BY EMEKA EJERE
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on Tuesday interrogated a former Minister of Aviation, Femi Fani-Kayode, according to Channels Television.
Officials of the anti-graft agency said the former minister was invited to answer questions relating to the forgery of a medical report which he allegedly procured to evade his trial before a Federal High Court in Lagos.
Fani-Kayode was said to have arrived at the Lagos Office of the commission in the company of his lawyer at about 1pm.
He was still answering questions from the EFCC investigators as of the time of this report.
EFCC said it would give an update on the interrogation later when it concludes its investigations.
Fani-Kayode is standing trial on an alleged N4.6 billion fraud before Justice Daniel Osiagor of the Federal High Court sitting in Lagos.
The commission had charged him alongside a former Minister of Finance, Nenadi Usman, and two others on 17 counts of conspiracy, money laundering, and fraud.
At the last sitting of the court on October 13, the judge had imposed a cost of N200,000 on him due to his failure to appear before the court for his re-arraignment following the transfer of the former trial judge, Justice Rilwan Aikawa.
He was ordered to pay the fine or stand the risk of having his bail revoked after he failed to appear before the court for his re-arraignment.
Instead of appearing for his re-arraignment, the former minister had sent a letter to the court, claiming that his doctors had placed him on bed rest.
Counsel to the EFCC, Mrs Bilikisu Buhari had informed the court that the letters by the second defendant had become numerous and had also become an excuse for him to evade trial.
“This is the third time he will be writing this type of letter from the same hospital,” she said. “Whenever he doesn’t want to attend court, this is the type of letter we get.”
But Fani-Kayode’s counsel, Bobo Fred-Ajudua, cut in and informed the judge that although his client’s illness was a recurring one, he had attended court regularly, and this could be shown from the court’s records.
He, thereafter, asked the court to grant an adjournment in favour of his client. At that point, the trial judge decided to go through the court’s file and after searching, he discovered that the second defendant had actually sought a similar medical excuse five times.
The court then asked the defence counsel to take one of two options which were to either revoke the bail of the second defendant or to impose a fine of N200,000 to be paid before the next trial date.
“From my records, the second defendant had written the court five times excusing his trial on medical grounds. February 1, 2018; May 30, 2019; November 24, 2020; March 21, 2021, and today’s letter dated October 9, 2021.
“The second defendant is to pay a cost of N200,000 before the next adjourned date, as the recurring medical excuses have been a pattern that slows down this trial,” the judge held.
The defence counsel chose the latter option.
Justice Osaigor then adjourned the case until November 30 for re-arraignment of all the defendants.
In counts one to seven, the defendants were alleged to have unlawfully retained over N3.8 billion which they reasonably ought to have known formed part of the proceeds of an unlawful act of stealing and corruption.
In counts eight to 14, the defendants were alleged to have unlawfully used over N970 million which they reasonably ought to have known formed part of an unlawful act of corruption.
Fani-Kayode and one Olubode Oke who is said to be at large, in counts 15 to 17, were alleged to have made cash payments of about N30 million – over the amount allowed by law, without going through a financial institution.
All the offences were said to have contravened the provisions of Sections 15 (3) (4), 16 (2) (b), and 16 (5) of the Money laundering (prohibition) (Amendment) Act, 2012.