The Federal High Court in Abuja, on Thursday, discharged and acquitted Andrew Yakubu, a former Group Managing Director (GMD) of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) of fraud relating to $9.8 million seized from his home in 2017.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), acting on a tip-off in 2017, stormed Mr Yakubu’s residence at the Sabon Tasha area of Kaduna State and found $9,772, 800 and £74,000 in a safe.
The commission arraigned him before Ahmed Mohammed of the Federal High Court in Abuja, on March 16, 2017, on six counts of money laundering and other offences.
But the Court of Appeal, ruling on a no-case submission filed by the former NNPC boss, struck down the charges to counts 3 and 4, which border on money laundering offences.
In the court’s judgement, on Thursday, the judge, Mr Mohammed, said the prosecution failed to establish the necessary ingredients of the charges to warrant Mr Yakubu’s conviction.
“The evidence of the defendant (Mr Yakubu) was not only credible but reliable,” the judge said, adding “The prosecution failed to contradict the evidence as required by law.”
Mr Mohammed said the EFCC ought to have investigated Mr Yakubu’s claims that the monetary gifts he claimed to have received came from his friends, “but unfortunately for reasons best known to it, the prosecution did not do that,” the judge said.
“To worsen the situation, the prosecution assumed that the money was accepted in one fell swoop as against the evidence of the defendant that he got the money in piecemeal as gifts from his friends when he retired from service in 2014.
“It is a huge error that the prosecution did not tender the money as Exhibit throughout the trial, but made futile efforts after it had closed its case,” the judge noted
“In all, Mr Yakubu’s evidence cast a huge doubt on that of the EFCC and the doubt must be resolved in his favour,” Mr Mohammed said.
The judge agreed with Mr Yakubu’s defence that the funds were received as gifts in aggregate form and not as a “whole” that could have offended the Money Laundering Prohibition Act of 2011.
Mr Mohammed dismissed the EFCC’s argument that the funds were proceeds of crime because they did not go through a financial institution.
As a result, the judge ordered the immediate refund of the confiscated sum of $9,772, 800 and £74, 000 to Mr Yakubu.
The EFCC had on March 16, 2017, arraigned Mr Yakubu on six counts of money laundering and other offences.
On October 17, 2018, the prosecution closed its case after calling its seventh prosecution witness, Suleiman Mohammed, an operative with the commission.
In its ruling on May 16, 2019, the trial court struck out two of the counts. Dissatisfied with the refusal of the court to dismiss all the counts, Mr Yakubu had further appealed at the Court of Appeal.
Delivering judgement on the appeal, on April 24, 2020, the Court of Appeal in Abuja also struck out two additional counts, and asked the defendant to defend only the two remaining counts – Counts 3 and 4.
The two counts had to do with the defendant’s failure to make full disclosure of assets to EFCC upon his arrest, receiving cash without going through a financial institution in alleged violation of Section 1(1) of the Money Laundering Act, 2011 and punishable under Section 16(2)(b) of the Act.
After the Court of Appeal’s decision, the EFCC, on March 10, 2021, sought an amendment of the charges pending at the Federal High Court.
But, on June 17, 2021, the Federal High Court dismissed the request for the amendment of the charges, saying granting the application would amount to breaching the decision of the Court of Appeal that had specified the charges on which the defendant should be tried on.
Mr Yakubu denied the charges in his testimony while testifying for himself as a defence witness in the case. He claimed that the money seized from him was an accumulation of gifts he received at different times after leaving office.
The trial court acquitted Mr Yakubu on the two remaining charges on Thursday.