The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, yesterday urged the Federal High Court in Lagos not to grant an application by Senator Ayo Adeseun challenging the court’s jurisdiction to try him for money laundering.
The Nation reported that commission charged Adeseun along with a former Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Jumoke Akinjide, for allegedly laundering N650 million.
Also named in the charge are Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) stalwart Chief Olanrewaju Otiti and former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke, who was said to be at large.
Adeseun, through his lawyer Michael Lana, filed two applications, both of which were adopted by Akinjide and Otiti.
In the first one, the defendants are praying Justice Muslim Hassan to strike out the charge because it was not properly served on them as provided in the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) 2015.
Lana said Section 382 (2) of ACJA provides that the court shall within 10 working days of assignment of a case “issue notice of trial to the witnesses and defendants…”
According to him, the EFCC did not comply with the provision as it was prosecuting counsel, Rotimi Oyedepo, who personally served the defendants with the charge.
“The charge had the endorsement of the prosecuting counsel and he undertook to serve. The fact that the defendants are in court does not cure the non-service of the charge. Our objection is on non-compliance, not the validity of the charge. Once there’s no service before an arraignment, everything collapses. We have not been served,” he said.
On the fact that the court issued a hearing notice, the lawyer said the ACJA does not make provision for substituted service.
“It is the court that is to serve the charge on the defendants, not the prosecutor, who is an interested party. The registrar of the court must issue the notice and serve it either through the police or the bailiff,” he said.
Akinjide’s lawyer Chief Bolaji Ayorinde (SAN) agreed with Lana’s submissions, adding that the procedure adopted by EFCC in serving the charge was “incompetent”, therefore, “the charge should be struck out”.
Otiti’s lawyer Akinola Oladeji said the EFCC counsel “personally handed over the charge to the defendants,” adding that “it was not his (Oyedepo’s) business to do so”.
He insisted that “the procedure in the law was not followed”.
In the second application, Adeseun is praying the court to decline jurisdiction because the charge does not fall under issues over which the court can adjudicate on as provided in the constitution.
But, Oyedepo urged the court to dismiss the applications.
On the issue of non-service, the EFCC lawyer said the judge directed that notices be issued, adding that with the defendants’ arraignment, the application had become an academic exercise.
“The essence of the notice is to ensure that parties are made aware of the charge. The defendants are here (in court), meaning they have been notified,” he said.
On the issue of jurisdiction, Oyedepo said EFCC would prove during trial that the laundered money came from agencies over which the court has jurisdiction.
EFCC accused the defendants of conspiring to obtain the N650 million from Mrs. Alison-Madueke, in the build-up to the 2015 general elections.
The prosecution said they reasonably ought to have known “that the money formed part of the proceeds of an unlawful act”.
The defendants pleaded not guilty. Their trial will resume today.