Justice Ayokunle Faji of the Federal High Court sitting in Lagos on Friday dismissed the no-case submission application filed by a former Executive Secretary, National Health Insurance Scheme, NHIS, Dr. Olufemi Martins Thomas, seeking to stop his fraud trial.
Thomas is standing trial alongside Kabiru Sidi, a Bureau De Change operator, on an amended seven-count charge of laundering the sum of $2,198,900 brought against them by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, (EFCC(.
The defendants are alleged to have conspired with the wife of the first defendant, Funmi, to make a cash payment of $2,198,900 to one Ibitoye Bamidele at their residence at No. 20, Lagos University Teaching Hospital Road, Idi-Araba, Lagos.
After the EFCC closed it case , Thomas filed a no-case submission application challenging the court’s jurisdiction to hear the case, in view of its earlier judgment in a fundamental case before the Court of Appeal.
He argued through his counsel that the charges filed against him were not known to the law and that the prosecution had not made out a case against him.
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But counsel for the EFCC, Ekene Iheanacho, in his response, submitted that the defendant had not been tried before “as the offences for which he is facing trial are created by the Money Laundering Prohibition Act.”
He had urged the court to dismiss the no-case submission and allow the defendants to open their case.
At the resumed sitting on Friday, Justice Faji, in a short ruling, dismissed all the grounds of the application raised by the defendant.
The Judge held, “The concept of res-judicata operates in both criminal and civil matter.
“But with respect to criminal matter, the applicable principle is that of double jeopardy, which does not allow a person to be tried twice.
“In this case, the defendant has not been shown to have been tried before, as the facts before the court is not the same as the one at the Court of Appeal.
“Therefore, the first defendant’s plea of res-judicata fails.”
With respect to the offences in the charge, the Judge held that the charges re-instated the element of the offences as created under Section 15 of the Money Laundering Prohibition Act and, is therefore, valid.
“The testimonies of the first prosecution witness (PW1) suggest that the first defendant gave the sum of Two Million, One Hundred and Ninety- eight Million Dollars to him to change into Naira through his wife, as the evidence shows that the transactions in counts four and five of the charge did not pass through a financial institution.
“More so, the amount involved is beyond N5m obtainable by law; and I, therefore, hold that the defendant has a case to answer.
“Furthermore, on counts one, two and three bordering on disguising and concealing the origin of the money, the court considered the testimonies of the first, second, third, fourth, fifth and sixth prosecution witnesses, which showed that the first defendant was a public officer who had only N4m (Four Million Naira), when he assumed office and had a total income of N63m (Sixty-three Million Naira).
“Also, the total income from his poultry business was N50m (Fifty Million Naira) and all these are far less than the amount of money the first defendant is being charged with.”
Consequently, Justice Faji ordered the defendants to open their case and dismissed the no-case submission.
Justice Faji then adjourned the matter until March 30, 2020 for mention to enable counsel to the second defendant be in court to pick a subsequent trial date.