BY LAWRENCE ETIM.
Fani-Kayode, a former Minister of Aviation, whose arraignment for N100m money laundering charges was the fourth since 2008, pleaded not guilty to all the 40 counts, when the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, on Thursday re-arraigned him before a Federal High Court, Lagos. The re-arraignment before Justice Rita Ofili-Ajumogobia followed the amendment of the previous 47 counts involving about N230m. This made it the second time of arraigning the accused before Justice Ofili-Ajumogobia, after two other judges had previously handled the matter.
Ofili-Ajumogobia, after the re-arraignment on Thursday, granted the plea by the accused person’s lawyer, Mr. Wale Akoni (SAN), to allow his client to continue in the bail conditions he was earlier granted. The judge fixed trial for March 10, 17, 18 and 19. The prosecuting counsel, Mr. Festus Keyamo, assured the court that he would call all his witnesses and complete the prosecution’s case within the four days. In the amended charges, Fani-Kayode was accused of accepting various sums of money totalling N100m between July 7, 2006 and May 11, 2007 without passing through a financial institution.
These transactions was said to have violated the provisions of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, which sets the limit of cash transaction at N500, 000. The accused was said to be, within the period when the offences were allegedly committed, serving as the Minister of Culture and Tourism and subsequently as Minister of Aviation. He was accused of violating the law by further depositing the cash payments in his investment account with the First Inland Bank, Plc, Apapa Branch (now First City Monument Bank Plc) for 90 days.
Part of the money was also said to have been deposited in the account of his wife, Regina; and daughter, Remilekun. The accounts were said to be with the same branch of First Inland Bank Plc (now FCMB). The EFCC named various individuals, including the accused person’s wife and daughter; his “close associate,” Mark Ndifreke and Ojo Agbor as those who executed the transaction on behalf of Fani-Kayode. Others who allegedly carried out the transaction on behalf of the accused were members of his administrative staff, Florence Salau, Daniel Atogo and Supo Agbaje. All the named individuals were said to be at large.
The offences were said to have contravened Section 15(1) (d) and punishable under section 15 (2) (b) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2004. He was first arraigned before Justice Ramat Mohammed on December 23, 2008. After the judge was transferred out of the Lagos Division of the court, the matter started afresh before Justice Binta Nyako. Following the subsequent transfer of Justice Nyako from the Lagos Division, the matter was transferred to Justice Ofili Ajumogobia, before whom the accused was re-arraigned on February 11, 2013.