Money Laundering: Judge Defers Ruling On Timipre Sylva

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The case involving a former governor of Bayelsa State, Timipre Sylva, who is being prosecuted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) before Justice A. F. Ademola of the Federal High Court, Abuja, on a fresh 50 count charge bordering on stealing and money laundering, came up for hearing on Thursday.

Sylva is being charged alongside Francis Okokuro, Gbenga Balogun, and Samuel Ogbuku.

They allegedly used three companies – Marlin Maritime Limited, Eat Catering Services Limited, and Haloween-Blue Construction and Logistics Limited  –  for  moving over N19.2 billion from Bayelsa State coffers between 2009 and 2012.

Justice A. R. Mohammed of the Federal High Court Abuja had on 10th June 2015 dismissed the 42-count charge of stealing earlier brought against Sylva and his co-accused by the EFCC, with the excuse that the prosecution’s application to consolidate the charges before him, against the defendants, amounted to an abuse of court process.

The Commission however, faulted the ruling on the grounds that it was premature as the accused persons had not even taken any plea before the court, and subsequently filed the fresh 50 count charge at the Federal High Court.

At the last adjourned date, 25th June 2015 the trial judge had fixed 9th July 2015 for hearing on pending applications by the defendants challenging the competence of the charges and the jurisdiction of the court.

Counsel to Sylva, L. O. Fagbemi (SAN) had brought an application before the court praying that the charges be quashed; another application by Ochu Chukwuma, counsel to the third accused, also urged the court to dismiss the charges arguing that they were based on same facts in the earlier dismissed charges by Mohammmed.

Ajayi Olowo, counsel to the fourth accused person had also filed a preliminary objection, challenging the jurisdiction of the court, to hear the case.

Counsel to EFCC, Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), argued that there was indeed a prima facie case against Sylva and his co-accused, adding that the court had jurisdiction to try the case since the offences committed took place in Abuja.

Jacobs stressed that the applications of the counsel to the accused persons were "thoroughly misconceived" adding that "charges dismissed by Mohammed had not even been read to the accused persons, and they had not even taken their pleas, thus trial had not even commenced before the judge dismissed the charges." 

Ademola, after listening to all the arguments, deferred ruling on the applications for a later date.

The new date, the judge said, would be communicated to both parties.