A Prosecution witness, Mrs Jane Asuquo, said former Managing Director, Pipelines and Products Marketing Company (PPMC), Haruna Momoh, did not defraud the agency $700 million.
Asuquo, an Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) Investigator, made this known in a Federal High Court, while being cross-examined by Ade Adedeji, SAN, counsel to the 1st, 5th and 6th defendants in the money laundering trial.
Asuquo had, on June 15, 2020, while giving her evidence-in-chief alleged that the ex-PPMC MD used his wife, Ochuko, to launder the 700 million dollars between 2012 and 2015 when he was at the helms of affairs.
Ochuko was, on March 9, 2020, arraigned before Justice Taiwo by the ICPC.
She was arraigned alongside Blessing Azuka-Ngozi, Stanbic-IBTC Bank Plc, Energopol Nigeria Limited, Blaid Construction Limited and Blaid Farms Limited on a 22-count charge but later reduced to 13 counts.
However, the 1st defendant in the new charge, Haruna Momoh, is said to be at large.
At the resumed trial, the witness restated that she took over the matter in 2018 after the reassignment.
When Adedeji asked her if the ICPC was able to confirm in its investigation since she took over the matter in 2018 that 700 million dollars disappeared from the coffers of the PPMC.
Asuquo, also a lawyer, said: “We were able to confirm the fact that the 1st defendant (Haruna) laundered huge amount of money but not the exact sum.”
According to her, as an investigator, we received petitions and our duty is to look into the veracity of the petitions.
“However, an investigation revealed that a huge sum though not up to that was fleeced from the account Of PPMC,” she added.
Unsatisfied with Asuquo’s response, Adedeji asked again: “from your investigation, did you find 700m dollars missing?”
“No, my lord,” the witness, who is an Assistant Chief Investigative Officer with ICPC, said.
ICPC Lawyer, Osuobeni Akponimisingha, who interjected over the way Adedeji asked the question, said the witness’ response was forced out of her mouth by the defence counsel.
“The witness did not manufacture that allegation.
“As an investigator, her duty is to do fact-finding when they received the petitions, and when she was asked, she said they did an investigation but the amount was not up to that,” he said.
Earlier, Adedeji had expressed concern over the slow pace of the trial.
The lawyer stated that the essence of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA), 2015 was to ensure speedy dispensation of justice.
He said it was disheartening that parties had been on the first prosecution witness since last year she started giving her evidence-in-chief.
He said the businesses of his clients had been grounded through an order obtained from a sister court freezing all their accounts.
“We are not making any progress in this matter,” he said.
Responding, Akponimisingha said the submission of Adedeji was based on sentiment.
According to him, the trial had to be done in accordance with the law.
The ICPC lawyer disclosed that over the trial, he was accused of collecting N4 billion bribe.
“The learned counsel is aware because of this matter, I was accused to have collected N4 billion.
“I was investigated by my office, my house was searched.
“He (Adedeji) went to the media and said I was the one behind the ordeal of his clients.
“Maybe he wants me to do the case the way he wants so that my office could see reason to the allegation,” Akponimisingha said.
However, Adedeji said he was not aware of the allegation by the ICPC lawyer.
Justice Taiwo Taiwo assured the counsel that the justice of the matter would be the priority of the court.
“You have to do your job without anybody stampeding you and you have to do it professionally too,” the judge told ICPC lawyer.
Taiwo fixed March 29 and March 31 for continuation of the trial.