According to reports, the Federal Government yesterday told a Federal High Court sitting in Abuja of how N27million was found in the bathroom of embattled Supreme Court Justice Sylvester Ngwuta.
Also recovered from his private residence in Abakaliki, Ebonyi State, according to prosecution counsel, Charles Adeogun-Philips include four exotic vehicles – Hummer jeep, Sports Utility Vehicle (SUV), one Wrangler jeep, SUV, one BMW 5 Series Sedan, which were initially concealed by one Mr. Nwamba Linus Chukwuebuka, on the alleged instructions of Justice Ngwuta.
The prosecution counsel said Justice Ngwuta had four international passports, two diplomatic D5000087 D00004598 and two standard passports with Nos. A4389985 and D5000087, which he was using concurrently.
Meanwhile, the court yesterday granted him bail for N100 million after pleading not guilty to a 16-count criminal charge.
Justice Ngwuta, who was docked before Justice John Tsoho denied allegations that he was involved in money laundering.
Although Adeogun-Philips had opposed his bail application because the defendant could jump bail and interfere with witnesses and evidence, Justice Tsoho ruled that the Department of State Services (DSS) having deposed to an affidavit of completion of investigation, there was no basis for the prosecution to express fear that Ngwuta would interfere with the witnesses or evidence.
Justice Tsoho held that although the prosecution cited several cases on the behaviour and conduct of the defendant during investigation, ‘the court was, however, not told that the administrative bail earlier granted him by the DSS was revoked and as such, there is no ground before the court to indicate that the defendant will jump bail.
The court held that the prosecution was not consistent in its numerous claims that the defendant will evade trial, adding that the same prosecution had established that all the travelling documents of the Justice Ngwuta have been seized and that they have been keeping an eagle eye on his movements.
Justice Ngwuta, who arrived in the court at about 8:15 am, was calm before the trial began.
Immediately after his plea of not guilty was taken, Adeogun-Philips informed the court that one of his witnesses was present and willing to immediately commence his Evidence-in-Chief.
But the defence counsel Chief Kanu Agabi (SAN), asked the court to release his client on bail pending the hearing and determination of the case against him.
Agabi, who is a former Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, contended that the charge against his client contained bailable offences.
He premised the bail application on Sections 35 and 36 of the 1999 Constitution, as amended, as well as Section 162 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015.
But, in opposing the bail application, the prosecution counsel said following his arrest and release on administrative bail on October 9, 2016, Justice Ngwuta obstructed justice by tampering with evidence likely to incriminate him by engaging Mr. Chukwuebuka through a telephone call to remove some properties from his private residence at Engineering Close, off Onwe Road, Abakaliki.
The properties, according to the prosecution, include a bag located at his bathroom containing some vital documents which was initially concealed by Mr. Chukwuebuka at the residence of Abraham Ezeani in Abakaliki, on or about October 9, 2016 and subsequently recovered from there by investigators from the DSS in November, 2016.
He told the court that another bag located in Ngwuta’s bathroom containing N27million cash which was initially concealed by him on or about October 9, 2016, following which it was subsequently dissipated by Mr. Nwamba on the alleged direct instructions of the defendant.
The prosecution submitted that Ngwuta’s ability to procure four valid passports provides sufficient grounds to believe that if released on bail, he will abscond and consequently not surrender himself for trial.
Ngwuta was among seven superior court judges that were arrested between October 7 and 8, after the DSS raided their homes in what it was termed “a sting operation”. He was in the amended charge marked FHC/ABJ/C/232, and signed by a Principal State Counsel, Hajara H. Yusuf, alleged to have among other offences, stashed foreign currencies in his Abuja home. The Federal Government said the DSS, at the end of the operation conducted at his official residence, recovered several cash including N35, 358,000.00; $319,596.00 and 25,915 Pounds, among other foreign currencies.
The case has been adjourned to December 7 and 8 for trial.