The ongoing thing of the former Chairman of the defunct Pension Reform Task Team (PRTT) suffered a setback on Wednesday following an application by his lawyer, Mr. Sani Katu (SAN) to withdraw his legal services as a defence counsel.
Katu is following the footsteps of Chief Joe Kyari-Gadzama (SAN), Adeola Adedipe and Anayo Adipe who have all pulled out from the trial as defence counsel.
Daily Sun learnt that the latest by Katu to withdraw his services may not be unconnected with Maina’s insistence to invite some personalities including the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice (AGF), Abubakar Malami (SAN) and the suspended acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Ibrahim Magu.
Maina, has currently opened his defence to the 12-count money laundering charge the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, entered against him and his firm, Common Input Property and Investment Limited.
However, when the case was called on Wednesday, Katu who has been leading the defence team, informef the court of his decision to withdraw from the case.
He said: “My lord, the matter is adjourned for continuation of hearing and for us to bring another witness today. But, before then, we have an application we are compelled to make.
“The application is to seek for leave of this Court to withdraw from this matter. In doing this, we appreciate the court’s indulgence”.
But in opposing the withdrawal application, the Prosecution counsel, Mr. Farouk Abdullah, urged the court to compel Maina and his defence team to proceed with the business of the day.
Abdullah argued that Maina’s lawyer, Katu, SAN, failed to fulfil the statutory condition precedent that would have paved way for him to withdraw from the trial.
My lord, as rightly stated, this matter is slated today for continuation of defence. While we concede that a Defendant has the constitutional right to a counsel of his choice, and a counsel in the matter can also withdraw at any time he deems fit.
“However, our only reservation is the non-compliance to section 349(8) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015.
“In view of the non-compliance of senior counsel to the provision of the extant law on withdrawal of counsel, we pray the court to refuse the application and direct that the business of the day be done”, Abdullah submitted.
Responding, Katu, SAN, prayed the court for a short adjournment to enable him to file a formal application to withdraw from the trial.
“In as much as he has stated the law as it is, which requires that I notify the court in not less than three days before the date fixed for hearing.
“We have complied with the section, in that we appeared for the first Defendant yesterday, and in attempt not to spring surprises on the Prosecution, I specifically told the Prosecution, off record, of our desire to withdraw from this matter. Hence my inability to file a formal application.
“May I humbly apply for a short adjournment”, Katu added.
The prosecuting agency, (EFCC ) had in the charge marked FHC/ABJ/CR/256/2019, alleged that Maina used a bank account that was operated by his firm and laundered funds to the tune of about N2billion, part of which he used to acquire landed properties in Abuja.
The commission told the court that the 1st Defendant (Maina) used fictitious names to open and operate various bank accounts, as well as recruited his relatives that were bankers to operate fake bank accounts through which illicit funds were channelled.
It maintained that the Defendants committed criminal offences punishable under sections 11(2) (a), 15(3), and 16(2) (c) of the Money Laundering Prohibition Act, and also acted in breach of the Advance Fee Fraud Act.
The Defendants who were arraigned on October 25, 2019, pleaded not guilty to the charge.
EFCC had earlier closed its case against the Defendants after it called a total of nine witnesses, even as the court ordered Maina to open his defence to the charge.