Money Laundering Trial: Maina's son loses bid to re-open his defence
Faisal Maina

…as court fixes April 13 to resume his father’s trial

By Ikechukwu Nnochiri

The Federal High Court in Abuja, on Wednesday, declined to allow the son of former Chairman of the defunct Pension Reform Taskforce Team, Abulrasheed Maina, Faisal, to re-open his defence to the money laundering charge the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, preferred against him.

The court, in a chamber ruling that was delivered by trial Justice Okon Abang, held that the application the Defendant filed to recall all the witnesses the EFCC brought to testify against him, lacked merit.

Justice Abang accordingly dismissed the application, even as he fixed May 18 for the anti-graft agency to adopt its final written address to enable the court to deliver judgement in the matter.

21-year-old Faisal who is facing a three-count money laundering charge, had since June 24, 2020, failed to appear before the court for his trial, a development that led to the revocation of his bail.

The court had on November 24, 2020, issued a bench warrant for security agencies to arrest him wherever he is found.

Aside from initiating a committal proceeding against his surety, the court gave EFCC the nod to conduct the trial in the absence of Defendant.

In a ruling it delivered on February 4, the court, ordered a member of the House of Representatives for Kaura-Namoda Federal Constituency, Umar Dan-Galadima, who stood surety for Faisal, to forfeit his Abuja property which was worth the Defendant’s N60million bail bond.

The Prosecution had since closed its case against him after it called three witnesses that testified in the matter.

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Meanwhile, though Faisal had yet to appear before the court, his lawyer, Mr. Anayo Adibe, approached the court, begging it to in the interest of justice and fair hearing, allow the Defendant to recall the witnesses for the purpose of cross-examining them.

Adibe specifically prayed the court to vacate its order that forclosed his client from entering his defence to the charge.

EFCC however countered the application, insisting that the court had pursuant to section 352(4) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015, ordered trial of the Defendant in absentia.

It argued that Defendant was never denied fair hearing by the court.

“He who comes to equity must come with clean hands. In the instant application, Defendant is coming to equity with soiled hands. We, therefore, urge the court to refuse the application”, the Prosecution counsel added.

In his ruling on Wednesday, Justice Abang agreed with the EFCC and dismissed the application for want of merit.

EFCC had in the charge before the court, alleged that Maina’s son had sometimes between 2013 and 2019, received the sum of N58.11million, being proceeds of a corrupt act by his father.

He was also accused of failing to properly declare his assets before the EFCC.

Faisal had reportedly pulled a gun to challenge operatives of the Department of State Service, DSS that arrested his father at a hotel in Abuja on September 30, 2019.

The EFCC had at the last adjourned date, said it got intelligence report that Faisal had escaped to the United States of America.

The Prosecution counsel, Mr. Mohammed Abubakar, told the court that information at the disposal of the Commission was that Defendant sneaked out of Nigeria to the Republic of Niger, from where he was able to escape to USA.

He wondered how Defendant was able to escape to the US, when both his Nigerian and American passports, which he surrendered as part of his bail conditions, were still in the custody of the court.

“We have been making serious efforts to execute the bench warrant, but up to now we have not succeeded”, Abubakar added.

In the circumstance, he urged the court to allow the Prosecution to adopt its final written address in the matter.

On his part, the defence lawyer, Mr. Adibe, urged the court to order an enquiry into the whereabouts of his client.

Adibe told the court that the Sokoto Police Command had earlier issued a press statement that Faisal was in its custody.

He told the court that he also received a call from Faisal who confirmed to him that he was arrested by the police.

“My lord, since then, the police has been scanty with information, even when we demanded to see the Defendant.

“Travelling documents of the Defendant are in custody of this court, it is therefore speculative for the Prosecution to state that the Defendant is in US.

“How could he enter USA without his travelling documents?

“The Defendant personally called me the day he was taken into custody in Sokoto. Every effort made thereafter to reach him have been abortive.

“Of a truth, we are afraid for his life. We urge this court to call for an enquiry into the whereabouts of the Defendant”, Adibe added.

It will be recalled that Faisal’s father, Maina, also jumped bail and was later arrested in Niger Republic and extradited back to the country by Interpol.

Justice Abang, on Wednesday, fixed April 13 to resume hearing on the separate 12-count money laundering charge the EFCC, preferred against Maina and his firm, Common Input Property and Investment Limited.

The court said it would on that date, listen to evidence of some of the witnesses that were subpoenaed to appear and testify in the matter, among whom included the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami, SAN, the erstwhile Acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, Mr. Ibrahim Magu, the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, Mr. Godwin Emiefele and a renowned Lagos based lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana.

EFCC alleged that Maina used his firm and laundered over N2billion, part of which he used to acquire landed properties in Abuja.

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