Justice Ibrahim Buba of the Federal High Court in Lagos on Wednesday dismissed the N47.6 billion fraud charge filed against Global West Vessel Specialist Limited, a company linked to a former Niger Delta militant leader, Government Ekpemupolo, alias Tompolo.
Justice Buba threw out the case brought against the maritime firm, a former Director General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, Patrick Akpolokemi, Kime Engozu, Rex Elem, Gregory Mbonu and Warredi Enisuoh because the prosecution failed to make out a prima facie case against them.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had Instituted a 40-count charge against the defendants and three companies: Odimiri Electrical Limited; Boloboere Property and Estate Limited; and Destre Consult Limited in 2015.
But the case was stalled due to the alleged refusal of Tompolo to appear before the court.
The development forced the anti-graft agency to asked the court to remove the name of the former Niger-Delta militant from the charge.
However, the judge on February 19, 2017, ordered a forfeiture of property belonging to Tompolo after an application was moved to that effect by the EFCC.
Justice Buba had held that the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015 empowers the court to seize properties of an accused who refused to face trial.
In a ruling on Wednesday on the defendants’ no-case submission, Justice Buba held that the prosecution “failed to establish a prima facie case” against the defendants.
He, therefore, dismissed the prosecution case for failing to linked defendants to the entire 40-count charge through it witnesses and documentary evidence.
The EFCC had accused the defendants of conspiring among themselves to divert various sums running into over N34bn, belonging to NIMASA to their personal use.
The Commission has also claimed that the defendants acted contrary to Section 18 (a) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) (Amendment) Act, 2012 and were liable to punishment under Section 15 (3) of the same Act.
The first count of the amended 40 counts read, “That you, Government Ekpemupolo (alias Tompolo), Patrick Akpobolokemi and Global West Vessel Specialist Limited in 2012, in Lagos, within the jurisdiction of this honourable court, did conspire amongst yourselves to commit an offence, to wit: conversion of the sum of N601, 516.13 and $1,766,428.62, property of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, knowing that the said sums were proceeds of stealing and thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 18 (a) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) (Amendment) Act, 2012 and punishable under Section 15 (3) of the same Act.”
The defendants had, during their arraignment four years ago, all pleaded not guilty to the charges.