Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Forgive Me! Ex-Chief of Air Staff Seeks To Settle N7.8bn Loot Out of Court

Former Chief of Air Staff, Mohammed Umar, is proposing an 'out-of-court' settlement in his N7.3bn money laundering case being prosecuted by the EFCC before the Federal High Court, Abuja.

Umar is the predecessor of Alex Badeh, who is also standing trial before the Federal High Court, Abuja, in a similar case of sharing public funds and using Billions to buy personal mansions.

He was arraigned on May 11 before Justice Binta Nyako on a 7-count charge of money laundering, criminal breach of trust and corruption involving about N7.382billion.

It is alleged that Umar removed the money from the account of the Nigerian Air Force while in charge.

The EFCC alleged that Umar spent part of the money to acquire the property at Plot No. 1853, Deng Xiano Ping Street, off Mahathir Mohammed Street, Asokoro Extension, Abuja.

He was accused of spending part of the money on residential assets, including a three-bedroom duplex, with a boys’ quarters at Road 3B, Street 2, Mabushi Ministers Hill, Abuja.

He also allegedly used part of it to acquire property at 14 Audu Bako Way, GRA, Kano and a three-bedroom duplex with three-room boys’ quarters at No. 8 Kabala Road, Unguwan Rimi, GRA, Kaduna.

Umar was said to have used part of the money for the renovation/improvement of House No.1853 Deng Xiao Ping Street, Off Mahathir Mohammed Street, Asokoro Extension, Abuja.

The offences are said to be contrary to Section 15(2)(d) of the Money Laundering Prohibition Act 2011 and punishable under Section 15(3) of the same Act.

Umar had pleaded not guilty to the charge, following which the judge adjourned to June 7 for trial.

But when they got to court on on Tuesday, his lawyer, Hassan Liman (SAN) informed the court that his client had started negotiations with the EFCC, for the possibility of an out-of-court settlement of the 'fraud'.

Liman disclosed that Umar had held meetings with officials of the EFCC during which discussions were held on the proposal.

He said Umar attended the meetings with his lawyers. He said the meetings were between Umar’s laywers and the head of Legal Department of the anti-graft agency, head of the task force of the commission, Mr. Ibrahim Musa, and the prosecuting lawyer, Sylvanus Tahir.

Liman said after the first meeting held on May 31 and the subsequent one on June 3, it was resolved that the defendant should send a formal letter detailing his proposal to the commission.

Liman added that the defence had already written to the Chairman of the EFCC, Mr Ibrahim Magu.

He said the letter was dated June 6, 2016.

Both Liman and Tahir were, however, silent on the details of the negotiation. They said details would be made public at the appropriate time.

EFCC lawyer, Tahir, said: “I also confirm that there were meetings between the defendant and the commission where I was also in attendance.”

But he insisted that the ongoing discussion should not stop the court from proceedings with the trial.

The judge adjourned the case till June 16 to give more time.

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