Alleged Money Laundry: Fani-Kayode Seeks Adjournment to Prepare Defence

Former Minister of Aviation, Mr. Femi Fani-Kayode, who is standing trial before a Lagos Federal High Court, on two count charges of money laundry, on Monday, asked the court for more time to enable him prepare his defence.‬
‪The court presided over by Justice Rita Ofili-Ajumogobia, had November 17, 2014, partially upheld a no-case -submission filed by the former Minister, discharged and acquitted him of 38 out of 40 counts of money laundering charges.‬
‪At the resumed trial on Monday, counsel to the former Minister, Mr. Olawale Akoni, SAN, had informed the court of the accused inability to open his defence, and said such has been communicated to the prosecution team led by Mr. Festus Keyamo. He therefore urged the court for an adjournment to enable him ‘put his house’ in order.‬
‪Consequently, the presiding judge, Justice Ofili-Ajumogobia adjourned the matter till February 23 and 24, 2015.‬
‪Fani-Kayode, is being prosecuted by anti-graft agency, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, on an amended 40 count charge, bordering on the alleged offence.‬
‪At the last trail of the case, Justice Ofili-Ajumogobia, in her ruling while on the accused’s no-case-submission, discharged and acquitted the accused of the 38 counts and ordered him to enter defence on two count charges.‬
‪In the ruling, Justice Ofili-Ajumogobia held that from the wordings of the charge, it was clear that they were basically set out in two formats, with counts one to 33 of the same format, while other counts of different formats.‬
‪Parts of the ruling reads; “for ease of reference, I shall set out counts one and 33 only, being prototype of the two species of the counts; the distinction however, is for the basis of convenience.‬
‪”In one format, the accused was alleged to have paid the amount into his own account, while in the other, he was alleged to have paid it into the account of a third party.‬
‪”I find that there was an acceptance of cash payment of an amount exceeding N500,000 by the applicant which was not done through a financial institutiion, and also, a payment at the behest of the applicant.‬
‪”This distinction pales into insignificance when one considers the elements of each counts.‬
‪”The first element would have been satisfied if the prosecution led evidence to show that cash sums exceeding the statutory threshold was handed to a specified third party, which was further transmitted to a financial system.‬
‪”The second element is discharged where the prosecution leads evidence to show that the said transmission was at the behest of the applicant.‬
‪”It will be immaterial in my view whether the monies were paid into the account of the accused or a third party.‬
‪”Only PW4 and PW5 gave evidence about payment; the testimony of PW5 in particular was in respect of counts 21, 23 and 31, and on the application of prosecution, PW5 was declared a hostile witness.‬
‪”It is not in doubt that the oral and written submissions of PW5 are contradictory and inconsistent and no reasonable tribunal is expected to convict on such testimony.‬
‪”The natural implication therefore, is that no evidence exists before this court to establish counts 21, 23, and 25.‬
‪”By extension, the same calamity befalls the remaining counts in the charge. I am of the considered view that no scintilla of evidence has been put forward by prosecution to establish the two key elements of each count in the charge save 25 and 26.‬
‪”PW4 testified on counts 25 and 26 that on the instruction of the accused, he made cash deposits in the sum of N1 million and 1.1 million on the Sept. 20 and 29, 2006.‬
‪”PW1 was also led in evidence to tender exhibits PE1A and PE1B, purporting to be statements of accounts alleging actual lodgements of the said sum.‬
‪”In the light of all these, I hold the firm view that the prosecution has made out a prima facie case to warrant the accused person to put up an explanation by way of defence with respect to counts 25 and 26.‬
‪”I need not say more at this stage, in order not to fetter my discretion in this matter.‬
‪”The indubitable conclusion to be arrived at is that, this application succeeds in part, the no case submission of the applicant is upheld on all counts, except, counts 25 and 26.‬
‪”In other words, the applicant is discharged and acquitted of counts, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, and 40‬
‪”The accused is therefore, ordered to enter his defence with respect to counts 25 and 26. This is my ruling as read out in open court.”‬
‪Counts 25 reads: “That you, Chief Femi Fani-Kayode on or before 20th Sept. 2006, while serving as minister of culture and tourism of the Federal republic of Nigeria, in Lagos within the jurisdiction of this honourable court, made a transaction exceeding N500,000 which was not done through financial institution, by accepting cash payment of N1 million, which sum was further paid into your personal account number, 103450252601 with First Inland Bank PLc Apapa branch, now FCMB, through one Supo Agbaje, your administrative staff, now at large.‬
‪Count 26 reads: “That you, Chief Femi Fani-Kayode on or before 20th Sept. 2006, while serving as minister of culture and tourism of the Federal republic of Nigeria, in Lagos within the jurisdiction of this honourable court, made a transaction exceeding N500,000 which was not done through financial institution, by accepting cash payment of N1.1 million, which sum was further paid into your personal account number, 103450252601 with First Inland Bank PLc Apapa branch, now FCMB, through one Supo Agbaje, your administrative staff, now at large.‬
‪The EFCC had opened its case on March 10, and called six witnesses including: a Bank Relationship Officer, an Investigating Police Officer, a Bank Legal Officer, a Public servant, a former aide to the accused, and an Operator with the EFCC.‬
‪The EFCC closed its case on July 10, while defence counsel filed a no-case -submission on behalf of the accused on August 5.‬
‪It would be recalled that the former Minister of Aviation, Mr. Fani-Kayode, was first arraigned sometime in December 2008 before Justice Ramat Mohammed on a 47-count charge.‬
‪He had pleaded not guilty to the charge and Justice Mohammed had granted him bail in the sum of N200 Million with two sureties in like sum.‬
‪He was re-arraigned before Justice Binta Murtala-Nyako, following the transfer of Mohammed from the Lagos Division.‬
‪The accused was again re-arraigned before Justice Ajumogobia on Feb. 11, 2013. after the transfer of Murtala-Nyako.‬
‪He was again re-arraigned before Ajumogobia on March 6, following the amendment of the 47-count charge to 40-counts, the EFCC having dropped seven of the counts.‬
‪Ajumogobia is the third judge to be ceased of the case in the last five years.‬
‪In the charge, the accused was alleged to have transacted with funds exceeding N500, 000 without going through a financial institution.‬
‪The accused was also alleged to have accepted cash payments in the tune of about N100 million, while he held sway as Minister of Aviation and Minister of Culture and Tourism respectively.‬
‪The offence is said to contravene the provisions of Sections 15(1) (a) (b) (c) (d) and 15 (2) (a) (b) of the Money Laundering (prohibition) Act, 2004.‬

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