The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on Monday joined Diezani Alison-Madueke, former petroleum minister, in a N450m money laundering suit involving Mohammed Belgore (SAN), and Abubakar Sulaiman, former minister of national planning.
The EFCC prosecutor amended a five-count charge, and joined Alison-Madueke, as an accused person in the case, at a federal high court, Lagos.
Alison-Madueke was charged in absentia alongside Belgore, a one-time governorship candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), and Sulaiman.
Belgore and Sulaiman were first arraigned in February before Mohammed Aikawa on a five-count charge of money laundering.
At the resumed trial of the two accused persons on Monday, Rotimi Oyedepo, the prosecutor, informed the court of an amended charge in which the name of Alison-Madueke had been included as an accused person.
Alison-Madueke was, however, described as being “at large” in the new charge.
Oyedepo then urged the court to allow the amended charge to be read to Belgore and Sulaiman, who were present in court, for their pleas to be taken afresh.
The application was not opposed by defence counsel as the court ordered the plea of the accused persons to be taken.
The accused again entered a “not guilty” plea.
Upon their plea, the prosecution called on its first witness, Timothy Olaobaju, a banker.
Led in evidence by Oyedepo, the witness told the court that sometime in April 2014, about $115 million was lodged into the account of Alison-Madueke.
He claimed that subsequently on March 27, 2015, the accused person issued payment instructions that the said sums be converted into naira, and paid to some beneficiaries, including Belgore and Sulaiman.
He told the court that the duo received the sum of N450 million and filled in the payment forms to acknowledge receipt.
The prosecutor tendered the form filled by the accused in evidence, urging the court to admit it as an exhibit.
Aikawa, the judge, admitted the forms in evidence, and accordingly marked them as exhibits 1 and 1a.
In the five counts, Alison-Madueke was alleged to have conspired with Belgore and Sulaiman on or about March 27, 2015, to directly take possession of the sum of N450 million which they reasonably ought to have known formed part of proceeds of an unlawful act.
The accused persons were also alleged to have taken the said funds in cash which exceeded the amount authorised by law without going through a financial institution.
Belgore and Sulaiman were alleged to have paid the sum of N50 million to one Sheriff Shagaya without going through any financial institution.
The offences are said to contravene the provisions of sections 1(a), 15, 16(d) and 18 (a) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) (Amendment) Act, 2012.