A Federal High Court, Abuja, has discharged and acquitted Air Commodore Umar Mohammed (rtd) of $1 million money laundering charge preferred against him.
Justice Inyang Ekwo, in a judgement, held that the prosecution had failed to prove the essential ingredients of the charge.
According to Justice Ekwo, “I find that the prosecution has failed to prove counts one and two on the charge sheet beyond reasonable doubt.
“Therefore, the prosecution has failed to discharge the burden of proof as required by law in this case.
“The cardinal principle of law is that the commission of a crime by a party must be proved beyond reasonable doubt.
“This is the law laid down in Section 138 (1) of the Evidence Act. The burden never shifts,” he ruled.
The Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF), on behalf of the Federal Government, had sued Mohammed and his company, Easy Jet Integrated Service Ltd, as 1st and 2nd defendants in the money laundering suit.
Mohammed and his company were prosecuted on five counts of money laundering, illegal possession of firearms and possession of classified documents without lawful authority.
He and his company were accused of accepting $1,030,000 in cash from a firm, Worldwide Consortium PTY Ltd “as payment for flight services” without going through a financial institution as required by the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act.
The government also accused him of having in his possession, at his No: 4, Lungi Close, Mississippi, Maitama, Abuja home, “classified/official documents without lawful authority and thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 1(1)(b) of the Official Secret Act and punishable under Section 7(1)(a) of the same law.
Mohammed was accused of being in illegal possession of two pump action guns (marked: SBSG Magnum 397 and SBGS Interpress 09-1573) between June 1, 2011 and June 19, 2016 without valid licences thereby committing an offence contrary to Section 4 of the Firearms Act 2004 and punishable under Section 27(1)(b)(i) of the Act.”
The retired officer, who was a member of the defunct Presidential Investigative Committee on Procurement of Arms and Equipment in the Armed Forces set up by President Muhammadu Buhari shortly after assuming office as President in 2015, had pleaded not guilty to all the charges.
In the course of the trial, the AGF called a sole witness (PW1), Stephen Olatubosun, who is a State Security Service (SSS) official.
While testifying in court, Olatunbosun, who produced the currencies in court, said the monies were recovered from Mohammed’s residence and was crossed examined by the defence lawyer.
However, after Mohammed was led in evidence as first defence witness (DW1) and a sole witness in his case, the prosecution closed their case without cross examining him.
Delivering the judgment, the judge noted that at the conclusion of the case of the prosecution, the defendants entered a no-case submission which was overruled, and they were ordered to enter their defence with respect to count one and count two which bordered on money laundering.
According to Ekwo, the evidence of DW1 (Mohammed) on these issues is that he is a businessman and is into the business of oil and gas both upstream and downstream, aircraft charter and aviation, air cargo both local and international.
He noted that Mohammed had said that the money found in his residence was his personal money used in his business.