August 11, (THEWILL) – The suspended Accountant-General of the Federation, Ahmed Idris and three others, have reached out to the Economic and Financial Crimes (EFCC) with a plea-bargain proposal, in relation to their trial for alleged N109 billion fraud.
This was disclosed by the prosecution counsel, Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), on Wednesday, at the resumed hearing before an Abuja High Court in Maitama.
A Plea bargain is an arrangement between the prosecutor and the defendant, whereby the defendant pleads guilty to a lesser charge in exchange for a more lenient sentence or an agreement to drop other charges.
Idris was arrested by the EFCC on May 16, 2022, over alleged diversion of funds and money laundering activities to the tune of N80 billion. EFCC said he was arrested after he failed to honour invitations by the commission to respond to issues connected to the alleged fraudulent acts.
He was subsequently suspended from office by the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed.
EFCC accused Idris of diverting those funds through bogus consultancies and other illegal activities using proxies, family members and close associates, adding that they were laundered through real estate investments in Kano and Abuja.
Idris, his Technical Assistant, Godfrey Olusegun Akindele; a director in the office of the AGF, Mohammed Kudu Usman and a firm linked with Idris – Gezawa Commodity Market and Exchange Limited, were arraigned on July 22, on a 14-count charge bordering on money laundering, stealing and criminal breach of trust.
At the resumed hearing on Wednesday, August 10, 2022, Lead prosecuting lawyer, Rotimi Jacobs (SAN) said 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.
Jacobs 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.
He said the meeting, planned for Tuesday, failed to hold because the defendants came without their lawyers.
According to Jacobs, 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 first defendant sent a third party to me that he wanted a plea bargaining meeting and he wanted to meet me. That was (Tuesday) in the morning. And I replied that I cannot meet the defendants in the absence of their counsel.
“I added that by the nature of our calling, we must be open and transparent. Section 270 of ACJA allows plea bargain. I told them to come with their lawyer and let us meet at the EFCC office and that I will also invite the investigators to be at the meeting.
“Kanayo, one of the counsel in the legal team of the first defendant, came to meet me at the EFCC office in Wuse 2 and protested that they were not carried along and that his clients would not come for the meeting.
“I spoke with Chief Chris Uche SAN, (who heads the first defendant’s legal team) for about 30 minutes to let him know that we (the EFCC) did not invite them and that the planned meeting was at their instance.
“None of the defendant entered EFCC’s office. So, they did not attend any meeting at the EFCC office”, Jacobs said.
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 day.
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 said: “I was to interview the first defendant on Tuesday, but I learnt he was in the office of the EFCC. We were, as counsel, not carried along.”