obtained the  details of the application and why it was filed.

It has been exclusively revealed that EFCC actually has no adequate witnesses to sustain its charges against the accused, according to documents obtained from the Federal High Court, Asaba and sources close to the anti-corruption agency. This explained why Ibori’s lawyers decided to exploit that at this early stage of the trial to knock off the case.

Talking to select newsmen after Tuesday’s hearing, counsel to EFCC, Ibrahim Isiyaku, said “the application to quash the case was filed because they feel our evidence cannot sustain the charges. They have a right to do this now or they could plead a no case submission after we may have called our witnesses.”

Counsel to Ibori, Mr. Austin Alegeh (SAN), who also spoke to the press was more emphatic. He said: “it will be a waste of the court’s time and abuse of court process to trial when it is very obvious that EFCC has no witnesses and cannot sustain the charges.”

In the affidavit in support of the application, filed by Mr. Emmanuel E. Okosun, of Alegeh’s chambers, and obtained from the Federal High Court, Asaba,  Alegeh classified all the 170 count charges against Ibori into “13 clusters” for ease of reference, all said to be punishable either under the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act of 2003 or that of 2004.

Having stated that, Alegeh said in the application that the EFCC has failed to show in any way, and in all instances, that any “offence has been disclosed against any of the accused”.

Alegeh’s motion, rested on three main planks; One, that “None of the counts disclose a prima facie case against any or all of the accused persons”, that is Ibori or any of his co-accused. Two, “the accused persons are not in any way linked to the offence of money laundering as charged by prosecution”.

Three, “Constitutionally, the charges are incompetent as they constitute Delta State business or affairs of state which the Federal Government of Nigeria or any of its agencies such as the EFCC is incompetent to inquire into”.

Specifically, Alegeh claimed in section (g) of the application; “That in other words, the accused persons are not linked to any of the allegations made in the 170 count charge”.  Actually, this is at the heart of the application; that what EFCC has done so far is to claim that Ibori or his associates may have moved money , but so far failed to show how the accused persons moved any moneys from a particular bank to another, the dates of such movement, from which bank account to another, etc..

According to the application, “That in particular, as all but one of the counts are based on Money Laundering Charges, it is vital that the prosecution disclose, prima facie, the illegality of the said sums in other words, it must show the predicate offence of corruption allegedly committed by the 1st accused or any of the other accused persons”. Alegeh therefore held that “the prosecution has not been able to meet this vital requirement because such illegality or proof of corruption does not exist, prima facie or at all, on the face of the documents annexed to the charge”.

Moreover, the application held that the “EFCC, (a Federal agency) is constitutionally unsuited to inquire into the allegations of corruption by or against functionaries of a State Government, hence its inability to provide cogent materials upon which to hinge a proper trial.

What would give Ibori’s counsels the confidence to ask that the case be quashed? Alegeh’s application supplied the answer:  “That the prosecution herein attempting to fulfil that requirement had supplied voluminous proof of evidence in a bid to show that these materials upon which the case was predicated, but that after critically perusing these documents which include statements of prosecution witnesses, names of prosecution witnesses, documentary evidence and statements from the accused person, it is apparent on the face of the said documents that no offence has been disclosed against any of the accused persons”.

The filing and adoption of briefs by counsel to both parties will hold on the adjourned date of August 6th 2009.


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