By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
The Federal High Court in Abuja, on Tuesday, declined the request by former Chairman of the defunct Pension Reform Taskforce Team, Abulrasheed Maina, for adjournment of further hearing on the money laundering charge the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, preferred against him.
The former pension reform boss is answering to a 12-count charge alongside his firm, Common Input Property and Investment Limited.
EFCC alleged that he used a bank account that was operated by his firm and laundered funds to the tune of about a N2billion, part of which he used to acquire landed properties in Abuja.
It told the court that Defendant used fictitious names to open and operate various bank accounts, as well as recruited his relatives that were bankers to operate fake bank accounts through which illicit funds were channelled.
The court had on December 4, ordered that Maina should be remanded at the Kuje Correctional Center, pending the conclusion of his trial.
His prison remand came barely 24 hours after he was arrested at the Niger Republic and extradited back to the country by the Interpol.
Maina fled the country after he jumped bail.
Following his conduct, the team of lawyers that hitherto represented him, applied and withdrew from the case.
Trial Justice Okon Abang had on the last adjourned date after he okayed Maina’s remand, deferred further hearing on the matter to enable his new lawyer, Mr. Adaji Abel, to properly study the case-file.
Meantime, at the resumed proceedings on Tuesday, the new lawyer, Abel, applied for a further adjournment of the matter to enable him to effectively prepare the defence of his client.
Maina’s lawyer stressed that he had yet to receive the record of previous proceedings of the trial court which he applied for through the registry of the high court.
He maintained that the requested records were needed by the defence to continue with the case.
Responding, EFCC’s lawyer, Mr. Farouk Abdullah opposed the adjournment request, insisting that Maina squandered the opportunity the court gave him to defend himself.
Abdullah persuaded the court to allow the Prosecution to proceed with the continuation of the trial.
In his ruling, Justice Abang dismissed Maina’s request which he described as a deliberate ploy to waste the judicial time of the court.
The trial Judge noted that Maina had since September 29, refused to appear in court for his trial until he was arrested upon a bench warrant that was issued against him.
The court held that the Defendant had not at any point in the course of the trial been denied his right to a fair hearing.
Justice Abang held that the administrative letter the defence counsel submitted at the Court’s registry was not enough to stall the case, noting that the EFCC was earlier granted the nod to continue the trial even in the absence of the Defendant.
Besides, the trial Judge held that Maina’s former counsel ought to have handed the case-file and all the records at his disposal to the new lawyer.
Consequently, the court EFCC’s ninth witness, Pw-9, Mrs. Rouquayya Ibrahim, to continue her Evidence-in-Chief in the matter.
Meanwhile, in her further testimony, Mrs. Ibrahim who is an investigator at the EFCC, told the court that over N3billion were traced to bank accounts that were operated by Maina.
She told the court that Maina used names of his unsuspecting family members as well as their pictures, to operate some of the bank accounts.
The court fixed Wednesday for the continuation of the hearing on the matter.