By Ikechukwu Nnochiri, Abuja
The Federal Government, on Wednesday, re-arraigned the immediate past Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mohammed Adoke, SAN, on an amended seven-count money laundering charge.
Adoke took fresh plea before trial Justice Inyang Ekwo alongside his co-defendant, Aliyu Abubakar, who is an oil tycoon.
In the charge marked FHC/CR/89/2017, FG alleged that Adoke had in September 2013, accepted the sum of United States Dollars equivalent to N300million from the 2nd Defendant, Abubakar, and thereby committed an offence under section 1 (a) of the Money Laundering Prohibition Act 2011 (as amended) and punishable under section 16 (2)(b) of the same Act.
It alleged that the former AGF, within the same period, made a payment of the sum of United States Dollars equivalent to N367,318,800.00 to one Usman Mohammed Bello.
According to the charge, Adoke made “structured cash payments in 13 tranches of the total sum of N50m into his Unity Bank Account”, which sums he knew exceeded the statutory threshold of funds an individual could receive outside a financial institution.
He was alleged to have attempted to conceal the origins of the funds, contrary to section 15(2) (a) of the Money Laundering Prohibition Act.
Besides, FG, alleged that the former AGF caused to be made on his behalf, structured cash payments, in 22 tranches, a total sum of N80m into his Unity Bank Account, which sums he knew were part of an unlawful act.
Meantime, the Defendants pleaded not guilty to the charge, just as their lawyers, Kanu Agabi, SAN, and Chief Akin Olujimi, SAN, respectively, persuaded the court to allow them to continue to enjoy their previous bail conditions.
Their application was not opposed by the prosecution counsel, Mr Bala Sanga.
In a ruling, Justice Ekwo admitted the Defendants to bail on terms earlier handed to them by trial Justice Binta Nyako.
The court subsequently adjourned the case till August 3, even as it okayed accelerated trial of the Defendants.
It will be recalled that Justice Nyako had on February 10, adopted N50m bail sum with one surety in like sum, a condition an Abuja High Court at Gwagwalad handed to the Defendants on January 30, after they were also arraigned on a separate corruption charge.
The high court had insisted that the sureties must be responsible citizens that must depose affidavits of means, adding that they must be resident within the jurisdiction of the court and own verifiable landed properties worth the bail sum.
The court further ordered the sureties to tender their three years tax clearance certificates, even as it seized international passports of the Defendants, warning them not to travel out of the country without permission.
It stressed that the Defendants must sign a written undertaking not to interfere with any of the prosecution witnesses and to make themselves available for trial at all times.
The bail followed an initial 42-count corruption charge the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, preferred against the defendants over separate roles they played in the alleged fraudulent transfer of ownership of Oil Prospecting License, OPL, 245, regarded as one of the biggest oil blocs in Africa.
EFCC alleged that the ex-AGF who was arrested upon his return to the country from Dubai, United Arab Emirate, on December 19, 2019, received gratification to facilitate the alleged oil bloc fraud.
It alleged that it was Adoke that mediated controversial agreements that ceded OPL 245 to two oil giants, Shell and Eni, who in turn paid about $1.1billion to accounts controlled by an ex-convict and former Petroleum Minister, Chief Dan Etete.
Abubakar who is the owner of AA Oil was said to have acted as a “middleman” in the alleged $1.1billion Malabu Oil deal.