After 11 Years, Ladoja’s Trial Ends Court reserves judgment
The 11-year-old trial of a former Governor of Oyo State, Chief Rashidi Ladoja, for alleged N4.7billion fraud came to a close yesterday at the Federal High Court in Lagos, with the court reserving judgment.
Justice Mohammed Idris reserved his judgment after counsel representing parties had adopted their final addresses before the court.
Ladoja was charged by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) with converting N4.7 billion from the state’s treasury to his personal use.
He was re-arraigned along with Waheed Akanbi, his former Commissioner for Finance on 11-count charge of money laundering and unlawful conversion of public funds.
They had pleaded not guilty to the charges, and were granted bails.
Evidence in the trial closed on November 17, after Ladoja had given his evidence before the court.
The court had then adjourned for adoption of final addresses.
Adopting his address yesterday, the prosecutor, Mr Oluwafemi Olabisi, urged the court to hold that the prosecution had been able to establish its case against the accused based on evidences adduced.
He argued that the crux of the prosecution’s case centred on money received as proceeds of crime.
According to him, offences of this nature do not give room for acknowledgment of monies taken from government coffers.
He added that the court was enjoined to look at circumstantial evidences in arriving at its decision.
Olabisi urged the court to discountenance evidences adduced by defence witnesses, and hold that the prosecution had been able to establish its case against the accused.
On his part, defence counsel, Mr Adeyinka Olumide-Fusika, urged the court to discharge and acquit the accused on the grounds that the prosecution had a weak case incapable of securing any conviction.
“If there is no foundation, the super structure cannot stand,” he said.
Olumide-Fusika argued that no prosecution witness was able to link the accused with the alleged offences, adding that the prosecution was only concerned with securing conviction at all cost.
Besides, defence argued that the statement used by the prosecutor in his written address that “the second defendant in the very least, did conspire to commit the offence” was incapable of establishing his guilt.
He urged the court to be sensitive to evidences adduced as PW2 who testified as having engaged in the sale of the Oyo State shares was never charged.
In all, he urged the court to discharge and acquit the accused as there was no shred of evidences against them, adding that the evidences by prosecution witnesses, even supports the innocence of the accused.
After listening to the submissions of counsel, Justice Idris commended them for seeing the trial to conclusion.
He informed parties that his judgment would be reserved, and that hearing notices would be sent to counsel in a short while.
After the close of prosecution’s case, the accused had opted to file a no-case submission before the court, contending that the prosecution failed to establish a case against them.
But in its ruling, the court had dismissed the no-case submission, and held that based on a preponderance of evidence as put forward by prosecution, there was no doubt that the accused had some explanations to make.
In the charge, the accused were alleged to have conspired to siphon and launder N4.7 billion from the coffers of Oyo State government.
The EFCC also accused them of converting N1.9 billion belonging to the state for their personal use through the account of a company known as Heritage Apartments Ltd.
The anti-graft agency claimed that the accused retained the money sometime in 2007, in spite of their knowledge that it was proceeds from a criminal activity.
Ladoja was accused of removing 600,000 pounds from the state coffers in 2007 and sent to his daughter, Bimpe in London.
In addition, the ex-governor was accused of converting N42 million belonging to the state for his personal use and subsequently used same to purchase an armoured Land Cruiser.
The EFCC added that Ladoja converted N728 million and N77 million at different times in 2007 for his personal use and transferred same to Bistrum Investments for the purchase of a property in Ibadan.
The offences contravenes the provisions of Sections 14, 16, 17 (a) and 18 (1) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2004, according to the EFCC.