Crime

Alleged N4.8bn fraud: Court adjourns Cletus Ibeto’s case till Apr 15

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Justice Oyindamola Ogala of the Lagos State High Court sitting in Ikeja, Lagos, on Monday,  March 11, 2024 adjourned the alleged N4.8 billion fraud brought against a businessman, Chief Cletus Ibeto, till April 15, 2024.

The case, which was initially before Justice I.O. Ijelu, of the Lagos State High Court, Ikeja, suffered several adjournments due to the absence of the defendant to take his plea with respect to the 10-count charges filed against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission,  EFCC. He was charged alongside his companies, Ibeto Energy Development Company and Odoh Holdings Ltd.

Justice Ijelu had on November 3, 2023 declared Ibeto wanted, based on an application moved by counsel to the EFCC, Rotimi Jacobs, SAN. He also issued a bench warrant for his arrest.

However, when the case came up on January 29, 2024, the court informed all parties involved that the case file had been returned to the Chief Judge of the State High Court.

Thereafter, the case file was re-assigned to Justice Ogala.

At the resumed hearing before Justice Ogala, on Monday, Dr. Babajide Martins,  who had also appeared during one of the sittings before Justice Ijelu, announced appearance for the Lagos State Attorney General as a party that intended to take over the case.

Defence counsel, Ade Oshodi, informed the court of a notice of preliminary objection dated January 26, 2024, “which has not been heard by the court”.   He prayed the court that the other application filed by Onyechi Ikpeazu, SAN, former counsel for the defendant in the matter, when it was before Justice Ijelu be withdrawn as he had now taken over the case and had filed the new application dated January 26, 2024.

He further informed the court that Chief Wole Olanipekun, SAN, had appealed the bench warrant issued against the defendant by Justice Ijelu.

“We are not involved in the matter going on at the appeal court, but we wrote a petition to the office of the Attorney-General of Lagos State concerning this case,” he said.

In his response, Jacobs informed the court that different lawyers represented the defendant when the case was before Justice Ijelu, and they raised the issue of “territorial jurisdiction.”   “We were at the Court of Appeal on January 15 on the issue of territorial jurisdiction, and as at last week, the defendant has paid N1.5 billion to EFCC and he promised to conclude the payment in the next three months,” he said.

On the appearance of the state counsel in the matter, Jacobs noted that “though they said they are taking over the case, they have not even heard from us.”

After listening to all the parties, Justice Ogala adjourned till April 15, 2024 to enable her go through the case file and the various applications submitted by all the parties. The judge also ordered all parties to the matter to file and exchange responses before the adjourned date.

“As agreed by all, I want all of us to respond and to be on the same lane,” she said.

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