Belgore Money Laundering Trial: Court Hears Deziani’s Application To Be Joined

* Deziani

 

Justice Mohammed Aikawa of the  Federal High Court, Lagos on Monday heard an application by a former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke seeking to be joined as a defendant in a money laundering suit.

The former minister is seeking to be joined as a defendant in the N500 million fraud charge slammed on a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Dele Belgore and a former Minister of Planning, Professor Abubakar Sulaiman, by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

In particular, she wants the court to compel the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF)and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN) to bring her back to Nigeria from the United Kingdom, where she has been since 2015 to put up her defence in the case.

Arguing the application, Diezani’s lawyer, Omyechi Ikpeazu (SAN) declared that his client has been named in a 4-count fraud charge by the EFCC and that no amount of legal impediments can deter her from clearing her name.

While clarifying that the application is not intended to challenge the prosecutorial powers of the EFCC, Ikpeazu said it is improper for the anti-graft agency to bring a charge against a person said to be at large.

He said, “It is either the case continue without the applicant or she be allowed to come in as a defendant to clear her name. We have no objection if the name of the applicant is extracted from the charge and the case go on. The fact that she had another charge against her in the United Kingdom should not be the basis for hanging another charge on her neck in Nigeria. The complaints against the applicant in the United Kingdom was made by the EFCC and it is our thinking that if the agency is mindful of prosecuting her over there, it should extract her name from the charge in Nigeria”.

TThe lawyer was of the view that the action of the anti-graft agency in mentioning Diezani’s name in a criminal proceeding is an infringement on her fundamental rights.

According to him, if the prosecution is not willing to amend the charge to accommodate his client’s name as one of the defendants, then, her name should be extracted from the charge.

While opposing the application, Belgore’s lawyer, Ebun Shofunde (SAN), contended that Diezani is not a necessary party to be joined in the suit because at the end of the day without her, the court will only determine the guilt or innocence of his client and his co-accused

“The applicant’s guilt or innocence will not be pronounced on behind her back. So her constitutional rights will not be infringed upon”, he said.

Shofunde added that it would be unjust for the court to allow an amendment to a charge on which trial has commenced since February just because an application was brought to that effect in September.

Lawyer to the 2nd defendant, Olatunji Ayanlaja (SAN) did not file any counter affidavit to the application.

He told the court that he is ready to abide by whatever decision arrived at by the court.

However, in opposing the application, EFCC’s lawyer, Rotimi Oyedepo, described it as frivolous and a calculated attempt to annoy the parties before the court.

He disclosed that the prosecution was only permitted by law to amend a charge to the extent of adding an offence and not to add a new party who was not privy to a trial that has commenced.

He alleged that the former minister fled the country the moment she became aware that the commission had lodged an investigation into the alleged fraud.

“We made efforts to interview her on some of the counts leading to this charge but she never made herself available even when investigation was on-going.

“Therefore, bringing an application to join the other defendants when trial had started and two witnesses has been called is misconceived and  belated

“Allowing an amendment to the charge will cause avoidable delay and prejudiced the case of the defendants. The court is not deciding the applicant’s fate in this case and since there is no time bound for the filing of criminal charge, the commission can proceed with the applicant anytime she is in Nigeria”, Oyedepo said.

After listening to the submissions of parties, Justice Aikawa adjourned to Wednesday for ruling on the application.

In a five count amended charge, Diezani was alleged to have conspired with Belgore and Sulaiman on or about March 27, 2015, to directly take possession of the sum of N450 million, which they reasonably ought to have known forms part of proceeds of unlawful act.

The trio were also alleged to have taken the said funds in cash, which exceeded the amount authorized by law, without going through any financial institutions.

Belgore and Sulaiman were also alleged to have paid the sum of N50 million to one, Sheriff Shagaya, without going through any bank.

The offences were said to be contrary to Sections 18(a), 15(2)(d), 1(a), 16(d) and punishable under Sections 15(3) and 4, 16 (2)(b), and 16(d) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) (Amendment) Act, 2012.

 

Be the first to comment on "Belgore Money Laundering Trial: Court Hears Deziani’s Application To Be Joined"

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.


*