Money laundering charge: Court admits fresh evidence against ex-PDP chairman, son
…grants him permission to travel abroad for treatment
The Abuja Division of the Federal High Court, on Wednesday, admitted fresh set of evidence the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, (EFCC), tendered against former National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, (PDP), Dr. Haliru Bello who is facing money laundering charge alongside his son, Abba.
Trial Justice Ahmed Mohammed admitted four documents which detailed how funds were transferred and withdrawn from an account the defendants operated with Ecobank Plc, and marked them as exhibits PL-11, PL-11a, PL-11b and PL-11c.
The said account belonged to their firm, Bam Projects & Proparties Ltd, which was charged as the 3rd defendant in the case.
EFCC had in the four-count charge it filed before the court, alleged that the defendants had through the firm, received the sum of N300million from an account the Office of the National Security Adviser, (ONSA), operated with the Central Bank of Nigeria, (CBN).
The fund was said to have been transferred to the defendants 11 days to the 2015 presidential election, by the detained former National Security Adviser, NSA, Col. Sambo Dasuki, rtd, under the guise that it was meant for “Safe Houses”.
Meanwhile, the documents the court admitted into evidence on Wednesday included a letter from Ecobank in response to EFCC’s enquiry, the statement of account of the company, the account opening statement, as well as the Certificate of Identification. Justice Mohammed dismissed objections the defendants raised against the admissibility of the documents.
The defendants had through their lawyers led by Chief Kanu Agabi, SAN, and Mr. Solomon Umoh, SAN, queried the admissibility of the documents which they argued was not frontloaded by the EFCC as prescribed in section 379 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015.
The prosecution counsel, Mr. Rotimi Jacobs, SAN, however urged the court to dismiss the objection, even as he contended that admissibility of documents in a criminal trial was guided by the Evidence Act and not the ACJA which the defendants relied upon.
In a short ruling Justice Mohammed said he was minded to admit the documents into evidence since they are relevant to the charge against the defendants.
“The non-compliance to section 379 of the ACJA is not enough ground to make a relevant document irrelevant”, the court held. In another ruling, the court granted an application the former PDP boss filed to be allowed to travel to the United Kingdom for medical checkup.
EFCC did not oppose the application which was filed on April 10. Though Justice Mohammed directed the deputy registrar of the court to release the international passport the defendant surrendered as part of his bail conditions, he held that Bello should not travel out of the country till May 22 which is the next adjourned date.
The court noted that documents before it showed that Bello was billed to see his Doctor in London on June 5. At the resumed hearing on the case after the ruling, the 11th prosecution witness, PW-11, Mr. Chidi Eboigwe, told the court that the sum of N300m was paid into account of the defendants’ firm, Bam Projects Properties Ltd, on March 17, 2015.
The witness who identified himself as a Compliance Officer at Ecobank, said he did not know the origin of funds that flowed into the defendants’ account. He told the court that out of funds that entered into the account, the sum of N137. 2m was transferred the next day into the account of another firm, Kumu Gomo Company Ltd.
The witness however maintained that the entire transaction followed “normal and regular banking procedure”.
“My lord there was no instruction from anyone for the transactions to be concealed”, he added.
The court had earlier granted the defendants bail to the tune of N600m with two sureties each, in like sum.
EFCC maintained that the offence the defendants committed was contrary to sections 15(2) (d), 17(a), and 18 (a) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act 2011 as amended in 2012 and punishable under Section (15) (3) of the same Act. The offence attracts a maximum of 14 years imprisonment upon conviction