The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), on Friday, re-arraigned Faisal Maina, on an amended three-count charge, bordering on money laundering and false declaration of assets.
Faisal is the son of Abdurasheed Maina, the former chairman of the Pension Reform Task Team (PRTT).
He was arrested alongside his father in September. The father is accused of diverting N100 billion of pension funds.
His son is accused by the anti-graft agency, of operating an account he used to divert various sums of money, including N58 million.
The two men were arraigned by the EFCC on October 25 on separate charges. They pleaded not guilty.
At the resumed hearing of the matter on Friday, the prosecution lawyer, Mohammed Abubakar, told the court that though the matter was slated for continuation of cross-examination of the second prosecution witness, the commission had an amended charge dated and filed January 22.
But Faisal’s lawyer, Adeola Adedipe, opposed the application.
Mr Adedipe noted that the prosecution deserved the right to amend the charges, adding that such amendment must be prescribed by the leave of court as provided by Section 218(2 ) of the Administrative of Criminal Justice Act(ACJA).
“The order of the court is not appropriately endorsed on the purported amended charge. So it may not be useful for today’s hearing,” he argued.
The EFCC lawyer, however, countered Mr Adedipe’s argument.
“I submit that counsel misconceived the intent and purpose of Section 218(2) of ACJA because it does not make it mandatory for prosecution to first obtain leave of court before filing an amended charge,” Mr Abubakar said.
“The council has jumped the gun because the issue of endorsement can only come after the amendment,” he said.
In his observation, the judge, Okon Abang, noted that the drafter of Section 218(2) of ACJA might have created the controversy.
Mr Abang, thereafter, granted the anti-graft agency’s request.
“Section 281(2) is not clear on whether it is the judge or registrar that will endorse the note of the order of amendment.
“However, there is no dispute to right of the prosecution to file an amended charge at any time.
“In the light of this, the leave is hereby granted to the prosecution to file an amended charge.
“And the amended charged filed on January 22, is deemed to be properly filed,” he held.
The judge said since the problem of who signs the amended charge was caused by the drafter of ACJA, he ordered the prosecution to endorse it in the open court.
He said that the defendant will not be prejudiced if the court asks the prosecution to endorse the note of the order of amendment in the open court.
The EFCC lawyer then sought that the amended charge be read to the defendant, to which he pleaded not guilty.
The three-count charge reads:
Count One: “That you, Faisal Abdulrasheed Maina (alias Alhaji Faisal Abdullahi Farms 2) between Oct. 2013 and June 2019 within the jurisdiction of this Hon. Court did operate an anonymous account No: 1017558607 (Alh Faisal Abdullahi Farms 2) in a commercial bank by concealing your true identity and you thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 11(1) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2011 (as amended) and punishable under section 11(4) of the same Act.
Count two: “That you Faisal Abdulrasheed Maina (alias Alh Faisal Abdullahi Farms 2) between Oct. 2013 and June 2019 within the jurisdiction of this Hon. Court, indirectly controlled an aggregate sum of N58,111,585.00 (Fifty-Eight. Million, One Hundred and Eleven Thousand, five Hundred and Eighty-Five Naira only) paid through a commercial bank account of Alh. Faisal Abdullahi Farms II, when you reasonably ought to have known that the said funds formed part of the proceed of unlawful activity (to wit: corruption of one Abdulrasheed Abdullahi Maina who is facing a separate charge) and you thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 15(2)(d) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2011 (as amended) and punishable under section 15(3) and (4) of the same Act.
Count three: “That you Faisal Addulrasheed Maina on or about Oct 3, 2019, at Abuja, within the jurisdiction of this Hon Court knowingly failed to make full disclosure of your assets and liabilities in the Declaration of Assets Form dated Oct. 3, 2019, which you filled at the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) office at No. 5, Fomella Street, Wise II, Abuja, and you thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 27(3)(a) of the EFCC (Establishment) Act., 2004 and punishable under Section 27(3)(c) of the same Act.”
After the court took Faisal’s pleas, his lawyer pleaded with the court to allow him to continue to enjoy the bail terms earlier granted to him by the court on November 26, 2019.
Mr Adedipe said the defendant had complied with the bail conditions initially granted him.
The court had on November 26, granted bail to Faisal, with N60 million bond and one surety in like sum.
“The defendant came from his house today and was equally accompanied by the surety in compliance with a court order,” Mr Adedipe said.
The EFCC lawyer did not raise any objection to the defendant’s request.
Mr Abang, however, granted Mr Adedipe’s request.
“The defendant shall remain on the subsisting bail order granted on November 26, 2019, by this honourable court,” the judge said.
The judge adjourned to February 27, March 18, 19, 20 and March 30, for the continuation of trial and cross-examination of the second prosecution witness.