By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA – The Federal High Court in Abuja, on Thursday, admitted into evidence, a cash sum of N35million and various foreign currencies that the Department of State Service, DSS, allegedly recovered from the official residence of Justice Sylvester Ngwuta of the Supreme Court.
The Federal Government tendered the recovered monies which it brought to court in nine in Ghana-must-go bags, through a DSS operative, John Otaze.
Otaze was a member of an investigative team that raided Justice Ngwuta\’s home on October 8, 2016, in what the DSS termed a \’sting operation\’.
He appeared before the trial court to testify as the fifth prosecution witness, PW-5.
Led in evidence by government lawyer, Mrs. Olufemi Fatunde, the PW-5, tendered the monies which were in nine bags and boxes.
Specifically, aside the cash sum of N35million, the foreign currencies the court admitted into evidence were £35, 0915 (Pound Sterling), $319,096 (United States Dollars), R50 (South Africa Rand), €280 Euros, 380 United Arab Emirates Dirhams and 420 Gambian Dalasis.
While Justice Tsoho admitted and marked the boxes as exhibits 11 A-I, the monies were admitted as exhibit-12.
Meantime, shortly after the monies were admitted into evidence, the prosecution counsel, Mrs. Fatunde applied that they should be returned to the DSS for onward transfer to the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, for safe keeping, pending conclusion of the trial.
The application was not opposed by Ngwuta\’s lawyer, Chief Kanu Agabi, SAN.
While granting the request, Justice Tsoho ordered that the monies should be recounted in the presence of counsel from the prosecution, the defence and an officer of the high court.
The Judge directed that afterwards, it should be deposited to the CBN by the Deputy Chief Registrar of the court in charge of litigation.
It will be recalled that the Ngwuta\’s trial was stalled at the last adjourned date owing to failure by FG to produce some exhibits it wanted to tender before the court.
On that day, Justice Ngwuta who is facing an amended 13-count criminal charges, told the court that he was ready and anxious to defend himself, insisting that he was innocent.
Ngwuta said the level he had attained in the judiciary made it imperative for him to establish his innocence on the merit of his defence.
Aside money laundering charge, FG also alleged that Justice Ngwuta falsified his age, as well as possessed multiple international passports.
The embattled jurist was docked before the high court on November 21, 2016, and subsequently granted bail to the tune of N100million.
FG told the court that shortly after Ngwuta was granted administrative bail by the DSS, he quickly called the PW-1, Mr. Linus Nwamba to help him conceal some of the evidence against him, including N27million he hid in his bathroom at Abakaliki in Ebonyi State.
The prosecution told the court that the defendant equally removed three exotic cars from his residence in his home town.
It told the court that the witness, Nwamba, initially hid the bag that contained the N27m cash at the residence of one Abraham Ezeani in Abakaliki, saying the Money \’was subsequently dissipate by Mr Nwamba on the direct instructions of the defendant/applicant\’.
It listed the three exotic cars that Ngwuta allegedly attempted to conceal, as a Hummer Jeep Sports Utility Vehicle, Wrangler Jeep Sports Utility Vehicle and a BMW 5 Series Sedan Vehicle which it said was quickly moved by the defendant to Clevero Hotel in Abakaliki, Ebonyi State.
FG said the properties which it maintained were derived from the proceeds of an unlawful act, were all subsequently recovered by investigators on November 11, following Nwamba\’s arrest, weeks after the defendant had been released on administrative bail.
FG said the DSS, at the end of the search operation conducted at Ngwuta\’s official residence, recovered several sums of cash, including the sum of Thirty-Five Million, Three Hundred and Fifty-Eight Thousand Naira (NGN35,358,000.00); Three Hundred and Nineteen Thousand, Five Hundred and Ninety- Six United States Dollars ($319,596.00).
As well as Twenty-Five Thousand Nine Hundred and Fifteen Pounds Sterling (GBP 25,915) and Two Hundred and Eighty Euros (EURO 280.00).
It said the search also revealed about four Diplomatic passports, one official and two standard Nigerian passports all in the name of the defendant.