LAYI OLANREWAJU, Ilorin
A Former Senior Special Assistant to the Kwara State Governor on Sustainable Development Goals, Ope Saraki, was on Tuesday arraigned for money laundering by the Ilorin Zonal Office of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission ( EFCC).
Saraki, a cousin to the immediate past Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki was arraigned before a Federal High Court sitting in Ilorin and presided over by Justice Babangana Ashigar on a one-count charge of money laundering.
The EFCC alleged that the Kwara politician received the sum of N11 million from one Kunle Adimula while serving as Senior Special Assistant to the Governor of Kwara State which is contrary to money laundering prohibition act of 2011.
The charge reads “That you, Ope Saraki, sometime in February 2019 , whilst being the Senior Special Assistant to the Governor of Kwara State on Sustainable Development Goals in Ilorin within the jurisdiction of this honourable Court, did received cash payment of N11,180,000.00 (Eleven million, one hundred and eighty thousand naira) from one Kunle Adimula , an employee of Kwara State Government, which sum exceeded the cash payable to an individual and thereby committed an offence contrary to section 1 and 16 of the money laundering (prohibition) Act 2011 (as amended) and punishable under section 16 of the same Act”
Saraki pleaded “not guilty” to the charge brought against him.
Prosecuting counsel, Sesan Ola told the judge: ” My Lord, we humbly apply for trial date to enable the prosecution call its witnesses and prove our case against the accused person.”
Defence lawyers led by Dr Joshua Olatoke (SAN) however told the court ” my Lord, we are not opposing the trial date, but we are urging your Lordship to use your discretion to grant bail to the defendant pending the hearing and final determination of this case.”
“I want my Lord to take judicial notice of the present challenges of Coronavirus that is confronting the country; it is only the living that can stand trial my Lord; that is why I want your Lordship to use your discretion and grant bail to the defendant.”
Ruling on the application, Justice Ashigar granted bail to the defendant in the sum of N10 million naira with two sureties in like sum.
He ordered that one of the sureties must reside in the jurisdiction of the court, adding that Saraki should submit his travel documents to the Chief Registrar of the Federal High Court
The Judge said the Kwara politician should remain in the custody of the EFCC till he perfects his bail conditions.
Further hearing in the case has been adjourned till 15th of May 2020.