The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) says it will appeal the ruling discharging Tuoyo Omatsuli, a former Executive Director on Projects, Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) in the alleged N3.6 billion fraud trial.
EFCC’s Head of Media and Publicity, Mr Wilson Uwujaren, made the position of the anti-graft agency known in a statement on Wednesday.
Tuoyo was facing trial alongside Francis Momoh, Don Parker Properties Limited, and Building Associates Limited on an amended 45-count bordering on conspiracy and money laundering to the tune of N3.645 billion.
He was, however, discharged on Wednesday by Justice Saliu Saidu of the Federal High Court sitting in Ikoyi, Lagos.
One of the counts read, “That you, Engr Tuoyo Omatsuli, Don Parker Properties Limited, Francis Momoh, and Building Associates Limited, between August 2014 and September 2015 at Lagos, within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court, conspired to disguise the illegal origin of N3,645,000,000 (Three Billion Six-Hundred and Forty-Five Million Naira), being proceeds of unlawful activity to wit: corruption and gratification; and thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 18 of the Money Laundering Act 2011 as amended by Act No 1 of 2012 and punishable under Section 15 (3) of the same Act.”
Another count read, “That you, Engr Tuoyo Omatsuli, between August 2014 and September 2015 at Lagos, within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court, did procure Francis Momoh and Building Associates Limited to use the total sum of N3,645,000,000 (Three Billion Six-Hundred and Forty-Five Million Naira) paid by Starline Consultancy Services into the Diamond Bank Plc Account No. 0023785116 operated by Building Associate Ltd, when you reasonably ought to have known that the said sum formed part of the proceeds of your unlawful activity to wit: Corruption and Gratification; and you thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 18 of the Money Laundering Act 2011 as amended by Act No 1 of 2012 and punishable under Section 15 (3) of the same Act.”
When the charges were read to the defendants, they pleaded not guilty to the counts.
In the course of the trial, the prosecuting counsel, Ekene Iheanacho, called 16 prosecution witnesses, the last being Segun Temitope, a staff of the Special Control Unit against Money Laundering (SCUML) who gave his testimony on July 7, 2020.
Rather than open their defence, the defendants filed a no-case submission, which was heard on October 12, 2020, while the ruling was reserved until November 11, 2020.
In his ruling on Wednesday, Justice Saidu discharged the first defendant, Tuoyo, saying, “I have gone through the charge preferred against the defendants, as well as the evidence of all the 16 prosecution witnesses and I found no reason for the first defendant to enter the defence.
“Accordingly, the first defendant is hereby discharged.”
The judge, however, held that the other defendants had cases to answer.
“But the prosecution has made a case against the second defendant, Francis Momoh, which warrants him to enter his defence as well as other defendants.
“Accordingly, I direct the second defendant to enter his defence,” he held.
The case was later adjourned until December 3, 2020.