EFCC arraigns Senior Advocate of Nigeria Dele Belgore, Ex-minister Suleiman for alleged money laundering

Muhammad Dele Belgore

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) Wednesday arraigned a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) Mohammed Dele Belgore at the Federal High Court in Lagos for alleged money laundering.

He was arraigned along with a former minister of National Planning Prof Abubakar Suleiman before Justice Mohammed Aikawa on a five-count charge.

EFCC accused them of conspiring to directly take possession of the N450million, which they reasonably ought to have known forms part of the proceeds of an unlawful act.

The commission said they committed the alleged offense on March 27, 2015, contrary to Section 18(a) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) (Amendment) Act, 2012.

In the second count, EFCC said they “directly took possession of the sum.”

In the third count, the defendants were accused of conspiring to make cash payment of N450million, which “exceeded the amount authorized by law without going through financial institution.”

The alleged offense, EFCC said, is contrary to Section 18(a) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) (Amendment) Act, 2012 and punishable under Section 16(2)(b) of the same Act.

In the fourth and fifth counts, they were accused of making cash payment of N450million to one Sheriff Shagaya without going through a financial institution.

The sum, the prosecution said, exceeded the amount authorized by law and is contrary to Section 1(a), Section 16(d) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) (Amendment) Act, 2012 and punishable under Section 16(2)(b) of the same Act.

Belgore and Suleiman pleaded not guilty to all the counts.

The SAN’s lawyer, Mr Ebun Shofunde (SAN), prayed the court to grant the first defendant bail on self-recognition.

“Given his antecedents, I am asking that bail be on self-recognisance because he has always made himself available while on administrative bail.

“He has being a Senior Advocate of Nigeria since 2001. He is not a threat and not likely to jump bail given his standing. He has also being a lawyer since 1985,” he said.

Sulieman’s lawyer Chief Bolaji Ayorinde (SAN) also prayed the court to grant the former minister bail on self-recognition.

“He is a renowned educationist, a professor of political science and international relations at the University of Abuja.

“He has served this country as a minister in 2014. He has been involved in teaching and research for the past 30 years. He has graduated more than 10,000 students.

“He voluntarily submitted himself to EFCC and never contravened the terms of his administrative bail.

“I urge your Lordship to grant him bail on self-recognition,” he said.

EFCC’s lawyer Rotimi Oyedepo did not oppose the bail applications.

He said: “We leave bail at your lordship’s discretion and pray that your lordship should impose conditions that will compel their attendance in court for trial,” he said.

Ruling, Justice Aikawa granted the defendants bail on self-recognition.

He said since the prosecution did not oppose the application, and considering the defendants’ standing in the society, “they will not likely jump bail.”

“However, their international passports must be deposited with the Deputy Chief Registrar of this court and can only be released by court order,” the judge said.

He adjourned till February 23 for trial.

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