Court quashes $6,502,000 EFCC fraud charge against Abia buz mogul, Ikenna Kingsley Onwuzurike a.ka Nwatanayoeze
By Steve Oko
An federal High Court sitting in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, has acquitted Abia business mogul, Chief Ikenna Kingsley Onwuzurike ( Nwata Anayoeze), of all eight counts of fraud charge preferred against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC.
The Chief Executive Officer, CEO of Nwata Anayoeze Oil & Gas Ltd, was quizzed by EFCC operatives in his Umuahia country home on January 26, 2020, and taken to the Port Harcourt Zonal office of the Commission.
He was later arraigned on May 11, 2020 for allegedly defrauding some foreign nationales of $6,502,000 US Dollars in a suit marked FHC/PH/40C/2020.
The eight counts charge preferred against him include: conspiracy to obtain money by false pretense; fraudulent impersonation with intent to gain advantage contrary to Section 22(a)x(b) of the Cyber Criminals (Prohibition, Prevention) Act 2015; obtaining money by force pretense; forgery of Identity Card and United States of America International Passport; money laundering, among others.
Delivering judgement on the suit, Justice Adamu Turaki Mohammed, ruled that the prosecution was unable to establish any prima-facie case against the Defendant.
” After careful consideration of the evidence of PW1 and PW2, exhibit A-L, particularly exhibits E, F and L ( the FBI letter dated 29th January 2020, the statements of the defendant), viz-a-viz the necessary elements of the allegations in Count 1-8, I am of the view that there is no prima- facie evidence to warrant the court to order the defendant to enter defense. I so hold.
” Consequent upon my findings, I find the defendant not guilty, and he is hereby discharged”, Justice Mohammed declared.
A certified true copy of the Court judgement made available to Vanguard read in part: In the instant case, against the background of 8 counts charge against the Defendant and the evidence adduced through PW1 and PW2 summarized above, it is the evidence of PW1 under cross examination that Umar Zilkifli told them that he did not pay any money to the defendant.
” It is his evidence that they did not receive any response from Thailand and Egypt Embassy, and that the only reason he said that the I.D card, the International Passport, and account opening package were forged were from the response received from the legal attache of the US Embassy in Nigeria.
” His evidence also revealed that the only proof they have that the sum of$6,500,000 was paid by Mr El-Ghana is the conversation between the defendant and Mr Ali El-Ghana. The testimony also revealed that no payment of $6,500,000 US Dollars into the defendant’s account.
” PW2’s evidence under cross examination further revealed that no proof of any payment whatesover from any of the alleged victims to the defendant. Similarly, the evidence of PW2 under cross examination revealed no response was received from the Egyptian Embassy. His evidence also revealed that they didn’t invite persons whose payments they suspected into the defendant’s accounts”.
Justice Mohammed further declared:” In my view, the evidence of PW1 & PW2 has been so badly discredited from the nature of their cross examination by learned defense Counsel to the extent that the evidence can’t be relied upon to show that prima-facie evidence of the allegations in Count 1&3 of the charge, alleging that the defendant conspired and/or obtained the sum of $6,500,000 US Dollars.
” It is also discredited of impersonation as alleged in Count 2 of the charge. In the same vein, the evidence can’t be relied upon to show prima facie evidence of forgery as alleged in counts 4,5,6 and 7 of the charge, particularly having regard to the documents rejected and already marked tendered and rejected.
” Lastly, there is no prima-facie evidence of money laundering of $2,000 US Dollars as alleged in Count 8. Prima facie evidence which will require the defendant to enter defense must be that which shows the elements of necessary ingredients of the offense as alleged in the charge.”
Speaking with Wawa News Global, the defendant, expressed relief that the court had finally vindicated him, but lamented his ordeals in the hands of the anti graft agency.
Narrating his experiences, he condemned the way EFCC operatives in a gestapo style, raided his house in Umuahia, scaling through the wall in the wee hours of the morning and whisked him away like a common criminal.
” On January 26, 2020 about 15 operatives of EFCC stormed my house and jumped through the wall. They seized my phones and laptop and passport and took me to their office in Port Harcourt.
” I asked them: What did I do? Was any petition written against me but they said they were working on intelligence. They said I had commited offense and should go for pre-bargain but I told them ‘over my dead body should I go for any plea-bargain’.
” Why should I go into any plea-bargain for what I never commited? I insisted we rather go to court than comply with any pre-bargain when I knew I’m innocent of what they alleged I did.
” They held me for 10 days and I became sick. They handcuffed me and snapped my pictures and posted on the net alleging I’m a fraudster when nobody had any evidence that I defrauded him or her.
” Their aim was to humiliate me and discredit my reputation. I’m into oil and gas business and I have business interests outside Nigeria. I have lived abroad for 17 years without any issues with anybody. I have a business in Philippines without issues.
” Maybe my only crime is coming back to Nigeria to invest in my own country. A lot of successful Igbo youths have been set back through this way. What is bad in someone making progress in life?
” I want to advise Igbo youths to be courageous and go to court instead of being intimidated to enter into plea-bargain with any security agency. The judiciary is the hope of the common man and those who are innocent will surely get justice in the end.”
The 2006 graduate of Business Administation & Management, Abia State Polytechnic Aba, also said that those who felt he might be interested in the 2023 race for Ikwuano/Umuahia federal consituency could be behind his ordeals.
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