A witness called up by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to testify against Mohammed Bello Adoke, former attorney-general of the federation (AGF), stunned the anti-graft agency in court on Thursday when he said the transaction was not a proceed of crime.
Rislanudeen Mohammed, former acting managing director of Unity Bank Plc, told the federal high court in Abuja on Monday that the $2, 267,400 million paid to him by Adoke in September 2013 to refund a loan was not money laundering.
Sergio Spadaro, the Italian deputy prosecutor, had similarly told a Milan court on July 6 that Adoke got a N300 million mortgage in 2012, while Adoke has said he refunded the money to the bank in 2013 when he could not complete the mortgage transaction.
Adoke and Aliyu Abubakar, the property developer, are on trial in an amended 14-count charge bordering on money laundering on August 4.
The former AGF is answering to seven counts and Abubakar is answering to seven counts.
In count nine of the charge, the EFCC accused Adoke of making a cash payment of $2,267,400 to Mohammed in 2013.
It said it was an offence contrary to the combined effect of section 16 (1) () and of section 1(a) of the Money Laundering Prohibition Act 2011 (as amended) and punishable under section 16 (2)(b) of the same Act.
While giving his evidence in chief (as the second prosecution witness) led by Bala Sanga, the EFCC counsel, Mohammed said sometime in 2012, Adoke requested a loan of N300 million from Unity bank.
Because of the incomplete documentation for the account, Mohammed said a temporary overdraft facility was initiated and the loan was approved.
Mohammed said he later approached Adoke after the branch manager of the bank informed him that a fee of N6 million had not been paid.
He said Adoke sent the N6 million through his driver and it was handed over to the branch manager.
Testifying further, the witness said the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the Nigeria Deposit Insurance Corporation (NDIC) came to the bank to carry out risk management assessment and queried the plethora nonperforming loans.
He said owing to the good relationship he had with Adoke, he started to mount pressure on him to repay the loan in other to avoid his name being published as part of defaulters having nonperforming loans.
According to the witness, Adoke later invited him to his residence and gave him a cash sum of $2,267,400.
“He called me to his house and he gave me the money in a black bag. It was taken from the boot of his car into the boot of my car,” he said.
Mohammed said the $2,267,400 was converted and bank deducted the loaned sum alongside the accrued interest leaving a residual balance of N3,800,000.
He said Adoke later “wrote to the bank requesting for a cash payment of N3,500,000 through his driver”.
He said when the account was closed, a residual balance of about N223,000 issued to Adoke by way of manager’s cheque.
When asked if Adoke had a dollar account with Unity bank, the witness said he was not aware.
“Even if he had, the amount is above the specified threshold because of money laundering issues there was no way that amount of money would reflect into his account,” Mohammed said.
Cross-examining the witness, Kanu Agabi, Adoke’s counsel, asked if the money was available to be confiscated.
The witness answered in the negative, saying it was not available because it was not a proceed of crime.
“I have no reason to believe that it was as a proceed of crime,” he said.
“Is the sum available in the account of the first defendant?” Agabi asked.
Mohammed said: “No, the money is not there.”
The case has the adjourned to September 7 for continuation of trial.