Alleged N450m Laundering: Dele Belgore Testifies
A former governorship candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Kwara State, Mr Mohammed Dele Belgore (SAN), has opened his defense at the Federal High Court sitting in Lagos on allegations of laundering the sum of N450 million.
At the resumed hearing of the case on Monday, the Senior Advocate who took the witness box in his own defense admitted that he was invited to the bank to collect the cash but said he ended up leaving the bank without the money.
Belgore who also said he was the Kwara State Coordinator of then President Goodluck Jonathan’s re-election campaign, said he did not collect the N450m because after getting to the bank he realized that the money was too huge for his Toyota Prado jeep.
“I indicated to PW1 (bank manager) that I could not collect the money and I gave two reasons. First, I said this money was coming two days before the election; all the stakeholders and party members were aware of the arrival of the money and therefore, I did not consider it safe to move such a huge amount of money out of the bank in the middle of the night,” he said.
“The second reason was that I did not come prepared to receive and take away such a large amount of money, as I came only in my vehicle, a Toyota Prado jeep.
“As I said earlier, the heap of cash that I saw in the bank’s loading bay was at least three to four feet high. So, I told PW1 that if it took a bullion van to transport the cash from the Central Bank of Nigeria to Fidelity Bank, there was no way I would be able to evacuate those funds with my Toyota Prado.”
Mr Belgore said after a long argument between him, his co-defendant, Prof Abubakar Sulaiman and the bank manager, the bank manager told them to sign for the money and agreed to keep the money in the bank’s vault.
“After signing the document, I left the bank without the money. I did not take a penny out of the bank; I left the bank empty-handed,” he said.
Thereafter, his counsel, Mr Ebun Sofunde, asked the court for more time to enable him preview the CCTV footage of the events that took place in the banking hall on March 26, 2015, when the offense was allegedly committed.
The judge, Justice Rilwan Aikawa, then granted the plea and adjourned the case till February 28, 2019.
Belgore is being prosecuted by the EFCC for allegedly benefiting N450m from the sum of $115m which a former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani Alison-Madueke, allegedly doled out to influence the outcome of the 2015 general elections.
The EFCC had alleged that himself, and his co-defendant, a former Minister of National Planning, Prof Abubakar Sulaiman, went to a branch of Fidelity Bank in Ilorin on March 26, 2015, to sign for and collect the N450m cash.
The anti-graft agency said they ought to have “reasonably known” that the N450m was part of proceeds of unlawful activities, adding that they handled the money without going through any financial institution, contrary to the provisions of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act.
But the SAN and the professor have pleaded not guilty to the allegations