N4.8bn Fraud: Chief Chukwudozie Accuses Ibeto, Lawyer Of Falsehood

The founder and Group Managing Director of Dozzy Group, Chief Daniel Chukwudozie, has accused a lawyer, Marcel Dim-Udebuani, of attempting to twist the facts of the ongoing criminal prosecution of his client, Chief Cletus Ibeto, over an alleged N4.8 billion Fraud.

In a press release signed by a media aide to the businessman, Aguiyi Anaedo, he alleged that Dim-Udebuani, in his efforts to launder the image of Ibeto, the Chairman/CEO of Ibeto Energy Development Company, unlawfully and unprofessionally malign and disparage Chief Chukwudozie, the innocent victim of the crime and the nominal complainant in the matter which had been thoroughly investigated by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) before filing the Charge.

Read Also: EFCC Opposes Move By Lagos AG To Take Over Ibeto’s Prosecution

Read the full press release below:

RE: ALLEGED 4.8 BILLION FRAUD: SIR DANIEL CHUKWUDOZIE, THE MASTERMIND BEHIND THE CAMPAIGN OF CALUMNY AGAINST CLETUS IBETO – BY IBETO’S LAWYER.

1. The attention of the Aguiyi Anaedo has been drawn to the false, empty, speculatory, conjunctive and malicious publication with the above caption, which was dished out by a lawyer named Marcel Dim-Udebuani, Esq. over an ongoing criminal prosecution of his client, Chief Cletus Ibeto.

2. The apparent intention of the lawyer, who unfortunately is one of the lawyers appearing for Chief Cletus Ibeto in the criminal charge No. ID/21492C/2023 preferred against Chief Cletus Ibeto & two others at the High Court of Lagos State is to launder the image of Chief Cletus Ibeto and also to unlawfully and unprofessionally malign and disparage Sir Daniel Chukwudozie, the innocent victim of the crime and the nominal complainant in matter which had been thoroughly investigated by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) before filing the Charge.

3. It is very unfortunate that a lawyer who appears in an on-going criminal charge against his client in a High Court of Justice will issue a press release over the matter describing a pending criminal charge as “Campaign of Calumny”. To the best of our knowledge, this constitutes grave professional misconduct. Rule 33 of the Rules of Professional Conduct for Legal Practitioners states:-

“A lawyer or law firm engaged in or associated with the prosecution or defence of a criminal matter, or associated with a civil action shall not, while litigation is anticipated or pending in the matter, make or participate in making any extra-judicial statement that is calculated to prejudice or interfere with, or is reasonably capable of prejudicing or interfering with, the fair trial of the matter or of the judgment or sentence thereon.”

4. As a lawyer in the case, he is an officer of the court and as such shall not engage in any act or conduct himself in any manner that may obstruct, delay, or adversely affect the administration of justice in the matter. See Rule 30, which he has also breached. Suffice it to restate that commenting on a matter that is sub judice and passing judgment thereon is an aberration that is deprecated and contemptuous. More so, if made by a Lawyer who ought to be a minister in the temple of justice.

5. We shall be measured and not stoop to the level exhibited by Chief Ibeto’s Counsel, Marcel Dim-Udebuani, Esq. in this rejoinder which main objective is to correct the misrepresentations of facts dished out to the general public, while avoiding any commentary on matters that are under judicial considerations.

6. Assuming, without conceding, the allegations against Chief Cletus Ibeto in the criminal case are false and unfounded, the duty of Mr. Dim-Udebuani, as Counsel, should have been to ensure speedy trial of the matter so that he would demonstrate the innocence of his client to the Court and thus free him from the allegations. On the contrary, what we are witnessing in this case is that Chief Cletus Ibeto has fled from Nigeria. He has been on the run since the matter was scheduled for his arraignment and hearing. Chief Cletus Ibeto was in the country on 28th September, 2023, 5th October, 2023 and 3rd November, 2023 which were the dates fixed for his arraignment, but he failed to appear in court on those dates, having fled to the United States, according to Dim-Udebuani, Esq.

7. One wonders why Chief Ibeto would be running away from the opportunity to be heard in court and have his name cleared of the allegations against him, if he is indeed innocent. He should seize the opportunity being presented and use same to demonstrate his innocence instead of running away.

8. It is also shocking that Dim-Udebuani, Esq. in furtherance of his mischievous agenda to launder the image of his client referred to two cases filed by his client (Chief Ibeto) which have been decided by the High Court in Port Harcourt in relation to the matter.

