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EFCC Loses N1.2bn Fraud Case Against Ex-Gov Fayose’s Aide, Agbele in Court

Posted by Thandiubani on Mon 24th Jun, 2024 - tori.ng

gbele, who stood trial on the criminal charges for almost 8 years, was one of the closest political allies of former Ekiti State Governor, Ayodele Fayose.

 
Abiodun Agbele has won his case against the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.
 
This is as Justice Nnamdi Dimgba of the Federal High Court, Abuja struck out a 24-count amended charge bordering on alleged N1.219 billion money laundering filed by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) against Abiodun Agbele and three others.
 
Agbele, who stood trial on the criminal charges for almost 8 years, was one of the closest political allies of former Ekiti State Governor, Ayodele Fayose.
 
Delivering a ruling on a no-case submission argued by Chief Mike Ozekhome SAN for the accused person, Justice Dimgba held that Agbele has no case to answer in the charges following the failure of the EFCC to establish the ingredients of the alleged offenses as required by law.
 
The EFCC had accused Agbele and three others of indirectly accepting N1.219 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 the act without going through a financial institution, contrary to the provisions of Section 1(a) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act.
 
The EFCC also accused Agbele of aiding a company, De Privateer Ltd, to take possession of N200 million, which was said to be part of the N1.219 billion on behalf of Fayose, contrary to 18(a) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act.
 
In his ruling on the no-case submission, Justice Dimgba found no proof of any of the essential ingredients of the counts to warrant calling on Agbele to stand a full trial.
 
Agbele, along with 3 other defendants, was initially arraigned before the court on eleven-count charges to which they had pleaded not guilty.
 
The charge, dated July 26, 2016, filed by Counsel to the EFCC, Mr. Wahab Shittu, SAN, had accused Agbele of some alleged offenses said to be contrary to the provisions of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2011 (as amended in 2012).
 
Agbele, in the initial charge, was alleged to have between April 4, 2014, and November 13, 2014, conspired with others at large to commit an illegal act, to wit: laundering the sum of N4,685,723,000,000.00 being the sum transferred from the Office of the National Security Adviser with the Central Bank of Nigeria by Col. Mohammed Sambo Dasuki (rtd), which he knew or reasonably ought to have known that the said funds formed part of the proceeds of an unlawful activity of Col. Dasuki (rtd), the then National Security Adviser, and thereby committed the offense said to be contrary to the provisions of the Money Laundering Act, 2011.
 
The EFCC also alleged that Agbele, with others at large, on or about June 17, 2015, directly took possession of the sum of N1,219,000,000.00 being part of the N4,685,723,000,000.00 transferred from the Office of the National Security Adviser with the 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 (then Minister of Defence for State) to wit: theft and corruption and thereby committed the offense said to be contrary to the provisions of the Money Laundering Act, 2011.
 
All the defendants had pleaded not guilty to the counts and the matter proceeded to trial.
 
In the course of the trial, however, the EFCC, via an Amended Charge filed on March 7, 2024, after calling 8 witnesses, amended the charge to 24 counts, to which the defendants equally pleaded not guilty.
 
The prosecution, in proof of its case against the defendants, through its counsel, Wahab Shittu, SAN, called 16 witnesses.
 
Upon the EFCC concluding its case, Agbele, instead of opening his defense, filed through his counsel, Prof. Mike Ozekhome, SAN, a no-case submission in which he prayed the court to discharge and acquit him of the offenses as the prosecution had failed to establish any of the essential elements of the offenses he was charged with such as to require him to open a defense in the matter.
 
The EFCC, through its counsel, Shittu, joined issues with Ozekhome, lead counsel to Agbele, insisting that Agbele had a case to answer.
 
In his ruling, however, Justice Dimgba held that the prosecutor failed to prove the essential elements of the offenses with which 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 scintilla 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 funds.
 
“Indeed, Senator Musiliu Obanikoro, whose name appeared on the charge and who testified for the prosecution, testified in favor of the defense 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 Agbele and the three other defendants were not privy to the source of the funds and therefore held that before the court can ask Agbele to enter his defense in the matter, the prosecutor must prove that the source of the funds was tainted with illegality and that the defendant knew or ought to know about that.
 
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 funds as stated by Senator Musiliu Obanikoro.
 
“The prosecution’s failure to do this is 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 benefited from such proceeds.”
 
The court therefore discharged Agbele from the 23 counts he was charged with but however called on the second defendant, a company, Silver McNamara, to enter its defense on the remaining count as it did not file a no-case submission.


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