The former Minister of Aviation, Femi Fani-Kayode seems exonerated for alleged money laundering charges, as a Federal High Court in Lagos has barred Festus Keyamo from further prosecuting him.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in 2008, had charged Mr. Fani-Kayode, with 47 counts of money laundering amounting to N500 million.
The presiding judge, Justice Rita Ofili-Ajumogobia directed the deputy chief registrar in charge of the Lagos Division of the court to write to the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice to settle the issue of legal representation in the case of money laundering against Mr Fani-Kayode, within three days.
The judge said that Vitalis Ahaotu, who was appearing for Mr. Keyamo, failed to present the fiat empowering his firm to take up the case on behalf of the Attorney General of the Federation.
Mr Ahaotu is a counsel in the firm of Festus Keyamo and Co., and was prosecuting the case on behalf of the EFCC.
The judge held that there was doubt as to whether the Attorney General had issued a fiat to the chambers of Keyamo to prosecute the case on its behalf.
“There is no doubt that the A-G has the power to issue a fiat to any lawyer to prosecute a case on his behalf, but the prosecutor has shown no evidence of delegation in this respect.
“The prosecutor claims it possesses the fiat of the AG, when in fact it has not been exhibited before this honourable court.
“I hold that Ahaotu cannot continue to represent the Federal Republic of Nigeria in this case,” the judge said.
The court’s ruling followed the contention raised over whether the prosecution had the authority of the Attorney General to prosecute the former minister.
Ifedayo Adedipe, representing Mr Fani-Kayode had on June 6, challenged the appearance of the prosecutor in the case.
Mr Adedipe had argued that it was not clear whether Mr Ahaotu was prosecuting on behalf of the Federal Government or the EFCC.
Immediately after the ruling, another counsel from the firm of Keyamo, Alexander Opako, had urged the court to fix a trial date, to enable his principal, Mr Keyamo appear personally.
The defence counsel, Wale Akoni, however, objected to this application.
Mr Akoni noted that since the court had ruled that the prosecution had no fiat, the charge becomes incompetent.
He, therefore, urged the court to strike out the charge accordingly.
Justice Ofili-Ajumogobia in a short ruling said she would make no pronouncement on the issue, since Mr Keyamo was not before the court to justify his representation.
She, however, ordered the court’s Deputy Chief Registrar to write a letter to the office of the Attorney General, to settle the issue of representation of the complainant within three days of making the pronouncement.
The judge also ordered hearing notices to be served on Mr Keyamo.
She adjourned the case till 8 July for mention.
Mr Fani-Kayode has been standing trial on a 47-count charge of money laundering.
He was accused of making transactions with funds exceeding N500, 000 without pass through a financial institution.
The former minister was also alleged to have accepted cash payments of about N230 million.
He had pleaded not guilty to all the counts and was granted bail.