Tuesday 10 May 2016

CCT Trial: "Saraki was richer than Kwara state before he was governor" – Counsel

Bukola Saraki
Paul Erokoro, one of the lawyers of Senate President Bukola Saraki, caused a stir at the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) on Tuesday when he said his client was richer than the Kwara government before he became governor.

Erokoro said this while cross examining Michael Wetkas, a detective of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

However, his statement elicited the rebuke of Rotimi Jacobs, counsel to the federal government; the prosecution, who said that being rich does not stop a thief from stealing.

Wetkas admitted that the defendant was worth millions in dollars and pounds before he was governor.

Saraki had over $22 million, £12 million, €2.6m and about N4 billion in cash before he became the governor of Kwara State in 2003, his counsel, Paul Erokoro said during the cross examination of the first prosecution witness on Tuesday.

Saraki was also the CEO of defunct Societal Generale Bank of Nigeria (SGBN) which crashed about two years after he was elected governor.

Erokoro revealed Saraki’s stupendous wealth while trying to convince the court that Saraki who is being tried for false declaration of assets was a man of means before he became a governor and could have legally acquired the properties.

Summing up the properties and assets declared by the former Kwara State governor in the assets declaration form he submitted to the Code of Conduct Tribunal in 2003, Enakoro also said Saraki declared vehicles with total value was over N263 million.

The lawyer actually gave a calculator to the prosecution witness to sum up the values of the exotic vehicles listed in the assets declaration form which include a Ferrari worth N25 million, Mercedez Benzes, Lincloln Navigator and Peugeot cars.

However, Jacobs challenged Erokoro when he asked the prosecution witness to calculate the cost of assets declared by Saraki in the form.
“My Lord this is relevant, because the man is rich, he cannot steal,” Erokoro said in response to the protest by the prosecution counsel. “The rich are the ones that has the propensity to steal more,” Jacobs replied.
Erokoro subsequently accused the prosecution of conducting media trial and submitting evidence that are not relevant to the court.

The Chairman of the Tribunal, Justice Danladi Umar, however, moved in to calm nerves.

But this was not the only sparks between the lawyers as the cross examination of the first prosecution witness continued.

Jacobs accused the defence lawyer of asking hypothetical questions when first prosecution witness, Michael Wetkas, was asked if he believed the Code of Conduct Tribunal should have verified the assets declared by Saraki in the forms filled by the former Governor.

But the defence insisted that the questions are proper, saying he will only listen to Jacobs when he gets a job at the Law school.

The defence lawyer said going by Evidence Act, he can ask the witness questions to test his intelligence, how he reasoned, who is he and so on declared that the trial is “war.”

To which Jacobs replied, “We are ready for you.”

Credit: The Cable/PM News

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