Justice Babs Kuwuemi of the Federal High Court sitting in Ikoyi, Lagos has adjourned further hearing in a $15.5m money laundering case involving a former Special Adviser on Domestic Affairs to ex-President Goodluck Jonathan, Waripamo-Owei Dudafa, to November 22, 2017.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, had in August 2017, frozen the accounts of four companies and seized the sum of $15.5m in the course of probing Dudafa for money laundering.
The companies, which were linked to Dudafa, are: Pluto Property and Investment Company Limited; Seagate Property Development and Investment Company Limited; Trans Ocean Property and Investment Company Limited and Avalon Global Property Development Company Limited.
The purported directors of the companies- Friday Davis, Agbo Baro, Kola Fredrick, Taiwo Ebenezer and China John- had, on September 15, 2016, pleaded guilty to the money laundering charge.
They had been arraigned alongside Dudafa; Amajuoyi Briggs, a lawyer; and Adedamola Bolodeoku, a staff of Skye Bank Plc.
However, both Dudafa and Bolodeoku had pleaded not guilty to the charge.
In view of the guilty plea by the companies, the prosecution counsel, Rotimi Oyedepo, had reviewed the facts of the case and told the court how the companies laundered the money.
But in a twist, the wife of former President Goodluck Jonathan, Patience, had sued the EFCC and the bank, claiming ownership of the money.
At the resumed hearing Wednesday, Ige Asemudera, counsel to the second defendant, and Mike Ozekhome, SAN, counsel to the fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh defendants told the court about some pending applications filed on behalf of their clients .
In the applications, both Asemudera and Ozekhome prayed the court to set aside the conviction and earlier guilty plea of the fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh defendants so that they could take new a plea.
The defence counsel also told the court that Oyedepo had not filed any counter-affidavit to the applications.
They, therefore, urged the court to hear the motion before proceeding with the trial.
Also, when the prosecution counsel, Oyedepo, called a prosecution witness to testify, Asemudera kicked, arguing that a ruling delivered by the Court of Appeal, Lagos Division, had set aside the earlier ruling by Justice Kuwuemi.
Asemudera maintained that the appellate court ruled that the defendants were not given fair hearing and were not represented by any counsel.
He further submitted that the appellate court directed the lower court to hear the application of the counsel to the second defendant.
However, in his response, Oyedepo told the court that the fact of the matter formed the court’s record.
Oyedepo stated that the pleas of the defendants were properly taken, while urging the court to rely on its record on the fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh defendants who pleaded guilty.
Oyedepo also urged the court to rely on exhibits C to C4 that had been tendered and admitted by the court.
The prosecution counsel said the guilty plea of the fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh defendants were made by the directors of the companies, which resulted in their conviction by the court.
He said: “My Lord, the application by the defense team for the fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh defendants to take a new plea amounts to a violent abuse of the court process.
“There is no Appeal Court order against the conviction of the fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh defendants. Rather, the order of the Appeal Court was to set aside their pleas.
“My Lord, the charge against the fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh defendant was properly served before they took guilty pleas.”
He, therefore, prayed the court to dismiss the applications by the defense team.
Justice Kuwuemi, after listening to the arguments of both parties, adjourned the matter to November 22, 2017 for hearing of the pending applications.