The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) is planning to amend a N500 million fraud charge it slammed on a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Mohammed Dele Belgore and a former Minister of Planning, Professor Abubakar Sulaiman.
An indication to this effect was given on Monday by a lawyer to the anti-graft agency, Rotimi Oyedepo, at the continuation of the trial of the duo before Justice Mohammed Rilwan Aikawa of a Federal High Court in Lagos.
Oyedepo told the judge that the amendment is necessary to accommodate all evidence at the disposal of the commission.
He said: I had informed the defence that we intend to amend the charge in line with the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) 2015 and the evidence with us. The law is that we can amend anytime before judgement is delivered”.
Defence lawyers, Ebun Shofunde (SAN) and Tunji Ayanlaja (SAN) while not opposing the amendment, however prayed the court for time to study the amended charge anytime it is served on them by the prosecution.
Earlier in the course of yesterday’s proceedings, the second prosecution witness, Usman Zakari, was cross-examined by the two defence lawyers.
Speaking under cross-examination by Shofunde, the witness insisted that the two defendants had admitted collecting N450 million from the $115 million allegedly shared by a former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke, to rig the 2015 general elections.
“The two defendants admitted signing the receipt of payment with which they collected the sum of N450 million. The first defendant (Belgore) particularly admitted disbursing the money”, he said.
He, however, revealed that this was not contained in the statement he wrote on his findings after investigating the matter.
“I did not mention in my statement that the first defendant made a disbursement from the N450 million”, he said.
Efforts by the EFCC’s lawyer, Rotimi Oyedepo, to re-examine the witness on the reason behind the non-inclusion of how the first defendant admitted sharing the money in his statement could not sail through as he was prevented from doing so by the court.
Further hearing in the trial has been adjourned to November 24.
The court had earlier dismissed an application by Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke, in which she is seeking to be joined as a defendant in the matter.
The EFCC alleged that she conspired with Belgore and Sulaiman on or about March 27, 2015, to directly take possession of the sum of N450 million, which they reasonably ought to have known forms part of proceeds of unlawful act.
The trio were also alleged to have taken the said funds in cash, which exceeded the amount authorized by law, without going through any financial institutions.
Belgore and Sulaiman were also alleged to have paid the sum of N50 million to one, Sheriff Shagaya, without going through any bank.
The offences were said to be contrary to Sections 18(a), 15(2)(d), 1(a), 16(d) and punishable under Sections 15(3) and 4, 16 (2)(b), and 16(d) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) (Amendment) Act, 2012.