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Money Laundering Case Against Ikuforiji Adjourned



A Federal High Court sitting in Lagos, southwest Nigeria, has adjourned till 11 July to decide whether the Speaker of Lagos State House of Assembly Adeyemi Ikuforiji and his personal assistant Oyebode Atoyebi, standing trial before the court on money laundering related offences have a case to answer or not.
In the defence of the two accused persons Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN) leading two senior lawyers, Abiodun Onidare, Tunde Akinrimisi and nine other lawyers, entered a no case submission on the grounds that:There was no essential evidence to prove the alleged offence of money laundering; the Speaker is being falsely charged with performing his official function and this is first of its kind in the country where a Speaker would be prosecuted in respect of official funds officially released after due requisition, approval and acceptance.
Olanipekun further contended that it was impossible for official funds for official assignment to be laundered as alleged by EFCC.

Besides, Sections 2,3,4 and 5 of the Lagos State House of Assembly Self Accounting Law provide how the official funds are to be expended, adding that all the ledgers tendered by the prosecution were covered by the definition section of the Money Laundering Act to the effect that the ledgers qualified as financial instruments.
He said: “The office of the Speaker is not a private office but a public office created by Section 92 of the Constitution. There is no count in the charge sheet that says the Speaker diverted the funds to his personal account or for personal use. Therefore, the trial amounts to witch-hunting, because the prosecution has not been able to substantiate the allegation of money laundering,” Olanipekun argued, and urged the court to discharge and acquit the accused persons.

Responding, EFCC’s lawyer, Chief Godwin Obla (SAN), while opposing the application, urged the court to discountenance all the submissions of the defence counsel and dismiss the application and make the accused persons to present their defence if any.
He hinged his submission on the ground that Section 1 of the Money Laundering Act clearly prevents anyone including corporate bodies from accepting or making cash payment above a threshold.

He further stated that Section 15 (1) (d) of Money Laundering Act of 2004 and 16 (1) (d) of 2011 made it a criminal offence for anybody or corporate body to make or accept cash payment above the threshold.
According to him, that was the basic charge against the accused persons. He made reference to the cash book tendered in exhibit before the court to buttress his argument, adding that the immunity of the speaker covered the deed of the speaker only in respect of discussions on the floor of the House, and not the case at hand.
After listening to the parties, Justice Ibrahim Buba fixed Friday 11 July, 2014 for ruling.

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