The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on Thursday, tendered 108 Zenith bank Plc’s cheques before a Federal High Court, Lagos, which were allegedly used by Mr. Femi Fani-Kayode and others in alleged N4.9 billion fraud case.
Fani-Kayode, a former Minister of Aviation alongside Nenadi Esther Usman, a former Minister of Finance, Danjuma Yusuf one time chairman of Association of Local Government of Nigeria (ALGON) and a company, Joint Trust Dimensions Limited are been tried before the court presided over by Justice Rilwan Aikawa on a 17 counts bordering on conspiracy, unlawful retention of proceeds of theft and money laundering.
Fani-Kayode, who was the Director of Publicity of ex-President Goodluck Jonathan’s presidential campaign organisation for the 2015 election, was accused of conspiring with the others to, directly and indirectly, retain various sums which the EFCC claimed they ought to have reasonably known were proceeds of crime.
In one of the counts, the defendants were accused of conspiring among themselves to “indirectly retain the sum of N1,500, 000,000.00 which sum you reasonably ought to have known forms part of the proceeds of an unlawful act to wit: stealing”.
The four were also accused of indirectly retaining N300m, N400m and N800m, all proceeds of corruption, according to EFCC.
Fani-Kayode was accused of directly using parts of the money at various times, including a N250,650,000.00, which he allegedly used between March 20 and 25, 2015.
Fani-Kayode was also accused of making a cash transaction of N24m with one Olubode Oke, said to still be at large, on February 12, 2015 “to Paste Poster Co of 125, Lewis Street, Lagos Island.”
The duo were said to have made the transaction without going through any financial institution, an act the EFCC claimed was contrary to sections 1(a) and 16(d) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) (Amendment) Act, 2012, and punishable under Section 16(2)(b) of the same Act.
The defendants have pleaded not guilty.
At the resumed hearing of the matter on Thursday, one of the EFCC’s investigator, Shuaibu Shehu, while being led-in-evidence by the prosecutor, Rotimi Oyedepo, tendered 108 Zenith Bank Plc’s cheques, which he told the court were recovered in the course of his investigation into the matter.
The cheques were marked as exhibit 11(1-108).
The EFCC witness when asked by the prosecutor who was beneficiary of the cheques, said 103 of the cheques showed the names of the second defendant (Fani-Kayode). Adding that the cheques were drawn from the second defendant’s account with Zenith bank.
“100 cheques were of cash withdrawal, 96 of the cheques were withdrawn from the account of the second defendant. One of the cheques is N2 million, N5,0100 million, N5.650 million and N3.5050 million. All were drawn from second defendant’s account”, the witness stated.
Shuaibu also told stated that the second defendant issued a cheque of N22 million in favour of one Onigbinde on March 16, 2015, another cheque of N20, 340 million in favour of one Ojeifo Sofia on February, 2015, another cheque of N10 million for Jariley limited on January 30, 2015 and that the second defendant, Fani-Kayode withdrawn the sum of N5.650 million, N5.1 million, N2 million and N3.555 million respectively.
He further told the court that Jointrust Dimension Limited, the fourth defendant in the charge, issued cheques of N393 million, N250 million, N240 million with instructions that the money be paid into the second defendant’s account in Zenith bank. The cheques for the money were marked as exhibits 11civ, 11 cv, 11cvi.
Shuaibu also to the court that he got from the bank’s record that the monies that were Jointrust Limited’s account which were N300 million, N400 million and 800 million were from the Ministry of External Affairs’s Research Library account and Research Capital Accounts.
Upon the conclusion of the witness evidence-in-chief, the prosecutor sought to tender in evidence all the Ministry of External Affairs’ Statement of accounts, account documents package and certificate of identification for admissibility, but the move was objected by the defendants’ counsel.
In urging the court to reject the documents, counsel to Usman, Yussuf and Jointrust Limited, Mr. K. C. Nwofor, who stood in for Chief Ferdinand Orbih (SAN), told the court that the documents are not legible.
On his part, Fani-Kayode’s counsel, Mr
Norrison Quakers (SAN), while attack urging the court to reject the documents as it failed to meet current provision of Section 84 of the Evidence Act.
He said the current law is that a computer generated exhibit can only be admitted by the person that worked on it.
Quakers said the only person who can tender the exhibit is Eyituoyo Mogbetern, the Zenith Bank’s Compliance Officer. He added that the witness is not in position to tender the documents as he is not a staff of the bank.
He further submitted that the documents sought to be tendered are not qualified to be called ‘public documents’ as there is nothing its face to show that it was forwarded to the EFCC.
Quakers, in urging the court to reject the documents and marked is same, cited a Court of Appeal decision in Jubrin Vs FRN, 2018, Law Pavilion Electronic Law Report and other authorities.
Responding, the prosecutor, Oyedepo, said the record of the court bears that the maker of the documents, one S. Gana, is a staff of Zenith bank, had been called but her evidence had been expunged. Adding that the evidence of Shuaibu, PW 3, identifying the documents recovered by him in the course of his investigation.
He said the documents sought to be tendered is relevant to the issue as it shows the origin of the funds traces to the fourth defendant (Jointrust Limited) and subsequently transfered to the second defendant (Fani-Kayode) through exhibits 11(1-108). He said: “the relevance of the documents is not in doubt that’s why is going through all these turbulence”.
Oyedepo further said: “I submit that the witness being Investigation Officer can tender documents recovered by him in the course of his investigation, Obot Vs State, as regard the roles of an I. O. to tender documents recovered during investigation”.
He also said there is a presumption of regularity in favour of the Certified True Copy of public documents and that in compliance with the Section 84 of the Evidence Act, one of the option open to parties who is seeking to tender a public documents is issuance of certificate of compliance.
In urging the court to admit the documents, the prosecutor cited the case of Babani Eleya Vs fRN, 2016, LPELR and a Supreme Court’s decision on the case of Dawodu Vs FRN, LPELR, 43637.
On the issue of eligibility raised by the counsel to the first, third and fourth defendants, Oyedepo said: “admissibility is one, ascription of probative value is another”.
He urged the court to discountenance the counsel’s submission on legibility.
Upon listened to both parties submissions, Justice Aikawa, adjourned the matter till October 29, for ruling on the documents sought to be tendered and continuation of trial.
Justice Aikawa also granted Nenadi Esther Usman’s application for bail variation, to enable travel abroad for medical trip.
The application was moved by her counsel and it was not opposed by the prosecutor.