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A Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) Mr Dele Belgore on Monday told the Federal High Court in Lagos that he did not receive the N450million he was accused of laundering in cash.
Testifying in his defence before Justice Rilwan Aikawa, Belgore admitted being invited by the bank manager on March 26, 2015. He said he could not move the money because it was too risky to do so two days to election.
The Kwara State Coordinator of the President Goodluck Jonathan Presidential Campaign Organisation said he realised that the money was too huge for his Toyota Prado jeep.
“I indicated to PW1 (bank manager) that I could not collect the money and I gave two reasons. “First, I said this money was coming two days before the election; all the stakeholders and party members were aware of the arrival of the money.
“Therefore, I did not consider it safe to move such a huge amount of money out of the bank in the middle of the night. “The second reason was that I did not come prepared to receive and take away such a large amount of money, as I came only in my vehicle, a Toyota Prado jeep.
“As I said earlier, the heap of cash that I saw in the bank’s loading bay was at least three to four feet high. “So, I told PW1 that if it took a bullion van to transport the cash from the Central Bank of Nigeria to Fidelity Bank, there was no way I would be able to evacuate those funds with my Toyota Prado.”
Belgore said he signed for the money and agreed to leave it in the bank’s vault. “After signing the document, I left the bank without the money. I did not take a penny out of the bank; I left the bank empty-handed,” he said.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) arraigned Belgore with a former National Planning Minister Prof Abubakar Suleiman and former Petroleum Resources Minister Mrs Diezani Alison-Madueke (who is said to be at large).
EFCC said they “directly took possession of the sum N450million,” adding that they “reasonably ought to have known [that the money] forms part of the proceeds of unlawful act.” It also accused them of “indirectly” using the sum of N450million on March 27, 2015 and making cash payment of N450million, which exceeded the amount authorised by law.
In the nine-count amended charge, EFCC accused Alison-Madueke, Belgore and Suleiman of making cash payment of N10million to a Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) in Kwara State Dr Emmanuel Onucheyo. The commission said they also paid N10million to a Commissioner of Police in the state Garba Saliu.
According to EFCC, they allegedly made the payments on March 27, 2015 without going through a financial institution. The sums, the commission said, exceeded the amount authorised by law and violated Section 1(a) and Section 16 (d) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) (Amendment) Act of 2012 and punishable under Section 16 (2) (b).
The defendants were also accused in the amended charge of making cash payment of N61,656,000 to Isa Biu on the same day, exceeding what is authorised by law. EFCC said they also paid N87,962,000 to Sola Adeoti and Hajiya Dankaka on the same day “without going through a financial institution.”
According to the commission, Mrs Alison-Madueke, Belgore and Sulieman, on the same day, made cash payment of N50million to one Sheriff Shagaya, an amount exceeding what is authorised by law.
They pleaded not guilty. Justice Aikawa adjourned until February 28.
Source: The Nation Newspaper
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