Adjekpagbon Blessed Mudiaga
A former Minister of Aviation, Mr. Femi Fani-Kayode, has been acquitted of corruption charges by a Federal High Court in Lagos.
The former Minister has been arraigned since 2008 by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), before Justice Ramat Mohammed, for allegedly laundering about N100 million when he was in charge of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, before he later occupied the office of Minister of Aviation.
However, in the proceedings adjudged earlier today by a High Court Judge, Rita Ofili-Ajumogobia, she said the prosecution’s case was “feeble” and failed to provide “copious evidence” linking the former aviation minister to money laundering.
The case had taken a different dimension on November 17, 2014 when the alleged laundered sum was reduced to N2.1 million, hence the court dismissed 38 of the 40-count charge levelled against the defendant for lack of empirical evidence.
The prosecution counsel of EFCC, Mr. Festus Keyamo’s efforts at prevailing the court to rely on two remaining counts to convict Fani-Kayode failed to sway the court.
Despite Keyamo’s aversion that Fani-Kayode transacted in cash sums beyond N500,000, stipulated by the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, the court ruled in the favour of the defendant, though the EFCC prosecutor emphasised that the defendant had admitted making such transactions in his confessional statement to the EFCC on the 22nd of December 2008.
The EFCC prosecutor also averred that the prosecution had offered reliable evidence that Fani-Kayode made transaction above the Money Laundering ceiling aforementioned. In this vein, Keyamo had posited that it was imperative for the defendant to explain where he got the money.
“Once you cannot explain the source of the large sum of money found on you, you are guilty of money laundering. If the prosecution must show where the money is coming from, then the whole essence of the money laundering law is defeated. It is not in all cases that the burden of proof lies on the prosecution; the burden at this point shifts to the accused person,” Keyamo had averred.
Nonetheless, Ifedayo Adedipe (SAN), the defence counsel to Fani-Kayode countered that his client did not make any confession to the EFCC as the prosecutor-counsel had claimed. Adedipe argued that the EFCC could not prove with incontrovertible evidence that his client accepted a sum of N100 million in cash as alleged by the anti-graft agency. He further said that the EFCC did not also present any witness who handed the said amount to the defendant.
With the foregoing, the defence counsel said the prosecution could not prove beyond reasonable doubts the charges against the accused.