A Federal High Court in Lagos, on Thursday, June 18, 2015, will deliver judgement in the criminal charge filed by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) against former Aviation Minister, Femi Fani-Kayode.
Fani-Kayode, who was the Director of Media and Publicity for the Peoples Democratic Party Presidential Campaign Organisation in the 2015 elections, is facing charges of money laundering before Justice Rita Ofili-Ajumogobia.
At the last adjourned date, Ofili-Ajumogobia had fixed the judgement date after the adoption of final written addresses and summary arguments by the defence and prosecution counsel.
Fani-Kayode, whose trial began in 2008 before Justice Ramat Mohammed, was initially alleged to have laundered about N230 million while he was Minister of Culture and Tourism and, subsequently, Aviation Minister.
The amount was later reduced to N100 million when the charge was amended, while the laundered sum was further reduced to N2.1 million on November 17, 2014 after Ofili-Ajumogobia dismissed 38 out of the 40 counts levelled against Fani-Kayode by the EFCC for want of proof.
While urging the court to uphold the remaining two counts and to accordingly convict Fani-Kayode, the EFCC prosecutor, Festus Keyamo, had said the former minister had failed to exonerate himself of the allegations.
Keyamo pointed out that the object of the charge was that Fani-Kayode transacted in cash sums above N500,000, which was the threshold stipulated by the Money Laundering Act.
According to Keyamo, Fani-Kayode himself had admitted making such transactions in his confessional statement of December 22, 2008 made to the EFCC.
He said: “In this statement, he admitted that he transacted in cash above N500,000. My Lord, this statement went in without objection by the accused person and the statement was voluntary.
“With the combination of this confessional statement and the statement of the IPO that investigated the allegation, we rely on all of this to submit that we have discharged our burden that monies were received by the accused person in cash and were not done through any financial institution.”
Keyamo argued that the prosecution had discharged its duty once it established that Fani-Kayode transacted in large sums above the Money Laundering threshold, adding that it was left for Fani-Kayode to explain the source of the money.
“Once you cannot explain the source of the large sum of money found on you, you are guilty of money laundering. If the prosecution must show where the money is coming from, then the whole essence of the money laundering law is defeated.
“It is not in all cases that the burden of proof lies on the prosecution; the burden at this point shifts to the accused person,” Keyamo argued.
He further argued that the court could not simply believe that the large sums in cash that Fani-Kayode allegedly handled in the transaction were proceeds of his father’s estate, saying the accused should have called the tenant who paid to testify in court and back it up with his statement of account.
However, Fani-Kayode’s lawyer, Adedayo Adedipe (SAN), in his summary argument, maintained that Fani-Kayode made no confession to the EFCC, adding that the anti-graft agency had failed to show that he actually accepted N1 million cash as alleged in one of the counts.
Adedipe said the EFCC had also failed to show the court the person who handed the cash to the accused.
He said for the case of the prosecution to succeed, it had to be proved beyond reasonable doubt.
“My Lord, it is our submission that the accused does not have to prove his innocence; it is the prosecution that must prove its case beyond all reasonable doubts.
“In this particular case, the prosecution has failed to give the evidence of acceptance of N1 million; in the entire trial, none of the witnesses brought by the prosecution gave evidence of giving the accused cash,” Adedipe said.
The senior lawyer said the defence had raised many doubts in the mind of the court regarding the veracity of the testimony of the EFCC witness, Supo Agbaje, who was earlier declared wanted by the EFCC and subsequently listed as a prosecution witness.
He added: “My Lord, reasonable doubt exists as to what happened and that doubt should be resolved in favour of the accused. Do we believe Agbaje, a man fighting for his liberty, for his life, who was remanded? Reasonable doubt exists in the testimony given by Supo Agbaje, who was declared wanted by the EFCC and later used as a witness.”
Adedipe, while urging the court to discharge and acquit his client, said the EFCC had no case against Fani-Kayode, but was only striving to “show to the world that we have caught a big fish; but, My Lord, there is no big fish here.”