How EFCC deceived me to confess over alleged N109.4bn fraud-Ex-AGF, Idris
Trial of the former Accountant-General of the Federation, AGF, Ahmed Idris, who was accused of siphoning public funds to the tune of about N109.4 billion, resumed on Thursday, with the defendant, alleging that he was deceived by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, to implicate himself.
Idris is facing a 14-count charge the anti-graft agency entered against him and three others before a High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, sitting at Maitama, Abuja.
Other defendants in the matter are; an aide to the former AGF, Mr. Olusegun Akindele; a Director of the Federation Account, Mohammed Usman, as well as a company, Gezawa Commodity Market & Exchange Limited, which allegedly served as the conduit pipe through which bulk of the stolen funds were diverted.
Justice Halilu Yusuf had ordered a trial-within-trial in the matter to enable the court to determine whether all the extra-judicial statements the embattled former AGF made while he was interviewed by the EFCC, should be admitted in evidence.
Whereas the prosecution maintained that the defendant made confessional statements that nailed him to the charge, however, the former AGF insisted that he made the said statements under duress.
The 1th defendant, Idris, alleged that he was deceived with a promise, to write the statement.
According to his lead counsel, Chief Chris Uche, SAN, the EFCC had assured the defendant that he would not be subjected to any trial should he give details that would implicate a former Minister of Finance and some Governors.
The defendant urged the court to reject the said confessional statements which he said were obtained in violation of the provisions of Sections 15(4) and 17(1) (2) of the ACJA 2015, as his lawyers were not present when he made them and the sessions were not recorded.
However, the EFCC, through one of its lead investigators, Mr Hayatudeen Suleiman, who appeared as a witness in the matter on Thursday, denied the allegation.
The witness maintained that the 1st defendant voluntarily made the statements and was also notified that they would be used in court for the trial.
The prosecution counsel, Mr. Rotimi Jacobs, SAN, had initially applied to tender the 13 different statements he said were voluntarily made by the 1st defendant, between May 16, 2022, when he was arrested, to July 5, 2022.
His application was vehemently opposed by counsel to the former AGF, Chief Uche, SAN, who challenged their admissibility, alleging that his client was coerced by the EFCC to make them.
Consequently, at the resumed proceedings in the trial-within-trial on Thursday, the EFCC official, Suleiman, who obtained some of the disputed statements, tendered in evidence, a video recording of an interview he said the Commission held with the 1st, 2nd and 3rd defendants before they volunteered their statements.
The witness told the trial judge that the three defendants revealed how they shared funds among themselves.
The witness added that the defendants were interviewed inside the EFCC Chairman’s Monitoring Unit office at the headquarters of the Commission, with all the due processes complied with.
“The defendant came along with his legal representative in the person of Gbenga Adeyemi, who witnessed the statement from the beginning to the end and he also signed.
“We asked questions which he answered. The 1st defendant voluntarily made the statements and was also notified that it would be used in court for trial,” the witness told the court, adding that he personally recorded the video with a Samsung mobile phone.
“The video was taken after investigation showed that the 1st, 2nd and 3rd defendants benefited from non-existent consultancy from the office of the Accountant General while the 1st defendant was in office as the AGF.
“The sharing formula of the money involved was what was being discussed in the video.
“The 2nd defendant was giving a breakdown of how the money was shared,” the witness added.
Though the audio of the 15 minutes video clip, which was played in the open court, was not very clear, however, contrary to his earlier submission, the witness admitted that no lawyer was present with the defendants during the interview session.
The witness further admitted that he did not notify the defendants before he carried out the video recording.
Likewise, contrary to the earlier position of the witness that the video was recorded before the defendants made their statements, he admitted that the video was recorded on May 25, 2022, after the former AGF had already made some of the statements.
He said the cautionary words in the first statement that was made by Idris, was written by another EFCC operative, Mubarak, insisting that the defendant chose to waive his right to have a lawyer present during the session.
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“After he finished writing his statement, he was given bail on self-recognition. He was not detained because the investigation was at the preliminary stage.”
He said there was no truth in the claim that the 1st defendant was assured by the EFCC that he would not be prosecuted should he nail other highly placed individuals to the alleged fraud.
“It is not true that the defendant was promised that he would not be prosecuted. Nobody gave him any assurance,” the witness added.
Justice Yusuf subsequently adjourned the matter till March 20 for continuation of hearing on the trial-within-trial.
The judge equally vacated an order he made on the last adjourned date, which revoked the bail of the 2nd defendant, Akindele, and ordered his arrest and remand in prison custody for failing to appear in court for his trial.
Both Akindele’s lawyer, Mr. Joe Abraham, SAN, and EFCC’s lawyer, Jacobs, SAN, confirmed to the judge that the defendant, who was held in traffic on that day, actually arrived the courtroom after the order had been issued against him.
The court had earlier granted the former AGF bail in the sum of N5bn with two sureties which it stressed must be a Director and a Permanent Secretary.
The court equally granted the 2nd and 3rd defendants bail in the sum of N2bn each with two sureties that must be Directors.
As part of their bail conditions, the defendants, were barred from travelling out of Abuja, even as they were ordered to surrender their international passports and undertake not to procure alternate passports during the pendency of the case.
The defendants were equally ordered to depose to an affidavit of assurance to abide by all their bail conditions.
It will be recalled that an initial attempt by the defendants to enter into a plea bargain deal with the EFCC collapsed.