‘N4.6bn fraud’: Judge fines Fani-Kayode N200k over absence in court

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A federal high court in Ikoyi, Lagos state, awarded a N200,000 fine against Femi Fani-Kayode, a former minister of aviation, for his absence in court to take his plea in an alleged N4.6 billion fraud.

Fani-Kayode, a member of former President Goodluck Jonathan’s presidential campaign team, was arraigned alongside Nenadi Usman, a former minister of state for finance. Others listed as defendants are Danjuma Yusuf and a company, Joint Trust Dimensions Limited.They were arraigned on a 17-count charge bordering on alleged money laundering and diversion of N4.9 billion, before Muslim Hassan, the presiding judge, on June 28, 2016.However, midway into the trial, Fani-Kayode objected to being tried before Hassan and the case file was transferred to Rilwan Aikawa, another judge.

Upon commencement of trial, Aikawa was transferred to another jurisdiction of the court, and the case file was then transferred to a new judge, Daniel Osiagor, for the matter to start afresh.At the resumed sitting on Wednesday, Bilikisu Buhari, prosecution counsel, told the court that the matter was to start afresh.However, Fani-Kayode, who is the second defendant, was not in court to take his plea.

The prosecution counsel, therefore, urged the court to revoke his bail.Responding, F.B. Ajudua, Fani-Kayode’s lawyer, who prayed the court not to revoke the bail, said his client is sick.“A letter has been written on his behalf. He is currently on bed rest at Kubwa General Hospital, Abuja,” he said.“He has been attending his trial since the matter commenced in 2016. Today, my lord, is the only day that he is not in court.”

But the judge, after a careful perusal of the court’s record, noted that the former minister has been absent from court five times.His absence, according to the judge, had “stalled the smooth hearing of the charge”.Osiagor, therefore, held that he would either revoke Fani-Kayode’s bail or fine him N200,000Ajudua opted for the option of fine.

Consequently, Osiagor ordered Fani-Kayode to pay a fine of N200,000, before the next adjourned date.The matter was adjourned till November 30, 2021, for the re-arraignment of the defendants.

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