The decorum of the court at the Federal High Court in FCT, Abuja blew an uncommon air to the nooks and crannies of the city.
When Federal Government prosecuting through its agency the DSS, EFCC against Justice Sylvester Ngwuta tendered its exhibits before the sitting court a 9 sacks of bags and boxes filled with local and foreign currencies, all of which were allegedly recovered from a Justice of the Supreme Court, Justice Sylvester Ngwuta, in October 2016.
From the affidavit and testimony of the witness, the tendered exhibits items were recovered from Justice Ngwuta’s official residential apartment in Abuja during a search operation conducted by men of the Department of State Service on October 7, 2016.
The Nigeria government is legally instituted a suit in court and prosecuting Justice Ngwuta on 13 counts charges premises on the ground of passport fraud, money laundering, retention and concealment of origin of the various sums of money contained in the nine bags and boxes.
At the trial, the 5th government prosecution witness, Mr. John Utazi, a officer of the DSS, 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 apartment in Abuja on October 7, 2016.
That the search was carried out in the presence of Justice Ngwuta and huge sums of money in naira and foreign international convertible currencies contained in bags and boxes were recovered at the end of the search operation.
Today, Thursday which is a continuing of trial, the 5th witness continue I his testimony, he disclosed that the bags and boxes contained naira, United States dollars, British pounds sterling, Euro, South African rands, United Arab Emirates dirham and Gambian dalasis.
That the found items were brought to court and same before the hon. court which was opened in the open court in the course of the trial proceedings revealing the cash contained in them.
At the conclusion of his testimony, he disclosed one of the bag contained £25,915; $319,596 (USD); R50 (South African rands); €280 (euros); 380 ( dirhams); and 420 dalasi and that out of the nine items, eight of them contained Naira notes, which totaled N35,358,000.
The Hon. Court admitted the tendered exhibits into evidence were £35, 0915 (Pound Sterling), $319,096 (United States Dollars), R50 (South Africa Rand), €280 Euros, 380 United Arab Emirates Dirhams and 420 Gambian Dalasis.
While Justice Tsoho admitted and marked the boxes as exhibits 11 A-I, the monies were admitted as exhibit-12.
The prosecution counsel, Mrs. Fatunde applied that they should be returned to the DSS for onward transfer to the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, for safe keeping, pending conclusion of the trial.
The application was not opposed by Justice Ngwuta’s lawyer, Chief Kanu Agabi, SAN.
While granting the request, Justice Tsoho of the Federal High Court ordered that the monies should be recounted in the presence of counsel from the prosecution, the defence and an officer of the high court.
The Judge directed that afterwards, it should be deposited to the CBN by the Deputy Chief Registrar of the court in charge of litigation.
It will be recalled that the Justice Ngwuta’s trial was stalled at the last adjourned date owing to failure by Federal Government of Nigeria (FGN) to produce some exhibits it wanted to tender before the hon. court.
On that day, Justice Ngwuta who is facing an amended 13-count criminal charges, told the court that he was ready and anxious to defend himself, insisting that he was innocent.
Justice Ngwuta further disclosed that the level he had attained in the judiciary made it imperative for him to establish his innocence on the merit of his defence.
Aside money laundering charge, FG also alleged that Justice Ngwuta falsified his age, as well as possessed multiple international passports.
The embattled jurist was docked before the high court on November 21, 2016, and subsequently granted bail to the tune of N100million.
FGN informed that hon. court that shortly after Justice Ngwuta was granted administrative bail by the DSS, he quickly called the Mr. Linus Nwamba to help him conceal some of the evidence against him, including N27million he hid in his bathroom at Abakaliki in Ebonyi State.
The prosecution further informed the hon. court that the Justice Ngwuta equally removed three exotic cars from his residence apartment in his home town in Ebonyi state.
The counsel to FGN, also informed the Hon. Court that the Mr. Linus Nwamba, initially hid the bag that contained the N27m cash at the residence of one Abraham Ezeani in Abakaliki, Ebonyi State, saying the Money was subsequently dissipate by Mr. Nwamba on the direct instructions of the Justice Ngwuta.
The PW-1 further listed the three exotic cars that Justice Ngwuta allegedly attempted to conceal, as a Hummer Jeep Sports Utility Vehicle, Wrangler Jeep Sports Utility Vehicle and a BMW 5 Series Sedan Vehicle which it said was quickly moved by Justice Ngwuta to Clevero Hotel in Abakaliki, Ebonyi State.
FGN said the properties which it maintained were derived from the proceeds of an unlawful act, were all subsequently recovered by investigators on November 11, following Justice Nwamba’s arrest, weeks after Justice Ngwuta had been released on administrative bail.
FGN disclosed that the DSS, at the end of the search operation conducted at Ngwuta’s official residential apartment, recovered several sums of cash, including the sum of Thirty-Five Million, Three Hundred and Fifty-Eight Thousand Naira (NGN35,358,000.00); Three Hundred and Nineteen Thousand, Five Hundred and Ninety- Six United States Dollars ($319,596.00) respectively.
As well as Twenty-Five Thousand Nine Hundred and Fifteen Pounds Sterling (GBP 25,915) and Two Hundred and Eighty Euros (EURO 280.00) respectively
The search operation also revealed about four Diplomatic passports, one official and two standard Nigerian passports all in the name of the defendant.
Justice Ngwuta was a sitting Supreme Court Justice of Nigeria when he was arrested by the Department of State Security (DSS) with other security agencies in Nigeria.