- Putin rejects corruption allegations over Panama Papers
Justice Olasumbo Goodluck of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) yesterday granted bail to detained Azibaola Robert, described as cousin to former President Goodluck Jonathan.
The judge granted Robert bail while ruling on ex-parte application brought pursuant to fundamental rights (enforcement procedure) rules by Robert’s lawyer, Chris Uche (SAN).
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had on March 23 this year, arrested Robert over alleged diversion of $40 million through One-Plus Holdings, a sister company of Kakatar Construction and Engineering Company Limited.
The EFCC said the money was meant for securing oil pipelines. The payment was said to have been made by former National Security Adviser (NSA), Col. Sambo Dasuki (rtd).
Justice Goodluck said Robert’s detention by the EFCC for over two weeks was unconstitutional. The judge was of the view that the applicant disclosed sufficient evidence before the court to warrant the granting of his relief.
Citing the provisions of Section 35( 5) of the Constitution, the judge held that the detention of the applicant for 15 days as at yesterday ( April 7) was far in excess of the constitutionally provided time for detaining a citizen without his arrest or arraignment in a law court.
“This court has carefully examined Order 4 Rule 3 and 4 of the Fundamental Rights Fundamental Procedure Rules 2009, there it empowers the court to entertain an ex-parte application for the prevention of life or liberty of a Nigerian Citizen where exceptional hardship may be occasioned before the service of the motion on notice.
“Applying the foregoing provisions as a litmus test to the facts and circumstances of this case, I am of the view and so hold that this ex-parte application is competent and contemplated by the laws of our land. The applicant by this application disclosed that he has been in detention since 23 March, 2016 in an underground cell.
“This in this court’s view amounts to a deprivation of his movement and his freedom
contrary to the time frame stipulated in the 1999 constitution. I am of the view that the applicant has disclosed exceptional reason why this application should be granted. “More importantly, order 4 rule 4 (1) of the fundamental rights enforcement procedural rules of 2009 empowers this court to grant bail or order the release of the applicant forthwith from detention pending the determination of the motion on notice.
“Similarly, lending credence to the powers of this court to allow an interlocutory respite to the applicant is Section 168 of the ACJA 2015, which provides that “a judge of a High Court may direct that (a) bail conditions required by a magistrate court or police officer be reviewed be it a defendant in custody in a state of FCT be admitted to bail.
“My summation from a community reading of the foregoing statutes, the court is empowered to grant bail or order the release of the applicant pending the determination of the motion on notice. In the light of the foregoing considerations, this court will be exercising its powers judiciously and judicially by allowing this application.
“Accordingly, this application succeeds. The applicant is hereby admitted to bail pending his arraignment before a court of law or pending the determination of the substantive motion on notice in this suit,” Justice Goodluck said.
The judge directed that the applicant’s bail shall be with two sureties, each of who shall be a serving or retired Director in any of the Federal Government ministries or parastatal and must be resident within the FCT.
She also ordered the applicant to deposit his international passport with the court’s Chief Registrar.
In the meantime, President Putin has denied “any element of corruption” over the Panama Papers leaks, saying his opponents are trying to destabilise Russia.
Mr Putin was speaking for the first time since the leak of millions of confidential documents from the Panama-based law firm Mossack Fonseca.
The papers revealed a number of offshore companies owned by close associates of Mr Putin.
They suggest the companies may have been used for money laundering.
Mr Putin, speaking live on TV, said Russia’s Western opponents “are worried by the unity and solidarity of the Russian nation… and that is why they are attempting to rock us from within, to make us more obedient”.
He said that because they could not find Mr Putin in the Panama papers “they’ve made an information product”.
“They’ve found a few of my acquaintances and friends… and scraped up something from there and stuck it together.”
He referred to Wikileaks tweets which accused US government organisations – the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) and USAid – of producing and funding “the #PanamaPapers attack on Putin”.
The OCCRP was among a network of 107 organisations – including the BBC – which received the documents from the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.
The papers name Mr Putin’s long-time friend and godfather to his daughter, the cellist Sergei Roldugin, as the owner of two offshore firms, International Media Overseas and Sonnette Overseas.
According to the papers, the firms were involved in a number of suspicious deals, including one in which International Media Overseas received a loan of $6m (£4.2m) in 2007, which was written off three months later for just $1.
Mr Roldugin has not yet publicly commented on the allegations.
Mr Putin did not go into the details of allegations against Mr Roldugin or other Russian offshore interests, but he praised his friend.
He said he was proud of people like Mr Roldugin, who he said had spent nearly all the money he had earned on musical instruments and donated money to state institutions.
Several countries are investigating possible financial crimes by the rich and powerful following the Mossack Fonseca leak.
Iceland’s prime minister stepped down earlier this week after it was revealed he owned an offshore company with his wife which he did not declare when he entered parliament. He denies any wrongdoing.
The mass leak revealed the extent to which Mossack Fonseca appeared to help some clients evade tax and avoid sanctions, although the firm has denied it has done anything wrong and says the information is being presented out of context.
Panama said on Thursday it was creating an international panel to help improve transparency in its offshore financial industry.
Nation with additional report from BBC