Alleged N450m Fraud: Court Adjourns Belgore, Sulaiman’s Trial till Apr 23

A former Minister for National Planning, Prof. Abubakar Sulaimon and Mohammed Dele Belgore SAN were arraigned before Justice Rilwan Aikawa of the Federal High Court sitting in Ikoyi, Lagos for an alleged fraud of N450m.

Belgore is standing trial alongside a former Minister of National Planning, Prof. Abubakar Sulaiman, on a five-count charge of conspiracy and possession of proceeds of crime to the tune of N450million brought against them by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC.

The defendants allegedly received the sum of N450m on March 27, 2015, out of the $115,010,000 paid into Fidelity Bank Plc by a former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani Alison-Madueke, to influence the outcome of the 2015 presidential election.

The defendants also allegedly handled the huge sum without going through any financial institution, contrary to the provisions of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act.

Consequently, Shofunde asked Belgore to confirm the subpoena served on Yinka Omar, Branch Manager, Fidelity Branch, Ilorin, Kwara, asking him to produce the CCTV footage of the events that took place in the bank and its Certificate of Identification, which he did.

Belgore also said that, after the documents were produced before the court, he viewed part of the footage, adding that he was aware that some people in his legal team had also seen the footage.

Shofunde, thereafter, sought to tender the CCTV footage contained in a flash drive and the Certificate of Identification attached to it as an exhibit for this case.

In his response, counsel for the EFCC, Rotimi Oyedepo, objected to the tendering of the documents on the grounds that the defendant was not the maker, so he could not give direct oral evidence or be cross-examined on it.

“In view of the fact that the device and Certificate of Identification were not made by the defendant; and the fact that he was not privy to the making, direct oral evidence will not be admissible, according to Section 84 of the Evidence Act,” Oyedepo said.

He further argued that “the defence did not apply to tender the document in their subpoena, but to only produce it; hence, the admissibility of the document is to be determined by the court.”

Oyedepo, therefore, urged the court to reject the documents.

Shofunde, however, submitted that the defendant was not giving direct evidence but only identifying the documents before him.

The defence counsel also argued that Section 84 does not say that documents cannot be tendered without the maker, but only stipulates what needs to be done for a document to be tendered in evidence.

At the last adjourned sitting on March 11, 2020, the Judge had fixed March 12, 2020, for ruling on the admissibility of the Closed-circuit Television, CCTV, footage and its Certificate of Identification sought to be tendered in evidence by the first defendant, Belgore.

Justice Rilwan Aikawa of the Federal High Court sitting in Ikoyi, Lagos later adjourned the case to April 23, 2020, for further hearing in the alleged N450m fraud charge involving Mohammed Dele Belgore, SAN, and a former Minister for National Planning, Prof. Abubakar Sulaiman.

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