Alleged N2.2bn Fraud: Court Adjourns Fayose’s Trial To October 20

Fayose Won’t Be Intimidate, Ready To Defend Himself In Court – Aide
(FILE PHOTO) Former Ekiti State Governor, Mr Ayodele Fayose, at the EFCC office in Abuja on October 16, 2018.

 

A Federal High Court sitting in Lagos has adjourned the trial of former Governor of Ekiti State, Ayodele Fayose to October 20.

Fayose was present in court on Monday but the case failed to go on.

The court adjourned the case at the instance of the Counsel to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Rotimi Jacobs who told Justice Chukwujekwu Aneke that the prosecution witness who was supposed to testify was not available.

The lawyer said that that the witness had informed him that “one of his family members was being quarantined in the Isolation centre.”

READ ALSO: COVID-19: Politicians Playing Games With Kogi People, Says Bello

The Counsel subsequently asked the court for an adjournment.

Counsel to the former governor, Olalekan Ojo, did not oppose the request for an adjournment.

Justice Aneke then adjourned the case to October 20 for the continuation of the trial.

At the last sitting of the court on March 5, 2020, the EFCC had called its fifth witness in the N2.2bn fraud trial of the former governor.

The witness, a banker, Johnson Abidakun, who worked as Head of Operations at the Ado Ekiti Branch of Zenith Bank told Justice Aneke how the bank moved the sum of N200m from Fayose’s home sometime in April 2016.

Assange Extradition Trial Delayed By Coronavirus Outbreak

(FILES) In this file photo taken on May 19, 2017 Wikileaks founder Julian Assange speaks on the balcony of the Embassy of Ecuador in London. Justin TALLIS / AFP.

 

A British judge on Monday delayed WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s full extradition hearing, which had been due to begin next month, after the coronavirus pandemic prevented him meeting his lawyers.

At a preliminary hearing at Westminster Magistrates’ Court in London, Vanessa Baraitser agreed to vacate the May 18 start date for the three-week extradition trial, and warned the next time slot was not available until November.

A new timetable for the case will be agreed at another administrative hearing on May 4.

Assange is currently in the high security Belmarsh prison in south London as he fights an extradition request by the United States to stand trial there on espionage charges.

His lawyers said Monday they had been unable to take instruction from the whistleblower since the coronavirus outbreak prompted a nationwide lockdown in Britain more than a month ago.

“There have always been great difficulties in getting access to Mr Assange,” lawyer Edward Fitzgerald told the court.

READ ALSO: Nearly Two Million Australians Download Coronavirus Tracker App

“But with the coronavirus outbreak, the preparation of this case cannot be possible.”

Assange faces charges under the US Espionage Act for the 2010 release by WikiLeaks of a trove of secret files detailing aspects of US military campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq.

A ruling against Assange could see him jailed for 175 years.

He took refuge in the Ecuadoran embassy in London in 2012 after skipping bail to avoid separate legal proceedings in Sweden, but was dragged out by British police last year.

Assange last month failed in his bid for bail after he argued that he was at risk of catching coronavirus in Belmarsh.

The British government has been planning to allow some prisoners temporary release, amid fears COVID-19 could sweep through jails.

But Baraitser rejected the request on March 25, saying there were “no grounds” for his release.

It also emerged earlier this month that the one-time computer hacker fathered two children with one of his lawyers while in Ecuador’s embassy.

The 48-year-old Australian is the dad of two boys, aged two and one, with lawyer Stella Morris, to whom he is engaged, she confirmed following a newspaper report.

AFP

Israel Postpones Netanyahu Graft Trial By 2 Months Over Virus

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the weekly cabinet meeting at his office in Jerusalem, on July 8, 2018. ABIR SULTAN / POOL / AFP

 

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s corruption trial has been postponed until May 24 due to concerns about coronavirus, Jerusalem’s District Court said Sunday.

Netanyahu, the first Israeli premier ever to be indicted in office, had been scheduled to stand trial from Tuesday over alleged bribery, fraud and breach of trust.

In a statement, the court noted that given the coronavirus pandemic it had been instructed to hear “only urgent matters”.

“We have decided to postpone the first hearing (in Netanyahu’s trial) until May 24,” the court said.

Israel has 200 confirmed cases of the virus with tens of thousands of people in home quarantine.

Netanyahu has been charged with a range of offences including receiving improper gifts and offering a media mogul lucrative regulatory changes in exchange for favourable coverage.

He denies wrongdoing.

Despite the indictments, Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party won the most seats in March 2 elections and he is aiming to form a new government.

