The first witness called by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, in the corruption case against Mohammed Belgore, SAN and former Minister of National Planning, Abubakar Sulaiman, has told the court how both men benefited from a N450 million largesse from the ex-Minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani Allison-Madueke.
Belgore and Sulaiman were first arraigned in February before Justice Mohammed Aikawa of the Federal High Court, Lagos, on a five-count charge bordering on money laundering.
But at the resumed trial on Monday, the prosecutor, Rotimi Oyedepo,informed the court of an amended charge in which the name of Allison-Madueke was joined as one of the accused persons.
The former petroleum Minister was however described as being “at large” in the new charge.After the amended charges were read to the accused persons, they again pleaded not guilty, following which the prosecution called its first witness, a banker, Timothy Olaobaju.
Olaobaju told the court that a cash deposit of about 115 million dollars was made into the account of Allison-Madueke sometime in April 2014.
Subsequently in March 2015, the ex-Minister gave directives that the money be converted to Naira and paid to some beneficiaries including Belgore and Suleiman.
According to the witness, the sum of N450 million were paid to both men and they filled a payment form to acknowledge receipt.
The prosecutor then tendered the said payment form which was duly admitted in evidence and marked as Exhibits 1 and 1a.
Olaobaju added that the Allison-Madueke signed the form on March 26, 2015,and the other accused persons received the money on March 27, 2015.
Following the witness’ testimony, counsels to the accused, B. O. Shofunde,SAN, and O Ayanlaja, SAN, asked the court to grant an adjournment to enable them prepare to cross-examine the witness.
Justice Aikawa obliged their request and subsequently adjourned the case to Tuesday, March 14 for cross-examination of the witness and continuation of trial.
The EFCC had in the amended charges allege that Allison-Madueke conspired with Belgore and Sulaiman to directly take possession of the sum of N450 million which they reasonably ought to have known formed part of proceeds of unlawful act.
They were also accused of taking the said funds in cash which exceeded the amount authorised by law without going through a financial institution.
Belgore and Sulaiman were also alleged to have paid the sum of N50 million to one Sheriff Shagaya without going through any financial institution.
The offences contravened the provisions of Sections 1(a), 15, 16(d)and 18 (a) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) (Amendment) Act, 2012.