***pleads for extension of time to report for trial
By Ikechukwu Nnochiri – Abuja
The immediate past Attorney-General of the Federation, AGF, and Minister of Justice, Mr Mohammed Adoke, SAN, who is facing money laundering charges, on Monday, failed to appear before the Federal High Court in Abuja for continuation of his trial.
However, his lead counsel, Mr Kanu Agabi, SAN, who is equally a former AGF, told the court that his client is currently stranded at the United Arab Emirate, UAE, where he tested positive for COVID-19.
Agabi told trial Justice Inyang Ekwo who is presiding over two separate charges the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, preferred against Adoke, that his client was confirmed positive for the disease, at the point of his return to Nigeria from the UAE where he went for medical examination.
The defence lawyer told the court that in view of the development, the UAE authorities held the former AGF back.
He added that though his client later tested negative for the disease after he underwent treatment, he was unable to get a flight back to the country on January 10 as the court-ordered.
Agabi said: “My lord, let me apologise to you that the 1st Defendant in this matter, Mohammed Bello Adoke, is not in court today due to circumstances beyond his control.
“I thank this court for granting him permission to travel abroad for medical examination.
“Before he left this country, he tested negative. But unfortunately while in the UAE, he tested positive at the point of his return to Nigeria.
“However, he is now negative after the treatment but he was unable to get a flight to the country. Happily, he will return tomorrow, January 12, 2021″.
He notified the court of an application his client filed on January 4 for the extension of the return date that was handed to him by the trial Judge.
Adoke’s lawyer assured the court his client would make himself available for his trial on the next adjourned date.
The application for extension of the trial date was not opposed by counsel to the EFCC, Mr Bala Sanga.
Consequently, Justice Ekwo adjourned the matter to March 1.
Specifically, Adoke is answering to a 14-count money laundering charge the EFCC entered against him and an oil mogul, Mr Aliyu Abubakar.
In the charge marked FHC/ABJ/CR/39/ 2017, the anti-graft agency, alleged that Adoke had sometime in August 2013, in Abuja, accepted a cash payment of the dollar equivalent of N300m from Aliyu, and thereby committed an offence punishable under section 16 (2)(b) of the Money Laundering Prohibition Act 2011 (as amended).
Whereas Abubakar was also accused of accepting cash payment of the sum of $4million from Faman Holdings Limited, through one Abdulhakeem Uthman Mustapha, in September 2013, the prosecution, told the court that Adoke, made structured cash payment in tranches into his Unity Bank Plc Account No. 0020153263.
The prosecution maintained that the former AGF made cash payments that exceeded the approved threshold amounts, outside a financial institution.
Likewise, the former AGF is facing another 67-count amended money laundering charge alongside Malabu Oil & Gas Limited and seven others.
Others Defendants alleged of complicity in $875,740,000 fraud, also included Aliyu Abubakar and six companies; A Group Construction Company Limited; Rocky Top Resources Limited; Megatech Engineering Limited; Novel Properties and Development Company Limited, Imperial Union Limited and Carlin International Nigeria Limited.
In the suit marked FHC/CR/268/2016, EFCC, alleged that Malabu oil alongside Dauzia Etete (Dan Etete), Seidougha Munamuna and Amaran Joseph, both directors of the company, who are currently on the run, “took control of the sum of $401,540,000 paid from the federal government of Nigeria Escrow Account No: 0041451493 IBAN 30CHAS609242411492 with JP Morgan Chase Bank in London into the account 2018288005 of Malabu Oil & Gas Limited domiciled with First Bank of Nigeria Limited.”
It alleged that Malabu oil negotiated and signed the “block 245 resolution agreement with the federal government of Nigeria with Shell Nigeria Ultra Deep Limited, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, Nigeria Agip Exploration Limited, and Shell Nigeria Exploration and Production Company Limited, whereby taxes, accruals and royalties due to the federal government of Nigeria were unlawfully waived.”
Abubakar, on the other hand, was accused of using his companies to receive monies which were proceeds from the Malabu oil deal.
All the Defendants had since pleaded not guilty to all the charges against them.
Trial Justice Ekwo had earlier granted Adoke the permission to travel abroad for medical checkup.
The court however stressed that he must return his international passport to its custody, on or before January 10, a day to his trial date.