A Justice of the Supreme Court, Sylvester Ngwuta, currently standing trial for alleged money laundering, has pleaded not guilty to the 15-count charge of money laundering, breach of professional ethics and forgery leveled against him by the federal government.
When the charges were read to him, the Supreme Court judge told the court that he was not guilty of the 15 counts.
Attempt by his lawyer to ask for bail was rejected by the prosecutor, Mr Adeogun Philips who said he had just been served and would need a short adjournment to respond.
With no objection by the defence lawyers, the trial judge, Justice James Tsoho, stood down the case by two hours.
On resumption of hearing on the bail application, counsel to Justice Ngwuta, Kanu Agabi asked the court to release the defendant on self-recognizance, taking judicial notice of the fact that he is a justice of the Supreme Court and the fact that he has been on administrative bail since on October 8, 2016.
Opposing the application, the prosecuting counsel, Mr Charles Philips, said that the defendant cannot be granted bail with respect to his position.
Mr Philips, who referred to charges number three and charges numbers 10-16 against Justice Ngwuta, informed the tribunal that barely 20 minutes after he was released on administrative bail, Justice Ngwuta gave instructions to a witness in the case to remove two or three bags containing 27 million naira from his bathroom at his residence in Abakaliki, Ebonyi state.
The prosecuting counsel also told the court that Justice Ngwuta also instructed the said witness to remove three exotic cars from his residence on the same day and that they are nowhere to be found. That is what forms the subject of charge number three.
Speaking further he informed the court that in the course of investigation, the Department of State Services (DSS) discovered that Justice Ngwuta maintained multiple identities.
According to him Justice Ngwuta had four passports which he used concurrently.
Although he had reported two of those passports missing, he argued that in any jurisdiction in the world, if a person possesses several identities he cannot be released on self-recognizance.
He therefore asked the court not to grant bail but if it is inclined to, it should grant bail in the most stringent terms.
Reacting to the counter application, counsel to Justice Ngwuta, Mr Kanu Agabi, told the court that he was not willing to join issues with the prosecutor because he had gone into the substantive suit which is not allowed by law and that the constitution is clear as to when bail should be granted or not.
He added that should the court reach its conclusion based on the prosecutor’s submissions, verdict would have been decided before the case is started.
Having listen to both parties, the trial judge, Justice John Tsoho stood down the matter for ruling at 2:30PM.
Justice Ngwuta was one of the seven judges arrested after a DSS raid on the homes of High Court and Supreme Court judges across the country on October 8, 2016.