Prosecution closes case in Fani-Kayode’s corruption trial

Femi Fani-Kayode
Femi Fani-Kayode

Mr. Fani-Kayode is facing a 40-count charge of money laundering.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, on Thursday closed its case in the trial of Femi Fani-Kayode, a former Aviation Minister.

Mr. Fani-Kayode is facing a 40-count charge of money laundering amounting to about N100 million stemming from when he was minister.

“I’m here to make a very humble application for the case of the prosecution to be closed,” said Vitalis Ahaotu, who was standing in for Festus Keyamo, counsel to the EFCC.

At the last sitting, Mr. Keyamo had told the judge that Mark Ndifreke, who had been billed to appear as a prosecution witness, has been at large since 2008, and pleaded for more time to produce him to testify.

“This investigation has been on since 2007 and this witness has been a prime witness we have been looking for all along and he has been running from pillar to post,” Mr. Keyamo had added.

But on Thursday, the prosecution were still unable to produce Mr. Ndifreke.

In their response, Wale Akoni, the defence counsel, said that they were filing a ‘No case submission,’ as his client had no case to answer.

Justice Rita Ofili-Ajumogobia gave the prosecution seven days to file their reply to the ‘No case submission’ and adjourned the trial to October 28 for adoption of final written addresses‎

Earlier, the judge had enquired from the defence lawyer if he had any problem with Mr. Ahaotu holding a brief for his principal.

In 2013, the trial was halted in the middle of a prosecution witness’s testimony after the defence raised an objection, arguing that the fiat for prosecution from the Attorney-General of the Federation was specifically meant for Mr. Keyamo and not Mr. Ahaotu, his representative.

Mr. Ahaotu, a lawyer from Mr. Keyamo’s chamber, had been leading the prosecution before that day.

Mr. Keyamo was unable to attend Thursday’s proceeding because he was attending an interview in preparation for his selection as a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, according to Mr. Ahaotu.

Mr. Akoni, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, said he had no objection to Mr. Keyamo’s representative.

The prosecution opened their case in March with its first witness, Okechukwu Okeke, a Relationship Officer with First City Monument Bank, FCMB, who said that Mr. Fani-Kayode’s account at the bank had been dormant.

At the court’s sitting in May, the judge declared Ojo Agbor, the prosecution’s fifth witness, who was testifying that day, “hostile.”

The judge’s declaration came after Mr. Agbor said that he made his statement to the EFCC under duress, after he was tortured and detained for one week by the operatives.

“The statement he made to the commission is totally different from what he is saying in court,” a furious Mr. Keyamo had said.

Mr. Fani-Kayode was first arraigned in December 2008 before Justice Ramat Mohammed on a 47-count charge. He had pleaded not guilty and granted bail in the sum of N200 million with two sureties in like sum.

The former minister was re-arraigned before Justice Binta Murtala-Nyako, following the transfer of Ms. Mohammed from Lagos.

The accused was again re-arraigned before Ms. Ajumogobia on February 11, 2013, after the transfer of Ms. Murtala-Nyako.

He was still re-arraigned before Ms. Ajumogobia on March 6, following the amendment of the 47-count charge to 40-counts by the EFCC.

In the charge, the accused was alleged to have carried out transactions with funds exceeding N500,000 without going through a financial institution.

The accused was also alleged to have accepted cash payments to the tune of about N100 million, while he was the Minister of Aviation and Minister of Culture and Tourism.

The offence is said to contravened the provisions of Sections 15(1) (a) (b) (c) (d) and 15 (2) (a) (b) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2004.

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