Justice Rilwan Aikawa of the Federal High Court in Lagos yesterday dismissed an application by a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Dele Belgore, challenging the money laundering charges pressed against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission for lack of merit.
The EFCC had arraigned Begore before the Federal High Court in Lagos for allegedly laundering the sum of N470 million.
Belgore, a Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Chieftain who contested the governorship election in Kwara State in 2015 and a former Minister for National Planning, Prof. Abubakar Sulaiman, who served during President Goodluck Jonathan’s Administration were arraigned before the court on a five count charge of money laundering.
The EFCC alleged that the duo in 2014, on or about March 27, 2015, conspired among themselves and directly took possession of N450 million, which they reasonably knew to be proceed of crimes.
The two defendants were also alleged to have on March 27, 2015, transferred the sum of N50 million to one Sheriff Shagaya ,without going through financial institutions.
The alleged offences, according to the prosecutor, Rotimi Oyedepo, are contrary to Sections 18(a), 15(2)(d),1(a), Section 16(d) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) (Amendment) Act, 2012, and punishable under Section 15(3), 4 and 16(2)(b)of the same Act. The two defendants however pleaded not guilty to all the counts.
At the last sitting of the court, Belgore had through his counsel, Ebun Shofunde (SAN) filed an application challenging the competence of the charges and urging the judge to quash the charges and set him free.
Shofunde contended that the EFCC failed to attach an affidavit showing that it had concluded investigation in the case before bringing the case to court.
But in opposition, the EFCC counsel, Rotimi Oyedepo, argued that the current law governing criminal cases in the country was the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015.
He submitted that the ACJA did not list filing of the said affidavit as one of the conditions that must be fulfilled before a case was brought to court, stressing that the provisions of the ACJA were superior to that of the Federal High Court Practice Direction.
Besides, he referred the court to Section 221 of the EFCC which barred a judge from entertaining any objection to criminal charges.
He urged the judge to dismiss Belgore’s application and allow the EFCC to proceed with trial.
In his ruling on Friday, Justice Aikawa threw out Belgore’s application, upholding the EFCC’s argument that the failure to file an affidavit of investigation could not affect the substance of the charges.
Justice Aikawa held, “I am in total agreement with the prosecution that this is a court of summary trial where criminal charges are not filed by a way of information but by summary statement of witnesses as it is in this instance. The prosecution has substantially complied with the provisions of Section 396 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015.”
Also during the proceedings, the court granted two separate applications filed by Belgore and Sulaiman seeking the release of their passports to enable them to travel abroad for medical treatment.
The court granted the defendants’ requests to travel to the United Kingdom and India respectively between July 15 and August 8, 2017 to attend to their health.
The defendants were instructed to promptly return their passports to the court’s Deputy Chief Registrar upon their return to the country.
Further proceedings in the case were adjourned till October 3, 2017.