By Jerry Uwah
Justice Rita Ofili-Ajumogobia of the Federal High Court sitting in Lagos yesterday lashed out at the prosecution for repeatedly stalling the money laundering trial of a former minister of aviation, Mr. Femi Fani-Kayode.
Fani-Kayode is charged by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on an amended 40-count charge of money laundering.
The case which was fixed for continuation of trial yesterday could not go on as earlier scheduled due to the absence of the prosecutor, Mr Festus Keyamo.
When the case was mentioned, counsel to the accused, Mr Ifedayo Adedipe, informed the court of the absence of the prosecutor, and requested for an adjournment of the case.
A visibly angry Justice Ofili-Ajumogobia, expressed displeasure on the absence of the prosecutor, adding that it was wrong for him not to have written a letter to the court.
‘This is a case in which the accused attends court from outside jurisdiction, and so, it was wrong for the prosecution not to have intimated the court on his absence.”
She however, adjourned the case to May 14 and May 15 for continuation of trial, and ordered hearing notices to be issued on the prosecution.
The EFCC has lost numerous fraud and money laundering cases to what judges often term “lack of diligent prosecution”.
Fani-Kayode was first arraigned sometime in December 2008 before Justice Ramat Mohammed on a 47-count charge.
He pleaded not guilty to the charge and was granted bail in the sum of N200 million with two sureties in like sum.
He was re-arraigned before Justice Binta Murtala-Nyako, following the transfer of Mohammed from the Lagos Division.
The accused was again re-arraigned before Justice Ajumogobia on Feb. 11, 2013 after the transfer of Murtala-Nyako.
He was again re-arraigned before Ajumogobia on March 6, following the amendment of the 47-count charge to 40-counts, the EFCC having dropped seven of the counts.
The accused was also alleged to have accepted cash payments in the tune of about N100 million, during his tenure minister of aviation and minister of culture and tourism respectively.
The offence is said to contravene the provisions of Sections 15(1) (a) (b) (c) (d) and 15 (2) (a) (b) of the Money Laundering (prohibition) Act, 2004.