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Court fixes April 15 to hear applications in alleged N4.8bn fraud case against Ibeto

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ARINZE NWAFOR, Lagos 

An Ikeja High Court has fixed April 15 to hear applications of counsel in the case of the businessman, Cletus Ibeto who is charged with fraud to the tune of N4.8 billion.

Following the transfer of the matter to a new trial judge by the Lagos State Chief Justice Kazeem Alogba, the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) Dr Babajide Martins, announced his appearance on Monday.

Martins announced he was appearing on behalf of the Attorney General (AG) of Lagos State, Lawal Pedro, SAN.

He stated his intentions to take over the prosecution of the case from the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

Justice Oyindamola Ogala gave a new date, April 15, and said she needed to read the case file and consider the various applications submitted by all the parties to understand the case fully.

Ogala ordered the parties to file and exchange responses before the next date of adjournment for all parties to be on the same lane.

Earlier in the proceeding, the Defence Counsel, Ade Oshodi, informed the court of a notice of preliminary objection dated January 26 which the defence had filed but the court was yet to hear.

Oshodi told the court to withdraw another application filed for the defence by the former counsel to the defendant, Okechi Ikpeazu, SAN, in light of his taking over the case and filing a new application.

He informed the court that another counsel to the defendant, Wole Olanipekun, SAN, appealed the bench warrant issued against Ibeto by the previous trial judge, Justice Ismail Ijelu on November 3, 2023, at the Court of Appeal.

Oshodi said, “We are not in the matter going on at the Appeal Court. The learned silk [Olanipekun] is the one handling the appeal.”

He told the court that the defence wrote a petition to the office of the Attorney-General of Lagos State concerning the case.

The counsel to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Rotimi Jacob, SAN, addressed the court on his absence in the previous proceeding and said it was not deliberate.

Jacob told the court that he did not receive a hearing notice informing him of the transfer of the matter to another court.

Oyindamola replied to the EFCC counsel and told him that the court has affidavits of proof that the prosecution was served.

Further, Jacob apprised the court of the prosecution’s engagement on January 15 at the Court of Appeal in response to the issue of territorial jurisdiction raised by different counsel to the defendant.

He told the court that as of last week, Ibeto had paid N1.5 billion to the EFCC and had promised to conclude the payment in the next three months.

Jacob told the court that Lagos State who intends to take over the case have not heard from the EFCC counsel.

The DPP, Martins, told the court that the Department of Public Prosecutions acted on the directive of the AG and that his office had served the EFCC with an Amicus Brief filed on February 29, by the office of the AG.

Martins told the court that the DPP does not need permission to swing into action and the Amicus Brief aimed to get the court to strike out the matter for lacking both territorial and actual jurisdiction.

Martins said, “My lord, this is an everyday occurrence as people write to the office of the A-G to take up matters and it does not mean that the AG is taking sides with anyone.”

The EFCC had filed a 10-count charge against Ibeto and his company, Ibeto Energy Development Company, bordering on allegations of obtaining by pretences, fraudulent conversion of property, criminal breach of trust, forgery, and deception, leading the court to issue an order for the appearance of Ibeto.

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