Alleged Money Laundering: Court adjourns ex-Air Force chief’s trial
The Federal High Court, Abuja, on Wednesday, fixed March 17 for judgement in the money laundering case involving a former Chief of Air Staff, Mohammed Umar.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the judge, Nnamdi Dimgba, fixed the date for judgement after the prosecution and the defence teams made their final submissions at Wednesday’s proceedings.
Mr Umar, a retired air chief marshal, faces one count of money laundering involving N66 million allegedly diverted from the account of the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) during his time as the Chief of Air Force.
The case came down to only one count after the judge, in a ruling delivered in February last year, dismissed six out of the seven charges originally filed against the defendant by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
The EFCC had originally filed seven counts of money laundering against Mr Umar, who was Nigeria’s Chief of Air Staff between September 2010 and October 2012.
The anti-graft agency accused him in the seven charges of diverting N4.8 billion from NAF’s accounts and using the fund to buy personal properties in choice areas of Abuja and other places.
But the court’s ruling striking down six of the seven charges in February last year, also dismissed EFCC’s claims that put the cumulative amount of money allegedly diverted from NAF’s account by the defendant at N4.8 billion.
The judge ordered the former military chief to defend himself only in respect of the only remaining charge of N66 million fraud.
Mr Umar testified as defence witness in December 2021. In his testimony he denied acquiring properties while in service with funds belonging NAF.
The judge then adjourned till March 1 for adoption of final address.
At the hearing on Wednesday, defence counsel, Onyechi Ikpeazu, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, urged the court to dismiss the remaining count and make an order dismissing and discharging the defendant.
Mr Ikpeazu argued that EFCC failed to provide evidence to establish that the offence alleged in the count was committed by the defendant.
According to Mr Ikpeazu, there was no exhibit to show that there was a transfer of N66 million from the account of the Nigeria Air Force (NAF) to Capital Law Firm for renovation of the defendant’s private residence.
The senior lawyer maintained that the argument of the prosecution that Umar be convicted on a lesser charge was untenable in law.
“In all cases of lesser offences, there must be two separate offences as one cannot be charged for one offence and convicted on an entirely different charge.
“The court cannot go outside the law charged and convict under another law not charged.”
He said the money that left NAF account to Capital Law Firm’s account was N57 million in two tranches of N47 million and N10 million. He said the only way the count could stand was to amend the charge.
On his part, the prosecuting counsel, Sylvanus Tahir, maintained that the prosecution had proved beyond reasonable doubt that money left NAF account to Capital Law Firm’s account.
He said as much as the prosecution conceded to the fact that not N66 million but N57 million left the account, it still remained a crime as the money was used for private purpose.
He urged the court to convict and sentence the defendant accordingly.
Mr Dimgba thereafter fixed March 17 to deliver judgment.
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