The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) yesterday re-arraigned the deputy national chairman of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) Yemi Akinwonmi before Federal High Court in Lagos over an alleged N179.8 million fraud.
The PDP chieftain was docked before the court alongside and two officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Dickson Atiba and Oladayo Ogunmodede on an eight-count charge of conspiracy, by befitting from proceeds of crime, receiving various cash sums without going through financial institutions and accepting various cash sums exceeding amount authorized by the law.
The defendants were also accused by the anti-graft agency of receiving the money from United Bank for Africa (UBA), Stanbic/IBTC, Diamond Bank Plc, First City Monument Bank (FCMB) Skye Bank Plc and Diamond Bank Plc, sometimes in March 2015, during the General Election.
The offences according to the EFCC counsel, Rotimi Oyedepo are contrary to section 18 (a), 15(2)(d), 16 (d) 1(a), 16 (1) (d), and 16 (d) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act 2011 as Amended and punishable under 15 (3)(4) and 16 (2)(b) of the same Act.
All defendants, however, pleaded not guilty to all the charges.
They were first arraigned before Justice Muslim Hassan, on July 30, 2018, during the court’s annual vacation.
They were later granted bail by Justice Chuka Obiozor, on August 7, 2018, while the matter was reassigned to Justice Chukwujekwu Aneke after the vacation.
However, midway into the trial, Justice Aneke withdrew from the matter following an application filed by the defence, a development which made the Chief Judge of the court to reassign the case to Justice Obiozor.
At the resumed hearing of the matter on Monday, Oyedepo urged the court to allow the charge to be read to the defendants so that their plea can be taken.
But, the defence counsel, Edward Ayo-Odugbesan, informed the court that the plea of his clients had already been taken before the court which made the judge to grant them bail.
Odugbesan also told the court that his clients have pending applications, one challenging the court’s jurisdiction and the other seeking to quash the charge.
He urged the court to hear the two applications before the plea of his clients were taken.
But Justice Obiozor, reminded the lawyer that what his court did in the matter was to hearing and determined the bail applications, as the defendants’ pleas were taken before his brother judge, Justice Hassan.
Justice Obiozor therefore ordered that the charge be read to the defendants to take their plea.
After their pleas were taken, Odugbesan urged the court to allow his clients to continue to enjoy the terms of the bail earlier granted them.