Government re-arraigns ex-minister’s son over alleged laundering
A son of Bala Mohammed, former Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Bala Shamsudeen was yesterday re-arraigned by the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) on a 15-count charge.
At the resumed trial, the prosecution counsel, Ben Ikani informed Justice Nnamdi Dimgba of the Federal High Court, Abuja of the amended charges.
The defendants were accused of laundering N1.1 billion, falsification of assets, carrying out business transactions worth billions of Naira in violation of Money Laundering Act, including payment of various sums of money in cash beyond the limit set by the Money Laundering Act for purchase of houses.
According to the counsel, the amended charges dated May 25, 2017 and filed on May 30, 2017 was served on the defence in the open court.
The accused was earlier arraigned on a 15-count charge bordering on conspiracy and intentional failure to declare his assets.
The amended charge however, according to Ikani, was to specify the various sums of money in local and foreign currencies found in his bank account.
But the defense counsel, Chris Uche (SAN) informed the court that he was only shown a copy of the amended charges in the court.
He stated that it was against Federal High Court practice to file an amended charge few days to the sitting, especially when the matter was adjourned for months.
“This is more serious than how the prosecution sees it. He is trying to prosecute the first defendant on a matter he was not arraigned for,” Uche stated.
He consequently asked the court for more time to study the charges.
Although the prosecution counsel did not object to the application for adjournment, Justice Dimgba however, advised that the prosecution should have effected the amendment of the charges earlier so as to serve the defendant before the resumed sitting.
He therefore, suggested standing down the matter for the defence to study the charges.
The amended charges were then read to the defendant to which he pleaded not guilty. Afterwards, the defense counsel prayed the court to allow the defendant enjoy the existing bail conditions earlier granted him by the court.
Justice Dimgba accepted that Bala should continue to enjoy his earlier bail conditions.
The matter was then adjourned till June 26 for commencement of trial.
Bala was arraigned alongside four companies- Bird Trust Agro Allied Limited, Intertrans Global Logistics Limited, Diakin Telecommunications Limited and Bal-Vac Mining Nigeria Limited, where the sum of N1.1 billion was alleged to have been involved in the offences committed by the defendants.