The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) yesterday arraigned a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Mohammed Belgore and a former Minister of National Planning, Prof. Abubakar Suleiman before a Federal High Court in Lagos on charges of money laundering.
The accused are standing trial before Justice Mohammed Aikawa on a five-count charge bordering on the offence.
EFCC accused them of conspiring to directly take possession of N450million, which they reasonably ought to have known forms part of the proceeds of an unlawful act.
The money, THISDAY gathered, was meant for Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) campaign in Kwara State.
The commission said they committed the alleged offence on March 27, 2015.
In the second count, EFCC said they directly took possession of the sum of N450 million, while in the third count, the accused were said to have conspired to make cash payment of the sum without going through a financial institution.
In the fourth and fifth count, the anti-graft commission said the accused persons were accused of making cash payment of N450million to one Sheriff Shagaya without going through financial institution.
The alleged offences were said to have contravened the provisions of Section 15, 15(3), 16, 16(2) 18(a) and 18 (d) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) (Amendment) Act, 2012.
The accused pleaded not guilty to all the counts.
Counsel to the first accused, Mr. Ebun Shofunde (SAN), prayed the court to grant his client bail on self-recognition.
“Given his antecedents, I am asking that bail be on self-recognisance because he has always made himself available while on administrative bail.
“He has being a Senior Advocate of Nigeria since 2001. He is not a threat and not likely to jump bail given his standing. He has also being a lawyer since 1985,” he said.
Counsel to the second accused, Chief Bolaji Ayorinde (SAN), also prayed the court to grant the former minister bail on self-recognition.
“He is a renowned educationist, a professor of political science and international relations at the University of Abuja.
“He has served this country as a minister in 2014. He has been involved in teaching and research for the past 30 years; he has graduated more than 10,000 students for the past 30 years.
“He voluntarily submitted himself to EFCC and never contravened the terms of his administrative bail. I urge your lordship to grant him bail on self-recognition,” he said.
Counsel to the EFCC, Mr. Rotimi Oyedepo did not oppose the bail applications.
“We leave bail at your lordship’s discretion and pray that your lordship should impose conditions that will compel their attendance for trial,” he said.
In his ruling, Justice Aikawa granted the accused bail on self-recognition.
He said since the prosecution did not oppose the application, and considering the accused persons’ standing in the society, “they will not likely jump bail.”
The court however, ordered that their international passports be deposited with the Deputy Chief Registrar of the court and can only be released by the court’s order.
He adjourned till February 23 for trial.