The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), has tendered as evidence 108 bank cheques used by Femi Fani-Kayode, the former Minister of Aviation, to allegedly launder money during the 2015 general election.
The anti-graft agency tendered the cheques before Justice Rilwan Aikawa, on Thursday during the hearing of the alleged N4.9 billion fraud, at the Federal High Court in Ikoyi, Lagos.
The bank cheques were alleged to have been used by Fani-Kayode, Nenadi Esther Usman, a former Minister of Finance and Danjuma Yusuf, one time Chairman of Association of Local Government of Nigeria, ALGON, alongside a company, Joint Trust Dimensions Limited.
The trio and company are being accused of fraud to the tune of N4.9 billion, by the anti-graft agency.
They are specifically standing trial on a 17 counts charge of conspiracy, unlawful retention of proceeds of theft and money laundering.
Particularly, Fani-Kayode who held sway as the Director of Publicity of the former president of Nigeria, Goodluck Jonathan’s campaign organisation for the 2015 election, was accused of conspiring with others to, directly and indirectly, retain various sums which the EFCC claimed they ought to have reasonably known were proceeds of crime.
According to one of the counts, Fani-Kayode and others were alleged to have conspired amongst themselves 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 equally accused by the EFCC of indirectly retaining N300m, N400m and N800m, all proceeds of corruption.
The former aviation minister was accused of directly using parts of the money at various times, including a N250,650,000.00, which he allegedly used between March 20 and 25, 2015.
The EFCC said he made cash transactions in the sum of N24m to one Olubode Oke, said to still be at large, on February 12, 2015 “to Paste Poster Co of 125, Lewis Street, Lagos Island.”
Fani-Kayode and Oke were said to have effected the transaction without going through any financial institution, an act the EFCC claimed was contrary to sections 1(a) and 16(d) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) (Amendment) Act, 2012, and punishable under Section 16(2)(b) of the same Act.
But the defendants have pleaded not guilty to the charges levelled against them by the Commission.
When the matter came up on Thursday, an investigator with the EFCC, Shuaibu Shehu, while being led-in-evidence by the prosecutor, Rotimi Oyedepo, tendered 108 bank cheques, which he told the court were recovered in the course of his investigation into the matter.
Justice Aikawa accordingly marked the cheques as exhibit 11(1-108).
When the prosecutor asked Shehu who the beneficiary of the cheques were, he (Shehu) responded, saying,103 of the cheques showed the names of the second defendant (Fani-Kayode).
The witness added that the cheques were drawn from the second defendant’s account with a new generation bank.
Shehu noted that, “100 cheques were of cash withdrawal, 96 of the cheques were withdrawn from the account of the second defendant.
“One of the cheques is N2 million, N5,0100 million, N5.650 million and N3.5050 million. All were drawn from second defendant’s account.”
The witness further told the judge that, “The second defendant issued a cheque of N22 million in favour of one Onigbinde on March 16, 2015, another cheque of N20, 340 million in favour of one Ojeifo Sofia on February, 2015, another cheque of N10 million for Jariley Limited on January 30, 2015.
“The second defendant, Fani-Kayode withdrew the sum of N5.650 million, N5.1 million, N2 million and N3.555 million respectively.
Shehu informed Justice Aikawa that Jointrust Dimension Limited, the fourth defendant in the charge, issued cheques of N393 million, N250 million, N240 million with instructions that the money be paid into the second defendant’s account in the new generation bank.
The cheques for the money were marked as exhibits 11civ, 11 cv, 11cvi.
It was equally the contention of the prosecution witness that he deduced from the bank’s record that the monies that were in Jointrust Limited’s account which were N300 million, N400 million and 800 million were from the Ministry of External Affairs’s Research Library account and Research Capital Accounts.
Immediately after the conclusion of Shehu’s evidence-in-chief, the EFCC’s lawyer made move(s) to tender in evidence all the Ministry of External Affairs’ Statement of Accounts, account documents package and certificate of identification for admissibility.
However, Oyedepo’s intention was objected to by the defendants’ counsel.
While asking Justice Aikawa to reject the documents, Usman’s lawyer, Yussuf and K. C. Nwofor who stood for Jointrust Limited, told the court that the documents were not legible.
Fani-kayode’s lawyer, Norrison Quakers (SAN) prayed the court to reject the documents as it failed to meet the current provision of Section 84 of the Evidence Act.
The Senior Advocate contended that the current law is that a computer generated exhibit can only be admitted by the person that worked on it.
Quakers insisted that the only person who can tender the exhibit is Eyituoyo Mogbetern, the new generation bank’s Compliance Officer, adding that the witness (Shehu) is not in position to tender the documents as he is not a staff of the bank.
The Quakers further argued that the documents sought to be tendered are not qualified to be called ‘public documents’ as there is nothing on its face to show that it was forwarded to the EFCC.
While urging Justice Aikawa to reject the documents and mark same as rejected, Quakers cited a Court of Appeal decision in Jubrin Vs FRN, 2018, Law Pavilion Electronic Law Report and other authorities.
Responding, Oyedepo stated that, “I submit that the witness being Investigation Officer can tender documents recovered by him in the course of his investigation, Obot Vs State, as regard the roles of an I. O. to tender documents recovered during investigation.”
Oyedepo insisted that there is a presumption of regularity in favour of the Certified True Copy of public documents and that in compliance with Section 84 of the Evidence Act, one of the option open to parties who are seeking to tender a public documents is issuance of certificate of compliance.
In urging the court to admit the documents, the prosecutor cited the case of Babani Eleya Vs fRN, 2016, LPELR and a Supreme Court’s decision on the case of Dawodu Vs FRN, LPELR, 43637.
On the issue of eligibility raised by the counsel to the first, third and fourth defendants, Oyedepo said: “admissibility is one, ascription of probative value is another”.
The Commission’s lawyer thereafter asked the judge to discountenance the counsel’s submission on legibility.
After listening to submissions of parties, Justice Aikawa adjourned the matter untill October 29, 2019 for ruling on the documents sought to be tendered and continuation of trial.