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Jide Omokore, Diezani’s associate, acquitted of $1.6bn fraud

Jide Omokore Jide Omokore

A federal high court in Abuja has discharged and acquitted Jide Omokore, chairman of Atlantic Energy Drilling Concepts Nigeria Limited, of fraud allegations.

Omokore was arraigned by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on a 15-count charge.

He was alleged to have fraudulently diverted $1.6bn alleged to be part of proceeds of sales of petroleum products belonging to the federal government.

Omokore is the first defendant in the matter while Atlantic Energy Brass Development Limited and Atlantic Energy Drilling Concept Limited are the second and third defendants.

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Delivering judgment in the suit on Tuesday, Nnamdi Dimgba, the presiding judge, held that the EFCC failed to prove its case against the first to third defendants.

On the first three counts, the anti-graft commission had alleged that the first three defendants made false representations in other to get into an agreement to carry out a project for Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and the Nigerian Petroleum Development Company (NPDC).

However, the judge held that the EFCC failed to prove that the three defendants falsely represented themselves as possessing the required technical and financial competence to carry out the project.

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On financial capacity, the judge held that the EFCC ought to have shown that the three defendants had bad creditworthiness as opposed to making a conclusion from their account balance.

The judge also agreed with the testimony given by the first prosecution witness, Andrew Yakubu, former group managing director of the NNPC.

Yakubu had earlier testified that the defendants were awarded the project because NNPC had previously recorded “remarkable success and value addition” while working with them.

On the counts relating to “fraudulent intent,” the judge held that “the 1st-3rd defendants do not strike me as persons with fraudulent intents”.

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The court also acquitted the defendants of the charges bordering on money laundering and conversion.

“The sale of crude oil by the 1st-3rd defendants was done legally as contained in the agreement,” the court held.

“They did not sell any crude that was not allocated by lawful authority.”

The court also held that there is no evidence of a conspiracy between the defendants as alleged by the prosecution.

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Also, charges bordering on procurement fraud were also not proven by the prosecution.

CO-DEFENDANTS CONVICTED

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However, the court convicted the fourth and fifth defendants, Victor Briggs and Abiye Membere, for “unethically collecting car gifts as public officials”.

The offence contravenes section 98 of the Criminal Code Act.

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The judge added that all public officials must act at arm’s length with private individuals especially those that have business relations with their departments or agencies.

The court ordered that the fourth and fifth defendants should be kept in the custody of the EFCC pending their sentencing on Wednesday.

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