Mr Muhammed Kuchazi, a Commercial Director of the Process and Industrial Development (P&ID) has been listed to give evidence in a UK court between Jan. 23 and March 11.
Kuchazi is being prosecuted alongside his company, Kore Holdings Limited on an eight-count charge bordering on failure to comply with regulations of the special control unit against money laundering (SCUML) as required by the Money Laundering Prohibition Act in the alleged 9.6 billion dollars fraud involving the P&ID Ltd,
Kuchazi, in a motion on notice filed before Justice Zainab Abubakar of a Federal High Court (FHC), Abuja, by his lawyer, Eric Ifere, prayed the court to allow him travel to the UK to testify in the company’s case against the Nigerian government.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that a hearing in the case is scheduled to take place between Jan. 23 and March 11 at the High Court of England.
NAN reports that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had, in a suit marked: FHC/ABJ/CR/319/2020, sued Kore Holdings Limited and Kuchazi as 1st and 2nd defendants respectively.
The defendants are being tried over their alleged Involvement in the alleged multiple fraud involving the P&ID scandal.
However, Kuchazi’s counsel, Ifere, informed Justice Abubakar on Thursday about the motion on notice he filed, seeking an order to allow his client travel to England to give his evidence.
The development happened shortly after the first prosecution witness, Idiku Catherine Ukpo, who is the Head of Non-financial Transactions Unit of First Bank of Nigeria Ltd, was cross-examined by Ifere and reexamined by EFCC’s lawyer, Bala Sanga.
Hardly had the judge adjourned the matter until Jan. 25 for trial continuation, when Kuchazi’s lawyer told the court that he had a motion, stating the reliefs sought.
He said a hearing in the mother case was scheduled for early next year in the UK court and that his client would be giving his testimony in the matter.
Justice Abubakar directed him to apply administratively since the case had already been adjourned.
“If you root the application through the deputy chief registrar, it will be brought to my attention,” she said, assuring that a date would be fixed to hear the motion.
NAN reports that the motion, dated and filed on Nov. 1, was brought pursuant to Section 6(6), 36(5) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), Section 492(3) of Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA), 2015 and under the inherent jurisdiction of the court.
Kuchazi also sought an order granting him leave to travel out of jurisdiction to England to give evidence as a witness of P&ID Ltd in the case against the Federal Government in suit number: CL-2018-000182 on the date slated above which, he said, would not coincide with his trial in Abuja.
He further sought a consequential order directing the court registrar to communicate reliefs 1 and 2 above to the Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS) to facilitate his passage upon traveling at any Nigerian travel departure terminals to the UK.
Giving seven grounds while the motion should be granted, Kuchazi said as a witness to P&ID, he had made a written witness statement on May 6 and he is required to attend the court hearing to be cross-examined on his evidence.
He said the trial scheduled would be between Jan. 23 and March 11 in the High Court of Justice, Business and Property Courts of England and Wales, Commercial Court (KBD) in the case between P&ID and FG marked: CL-2018-000182; and FG Vs. P&ID with case number: CL-2019-000752.
“The 2nd defendant’s witness statement is crucial to the case of P&ID in the trial, and there is a need for the High Court of England to evaluate the evidence upon the 2nd defendant’s oral witness’ testimony during the hearing,” the motion read in part.
Besides, Kuchazi said that his international passport was deposited with the deputy chief registrar of the Abuja court as part of the conditions for his bail granted on Feb. 4, 2021.
He said if his passport had expired, he would need the old one for the issuance of a new passport booklet before he could travel.
He said he had fully complied with the bail conditions and had attended court hearings on all the previous days fixed for trial.
He said he is not a flight risk and “he has deep roots in Nigeria and he is a community leader in Minna, including a loving and long-term marriage to his three wives with many children.”
Kuchazi, who said that the court had unfettered discretion to grant his prayers, said it was in the interest of justice to do so.
NAN reports that Kuchazi was arraigned on Feb. 1, 2021, alongside the company, on an eight-count criminal charge bordering on alleged money laundering at the Abuja court, and pleaded not guilty to the charges.
It would be recalled that P&ID Ltd. had approached a British court to seek compensation, claiming the Nigeria government breached a 2010 gas contract agreement.
The government had contracted P&ID to build gas processing facilities around Calabar, Cross River.
According to the contract, the government was required to supply wet gas of up to 400 million cubic feet daily.
The court initially granted the firm an arbitral award of 6.6 billion dollars.
But the figure rose to about 9 billion dollars with an additional 2.3 billion dollars in accumulated interest at seven per cent rate, after Nigeria refused to enter an appeal for more than five years after the original ruling.
The Nigerian government had appealed the British court ruling and secured an order delaying the execution of the court judgment.
The government says the contract was fraudulent ab initio and that both parties (including the Nigerian officials who signed for Nigeria) signed it to defraud the Nigerian government.
The contract was said to have been signed by Nigeria’s former Petroleum Minister, Diezani Alison-Madueke, who has various corruption cases against her.
She is currently in London where she is being investigated for money laundering.
Some of the individuals being tried by the EFCC include a British national, Mr James Nolan, whose bail was recently revoked and a warrant of arrest issued against him by Justice Ahmed Mohammed of FHC after he was said to have jumped bail.
A former Director of Legal Services, Ministry of Petroleum Resources, Mrs Grace Taiga, among others, is also standing trial in the alleged deal.(NAN)