A Federal High Court in Lagos on Thursday 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.
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. “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 argued. He further argued that the court should not simply believe that the large sums in cash that Fani-Kayode allegedly transacted, were proceeds of his father’s estate, saying the accused should have called the tenant who paid the money as rent to testify in court and back it up with his statement of account.
But Fani-Kayode’s lawyer, Mr Ifedayo Adedipe (SAN), in his summary argument, maintained that Fani-Kayode made no confession to the EFCC, adding that the anti-graft agency failed to show that Fani-Kayode actually accepted a cash sum of N1million as alleged.
Adedipe said the EFCC also failed to show to the court the person who handed the cash sum to the accused person. He said for the case of the prosecution to succeed, it had to be proven beyond reasonable doubts. “My Lord, it is our submission that the accused does not have to prove his innocence; it is the prosecution that must prove its case beyond all reasonable doubts.
“In this particular case, the prosecution has failed to give the evidence of acceptance of N1million; in the entire trial none of the witnesses brought by the prosecution gave evidence of giving the accused cash,” Adedipe said. The lawyer said the defence had raised plenty doubts in the mind of the court regarding the veracity of the testimony of the EFCC witness, Supo Agbaje, who was earlier declared wanted by the EFCC and subsequently listed as a prosecution witness.
He added:“My Lord, reasonable doubt exists as to what happened and that doubt should be resolved in favour of the accused.
“Do we believe Agbaje, a man fighting for his liberty, who was remanded? “Reasonable doubt exists in the testimony given by Supo Agbaje, who was declared wanted by the EFCC and later used as a witness.”
Adedipe, while urging the court to discharge and acquit Fani-Kayode, said the EFCC had no case against him, but was only striving to “show to the world that we have caught a big fish; but My Lord, there is no big fish here.”