Criminal Law

Ex-Imo Gov, Ohakim disowns Abuja house, $2.29m cash in money laundering trial

Former Imo State Governor, Ikedi Ohakim, on Wednesday at the Federal High Court in Abuja, disowned ownership of a property in the Asokoro District of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) and $2.29 million linked to him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
The choice property located at 60, Kwame Nkrumah Street and the $2.29 million were traced to Ohakim by the anti-graft agency as products of fraud and concealed from public glare.
However, in his self-defence in a three-count money laundering charge against him, Ohakim denied ever asking one Abu Sule, a witness of EFCC, to purchase the property in his name.
The former governor also denied ever releasing $2.29 million cash to the same person to purchase the Asokoro house.
Ohakim, who was led in evidence by his lead counsel, Awa Kalu SAN, claimed that he never met the said Abu Sule in his life and could not have handed over the alleged sum to him.
The former governor who opened his defence in the charges against him told Justice Babatunde Quadiri that he had never seen $2 million cash in his life.
Sule Abu who had earlier testified against him had informed the Federal High Court how Ohakim invited him to Imo State Governors Lodge in Asokoro, handed over the $2.29 million to him with a mandate to purchase the Asokoro District property for him.
The EFCC witness had further told the court that the transaction took place in the night with nobody present at the Governor’s Lodge.
However, Ohakim dismissed the EFCC witness’ evidence adding that it is practically impossible for any Governor’s Lodge not to have a minimum of 50 visitors at any particular time.
“My Lord, apart from the fact that I have never seen $2 million cash in my life, it is not possible for a serving governor to be alone.
“At any particular time in Governors’s Lodge, a serving governor must have with him, his Personal Secretary, his Special Adviser and Aide De Camp ADC along with a retinue of other security operatives comprising Police, DSS and Civil Defence.
“Apart from security operatives, not less than 50 persons will line up at any particular time in Governors’s Lodge seeking to see governor. At any rate, nobody enters Governors Lodge without being cleared by DSS, Police and Civil Defence.
“There is no way any transaction could take place in the night without anybody inside the Governors Lodge. I find the evidence of Sule Abu against me too difficult to believe,” Ohakim insisted.
Ohakim however admitted ownership of a bank account with number 5010140626 with Fidelity Bank he used in purchasing a N270 million house at Maitama District in Abuja as against the Asokoro house traced to him by EFCC.
Meanwhile, Justice Babatunde Quadiri has fixed April 27 and 28 for further hearing in the matter.
Festus Ukpe stood for EFCC at the Wednesday proceeding.
The EFCC is prosecuting Ohakim, who was Imo State Governor between 2007 and 2011, on three counts of money laundering.
The prosecution accused Ohakim of purchasing the property at 60, Kwame Nkrumah Street, Plot No 1098, Cadastral ZoneA04,  Asokoro District, Abuja with cash payment of $2.29m which was said to be dollar equivalent of N270m in November 2008.
Ohakim was also accused of failing to declare the property as part of his assets when asked by the EFCC to do so.

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