Two testify as PDP spokesman’s trial begins in Abuja
Trial opened yesterday at the Federal high Court, Abuja in the money laundering charge against Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) spokesman Olisa Metuh, with the prosecution calling two of its planned 18 witnesses.
The first witness, Nneka Ararume, an employee of Asset and Resource Management (ARM) Company Limited, admitted collecting $2million in cash from Metuh in his house at the Prince and Princess Estate, Abuja in one day.
Ararume, a Wealth Manager at ARM, said she collected the cash from Metuh on December 2, 2014 with an instruction to invest the money in the name of his company – Destra Investments Limited.
The witness, who said she was assigned to manage Destra Investments Limited’s funds with ARM, said she later converted the $2m with the help of two bureau de change operators.
Led in evidence by the lead prosecution lawyer, Sylvanus Tahir, the witness said: “Metuh gave me the sum of $2m in $100 bills. It was taken to bureau de change operators who would then transfer the money to ARM. From there (Metuh’s house), I proceeded to Sie Iyenome’s office at Wuse 2 where I gave him the sum of $1m.
“I also invited Mr. Kabir Mohammed and I also gave him the sum of $1m to transfer the naira equivalent in favour of Destra Investment Limited. Later on the same day, December 2, 2014, Kabir and Sie Iyenome confirmed the receipt,” Ararume said.
The defence sought an adjournment after Ararume completed her testimony.
.Under cross-examination by the defence lawyer, Onyechi Ikpeazu (SAN), Ararume said Destra, owned by Metuh, had been ARM’s client before she was employed by the financial services company in April 2013.
When asked if she knew how long it took the defendants to accumulate the $2m he gave the witness in one day, the witness said “no”.
The second prosecution witness, Sie Iyenome, one of the bureau de change operators who assisted Ararume to convert $1m out of the $2m she received from Metuh to naira, said he never knew Metuh, but knew only his company, Destra, on December 2, 2014 when Ararume forwarded the company’s account details to him for the payment of the naira equivalent of $1m he received from her.
He said he reached an agreement on the rate of N183 per dollar with Ararume and that the total sum of the naira equivalent of the $1m amounting to N183m, was eventually paid to Destra’s account.
Under cross-examination, the witness, who said he believed he was carrying out “a valid transaction”, also told the court that it was practice in the foreign exchange business to ask for the purpose which funds brought by customers were meant for.
“Most times the question for the purpose the money is meant is done verbally, just for due diligence.
“This was a brokering transaction. I’m not the one using the dollar. Even at that I asked who was selling and Nneka said it was her client at ARM, which was as good as a bank selling to you, Iyenome said.
While being re-examined by Tahir, Iyenome confirmed that there was a limit imposed by law as to how much cash a bureau de change operator could transact with.
“I am aware of some. I can’t name all of them. I’m aware that to sell to an individual travelling outside the country, the limit is $4,000, and for a business, the limit is $5,000,” Iyenome said.
Earlier, the trial judge, Justice Okon Abang had rejected a move by Ikpeazu to prevent the commencement of the trial. The judge refused Ikpeazu’s application for adjournment to enable the defence team prepare for the trial.
Also, the judge refused Ikpeazu’s request that his application for the variation of his client’s bail condition be heard. Ikpeazu had told the court that his client was yet to meet the conditions attached to the bail granted him.
In a ruling, the judge said the application was not ripe for hearing. He adjourned further trial till today and fixed tomorrow for the hearing of Metuh’s application for the variation of his bail conditions.