By Henry Umoru & Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA—Former Minister of Aviation, Femi Fani-Kayode, who is facing trial over alleged N26 million fraud, has begged the Federal High Court in Abuja to allow him to return the money to the Federal Government.
The former Minister, through his lawyer, Mr Ahmed Raji, SAN, urged the court to allow him to explore out-of-court settlement deal with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, which is prosecuting him on a five-count charge.
But Fani-Kayode, in a swift reaction, described the claim as false, embarrassing and mischievous.
The former Aviation Minister was the Director of Media and Publicity in the campaign team of ex-President Goodluck Jonathan during the 2015 election and was accused of illegally receiving N26 million from the detained former National Security Adviser, NSA, Col. Sambo Dasuki, retd, before the election to organise media campaign for Jonathan.
EFCC maintained that he committed an offence contrary to section 17(b) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2011, as amended in 2012 and punishable under Section 17(b) of the same Act.
Meantime, at the resumed sitting on the matter yesterday, the defendant prayed for an adjournment to pursue settlement options with the anti-graft agency.
Raji said his client was ready to restitute and save FG and himself the rigours of trial in view of the amount involved in the case.
Besides, Raji said he was new on the matter and would need some time to appraise the case-file to be able to properly defend his client.
“Secondly my lord, looking at the facts of the case and the money involved, I believe that there are other options we can explore.
“The case involves the sum of N26 million and the law allows you to explore the option of a plea bargain and so many other options rather than to go through trial,” Raji submitted.
More so, Fani-Kayode’s lawyer told the court that EFCC was amenable to the plea bargain.
On his part, EFCC lawyer, Mr Johnson Ojogbane said he was not opposed to the application, though he noted that the matter has suffered two consecutive adjournments at the instance of the defendant.
After listening to both parties, Justice John Tsoho adjourned the matter till March 24.
The court earlier granted the defendant who spent 24 days in detention, bail to the tune of N50 million with one surety in like sum.
Fani-Kayode is also answering to another 17-count money laundering charge before the Lagos Division of the high court, along with a former Minister of Finance, Nenadi Usman; Danjuma Yusuf and a firm, Joint Trust Dimension Nig. Ltd.
The defendants were charged with unlawful retention, unlawful use and unlawful payment of money to the tune of N4.9 billion.
Denying the claim last night, Fani-Kayode in a statement signed by his spokesperson, Jude Ndukwe, and titled, re : false reports on Court Proceedings at the Abuja Federal High Court today( yesterday), said: “Reports that are coming out of MITV that Chief Femi Fani-Kayode has agreed to return N26 million to the EFCC in an attempt to settle his case at the Abuja Federal High Court out of court with them are false.