By Taiye Agbaje
Abuja – The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), on Thursday, filed fresh charges against James Nolan, a Briton, at the Federal High Court, Abuja.
The EFCC’s Counsel, Ekele Iheanacho, had, at the resumed trial, told Justice Okon Abang that the anti-graft agency had filed an additional proof of evidence dated Nov. 20.
The lawyer said the EFCC brought up a fresh 32-count charge against the defendants in the case contrary to the initial 16-count charge bordering on money laundering.
News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that EFCC had, on Oct. 21, arraigned Nolan and Adam Quinn (at large), both British nationals, over their alleged complicity in the 9.6 billion dollars judgment against Nigeria.
Process and Industrial Development (P&ID), an Irish engineering company, had secured the award against Nigeria following the non-execution of a 20-year gas and supply processing agreement (GSPA) the company had with the federal government.
The arraignment of the two British nationals is coming weeks after two P&ID directors were convicted over the deal.
The defendant are both directors of Goidel Resources Limited, a Designated Non-Financial Institution (DNFI) and ICIL Limited.
Paul Erokoro, SAN, counsel to Nolan, though acknowledged that the new count-charge was served on him, said he was served with not only the amended charge alone but an amended proof of evidence.
However, the EFCC lawyer Iheanacho, corrected that what was served was not an amended charge but an additional proof of evidence.
He urged the court to grant his prayer for the amended charges to be read to the defendant for his plea to be taken.
Erokoro did not raise any objection to Iheanacho’s prayer.
Nolan, however, pleaded not guilty to the 32-count charge.
Justice Abang, therefore, ordered Iheanacho to call his first prosecution witness for continuation of the trial.
NAN recalls that the EFCC’s lawyer had, on Wednesday, called his first prosecution witness, Mr Agunbiade Adewale Akinseye, an account officer with the Guarantee Trust Bank (GTB).
Erokoro at the Wednesday’s hearing demanded for the original of the witness’ statement to aid the cross-examination, but the EFCC’s lawyer, though said he was not with it in the court, he promised to make it available after the sitting.
The defendant counsel, at Thursday’s proceeding, told the court that the anti-graft lawyer had made the statement available to him.
However, the EFCC kicked against the admission of the witness’ statement in the trial of Mr Nolan.
Akinseye had made the statement in writing to EFCC in which he chronicled how about eight accounts linked to the controversial oil and gas supply contract was opened in 2006 and operated till date before the sponsors of the company were arrested in connection with the failed oil and gas deal.
The witness, who was led in evidence by Iheanacho, had told the court how huge amounts in dollars were transferred in batches from P&ID Ltd accounts overseas into its subsidiaries’ accounts in Nigeria (P&ID Nigeria Ltd) through GTB.
The witness also told the court how huge sums running into millions of Naira were also transferred from one of the subsidiaries to another, especially Goidel Resources Nigeria Limited and ICIL Nigeria Limited.
Disagreement however erupted during cross-examination by counsel to the defendants when the witness admitted that there was nothing unusual in foreign companies transferring money to their subsidiaries in Nigeria legally.
The witness further told the trial judge, Abang, that his bank, GTB, would not have accepted the transfer of the foreign currency from outside the country if it were not for legitimate purposes.
Erokoro, who cross examined the witness based on his written witness statement to EFCC, applied to tender it as exhibits to assist the court deliver a fair hearing in the case.
However, the request was vehemently opposed by EFCC’s counsel, who stated that the defence counsel did not lay foundation for admission of the statement.
Iheanacho insisted that the witness statement can only be tendered if it was for the purpose of discrediting the oral testimony of the witness.
But Erokoro expressed worry on why the EFCC objected to admitting its own statement, adding that the witness was accurate in the statement he made to the anti-graft agency.
Justice Abang however fixed December 6 for ruling on the admissibility or otherwise of the statement and for continuation of the trial.
Among the fresh charges brought against the Briton and the two companies by the EFCC include money laundering, tax evasion and failure to disclose their activities to the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment in line with the Money Laundering Act.