A former Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Jumoke Akinjide, yesterday told the Federal High Court in Lagos that she was holding plea bargain talks with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
Mrs. Akinjide, Senator Ayo Adeseun, and a People’s Democratic Party (PDP) chief, Mrs. Olanrewaju Otiti, were accused of laundering N650 million.
EFCC said they allegedly received the money from former Minister of Petroleum Resources Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke, who was named in the charge as being at large, ahead of the 2015 general elections.
Trial was billed to resume yesterday with EFCC set to call its witness. But Akinjide’s lawyer Chief Bolaji Ayorinde (SAN) said the N650 million had been returned to the Federal Government as part of the plea bargain.
He said: “My lord, the charge before this court is essentially in relation to the PDP campaign funds for the 2015 elections in Oyo.
“Before trial commenced, the defendants, who were chieftains of the PDP in Oyo at the time, acting on the collective decision of the party, decided to refund the monies mentioned in the charge.
“In the light of the above, before the trial commences full-blown, we are imploring the court to allow parties to explore possible amicable settlement.
“I have had a talk with the lead counsel for the prosecution, and so, going forward, we think it wise not to subject this matter to further adjudication, so as not to waste the time and resources of the court.
“In that light, I have suggested that all counsel meet, so as to look at a way forward on this charge, especially considering the fact that the monies complained of, has already been refunded.
“My application, therefore, is that this court adjourns further hearing, pending the outcome of discussion by counsel.”
Prosecuting counsel Rotimi Oyedepo confirmed that the money had been returned, adding that the case was not only about the money, but the fact that the defendants allegedly dealt “with proceeds of unlawful activity”.
He added that the N650 million was recovered from Akinjide and not from chieftains or principal members of the PDP.
Referring to Sections 270 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA), Oyedepo said the law allows for such “settlement discussions” by parties.
He said EFCC was not opposed to such discussions even though his witness was in court.
Justice Muslim Hassan adjourned the case to enable parties conclude the talks.
He said: “In line with Section 270 of the ACJA, which allows parties to explore plea bargain, this case will be adjourned.”
The section reads: “The prosecutor may receive and consider a plea bargain from a defendant charged with an offence either directly from that defendant or on his behalf; or offer a plea bargain to a defendant charged with an offence.”
The defendants, who pleaded not guilty, were re-arraigned on a 24-count charge of conspiring to obtain the N650 million from Mrs. Alison-Madueke, a sum EFCC said they reasonably ought to have known “formed part of the proceeds of an unlawful act”.
Justice Hassan adjourned till February 22.