But Likud and its allies fell short of the 61 seats needed for a majority in the Knesset, or parliament. It was Israel’s third inconclusive vote in less than a year.

Netanyahu has called on his main challenger Benny Gantz of the centrist Blue and White party to form an emergency, national unity government to tackle the coronavirus crisis.

Gantz has said he is open to discussing the proposal, with negotiations set for this week.

Alleged Fraud: How We Moved N200m From Fayose’s Residence – Banker

Fayose Won’t Be Intimidate, Ready To Defend Himself In Court – Aide
Former Ekiti State Governor, Mr Ayodele Fayose, at the EFCC office in Abuja on October 16, 2018.

 

A banker, Johnson Abidakun, has testified in the resumed trial of former Ekiti State governor, Ayodele Fayose on allegation of N2.2bn fraud.

Abidakun, who worked as Head of Operations at the Ado Ekiti Branch of Zenith Bank told Justice Chukwujekwu Aneke how N200m was moved from Fayose’s home sometime on April 2016.

The banker was called in by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) as the fifth witness in the ongoing trial of the ex-governor.

Led in evidence by the prosecuting counsel, Adebisi Adeniyi, the witness said that when the money was brought from the residence of Fayose, it was counted and its total amounted to N199.5 million

READ ALSO: Buhari, Oshiomhole Meet Amid Suspension Drama

He said that while detailed counting was ongoing, Abiodun Agbele, (named in the body of the charge) came in with one Taofeek, and gave instructions that the money is to be credited to a company called Still Earth Ltd, with Taofeek as depositor, following instructions by Fayose.

The witness said that after counting the money, it was then deposited in the account of Still Earth, adding that since Taofeek could not write he was assisted to fill same in the bank.

Under cross-examination by the defence counsel, Mr Ola Olanipekun (SAN) the witness told the court that he had never been to the residence of the first defendant before the period the money was conveyed.

When asked if it was the instructions received from Oshode he had passed on, he answered that he only confided in another staff of the bank called Aladegbola Adewale.

According to him, he confided in the said Aladegbola because he (Aladegbola) knew the destination where the money was to be picked up but never knew the amount.

When asked where the said Aladegbola is presently, he told the court that he had resigned from the bank.

Trial will continue tomorrow, Friday, March 6.

Lesotho First Lady Granted Bail Over Murder Charge

 

Lesotho’s first lady was released on bail on Wednesday after she was detained overnight and charged with murder over the killing of her husband’s estranged wife.

Maesaiah Thabane, 42, had been placed in custody after turning herself in on Tuesday, ending a weeks-long disappearance.

She was charged after police quizzed her on the brutal murder of Prime Minister Thomas Thabane’s wife two days before his inauguration in June 2017.

The couple had been embroiled in bitter divorce proceedings when Lipolelo Thabane was gunned down in front of her home in the capital Maseru.

Thomas Thabane agreed to step down last month after police linked his mobile number to communication records from the day of the crime. He has not yet given a timeline for his resignation.

His wife made a first appearance before Lesotho’s magistrate court on Wednesday after spending the night in jail.

The magistrate court freed her on a 1,000 maloti (61 euros) bail.

In court, Maesaiah Thabane stood in a traditional pink dress before a roomful of opponents and sympathisers, listening as the magistrate read out her rights.

Her husband did not attend the hearing.

The first lady is suspected of orchestrating the shooting. Police have also charged her for the attempted murder of Lipolelo Thabane’s friend Thato Sibolla, who was wounded at the scene.

She has yet to comment on the allegations.

The murder of the 48-year old future first lady shocked the tiny mountainous kingdom of Lesotho, which is entirely surrounded by South Africa.

Senior members of the ruling All Basotho Convention (ABC) have accused the prime minister of hampering investigations into the killing and pressured him to resign.

He showed up for questioning last month — shortly after his wife was summoned by the police and went into hiding.

AFP

Impeachment Trial: Trump’s Lawyers Conclude Senate Defence, Call For Acquittal

White House defence team lawyers and Trump’s personal lawyer Jay Sekulow(C) arrive for the impeachment trial of US President Donald Trump on Capitol Hill February 3, 2020 in Washington, DC. Brendan Smialowski / AFP

 

White House lawyers concluded their defence of President Donald Trump at his historic Senate impeachment trial on Monday with a call for his acquittal of charges of abuse of power.

“The president has done nothing wrong,” White House counsel Pat Cipollone told the 100 senators who will decide Trump’s fate with a vote on Wednesday.

