Ibeto Has Paid Back N1.5bn, EFCC Tells Court In N4.8bn Fraud Case

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission EFCC on Monday told Justice Oyindamola Ogala of the Lagos State High Court in Ikeja that the embattled Chairman of Ibeto Energy Development Company, Chief Cletus Ibeto, has allegedly paid back N1.5 billion in two tranches to the Commission.

The EFCC claimed through its lawyer, Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), at the ongoing trial of Chief Ibeto and his companies, Ibeto Energy Development Company and Odoh Holdings Ltd, over an alleged N4.8 billion fraud.

Jacobs also informed Justice Ogala that the defendants paid the money as part of the ongoing plea bargain discussion between the anti-graft agency and the defendants.

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He also claimed that the defendants have agreed to pay the balance within the next three months.

The defence lawyer, Adebayo Oshodi, did not deny or confirm the claim.

The EFCC had charged the defendants before the court on a 10-count charge of conspiracy, fraud, forgery and fraudulent use of documents.

However, the case could not go on Monday due to the disagreement between the prosecution and the defence on which application is ripe for hearing.

While Oshodi insisted that the defendants’ application challenged the territorial jurisdiction of the court and should be heard by the court, Jacobs argued that the court could not entertain the application because the issues canvassed in it are also the same issues the defendants have placed before the Court of Appeal for determination.

The EFCC counsel also drew the court’s attention to an order issued by the former Judge, Justice Ismail Ijelu, who presided over the case before it was transferred to Justice Ogala, ordering the arrest of Chief Ibeto.

He said that the order was predicated on the alleged refusal of the defendants to appear in court and that until the order is vacated or the defendants show up in court to take his plea, the judge can not hear any application.

The Lagos State Director of Public Prosecution (DPP), Dr Babajide Martins, who appeared in the matter as an interested party, also told the court that he had filed an Amicus Curiae brief to assist the judge in deciding on what following action to take on the case.

But Jacobs said that the AG, having appeared as an interested party, cannot turn around to appear as an amicus (friend of the court).

At this point, the judge decided to adjourn the case to enable her to study the case file and decide how to proceed with the trial.

The judge thereby adjourned the matter till April 15 for continuation of proceedings.

The planned arraignment of the defendant has been stalled on four occasions, September 28, October 5, November 3 and December 6, due to his failure to appear in court, although his lawyers represented him.

This prompted Justice Ijelu to accede to the prosecution’s request on November 3, 2023, to arrest the businessman for allegedly refusing to appear to take his plea despite many undertakings by his lawyers to produce him in court.

However, during the proceedings of 6, 2023, the Lagos State Attorney-General, Lawal Pedro, informed the court that he was considering taking over the matter based on a petition written by the defendant.

The state’s Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Jide Martins, who represented the Attorney-General in court, also
informed the court of a petition written by the law firm of Robert Clarke (SAN) seeking a review of the case file and the outright taking over of the case by the office of the Attorney-General.

However, the anti-graft agency, through its lawyer, Rotimi Jacobs, has challenged the move, describing it as an attempt to scuttle the trial.

Jacobs had insisted that the Attorney-General’s letter was written without hearing from the EFCC and that the purpose was to shield the defendant from appearing before the court, and when he is seized of the whole matter, the AG will change his mind.

19th July 2024
Nigerian Pantagraph