N97.3m fraud: Court dismisses perm sec’s application on trial

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Justice Babs Kuewumi of the Federal High Court sitting in Ikoyi, Lagos, on Thursday dismissed an application filed by a Permanent Secretary in the Federal Ministry of Labour and Productivity, Dr. Illoh Clement, seeking to stop his trial for failure to make full disclosure of his assets to the tune of N97.3m.

The offence is contrary to and punishable under Section 27 sub-section 3c of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission Establishment Act, 2004.

At the resumed hearing today, counsel to the defendant, Bolaji Ayorinde (SAN) told the court that he had written a letter to the Chief Judge to transfer the case to the Abuja division.

He also told the court that the issues raised in the letter bordered on the health condition of his client and the fact that the offence was committed in Abuja.

However, in his response, the prosecution counsel told the court that he was not aware of the letter.

Oyedepo further stated that there was no motion before the court seeking to transfer the matter to Abuja, adding that there was no merit in the application.

“My Lord, the defendant has pleaded not guilty before the court, and he has submitted himself for trial.

“The defendant still has another matter before Justice Taiwo of the Lagos State high Court.

“My Lord, he failed to declare his assets in Lagos,” he argued.

Oyedepo further submitted that the letter written by the defence should not constitute a stay of the proceedings.

He, therefore, urged the court to continue with the trial.

In a ruling, Justice Kuewumi dismissed the application on the grounds that there was no motion before him seeking to transfer the matter to Abuja.

The judge held that “The offence was committed in Lagos, so the trial will proceed.”

Consequently, the prosecution counsel, Oyedepo, presented his first witness, PW1, Akhanolu Solomon, a forensic officer with First Bank Plc, who told the court that he received a letter from the EFCC on June 21, 2016 requesting for the account opening package and statement of account of the defendant as well as other useful information on the defendant, who is one of the bank’s customers.

Solomon, who told the court that the defendant maintained Naira, Dollar and Pound Sterling accounts with the bank, said a reply was sent to the EFCC on August 9, 2016.

The certificate of identification and a certified copy of the letter were tendered and admitted in evidence by the court.

Under cross-examination by the defence counsel, Ayorinde, the witness told the court he did not know the suspect.

The PW1 added that the documents were printed from the bank’s computers.

In her evidence, the second prosecution witness,  Oghare Ogbole, an investigator with the EFCC, told the court that on April 19, 2016, the defendant came to the EFCC office, following a letter of invitation sent to him.

She told the court that the defendant was given an asset declaration form to fill and that he voluntarily made statement to the EFCC before he was granted an administrative bail.

 

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