Monday, November 17, 2014 11:05 pm
Reprieve partially came the way of former Aviation Minister, Femi-Fanikayode Monday morning as a Federal High Court sitting in Lagos, southwest Nigeria, discharged and acquitted him of 38-count money laundering charge out of 40 counts filed against him by the Economic and Finacial Crimes Commission, EFCC.
The presiding Judge Rita Ofili Ajumogobia in her ruling said in considering no case submission as filed by the former minister, the prosecution has failed woefully to prove it case in 38 of the 40-count charge and accordingly discharged and acquitted him while she ordered him to enter his defence in count 25 and 26.
Justice Ajumogobia said the prosecution has led evidence to show the ingredient of the offence that will necessitate the former minister to enter his defence in the two counts.
Fani-Kayode, is standing trial on an amended 40-count charge, bordering on the alleged offences of transacting business without going through a financial institution.
Last Monday, Fani-Kayode’s lawyer, Mr. Ifedayo Adedipe (SAN), made a no case submission on behalf of the former minister.
He stated that he had also filed a reply on points of law, in response to the issues raised by the prosecution in their processes.
Adedipe while adopting his submission urged the court to discharge the former minister of all 40 counts, on the grounds that no case has been made out against him, to warrant him to enter a defence.
“The prosecution called six witnesses, and of all these witnesses, none of them came forward to give any evidence that they had any financial transaction with the former minister
“Prosecution witness 3 (a Superintendent of Police) told this court that nobody came forward to say that he gave any cash to the accused.
“Prosecution witness 5 (former aide to the accused) gave evidence that it was Kolade who gave him the money he lodged into the account of the accused, and this does not prove anything against the former minister,” he stated
Adedipe also argued that even though the statement of account of the accused was put in evidence for which he was required by the prosecution to make explanations, such statement was not prima facie evidence of crime.
Citing the authority of Abacha vs State, Adedipe stressed that by the decision of the Supreme Court, such statement of account could only amount to mere suspicion which no matter how well placed, did not constitute a prima facie case.
“If an individual receives several sums of money from different sources, he is expected to lodge same, and so, the fact that certain amounts are found in his account, does not amount to an offence.
“Consequently, I respectfully urge this court to discharge the accused of all counts in the charge,” he said.
In response, the prosecutor, Mr. Festus Keyamo, urged the court to uphold his written submissions in opposition to the no case submission, and call on the accused to enter his defence.
“Without wasting the time of this court, I will only correct one notion, and that is that the prosecution’s case does not concern lodgement, but transactions which took place before the lodgement.
“Transactions which are done without going through financial institutions, is what comes under the definition of money laundering,” he contended.
Keyamo, therefore, urged the court to uphold the objection of prosecution, and call on the accused to enter his defence.
After listening to the submissions of both counsel, Justice Rita Ofili-Ajumogobia adjourned the case till today for ruling.
After the ruling, Dr Abiodun Layonu, leading two other lawyers, Tola Oshobi and T. Adigun, for the defence, asked for a short date when the former minister will open his defence.
Consequently, the court adjourned till 8 December when the former minister will open his defence.
All witnesses had given various testimonies, as to their relationship with the former minister as well as the manner of investigations conducted on him.
The EFCC closed its case on 10 July this year, while the defence counsel filed a no case submission on behalf of the accused on 5 August.
The former Minister of Aviation was first arraigned sometime in December 2008 before Justice Ramat Mohammed on a 47-count charge, and 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 out of the Lagos Division.
The accused was again re-arraigned before Justice Ajumogobia on February 11, 2013, after the transfer of Murtala-Nyako and re-arraigned again before Ajumogobia on March 6 this year following the amendment of the 47-count charge to 40 counts after the EFCC dropped seven of the counts.
In the charge, the accused was also alleged to have accepted cash payments to 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.