By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA – The Abuja Division of the Federal High Court, on Wednesday, held that the Chairman emeritus of DAAR Communications Plc, High Chief Raymond Dokpesi, has a case to answer with regards to the allegation that he received N2.1billion from the office of the National Security Adviser, ONSA, prior to the 2015 presidential election.
Consequently, the court, in a ruling that was delivered by Justice John Tsoho, fixed February 20, 2019, for Dokpesi to open his defence to the seven-count money laundering charge the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, preferred against him and his firm, DAAR Investment and Holdings Ltd, owners of African Independent Television, AIT and Raypower FM.
Justice Tsoho said he was satisfied that the EFCC successful established a prima-facie criminal case that would warrant the Defendants to give explanations before the court with respect to the alleged fund they received from the office of the NSA.
Dokpesi had through his lawyer, Chief Kanu Agabi, SAN, urged the court to stop his trial, insisting that he did not at any time, illegally recieved funds from the detained former National Security Adviser, Col. Sambo Dasuki, retd.
He argued that Dasuki was in a better position to give explanations if funds were unlawfully disbursed from the ONSA account.
The Defendants prayed the court to discharge and acquit them of the allegation by upholding a no-case-submission they entered with respect to the charge.
Specifically, Dokpesi, contended that the anti-graft agency failed to establish a prima-facie case that would warrant the court to compel him to enter his defence to the charge against him.
Dokpesi’s lawyer argued that EFCC was unable to by way of credibile evidence, establish a nexus between his client and the commission of any criminal offence.
However, while dismissing the no-case submission, Justice Tsoho who stressed that he had yet to establish the guilt or otherwise of the Defendants vis-a-vis the proof of evidence the EFCC tendered against them, however said he was satisfied that the Defendants have explanations to give before the court.
Meanwhile, Chief Mike Ozekhome, SAN, who represented the Defendants on Wednesday, said his clients were ready to give acceptable defence to the charge.
He said the rejection of the no-case-submission has afforded Dokpesi with ample opportunity to clear himself of the allegation EFCC levelled against him.
It will be recalled that EFCC closed its case against the Defendants after it called a total of 14 witnesses that testified before the court.
The agency had through its last witness, Usman Aliyu, told the court that Dokpesi diverted the funds he allegedly got from ONSA, into accounts belonging to Daar Communications.
The witness told the court that Dokpesi used N68million out of the $2.1bn, to build his country home in Edo State.
Besides, he said N500m was on January 22, 2015, transferred from the account of NSA domiciled in Central Bank of Nigeria, to the account of DAAR communications.
He said funds were transferred in various instalments of N500 million, N620 million, N113million, among others.
However, under cross-examination, the witness admitted that he was brought into the case early this year, adding that his statement on the investigation was made at the commission on May 24.
EFCC alleged that the defendants received funds from the ONSA for Peoples Democratic Party’s presidential media campaign.
According to the charge which was signed by the Deputy Director, Legal and Prosecution at the EFCC, Mr. Aliyu Yusuf, the fund was released to the defendants between October 2014 and March 19, 2015.
The funds were allegedly transferred from an account the office of NSA operated with the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, to a FirstBank of Nigeria Plc account owned by Daar Investment and Holding Company Limited
The prosecution maintained that the transaction was in breach of section 58 (4) (b) of the Public Procurement Act 2007 and punishable under section 58 (6) and 7 of the same Act, as well as under section 17 (b) of the EFCC Act, 2004.
Dokpesi however pleaded not guilty to all the allegations.