A Federal High Court in Lagos has fixed judgment for June 18, 2015, in the trial of a former Aviation Minister, Chief Femi Fani-Kayode, charged with money laundering.
Justice Rita Ofili-Ajumogobia fixed the judgment date on Monday following the adoption of final written addresses and summary arguments by lawyers to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and the accused person.
Fani-Kayode, whose trial began in 2008 before Justice Ramat Mohammed, was accused by the EFCC to have laundered about N100m while he was 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.
The EFCC prosecutor, Mr. Festus Keyamo, while urging the court on Monday to uphold the remaining two counts and to accordingly convict Fani-Kayode, said the former minister had failed to exonerate himself of the allegations. Keyamo pointed out that the object of the charge was that Fani-Kayode transacted in cash sums above N500,000, which was the threshold stipulated by the Money Laundering Act.
According to Keyamo, Fani-Kayode himself had admitted making such transactions in his confessional statement of December 22, 2008 made to the EFCC.
He argued, “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 these 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 argued that the prosecution had discharged its duty once it established that Fani-Kayode transacted in large sums above the Money Laundering threshold, adding that it was left for 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 were proceeds of his father’s estate, saying the accused should have called the tenant, who paid to testify in court and back it up with his statement of account.
But Fani-Kayode’s lawyer, Mr. Adedayo Adedipe (SAN), 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 Fani-Kayode 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 persons.