Alleged $1.4m fraud: Absence of defence counsel stalls trial of defendants in Lagos

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The trial of one Kolawole Adedayo Erinle, alongside his firm, Rinde-Remdex Nigeria Limited, for an alleged $1.4m fraud before Justice R.A. Oshodi of the Special Offences Court sitting in Ikeja, Lagos could not continue yesterday, Monday, December 5, 2022 due to the absence of the counsel for the second defendant.

Erinle, who is standing trial on a three-count charge bordering on conspiracy, retention of proceeds of criminal conduct, and obtaining money under false pretence to the tune of $1,410,000 (One Million Four-Hundred and Ten Thousand United States Dollars),was earlier arraigned before Justice Oluwatoyin Taiwo of the Special Offences Court sitting in Ikeja, Lagos, on March 11, 2022.

However, the trial could not be concluded before the retirement of Justice Taiwo, thereby prompting the reassignment of the case to Justice Oshodi.

The defendant is alleged to have defrauded the Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences (KCUMB) in the United States of about $1,412,509 USD.

One of the charges read, “Kolawole Adedayo Erinle and Edward Dada (still at large), sometime in 2019, at Lagos, within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court, conspired to falsely represent yourselves as J.E. Dunn, a local construction company in America, with intent to gain monetary advantage in the sum of $1,410,000 (One Million Four-Hundred and Ten Thousand United States Dollars) by creating a fake domain name jedunn.org and thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 8 of the Advance Fee Fraud and Other Related Offences Act No 14, 2006.”

Another count read: “Kolawole Adedayo Erinle, Rinde-Remdex Nigeria Limited and Edward Dada (still at large) on or about the 3rd day of May 2019, at Lagos, within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court, retain the control of $1,410,000 (One Million Four-Hundred and Ten Thousand United States Dollars) in your Access Bank account, which sum you knew to be proceeds of various internet and cybercrime.”

He pleaded ‘not guilty’ to the charges when he was arraigned before Justice Oshodi on October 4, 2022, thereby leading to the commencement of his trial.

At the proceedings, the prosecuting counsel, T.J. Banjo, informed the court that the prosecution had two witnesses in court.

He also stated that he received a letter from the defence in which it was stated that Olayinka Farounbi, counsel for the second defendant, is “sick and hospitalised,” and that he won’t be available for the continuation of the trial.

“I received the copy of the letter forwarded to me yesterday night by counsel to the first defendant, Lawal Pedro, SAN, but my witnesses were already in Lagos for today’s proceedings,” he said.

According to him, the defence requested that dates already fixed for trial in December2022 be vacated, and suggested dates in February 2023.

Consequently, Justice Oshodi adjourned the matter till February 3, 7, 9 and 10, 2023, noting that “trial was aborted due to the absence of the counsel for the second defendant.”