N500m money laundering: Belgore, former Minister docked by EFCC

A Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Dele Belgore who was also a former governorship candidate in Kwara state, under the platform of Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) was on Wednesday docked before a Federal High Court sitting in Lagos for money laundering.

Belgore was arraigned alongside a former Minister of National Planning, Professor Abubakar Sulaiman before Justice R.M Aikawa over allegations of money laundering to the tune of N500 million

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) made an allegation that Belgore and the former minister conspired between themselves to commit the offence on March 27, 2015.

The Commission also accused the defendants of making two separate cash payments of N450m and N50m on March 27, 2015, without going through any financial institution.

The anti-graft agency further put up a claim that the defendants paid the said sum to one Sheriff Shagaya.

According to the EFCC, the cash sums were above the lawful threshold permitted by the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act.

“The defendants ought to have reasonably known that the N450m and N50m formed part of proceeds of an unlawful act,” EFCC maintained.

The Commission insisted that the SAN and the former minister violated sections 1(a), 16(d), 15(2)(d) and18(a) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) (Amendment) Act, 2012, adding that then duo are liable to be punished under sections 15(3)(4), and 16(2)(b) of the same Act.

However, the defendants pleaded not guilty, prompting Justice Akaka to grant both Belgore and Sulaiman to bail on self-recognisance.

The trial judge held that he has a belief that as a senior lawyer in Nigeria, Belgore will not for any reason absconds, and Sulaiman, being a former minister in the country, would also not jump bail.

But Justice Aikawa issued an order, that both defendants should have their passports submitted to the Deputy Chief Registrar of the court.

The judge further declared that the passports could only be released to them on the order of the court.

Trial has been adjourned until February 23, 2017.

Count one of the charges reads: “That you, Muhammed Dele Belgore and Prof. Abubakar Sulaiman, on or about the 27th day of March, 2015, in Nigeria within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court conspired amongst yourselves to directly take possession of the N450, 000,000.00 (Four Hundred and Fifty Million Naira) which sum you reasonably ought to have known forms part of the proceeds of an unlawful and you thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 18(a) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) (Amendment) Act, 2012 and punishable  under Section 15(3) & 4 of the same Act.

Count two reads: “That you, Muhammed Dele Belgore, Prof. Abubakar Sulaiman on or about the 27th day of March, 2015 in Nigeria within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court directly took possession of  the sum of N450,000,000.00 (Four Hundred and Fifty Million Naira ) which sum you reasonably ought to have known forms part of the proceeds of an unlawful act, and you thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 15(2)(d) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) (Amendment) Act, 2012 and punishable  under Section 15(3) & 4 of the same Act.

And count three reads: “that you, Muhammed Dele Belgore, and Prof. Abubakar Sulaiman, on or about the 27th day of March,2015 in Nigeria, within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court did conspire amongst yourselves to commit an offence, to wit: making cash payment of the sum of N450,000,000.00 (Four Hundred and Fifty Million Naira) which sum exceeded the amount authorized by Law without going through financial institution and you thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 18(a) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) (Amendment) Act, 2012 and punishable under Section 16(2)(b),16(2)(b) of the same Act.

And count four reads: “that you, Muhammed Dele Belgore, Prof. Abubakar Sulaiman on or about the 27th day of March, 2015 in Nigeria within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, without going through financial institution, made cash payment in the sum of N450, 000, 000.00 (Four hundred and Fifty Million Naira) which sum exceeded the amount authorized by Law and you thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 1(a), Section 16(d) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) (Amendment) Act, 2012 and punishable  under Section 16(2)(b) of the same Act.

While count five reads: That you, Muhammed Dele Belgore and Prof. Abubakar Sulaiman, on or about the 27th day of March,2015 in Nigeria, within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court and without going through financial institution made cash payment of the sum of N50,000,000.00 (Fifty Million Naira) to one Sheriff Shagaya which sum exceeded the amount authorized by Law and you thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 1(a), Section 16(d) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) (Amendment) Act, 2012 and punishable  under Section 16(2)(b) of the same Act”.

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