ABUJA–The Federal High Court in Abuja, on Friday, slated February 25 to rule on fresh application the former chairman of the defunct Pension Reform Taskforce Team, Abulrasheed Maina, who is facing money laundering charge, filed to be released on bail pending the conclusion of his trial.
Maina, who earlier fled to Niger Republic after he was released on bail by the court, based his fresh application on health ground.
He told the court that his health condition worsened at the Kuje Correctional Center where he was remanded upon his extradition to the country by the Interpol in December, 2020.
In the application he filed through his team of lawyers led by Mr. Sani Katu SAN, the former pension reform boss told the court that he is suffering unbearable pain owing to a knee surgery we underwent while he was in Niger Republic.
He told the court that complication from the surgery could lead to the amputation of his leg if his fresh application for bail to allow him to seek better medical attention, is refused.
“We humbly pray the court to in the interest of justice, exercise discretion in favour of the 1st Defendant by granting him bail on health ground”, Maina’s lawyer pleaded.
However, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, through its lawyer, Mr. Mohammed Abubakar, urged the court to refuse the application, insisting that Maina would escape again if released from the Kuje Correctional Center.
“My lord, there is likelihood of the 1st Defendant jumping bail and fleeing abroad.
“They are only saying that the application is based on health ground.
“The Federal Republic of Nigeria is capable of attending to all medical needs of the Defendant within its medical facilities and doctors in Nigeria and even in Abuja”, EFCC’s lawyer added.
He noted that Maina had in his application, disclosed that even without a court order, the Correctional Service had upon his request, rushed him to a Teaching Hospital at Gwagwalada, where he secured medical treatment.
“From the medical report tendered before this court, the 1st Defendant is not suffering from any ailment of an emergency nature and he is not in any danger”.
EFCC further drew attention of the Court that Maina had in the affidavit he filed in support of his fresh bail request, disclosed that he firstly ran to Chad Republic after he escaped from the country.
“The Defendant, without any remorse, in paragraph 9 of his affidavit, stated that as a result of the order for his arrest, he decided to seek for a better medical facility for the treatment of his knee and was eventually referred to military hospital in Chad Republic and Niger Republic, where the knee surgery was successfully carried out.
“What he is saying in essence is that his jumping bail was a premeditated decision, which he took by himself, in contempt and disobedience of order of this court releasing him on bail.
“It is also clear that while prosecution thought that he only fled to Niger Republic, he is now informing the court that he also went to Chad Republic, when his American and Nigerian passports are currently in custody of the court.
“He is not a person that deserves a second chance of the court taking a risk to release him on another bail.
“While he talked about a purported surgery conducted on his knee and purported pain he is presently suffering on that knee, which he claims may result in amputation of his leg if not granted bail.
“The medical report brought by him which is Exhibit AM-6, is silent about any pain or surgery performed on his knee.
“We therefore urge my lord to discountenance it and to reject the bail application”, the Prosecution counsel submitted.
Meanwhile, after he had listened to both sides, trial Justice Okon Abang reserved his ruling till February 25.
Justice Abang also fixed February 24, to rule on another application Maina filed to set-aside the decision of the court that allowed EFCC to proceed with his trial during the period he jumped bail.
The court stressed that its decision on the application would determine the validity of proceedings that were conducted in the absence of the Defendant.
Maina is answering to a 12-count money laundering charge the EFCC preferred against him and his firm, Common Input Property and Investment Limited.
EFCC earlier closed its case against the Defendants, after it called a total of nine witnesses that testified in the matter, even as the court ordered the Defendants to open their defence to the charge.
In the charge marked FHC/ABJ/CR/256/2019, EFCC, alleged that Maina used a bank account that was operated by his firm and laundered funds to the tune of about N2billion, part of which he used to acquire landed properties in Abuja.
It told the court that the 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 Prosecution told the court that contrary to financial regulations, the banks, opened phony accounts for the Defendant, without conducting due diligence to ascertain the true identities of the owners.
It told the court that some of the bogus names Maina used to operate the accounts in a bid to conceal his true identity, included Aliyu Nafisatu and Dr. Abdullahi A. Fisal.
In count three of the charge, EFCC alleged that the Defendant had sometime in 2014, took possession of the sum of N171.91million that was paid into one of the accounts he operated with UBA.
He was in count four, alleged to have taken possession of $360, 588.27, knowing that same was proceeds of an unlawful activity.
Maina was alleged to have in 2012, opened account number 4510002782 with his pseudo name, Dr. Fisal, and subsequently wired $1.822m into the account.
In count 11, EFCC told the court that without going through any financial institution, the Defendant paid a cash sum of $1.4m to purchase a property in Abuja.
It said that the Defendant had on June 27, 2012, made cash payment of $2m through one Adamu Modibbo, for the purchase of another property in the Jabi District of Abuja.
The prosecution maintained that the Defendants committed criminal offences punishable under sections 11(2) (a), 15(3), and 16(2) (c) of the Money Laundering Prohibition Act, and also acted in breach of the Advance Fee Fraud Act.
However, the Defendants who were arraigned on October 25, 2019, pleaded not guilty to charge.