By Edith Nwapi
Abuja, July 24, 2020 The Court of Appeal in Abuja on Friday upheld the no-case submission filed by former President Goodluck Jonathan’s cousin, Robert Azibaola in an alleged $40 million fraud and money laundering trial.
A three-member panel of the appellate court led by Justice Stephen Adah in a unanimous judgment held that the prosecution failed to establish a prima facie case against the defendants.
Azibaola, his wife, Stella were arraigned in 2016 on nine counts bordering on diverting the sum of $40 million meant for the supply of tactical communication kits for special forces alongside a company linked to Azibaola, One Plus Holdings Nigeria Limited.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission ( EFCC), alleged that the money was transferred from the account of the office of former National Security Adviser (NSA) Colonel Sambo Dasuki (Rtd) with the Central Bank of Nigeria to the domiciliary account of Azibaola’s company.
In their judgment , the appellate court held that the lower court was right when it upheld the no-case submission of the first and third defendants partially.
” The trial court was in order to discharged and acquit Azibaola and his company in counts 1,4,5,6,7,8 and 9 because offences of money laundering were not sufficiently proved, nor did the prosecution established any prima facie case against the respondents.
“We have gone through the records and found that the appeal is lacking in merit, the appeal is hereby dismissed and the Judgment of the lower court upheld”, Adah held.
Earlier, the appellate court dismissed a preliminary objection to the appeal on the grounds that the interlocutory appeal has live.
The respondents had argued that the appeal was academic because judgment has already been given in the substantive case, wherein the court discharged and acquitted them in the remaining count two and three charges before the appellate court.
The defendants at their arraignment in 2016 pleaded not guilty to the nine count charge,
the prosecution called 10 witnesses and closed its case while the defendants filed no- case- submission .
Ruling in the no-case submission on March 29, 2018, the trial judge, Justice Nnamdi Dimgba, partially upheld the no-case submission of the defendants.
While the court upheld the no-case submission in respect of the second defendants and accordingly discharged and acquitted her from the charges.
The court held that Azibaola and his company had a case to answer in regards to counts two and three of the charge.
Not satisfied by this decision, EFCC approached the Court of Appeal, seeking for an order to set aside the ruling and order the defendants to enter their defence.