Former Minister of Aviation Femi Fani-Kayode has requested that the Federal High Court in Lagos decline territorial jurisdiction in his money laundering trial and transfer the case to the court’s Abuja division.
Mr. Fani-Kayode’s lawyers made the request during the re-arraignment of the former aviation minister alongside Senator Nenadi Usman, who are standing trial for fraud to the tune of N4.6 billion.
They pleaded not guilty to the 17-count charge of money laundering.
The defendants were first arraigned on June 28, 2016 before Justice Muslim Hassan, but he recused himself on March 16 after Mr. Fani-Kayode accused him of likely bias.
The judge transferred the case file to the Chief Judge, Justice Ibrahim Auta, for reassignment to another judge.
Arguing the application before Justice Rilwan Aikawa, Mr. Fani-Kayode’s lawyer, Norrison Quakers (SAN), said the court lacked the jurisdiction to try the case in Lagos.
He argued that the facts of the case showed that all the transactions which the former minister carried out as director of media and publicity of the Goodluck Jonathan campaign organization, for which he was charged, took place in Abuja.
Mr. Quakers added that the defendant is standing trial in a separate case in Abuja.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission’s (EFFC) prosecuting counsel, Rotimi Oyedepo, urged the court to refuse the application.
According to him, the instruments of transactions, including checks and receipts, “were recovered in Lagos.”
“The financial institutions used in the transactions have their head offices in Lagos,” Mr. Oyedepo told the court.
He said 13 of the prosecution’s 17 witnesses live in Lagos, adding that the application was a ploy to delay the case.
Mr. Oyedepo said Mr. Fani-Kayode’s lawyers also raised the issue of transfer before Justice Hassan, yet the Chief Judge reassigned the case to another judge in Lagos rather than one in Abuja.
“The consequence of the alleged offense of money laundering is not limited to Abuja, but the entire federation. All the instruments of the transaction were brought by Zenith Bank in Lagos,” he said.
Before the application for transfer was moved, Mr. Oyedepo had sought to tender receipts showing that Mr. Fani-Kayode made a cash payment of N30 million to the first prosecution witness, a media consultant, Adewumi Idowu.
The EFCC sought to tender the two receipts acknowledging cash payments of N24 million and N6 million, but Mr. Quakers objected on the basis that they were not the original receipts.
Justice Aikawa then adjourned the case till September 26 and 27 for ruling and continuation of trial.