A former Chairman of a defunct new generation bank, on Monday prayed a Federal High Court in Abuja to allow him more time to conclude settlement talks with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on the alleged money laundering charge brought against him and another person.
The EFCC, on March 7, 2019, arraigned the former bank chief with the bank’s ex-managing director, and two firms – Control Dredging Company and Royaltex Paramount Ventures Limited – at the Federal High Court in Abuja, for allegedly laundering N4.75 billion and $5 million.
The duo were accused in the eight counts preferred against them of illegally delivering the cumulative sums of the bank’s N4.75 billion and $5 million between 2014 and 2015 in violation of various provisions of the money laundering law.
Both men pleaded not guilty and were granted bail at N100 million each, with one surety each.
But before trial could begin, the defendants announced their intention to work out an out-of-court settlement with the prosecution.
Proceedings were then adjourned to enable the parties report the settlement.
When the parties returned to court yesterday, lawyer to the prosecution, Suraj Saeda (SAN), said the defence had not had any discussion with the EFCC since the last adjourned date in July.
Saeda said the case was adjourned on the request of the defence, who sought time to enable them explore the out-of-court settlement.
He added: “Today is supposed to be for a report of settlement. But there has not been any approach regarding settlement. Accordingly, my lord, we are ready to proceed to trial.”
Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu said she could not order the trial to start because the prosecution did not give prior notice to the court that the settlement talks had broken down, as it ought to.
She adjourned till November 21 for parties to report of settlement.
Defence lawyer Dele Adesina (SAN), who led the ex-bank’s chief legal team, confirmed that the defence had not engaged the EFCC in any talks.
But he averred that there was an ongoing discussion with the bank, at the end of which he said the EFCC would be involved.
“The first defendant had a discussion with me on Friday and briefed me on how far he had gone with the bank, not with the EFCC. Yes, the first defendant has not approached the EFCC. So, my learned brother for the prosecution was only saying it as it is when he said we have not approached the EFCC.
“Once there is a truce between the bank and the defence, we then go to the bank. In order to make this come to fruition, we plead that you give us another opportunity,” Adesina told the court.
The lawyer said the allegations in the charge were on “transactional disagreements” which could be resolved out of court.
He averred that foreign investors, who had indicated interest to invest in Ayeni’s companies, which are also joined as defendants in the matter, would be discouraged, if trial was allowed to begin without the settlement option exhausted.
“I think the bank is more interest in recovering its money than having somebody jailed,” he added.
Wale Akoni (SAN), who led Oguntayo’s legal team, agreed with Adesina.
But Saeda insisted that the defendants’ acts, which formed the charges, were criminal infractions.
“The defence has not approached the EFCC either for plea bargain or any form of settlement,” he said.
The lawyer prayed the court to allow the trial to begin.