N650m Fraud: Court Asked To Strike Out Charges Against Senator, Others
A former Senator representing Oyo Central Senatorial District, Ayo Ademola Adeseun, yesterday urged a Federal High Court in Lagos to strike out the money laundering charge brought against him by the by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). Adeseun, who was arraigned before Justice Muslim Hassan alongside a former minister of State of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Oloye Jumoke Akinjide and a politician, Chief Olanrewaju Otiti, on a 24-count charge of the alleged N650 million fraud, is challenging the powers of the EFCC to try him and his co-accused persons. The accused persons were all accused of conspiring to directly take possession of N650million, which they reasonably ought to have known forms part of the proceeds of an unlawful act. According to the EFCC, they allegedly received the money from Mrs Alison-Madueke in the build up to the 2015 general election. The money was said to be part of a larger sum of $115 million allegedly doled out by Mrs Alison-Madueke to influence the outcome of the 2015 presidential election. However, they all pleaded not guilty to the charge. After their arraignment, Justice Hassan had fixed Monday for commencement of trial of the three accused persons. However, at the resumed hearing of the matter, counsel representing Adeseun, Micheal Lana, informed the court that he has filed two motions on behalf of his client. Lana stressed that one of the motions has to do with the faulty procedure adopted by the EFCC in initiating criminal proceedings against the defendants while the other is challenging the court’s jurisdiction to entertain the matter. On the first motion, the lawyer argued that contrary to the provisions of Section 382 (1) (2) (4) and (6) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) 2015, his client was never served with either the charge or notice of trial by the court. He maintained, “Prosecution starts from arraignment of the defendants, but where there was no service, all actions taken in the proceedings become a nullity. Section 382 of the ACJA said that it is the court that should serve the charge through the bailiff and not the prosecutor.” On the second motion, the lawyer argued that the charge which was brought under the Money Laundering Act has no linkage with any of the items listed under Section 251 of the Constitution. He said, “None of the 24 counts as listed in the charge relates to items listed under Section 251 of the Constitution upon which the Federal High Court can adjudicate upon. Section 20 of the money laundering Act is limited by the provisions of Section 251 of the Constitution. We urged the court to grant these applications”. Other defence lawyers, Chief Bolaji Ayorinde (SAN) and Akinola Oladeji, also urged the court to grant the applications. Responding, EFCC’s lawyer, Rotimi Oyedepo, urged the court to dismiss the two applications for being frivolous. On the first motion, the lawyer argued that the charge was validly laid before the court. He noted that Section 382 of the ACJA does not affect the validity of the charge but merely provides for requisite notices to be issued by the trial court on the defendants upon the assignment of the case within 10 days. He said, “The subsequent assignment of this case to this court and pursuant to the notices issued by this court to parties is not only a substantial compliance with Section 382 of the ACJA but has also rendered the motion academic. I urged the court to consider the motion with the substantive issue raised in our charge and deliver ruling on the motion in the course of judgement in the matter pursuant to Section 396 (2) of the ACJA.” On the second motion, Oyedepo maintained that the Federal High Court is the only court empowered by an Act of the National Assembly to adjudicate on the matter. “The charge before the court can be subsumed in Section 251 (1) Paragraph 1 of the Constitution. The fact of the case ensued from the management of a federal government agency which is the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC)”, he said. Ruling on the applications has been reserved while trial of the accused persons is expected to commence today.