The Federal High Court, Lagos has fixed June 10 to rule on application by Mr Paul Usoro (SAN), the immediate past president of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), to dismiss the money laundering and breach of criminal trust charge levelled against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
Having listened to submissions by both parties, the court presided over by Justice Rilwan Aikawa fixed the date to rule on the application
Usoro had pleaded the court to dismiss the money laundering and breach of criminal trust charge levelled against him by EFCC for being unknown to law.
The senior advocate, through his counsel, Effiong E.B Effiong (SAN) made the prayers in a no-case submission he filed and moved before Aikawa last Friday.
Effiong said: “We pray your lordship to uphold our no-case submission and discharge the defendant pursuant to sections 302 and 303 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) without calling on him to enter his defence. We further pray for your lordship to resolve the issues for determination as framed by us in our written address in favour of the defendant.
“In particular, we urge your lordship to hold, in relation to issues 1 and 2 hereof that the predicate offence of criminal breach of trust is not known to Akwa Ibom and/or Lagos states laws, the two arguably competent jurisdictions for the trial of this charge.
“The said offence is not prescribed by the Akwa Ibom State Criminal Code law nor is it contained in the Lagos State Criminal Law. Section 36(12) of the 1999 constitution is very definitive on the fact that the defendant cannot be tried on a non-existent law.
‘’It is also settled position of the law which is affirmed by judicial authorities that a money laundering charge without a predicate offence is incurably defective and bound to be struck out by the court as incompetent.”
The SAN argued that the predicate offence in a money laundering charge is one of the ‘essential elements of the offence’ which the prosecution must prove, failing which the affected count would be pronounced incurably defective and incompetent and that the court is mandated, in that event, to discharge the defendant in respect of any such defective count without calling on him to enter his defence pursuant to section 302 and 303 of ACJA.
“In this instance, criminal breach of trust is the sole predicate offence in all the surviving counts 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10 of this charge which makes all the counts incurably defective and incompetent.
“The prosecution, in the circumstance, has failed to prove an ‘essential element of the offence,’ to wit, the predicate offence that supports each of the counts of the charge. Even on this ground alone, we urge your lordship to dismiss this charge in its entirety as incompetent, while recording a finding of not guilty in favour of the defendant in respect of all the counts without calling on him to enter his defence pursuant to sections 303 and 303 of ACJA.
“In all, the evidence of the prosecution’s witness was thoroughly discredited both by the documentary evidence before the court and under cross-examination and proved to be manifestly unreliable such that no reasonable court or tribunal would convict on it. Indeed, the prosecution failed to make out a prima facie case against the defendant sufficient at all for him to be called upon to enter his defence.
“On these, grounds and for the fuller reasons that are contained in the body of this written address, we respectfully urge your lordship to discharge the defendant on all the surviving counts of this charge, to wit, counts 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10 pursuant to sections 302 and 303 of the ACJA,” he prayed the court.
However, the prosecution urged the court to order the defendant to enter his defence, arguing that it has made out sufficient prima facie evidence in the matter.
In its response to the defendant’s application for no-case submission, the EFCC counsel insisted that the preliminary contentions of the defendant were misconceived and should be discountenanced by the court.
“My lord, notwithstanding the fact that criminal breach of trust is neither a crime in Lagos and Akwa Ibom States, nor is it listed as one of the unlawful activities in section 15 of the Money Laundering Prohibition Act, 2011 as amended, it is clear that section 15(6) defines unlawful act to include corruption, fraud and any other criminal act specified under the said Act or any other law in Nigeria,” EFCC counsel argued.
According to the EFCC, the offence of criminal breach of trust is prescribed by section 315 of the Penal Code.
“From the foregoing, we respectfully urge this court to hold that on the totality of the evidence adduced by the prosecution, the defendant is called upon to put up his defence as the case of the prosecution warrants that the defendant offers some explanation.
“On the whole, we urge this court to dismiss this application as the same is unmeritorious and misconceived the positions of the law on no-case submission,” the Commission prayed.