Godwin Tsa, Abuja
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), on Friday, filed an amended three-count charge against Faisal Maina, son of Abdulrasheed, former Chairman, Pension Reform Task Team, bordering on money laundering and false declaration of assets.
Faisal has however, pleaded not guilty to the amended three-count charge.
He was initially arraigned on October 25, 2019, by the EFCC alongside his father, on a three-count charge bordering on money laundering.
At the resumed hearing on Friday, Mohammed Abubakar, counsel to the EFCC, told the court that though the matter was slated for continuation of cross examination of second prosecution witness, the commission had an amended charge dated Jan. 22 and filed the same day.
Adeola Adedipe, counsel to Faisal, however, objected to the application.
Adedipe noted that though the prosecution deserved the right to amend the charge, such amendment must be prescribed by the leave of court as provided by Section 218(2 ) of ACJA.
“The order of court is not approppriately endorsed on the purported amended charge. So it may not be useful for today’s hearing,” he argued.
Abubakar, however, countered Adedipe’s argument.
According to him, “I submit that counsel misconceived the intent and purpose of Section 218(2) of ACJA because it does not make it mandatory for prosecution to first obtain leave of court before filing an amended charge.
“The counsel has jumped the gun because the issue of endorsement can only come after the amendment,” he remarked.
Justice Abang, who noted that the drafter of Section 218(2) of ACJA might have created the controversy, granted the anti-graft agency’s prayer.
“Section 281(2) is not clear on whether it is the judge or registrar that will endorse the note of order of amendment.
“However, there is no dispute to right of prosecution to file an amended charge at anytime.
“In the light of this, the leave is hereby granted to the prosecution to file an amended charge.
“And the amended charged filed on Jan. 22 is deemed to be properly filed,” he held.
Abang said since the problem on who signs the amended charge was caused by drafter of ACJA, he ordered the prosecution to endorse it in the open court.
According to the judge, the defendant will not be prejudiced if the court asks the prosecution to endorse the note of order of amendment in the open court.
The EFCC lawyer then sought that the amended charge be read to defendant.
Afer Faisal pleaded not guilty to the charges, his lawyer, Adedipe, pleaded with the court to allow him continue to enjoy the bail terms graciously granted to him by the court on Nov. 26, 2019.
He argued that the defendant had complied with the bail conditions initially granted him.
“The defendant came from his house today and was equally accompanied by the surety in compliance with court order,” he said.
Abubakar did not raised objection to the request.
Justice Abang, therefore, granted Adedipe’s prayer, “the defendant shall remain on the subsisting bail order granted on Nov 26, 2019 by this honourable court.”
Abang adjourned the continuation of trial and cross examination of PW2 untill Feb. 27; March 18, March 19, March 20 and March 30.
Faisal was, on November 26, admitted to a bail in the sum of N60 million, with a surety in the like sum, who must be a member of House of Representatives.
The three-count charge reads: “That you, Faisal Abdulrasheed Maina (alias Alhaji Faisal Abdullahi Farms 2) between Oct. 2013 and June 2019 within the jurisdiction of this Hon. Court did operate an anonymous account No: 1017558607 (Alh Faisal Abdullahi Farms 2) in a commercial bank by concealing your true identity and you thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 11(1) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2011 (as amended) and punishable under section 11(4) of the same Act.
“That you Faisal Abdulrasheed Maina (alias Alh Faisal Abdullahi Farms 2) between Oct. 2013 and June 2019 within the jurisdiction of this Hon. Court, indirectly controlled an aggregate sum of N58,111,585.00 (Fifty Eight. Million, One Hundred and Eleven Thousand, five Hundred and Eighty Five Naira only) paid through a commercial bank account of Alh. Faisal Abdullahi Farms II, when you reasonably ought to have known fhat the said funds formed part of the proceed of unlawfui activity (to wit: corruption of one Abdulrasheed Abdullahi Maina who is facing a separate charge) and you thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 15(2)(d) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2011 (as amended) and punishable under section 15(3) and (4) of the same Act.
“That you Faisal Addulrasheed Maina on or about Oct 3, 2019, at Abuja, within the jurisdiction of this Hon Court knowingly failed to make full disclosure of your assets and liabilities in the Declaration of Assets Form dated Oct. 3, 2019 which you filled at the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) office at No. 5, Fomella Street, Wise II , Abuja, and you thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 27(3)(a) of the EFCC (Establishment) Act., 2004 and punishable under Section 27(3)(c) of the same Act.”