Prosecutor’s absence stalls corruption trial of ex-minister, senior Nigerian lawyer

The absence of the EFCC prosecutor, Rotimi Oyedepo, on Thursday stalled the trial by a Federal High Court in Lagos of a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Mohammed Belgore, charged with money laundering.

Mr. Belgore is being prosecuted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, alongside a former Minister of National Planning, Abubakar Suleiman.

The accused are standing trial before Justice Mohammed Aikawa on a five-count charge bordering on money laundering to the tune of N450 million.

On Wednesday, a lawyer from the EFCC, Nkereuwem Anana, had informed the court that the prosecutor, Rotimi Oyedepo, was `held up’ on his way to the court because of a fault in his vehicle.

Anana said the first prosecution witness, was also on his way from Ekiti, and urged prayed the judge to stand down the case to enable the prosecution arrive.

In response, the defence counsel, Ebun Shofunde, raised an objection for a stand down on the grounds that he had another case for the day.

He argued that the court could not wait for a witness, who was still on his way, and urged the court to adjourn the case.

The judge held that he would not stand the case down at the instance of a witness when there were 29 other cases on his cause list for the day.

Mr. Aikawa then urged the prosecution to show more seriousness so that the case could be disposed of as soon as possible.

Consequently, the judge adjourned the case to March 13 and March 14 for definite trial.

The EFCC had charged the accused with conspiracy to directly take possession of N450 million which they reasonably ought to have known formed part of the proceeds of an unlawful act.

The commission said that they committed the offence on March 27, 2015.

On the second count, the EFCC said that the accused directly took possession of the sum of N450 million, while on the third count, the accused were said to have conspired to make cash payment of the sum without going through a financial institution.

On counts four and five, they were accused of making cash payment of N450 million to one Sheriff Shagaya without going through a financial institution.

The offences, according to the EFCC, contravene the provisions of Section 15, 15(3), 16, 16(2) 18(a) and 18 (d) of the Money Laundering (Prohibitions) (Amendment) Act, 2012.

The accused had pleaded not guilty to all the counts, while the court granted them bail on self-recognition.

(NAN)


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