I can count N1bn in 20 minutes, banker claims during cross examination
Mr. Timothy Olaobaju , the first prosecution witness in the trial of a former governorship aspirant in Kwara State, Dele Belgore SAN, and ex-Minister of state for planning, Prof. Sulaiman Abubakar, has said on Tuesday while under cross examination that he can count N1bn in 20 minutes as the Federal High Court in Lagos adjourned the matter till March 23, 2017 for further proceedings.
Belgore and Abubakar are accused of laundering N450m.
On the next adjourned date, the trial judge, Justice Rilwan Aikawa, will rule on the admissibility of the third document sought to be tendered by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission in the case.
The document contains list of individuals who benefited from the sum of $115,010,000 which a former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke, allegedly deposited in Fidelity Bank Plc with subsequent instruction to change it to naira and share it among some individuals in the 36 of the federation.
The first prosecution witness, Olaobaju, a staff of Fidelity Bank had on Monday told the court that Belgore and Sulaiman were among the beneficiaries of from the $115,010,000.
The witness told the court that Belgore and Sulaiman jointly received N450m on March 27, 2015.
At the Tuesday’s proceedings, Sulaiman’s lawyer, Mr. Olatunji Ayanlaja (SAN), opposed the move by the prosecution to tender the list as an exhibit in court.
Ayanlaja argued that the document did not completely comply with the provisions of Section 84 of the Evidence Act and urged Justice Aikawa to reject it.
However, the EFCC prosecutor, Mr. Rotimi Oyedepo, maintained that the document had substantially satisfied the conditions spelt out in Section 84 of the Evidence Act, and urged the judge to admit it.
After entertaining arguments from both parties, Justice Aikawa deferred his ruling till the next adjourned date.
Meanwhile, the defence counsel commenced the cross-examination of the first prosecution witness on Tuesday.
Under cross-examination by Belgore’s lawyer, Chief Ebun Shofunde (SAN), the witness said the N450m received by Belgore and Sulaiman was brought in a bullion van from the Central Bank of Nigeria.
Asked what the denomination the money was, the witness said, “I can’t remember vividly but I remember there were N1,000 and N500 bills.”
He said the money was offloaded from the bullion van into the bank’s loading bay where it was manually counted.
When Shofunde suggested to him that it took two days to count the money, the witness disagreed, saying as a professional banker “I can count N1bn in 20 minutes.”
The witness said though the bank was ready to deliver the money to Belgore and Sulaiman on March 26, 2015 when it arrived from the CBN, failure of Sulaiman to release his Identification Card delayed the process.
He added that the transaction was captured on the CCTV camera mounted in the bank.
When Shofunde said, “I suggest to you that none of the defendants collected one kobo out of the N450m.” The witness answered, “That is not true.”
When Shofunde suggested to him that it was different individuals that came to the bank on March 27, 2015 to sign and collect portions of the N450m, the witness said, “That is not true.”
In the charges, Sulaiman, a professor of Political Science and International Relations at the University of Abuja, and Belgore, a former governorship aspirant in Kwara State, were accused of conspiring between themselves to commit the offence on March 27, 2015.
The duo were accused of making a cash transaction of N450m on March 27, 2015, without going through any financial institution.
The EFCC claimed that the defendants paid N50m to one Sheriff Shagaya.
The EFCC said the cash sum was above the lawful threshold permitted by the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act.
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