N2.1bn arms deal: Court frees Dokpesi of corruption charges

The Court of Appeal, Abuja Division, on Thursday, quashed the N2.1billion money laundering charges filed against the founder of DAAR Communications Plc, the parent company of Ray Power Radio and African Independent Television (AIT), Raymond Dokpesi.

Mr Dokpesi, a Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) chieftain, was said to have fraudulently received the N2 billion as part of arms funds allegedly diverted by then National Security Adviser (NSA), Sambo Dasuki, ahead of the 2015 presidential election.

The Court of Appeal, in a unanimous judgment of its three-man panel, on Thursday, upheld the no-case submission filed by Mr Dokpesi and DAAR Communications against the seven counts of money laundering preferred against them by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

Delivering judgment on the separate appeals filed on behalf of the appellants by their lawyer, Kanu Agabi, the Court of Appeal held that the EFCC failed woefully to establish a prima facie case against them at the trial court.

EFCC had in the seven counts of money laundering and procurement fraud it instituted against Mr Dokpesi and his firm accused them of fraudulently receiving N2.1 billion from the Office of the NSA between January and March 2015.

After the anti-graft agency closed its case before the Federal High Court in Abuja with 14 prosecution witnesses, the defendants, through their lead counsel, Mr Agabi, filed a no-case submission, urging the court to dismiss the case on the grounds that the essential ingredients of the alleged offences were not proved.

But the trial judge, John Tsoho, who is the current Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, dismissed the no-case submission in his ruling delivered on November 21, 2018.

Dissatisfied with the ruling, the defendants, through their lawyer, Mr Agabi, who is a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) and former Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF), filed separate appeals on behalf of the two clients against the decision.

Delivering the lead judgment of the Court of Appeal on Thursday, Elfreda Williams-Dawodu held that EFCC failed to prove the ingredients of the charges preferred against the defendants as expected under the law.

The court agreed with Mr Agabi that the money laundering charges were not proved as the prosecution failed to establish the alleged breach of trust committed by the defendants in relation to the N2.1 billion deal.

Mrs William-Dowodu held that there was nothing in the evidence of the 14 witnesses called by the prosecution to persuade the court to compel the appellant to enter their defence when the ingredients of the offences were not provided.

She ruled, “No case was made against the appellant in counts 1, 2, 3 and 4 to warrant his being called upon to open his defence.

“There is no possibility that the appellant can be convicted because the evidence is manifestly unreliable.

“I am of the view that irrespective of the ingredients stated earlier, and those by the appellant and first respondent respectively, prior proof or establishment of the primary offences in count 1,2,3 and 4 of the amended charge is sine qua non to the proof of the offences of money laundering specified in the said counts.

“In totality, this appeal has merit, it is allowed and the ruling of the Federal High Court is hereby set aside and the appellant is discharged.”

Mr Dokpesi is the second PDP’s top figure, since December 2020, to be freed by the Court of Appeal in Abuja regarding the charges of alleged diversion of arm funds by then NSA, Sambo Dasuki.

Earlier in December 2016, the same court freed a former PDP’s spokesperson, Olisa Metuh, who was earlier convicted by the Federal High Court in Abuja for the N400 million he allegedly received fraudulently from the NSA office ahead of the 2015 presidential elections.

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