A Federal High Court in Lagos will on May 31 decide whether it will admit in evidence, statements allegedly made by a former Aviation Minister, Femi Fani-Kayode, and three others facing money laundering charges.
Justice Mohammed Aikawa will rule on a preliminary objection challenging the admissibility of the statements allegedly made to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) which is prosecuting the defendants.
Journalists gathered that Fani-Kayode is facing charges bordering on N4.6 billion money laundering alongside a former Minister of State for Finance, Nenandi Usman (first defendant), and Yusuf Danjuma, a former Chairman of the Association of Local Governments of Nigeria (ALGON), Yusuf Danjuman (third defendant).
The fourth defendant in the suit is a company, Jointrust Dimensions Nig. Ltd.
The EFCC preferred a 17-count charge against the defendants but they pleaded not guilty and were granted bail.
EFCC has since opened its case and the third prosecution witness, Mr Shehu Shuaibu, is being led in evidence.
On Tuesday, Shuaibu, an EFCC investigator, who was led in evidence by the prosecution counsel, Mr Rotimi Oyedepo, testified that during the investigation of the case, the defendants were invited by the commission for their own sides of the story.
He said when the first and third defendants were invited, he showed them Exhibit 8 which is a bank account statement of the fourth defendant (Joint trust) which they identified.
According to the witness, the defendants thereafter volunteered statements to the commission after requisite cautionary words were administered.
When asked about Fani-Kayode (second defendant), he said that he was invited on May 19 and shown a statement of his bank account where he transferred sums of money from Joint trust.
According to the witness, the second defendant admitted receiving money from Joint trust and also volunteered statements to the EFCC.
The prosecution counsel then showed the witness the respective statements of the first, second and third defendants, and he said that they made the statements to the EFCC.
When Oyedepo sought to tender the statements in evidence, defence counsel, Messrs Ferdinard Orbih (SAN), Norrison Quakers (SAN) and Clement Onwuenweunor, raised objections to their admissibility, saying the statements were involuntarily made.
Citing relevant provisions of the Evidence Act, Orbih told the court that the statement of the first defendant was made under duress and in her absence, while she was receiving medical attention.
Quakers aligned with the submissions of Orbih, saying the statement of Fani-Kayode was involuntarily made.
He added that the statement was not taken in the presence of his counsel.
Citing statutory and judicial authorities, the defence argued that where voluntariness of a statement was in doubt, the court should order a trial-within-trial to determine whether the statement was voluntary.
Clement, counsel to the third defendant, also aligned with Orbih.
In reply, Oyedepo argued that a court could only order a trial-within-trial where it was satisfied that the statement under contention was confessional.
According to the prosecution counsel, the statement of the first defendant was taken by her counsel, with her authority, and not under any form of duress or inducement.
For the second defendant, Oyedepo argued that his statement was taken in the presence of his lawyer, Mr Olumayowa Owolabi, who he said, confirmed that the statement was voluntary.
He argued that another lawyer for the second defendant, one Wale Balogun, also confirmed that the statement was taken voluntarily.
Oyedepo urged the court to refuse the objection.
The judge adjourned the case until May 31 for ruling on the objection and continuation of trial.
Journalists report that the EFCC alleged that the defendants committed the offences from January 2015 to March 2015.
In counts one to seven, it accused the defendants of unlawfully retaining over N3.8 billion which formed part of the proceeds of stealing and corruption.
In counts eight to 14, the commission accused them of unlawfully using over N970 million which formed part of corruption.
In counts 15 to17, the EFCC accused Fani-Kayode and one Olubode Oke said to be at large or making cash payments of about N30 million which exceeded the amount allowed by law without going through a financial institution.
It also alleged that Fani-Kayode made payments to one Paste Poster Co (PPC) of No 125 Lewis St., Lagos, in excess of amounts allowed by law.
The alleged offences contravene the provisions of sections 15 (3) (4), 16 (2) (b), and 16 (5) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) (Amendment) Act, 2012.