The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has denied dropping charges against a former petroleum resources minister, Diezani Madueke and other persons indicted for money laundering.
A major newspaper had reported that “a 14 count charge filed against a former Minister of Petroleum, Diezani Madueke, along with Ben Otti, Stanley Lawson, Lanre Adesanya, and Dauda Lawal, all of them former officials of commercial banks and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC)”, eliciting reactions from Nigerians on social media.
Diezani and others were indicted for laundering about $153m public funds in 2018.
The EFCC’s spokesman, Wilson Uwujaren, in a statement on Wednesday, said the charges which were first filed against Diezani and others in November 2018 had not been dropped, rather that the commission decided to split the initial 14-count charge to enable separate arraignment of the accused persons.
He stated, “in more than four times that the matter was called for arraignment, it was either that Lanre Adesanya was sick and bedridden in a London Hospital or Stanley Lawson had had a domestic accident and could not appear in court.
“It was clear that these recurring excuses were ploys to frustrate the arraignment.
“To get around this, the Commission took a deliberate decision, which was disclosed in open court, to separately prosecute the defendants in different courts,”
He therefore enjoined members of the public to disregard the report which he described as false and misleading.
The statement reads in parts, “The attention of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC has been drawn to reports currently circulating in the social media, purporting that the Commission had dropped the criminal charge against a former minister of petroleum resources, Diezani Alison-Madueke and other persons indicted for money laundering.
The Commission enjoins members of the public to disregard the report which is false and misleading. At no time did the Commission withdraw the charge, which is still before Justice Muslim Hassan of the Federal High Court, Lagos.
The only development was that the Commission took a prosecutorial decision to split the initial 14-count charge to enable separate arraignment of the defendants following a spate of adjournments that prevented the arraignment of the defendants more than one year after the case was listed.
It was clear that these recurring excuses were ploys to frustrate the arraignment. To get around this, the Commission took a deliberate decision, which was disclosed in open court, to separately prosecute the defendants in different courts.
This explains why the four count amended charge brought against Dauda Lawal, a former executive director of First Bank, did not include other defendants, except the two who are at large( Diezani Alison-Madueke and Ben Otti). And the ingredients of the offence stated therein only pertains to Lawal’s involvement in the alleged crime, which is the receipt of $25million from the $153million 2015 Peoples Democratic Party presidential election slush fund.
The non-inclusion of other defendants in the original charge in the amended four count charge does not mean that have been exonerated by the Commission of any criminal allegation.