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Money Laundering: Court begins trial of ex-Pension boss, Maina in absentia

The Federal High Court in Abuja, on Tuesday, continued to try the former Chairman of the defunct Pension Reformed Task Team, Abdulrasheed Maina, in his absence.

Trial Justice Okon Abang gave the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, the nod to tender more evidence against Maina, whose decision to jump bail, led the court to remand his surety in Kuje Correctional Center.

The development came on a day the court also issued a warrant for the arrest of his son, Faisal, following his refusal to appear for the continuation of his own trial on a separate money laundering charge.

Trial Justice Abang ordered security agencies to arrest Faisal anywhere he is found.

The court equally summoned the member representing Kaura Namoda Federal Constituency, Umar Dan Galadima, to appear before it on Wednesday to show cause why he should not be remanded in custody or made to forfeit N60million bail bond on the head of Faisal, to the Federal Government.

Relying on section 352 (4) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015, Justice Abang gave the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, the nod to prosecute Maina’s son in absentia.

The orders followed an application the EFCC made through its lawyer, Mr. Abubakar Mohammed.

Whereas Maina is facing a 12-count money laundering charge alongside a firm, Common Input Properties & Investment Limited, his son is on the other hand, answering to a 3-count criminal charge.

EFCC alleged that Maina used account of the firm and laundered funds to the tune of about N2billion, part of which he used to acquire landed properties in Abuja.

The court had in a ruling on Monday, remanded the Senator representing Borno South, Ali Ndume, who stood surety for the former pension reform boss, in custody, following his inability to explain the whereabouts of the Defendant.

It held that Ndume should remain in detention pending when his Abuja property is sold to raise the N500million bail bond on Maina’s head.

It directed that proceed from the sold property should be paid into the federation account.

Alternatively, the court asked Ndume to produce Maina for continuation of his trial.

Meanwhile, Maina, who had since September 19, failed to attend his trial, was also absent in court at the resumed proceedings in the matter on Tuesday.

Likewise, none of his lawyers entered appearance before the court.

Owing to the development, counsel to the EFCC, Mr Abubakar, urged the court to foreclose Maina’s right to continue to cross-examine the sixth prosecution witness, PW-6, who was in the witness box before the Defendant jumped bail.

Justice Abang granted the request, even as he okayed two witnesses, Sani Ali and Ibrahim Abdulkareem, to evidence in the matter and tender exhibits against the Maina and the firm who were listed as 1st and 2nd Defendants, in the charge.

The court stressed that the Defendants, by their absence, waived their right to either cross-examine the witnesses or to challenge exhibits tendered against them by the prosecution.

EFCC had in the charge marked FHC/ABJ/CR/256/2019, alleged that the ex-Pension boss used fictitious names to open and operate various bank accounts, as well as recruited his relatives that were bankers to operate fake bank accounts through which illicit funds were channelled.

Meanwhile, despite Maina’s absence, Ali and Abdulkareem gave their Evidence-In-Chief against him as the 7th and 8th Prosecution witnesses, PW-7 and PW-8.

Ali who identified himself as an estate developer, revealed before the court, how Maina acquired a property worth N240m with the dollar equivalent of $1.4m.

The PW-7 told the court that Maina paid the total sum for the property in cash, through his son, Faisal.

Likewise, the PW-8, Abdulkareem, told the court that he was a member of the defunct Presidential Pension Reform Task Team that was headed by Maina.

He also revealed before the court that Maina got about N146m from the Head of Service to conduct biometric exercise for pensioners in the country.

According to the PW-8, Maina diverted the said fund into five different accounts that belonged to members of the team.

The witness told the court that a total sum of N5.99m was paid into his own personal account.

He said Maina subsequently made him the “Central Collector”, and directed him to retrieve all the monies that were paid into accounts of members of the team.

The witness told the court that Maina later ordered him to sequentially pay the funds into the account of his Secretary, whose name he gave as Ann.

Mr. Abdulkareem said Maina was enraged when he found out that Ann was made to sign a receipt whenever money was handed to her from the fund.

“Maina came into my office and asked me why I was requesting for receipt of the money given to Ann and I told him that it was for the purpose of accounting for the money.

“He then ordered me to give him the original acknowledgment copies of the receipts and I gave them to him”, the witness added.

The witness went ahead and tendered photocopies of the acknowledgment receipts and they were accordingly admitted in evidence by the court.

Meanwhile, in the second case involving Maina’s son, Faisal, the prosecuting counsel drew the attention of the court to the absence of both the Defendant and his lawyers.

EFCC’s lawyer noted that Faisal had since June 24, failed to appear before the court for continuation of his trial.

He, therefore, urged the court to revoke the bail it earlier granted the Defendant, and order his trial in absentia.

EFCC equally urged the court to issue a warrant for the arrest of the Defendant, pursuant to section 184 of the ACJA, 2015.

After he had listened to the prosecuting counsel, trial Justice Abang held that the application deserved to succeed.

The court said it was satisfied that the Defendant has jumped bail, having repeatedly failed to appear for his trial.

Consequently, it revoked his bail and ordered his arrest by security agencies.

The court also granted EFCC the leave to try the Defendant in absentia.

The warrant of arrest against Faisal came barely six days after the court also issued a similar order against his father.

The court warned that it would issue a bench warrant against Faisal’s surety, Galadima, should he fail to appear on Wednesday as directed.

EFCC had in the charge before the court, alleged that Maina’s son had sometimes between 2013 and 2019, received the sum of N58.11million, being proceeds of a corrupt act by his father. He was also accused of failing to properly declare his assets before the EFCC.

Before he was released on bail, the Defendant was initially remanded in police custody after the prosecution notified the court that he was being investigated on allegation bordering on his alleged possession of an illegal firearm.

20-year old Faisal had reportedly pulled a gun to challenge operatives of the Department of State Service (DSS) that arrested his father at a hotel in Abuja on September 30.





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