By Onozure Dania
Lagos- The Court of Appeal Lagos state, yesterday, set aside the ruling of a Federal High Court that discharged the former Speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly, Hon, Adeyemi Ikuforiji and his Personal Assistant (PA), Oyebode Atoyebi of allegations of money laundering.
The appellate court in an unanimous judgment set aside the judgment of the trial judge, Justice Ibrahim Buba, stating that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, had made a prima facie case against the former Speaker to require him to enter a defence to the charge brought against him.
In a judgment delivered by Justice Biobela Georgewill, the lead judge of a three man panel, also ordered that trial should start trial afresh before another judge of the Federal High Court, Lagos other than Justice Buba in the light of the far-reaching findings already made by him.
Other members of the three-man panel are: Justice Side Dauda Bage and Justice Ugochukwu Ogakwu. Justice Buba, had on September 26, 2014, discharged Ikuforiji and Atoyebi of a 56 count charge of conspiracy and laundering to the tune of N500 million belonging to the Assembly, an offence which according to the EFCC contravened sections 15 (1d) and 16(1d) of Money Laundry Act, MLA, 2004 and 2011. Justice Georgewill in his lead judgment held that the offences created by Section 1 of the MLA 2004 and 2011 respectively are strict liability offences and that their proof does not depend on the approval and purposes the money was used for, once the amount is above the threshold amount and was not paid or receive through a financial institution either by an individual or a corporate body.
“in the light of my finding above, I have no difficulty resolving the sole issue for determination in the negative against the respondents in favour of the appellant and I hold firmly therefore, that the appeal has merit and ought to be allowed . The ruling of the lower court is hereby set aside,” Justice Georgewill held.