EFCC detains two ex-ministers over N900m poll cash

Former Chief of Air Staff Mohammed Umar is proposing an out-of-court settlement in his N7.3billion money laundering case 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.

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

It alleged that Umar removed the money from the account of the Nigerian Air Force while he was the Chief of  Air Staff.

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 the money 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 pleaded not guilty to the charge, following which the judge adjourned to June 7 for commencement of trial.

Yesterday, his lawyer, Hassan Liman (SAN) informed the court that his client had started negotiations with the complainant, the Economic and Financial Commission (EFCC), for the possibility of an out-of-court settlement of the case.

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 following the resolution, the defence had already written to the Chairman of the EFCC, Mr Ibrahim Magu.

He said the letter was dated June 6, 2016.

Tahir, who confirmed that settement  talks were on-going , said of a letter from Umar to the EFCC Chairman, proposing settlement.

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

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

He insisted that the ongoing discussion should not stop the court from proceedings with the trial. He said his witnesses were ready.

Tahir argued that since the case was not  civil, but criminal in nature, the ongoing settlement talks could not constitute sufficient grounds to prevent the court from proceeding with the trial.

Replying, Liman said with the ongoing efforts by his client to settle, it would be prejudicial to begin the trial.

He urged the court to adjourn the case for the defendant to conclude the settlement.

Ruling, Justice Nyako said the trial would be shifted to a later date not because of the information about settlement, but because the defence was yet to file its summary of defence as directed by the court  on the last date.

She then adjourned till June 16 for the prosecution to call its witnesses.

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