Commercial Law

EFCC did not receive money laundering petition against Ikuforiji- Witness

By Michael Ojo

An Investigator with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mr. Adebayo Adeniji, today, told a Federal High Court in Lagos, that the anti-graft agency did not received any money laundering petition against the immediate past Speaker of Lagos State House of Assembly, Mr. Adeyemi Ikuforiji and his Personal Assistant, Oyebode Atoyebi.

Adebayo also told the court that his team did not investigate allegations of N7 billion fraud against the former Speaker and his aide.

The investigator, who was the first witness to be called in the trial de novo of the two defendants, who were accused of allegedly laundering the sum of N338.8 million, stated these while being cross-examined by Mr. Dele Adesina (SAN), counsel to the defendants.

Mr. Ikuforiji and Oyebode are facing trial before Justice Muhammad Liman’s led court, on 53 counts of alleged laundering of N338. 8 million, leveled against them by the EFCC.

They had pleaded not guilty and Justice Liman allowed them to continue on an earlier bail granted to them in 2012, when they were first arraigned.

At the resumed hearing of the charge today, the witness, when asked by the defendants’ counsel if he investigated the defendants of N7 billion fraud as stated in a petition said he did not investigate that aspect. “There are different areas of investigation handled by different teams”, adding that “in our investigation, we found offence of money laundering. We did received a petition but wasn’t on money laundering against the defendants”.

Upon conclusion of the witness’ evidence, move by the prosecution to present another witness, Adewale Taiwo Olatunji, a former Clerk of the Assembly, before the court was opposed by the defendants’ counsel, Mr. Adesina (SAN), on the ground that the witness was not list on the prove of evidence.

Though, the presiding judge, said the witness was subpoenaed, evidence of the subpoena was not found on the judge’s file, neither was it on the defendant’s lawyers file. The prosecutor asked for an adjournment to enable him provide evidence of subpoena to the court.

Following the inability of the prosecutor to convince the court on why the witness must be allowed to testify, Justice Liman, adjourned the matter till February 3, 2021, for prosecution to close its case.

Both Ikuforiji and Oyebode were first arraigned on March 1, 2012 before Justice Okechukwu Okeke on 20 counts bordering on misappropriation and money laundering.

They had each pleaded not guilty to the charges and were granted bails.

The defendants were, however, subsequently re-arraigned before Justice Ibrahim Buba, following a re-assignment of the case.

Buba had granted them bail in the sum of N500 million each with sureties in like sum.

On September 26, 2014, Justice Buba discharged Ikuforiji and his aide of the charges, after upholding a no case submission of the defendants.

Buba had held that the EFCC failed to establish a prima-facie case against them.

Dissatisfied with the ruling, the EFCC through its counsel, Godwin Obla (SAN), filed the Notice of Appeal dated September 30, 2014 challenging the decision of the trial court.

Obla had argued that the trial court erred in law when it held that the counts were incompetent because they were filed under Section 1(a) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2004 which was repealed by an Act of 2011.

EFCC further argued that the lower court erred in law when it held that the provisions of Section 1 of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2004 and 2011, only applied to natural persons and corporate bodies other than the government.

The appellate court eventually ordered a fresh trial.

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