ECOWAS official facing N587m money laundering charges agrees to forfeit N245m asset

Mohammed Dangana, a senior official of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Commission, on Monday, agreed to forfeit N245 million asset following his decision to enter a plea bargain to end his ongoing trial.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reported that Dangana, an Executive Assistant to the Financial Controller, ECOWAS Commission Secretariat, Abuja, is being tried by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on a 15-count charge bordering on diversion of funds, misappropriation and money laundering to the tune of over N587.7 million.

He was arraigned on October 18, 2019, before Justice Okon Abang on a charge in which the prosecution accused him of conspiring with two others, said to be at large.

Dangana was said to have diverted funds belonging to his employer, with which he, among others, acquired properties in Abuja, including a plot of land he allegedly bought in Guzape (Abuja) at N200 million and an apartment in Garki at N42 million.

At the resumed trial on Monday, the EFCC lawyer, Wahab Shittu, was about to call his fifth witness when the defence lawyer, Chief Chukwuma Onyezubelu, told the court that his client was interested in entering a plea bargain arrangement with the prosecution.

Onyezubelu said parties were already talking and asked the court for an adjournment to enable parties conclude talks on the issue.

Prosecution lawyer, Shittu, confirmed the development, saying he was not opposed to the defence’s move to plea bargain.

Shittu said the defendant had also offered to forfeit to the state, the property which formed the subject of the case which he said is worth N245m.

He added that Dangana had equally agreed to plea guilty to an amended charge and to be given either a custodial sentence or fine, depending on what the court decides.

He also said the decision whether or not to accept the offers made by the defendant depended on the disposition of his client (the EFCC).

Justice Abang, in his ruling, noted that although the case was scheduled for continuation of trial, the defence lawyer sought an adjournment on the grounds that the defendants intended to change his plea.

Justice Abang said even though the prosecution had called four witnesses, Section 270(2) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act allows plea bargain provided the trial had not reached the point where the defendant was being called upon to enter defence.

The judge, then, adjourned until April 8 for parties to file their plea bargain agreement, failing which there would be continuation of trial.

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