Ngwuta: Court orders recovered money deposited in CBN
The Federal Government on Thursday tendered before a Federal High Court in Abuja nine bags and boxes filled with local and foreign currencies, which were allegedly recovered from a Justice of the Supreme Court, Justice Sylvester Ngwuta, in October 2016.
The items were said to have been recovered from Justice Ngwuta’s official residence in Abuja during a search operation conducted by men of the Department of State Services on October 7, 2016.
The Federal Government is prosecuting Justice Ngwuta on 13 counts, including passport fraud, money laundering allegations of retention and concealment of the origin of the various sums of money contained in the nine bags and boxes.
The fifth prosecution witness, Mr John Utazi, a DSS official, had while opening his testimony on May 16, 2017, narrated how he led a team of other operatives to search Justice Ngwuta’s official residence in Abuja on October 7, 2016.
He narrated to the court how the search was carried out in the presence of Justice Ngwuta and how huge sums of money in naira and foreign currencies contained in bags and boxes were recovered at the end of the operation.
Continuing his testimony on Thursday, Utazi said the bags and boxes contained naira, US dollars, British pounds sterling, euros, South African rand, United Arab Emirates’ dirham and Gambian dalasis.
The items brought to court on Thursday were opened in the course of the proceedings, revealing the cash contained in them.
Out of the nine items, eight of them contained naira notes, which Utazi said totalled N35,358,000.
He said the ninth bag contained £25,915; $319,596 (USD); R50 (South African rand); €280 (euros); 380 (dirhams); and 420 dalasis.
The bags and boxes were tendered as exhibits by the prosecuting counsel, Mrs Olufemi Fatunde.
The defence team led by Chief Kanu Agabi (SAN) did not object to the tendering of the items which were subsequently admitted by Justice John Tsoho as Exhibits 11 (A) to (11I).
Immediately after they were tendered, the items were opened one after the other in order to reveal their contents.
Led by the prosecuting counsel while another DSS operative emptied the items one after the other, Utazi said, “Exhibit 11A is a black box which contains naira notes.
“11B is a silver-colour box containing naira notes.
“11C is a black bag which contains naira notes.
“11D is a silvery box; it contains naira notes.
“11E is a black bag and it contains naira notes.
“11F is a black box containing naira notes.
“11G is a silver-colour box and it contains naira notes.
“11H is a black bag containing naira notes.
“11I is a brown bag containing foreign currencies.
“The foreign currencies are United States dollars, pounds sterling, euros, South African rand, Gambian currency, dalasis, and United Arab Emirates’ dirham.”
The naira notes were in bundles of pristine N500 denomination, while the foreign currencies were packed in separate transparent cellophane bags according to their types.
Asked by the prosecuting counsel to give the figures of the various sums of money, Utazi said, “We counted the money and wrote the figures down on the search warrant executed on the residence.
“My lord, the total figures recovered were N35,358,000, £25,915 (pounds sterling); $319,596 (USD); R50 (South African rand); €280 (euros); 380 (dirhams) and 420 dalasis.”
After the money was admitted as exhibits, the prosecuting counsel, Fatunde, suggested that the money should be handed back to the DSS to deposit it in the Central Bank of Nigeria.
But the defence counsel, Ababi, objected, suggesting instead that the money should be handed to the court which should deposit it with the CBN.
Justice Tsoho agreed with Agabi and directed that the money should be handed to the Deputy Chief Registrar, Litigation, Federal High Court, Abuja, for onward transmission to the CBN for safekeeping until the final determination of the case.