Faith Aghaze, Abuja
A Federal High Court in Lagos yesterday fixed July 1 for judgment in the money laundering trial of a former Minister of Aviation, Femi Fani-Kayode. Justice Rita Ofili-Ajumogobia adjourned the case to July 1 following the absence of the lead prosecuting counsel, Mr. Festus Keyamo.
The Union reports that when a lawyer announced appearance for Keyamo, the judge said she would prefer Keyamo, who had been prosecuting the case. Ofili-Ajumogobia had on May 5 fixed June 18 for judgment following adoption of final written addresses and summary arguments by lawyers to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) as well as that of the accused.
Fani-Kayode, whose trial began in 2008 before Justice Ramat Mohammed, was arraigned by the EFCC to have laundered about N100 million while he was the Minister of Culture and Tourism and subsequently, Aviation Minister. The allegedly laundered sum was, however, reduced to N2.1million on Nov. 17, 2014 after Ofili-Ajumogobia dismissed 38 out of the 40-count levelled against Fani-Kayode for want of proof.
The EFCC prosecutor, Keyamo, while urging the court to uphold the remaining two counts and to accordingly convict Fani-Kayode, said the former minister had failed to exonerate himself of the allegations. Keyamo pointed out that the object of the charge was that Fani-Kayode transacted in cash sums above N500,000, which was the threshold stipulated by the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act.
Keyamo had argued that Fani-Kayode had admitted making such transactions in his confessional statement of Dec. 22, 2008 made to the EFCC. He said: “In this statement, he admitted that he transacted in cash above N500,000. My Lord, this statement went in without objection by the accused person and the statement was voluntary.
“With the combination of this confessional statement and the statement of the IPO that investigated the allegation, we rely on all of this to submit that we have discharged our burden that monies were received by the accused person in cash and were not done through any financial institution.” Keyamo had argued that the prosecution had discharged its duty once it established that Fani-Kayode transacted in large sums above the Money Laundering threshold, adding that it was left for Fani-Kayode to explain the source of the money.