News

April 19, 2024

Alleged Money Laundering: Court dismisses case against ex-AGF, Adoke

Bello Adoke

Mohammed Adoke Bello

By Ikechukwu Nnochiri, Abuja

The Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, on Friday, dismissed a money laundering case the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, instituted against a former Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Mohammed Adoke, SAN.

The court, in a ruling that was delivered by Justice Inyang Ekwo, discharged and acquitted the erstwhile AGF on the premise that the anti-graft agency failed to establish a prima facie case against him.

While upholding a no-case-submission the defendant filed after the prosecution called its last witness in the matter, Justice Ekwo held that the totality of the evidence the EFCC adduced before the court was not sufficient to sustain the charge.

He held that the proof of evidence was not strong enough for any court to rely on it to either convict the defendant or to compel him to open his defence to the charge.

Consequently, the court dismissed the charge against the ex-AGF, though it ordered his co-defendant, Aliyu Abubakar, who is an oil mogul, to prepare his defence to allegations the EFCC levelled against him.

The EFCC had in the 14-count charge marked: FHC/ABJ/CR/39/2017, alleged that Adoke had sometime in August 2013, in Abuja, accepted a cash payment of the dollar equivalent of N300 million 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 a cash payment of the sum of $4 million from Faman Holdings Limited, through one Abdulhakeem Uthman Mustapha, in September 2013, the prosecution told the court that Adoke made structured cash payments 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.

The court had initially ordered trial-within-trial in the matter after the 2nd defendant, Abubakar, disowned an indicting extra-judicial statement he made before the EFCC in respect of the case, insisting that he made it under duress.

Therefore, the defendant, through his lawyer, Mr. Paul Erokoro, SAN, challenged the admissibility of the statement he said was not made voluntarily.

Abubakar raised the issue midway through the evidence of EFCC’s eighth prosecution witness, PW-8, Mr. Ibrahim Ahmed, who was one of the operatives that investigated the matter in 2012.

It will be recalled that an Abuja High Court sitting at Jabi on March 28, dismissed allegations of fraud, bribery, and conspiracy that the EFCC also brought against the former AGF, Adoke, SAN, following alleged role he played in the “fraudulent” transfer of ownership of an oil bloc, OPL 245, regarded as one of the biggest in Africa.

Adoke faced the trial alongside two others—Abubakar and Rasky Gbinigie—as well as four companies—Malabu Oil and Gas Limited, Nigeria Agip Exploration Limited, Shell Nigeria Ultra Deep Limited, and Shell Nigeria Exploration Production Company Limited.

The defendants took their first plea of innocence before trial Justice Abubakar Kutigi on January 23, 2020.

EFCC, in the charge marked FCT/CR/151/2020, alleged that Adoke, who served as AGF under the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan, and the other defendants were involved in fraud and bribery in the Malabu Oil Bloc deal, to the tune of about $1.1 billion.

EFCC alleged that Adoke, who was arrested upon his return to the country from Dubai, United Arab Emirate, on December 19, 2019, received gratification for facilitating the alleged oil bloc fraud.

It was alleged that it was the ex-AGF that mediated controversial agreements that ceded OPL 245 to two oil giants, Shell and Eni, who in turn paid about $1.1 billion to accounts controlled by an ex-convict and former Petroleum Minister, Chief Dan Etete.

OPL 245 was initially awarded to Malabu Oil & Gas Ltd. in 1998 by the late military head of state, General Sani Abacha, in a process the EFCC insisted was against all known government regulations. 

EFCC said its investigations revealed that Malabu Oil & Gas Ltd secured OPL 245 through fraudulent scheme involving high scale bribery and corruption by top management of the company and some government officials.

It was alleged that the defendants had sometime in 2013, in Abuja, dishonestly used as genuine, the forged form CAC 7 and Board Resolution of Malabu Oil and Gas Limited, as well as the letter of resignation of one Mohammed Sani, and opened a Bank account No. 2018288005 with First Bank of Nigeria Plc, with which they received the sum of $401,540,000.00.

However, Justice Kutigi held that substantial evidence was not placed before the court to warrant the ex-Minister being compelled to enter his defence to the charge.

The court held that the allegation of illegal tax waivers granted to Shell and Eni was not corroborated by the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) or any other authority.

On the alleged N300 million bribe said to have been given to Adoke by Abubakar, the court held that the EFCC was unable to provide the necessary evidence to establish the allegation.

The court discharged and acquitted the former minister and the other defendants on all counts of the charge, except the 3rd defendant, Gbinigie.

Even though the EFCC had earlier conceded that it did not have sufficient evidence to oppose Adoke’s no-case submission, it, however, maintained that Gbinigie had a case to answer over the alleged forgery of company documents to remove the name of Mohammed Abacha as a director of Malabu Oil & Gas Ltd.

However, another leg of the case involving the disputed Oil Prospecting Licence, OPL, 245, marked: FHC/CR/268/2016, is still pending against the ex-AGF at the Federal High Court in Abuja.