Court acquits ex-Lagos speaker Ikuforiji of money laundering charges

Court acquits ex-Lagos speaker Ikuforiji of money laundering charges

A Federal High Court sitting in Lagos has acquitted ex-Lagos House of Assembly speaker Adeyemi Ikuforiji and his former aide, Oyebode Atoyebio, of a 54-count money laundering charge.

Delivering judgment, Justice Mohammed Liman held that the prosecution failed to discharge the burden of proof placed on it by the provisions of the law.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) charged Messrs Ikuforiji and Atoyebi with a 54-count charge of laundering N338.8 million.

It accused Mr Ikuforiji of using his position as the speaker to misappropriate funds belonging to the Assembly. The EFCC alleged that the defendants committed the offences from April 2010 to July 2011.

They had each pleaded not guilty and were allowed to continue on an earlier bail granted to them in 2012 when they were first arraigned.

On March 17, 2021, the EFCC closed its case after calling the second witness for the prosecution. The prosecution called two witnesses in support of its case.

Meanwhile, Justice Liman was later transferred from the Lagos division, and the case suffered several setbacks.

Defence counsel Dele Adesina (SAN) opened the case for the defence on May 4, 2023, and called three witnesses, including the first defendant (Mr Ikuforiji).

Among others, Mr Ikuforiji testified that he was being prosecuted on a faceless petition. He said the instant case arose from a petition written by an unknown person, alleging that he had stolen about N7 billion from the Lagos House of Assembly.

Justice Liman first struck out count one of the charges based on discrepancies in the timeline and asked a question about the substantive law when the defendant was charged.

The court held, “Charging a person under a law that was non-existent at the time of an alleged offence runs foul of the law.

“The Money Laundering Prohibition Act of 2004/2011 requires clear evidence of intent and the actual act of laundering money.

“It is difficult to prove the offence of money laundering without the predicate offence; the prosecution has failed to prove this. The prosecution has not proved the money laundering offence beyond a reasonable doubt.

“Consequently, the defendants are acquitted of all the allegations of money laundering levelled against them in courts two to 54 of the charge.”

The defendants were first arraigned on March 1, 2012, before Justice Okechukwu Okeke on a 20-count charge bordering on misappropriation and money laundering.