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Diezani: I Want To Be In Nigeria For Money Laundering Trial

Diezani Alison-Madueke, former minister of petroleum resources, has asked the federal high court in Lagos to compel the attorney general of the federation to allow her appear in court over a N450m money laundering charge.

Alison-Madueke is currently in the UK where she has been since leaving office in 2015.

Some civil society groups have been campaigning for her to be brought back to Nigeria for trial, although this is thought to be an attempt to shield her from a certain conviction in the UK.

James Ibori, former governor of Delta state, was tried and jailed in the UK in 2012 after he was discharged and acquitted by a Nigerian court in 2009.

Alison-Madueke is seeking to be joined in the money laundering suit filed by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) against Mohammed Belgore, a senior advocate of Nigeria, and Abubakar Suleiman, a former minister of national planning.

The duo were charged before Rilwan Aikawa, the presiding judge, for allegedly collecting N450m from Alison-Madueke and laundering same prior to the 2015 general elections.

At the resumed hearing on Tuesday, Obinna Onya, Diezani’s counsel, filed an application seeking the joining of Alison-Madueke as one of the defendants in the criminal charge.

Alison-Madueke was declared as being “at large” in four of the five counts charge which named only Belgore and Suleiman as defendants and which has the AGF as the chief complainant.

Her counsel argued that contrary to the declaration by the EFCC that she was at large, Diezani was willing to return to Nigeria from the UK and appear in court to defend herself against the charges.

He also argued that proceeding with the case without giving her the opportunity to defend herself would be against her constitutional right of fair hearing.

The statement made by the prosecution means that the applicant (Alison-Madueke) is “going to be convicted without being given the opportunity to defend herself,” he also said.

Onya’s application, therefore, prayed for an order “mandating the attorney general of the federation, being the agent of the complainant, to facilitate the prompt appearance of the applicant in court on the next adjourned date, to take her plea and to defend the allegations made against her in counts 1, 2,3 and 4 of the charge, numbered FHC/L/35c/2017.”

Rotimi Oyedepo, prosecution counsel, however, opposed the application on the ground that he had not been served.

The presiding judge then asked him to properly serve the prosecution the documents, saying the court could not entertain the application until all the parties had been properly served.

He also adjourned the trial till October 4 for the anti-graft agency to respond to an objection made by the defence counsel on whether a computer-generated document which was tendered by Usman Zakari, an EFCC investigator and a witness in the case, was admissible.

Zakari had said emails between Ogonna Okonkwo, managing director of Fidelity Bank, and the son of the former petroleum minister, were discovered in the course of investigation.

He told the court the emails showed a list of beneficiaries of the $115,010,000 allegedly shared by Diezani to some individuals across the country during the elections.

Belgore and Suleiman were said to have made a cash transaction of N450m in the build up of the elections without going through any financial institution.

The duo, however, pleaded not guilty to the charges.

 

 

The Cable

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