9. Contrary to the impression created that Sir Chukwudozie approached EFCC after the determination of the High Court cases filed by Chief Ibeto in Port Harcourt, we hereby place it on record that the two suits referred to by Dim-Udebuani Esq., notably Suit No. PHC/265/FHR/2022 between Chief Cletus Ibeto v EFCC & Sir Daniel Chukwudozie and Suit No PHC/158/CS/2022- Ibeto Energy Development Company Ltd v. Dozzy Oil and Gas Limited, were hurriedly filed by Chief Ibeto after Sir Daniel Chukwudozie had submitted his petition dated 7th June, 2020 to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and acknowledged in confirmation of receipt by EFCC on 9th June, 2021. The same suits were equally filed much after he (Chief Ibeto) had made written statement to the EFCC and released on personal recognizance by the Commission. We therefore restate that it was in consequence of our aforestated petition that Chief Ibeto filed an action for enforcement of his fundamental rights seeking to stop his possible prosecution by the EFCC, but he lost the case. He has appealed against that decision to the Court of Appeal and the appeal is currently pending at the Port Harcourt Division of the Court of Appeal.

10. The substance of the allegation of fraud against Chief Cletus Ibeto was that he purported to have sold over 22 Hectares of land to Sir Daniel Chukwudozie and his companies, but it was found out, even from the recitals of his Deed of Sub-lease, that he legitimately owns an approximate 7.8 Hectares out of the land he purportedly sold to Sir Daniel Chukwudozie. Thus, he fraudulently represented to Sir Daniel Chukwudozie that he owned all the land he sold and received money from him for as purchase price over land he does not own. He filed a civil claim No. PHC/158/CS/2022 to assert his right of ownership over all the 22 Hectares of land and failed. It must be noted that both sides are not happy with the decision of the trial court and have appealed to the Court of Appeal on this as well.

11. The subject matter of the Appeal by our Sir Chukwudozie is that by a Deed of Assignment, registered as No. 37/37/359 in the Lands Registry Office, Port Harcourt, Rivers State, executed between Nigeria Technical Company Limited (NITECO) and Sungreen Oil and Gas Limited, one of Sir Chukwudozie’s Subsidiary Companies, Niteco assigned the remainder of the unexpired residue of its interest in the land covered by a Building Lease registered as No.48/48/28 in the Lands Registry Office in Port Harcourt, less the forty (40) acres which it sub-leased to its Subsidiary, Nigeria Shipbuilders Limited in 1976. Chief Clement Ibeto’s entire root of title to the property is derived from the said forty (40) acres Sub-leased to Nigeria Shipbuilders Limited, which subsequently sub-leased parts of the said leasehold interest to Chief Ibeto and his Companies. The question begging for answer which Chief Ibeto’s lawyer failed to address is how Chief Ibeto who acquired an approximate 7.8 hectares of land, could turn around to claim ownership of an approximate 22 hectares in the same document, where it is stated that his predecessor in title acquired a mere 78000 square metres (7.8 hectares) in the copies of the Deed of Sub-lease given to us by Chief Ibeto.

12. We shall be glad to have the said Counsel of Chief Ibeto address the following posers on behalf of his client:-

(i) How the recital to the Deed of Sub-lease between Odoh Holdings Limited and Ibeto Energy Development Company Limited with registration No. 47/47/280, given to us by Chief Ibeto at his No 20 Bourdillon, Ikoyi, Lagos residence, which admitted of the Sub-lease of 78000 square metres of Land has attached to it a Schedule and Survey Plan containing 22 hectares and different from the counterpart copy in the Lands Registry Office which bears 78000 square metres (7.8 hectares).

(ii) To explain why and how Chief Ibeto handed over to Sir Chukwudozie the CTC of the alleged copy of his title document with an “Original copy” stamp on it rather than one bearing “Counterpart copy”, other than the fact that he photocopied his said alleged title document and hoodwinked some unscrupulous staff of the Lands Registry to certify the same, an anomaly that necessitated the Registrar of Titles, River State Ministry of Lands and Survey to write Chief Ibeto informing him that the said certification was done in error and the survey plan and the schedule contained in the Deed purportedly certified is different from the copy in Lands Registry.

(iii) Why did the Rivers State Inland Revenue Service (RIRS) inform the EFCC that the purported ground rent receipt given to Sir Chukwudozie by Chief Ibeto does not exist in their records and did not emanate from the said RIRS. Can it therefore not rightly be said that the ground rent receipt issued to us was forged? And the same forms part of the criminal charge against Chief Ibeto.

