By Michael Ojo
The Federal High Court in Lagos on Wednesday dismissed 40 counts bordering on alleged N34bn fraud filed by the Federal Government against Global West Vessel Specialist Limited, a company linked to a former Niger Delta militant leader, Government Ekpemupolo, alias Tompolo.
The other defendants in the case were a former Director General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, Patrick Akpolokemi, Kime Engozu, Rex Elem, Gregory Mbonu and Warredi Enisuoh.
Three other firms – Odimiri Electrical Limited; Boloboere Property and Estate Limited; and Destre Consult Limited – were also defendants in the criminal case filed by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission(EFCC) in 2015.
Tompolo was initially joined as the first defendant in the case, but following his refusal to answer repeated court summonses, Mr Festus Keyamo (SAN), who handled the case for the EFCC, had to apply to the court that Tompolo’s name be removed from the charge sheet.
In a ruling on Wednesday on the defendants’ no-case submission, Justice Ibrahim Buba pronounced that the prosecution “failed to establish a prima facie case” against the defendants.
He, therefore, dismissed the entire 40 counts filed against the defendants by the EFCC, through Keyamo, and set them free.
In the charges, 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 EFCC said they 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.