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Alleged N450m fraud: Court adjouns until June 19 for Belgore, ex-minister’s trial

Lagos – A Federal High Court Lagos, Monday, fixed June 19, for continuation of trial of a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Dele Belgore, and a former Minister of National Planning, Abubakar Sulaiman, standing trial over N450 million fraud,

EFCC charged them on nine counts bordering on the alleged offences.

Prof Abubakar Sulaiman with Bar Dele Belgore

They, had however, pleaded not guilty to the charges, and were granted bails

On Monday, Mr Rotimi Oyedepo appeared for the prosecution while Messrs Ebun Shofunde (SAN), and Tayo Oyetibo appeared for the first and second defendants respectively.

Oyetibo then informed the court that the second defendant was not in court as he had missed his flight to Lagos, adding that same had been communicated to the prosecutor.

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He told the court that it was not in the character of the second defendant, to be away from court, as he had always appeared in court to face his trial.

He then urged the court to graciously grant a short adjournment.

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The prosecutor confirmed to the court that he was informed of the position, but said that he would “grudgingly” concede to the request, adding that since the case was for him to conclude his cross examination, it should be fixed for Wednesday.

Following agreement of parties. Justice Rilwan Aikawa adjourned the case until June 19 for continuation of trial by 2pm.

Belgore, who is a former campaign coordinator of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in Kwara State had concluded his testimony in defence of the allegation on April 12, while the court had adjourned for cross examination.

He had told the court that he was innocent of the charges preferred against him by EFCC, adding that the prosecution pressed charges against him, even though he did not benefit from the N450 million which is subject of the charge.

He had told the court that in his statement to EFCC, he had given detailed information about those who took possession, disbursed and used the said N450 million.

According to him, while he was being investigated by the EFCC on the alleged offence, he had given account of the role he played adding that he neither admitted orally to have committed the offences nor made any statement to admit that he was guilty of the offences.

He had also told the court that the N450 million which was set aside as campaign fund for the 2015 General elections, was from series of fund raising activities done by the PDP.

Belgore had also refuted claims that the money was from a former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani Alison-Madueke.

According to him, throughout his tenure as the campaign coordinator in Kwara State, he had no dealings with Allison-Madueke, and was not aware that the N450 million he signed for in 2015 came from her.

He had said that claims that the money was part of the N23 billion allegedly collected by Diezani from three oil marketers ahead of the 2015 General elections, were false.

In the nine count charge, the EFCC alleged that Diezani (said to be at large) conspired with Belgore and Sulaiman on or about March 27, 2015, to directly take possession of the sum of N450 million, which they reasonably ought to have known forms part of proceeds of unlawful act.

They were also alleged to have taken the said funds in cash, which exceeded the amount authorized by law, without going through the financial institutions (NAN)

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