(iv) Why has Chief Ibeto refused to produce any Demand Notice and ground rent receipt, aside the one already denied by RIRS, which ought to contain the size of the land he claims to own despite the production of our own demand notices and ground rent receipts issued by the Rivers State Government containing the exact size of the land assigned to us by NITECO.
(v) Why is Chief Ibeto falsely claiming that he never signed any document transferring the said portions of the land to us when it is on record that he executed four (4) separate Deeds of Sublease assigning some portions of the land to our subsidiary companies along with copies of his company’s Memorandum of Association, Tax certificates, Certificate of Incorporation and the forged ground rent receipt to enable us apply for the Executive Governor of Rivers State’s consent before the burble busted.

(vi) Why did the Counsel not inform the public that Enebeli J in the said judgment which he quoted copiously, confirmed Sir Chukwudozie and his Company’s ownership of the entire land covered by Deed of Assignment registered as No. 37/37/359 in the Lands Registry Office Port Harcourt executed between Nigeria Technical Company Limited v Sungreen Oil and Gas Limited measuring approximately 122 hectares situate at Niteco Shipyard Layout, Reclamation Phase 2 and proceeded to grant injunction restraining Chief Cletus Ibeto and his companies from continuing to lay claim to the same; and equally stated in the said judgment that Sungreen is permitted to recover from Chief Ibeto only the portions of its land encroached upon by Chief Ibeto.

(vii) Why did the said Counsel fail to address the contents of the composite plan prepared by the Surveyor General of Rivers State dated 17/7/2018 which confirmed that Chief Ibeto and his companies encroached into Sungreen Oil and Gas Limited land by 172011.64 square metres (17.201 hectares), a report confirmed by the inter Ministry report of the Rivers State Ministry of Physical Planning and Ministry of Lands and Survey set up on the directive of the Executive Governor of Rivers State, which findings repudiated Ibeto’s claim to 22 hectares of land and confirmed that the entire land falls within Niteco Shipyard Layout, a Rivers State Government layout, and not Bundu Ama Community as falsely claimed by Chief Ibeto.
(viii) Why did the said Counsel close his eyes to the fact established in the Surveyor General of Rivers State composite plan which showed that the entire land which Chief Ibeto claims to belong to Bundu Ama Community falls within the area of the land leased to NITECO by the Rivers State Government?

13. With respect to the payment of USD$ 3,000,000.00 (Three Million Dollars), Dim Udebuani is being clever by half. The sum of USD$ 3,000,000.00 was paid to Ibeto on two different occasions and evident from the First Bank of Nigeria Limited’s Telex transfers submitted to EFCC by Sir Chukwudozie. The First transfer to Chief Ibeto’s designated account, Ardeja Limited, was made on 2/9/2015 while the second transfer of another USD$3,000,000.00 was made on 9/10/2015. Chief Ibeto has been making futile efforts to deny the second payment of USD$ 3,000,000.00 despite Sir Chukwudozie furnishing Chief Ibeto and his lawyers with the transfer documents as demanded by them.

14. It is laughable and preposterous for Dim-Udebuani to claim the only document evidencing the transaction between Sir Daniel Chukwudozie and Chief Cletus Ibeto is the reconciliation of deposit document signed by both parties, when Chief Ibeto clearly knows that the outstanding USD3, 000,000 was not included in that reconciliation because both parties could not agree on a particular exchange rate to apply and subsequently agreed to defer that aspect of the reconciliation. In further explanation, while Chief Chukwudozie insisted on using the current exchange rate of the Naira to the USD, Chief Ibeto insisted on using the prevalent exchange rate at the time when the fund was advanced to him.

15. Furthermore, it is clear deception, mischief and very unprofessional for Marcel Dim-Udebuani, Esq. to be presenting his personal views and arguments in his said press release as if he was quoting from the decision of the High Court of Rivers State in Suit No. PHC/158/CS/2022. This is very deplorable. We cannot keep quiet and allow him to get away with such misrepresentation of facts; hence we are compelled to react at the appropriate forum permitted in our profession against him.

16. We must note that the mere fact that Chief Ibeto filed actions for civil claims arising from his disagreement with Sir Daniel Chukwudozie, which he lost, does not make the matter entirely civil or prevent his prosecution for crimes arising from his conduct, as falsely claimed by Dim Udebuani Esq. This was in fact the decision of the High Court of Rivers State in Suit No. PHC/268/FHR/2022 against him in the fundamental rights action. The Court ruled thus:

“As earlier said, the law of contract and criminal law operate in different apartments in the judicial process in their recognized different jurisprudence and there cannot be any case of superiority or fortiori inferiority on the part of the law of contract…the fact of the existence of a judgment in a contract case does not preclude investigations into allegations of fraud relating to the title documents in that case.”

