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Money laundering: Court acquits Ikuforiji, ex-Lagos speaker, aide

Money laundering: Court acquits Ikuforiji, ex-Lagos speaker, aide

Justice Mohammed Liman of a Federal High Court in Lagos, on Monday, acquitted Adeyemi Ikuforiji, a former speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly, and his former aide, Oyebode Atoyebi, of 54 counts of money laundering.

Delivering judgment, Justice Liman held that the prosecution failed to discharge the burden of proof placed on it by the provisions of the law.

Ikuforiji was charged by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) alongside Atoyebi on a 54-count charge bordering on alleged N338.8 million money laundering.

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They had each pleaded not guilty and were allowed to continue on an earlier bail granted to them in 2012 when they were first arraigned.

On March 17, 2021, the EFCC closed its case after calling the second witness for the prosecution. The prosecution called a total of two witnesses in support of its case.

Meanwhile, Justice Liman was later transferred out of the Lagos division and the case suffered several setbacks.

On May 4, 2023, defence counsel Dele Adesina opened the case for the defence. The defence had called three witnesses, including the first defendant (Ikuforiji).

Among others, Ikuforiji had testified how he was being prosecuted on a faceless petition. He told the court that the instant case arose from a petition written by an unknown person, alleging that he had stolen about N7 billion from the Lagos House of Assembly.

Parties adopted their final addresses on May 17, while the court reserved judgment.

Justice Liman first struck out count one of the charges on grounds of discrepancies in the timeline. The court then asked a pertinent question as to what was the substantive law at the time the defendant was charged.

The court held: “Charging a person under a law that was non-existent at the time of an alleged offence runs foul of the law.

“The Money Laundering Prohibition Act of 2004/2011 requires clear evidence of intent and the actual act of laundering money.

“It is difficult to prove the offence of money laundering without the predicate offence; the prosecution has failed to prove this.

“The prosecution has not proved the offence of money laundering beyond a reasonable doubt.

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“Consequently, the defendants are acquitted of all the allegations of money laundering levelled against them in courts two to 54 of the charge,” he said

The defendants were first arraigned on March 1, 2012, before Justice Okechukwu Okeke on a 20-count charge bordering on misappropriation and money laundering. They had each pleaded not guilty to the charges and were granted bail.

The defendants were, however, subsequently re-arraigned before Justice Ibrahim Buba, following a re-assignment of the case. Buba had granted them bail in the sum of N500 million each with sureties in like sun

On September 26, 2014, Justice Buba discharged Ikuforiji and his aide of the charges, after upholding a no-case submission of the defendants. Buba held that the EFCC failed to establish a prima facie case against them.

Dissatisfied with the ruling, the EFCC through its counsel, Godwin Obla, filed the Notice of Appeal dated September 30, 2014, challenging the decision of the trial court.