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Monday, 9 April 2018

Akinjide ’s alleged N650m fraud: Judge orders trial-within-trial

Akinjide ’s alleged N650m fraud: Judge orders trial-within-trial

Jumoke Akinjide in court

A Federal High Court in Lagos on Monday ordered a trial-within-trial in the ongoing prosecution of a former Minister of the Federal Capital Territory ( FCT ), Jumoke Akinjide, and others charged with N650 million fraud.

Justice Muslim Hassan gave the order for the trial following objections raised by the defence counsel, who had argued that statements purportedly made by the accused were obtained under duress, threat and inducement.

Akinjide is being prosecuted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission ( EFCC ) along with a former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani Alison-Madueke, who is said to be “at large”.

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Also charged with them are a former Senator, Ayo Adeseun, and a Peoples Democratic Party ( PDP ) chieftain, Olarenwaju Otiti.

They allegedly conspired to directly take possession of N650 million which they reasonably ought to have known formed part of proceeds of an unlawful act which did not go through a financial institution.

During the trial on Monday, the EFCC Prosecutor, Mr Rotimi Oyedepo, had resumed examination of the second prosecution witness, Mr Usman Zakari, an investigating officer with the EFCC.

In continuation of his evidence, the witness told the court that his investigations revealed that there were no banking instruments to justify the claims by the accused that the money came from the Peoples Democratic Party ( PDP ).

Oyedepo asked: “You said that the first and second accused persons and one Mr Yinka Taiwo signed a receipt of payment for N650 million, what steps did you take as regards the signatories?

In response, the witness told the court that the second accused was arrested, and then he confirmed that the details in the receipt were his and that he signed it for the payment of N650 million.

The witness further said that the first accused, in the presence of her counsel, made statements in relation to the charge and also confirmed that she had signed for the payment of the N650 million.

On how the confirmation was done, the witness said: “The confirmation by the first and second accused persons was made while their statements were taken”.

He told the court that on Dec. 15, 2016, the first accused had provide a document stating how the N650 million was disbursed without the use of a financial institution.

The witness said the first accused volunteered statements in his presence.

Oyedepo then applied to the court to tender the said statement, having laid proper foundation for case.

At this point, defence counsel raised objection and submitted that the statements were made under duress and inducement and requested for a trial-within-trial to determine how the statements were extracted.

Counsel to the second accused, Mr Micheal Lana, told the court that the statement of the second accused was also made under duress and inducement.

He urged the court to allow the prosecution to tender the statement of the second accused so that the trial-within-trial would be taken together.

Mr Akinola Oladeji, counsel to the third accused, also agreed with the submission of Lana, adding that the third accused was even threatened with incarceration.

In response, Oyedepo submitted that the counsel to the accused persons could not request for a trial-within-trial as the accused persons had denied every admission of guilt in their statements.

He added that the statements were not confessional statements as the provision of the Evidence Act in relation to trial-within-trial was only for confessional statements.

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Justice Hassan, in a short ruling, ordered a trial-within-trial.

He held that the court could not determine if the statements were confessional statements or not since they were not before it.

Earlier, counsel to the first accused, Mr Bolaji Ayorinde ( SAN ), had raised an objection to the oral evidence of the second prosecution witness on the grounds that it was a hearsay evidence.

The court, however, overruled the objection and held that the evidence was by no means a hearsay.

“I do not want to be misunderstood; all that I am saying is that the evidence of PW2 is admissible only as to what he carried out in the course of his investigation.

“The velocity or weight to be attached to that evidence can only be determined at the conclusion of the trial.”

The case has been adjourned until April 23 and April 24 for continuation of trial.

NAN

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