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How we uncovered money bags in Justice Ngwuta’s house –Witness

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Ade Adesomoju, Abuja

An operative of the Department of State Services, John Utazi, on Tuesday, told a Federal High Court in Abuja how his team conducted the search of the Abuja residence of a Justice of the Supreme Court, Justice Sylvester Ngwuta, on October 7, 2016.

Utazi, a DSS’ Staff Officer, who testified as the fifth prosecution witness in the ongoing trial of the Justice of the apex court, said bags, filled with local and foreign currencies, were uncovered during the search of the judge’s house.

Also uncovered in the house were documents, including building plans, land documents, vehicle papers and statements of bank accounts.

The witness was led in evidence by the lead prosecuting counsel, Mrs. Olufemi Fatunde, before the court, presided over by Justice John Tsoho.

He said the policemen and private security guards assigned to the Supreme Court Quarters, where Justice Ngwuta’s residence was located, initially did not let him and other operatives into the premises until the guards got approval of their “superiors”.

He said when he and his team members were eventually let into the defendant’s residence, the defendant declined an offer to search all the operatives in the team before the commencement of the operation.

Utazi said, “I also gave him the search warrant to read, after which he asked us if the Chief Justice of Nigeria was aware.

“I answered that I was not aware.

“Thereafter, I requested the defendant to search me and members of my team. He declined and said there was no trouble.

“However, I asked my team members to search one another in his presence.

“After, we told the defendant that we were ready to conduct the search.”

He said his team uncovered huge cash sums in some bags kept in the wardrobes in one of the rooms and other cash in foreign currencies in another room.

Utaz added, “He took us to the first bedroom. There were two wardrobes in the room. One was by a closet and the other was facing the closet. As we opened the one facing the closet, there were bags. We opened the bags and asked the defendant to see the content. The content was money.

“The second wardrobe was concealed with a cloth.”

On what was found in the second wardrobe after it was opened, the witness said, “When the wardrobe was opened, we saw a lot of bags and filled with foreign currencies.”

The witness added, “He took us to another bedroom. We searched it again and we also discovered money.

“After the second bedroom, he took us to his study.

“In the study room, we recovered bank statements, building plans, land documents, document’s relating to the defendant’s salary and some vehicle papers.”

He said his team also searched the kitchen, the boys’ quarters and the car park on the premises but nothing incriminating was discovered.

Utaz added, “We brought down the items recovered to the sitting room downstairs, where we counted the money.

“We documented everything on the back of the search warrant.

“The documentation was done in his presence.

“I endorsed the documented items recovered and also gave it to him to see.

“After seeing it, he read through and signed on it.

“Thereafter, I assembled all items recovered and told the defendant to search us just like we did when we came in.

“The defendant declined to search us but we searched ourselves in the presence of the defendant.

“We then requested the defendant to follow us and he did follow us.”

The search warrant, dated October 5, 2016, issued by a Magistrates’ Court in Abuja, was tendered by the prosecuting counsel and admitted by Justice Tsoho as an exhibit.

The case was fixed for Wednesday to enable the lead defence counsel, Chief Kanu Agabi (SAN), to cross-examine the witness.

Meanwhile, the prosecution again, on Tuesday, amended the corruption charges it preferred against Justice Ngwuta.

Three amendments have now been done to the charges originally filed in December 2016.

Shortly after, the lead prosecuting counsel, Fatunde, announced the latest development to the court on Tuesday, the amended charges were read to the defendant, who pleaded not guilty to all the 13 counts.

The amended charges have only one additional count.

The additional count was earlier removed in the previous amendment done in March this year.

The re-introduced count has to do with allegation that Justice Ngwuta gave false information to the Nigerian Immigration Service concerning his diplomatic passport with the purpose of procuring another one.

Other charges, including money laundering, allegations of retention and concealment of origin of various sums of money in local and foreign currencies allegedly recovered from him during the raid by the operatives of the DSS on October 8, 2016, remained part of the amended charges.

The judge was also accused, as contained in the previous charges, of giving various cash sums above the statutory threshold to his building contractor for the building of various houses in his home state, Ebonyi, without going through a financial institution.

The lead defence counsel, Agabi, said he had no objection to the amendment and the reading of the charges, but expressed concerns about the frequency of the alterations to the charges.

Agabi stated, “We shall eventually address Your Lordship on the several amendments. It further confirms that the prosecution is fishing.”

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