The Federal High Court in Lagos on Monday refused an application seeking joint trial for Abdullahi Babalele and Uyiekpen Giwa-Osagie charged for money laundering.
Babalele is son-in-law to Nigeria’s former Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, while Giwa-Osagie is a lawyer to ex-number two citizen.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission accused the two men of laundering money during the 2019 general elections in which Atiku was a presidential candidate on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party.
While Babalele was accused of laundering $140,000; Giwa-Osagie was charged alongside his brother, Erhunse, for laundering $2m.
The men were arraigned separately in August 2019 before Justice Nicholas Oweibo, who sat as a vacation judge.
Babalele’s case was later transferred to Justice C.J. Aneke, while the Giwa-Osagie brothers’ case was re-assigned to Justice Chuka Obiozor.
At the instance of the defence counsel, Norrison Quakers (SAN) and Ahmed Raji (SAN), Chief Judge of the Federal High Court ordered the transfer of Babalele’s case to Justice Aneke.
The defence counsel later prayed Justice Aneke to consolidate the two cases so that the defendants could jointly be tried.
But prosecuting counsel for the EFCC, Mr Rotimi Oyedepo, objected to the transfer of Babalele’s case from Justice Obiozor to Justice Aneke and also opposed the application to consolidate the two cases.
Ruling on Monday, Justice Aneke said since there was no provision in the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015 empowering him to turn down a case assigned to him by the Chief Judge, he could not reject Babalele’s case.
The judge however, said he could also not consolidate the two matters because there was no legal provision for the consolidation of criminal cases.
“The court will try both charges separately,” Justice Aneke held.
Meanwhile, the judge adjourned the cases until April 2, saying he was not sure whether he would be transferred from Lagos to another state.
The EFCC accused Babalele of “procuring Bashir Mohammed to make cash payment of $140,000 without going through any financial institution”.
Oyedepo said the money exceeded the threshold stipulated by the money laundering law.
He said Babalele made the transaction on February 20, 2019 in contravention of Section 18 (c) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2011 and was liable to be punished under Section 16(2)(b) of the same Act.
But Babalele pleaded not guilty to the two counts pressed against him.
In their joint arraignment, the EFCC accused the Giwa-Osagie brothers of conspiring between each other to make cash payment of $2m without going through a financial institution.
The anti-graft agency said the transaction violated the provisions of Sections 18(a) and 1(a) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act 2011, adding that the defendants were liable to be punished under Section 16(2)(b) of the same Act.
But they also pleaded not guilty to the two counts filed against them.