Money laundering: Metuh jailed 36yrs to refund N375m fine to FG

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ONE-TIME National Publicity secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Olisa Metuh was on Tuesday sentenced to 36 years in prison for money laundering.

Justice Okon Abang of the federal high court found him guilty of the seven counts. The judgment ended the four-year dramatic trial which appeared stalled at some point.

Besides the jail term, Metuh was fined N375 million and his company, Dextra Investment Limited, fined N25 million. Dextra is to be wound up and all its assets transferred to the Federal Government, the judge ruled.

Part of the count is fraudulent receipt of N400 million  from the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA) in   November 2014   for  PDP’s electioneering  and  personal purposes.

Metuh was also found guilty of carrying out cash transaction to the tune of $2m without  a bank or any legal financial institution.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) filed the charges against the politician.

Shortly before Justice Abang read the judgment, Metuh sought permission to use the bathroom. His wish was granted.

In the judgment that lasted about six hours, Justice Abang held that the prosecution was able to establish the ingredients of guilt in all the seven counts in the charge against the defendants and accordingly convicted them.

In relation to the money laundering charge, the judge stated that the prosecution successfully proved that the transaction violated the anti-money laundering law which puts  the maximum cash   an individual can undertake outside a financial institution  at N5 million.

Abang held that Metuh and his firm reasonably ought to have known that the sum of N400 million paid to them formed part of the proceeds of the unlawful activity of the ex-NSA, Col. Sambo Dasuki(rtd),  because they had no form of a contractual relationship with the ONSA.

He held that Dasuki transferred the money to the defendants “in breach of public trust.” The judge rejected the defence counsel –  Abel Oziokor and Chief Tochukwu Onwugbufo –  argument that their  clients  could not be convicted for the money laundering because Dasuki, who is currently being prosecuted, had yet to be convicted for the predicate offence of breach of trust and corruption.

Justice Abang held that contrary to the defence’s contention “the predicate offence and the money laundering offence are intertwined.

“The success or failure of the predicate offence does not determine the success or failures of the money laundering offence,” he said.

The judge proceeded to sentence Metuh to seven-year imprisonment on counts 1, 2, 4 and 7; five-year imprisonment on count 3; and three-year in respect of counts 5 and 6.

The judge also, ordered the defendants to pay  a fine of N25 million in relation to count 5 and  N25 million fine for count six.

Justice Abang directed that the sentences shall run concurrently, meaning that Metuh will only spend the highest number of years of jail term, which is seven, in prison.

The judge ordered the winding up of Dextra Investment and ordered Metuh to pay a fine of N375 million to the Federal Government.

He equally ordered Dextra to pay N25m to the Federal Government. He said the bank accounts of  Dextra and Asset Resource Management should be closed and their proceeds forfeited to the Federal Government.

The court noted that notwithstanding the plea of leniency by the defence lawyers, the defendants merited the court’s verdict.

The Judge frowned at Metuh’s conduct when he destroyed the statement he made to the EFCC. He remarked that Metuh then had the opportunity to  remedy the situation before it got out of hand but bungled it.

Justice Abang said: “He had the opportunity to resolve the issue with the complainant when he was confronted with the statement of account showing that he transferred N50 million to an account owned by his wife. He ought to have been sober because of the involvement of his immediate family.”

He warned other public officers not to dissipate public funds on private matters, adding that, “when you are faced with the facts of the case, particularly in a situation like this, you should not be assertive or stubborn”.

The judge noted that evidence before the court showed the N400 million formed part of the unlawful activities of the  ONSA.

He held that Metuh’s claim that the funds were payment for a national assignment he carried out for the then President Dr. Goodluck Jonathan was untenable.

He added that Metuh’s failure to call President Jonathan to give evidence was fatal to his case.

The judge said he was certain that President Jonathan would not have given a verbal approval for payment of the said national assignment.

He added that Metuh ought to have known or probably knew that the funds were part of the unlawful activities of the former NSA, whom he (Metuh) said had no contract with in the first place and yet went ahead to dissipate the funds.

Noting that Metuh lied to the court,  Justice Abang said if the defendants knew of the inflow of the sum of N400 million from the  ONSA where he had earlier claimed in his statement that he never had any contract with, he (Metuh) ought to have questioned the source of the money and not have gone ahead to spend it.

The judge held that the only person who could have supported Metuh’s claim that the money was authorised was Jonathan himself. He recalled that the defendants had planned to call the former President but later jettisoned the plan.

Abang  said even when it was subpoenaed to call Dasuki who was a principal officer to Jonathan, relevant questions were not put before Dasuki to affirm or deny that   Jonathan directed that   N400 million be paid to Metuh for a national assignment.

He said: “Having established that the money came from ONSA and there was no contractual evidence and ONSA not being a charitable organisation, the first defendant took no steps whatsoever to know why the N400 million was paid to the account of the second defendant.

“I agree with the prosecution that it was unlawful that the former NSA  to have misappropriated public funds in favour of the first and second defendants.

“The prosecution has proved the ingredients as regards count one.”

Justice Abang added that the defendant turned a blind eye to the actual source of the inflow without a contract for which the   N400 million was paid.

“I found the first defendant guilty in respect of count one and is accordingly convicted.The second defendant is also guilty in respect of count one and accordingly convicted”, Abang held.

On counts two and three, the judge held that evidence led by the prosecution proved that Metuh disbursed the funds for the political activities of the PDP as well as for his personal use.

“Metuh has not explained how N50 million was transferred to a joint account of his wife and himself”, the judge held.

He  further stated that all documentary evidence presented to the court failed to show any security services for which the  N400 million was paid to the defendants, but rather flow of funds into PDP’s campaign activities as well as Metuh’s personal use.

In convicting the defendants on count four, the judge said they failed to place any material before the court to show that   Jonathan engaged the first defendant on a national assignment for national security.

On counts five and six, in which Metuh was accused of handing over $2 million cash to one Nneka Araraume, who later gave the money to two bureau de change agents for conversion was then deposited in Metuh’s Bank account, Justice Abang noted that findings showed that although Araraume was a staff of ARM, she was not in Metuh’s Abuja residence on behalf of ARM.

The judge held that since the two operators were not financial institutions, they  violated section one of the money laundering Act, by making cash deposits into Metuh’s Bank account well above N5 million.

He further held that the $2 million was part of the N400 million received illegally from Dasuki.

In relation to count 7 in which  Metuh was accused of transfering  N21.7m to a former PDP leader, the late Chief Anthony Anenih, the judge held that the prosecution was able to prove that the said funds   was part of the unlawful activities of  Dasuki.

The Nation
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