A Federal High Court in Lagos on Tuesday, dismissed an application by a former Minister of Aviation, Femi Fani-kayode, seeking transfer of a money laundering case against him.
Fani-Kayode, who was also the Chairman of Media and Publicity Committee of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Campaign Organisation during the 2015 general election, is standing trial alongside a former Minister of State for Finance, Nenadi Usman.
Also joined as defendants are – former National Chairman of the Association of Local Government in Nigeria ( ALGON ), Yusuf Danjuma, and a company, Join-trust Dimensions Limited.
The accused were arraigned by The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission ( EFCC ) on a 17- count charge of money laundering.
Fani-Kayode and others allegedly laundered N4.6billion, according to the EFCC.
The Commission alleged they 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 proceeds of corruption.
In counts eight to 14, the accused allegedly used over N970 million which they reasonably ought to have known formed part of an unlawful act of corruption.
Meanwhile, in counts 15 to 17 Fani-Kayode and one Olubode Oke, who is said to be at large, allegedly made cash payments of about N30 million, in excess of the amount allowed by law, without going through a financial institution.
Besides, Fani-Kayode allegedly made payments to one Paste Poster Co (PPC) of No 125 Lewis Street, Lagos, in excess of amounts allowed by law.
EFCC alleged the offences contravened the provisions of sections 15 (3) (4), 16 (2) (b), and 16 (5) of the Money laundering (prohibition) (Amendment) Act, 2012 and punishable under same.
The accused persons pleaded not guilty to the charges.
The accused were first arraigned on June 28, 2016 before Justice Muslim Hassan of the same court, but the judge withdrew from the suit on March 16, this year following an application by Fani-Kayode, citing likely bias by the judge.
The case was thereafter, re-assigned to Justice Mohammed Aikawa and the accused were re-arraigned on the same charges.
At the last adjourned date on June 21, defence counsel, Mr Norrisson Quakers, SAN, had prayed the court to transfer the case to its Abuja division, arguing that the court lacked jurisdiction to adjudicate on the matter.
Quakers argued that the facts of the case showed that all the transactions carried out by the accused as Director of Media and Publicity of the Goodluck Jonathan Campaign Organisation, took place in Abuja.
Besides, he had argued that the accused resides in Abuja and had another ongoing trial at the Federal High Court in Abuja, but EFCC’s lawyer, Mr Rotimi Oyedepo, opposed the application and urged the court to refuse it on the grounds that the transactions as well as cheques and receipts in furtherance of same, were done in Lagos.
Oyedepo thereafter urged the court to dismiss the application for transfer and described it as a mere waste of the court’s time.
At the resumed hearing on Tuesday, Justice Aikawa, in his ruling, held that some of the authorities cited by defence counsel, were delivered before the enactment of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015, which he noted had provided exceptions to the issues of venue of court.
“In the case before me, the prosecution avers in its counter affidavit that “the sum of N30 million was paid to PW1 (Olusegun Idowu) of Paste Posters Company Ltd, who has his office in Lagos”.
“This, in my view shows that all facts leading to the transaction was done in Lagos, and only evidence will prove otherwise.
“In the light of all these, it is clear that the facts and circumstances of this case falls into the exceptions of the law regarding criminal trials.
“There is no justification to warrant a transfer of this case to Abuja; the interest of justice requires that the trial of this case continues in this court.
“This application hereby fails and is accordingly dismissed,” he ruled.
The court also ruled on an application for objection raised by defence counsel on the last adjourned date, challenging the tendering of photocopies of payment receipts by PW1, who began giving testminony on June 7.
Aikawa held that it was not the business of the court to concern itself with whether or not a document is original, so long as the document sought to be tendered, is duly certified.
The court accordingly, dismissed the objections, admitted the receipts in evidence and marked same as exhibits 3 and 3A respectively.
The court then called on prosecution to continue with the examination of his first witness.
Meanwhile, defence counsel, Quakers, sought for an adjournment to enable him study the exhibits and prepare his cross examination.
The court granted the request and adjourned the case to Sept 27 for cross examination and continuation of trial.
26 Sept, 2017