17. Mr. Udebuani also misrepresented what happened in court on the 5th of December, 2023. He claimed in his press release that Chief Rotimi Jacobs, SAN is now a former prosecutor in the matter as the Attorney General of Lagos State has taken over the case. That is not true. His client had caused a petition to be written on his behalf by Chief Robert Clarke, SAN to the Chief Judge of Lagos State complaining against the order of Bench Warrant issued against him for consecutively failing to appear in court on three previous adjourned dates. That letter was copied to the Hon. Attorney-General of Lagos State and the trial Judge. We are surprised that the Hon. Attorney-General of Lagos State purported to act on the said letter which was not addressed to him by seeking to take over the prosecution of the matter from the EFCC. He is seeking to do so without even making any attempt to hear from Sir Daniel Chukwudozie, the victim. Based on this development, the trial court adjourned the matter to 29th of January, 2024 for the issue of representation to be resolved. So, as it is, the Hon. Attorney General of Lagos State has not taken over the prosecution of the matter and it is therefore wrong for Udebuani to refer to Rotimi Jacobs, SAN as a former prosecutor in the matter. That may be his wish, but it is certainly not the reality.

18. We may not be able to explain what informed the decision of the Hon. Attorney General of Lagos State to seek to take over the prosecution of this matter, but we know that the EFCC is a Federal Agency which is not under the control of the Attorney-General of Lagos State, but under the control of the Hon. Attorney-General of the Federation. Some of the counts of the allegations against Chief Ibeto in the charge are founded on Advance Fee Fraud, which is a Federal Law and offences under it cannot be prosecuted by the Attorney-General of Lagos State. Consequently, his bid to take over the case, for whatever purpose is bound to fail.

19. Granted that where properly exercised, the power of the Hon. Attorney General to take over the prosecution of a matter cannot be questioned, but he must indeed have such power to take over the matter in the first place. In this case, we are of the sincere view that the Hon. Attorney General of Lagos State is over-stepping his bounds by seeking to take over the prosecution of a matter which was instituted by a Federal Agency under the authority and supervision of Attorney-General of the Federation. He cannot do so, as an Attorney General of a State cannot usurp the powers of the Hon. Attorney General of the Federation. Based on this, all the arguments made by Ibeto’s Counsel on this issue are seriously misconceived and are untenable.

20. Dim-Udebuani, Esq., made reference to the provisions of section 273 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Law and section 40 of the EFCC Act, which prohibit the grant of stay of proceedings in a criminal matter by arguing in his press release that there have been no proceedings in the matter. This is laughable because all that has been going on in the court on the matter form part of the proceedings of court. In advancing this curious argument, he made reference to decisions rendered under the now repealed Criminal Procedure Act. We are of the sincere view that his arguments on this do not hold water.

21. So far, Chief Ibeto has hired six (6) Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SANs) to represent him in a matter he is claiming to be innocent. They are all not doing anything other than seeking ways of preventing his trial by petitioning the relevant government Agencies at the Federal and State levels simultaneously seeking the same relief.

22. Furthermore, Mr. Udebani putted the reputation of his Client in issue when he made claims about the “impeccable character” of his Client and the fact that his client’s detention by EFCC triggered his contrived health challenges. We can only sympatise with the Counsel’s perceived poor knowledge of his Client’s antecedents in this instance. It is on record that his Client was sometime in 2016 detained for about one month by the EFCC on sundry issues involving the nonpayment/evasion of import duties on cement into the account of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, despite the conscious efforts to hide the same from the media. We are aware that Chief Ibeto, who in statement made under oath claimed to be amongst the first richest Nigerian in US Dollars, is till date still making monetary refunds of those cement import duty which he evaded years ago to the coffers of the account of the federation.

23. The reason why Chief Cletus Ibeto directed that all the funds paid to him by our Company should be deposited in accounts of companies where he is neither listed as a shareholder nor director will be revealed in due cause.

24. Also, is it not surprising that a man who endured one month’s detention and came out hale and hearty thereafter would turn around to claim life threatening illnesses on account of a seven hours statement which he made in the office of the EFCC?

25. Consequently, we urge everyone to discountenance the false and dubious arguments canvassed by Marcel Udebuani, Esq. in his said press release as they do not represent the facts of the matter.

All the documents referred to in this response are hereby annexed in confirmation of our position in the matter.

Thank you.

Aguiyi Anaedo
aguiyianaedo@gmail.com

17th April 2024
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