Law News
Court reserves judgment in Fani-Kayode money laundering case

A Federal High Court in Lagos has reserved judgment till July 1, 2015 in the case of a former Minister of Aviation, Chief Femi Fani-Kayode, charged with money laundering.

The trial judge, Justice Rita Ofili-Ajumogobia, had on May 4, fixed Thursday for judgment, following adoption of final written addresses and summary arguments by the parties.

Though the judge said on Thursday that the judgment was ready, she however reserved it because the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission’s prosecutor, Mr. Festus Keyamo, was not in court.

When the case was called, the accused person promptly stepped into the dock, while his lawyer, Mr. Ifedayo Adedipe (SAN), announced appearance for him.

For the prosecution, a lawyer from Keyamo’s chambers, Mr. Festus Afeiyodion, announced appearance and told the court he was holding brief for Keyamo, who he said had gone to attend another important assignment.

The defence counsel, Adedipe, also informed the judge that Keyamo had informed him on phone that he would not be able to come to court.

Ofili-Ajumogobia, however, for an undisclosed reason, said though the judgment was ready she preffered to give it in Keyamo’s presence.

The judge stood the matter down for 10 minutes for Afeiyodion to ask Keyamo when it would be convenient for him to come to court.

Afeiyodion later told the judge that Keyamo prayed that the matter should be stood down till 1pm or be adjourned to another date.

Ofili-Ajumogobia, who said the day would have been far spent by 1pm for her to deliver the judgment, subsequently adjourned till July 1, 2015 to deliver the judgment.

Fani-Kayode, whose trial began in 2008 before Justice Ramat Mohammed, was accused by the EFCC to have laundered about N100m while he was the Minister of Culture and Tourism and subsequently Aviation Minister.

The allegedly laundered sum was however reduced to N2.1m 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.

Keyamo, in his final arguments, maintained that the prosecutor had successfully established that Fani-Kayode made financial transactions in cash sum above N500,000 without going through any financial institution.

According to him, this was in violation of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2004.

Keyamo said that 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 said the prosecution had discharged its duty once it had established that Fani-Kayode transacted in cash sums above the Money Laundering Act threshold, adding that the burden was on 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 transacted in were proceeds of his father’s estate, saying the accused should have called the tenant who paid the money as rent to testify in court and back it up with his statement of account.

But Fani-Kayode’s lawyer, Adedipe, 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 his client actually accepted a cash sum of N1m, as alleged in one of the counts.

Adedipe said the EFCC had also failed to show to the court the person who handed the cash sum to the accused person.

He said for the case of the prosecution to succeed, it had to be proven 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 N1m; 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 plenty 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 him 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.”

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