The Federal High Court, Abuja has discharged and acquitted Andrew Yakubu, a former Group Managing Director (GMD) of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) on a money laundering charge.
In 2017, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) raided Mr Yakubu’s residence in Kaduna State after receiving a tip-off and found $9,772, 800 and £74, 000 stashed in a fireproof safe.
The presiding judge, Justice Ahmed Mohammed on Thursday ordered the Central Bank of Nigeria to return the money to Mr Yakubu immediately.
- After the raid on Mr Yakubu’s house, the EFCC suspecting that the funds were proceeds of crime, arraigned him on March 16, 2017, on a six-count charge bordering on money laundering.
- Mr Yakubu pleaded not guilty to the charges proffered against him by the EFCC.
- In counts 3 and 4 of the charges, the EFCC argued that Mr Yakubu received the money without going through a financial institution as stated under the money laundering prohibition act.
- They submitted that Section 1(A) of the money laundering prohibition act states that “No person shall, except in a transaction through a financial institution, make or accept cash payment of a sum exceeding N5 million or its equivalent.“
- Mr Yakubu in his testimony told the court that the money was received in tranches and not in bulk and that the money was goodwill from his well-wishers after he left office in 2014.
- He told the court that the purpose of keeping the money at home was to think of a business venture that he will invest in.
- The EFCC sought an order for the interim forfeiture of the money which was granted by the federal high court, Kano division.
- On May 16, 2019, the trial court struck out counts one and two of the charges.
- Not satisfied with the decision of the trial court, Mr Yakubu appealed the decision of the lower court
- On December 5, 2018, in an appeal marked: SC/639/2018, Mr Yakubu filed a no case submission at the appellate court.
- On April 24, 2020, the court of appeal in its judgement, struck out counts 5 and 6 of the charges ordering Mr Yakubu to open his defence in counts 3 and 4.
- Counts 3 and 4 bordered around Mr Yakubu’s failure to make full disclosure of his assets to EFCC upon his arrest and receiving cash without going through a financial institution in violation of Section 1(1) of the Money Laundering Act, 2011 which is punishable under Section 16(2)(b) of the Act.
- Consequently, the parties returned to the federal high court for a continuation of trial.
What the judge ruled
While delivering judgement, Justice Mohammed held that EFCC had failed to prove that Mr Yakubu received the money beyond the N5million threshold stipulated by law.
As stipulated by the Money Laundering Prohibition Act, an individual is prohibited from making or accepting cash payment above N5 million transaction except through a financial institution.
The judge noted that it is one thing to find money in one’s house but it is another thing to prove that the money was received all at once.
The judge said the prosecution ought to have investigated the monetary gifts claimed to have been received by the defendant.
- He said, “The prosecution ought to have investigated the claim of the defendant and subsequently, lead evidence to contradict its claim.
- “A prudent investigator could have asked the investigator to asked the defendant to provide the names of some of his friends and other individuals who had given him monies as gifts or as goodwill and find out how much each person had given him and thereafter invite them to find out the truth or otherwise.
- “To worsen the situation, the prosecution assumed that the money was accepted in one fell swoop as against the evidence of the defendant that he got the money in piecemeal as gifts from his friends when he retired from service in 2014.”
- The judge held that “It is a huge error that the prosecution did not tender the money as Exhibit throughout the trial, but made futile efforts after it had closed its case.”
- The judge said the prosecution failed to contradict the defendant’s evidence as required by law. He said Mr Yakubu’s evidence cast a huge doubt on that of the EFCC as Mr Yakubu’s evidence was not only credible but reliable.
- Consequently, Justice Mohammed discharged and acquitted Mr Yakubu of the charges proffered against him.
- He ordered that the $9,772, 800 and £74,000 seized from his home, be returned to him immediately.
- The judge also dismissed EFCC’s claim that the funds were proceeds of crime because they did not go through a financial institution.