The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has said that it will prefer plea bargain instead of an out-of-court settlement with a former Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Mohammed Umar.
The commission is also expecting that the plea bargain will come with at least a light sentence by the court to serve as deterrent.
But to make any headway, the EFCC wants Umar to refund all the funds allegedly traced to him, including the forfeiture of choice assets to the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
The anti-graft agency was however awaiting Umar’s offers as at the time of filing this report.
Pending the offers from the ex-Chief of Staff, the EFCC has opted to go ahead with the trial until it gets to a convenient bend for the two parties to sign an agreement.
The ex-Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Mohammed Dikko Umar, who is on trial for alleged N7.8billion fraud, sought for an out-of-court settlement on Tuesday.
The EFCC was, however, weighing options as at the time of filing this report.
A top EFCC source, who spoke in confidence, said it was technically wrong for Umar to seek an out-of-court settlement.
The source said: “We are aware of plans by the ex-Chief of Air Staff for an out-of-court settlement, but as a commission, we will go for plea bargain if he is ready to return all the cash credited or traced to him.
“When you talk of an out-of-court settlement, it is as if there is a civil disagreement between the EFCC and the ex-Chief of Air Staff.
“What we have at hand is a criminal matter. The accused person must first of all admit that he committed the offence. So far, by the court records, the ex-Chief of Staff said he is not guilty of all the allegations against him.
“Let him do the needful and thereafter, he can initiate a plea bargain option which we will consider on merit.
“A key component of the plea bargain which can be acceptable to the EFCC is the readiness of the ex-Chief of Air Staff to refund all the funds credited or traced to him in cash or in terms of assets.
“Even if the plea bargain will carry a lighter sentence to serve as a deterrent to others, we prefer it than an out-of-court settlement.”
As at press time, it was learnt that the EFCC was still awaiting the details of Umar’s offers.
The top source added: “We are yet to receive the details of proposals. As we await his full offers, we will continue with the trial until we are able to agree on the conditions for a plea bargain.”
The former Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Mohammed Dikko Umar is facing trial at a Federal High Court in Abuja on seven charges which are in violation of Section 15(2)(b) of the Money Laundering Prohibition Act 2011, as amended.
He was alleged to have diverted funds from the accounts of the Nigerian Air Force(NAF) to purchase six choice properties in Abuja, Kano and Kaduna states.
He allegedly committed the offence between September 2010 and December 2012 to purchase six choice properties in Abuja, Kano and Kaduna states.
The EFCC accused Umar of transferring N66 million into the Stanbic IBTC account No. 9202077424 belonging to Capital Law office from NAF operations account domiciled at UBA Plc, for the renovation/improvement of a house at 1853, Deng Xiao Ping Street, Off Mahathir Mohammed Street, Asokoro Extension, Abuja.
The anti-graft agency also alleged that the ex-Chief of Staff used the dollar equivalent of N500 million withdrawn from NAF account to purchase a four-bedroom duplex with boys’ quarters at Road 3B, Street 2, Mabushi Ministers Hill, Abuja.
He bought another N250 million property at 14, Audu Bako Way, G.R.A. Kano State with NAF cash.
On Tuesday, Umar’s counsel, Hassan Liman (SAN) informed the court that his client had started negotiations with the complainant, the Economic and Financial Commission (EFCC), for the possibility of an out-of-court settlement of the case.
Liman disclosed that Umar had held meetings with officials of the EFCC during which discussions were held on the proposal.
He said Umar attended the meetings with his lawyers. He said the meetings were between Umar’s lawyers and the head of Legal Department of the anti-graft agency, head of the task force of the commission, Mr. Ibrahim Musa, and the prosecuting lawyer, Sylvanus Tahir.
Liman said after the first meeting held on May 31 and the subsequent one on June 3, it was resolved that the defendant should send a formal letter detailing his proposal to the commission.
Liman added that following the resolution, the defence had already written to the Chairman of the EFCC, Mr. Ibrahim Magu.
He said the letter was dated June 6, 2016.
The trial judge, Justice Binta Nyako adjourned the matter till June 16 for the prosecution to call its witnesses.