Alleged N1.4bn Money Laundering: EFCC Closes Case Against Former NBA President, Paul Usoro

Mr Paul Usoro (file)

 

After taking the evidence of its second witness, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has closed its case at the Federal High Court, Lagos, in the alleged N1.4billion money laundering trial of a former President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Paul Usoro, SAN.

The counsel to the EFCC, Uduak Kufre who asked Justice Rilwan Aikawa to discharge the witness also told the court that the commission was pleased with the evidence it had put forward in the case.

The EFCC had called Idongesit Udom, a deputy manager at Zenith Bank as it’s a first witness and Abdulrahman Arabo, the investigating officer as its second and final witness.

After discharging the witness and closing its case, the stage was set for the defendant to put in his defence but counsel to the former NBA President, Mr Effiong Effiong, SAN, has told the court of the defendant’s intention to file a ‘no case’ submission.

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Justice Aikawa then adjourned till March 12, for the adoption of the no-case submission.

Paul Usoro was first arraigned for the alleged offence on December 18, 2018, before Justice Muslim Hassan of the same court.

On March 1, 2019, he was re-arraigned before Justice Aikawa on a 10-count charge bordering on laundering money for the Akwa-Ibom State officials to the tune of N1.4bn.

One of the counts against the defendant reads: “That you, Paul Usoro, SAN, Emmanuel Udom (currently constitutionally immuned against criminal prosecution), Uwemedimo Thomas Nwoko (still at large), Nsikan Linus Nkan, Commissioner of Finance, Akwa Ibom State (still at large), Mfon Jacobson Udomah, Accountant-General, Akwa Ibom State (still at large) and Margaret Thompson Ukpe (still at large), sometime in 2015 in Nigeria, conspired to commit an offence, to wit: conversion of N1,410,000,000,000 property of the Government of Akwa Ibom State of Nigeria.”

The EFCC claimed that they reasonably ought to have known the money was “part of the proceeds of an unlawful activity to wit: criminal breach of trust and thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 18(a) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2011 as amended and punishable under Section 15(3) of the same Act.”

Paul Usoro pleaded not guilty.

An investigating officer with the EFCC, Abdulrahman Arabo, told the court that the government hired the immediate-past President of the Nigerian Bar Association, Mr Paul Usoro (SAN), who, in turn, invited other SANs to join him, at the election tribunal where Gov Udom’s victory was being challenged in 2015.

The EFFC witness also testified that the sum of N1.4bn legal fee paid to the SANs was drawn from the treasury of the Akwa Ibom State’s account.

Of this amount, the sum of N55m was allegedly paid by Usoro as kick-back, into the account of Akwa Ibom State’s Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Dr Uwemedimo Nwoko.

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