Ikeja – A Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Mr Abiodun Owonikoko has said that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has no evidence linking his client Mr Rickey Tarfa (SAN) to alleged bribery of two judges.
Tarfa is being prosecuted by the anti-graft agency of two charges of offering gratification to a public official and perverting the course of justice.
According to the EFCC, Tarfa allegedly bribed Justice Mohammed Yinusa and Justice H.A Ngajiwa to pervert the course of justice.
Tarfa claims to be innocent of the charges.
Owonikoko, made the assertion on Thursday, while cross-examining Mr Danladi Daniel, a detective with the EFCC.
“The EFCC has no evidence directly linking Rickey Tarfa’s chambers to the bank accounts of the judges.
“Our findings revealed that the alleged UBA bank account which belonged to Justice Mohammed Yinusa, belonged to someone who bears the same name, one Mr Mohammed Auwal Yinusa,” he said.
Owonikoko presented to the court an affidavit sworn by Justice Yinusa’s namesake claiming ownership of the said account.
Explaining the alleged illegal communication that the SAN had with the judges, Owonikoko noted that the Tarfa, had prior personal relationships with Justice Ngajiwa and Justice Yinusa.
“Justice Yinusa was one year junior to Rickey Tarfa when he was studying law at the university of Maiduguri from 1982-1986 and they are friends.
“Justice Ngajiwa worked at the chambers of Rickey Tarfa for over 17 years.
“Ever since Ngajiwa became a judge, Rickey Tarfa has never had a case before him.
“Before Ngajiwa became a judge, he had over 300 cases he was handling at the Rickey Tarfa chambers some of which are still pending in court,” he said.
Owonikoko also accused the EFCC of not concluding their investigations before charging the SAN to court
“Justice Yinusa’s statement to the EFCC was given on Oct. 17, 2016 which is seven months after he was charged in February 2016.
“The call logs from MTN which allegedly showed the communications between the defendant and the judges were obtained on Feb. 11, which is six days after the defendant was charged.
“The defendants phones were retrieved by deceit by the operatives of the EFCC, they told Tarfa’s driver that his boss was requesting for his phones and when he brought the phones, they were seized.
“The phones did not become an exhibit of the EFCC until Feb. 9, after the defendant was charged,” Owonikoko claimed.
Owonikoko noted that the EFCC did not profile Tarfa during the course of their investigation.
“You did not try during the course of your investigation to profile Rickey Tarfa and his lawfirm.
“His lawfirm is the biggest lawfirm in Nigeria, employing over 100 lawyers with branches in Lagos, Abuja, Port-Harcourt and Yola.
“He currently has two retired judges working as consultants for his chambers,” he said.
Responding to Owonikoko’s accusations, Daniel said “The defendant signed a consent of analysis form for his phone, it is not true that the phones became exhibits after Feb. 9, 2017.
“We have documents linking one Esther Agu, a staff of Rickey Tarfa’s chambers to Justice Yinusa, though, we don’t have documents showing that the defendant directly made any payment to the judge.
“I am not aware that ever since Justice Ngajiwa became a judge, the defendant has not had a case before him,” Daniel said.
Earlier, during proceedings, Daniel during his evidence-in-chief, revealed details of text message as well as voice communications between Tarfa and the judges.
“On Jan.2, 2014, there were three text messages between the defendant and a member of his staff stating that they were in court for a case to be assigned before Justice Yinusa.
“There are biometrics captured by MTN communications of the defendant and Justice Yinusa the voice communications were from Tarfa’s MTN, number- 08034600777 and Justice Yinusa’s MTN number-08035967291,” he said.
The detective read aloud details of the voice communications including late night calls between the SAN and the judge.
“Esther Agu, a staff of the defendant, made a payment of N2.5million into the bank account of Justice Yinusa.
“Based on the account records, the payments were made on May 15, 2015.
“The payments were made when there were three EFCC cases in which Tarfa was the counsel for the opposing parties before Justice Yinusa.
“The communications started sometime in February 2015 and ended sometime in September 2015 after judgments were delivered in those cases.
“There were some text messages between Justice Ngajiwa and the defendant on Oct. 16, 2014 in which Justice Ngajiwa sent his Guaranty Trust Bank details to the defendant.
“The defendant also sent another person a text message on that day to pay $5, 000 into the bank account of the judge,” Daniel said.
Justice Aishat Opesanwo adjourned the case to July 7 for continuation of trial.