Justice E. S. Chukwu of the Federal High Court, Maitama, Abuja yesterday dismissed the application seeking to quash the 11- count charge of money laundering, conspiracy, forgery and abuse of office brought against Imaobong Akon Esu-Nte, an accountant with the Nigeria Prisons Service, by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC. Etsu-Nte is being prosecuted alongside one Olukolade Olabamiji, a businessman and Mohammed Abdulkadir, a banker, for allegedly laundering funds from the Nigeria Prisons Service into the accounts of companies where she has interests.
The trial which began on March 16, 2015 started with the first prosecution witness, Sini Omar, telling the court how the Abuja socialite, Esu-Nte used her position as Prison Accountant, and in connivance with other accused persons to launder money from the accounts of the Nigeria Prisons Service to their companies: Royal Mall Nigeria Limited, Transferase Ventures and I.D Integrated Petroleum on the guise of executing non-existent contracts.
The prosecution, in a bid to prove its case, tendered documents in support of its claims. But, the admissibility of the documents was contested by Esu-Nte’s counsel who claimed that the documents were not voluntarily rendered to the prosecution. He asked the court for a trial-within-trial to determine their voluntariness. Ashaolu also argued that the charges and proof of evidence did not disclose a prima facie case against his client, Esu- Nte.
He told the court that, the accused person, Esu-Nte, was also standing trial on a similar charge before another court and added that the charge before Justice Chukwu amounted to an abuse of court process. However, counsel to EFCC, L. P Aso, countered the defence submission saying, “the charge before the court is regular and proper as it was in compliance with the laws and the rules of the court”.
Aso also stressed that the court remained a court of summary trial, arguing that there was proof of evidence before the court to make the case go on. Dismissing Esu-Nte’s application today, Justice Chukwu held that the court retains jurisdiction to adjudicate on the matter and ordered the continuation of the trial. The case has been adjourned to July 9, 2015 for further hearing.