By Yemi Oyeyemi, Abuja
A Federal High Court in Abuja has struck out the N1.84 billion money laundering charges brought by the Federal Government against Colonel Nicholas Ashinze (rtd), a former Military Assistant to Col. Sambo Dasuki (rtd.) and eight others.
Dasuki was a former National Security Adviser (NSA) to former President Goodluck Jonathan.
The charges on alleged corruption were thrown out by Justice Okon Abang following its withdrawal by the Attorney General of the Federation AGF after seven years of trial.
While striking out the 13-count amended charges, Justice Abang discharged the nine defendants from the alleged corruption issue.
Although the Judge did not pronounce them acquitted, the Supreme Court of Nigeria had in several judgments held that discharging defendants from criminal charges is tantamount to acquittal from the same charges.
Striking out a case essentially means that the charges against the defendants are dismissed and the case is terminated
In the instant case where the charges are struck out and the defendants are discharged, they are no longer subject to criminal prosecution for the charges in that particular case.
Justice Abang held that no court of law can question the exercise of AGF’s powers, under Section 174 (1)(b) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), to take over or terminate any matter before any court of law.
Counsel to the Federal Government, Mr David Kaswe had applied for withdrawal of the charges apparently acting on the instructions of the AGF, Malam Abubakar Malami SAN.
Ashinze (1st defendant) was standing trial alongside an Austrian, Wolfgang Reinl; Edidiong Idiong and Sagir Mohammed listed as 2nd to 4th defendants respectively.
Other defendants in the case are five companies: Geonel Integrated Services Limited, Unity Continental Nigeria Limited, Helpline Organisation, Vibrant Resource Limited and Sologic Integrated Service Limited listed as 5th to 9th defendants respectively.
They were re-arraigned by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on a 13-count money laundering charge.
The amended charge, dated October 3, 2017, was filed on October. 6, 2017.
The money was said to have emanated from the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA) where Ashinze served as Special Assistant.
The nine defendants had at the commencement of the trial, pleaded not guilty to all the charges preferred against them.
In the course of the trial, EFCC through its counsel, Mr Ofem Uket, had called seven witnesses during the seven years the case lasted in the court.
Sources in the Federal Ministry of Justice said that the case file had been reviewed severally and found out that the charges against the defendants cannot be sustained, hence, the decision to terminate it.