Denouncing Trump’s impeachment by the House of Representatives as “purely partisan and political,” Cipollone said, “We put our faith in the Senate.”

“End the era of impeachment once and for all,” he urged senators, by rejecting the two articles of impeachment.

AFP

Timeline: Maryam Sanda’s Trial For Murder

Maryam Sanda weeps at the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) High Court in Abuja on January 27, 2020. Photo: Channels TV/ Sodiq Adelakun.

 

 

On Monday, Justice Yusuf Halilu of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) High Court in Abuja sentenced Maryam Sanda to death for killing her husband, Bilyaminu Bello.

This brings to climax the legal proceedings trailing the death of Bilyaminu – son of former National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Mr Haliru Bello.

Although she could appeal the judgement of the court, Justice Halilu sentenced Sanda to death after convicting her of stabbing Bilyaminu to death.

READ ALSO: Maryam Sanda Sentenced To Death By Hanging For Killing Husband

Upon her conviction by the judge, Sanda broke down in tears and wept uncontrollably but was comforted by her lawyer amid some officials of the Nigerian Correctional Service (NCS) in the courtroom.

Here is a timeline of the 26-month court proceedings below:

On November 23, 2017, the police file murder charges against Sanda.

On November 24, 2017, the court sends the accused to the correctional facility after refusing to grant her bail application.

On December 7, 2017, the court again refuses an oral application for her bail and orders for her return to the correctional facility pending her re-arraignment.

On December 14, 2017, the court again refuses and dismisses Sanda’s bail but grants bail to her three co-defendants.

On February 7, 2018, the court strikes out another bail application made on her behalf.

On March 7, 2018, Sanda is finally granted bail on health grounds.

On March 19, 2018, a prosecution witness in Sanda’s trial disappears after arriving in court.

On April 19, 2018, Witness narrates how Maryam Sanda allegedly made several attempts to stab her husband before his eventual murder.

On May 15, 2018, Sanda’s trial is stalled.

On October 3, 2018, the lawyer representing Sanda withdraws from her trial.

On January 23, 2019, Sanda reveals in a statement that some nude pictures on her husband’s phone led to the fight that eventually led to his death.

On February 27, 2019, the court fixes the date for the final address.

On March 26, 2019, the court fixes a date to rule on the no-case submission filed by the accused.

On April 4, 2019, the court said Sanda has a case to answer.

On October 16, 2019, Sanda opens her defence.

On January 27, 2020, the court convicts Sanda and sentences her to death by hanging.

Lawyers Begin Trump’s Defence At Senate Trial

US President Donald Trump speaks in Davos, Switzerland, on January 22, 2020. JIM WATSON / AFP

 

White House lawyers began presenting their defence of President Donald Trump on Saturday at his historic Senate impeachment trial for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

White House counsel Pat Cipollone began presenting opening arguments at an extraordinary weekend session of the 100-member Senate, which will decide whether the 45th US president should be removed from office.

“You will find the president did absolutely nothing wrong,” Cipollone said.

Democratic prosecutors from the House of Representatives, which impeached Trump on December 18, wrapped up their case for the president’s removal late Friday.

Trump’s lawyers will have 24 hours spread over three days to present their defence of the president to the Senate, where Republicans hold a 53 to 47 seat majority. They plan to speak for up to three hours on Saturday and resume their presentation on Monday.

AFP

Actress Sciorra Testifies In Weinstein’s Rape Trial

Actress Annabella Sciorra leaves the courtroom in Manhattan Criminal Court, on January 23, 2020 in New York City.  Johannes EISELE / AFP

 

“The Sopranos” actress Annabella Sciorra, who says Harvey Weinstein raped her in the 1990s, was called to give evidence in his trial Thursday as prosecutors try to prove the fallen movie mogul was a sexual predator.

Weinstein, 67, has pleaded not guilty to sexually assaulting former production assistant Mimi Haleyi and raping actress Jessica Mann, in the high-profile proceedings seen as key to the #MeToo movement.

Sciorra, best known for her role as Gloria Trillo in American mob drama “The Sopranos,” alleges that Weinstein raped her in her New York apartment on an unknown date sometime in the winter of 1993-94.

Her allegation is too old to be included on the charge sheet but the prosecution has called her as a witness to support a charge of predatory sexual assault.

That charge, which requires prosecutors to prove he sexually assaulted at least two people, carries possible life imprisonment.

In opening arguments, Wednesday, Assistant District Attorney Meghan Hast, told the court that Weinstein “violently” raped Sciorra after forcing his way into her home in Manhattan.

He then forcibly performed oral sex on the actress, the prosecution said.

