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MONEY LAUNDERING: ABIODUN AGBELE WINS AS COURT HELD HE HAS NO CASE TO ANSWER

On: June 24, 2024 - In: News - No comments

MONEY LAUNDERING: ABIODUN AGBELE WINS AS COURT HELD HE HAS NO CASE TO ANSWER

 

 

Mr Abiodun Agbele’s ordeal of nearly 8 years tortuous trial came to an abrupt end on Friday,21st June, 2024, when a Federal High Court presided over by the Honourable Justice Nnamdi Dimgba ruled that Abiodun Agbele had no case to answer in a 24-count amended charge bordering on alleged money laundering of #1.219 billion filed by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) against Abiodun Agbele and three others.

 

The EFCC had accused Abiodun Agbele and three others of indirectly accepting #1.219 billion in cash through an official of Zenith Bank in Akure, Ondo State, from the then minister of State for Defence, Senator Musiliu Obanikoro, on behalf of Ayodele Fayose in June 2014. Agbele was alleged to have carried out this act without going through a financial institution contrary to te provisions of section 1(a) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act. The EFCC also accused Agbele of aiding a company called De Privateer Ltd to take possession of #200 million which was allegedly part of the #1.219 billion, on behalf of Fayose, contrary to section 18 (a) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act. Honourable Justice Dimgba found no proof of any of the essential ingredients of these counts such as to call on Abiodun Agbele to stand full trial.

 

Mr. Abiodun Agbele along with 3 other Defendants were initially arraigned before the Federal High Court on an eleven-count charge (which later had one court struck out), to which they had pleaded not guilty. The charge dated 26th July, 2016, filed by Counsel to the EFCC, Mr Wahab Shittu, SAN, had accused Agbele of some alleged offences said to be contrary to the provisions of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2011 (as amended in 2012) (MLA).

 

Mr. Agbele in the initial charge was alleged, amongst others, between 4th April, 2014 and 13th November, 2014, to have conspired with others who are at large to commit illegal act to wit: laundering the sum of N4,685,723,000,000.00 being sum transferred from the Office of the National Security Adviser with Central Bank of Nigeria by Col. Mohammed Sambo Dasuki (Rtd), which he knew or reasonably ought to have know that the said funds formed part of the proceeds of an unlawful activity of Col. Mohammed Sambo Dasuki (Rtd) the then National Security Adviser, and thereby committed the offence said to be contrary to the provisions of the Money Laundering Act, 2011.

 

The EFCC also alleged that Mr. Agbele with others now at large, on or about the 17th day of June, 2015, directly took possession of the sum of N1,219,000,000.00 (One Billion, Two Hundred and Nineteen Million, Naira) being part of the N4,685,723,000,000.00 transferred from the Office of the National Security Adviser with Central Bank of Nigeria, when he knew or ought reasonably to know that the funds formed part of the proceeds of an unlawful activity of Col. Mohammed Sambo Dasuki the then National Security Adviser, and Musiliu Obanikoro (the then Minister of Defence for State) to wit: theft and corruption and thereby committed the offence said to be contrary to the provisions of the Money Laundering Act, 2011.

 

All the Defendants had pleaded not guilty to all the counts and the matter proceeded to trial.  In the course of trial however, the Complainant vide an Amended Charge filed on 7th March, 2024, after calling a total number of 8 witnesses,amended the charge to 24 counts, to which the Defendants equally pleaded not guilty to all 24 counts.

 

The prosecution in proof of its case against the Defendants through its counsel,Mr Wahab Shittu, SAN, called a total of 16 witnesses. Upon EFCC concluding its case, Mr. Agbele, instead of opening his defence, filed through his counsel, Prof Mike Ozekhome, SAN, a no-case submission, praying the court to discharge and acquit him of those offences as the prosecution had failed to establish any of the essential elements of the offences he was charged with,such as to require him to open a defence in the matter. The prosecution through its counsel,Mr Shittu, joined issues with Prof Ozekhome, lead counsel to Mr. Agbele, insisting that Agbele had a case to answer.

 

In his well-considered ruling delivered on the 21st day of June, 2024, Hon Justice Dimgba, ruled that the prosecutor had failed to prove the essential elements of the offences with which Mr. Abiodun Agbele was charged. The Court found that the case, as put forward by the prosecution, was simply a case of cash-in-transit between bank officials. He found that notwithstanding that Agbele, the 1st Defendant, was physically present when the cash was being moved in Akure, Ondo, State, there was no scintila of evidence to show that he knew that the cash was tainted with alleged illegality. The court also found that none of the witnesses called by the prosecution knew the source of the fund. Indeed, Senator Musiliu Obanikoro whose name appeared on the charge and who testified for the prosecution,testified in favour of the Defence when he stated emphatically that only the then National Security Adviser ( NSA ),Col. Sambo Dassuki and Mr Ayodele Fayose ( the Ekiti State Governor),could speak about the source of the cash. The court found that Mr. Adiodun Agbele and the three other Defendants were not privy to the source of the funds.It therefore held that before the court can ask Agbede to enter his defence in the matter, the prosecutor must prove that the source of the fund was tainted with illegality and that the Defendant knew or ought to know about that. In this wise, the court held that the prosecutor ought to have subpoenaed two vital witnesses in the persons of Ayodele Fayose and Sambo Dasuki, to testify as to the source of the fund as stated by Senator Musiliu Obanikoro. The prosecution’s failure to do this was fatal to its case. The court clarified that merely being in possession of cash alone, no matter how huge, without more, cannot sustain those charges. There must be evidence that the cash formed part of the proceeds of unlawful activity and that Ayodele Fayose and the 1st Defendant knew and benefitted from such proceeds.

 

The court therefore discharged Abiodun Agbele of the 23 counts he was charged with. It however called on the second Defendant company, Silver McNamara,to enter its defence on the remaining count as it did not file a no cases submission.

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