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Alleged N109bn fraud: Don’t allow EFCC show video evidence, ex-AGF begs court

A former Accountant-General of the Federation (AGF), Ahmed Idris, on Thursday in an FCT High Court objected to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) tendering  and showing a video recording of an interview session operatives had with him and others.
The compact disc containing the video was tendered by the prosecuting counsel, Rotimi Jacobs, SAN, through the prosecution first witness (PW1) in the trial-within-trial in the ongoing trial of Idris and three others for an alleged fraud.

The trial-within-trial was ordered by the court following the objection raised by counsel for Idris, Chris Uche, SAN.

The trial was on grounds that his client’s statements the prosecution sought to tender on Nov. 23, 2022 were not made on the ground of deception and inducement.

Idris Ahmed alongside Geoffrey Olusegun Akindele, Mohammed Kudu Usman and Gezawa Commodity Market and Exchange Limited, are standing trial on a 14-count charge bordering on stealing, fraudulent diversion of public fund to the tune of N109.5 billion.

They were brought before Justice Yusuf Halilu, by EFCC, on behalf of the Federal Government in the case marked, CR/199/2022.

The defendants, however, pleaded not guilty to the charges preferred against them.

At the resumed hearing of the matter , the EFCC witness, Hayatudeen Sulaiman Ahmed, told the court that Idris’s statements were not obtained through deception.

He stated that the investigating team recorded the interview session it had with Idris, Akindele and Usman, which was later burnt on a compact disc.

When the prosecution counsel sought to tender the video recording, Idris’s counsel opposed it’s tendering, saying that it amounted to ambush of the defence.

“We vehemently oppose to the strategy of springing this video on the defendants. The witness said the video was recorded on 25th May, 2022, almost three years ago.

“By constitutional provision, the defendants ought to have been served this to enable them prepare their defence,” Uche said.

He added that he was only served the video on Wednesday evening and was not able to view it before coming to court.

Counsel for other defendants aligned their objections with Uche’s with counsel for Akindele , Joe Abraham SAN, describing it as “a strange bird from a whirlwind”.

Despite the objections, Justice Halilu ruled against the defendants and admitted the video, which was marked as an exhibit in the trial-with-trial, following which it was played in the open court.

According to Halilu, the video was made after investigation established that the first to third defendants benefitted from non-existent consultancy from the Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation at the time Idris was the AGF.

Under cross examination by Uche, the witness said lawyers of the three defendants were not present when investigators interviewed them on May 25, 2022.

He admitted that Idris made some of his statements to EFCC in the absence of his lawyer, one Gbenga Adeyemi, while some were made in the presence of the lawyer.

The witness further admitted that apart from the interview session with the three defendants that was recorded, there was no video recordings of other statements made by Idris.

“There are no videos for other statements made by the first defendant (Idris). We have witnesses.

“We don’t bring suspects together to take their statements. We didn’t tell them we were recording the video. There was no lawyer for any of the defendants during the recording of the video.”

He further told the court that the video clip played in court did not capture everything that happened during the interview session, which he said could be more than one hour.

Ahmed told the court that he could not remember how many statements the first defendant made to EFCC, though he was involved in taking the statements.

Meanwhile, Justice Halilu adjourned trial until March 20, he however set aside the court’s order revoking the bail granted Akindele.

This followed an application made to that effect by counsel for Akindele, Joe Abraham , SAN, informing the court that the second defendant was not in court at the last sitting .

This according to him , was that his client was held up in traffic but eventually made it to court that day but the case was already adjourned.

The prosecutor was, however, not against the application.

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