The attack left her “emotionally and physically destroyed” and led her to drink and even cutting herself, Hast added.

Sciorra was too scared to tell the police, the prosecutor said and did not reveal the alleged assault publicly until October 2017 when her account was published in The New Yorker magazine.

Hast also told the court that Weinstein turned up at Sciorra’s hotel room in Cannes in 1997 wearing just his underwear while carrying a bottle of baby oil in one hand and a video cassette in the other.

Weinstein’s defence attorneys are expected to ferociously challenge Sciorra’s account.

During opening arguments, lawyer Damon Cheronis said there was no evidence of the alleged attack.

“Because there is no date given we can’t interview people to find out where Harvey Weinstein was that day. We can’t interview neighbours,” he told the court.

Cheronis said Sciorra once told a friend she “did a crazy thing” with Weinstein.

“She didn’t describe it as rape because it wasn’t,” he said.

AFP

Alleged Rape: Weinstein’s Trial Begins Today

Harvey Weinstein arrives at a Manhattan courthouse for the first day of opening statements at his trial on January 22, 2020, in New York City.  Spencer Platt/Getty Images/AFP

 

Harvey Weinstein’s rape and sexual assault trial began in earnest in New York on Wednesday, with the defence expected to detail “loving” emails between the once-mighty movie producer and his accusers.

A frail-looking Weinstein, 67, walked slowly into the court premises, but without the walking frame, he has used for recent proceedings.

He faces life in prison if convicted of predatory sexual assault charges related to two women in a case seen as key to the #MeToo movement.

In opening arguments, prosecutors will argue that the former Miramax Films boss was a sexual predator who made a career out of abusing women trying to make their way in Hollywood.

Weinstein’s attorneys will try to convince the court that his two accusers engaged in consensual relationships with the defendant and only later claimed the incidents were forced.

Lawyer Damon Cheronis said Tuesday the defence had “dozens” of emails sent by the women to Weinstein which undermine claims of non-consensual sex.

Justice James Burke ruled that the defence team could cite these emails in its opening arguments, dealing a blow to the prosecution which had objected to their inclusion.

“What we will counter with are their own words, their own words where they described loving relationships,” Cheronis told the court, US media reported.

On Wednesday, about 100 reporters waited in line from dawn to secure a prized seat in the Manhattan Criminal Court.

Weinstein is accused of forcibly performing oral sex on former production assistant Mimi Haleyi in his New York apartment in July 2006.

An unidentified woman says Weinstein raped her in a New York hotel room in March 2013.

The prosecution will call four other accusers to the stand as it tries to convince the 12-member jury that Weinstein engaged in a pattern of predatory sexual behaviour.

 ‘Brutal cross-examination’ 

Supporting witnesses will include “The Sopranos” actress Annabella Sciorra, who says Weinstein raped her in the winter of 1993-94.

The identity of three other alleged victims, including one who says she was raped by Weinstein in California in 2013, is unknown.

High-profile women’s rights attorney Gloria Allred, who represents two women involved in the trial, has said the accusers must prepare for a “brutal cross-examination.”

Manhattan Assistant District Attorney Joan Illuzzi-Orbon is leading the prosecution, while Chicago lawyer Donna Rotunno, who has defended numerous men accused of sexual assault, leads the defence.

More than 80 women have accused Weinstein of sexual misconduct since claims against him ignited the #MeToo movement in October 2017.

But many of the alleged crimes fall outside the timeframe for bringing charges.

Seven men and five women make up the jury in the trial which is expected to run until March 6.

The defence was successful in keeping young white women — viewed as sympathetic to the #MeToo movement — off the jury, following an acrimonious two-week selection process.

AFP

Historic Trump Impeachment Trial To Begin Today

US President Donald Trump speaks in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC.  AFP

 

President Donald Trump’s historic impeachment trial begins in earnest on Tuesday in the Senate, with Democrats calling for his removal from office and Republicans determined to acquit him — and quickly, if possible.

Four months after the Ukraine scandal exploded and went on to overshadow the end of Trump’s term, and 10 months before Americans go to the polls to decide whether to re-elect him, the 100 members of the Senate will gather at 1 PM (1800 GMT) with chief justice John Roberts presiding over the trial.

The job of these lawmakers, sworn in last week as jurors, is to decide if Trump abused his office and obstructed Congress as charged in two articles of impeachment approved last month by the House of Representatives.

They state that Trump tried to pressure Ukraine into interfering in the 2020 US election to help him win, and then tried to thwart a congressional probe of his behaviour.

