Alleged Diezani slush fund: EFCC witness reveals beneficiaries in court

*Diezani Alison-Madueke, Nigeria’s embattled former minister of petroleum resources.

15 March 2017, Sweetcrude, Lagos — A Federal High Court sitting in Lagos have learned from a prosecution witness of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, the beneficiaries of a slush fund allegedly operated by Diezani Alison Madueke, the erstwhile minister of petroleum resources.

A first prosecution witness, Timothy Olaobaju made the disclosure at the ongoing trial of Dele Belgore, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN, charged with money laundering.

Belgore is standing trial alongside Professor Abubakar Sulaiman, the erstwhile Minister of National Planning, and Diezani Alison-Madueke, who is holed up in London.

The court fixed March 23 to rule on the admissibility of a list of beneficiaries of the funds.

Prof Sulaiman was first arraigned in February and subsequently re-arraigned on March 13, following the amendment of the charges to include the name of Alison-Madueke.

A first prosecution witness, Timothy Olaobaju, who was led in evidence by the prosecutor, Mr Rotimi Oyedepo, on 13th March, told the court that Belgore and Sulaiman were among the beneficiaries of the sum of $115 million deposited in the account of Alison-Madueke.

Olaobaju told the court that both Belgore and Sulaiman jointly received N450million on March 27, 2015.

At the resumed sitting yesterday, the prosecution sought to tender in evidence a document containing a comprehensive list of beneficiaries of the funds in the 36 states of the federation.
However, Mr. Olatunji Ayanlaja (SAN), counsel to Prof Sulaiman opposed the move, arguing that the document did not comply with the provisions of Section 84 of the Evidence Act.

He, therefore, urged the court to reject same.
Responding, the prosecution maintained that the document had substantially satisfied the conditions contained in Section 84 of the Evidence Act and urged the court to admit same.
After hearing arguments from both parties, Justice Aikawa deferred his ruling till March 23.

Under cross-examination by Dele Belgore counsel, Chief Ebun Shofunde (SAN), the first prosecution witness disclosed that the N450million received by Belgore and Sulaiman was brought in a bullion van from the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN.
“I can’t remember vividly but I remember there were N1,000 and N500 bills,” the witness disclosed while responding to a question regarding the denomination of the currency.

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 one billion Naira in 20 minutes.”

The witness also disclosed that delivery of the money to Belgore and Sulaiman which arrived from the CBN on 26 March 2015 was delayed because Sulaiman failed to release his identification card.
The first prosecution witness further disclosed that the transaction was captured on the CCTV camera mounted in the bank.

In the charges preferred against the accused, the EFCC said the cash sum was above the lawful threshold permitted by the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act.
The court will again resume proceedings on March 23.

Diezani The former petroleum minister has since denied any link to the said amount.

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