BREAKING: Court discharges and acquits ex-AGF Adoke of money laundering

An Abuja Federal High Court has discharged and acquitted a former Attorney-General of the Federation, AGF, Mohammed Bello Adoke, of money laundering charges.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had charged Adoke and Abubakar Aliyu, a property developer, in 2017 alleging money laundering to the tune of N300 million.

Although there is no mention of the OPL 245 transaction in this case, the same particulars were also charged by the EFCC before Justice Abubakar Kutigi of the FCT high court in 2020.

While the EFCC admitted before Ekwo that it was a mortgage that Adoke took from Unity Bank, it alleged before Kutigi that the money was a bribe from the sale of the oil block by Malabu Oil & Gas Ltd in 2011.

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On March 28, 2024, Kutigi pointed out the contradiction, while dismissing the charges against Adoke and other defendants, chiding the EFCC for wasting the court’s time for four years.

In his own ruling on Friday morning, Ekwo said the EFCC did not provide any evidence to prove the essential elements of the offence against Adoke, who was listed as first defendant.

He upheld the no case submission, discharging and acquitting Adoke.

However, Ekwo ruled that Aliyu, the second defendant, has to open his defence because he has a case to answer on some of the charges against him.

After the EFCC closed its case against Adoke and Abubakar in November 2023, both had made a no-case submission, asking the federal high court to dismiss the charges because the commission did not establish a case.

Adoke described the charges as “baseless and frivolous”.

In 2011, Adoke obtained a mortgage of N300 million from Unity Bank to purchase a property valued at N500 million from Abubakar. However, he failed to contribute his own equity of N200 million, leading to the cancellation of the mortgage in 2013.

Abubakar subsequently returned the N300 million to Unity Bank after finding a new buyer, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).

In 2017, the EFCC accused Adoke of giving Rislanudeen Mohammed, then acting managing director of Unity Bank, the equivalent of N300 million in dollars to repay the loan. The EFCC argued that this breached money laundering laws, as the amount exceeded the N10 million threshold permitted, and a bureau de change (BDC) used for the currency conversion was not considered a financial institution.

According to Mohammed’s testimony as a prosecution witness, he received $2 million in cash from Adoke and instructed a BDC to convert it to naira for loan repayment. After the repayment, the bank returned the land documents to Abubakar and closed Adoke’s mortgage account.

 

Mohammed contended that this transaction did not constitute money laundering, as a BDC legally qualifies as a financial institution. He stated that he did not report the transaction to security agencies because it was not suspicious, and he faced no reprimand from his office for any wrongdoing.

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