It will be only the third time a president has endured an impeachment trial, after Andrew Johnson in 1868 and Bill Clinton in 1999.

Part of the scandal centres on a July 25 telephone call in which Trump pressured Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to announce an investigation of former Vice President Joe Biden, Trump’s potential opponent in the November vote.

Democrats, who control the House of Representatives and led the investigation, accuse Trump of manipulating Ukraine by withholding nearly $400 million in military aid for its war against Russian-backed separatists and a White House meeting for Zelensky until the latter announced a Biden probe.

 ‘Nothing wrong’ 

“The president did nothing wrong,” Trump’s lawyers responded in a 110-page brief submitted to the Senate on Monday.

This echoes the repeated assertions of the 73-year-old real estate magnate that the saga is a political witch hunt and a hoax, and that his phone call with the Ukrainian leader was “perfect.”

In the president’s brief, his 12-man legal team contested the very idea of his impeachment.

They called the two articles of impeachment — approved largely along party lines in the Democratic-controlled House — the product of “a rigged process” and “constitutionally deficient on their face” because they involved no violation of established law.

That team, which has recruited high profile lawyers such as Kenneth Starr, who tried to bring down Clinton over his affair with Monica Lewinsky, said in the brief, “The Senate should reject the Articles of Impeachment and acquit the president immediately.”

 ‘Worst nightmare’ 

“President Trump abused the power of his office to solicit foreign interference in our elections for his own personal political gain, thereby jeopardizing our national security, the integrity of our elections, and our democracy,” the House managers said Saturday in a memorandum.

They said the president’s behaviour “is the Framers’ worst nightmare,” referring to the authors of the US Constitution, and that Trump deserves to be removed from office.

But Trump looks almost certain to be acquitted because of the 53-47 Republican majority in the Senate.

He will be abroad as his trial opens; Trump left late Monday for the economic forum in Davos, Switzerland.

How long the trial will last is up in the air.

The first order of business Tuesday will be to set the rules, such as how long they will hear the arguments of the House managers, or prosecutors; how long they will hear the defence; the time allotted for questions, submitted by the senators but read by Roberts; and whether they will call witnesses or seek other evidence.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell late Monday proposed rules calling for each side to have 24 hours over two days to present their arguments. That makes for long trial days stretching late into the night but is a significantly quicker pace than in Bill Clinton’s impeachment trial in 1999. The chamber will debate and vote on the proposed rules Tuesday.

Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said McConnell is rushing the trial and also making it harder for witnesses and documents to be presented.

“On something as important as impeachment, Senator McConnell’s resolution is nothing short of a national disgrace,” Schumer said in a statement.

The Democrats want key Trump administration officials to testify, such as acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and former national security adviser John Bolton, in the belief that they know a lot about Trump’s dealings with Ukraine. Bolton has said he is willing to testify if subpoenaed.

The White House has said it expects the trial to be over in two weeks. Clinton’s trial lasted five weeks.

McConnell has said he won’t consider the witness issue until after the arguments and questioning take place, and his majority means he will likely prevail.

AFP

Italy Militant Guilty Of 1980 Bombing That Killed 85

 

 

A court in Italy has sentenced a former far-right extremist to life in prison for his part in a bombing at a railway station 40 years ago that killed 85 people.

Gilberto Cavallini, 67, a former member of the far-fight Armed Revolutionary Nucleus (NAR), was convicted for providing logistical support to those who carried out the attack in the northeastern city of Bologna.

On August 2 1980, a bomb exploded in the railway station’s waiting room, killing 85 people and injuring more than 200.

From the 1960s to the start of the 1980s, Italy was hit by more than 12,000 attacks in which 362 people died.

The most notorious act was the kidnapping and assassination of former prime minister Aldo Moro in 1978.

The attacks, aimed at destabilising the government in Rome within the context of the Cold War, were blamed on far-left groups and in other cases, such as in Bologna, on far-right militants.

Cavallini, who has confessed to a number of crimes including robberies and murder, has already spent 37 years in prison and was on day release, Italian media reported.

But he has said he is innocent of involvement in the Bologna attack.

“I’m in prison since September 1983, that’s more than 37 years. These are years in prison that I deserve… I deserve the convictions, but I don’t accept having to pay for what I have not done,” he told the court.

Two NAR members were sentenced to life in prison for the Bologna attack, and a third, who was a minor at the time, to 30 years.

Several others, including members of the security services, received lighter sentences of between seven and 10 years for obstruction of justice.

But some families of the victims believe that the real masterminds behind the attack remain unknown and unpunished.