8th December, 2014
The former Minister of Aviation, Femi Fani-Kayode has till 23 February 2015 to enter his defence in the case of money laundering against him after a Federal High Court sitting Lagos, Southwest, Nigeria adjourned the case.
The adjournment was sequel to request made by his counsel Mr Olawale Akoni (SAN), that the court give the defence team more time to put their house in order so that they can adequately prepare for their defence against the EFCC prosecutor, Festus Keyamo who did not oppose the adjournment.
Consequently, the presiding judge Justice Rita Ofili-Ajumogobia, acceded to their request.
On 17 November 2014, the court partially upheld a no-case-submission filed by the former minister, discharging and acquitting him of 38 out of 40 counts of money laundering charges
Fani-Kayode is being prosecuted by the anti-graft agency, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, on an amended 40 count charge, bordering on the alleged money laundering offences.
In the ruling, Justice Ofili-Ajumogobia held that from the wording 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 a different format.
“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 institution, 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.
“It is not in doubt that the oral and written submissions of the witnesses are contradictory and inconsistent and no reasonable tribunal is expected to convict on such testimony.
“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
“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
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 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 preside over 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 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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