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N338.8 million Money Laundering Charge :Court Discharges EX-Lagos Speaker, Adeyemi Ikuforiji

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Ikuforiji ( centre in white) in a group photograph after the judgement

Justice Mohammed Liman of the Federal High Court, Lagos on Monday, discharge and acquitted a former speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly, Adeyemi Ikuforiji and his former aide, Oyebode Atoyebi, of 54-counts charge bothering on money laundering.
Justice Mohammed Liman held that the prosecution failed to discharge the burden of proof placed on it by the provisions of the law.
Ikuforiji and Atoyebi were thirteen years ago charged by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, on a 54-counts charge bordering on alleged N338.8 million money laundering.
They however pleaded not guilty to the charge and were granted  bail by the court sometimes in 2012.
On March 17, 2021, the EFCC closed its case after calling it second witness.
While the case was going on the trial judge, Justice Liman was  transferred out of the Lagos division and the case had to  suffer several adjournment.
On May 4, 2023, defence counsel Mr Dele Adesina, SAN,  opened the case of the defence consequent upon which the defence  called three witnesses, including the  first defendant (Ikuforiji).
While giving evidence , Ikuforiji told the court  how he was being prosecuted based on a faceless petition.
He  told the court that the instant case arose from a petition written by an unknown person, alleging that he had stolen about N7 billion from the Lagos House of Assembly.
After closing its defence parties were ordered to write and file thier final written addresses and same were adopted  on May 17, while the court reserved judgement.
Delivering judgement today, Justice Liman first struck out count one of the charge, on the grounds of discripancies in the timeline of the law under which the defendants were charged.
The court in his ruling asked a pertinent question as to what was the substantive law at the time the defendants were charged.
The court held : “Charging a person under a law that was non existent at the time of an alleged offence runs foul of the law.
 Money Laundering Prohibition Act of 2004/2011 requires clear evidence of intent and the actual act of laundering money.
“It is difficult to prove the offence of money laundering without the predicate offence; the prosecution has failed to prove this.
“The prosecution has not proved the offence of money laundering beyond reasonable doubts.
“Consequently, the defendants are acquitted of all the allegations of money laundering  levelled against them in courts two to 54 of the charge,” he said
The defendants were first arraigned on March 1, 2012 before Justice Okechukwu Okeke on a 20-count charge bordering on misappropriation and money laundering.
They had each pleaded not guilty to the charges and were granted bails.
The defendants were, however, subsequently re-arraigned before Justice Ibrahim Buba, following a re-assignment of the case.
Buba then granted them bail in the sum of N500 million each with sureties in like sun
On Sept. 26, 2014, Justice Buba discharged Ikuforiji and his aide of the alleged offences, after upholding a no- case submission of the defendants.
Buba  held that the EFCC failed to establish a prima-facie case against them.
Dissatisfied with the ruling, the EFCC through its counsel, Mr Godwin Obla (SAN), filed a Notice of Appeal dated September 30, 2014 challenging the decision of the trial court.
Obla had argued that the trial court erred in law when it held that the counts were incompetent because they were filed under Section 1(a) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2004 which was repealed by an Act of 2011.
EFCC further argued that the lower court erred in law when it held that the provisions of Section 1 of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2004 and 2011, only applied to natural persons and corporate bodies other than the government.
The commission had also submitted that the trial judge erred in law when he held and concluded that the testimonies of the prosecution witnesses supported the innocence of the respondents.
In its judgement, the Lagos Division of the Appeal Court, in November 2016, agreed with the prosecution and ordered a fresh trial of the defendants before another judge.
Following the decision of the Appeal Court, the defendants headed for the Supreme Court, seeking to upturn the ruling of the Appellate court.
Again, in its verdict, the apex court also upheld the decision of the appellate court and ordered that the case be sent back to the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court for reassignment to another judge.
According to the charge, EFCC alleged that the defendants accepted cash payments above the threshold set by the Money Laundering Act, without going through a financial institution.
The commission accused the defendants of conspiring to commit an illegal act of accepting cash payments in the aggregate sum of N338.8 million from the House of Assembly without going through a financial institution.
Ikuforiji was also accused of using his position to misappropriate funds belonging to the Assembly.
The EFCC said that the defendants committed the offences between April 2010 and July 2011.
The offences, according to the EFCC, contravenes the provisions of Sections 15 (1d), 16(1d) and 18 of Money Laundering Act, 2004 and 2011

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