Alleged N4.6n fraud: Absent of pregnant witness stalls trial of Usman, Fani-Kayode

A Federal High Court in Lagos, on Monday, adjourned until Oct. 2, the Money laundering trial of a former Minister of State for Finance, Nenandi Usman, and others, charged with N4.6 billion fraud.

Usman is charged alongside a former Minister of Aviation, Femi Fani-Kayode, and Yusuf Danjuma, a former Chairman of the Association of Local Governments of Nigeria (ALGON).

Also charged is a company, Jointrust Dimensions Nigeria Ltd.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had preferred a 17-count charge of money laundering against the accused.

They had all pleaded not guilty to the charges.

On Monday, trial could not resume before the court as earlier scheduled, as counsel making appearance for the EFCC, Mr Idris Mohammed, informed the court that it’s third witness (PW3) who ought to be cross examined, was indisposed.

He told the court that the witness, who also resides outside the court’s jurisdiction, was pregnant and following medical advice is currently on bed rest.

On that premise, Idris urged the court to grant an adjournment.

The team of defence counsel, Messrs Ferdinard Orbih (SAN), Wale Balogun, and K. C Nwofo, did not oppose the application for adjournment.

Meanwhile, Orbih informed the court that he had an exparte application which he would wish to move subject to the court’s convenience.

The court obliged him.

Orbih told the court that his application was brought in pursuant to the provisions of the Sheriffs and Civil Processes Act as well as the Federal High Court Civil Procedure Rules.

He said his application was seeking leave of the court, to serve a motion on notice, on the Minster of Information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, over alleged acts of contempt.

He told the court that the minister had published a list of looters some weeks back, and had named the first accused as number 19 on that list.

According to Orbih, the defence views such act very seriously, as it is an attempt to interfere with the proceedings before the court, and portray the first accused as already guilty of the charges preferred.

He, therefore, urged the court to grant the exparte application enabling the defence to serve the said motion on notice on the minister in Abuja, by substituted means, as personal service may not be feasible.

He argued that the court possessed powers to order that the motion be served on any responsible senior official of the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture, and therefore, urged the court to grant his application.

In a short ruling, Justice Mohammed Aikawa held: “I have perused the application including the supporting affidavits and I am satisfied that the application ought to be granted.

“The application is granted save that it should be served on his confidential Secretary in Abuja,” he said

The court then adjourned until Oct. 2 for hearing of the motion on notice and for continuation of trial.

In the charge, the accused were alleged to have committed the offences between January and March 2015.

In counts one to seven, they were alleged to have unlawfully retained over N3.8 billion which they reasonably ought to have known formed part of the proceeds of an unlawful act of stealing and corruption.

In counts eight to 14, the accused were alleged to have unlawfully used over N970 million which they reasonably ought to have known formed part of an unlawful act of corruption.

Meanwhile in counts 15 to 17, Fani-Kayode and Olubode Oke, who is said to be at large, were alleged to have made cash payments of about N30 million in excess of the amount allowed by law, without going through a financial institution.

Besides, Fani-Kayode was alleged to have made payments to one Paste Poster Co (PPC) of No 125 Lewis St., Lagos, in excess of amounts allowed by law.

All offences were said to have contravened the provisions of sections 15 (3) (4), 16 (2) (b), and 16 (5) of the Money laundering (prohibition) (Amendment) Act, 2012.

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