A Federal High Court, Lagos, yesterday fixed June 18 for judgment in the alleged money laundering case filed against former Aviation Minister Femi Fani-Kayode by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
Justice Rita Ofile-Ajumogobia adjourned for judgment after parties in the suit adopted their final written addresses.
She also granted Fani-Kayode’s prayer to substitute one of his sureties, Wale Ajisebutu, with one Ogbor Elliot, following Ajisebutu’s request to withdraw his suretiship.
At the resumed hearing yesterday, counsel to Fani-Kayode, led by Ifedayo Adedipe (SAN), urged the court to dismiss the two-count charge against the accused as well as discharge and acquit him.
Adedipe told the court that the defence relied and adopted its final written address filed on April 7, and its reply on point of law to the prosecution’s written address, dated April 27.
He argued that the prosecution’s submission in the case were misplaced and misguided, accusing the EFCC of wanting to show to the world that they have a “big fish”. But Adedipe insisted that “there’s no fish here”.
According to Fani-Kayode’s lawyers, the prosecution failed woefully to prove that the accused received the alleged N1 million, adding that no witness was brought by the EFCC to substantiate its claim.
He said: “It is now an accepted principle of law that the prosecution in all criminal cases must prove its case.
“Nobody gave evidence that he gave or saw the accused collecting money (N1 million). The only evidence was that of prosecution witness Supo Agbaje, whom the prosecution had declared wanted.
“In his statement, the witness said he deposited N1 million in the accused’s account, but never said he saw the accused collecting money.
“What happened after the receipt of money is not the case, but receiving the money. The accused never confessed to receiving money from anybody and there is no such evidence before the court.”
Adedipe described as unreliable, the evidence by Prosecution Witness (PW4), noting that it never stated the date, place as well as denominations of the money given to him by the accused to lodge in his account.
“It is difficult to know where the lies began and truth resurfaces. Reasonable doubt exists in the case of the prosecution, and under such circumstances, the matter should be resolved in favour of the accused.
“This is a case that cries out to high heavens for lack of evidence. I pray this court to hold that the prosecution has failed to prove its case and to discharge and acquit the accused,” said Adedipe.
But EFCC’s lawyer, Festus Keyamo countered the defence submission and prayed the court to find Fani-Kayode guilty as charged.
Drawing the court’s attention to Exhibit PW4G, Keyamo held that Fani-Kayode admitted in his ‘confessional statement’ that he made cash transactions above N500 thousand without using a financial institution.
He argued that there was actual receipt of the cash, urging the court to look at the purpose for the enactment of the Money Laundering Act.
“If the law insists that the prosecution must prove the source of fund, it will defeat the essence of the law.
“As Minister for Tourism, the accused was found with large sums of money, which he couldn’t explain.
“It is not in every case that the burden of prove lies with the prosecution. In the case at hand, the prosecution has discharged its burden by showing that huge sums of money above the limit were found on him and he couldn’t explain where the money came from,” he said.
Keyamo said the burden shifted to the defence to provide documents to disprove the prosecution’s case.
He said: “The only way to have gotten the document to collapse the prosecution’s case was to bring bank statement of that transaction. The court wants to see that the transaction was done through a financial institution.
“It will make mincemeat of the Money Laundering Law and render it ineffective should the court rule that the prosecution must at all time, prove where the money is coming from.
“Even if the transaction is legitimate, the volume of money and its source will be the crime.
“It is irrelevant to try to prove that the money was transaction from his father’s estate because the crime is the volume of money.”
Keyamo added that Fani-Kayode had in his confessional statement dated December 22, 2008, admitted to have made transactions above N500,000 in his account arising from his father’s estate.
He argued that the accused also admitted having knowledge of certain cash and cheque transactions in and out of his account that exceeded the limit.
Keyamo drew the court’s attention to the investigation report written by the Investigating Police Officer ( IPO), who said his team did not know where the money came from, praying that Fani-Kayode be convicted for the alleged offence.
The former minster was accused of making a transaction exceeding N500,000 on September 20, 2006, which was not done through a financial institution, by accepting N2.1 million in cash.
The money was allegedly paid into his personal bank account by his aide, Supo Agbaje, while he served as Minister of Culture and Tourism.
The defendant pleaded not guilty to the alleged offence, which EFCC said contravenes the Money Laundering Act.
Credit: The Nation
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