The scheduled trial of a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Dele Belgore, for alleged money laundering, was stalled on Thursday due to the unavailability of the prosecuting counsel for the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Mr. Rotimi Oyedepo.
Justice R.M. Aikawa of the Federal High Court in Lagos, who is presiding over the case, was told by another lawyer from the EFCC office, N. Anana that Oyedepo was unable to make it to court as his vehicle broke down on the way to court.
Besides, Anana said even the first prosecution witness coming from Ekiti was still on his way.
He urged Justice Aikawa to stand the case down for a short moment for Oyedepo and the witness to arrive.
However, Belgore’s lawyer, Mr. Ebun Shofunde (SAN), opposed the application for a short stand down, saying he had another matter for the day, adding that the court could not wait for a witness who was on his way.
Shofunde said the court should rather adjourn the case.
The second defence counsel, O. Ayanlaja (SAN), aligned himself with Shofunde, noting that his client came all the way from Abuja to attend his trial in Lagos and the prosecution should show seriousness.
Responding to the parties, Justice Aikawa said he would not stand the matter down to wait for a witness in one case when there were 29 cases on his cause list for the day.
He charged the prosecution to show more seriousness so that the matter could be disposed of as soon possible.
He consequently adjourned till March 13 and 14 for definite trial.
Belgore was arraigned on February 8, 2017 alongside a former Minister of National Planning, Prof. Abubakar Sulaiman on five counts of alleged laundering N500m.
Sulaiman, a professor of Political Science and International Relations at the University of Abuja, and Belgore, a former governorship aspirant in Kwara State, were accused of conspiring between themselves to commit the offence on March 27, 2015.
The duo was accused of making two separate cash payments of N450m and N50m on March 27, 2015, without going through any financial institution.
The EFCC claimed that the defendants paid the N50m to one Sheriff Shagaya.
The EFCC said the cash sums were above the lawful threshold permitted by the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act.
The EFCC claimed that the defendants “ought to have reasonably known that the N450m and N50m formed part of proceeds of an unlawful act.”
Belogore and Sulaiman were accused of violating sections 1(a), 16(d), 15(2)(d) and18(a) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) (Amendment) Act, 2012.
The prosecution said they are liable to be punished under sections 15(3)(4), and 16(2)(b) of the same Act.
When the charges were read to them, however, the defendants pleaded not guilty.
Justice Aikawa subsequently admitted both Belgore and Sulaiman to bail on self-recognisance.
February 23, 2017