A Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Mr. Dele Belgore, has filed a no-case submission in response to money laundering charges filed against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.
Belgore’s co-defendant, Prof. Abubakar Sulaiman, a former Minister of National Planning, filed a similar application, urging the court to discharge him and let him go.
Belgore and Sulaiman were accused of collecting a cash sum of N450m from a former Minister of Petroleum Resources in the build-up to the 2015 general elections.
They were accused of handling the huge sum without going through any financial institution, contrary to the provisions of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act.
Counsel for the EFCC, Mr. Rotimi Oyedepo, told the court that Belgore and Sulaiman acted contrary to sections 1(a), 16(d), 15(2)(d) and18(a) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) (Amendment) Act, 2012.
The duo were first arraigned on five counts on February 8, 2017 before the Federal High Court in Lagos.
The EFCC subsequently amended the charges on two occasions, leading to the re-arraignment of the defendants.
The defendants pleaded not guilty on each occasion.
After calling two witnesses and tendering a number of exhibits, the EFCC closed its case against the defendants late last year, leaving the floor for them to open their defence.
Oyedepo said the anti-graft agency believed it had already established its allegations against Belgore and his co-defendant.
At the resumed proceedings on Tuesday, the defence counsel, Mr. Ebun Shofunde (SAN) and Olatunji Ayanlaja (SAN), to the court that they had filed no-case submissions on behalf of their clients.
The trial judge, Justice Rilwan Aikawa, adjourned till February 15, 2018 to hear the defendants out.
In the five charges, which were eventually increased to nine, the EFCC alleged that Belgore and Sulaiman laundered a sum of N450m.
It claimed that they received the N450 from a former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke, on March 27, 2015, to allegedly compromise the 2015 general elections.
The anti-graft agency claimed that Sulaiman, a professor of Political Science and International Relations at the University of Abuja, and Belgore, a former governorship aspirant in Kwara State, ought to have known that the money constituted proceeds of unlawful activities.
It added that they handled the N450m in cash without going through a financial institution.
The EFCC claimed that the defendants paid N10m cash each to a Commissioner of Police, Garba Saliu, and a Resident Electoral Commissioner, Dr. Emmanuel Onuche.
They were also accused of paying N50m cash to one Sheriff Shagaya; N61,656,000 cash to one Isa Biu and N87,962,000 to the duo of Sola Adeoti and Hajiya Farida Dankaka.
The EFCC said the cash payments were above the threshold stipulated by the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act.
It said having handled the large cash sums without going through any financial institutions, Belgore and Sulaiman acted sections 1(a), 16(d), 15(2)(d) and18(a) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) (Amendment) Act, 2012.
The prosecution said they are liable to be punished under sections 15(3)(4), and 16(2)(b) of the same Act.