By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA – Erstwhile governor of Imo State, Chief Ikedi Ohakim, on Wednesday, opened his defence to the three-count criminal charge the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, preferred against him before the Federal High Court in Abuja.
Ohakim who mounted the box and testified before trial Justice Ademola Adeniyi as the first defence witness, DW-1, denied allegation that he used one Abu Sule as proxy to acquire a N270million mansion in Abuja.
EFCC alleged that Ohakim purchased the property at No 60 Kwame Nkrumah Street, Plot No 1098, Cadastral ZoneA04, Asokoro District, Abuja with cash payment of $2.29 which was said to be dollar equivalent of N270m in November 2008.
The property, according to the agency, was acquired with funds the defendant allegedly laundered from Imo state treasury.
He was also accused of failing to declare the property as part of his assets when asked by the EFCC to do so.
The prosecution said the erstwhile governor violated section 15(1)(d) and section 14(1)(b) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2004.
Nevertheless, Ohakim, who earlier pleaded not guilty to the charge, while testifying on Wednesday, denied the allegations.
Led in evidence by his lawyer, Chief Awa Kalu, SAN, Ohakim said: “My lord I never used anyone as proxy to acquire a property; I never pressured him to buy a property for me in his (Sule’s) name and I did not provide him with any cash”.
Sule who was a Managing Director with Tweeenex Consociate H.D, had earlier testified before the court as the second principal witness.
He told the court that the defendant had in 2012, engaged his company to find a house for him to buy in Abuja, even as he addmitted helping the ex-governor to acquire the property with the name of his firm.
However, Ohakim in his testimony, refuted Sule’s claim, saying, “I did not engage in any dollar transaction with anyone to purchase properties for me.
“There was no point in time that I invited any Sule to my residence and I never gave out money to him in Ghana must go bags. I never conspired with anybody to steal or launder money for me”.
He also denied concealing information about his personal assets.
“I did not hide any information, I did not conceal any of my properties in the course of filing my assets declaration forms; I couldn’t have declared properties which do not belong to me”, he added.
Meanwhile, the prosecution counsel, Mr. Festus Okpe prayed the court for an adjournment to enable him prepare adequately to cross examine the former governor.
Justice Ademola subsequently adjourned the matter till October 23 for continuation of hearing.