The Federal High Court in Lagos yesterday dismissed an application by a former Minister of Aviation Chief Femi Fani-Kayode challenging the court’s territorial jurisdiction to adjudicate on his money laundering charge.
Justice Rilwan Aikawa refused the former minister’s prayer to transfer the case to the court’s Abuja division, where he claimed the alleged offence was committed.
Ruling yesterday, the judge held that the application had no merit.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) re-arraigned Fani-Kayode and former Finance Minister (State) Senator Nenadi Usman for alleged N4.6 billion laundering and fraud.
They were arraigned along with a former National Chairman of the Association of Local Government in Nigeria (ALGON) Yusuf Danjuma, and a company, Jointrust Dimensions Ltd
They pleaded not guilty to the 17-count charge of money laundering.
The defendants were first arraigned on June 28 last year before Justice Muslim Hassan, but the judge recused himself on March 16 after Fani-Kayode accused him of likely bias.
Justice Hassan was head of Legal Department at EFCC before his appointment as a judge and had signed a money laundering charge for which Fani-Kayode was previous tried and acquitted.
The judge returned the case file to the chief judge, who re-assigned it to Justice Aikawa.
Fani-Kayode’s lawyer, Mr. Norrison Quakers (SAN), argued that the cause of action leading to the charge took place in Abuja.
Besides, he said his client lived in Abuja and had another criminal case at the Federal High Court in the Federal Capital Territory.
But, EFCC’s lawyer Rotimi Oyedepo urged the court to refuse the application as, according to him, the transaction instruments “were recovered in Lagos”.
Justice Aikawa agreed that part of the alleged illegal transactions took place in Lagos.
For instance, he said the former Director of Publicity of the Goodluck Jonathan Campaign Organisation paid N30million to a printer, Olusegun Idowu, whose office is Lagos.
Justice Aikawa noted that the matter was transferred to him by the chief judge, whose decision he cannot overrule.
According to him, had the chief judge found merit in the request to transfer the case from Lagos to Abuja, he would have done it after Justice Hassan withdrew from the case rather than transfer it to another judge in Lagos.
The judge held: “In the case before me, the prosecution avers in its counter affidavit that ‘the sum of N30 million was paid to PW1 (Olusegun Idowu) of Paste Posters Company Ltd, who has his office in Lagos’.
“This, in my view, shows that all facts leading to the transaction were done in Lagos, and only evidence will prove otherwise.
“There is no justification to warrant a transfer of this case to Abuja; the interest of justice requires that the trial of this case continues in this court. This application is lacking in merit and is therefore dismissed.”
The judge admitted in evidence the receipts issued to the Goodluck Jonathan Campaign Organisation by Idowu for a cash transaction of N30 million.
Led in evidence by Oyedepo, Idowu said he issued a receipt to PDP, adding that he raised an invoice in the name of Directorate of Media and Publicity, PDP Campaign Organisation.
Count one of the charge reads: “That you, Nenadi Esther Usman, Femi Fani-Kayode, Danjuman Yusuf And Jointrust Dimentions Nigeria Ltd on or about the 8th day of January, 2015, within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court conspired among yourselves to indirectly retain the sum of N1,500, 000,000.00, which sum you reasonably ought to have known forms part of the proceeds of an unlawful act to wit: stealing.”
The defendants were also accused of indirectly retaining N300 million, N400 million and N800 million, all proceeds of corruption, according to EFCC.
The prosecution said they allegedly committed the offence between January 8 and March 25, 2015, ahead of the general election.
In another count, the prosecution alleged that Fani-Kayode directly retained N350million, which he ought to have “reasonably known formed part of the proceeds of an unlawful act to wit: stealing”|.
The commission said Fani-Kayode directly used N170million, among other sums, which he reasonably ought to have known forms part of the proceeds of corruption and stealing.
He was also accused of doing cash transaction of N24million with Olubode Oke without going through a financial institution.
The offence, EFCC said, violates sections 1(a) and 16(d) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) (Amendment) Act, 2012 and punishable under Section 16(2)(b).
The trial will continue today for cross-examination of the first prosecution witness.