Money laundering: Absence of counsel stalls trial of lawyer Dele Belgore

Absence of Mr Ebun Shofunde, SAN, defence counsel to Mr Dele Belgore, SAN, has stalled his trial in the N450 million money laundering charge filed in a Federal High Court in Lagos.

Belgore is standing trial by the EFCC for allegedly benefiting N450m from the sum of $115m which a former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani Alison-Madueke, allegedly doled out to influence the outcome of the 2015 general elections.

The EFCC had alleged that himself, and his co-defendant, a former Minister of National Planning, Prof Abubakar Sulaiman, went to a branch of Fidelity Bank in Ilorin on March 26, 2015, to sign for and collect the N450 million.

The defendants had each pleaded not guilty to the charges and were granted bails.

The case which was earlier slated on Wednesday, for continuation of trial, could not proceed as planned, as the court was informed that counsel to Shofunde was indisposed.

Counsel, who appeared on behalf of Shofunde, prayed the court for an adjournment on this ground, after informing the court of the position.

The prosecution did not object to the oral application.

Justice Rilwan Aikawa, consequently, adjourned the case until April 10 for continuation of defence.

The EFCC had since closed the case for the prosecution, after calling several witnesses and tendering exhibits.

The defence had accordingly, opened his case, and is still leading evidences.

At the last adjourned date, the court had viewed electronic evidences in the case, which included two video clips, and the court adjourned for continuation of trial.

In the nine-count charge, EFCC accused the defendants of making cash payments to a Kwara State Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC).

The commission said that they made cash payments without going through any financial institution.

EFCC said they “directly took possession of the sum N450 million,” which they allegedly indirectly spent, adding that they “reasonably ought to have known (that the money) forms part of the proceeds of unlawful act.”

The sums, the commission said, exceeded the amount authorised by law and violated the provisions of sections 1(a) and 16 (d) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) (Amendment) Act, of 2012.

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