Fani-Kayode’s trial halted as defence counsel raises fresh objection

Femi Fani-Kayode, former aviation minister

The case has seen several delays

The arraignment of Femi Fani-Kayode, a former Minister of Aviation, over money laundering charges was halted Monday after his lawyer raised fresh objections to the prosecution’s amended charges.

The Federal Government is prosecuting Mr. Fani-Kayode, a lawyer, on money laundering charges amounting to about N100 million.

From the initial 47-count of N230 million money laundering allegation, the charges were pruned down to 40 counts during Monday’s trial.

The first amended charge read: That you Chief Femi Fani-Kayode on or about the 22nd day of November 2006, whilst serving as Minister of Aviation of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, in Lagos, within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court made a financial transaction exceeding N500,000, which was not done through a financial institution by accepting cash payment of N10 million which sum was further carried in cash to First Inland Bank, Plc, Apapa Branch (now First City Monument Bank Plc) through one Mark Saviour Ndifreke (your close associate now at large) and put in an investment Account in your favour for 90 days contrary to Section 15(1)(d) and punishable under Section 15(2)(b) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2004.

However, after the charge was read, Ifedayo Adedipe, the defence counsel, said that he was objecting to it in line with Section 167 of the Criminal Procedure Act.

“The accused person is alleged to have received money from a nameless, anonymous person. We have to know the person so we can know who to address. As it is, the charge is vague,” said Mr. Adedipe, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria. “They alleged that he accepted. When you accuse somebody of accepting money, clearly the person from whom the money was accepted becomes important. The other charges there…one of them accused him of having his wife pay money into his account. These charges cannot be valid.”

In his response, Mr. Keyamo said that the charge was not about stealing or conversion where the owner of the money must be stated.

“The very essence of the crime of money laundering is when the money has no origin, when you are caught with large sums of money and you cannot explain the source,” Mr. Keyamo said.

Justice Rita Ofili-Ajumogobia, the trial judge, requested an oral argument from the counsels but Mr. Adedipe said that Arik Airline, after he arrived Lagos yesterday, left his bag in Port Harcourt.

The judge then told both prosecution and defence counsel to file their written addresses and adjourned to February 3 for ruling.

The trial had continually failed to take off after Mr. Fani-Kayode was re-arraigned in January last year, due to the defence team contesting the Attorney-General’s prosecution fiat. After challenging the prosecution to produce the fiat authorising them to prosecute his client – to which they did – the defence argued that the fiat was for Mr. Keyamo and cannot be transferred to any of the lawyers in his law firm. Two weeks ago, the judge ruled in the defence’s favour, ordering Mr. Keyamo to personally lead the prosecution.

Mr. Keyamo’s lawyers had been prosecuting the trial since Mr. Fani-Kayode was first arraigned in 2008 before Justice Ramat Mohammed.

In 2012, the case was transferred to Justice Binta Nyako after Mrs. Mohammed was transferred out of the Lagos division. Last year, Mrs. Nyako was also transferred out of the division.

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