The Federal High Court in Abuja has deferred further proceedings in the trial of former Chairman of the defunct Pension Reform Taskforce Team, Abulrasheed Maina, till December 21.
Maina who is answering to a 12-count money laundering charge the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, preferred against him and his firm, Common Input Property and Investment Limited, collapsed in court shortly after his case was called up on Thursday.
He slumped beside the dock while his lawyer, Mr Anayo Adibe was trying to persuade the court to adjourn the trial to a later date. EFCC closed its case on Wednesday after it produced nine witnesses that testified in the matter, even as Maina notified the court of his decision to enter a no-case-submission to the charge against him.
However, at the resumed sitting on Thursday, Maina’s lawyer, Adibe said he was unable to prepare the no-case-submission owing to the fact that he was not availed with records of proceedings of the court in the matter.
Adibe was still on his feet when his client, Maina, fell down from his seat, a development that forced the court to temporarily suspend sitting.
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Some lawyers and officials of the Nigerian Correctional Service had promptly rushed to Maina’s aid after he slumped.
Medical personnel from the court were later brought to the scene in a bid to resuscitate him. When proceedings resumed around 11 am, Maina was not yet back to the courtroom.
In a bench ruling, trial Justice Okon Abang refused the application for an adjournment.
The court however held that since the Defendant was not back for the continuation of the proceedings, it would not foreclose his right to make the no-case-submission.
Nevertheless, the court stressed that Certified True Copies, CTC, of all the records of proceedings Maina’s counsel requested were ready since December 8. Justice Abang further confirmed from all the court registrars that Maina’s lawyer failed to return to pick up the compiled records.
Though the court described the adjournment request by Maina’s lawyer as “a deliberate ploy to delay the trial”, it, however, held that since the Defendant was not back in the courtroom, his right to make a no-case-submission would be preserved till December 21.
EFCC had in the charge marked FHC/ABJ/CR/256/2019, alleged that Maina used a bank account that was operated by his firm and laundered funds to the tune of about N2billion, part of which he used to acquire landed properties in Abuja.
He told the court that the Defendant used fictitious names to open and operate various bank accounts, as well as recruited his relatives that were bankers to operate fake bank accounts through which illicit funds were channelled.
The Prosecution told the court that contrary to financial regulations, the banks, opened phoney accounts for the Defendant, without conducting due diligence to ascertain the true identities of the owners.
It told the court that some of the bogus names Maina used to operate the accounts in a bid to conceal his true identity, included Aliyu Nafisatu and Dr Abdullahi A. Fisal.
In count three of the charge, EFCC alleged that the Defendant had some time in 2014, took possession of the sum of N171.91million that was paid into one of the accounts he operated with UBA.
He was in count four, alleged to have taken possession of $360, 588.27, knowing that same was proceeds of unlawful activity. Maina was alleged to have in 2012, opened account number 4510002782 with his pseudo name, Dr Fisal, and subsequently wired $1.822m into the account.
In count 11, EFCC told the court that without going through any financial institution, the Defendant paid a cash sum of $1.4m to purchase a property in Abuja. It said that the Defendant had on June 27, 2012, made a cash payment of $2m through one Adamu Modibbo, for the purchase of another property in the Jabi District of Abuja.
The prosecution maintained that the Defendants committed criminal offences punishable under sections 11(2) (a), 15(3), and 16(2) (c) of the Money Laundering Prohibition Act, and also acted in breach of the Advance Fee Fraud Act. The Defendants who were arraigned on October 25, 2019, had pleaded not guilty to the charge.