By Alex Enumah
The Abuja Division of the Federal High Court hearing charges of money laundering against a former Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Mr Bello Adoke (SAN), on Monday frowned on the manner the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) is going about with the trial.
Adoke is standing trial over alleged money laundering-related charges to the tune of N400 million.
He was re-arraigned alongside an Abuja-based businessman, Mr Aliyu Abubakar, before Justice Inyang Ekwo on June 17, 2020 on a seven-count criminal charge bordering on money laundering and corruption.
They pleaded not guilty to the charges and Justice Ekwo, after granting the bail application of the defendants, adjourned to August 3 for commencement of trial.
However, trial could not commence Monday as scheduled following an amendment of the charge by the prosecution.
When the matter was called, the prosecution lawyer, Bala Sanga, informed the court of an amended charge he filed on July 29, which was served on all the defendants.
The commission increased the earlier charge from seven to 14 in the new charge.
Reacting, the judge expressed sadness that the anti-graft agency went ahead to file an amended charge a few days to the commencement of trial.
“From June 17 to July 17, you did nothing. That means you had one month and you didn’t file the amended charge. Just a few days to the trial, you filed an amended charge. A few days to when trial is to commence.
“Although you have freedom to amend your charge up to the time of judgment, I do not appreciate a situation where things are not done on time. This is a 2017 matter and I was thinking I could fast track it but now the prosecution has come up with an amendment,” he stated.
While noting that he does not have the amended charge in the court file, the judge however said he could not say anything about the amended charge.
He subsequently adjourned proceedings to Tuesday, August 4, for re-arraingment on the amended charges and possibly hearing of the matter.
In the former seven-count charge, EFCC alleged that the defendants committed the money laundering offences involving over N400 million in Abuja in September 2013.
In the counts relating to Adoke, he was accused of among others, receiving the dollar equivalent of N300 million from Abubakar, paying the dollar equivalent of N367,318,800 to one Usman Mohammed Bello, and allegedly using the sum of N300 million, which was alleged to be part of the proceeds of unlawful activities, all in violations of various provisions of the Money Laundering Prohibition Act 2011.
The EFCC also accused Adoke of making “structured cash payments in 22 tranches” amounting to N80 million, another of such structured payments in 13 tranches summing up to N50 million into his Unity Bank account.
The commission alleged that the funds were not only part of the proceeds of unlawful acts but they also exceeded the “thresholds outside a financial institution” and that the payments were done with the intention of concealing the origins of the funds contrary to section 15(2)(a) of the Money Laundering Prohibition Act 2011 and punishable under section 15(3) of the same law.