Former Air Chief, Amosu, others seek plea bargain
The former Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshall, Adesola Amosu and 10 others arraigned by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) over alleged N22.8b fraud have commenced a plea bargain process at the Federal High Court, Lagos.
Amosu was on June 29, 2016 arraigned by the anti-graft agency alongside Air Vice Marshal Jacob Bola Adigun, Air Commodore Gbadebo Olugbenga and eight companies before Justice Mohammed Idris.
The companies are Delfina Oil and Gas Limited, Mcallan Oil and Gas Limited, Hebron Housing and Properties Company Limited and Trapezites BDC Fonds and Pricey Limited. Others are Deegee Oil and Gas Limited, Timsegg Investment Limited and Solomon Health Care Limited.
They were charged with 26 counts of stealing, concealing the proceeds of crime and conversion of funds belonging to the Nigerian Air Force. All the defendants pleaded not guilty to the charges and were granted bail to the tune of N500 million each, which they are yet to perfect.
At the resumed hearing of the case yesterday, the EFCC prosecutor, Rotimi Oyedepo informed the court that the defendants had commenced a move to enter into a plea bargain with the Federal Government.
He tendered a draft copy of the terms of the plea bargain to the court, which he said he had served on the defendants. But the defence counsel, comprising Chief Bolaji Ayorinde (SAN) for 1st and 11th defendants, Mr. Norrison Quakers (SAN), leading Mr. Kemi Balogun (SAN) and other lawyers for 2nd, 4th, 6th, 7th and 8th defendants as well as Mr. A Etuokwu representing the 3rd, 9th and 10th defendants informed the court that the business of the day was for report of compliance with the order of the court regarding the verification of the defendants’ bail conditions.
Quakers argued that though the defendants were the ones who muted the idea of a plea bargain, they needed to be out of the EFCC custody first before they would be able to negotiate properly with the prosecution.
“When a man is in a custodian environment, anything you want him to say, he’d say; anything you want him to do, he’d do. We should not be stampeded or boxed into a corner,” Quakers said.
While noting that the draft copy of the plea bargain was only just served on the defence counsel on yesterday morning, Quakers argued that defendants were entitled under Section 36(6)(b) of the 1999 Constitution to be given adequate time and facility to prepare for their defence.
Ayorinde and Etuokwu aligned themselves with the argument and insisted that the order of the court on the bail of the defendants must first be complied with.
But opposing them, Oyedepo insisted that the business of the day was for the trial to commence, noting that he had a witness ready in court.
He said it was not the making of the EFCC that the defendants were still in custody, despite the fact that the EFCC did not oppose their applications for bail, noting that the EFCC investigators sacrificed their holiday period to verify compliance with the bail conditions.
He also insisted that the defence counsel already had knowledge of the plea bargain terms and should either proceed with it or he was ready to open trial. After long arguments between the parties, the trial judge, Justice Idris, in a short ruling, ordered the EFCC to conclude the verification of the defendants’ bail conditions on or before Monday, July 11, 2016.
The judge said he had noted from the draft plea bargain that negotiation was already ongoing between the state and the defendants and that the defendants had shown a “clear, positive and strong intention” to settle with the government.
He therefore adjourned the matter till September 12 and 13, 2016 for trial.
According to the charge, the defendants on or about day of March 5th, 2014 in Lagos, within the jurisdiction of the court conspired amongst themselves to commit an offence, to wit: Conversion of the sum of N21, 5b property of the Nigerian Air Force, which sum was derived from stealing, and thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 18(a) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) (Amendment) Act, 2012 and punishable under Section 15(3) of the same Act.
Count two reads: “Air Marshall Adesola Amosu, Air Vice Marshal Jacob Bola Adigun, Air Commodore Gbadebo Olugbenga, Delfina Oil and Gas Limited, Mcallan Oil and Gas Limited, Hebron Housing and Properties Company Limited, Trapezites BDC Fonds and Pricey Limited, Deegee Oil and Gas Limited, Timsegg Investment Limited and Solomon Health Care Limited, on or about the March 5th, 2014 in Lagos, within the jurisdiction of this court conspired amongst yourselves to commit an offence, to wit: concealing the proceeds of crime in the sum of N21,467,634,707.43 and you thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 18(a) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) (Amendment) Act, 2012 and punishable under Section 17(a) of the same Act.”
The defendants were also accused of using the sum of N323, 319, 283. 81 removed from the accounts of the Nigerian Air Force between the 21st day of March, 2014 and 12th day of March, 2015, to purchase for themselves a property situate at No.1 River Street, Wuse II Abuja, which sum “you reasonably ought to have known forms part of the proceeds of an unlawful act, to wit: stealing and thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 15(1) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) (Amendment) Act, 2012 and punishable under Section 15(3) of the same Act.”
They were also accused of indirectly converting the sum of N3.6b belonging to the Nigerian Air Force among others.