A Federal High Court Abuja has struck out the seven-count money laundering charge filed by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) against former National Publicity Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Olisa Metuh and his firm, Destra Investment Ltd.
In a ruling on Monday, Justice Emeka Nwite held that it was of no use keeping the charge in his court’s docket when the prosecution and defendants have appeals pending at the Supreme Court.
Justice Nwite, who described the retention of the charge, marked: FHC/ABJ/CR/05/2022 as “an abuse of court process,” held that there was no way the case could return to his court without the Supreme Court first deciding the appeals by parties in the charge.
The ruling was on arguments by lawyers to the EFCC, Metuh and Destra.
At the mention of the case on Monday, Justice Nwite asked EFCC’s lawyer, Olanrewaju Adeola about the status of the case.
Adeola said the defendants – Metuh and Destra – were earlier convicted by the Federal High Court, which conviction was overturned by the Court of Appeal following the defendants’ appeals.
He said the prosecution has since lodged an appeal at the Supreme Court against the Court of Appeal’s decision.
Adeola added: “We understand that the matter was listed this morning at the instance of the defendants for application for the release of the first defendant’s international passport.”
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Lawyer to Metuh, Afam Osigwe (SAN), who claimed that his client learnt, via the socio media, about hearing of case on Monday, said he had a prior discussion the EFCC lawyer on the status of the case, “because there is a pending appeal at the Supreme Court in suit number: SC/ CR/583/2021 between FG Vs. Olisa Metuh and another.”
Osigwe said the EFCC was, in the appeal, urging the Supreme Court to among others, reinstate the order of the Federal High Court, which was set aside by the Court of Appeal.
“So, in the light of the reliefs sought in that appeal, it will amount to an abuse of court process for a fresh prosecution to be commenced when they are asking for reinstatement.
“My learned friend representing the EFCC will also agree with me that this court will either stay proceeding or strike out the charge.
Lawyer to Destra, Tochukwu Onwugbufor, who agreed with Osigwe, recalled that while determining the appeals by Metuh and Destra, the Court of Appeal voided the judgment of the Federal High Court that had convicted them and ordered a retrial.
Onwugbufor added that besides the prosecution, which appealed against that judgment at the Supreme Court, Metuh and Destra also appealed against the Appeal Court judgment.
He said the main issue in the appeal by the EFCC was the contention that the Appeal Court did not determine the whole appeal.
Onwugbufor added: “Actually, what was determined at Appeal Court was the issue of bias. But the EFCC is asking that the Federal High Court judgment should either be reinstated or send back to Court of Appeal for retrial.
“My client is also asking the Supreme Court that the Appeal Court did not take into consideration that the whole trial was a nullity and should be dismissed in its entirety and discharge and acquit the defendants.”
Although Adeola prayed the court to adjourn indefinitely pending the out come of the appeals at the Supreme Court, Onwugbufor agreed with Osigwe that the court possesses the discretion to either strike out the charge or adjourn it indefinitely.
He however noted that even after the Supreme Court’s decision on the pending appeals, the case may no longer come back to the Federal High Court.
He added: “This is so because the matter can be heard at the Appeal Court and it will go back to Supreme Court for final decision.”
In a judgment on February 25, 2020, Justice Okon Abang of the Federal High Court, Abuja convicted Metuh and Destra on money laundering offences.
They were found guilty of laundering N400 million which they got from the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA) then headed by Sambo Dasuki in 2014, preparatory to the 2015 general elections.
They were also convicted In relation to a $2 million cash transaction executed without going through a financial institution in violation of money laundering law.
Metuh was jailed seven years, while Destra was wound up, a decision Metuh and his firm appealed at the Court of Appeal.
In a judgment on December 16, 2020 the Court of Appeal set aside the proceedings leading to the conviction and sentencing of Metuh and Destra and ordered a retrial, on the grounds that the trial judge exhibited bias against them.