A Federal High Court in Abuja on Friday announced discrepancies in the amount of money which was allegedly recovered from the official residence of a Justice of the Supreme Court, Justice Sylvester Ngwuta and the amount tendered in court by the prosecution as exhibit.
However, when the money was counted by the court, in the presence of all the parties involved in the matter, it was discovered that there was a discrepancy of about N22,160.
The trial Judge, before whom Ngwuta was being prosecuted for money laundering and passport fraud charges, announced yesterday that while the prosecution claimed to have tendered N35,358,000, the counting witnessed by representatives of the court and parties in the case on Thursday, revealed that the amount actually tendered was N35,335,840.
Justice Tsoho state this while informing the court about the report of the counting submitted to him shortly after proceedings commenced on Friday and added that there was no problems with the money in other currencies.
The prosecution, led by Olufemi Fatunde had through the leader of the Department of State Service’s search team, Mr. John Utazi, told the court that various sums of money in local and foreign currencies were allegedly recovered from Ngwuta’s house.
The money, which was tendered as exhibit was contained in nine bags and boxes.
Eight out of the nine items contained naira notes, which Utazi said totaled N35,358,000 and added that the ninth bag contained £25,915; $319,596 (USD); R50 (South African rands); €280 (euros); 380 (dirhams); and 420 dalasis.
The items were opened during the Thursday’s proceedings to reveal the content but the counting in the presence of the representatives of the court and parties involved in the case was done after court proceedings on Thursday.
However, under cross-examination by the lead defence counsel, Chief Kanu Agabi (SAN), yesterday, Utazi insisted that the amount he delivered to the court was N35,358,000, which he earlier claimed and not N35,335,840 which the report of the counting revealed.
Utazi said he delivered N35,358,000 to the exhibit keeper and added further that he was not present when the money was counted.
When pressed to answer if he disagreed with the report of the counting, Utazi said, “What I delivered was N35,358,000 and I stand by what I delivered to the court.
“I meticulously counted the money. I don’t know whether to agree or not but what I delivered to the court was N35,358,000”, he stated.
The witness told the court that all the 44 items, including the various sums of money as contained in the search warrant were recovered from the official residence of Justice Ngwuta located at No: 2, Supreme Court quarters.
According to the witness, everything that were recovered from Ngwuta’s house will be returned back to him if the court decides that they belong to the defendant, even as he said that he was not aware of any petition of financial fraud against the defendant.
The Federal Government had earlier filed a 16-count charge bordering on corruption, money laundering and other financial crimes against Justice Ngwuta, who pleaded not guilty to all of the charges.
On March 16, it was amended to a 12 count charge, before the last amendment, making it the second time the charges were amended.
The prosecution counsel from the office of the Attorney General of the Federation, Olufemi Fatunde told the court that the amended charge was brought under section 216 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA).
However, Justice Ngwuta pleaded not guilty to the one additional charge when it was read to him.
The additional count has to do with the allegation that Justice Ngwuta gave false information to the Nigerian Immigration Service concerning his diplomatic passport with the purpose of procuring another one