N4.6bn fraud: Court fixes May 31 to rule on admissibility of Fani-Kayode, others’ statements

A Federal High Court, Lagos, today, fixed May 31, to rule on objections to the admissibility of statements made by defendants in the ongoing trial of former Aviation Minister, Femi Fani-Kayode and three others, facing money laundering charges

Fani-kayode is standing trial on alleged charges of N4.6 billion Money laundering alongside former Minister of State for Finance, Nenandi Usman, a former Chairman of Association of Local Government of Nigeria (ALGON)  Yusuf Danjuma and a limited liability company, Jointrust Dimentions Nigeria Limited.

The Economic and Finacial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had preferred a 17-count charge of Money Laundering against the defendants. And they had all pleaded not guilty to the charges and were granted bails respectively.

EFCC has since opened its case and the third prosecution witness. Mr Shehu Shuaibu was led in evidence in chief.

At the resumed hearing of the matter, the EFCC investigator,  Shuaibu while being  led in evidence by the prosecutor, Mr Rotimi Oyedepo, told the court that during the cause of investigation of the case, the defendants were invited to the agency to state their own sides of the story.

He said that the first and third defendants (Nenadi and Dajuma) were invited, and he showed them exhibit eight which is the Zenith bank account statement of the fourth defendant, (Joint trust), number 1010740698, which they identified.

The witness told the court that after the statement of account was shown to the defendants thereafter, volunteered statements to the commission, after the requisite cautionary words were administered.

When asked about Fani-Kayode, he said that the second defendant was also invited, on May 19, and shown his Zenith bank account number 1004735721, statement where he transfered sums of monies from Jointrust to his account.

According to the witness, the second defendant admitted receiving money from jointrust, and thereafter, also volunteered statements to the EFCC, after caution.

Prosecution then showed the witness the respective statements of the first, second and third defendants, and he confirmed them as their statements made to the EFCC.

When Oyedepo sought to tender the statements in evidence, defence counsel, Messrs Ferdinard Orbih (SAN), Norrison Quakers (SAN) and Clement Onwuenweunor, raised objections to their admissibility for being involuntarily made.

Citing relevant provisions of the Evidenice Act, Orbih told the court that the statement of the first defendant was made under duress and in her absence, while receiving medicals. Adding that same was not volunteered.

In the same vein, Quakers also aligned with the submissions of Orbih (SAN) on the involuntariness of the statement of second defendant, and added that same was not taken in the presence of his counsel.

Citing both statutory and plethora of authorities, defence argued that where the issue of voluntariness of a statement is raised, the correct approach, is for the court to order a trial-within-trial, to test the voluntariness of same.

Third defence counsel (Clement) also towed this line of argument.

Responding, EFCC lawyer argued that a court can only order a trial within trial, where it is satisfied that the statement of the defendant under contention, is confessional in nature.

According to prosecution, the statement of the first defendant was taken by her counsel, with her authority, and not under any form of duress or inducement.

For the second defendant, Oyedepo argued that his statement was taken in the presence of his lawyer, one Olumayowa Owolabi, who he said also minuted on each of the pages of the said statement, as being taken voluntarily.

He argued that another lawyer for the second defendant, one Wale Balogun, had also confirmed that the statement was taken voluntarily.

Oyedepo urged the court to refuse the oral application of defence counsel and also pleaded with defence counsel to allow progress in the case.

Justice Mohammed Aikawa has fixed May 31 for ruling and continuation of trial.

In the charge, the defendants were alleged to have committed the offences between January and March 2015.

In counts one to seven, they were alleged to have unlawfully retained over N3.8 billion which they reasonably ought to have known formed part of the proceeds of an unlawful act of stealing and corruption.

In counts eight to 14, they were alleged to have unlawfully used over N970 million which they reasonably ought to have known formed part of an unlawful act of corruption.

Meanwhile in counts 15 to17 Fani-Kayode and one Olubode Oke who is said to be at large, were alleged to have made cash payments of about N30 million, in excess of the amount allowed by law, without going through a financial institution.

Besides, Fani-Kayode was alleged to have made payments to one Paste Poster Co (PPC) of No 125 Lewis St., Lagos, in excess of amounts allowed by law.

All offences contravenes the provisions of sections 15 (3) (4), 16 (2) (b), and 16 (5) of the Money laundering (prohibition) (Amendment) Act, 2012.

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