The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), yesterday, re-arraigned the lawyer to former Vice President Atiku Abubarkar and presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the 2019 election at the Federal High Court in Lagos before Justice C.J. Aneke, for allegedly laundering $2 million during the election process.
Also yesterday, Justice Nicholas Oweibo of the Federal High Court in Lagos dismissed, for lack of merit, an application by former Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Maurice Iwu that seeks the transfer of his trial, instituted by the EFCC, for alleged fraud involving N1.23 billion from Lagos to Abuja.
Justice Oweibo, who adjourned till April 28 for trial, stated that justice would be better served if Iwu were tried in Lagos since the list of witnesses shows that most of them reside in Lagos and that some were retired and may not be able to fund their movement to and fro Abuja.
This followed opposition of Iwu’s plea by the prosecuting counsel for the EFCC, Mr. Rotimi Oyedepo.
The former INEC chief’s lawyer, Mr. Ahmed Raji (SAN) had pleaded with the court to allow his client, standing a four-count charge of alleged money laundering and fraud in Lagos, to be tried in Abuja where he lives, because he was too old at 70 years to be travelling to Lagos for the duration of the trial, adding that the alleged fraud took place in Abuja.
“My Lord, this defendant is over 70 years of age and he always travels down to Lagos and books a hotel whenever this matter comes up. It will amount to great agony for him to continue with this trial in Lagos,” Raji said.
In the case of the former vice president’s lawyer, the EFCC claimed in its three-count charge filed before the Federal High Court in Lagos that Uyiekpen Giwa-Osagie and his younger brother, Erhunse Giwa-Osagie conspired to make cash payments to the tune of $2 million without using any financial institution, which it said violates provisions of Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act 2011.
Specifically, the EFCC said the transaction violated the provisions of Sections 18(a) and 1(a) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act 2011, adding that the defendants were liable to be punished under Section 16(2)(b) of the same Act.
The Giwa-Osagies, however, pleaded not guilty to the charges, and following an application by their lawyer, Ahmed Raji (SAN), Justice Aneke allowed them to continue on the bail earlier granted by Justice Oweibo, who heard the matter in August last year.
Uyiekpen Giwa-Osagie’s lawyer application that his client be granted permission to travel to London for medical attention will get ruling on Monday, March 9.
The former VP’s lawyer, who had been brought by the EFCC before Justice Nicholas Oweibo of the same court in August last year is being re-arraigned because his case was transferred from Justice Oweibo to Justice Aneke.
Former INEC chairman was arraigned in October last year for allegedly laundering N1.23 billion in the process of the 2015 general elections, by assisting to conceal the money in an account owned by Bioresources Institute of Nigeria Limited with number 1018603119, domiciled in the United Bank for Africa.
According to the EFCC, the transaction took place between December 2014 and March 27, 2015, adding that Iwu, who pleaded not guilty to the charges, contravened Sections 18(a) and 15 (2) (a) of the Money Laundering ((Prohibition) Act 2011 and was liable to be punished under Section 15(3) of the same Act.