Malabu Oil: Again, Court Frees Ex-AGF Adoke of Money Laundering Charges

April 19, 2024
ex-AGF Adoke Bello Adoke

By Adedapo Adesanya

The Federal High Court in Abuja, on Friday, dismissed money laundering charges filed against a former Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Mr Bello Adoke.

The judge, Justice Inyang Ekwo, upheld the “no-case-submission” application filed by Mr Adoke after the prosecution, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), concluded its case and it was the turn of the defendants to present theirs.

A no-case submission is filed by a defendant at the end of the prosecution’s case, asking the court for an acquittal without having him or her present a defence. Such filing is premised on the presumption by the defendant that the prosecution, with all its witnesses and evidence tendered while making its case, failed to link him or her to the alleged crimes.

Mr Adoke was standing trial along with Mr Aliyu Abubakar, a businessman, on money laundering charges in the case.

In his ruling on Friday, Mr Ekwo said the EFCC failed to provide any substantial evidence linking Mr Adoke to the alleged offence.

The judge went ahead to discharge and acquit Mr Adoke of alleged offences.

But, the judge dismissed Mr Adoke’s co-defendant’s no-case-submission, ordering Mr Abubakar to enter his defence in the trial.

The ruling tallies with the judgement of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) High Court in Jabi, Abuja, which, three weeks ago, freed Mr Adoke of complicity in alleged fraud in the controversial Oil Prospecting Licence (OPL) 245, widely known as Malabu Oil deal.

In the FCT High Court case, Mr Adoke, who was justice minister under former President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration, was charged alongside a businessman, Aliyu Abubakar; Rasky Gbinigie; Malabu Oil and Gas Limited; Nigeria Agip Exploration Limited; Shell Nigeria Extra Deep Limited and Shell Nigeria Exploration Production Company Limited over the Malabu oil scam.

They were arraigned in 2020 on a 40-count amended charge.

EFCC had, in the FCT High Court, conceded that it lacked evidence against Mr Adoke and his co-defendants, but insisted that it had led credible evidence to warrant the former AGF to enter his defence in the matter.

However, in the Federal High Court case in which judgement was delivered on Friday, the EFCC had charged Messrs Adoke and Abubakar, alleging money laundering to the tune of N300 million.

The anti-graft agency had, on August 4, 2020, re-arraigned Messrs Adoke and Mr Abubakar on an amended 14 counts of money laundering.

In count 9 of the charges, the EFCC had alleged that Adoke, sometime in 2013, in Abuja, “made a cash payment of $2,267,400 to Risslanudeen Muhammed” and thereby “committed an offence contrary to the combined effect of section 16(1)(d) and of section 19a) of the Money Laundering Prohibition Act, 2011 (as amended) and punishable under section 16(2)(b) of the same Act”.

There was no mention of the Malabu Oil deal in the case before Mr Ekwo, however, the details of charges featured in the charges that were before the FCT High Court, where the EFCC said the N300 million was a kickback from the sale of the oil block by Malabu Oil & Gas Limited in 2011.

Each of them faced seven counts. They had pleaded not guilty.

The court exonerated Mr Adoke on Friday but ordered the proceedings to continue against his co-defendant, who is now to enter his defence.

Friday’s ruling brings to an end Mr Adoke’s trial in connection with the controversial Malabu Oil scam.

The Malabu scandal involved the transfer of about $1.1 billion by Shell and ENI through the Nigerian government to accounts controlled by a former Nigerian petroleum minister, Mr Dan Etete.

From accounts controlled by Mr Etete, about half the money ($520 million) went to accounts of companies controlled by Mr Aliyu Abubakar, popularly known in Nigeria as the owner of AA Oil.

The transaction was authorised in 2011 by Mr Jonathan through some of his cabinet ministers and the money was payment for OPL 245, one of Nigeria’s richest oil blocks.

The oil resources of the OPL 245 licence have remained undeveloped since the controversies began.

Eni initiated international arbitration proceedings against Nigeria in September, alleging the Nigerian government has breached its obligations by refusing to let the firm develop the licence, which has now expired this May.

Adedapo Adesanya

Adedapo Adesanya is a journalist, polymath, and connoisseur of everything art. When he is not writing, he has his nose buried in one of the many books or articles he has bookmarked or simply listening to good music with a bottle of beer or wine. He supports the greatest club in the world, Manchester United F.C.

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