By Mohammed Aminu in Sokoto
A Federal High Court sitting in Sokoto presided over by Justice Saleh Idrissa Tuesday remanded a former deputy governor of Sokoto State, Alhaji Mukhtari Shagari, and four chieftains of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in police custody for alleged money laundering totalling N500 million from former Petroleum Minister Diezani Alison-Madueke’s loot.
The other four accused persons were former Sokoto State Commissioner for Information Ibrahim Gidado, PDP state Treasurer Nasiru Dalhatu, PDP state Chairman Ibrahim Milgoma and PDP governorship candidate in the 2015 election Abdallah Wali.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) prosecuting counsel, Mr. Johnson Ojogbane, said the EFCC preferred the five-count charge against the accused persons bordering on money laundering and cash transaction outside regulated financial institution which contravened Money Laundering Prohibition Act 2011 and punishable under section 16 (2) (b) of the act.
According to him, the offences were committed in March 2015 and the money was handed over to the accused persons by one Abdulrahman Ibrahim on the eve of the elections.
“The Money Laundering Prohibition Act frowns on money laundering and financing of illegal activities. There is a threshold to transact a cash business and when you cross that threshold, it is an offence and there is punishment for that.
“This issue has to do with the N500 million Diezani money that was given out for elections,” he said.
He added that the charges were attached with the affidavits, list of witnesses, summary of evidences as well as proof of evidence.
However, when the charges were separately read to each of the accused persons, they all pleaded not guilty and denied the allegations.
Ojogbane to this end, opposed the application for bail for the accused persons on the grounds that administrative bail terminated when the accused persons were served with charge sheets.
He prayed the court to follow due process in line with procedures and sought for adjournment to commence full trial.
Counsel to Gidado, Dalhatu and Milgoma, Mr. Ibrahim Abdullahi, applied for an interim bail for the accused persons pending the moving of formal bail application filed by the defendants.
He argued that the defendants had been on EFCC administration bail since 2016 without any default, stressing that the accused were not likely to jeopardise any investigation.
Mr. Ibrahim Idris and Aiyelabegan Abdulkadiri, counsel to Shagari and Wali respectively, aligned themselves with Abdullahi’s submission on granting the accused persons bail in continuation of the administrative bail granted earlier.
Justice idrissa, therefore, adjourned the case to May 24, 2018 for hearing of bail application for the accused persons and ordered that they should be remanded in police custody at the Sokoto Police Command.