From Godwin Tsa, Abuja
The suspended Accountant General of the Federation (AGF), Ahmed Idris, and three others have engaged the Economic and Financial Crimes (EFCC) with a plea-bargain proposal, in connection with their trial for alleged N109 billion fraud.
This was disclosed yesterday before a High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) when the case came up.
Idris, his Technical Assistant, Godfrey Olusegun Akindele; a director in the office of the AG-F, Mohammed Kudu Usman, and a firm linked with Idris – Gezawa Commodity Market and Exchange Limited – are standing trial on a 14-count charge bordering on money laundering, stealing and criminal breach of trust.
Prosecuting counsel, Rotimi Jacobs (SAN) told the court that Idris reached out to him through a third party for a meeting to work on ways to achieve a plea bargain arrangement as a way out.
He added that since Section 270 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) provides for plea bargain, he agreed to meet with the defendants at an office of the EFCC, but on the condition that their lawyers and EFCC’s investigators (who handled the case) must be in attendance. Jacobs said the meeting planned for the previous day (Tuesday) failed to hold because the defendants came without their lawyers.
The prosecution lawyer added that a lawyer from the first defendant’s (Idris’) legal team, who he identified as Kanayo, later came to where they were to meet to complain that they (the defendants’ lawyers) were not carried along.
The prosecuting lawyer spoke in response to complaints by lawyers to the defendants, who claimed that the EFCC invited their clients the previous day and prevented them from meeting with the defendants, who they further claimed were at the office of the EFCC for the better part of the dayThe.
Lawyer to Idris and Gezawa (1st and 4th defendants), Gordy Uche (SAN), at the commencement of proceedings, objected to an application by Jacobs to tender some statements made by the first defendant. Uche argued that Jacobs should not be allowed to tender the statements because he (Uche) was yet to interview his client in relation to the documents.
He argued that it was disrespectful of the court for the EFCC to invite the defendants without their lawyers’ knowledge when the case had already been charged to court. He contended that the EFCC was expected to have concluded its investigation before charging the defendants to court.
Uche denied that his clients proposed a plea bargain to the prosecution as claimed by Jacobs. He said the standard practice was for the lawyer to the defendant to initiate such an arrangement, not for such a move to be made behind the lawyer to the defendant. He prayed the court for adjournment to enable him confer with the first defendant.