By Celestine Okafor (Editor-in-Chief) @CelestineOkaf11
The trial of Ismaila Yousouf Atumeyi, a Kogi State House of Assembly candidate of the New Nigeria Peoples Party, NNPP, and two others before Justice Tijani G. Ringim of the Federal High Court sitting in Ikoyi, Lagos could not continue today, Tuesday, January 24, 2023, due to the absence of the lead defence counsel, Chief Bolaji Ayorinde, SAN, in court.
Atumeyi is standing trial alongside Ngene Joshua Dominic and Abdulmalik Salau, a former employee of Union Bank Plc, on an 18-count charge bordering on alleged cybercrime and money laundering to the tune of N1.4bn.
One of the counts reads: “That you, Ismaila Yousuf Atumeyi, Ngene Joshua Dominic and Abdulmalik Salau, between August and October, within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court, conspired among yourselves to directly conceal the sum of N1, 403, 343, 400.00( One Billion, Four Hundred and Three Million, Three Hundred and Forty-three Thousand, Four Hundred Naira, ) in the account of FAV Oil and Gas Limited, which sum you reasonably ought to have known forms part of the proceeds of your unlawful activity and you thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 18( a) , 15 (2) of the Money Laundering Prohibition Act, 2011, as amended, and punishable under Section 15(3) of the same Act.”
Another count reads: “That you, Abdulmalik Salau, between August and October, within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court, without lawful authority, directly caused modification of data held in the network of Union Bank PLC leading to the fraudulent transfer of the total sum of N1, 403, 343, 400.00( One Billion, Four Hundred and Three Million, Three Hundred and Forty-three Thousand, Four Hundred Naira, ) to the account of FAV Oil and Gas Limited and you thereby committed an offence contrary to and punishable under Section 16(1) of Cybercrimes( Prohibition, Prevention, etc.) Act, 2015.”
The defendants all pleaded “not guilty” to the charges preferred against them.
At the resumed sitting today, the prosecution counsel, Rotimi Oyedepo, SAN, informed the court that the prosecution had two witnesses in court and was ready to commence with trial subject to the court’s convenience.
However, Genesis Bandole, who appeared for the 1st and 2nd defendants, Atumeyi and Ngene, told the court that his principal, Ayorinde, wanted to take the matter personally, but was unavoidably absent.
He, therefore, prayed the court to adjourn the matter.
Bandole also observed that the prosecution had just served an additional proof of evidence on the defence.
“My Lord, we will require some time to look through the documents,” he said.
Also, Babatunde Ogunwo, counsel to the 3rd defendant, Salau, asked for a short date to enable him go through the additional documents that had been served by the prosecution.
In response, Oyedepo said: “I know the learned SAN, and I would have expected that his alleged constraint is communicated to the prosecution, so that I can do another business, if this one is not going on.
“I know the counsel on ground is competent and astute; he can combat anything that happens today.”
Rotimi also added that if the documents served on the defence team would be the reason for an adjournment, the documents would be recalled and served at a later time.
After listening to the arguments by all the parties, Justice Ringim adjourned the matter until January 31 and February 3, 2023 for continuation of trial. NNL.