Alex Enumah in Abuja
The Abuja Division of the Federal High Court hearing charges of money laundering against former Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Mr. Bello Adoke (SAN), yesterday frowned at the manner the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) was 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 along with 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, 2020, for commencement of trial.
However, the trial could not commence yesterday as scheduled following an amendment of the charge by the prosecution.
When the matter was called, prosecution lawyer, Bala Sanga, informed the court of an amended charge he filed on the July 29, which was served on all the defendants.
The commission increased the earlier charge from seven to 14 in the new charge.
While reacting, the judge expressed sadness that the anti-graft agency went ahead to file an amended charge few days to the commencement of the 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 few days to the trial, you filed an amended charge-a few days to when the commencement of the trial.
“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 added.
While noting that he does not have the amended charge in the court file, the judge, however, added that he could not say anything about the amended charge.
He subsequently adjourned proceedings to August 4, 2020, for rearraignment 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 N400million in Abuja in September 2013.
The commission alleged that the funds were not only part of the proceeds of unlawful acts but that they also exceeded “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.